44FLOOD is a comic book and art collective comprised of superstars Ben Templesmith, Menton3, Kasra Ghanbari, and Nick Idell. Here is an exclusive interview about their first offering, TOME. The artists behind 44Flood will continue to grow and redefine themselves for years to come.
I first approached Ben Templesmith about an interview when the TOME project was announced on Kickstarter. Since then, the project has garnered an unreal amount of support. I initially assumed that Boston Comic Con guest Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Fell) had a great new comic for us. I was delighted to be wrong. TOME is an over-sized hardcover sequential artwork anthology with an amazing array of talent from comic artists to painters and other fine artists. Each book ships with an accompanying CD of music. A documentary of the project will be available to backers of the campaign. Oh, and the theme for the book is Vampirism. Their Kickstarter reached its goal and exceeded the expected fundraising by a great magnitude.
I really appreciate your time -- I was in publishing for years, the production, layout and proofing of TOME must be taking up most of your time. Did you find that process exhausting?
KASRA GHANBARI: Thanks for the empathy! But actually, no, it’s been nothing but joy for all of us. What could be better than having amazing art by people we respect sent to us nearly every day for weeks on end and then figuring out ways to best present it all? Even the more mechanical parts of putting TOME together, like proofing, are an honor. All of us at 44FLOOD are artists that have a keen sense for these sorts of details, and we take the responsibility of putting TOME together dead seriously. We’ve also been very lucky to work with a world-class printer that’s accustomed to dealing with higher-end book designs and production. They’ve addressed and worked with us on every detail, from tweaking the initial book construction down to the expected humidity during the time period pages are drying.
Art is about making things. I haven’t seen a project this honest or with such clear vision in a long time. Would you consider this a comic book project or something more high-level? I’m thinking of TOME as a fine art book with sequential storytelling.
BEN TEMPLESMITH: Actually, to me art is about ideas. Making things is more craft, though the two frequently intersect! But yes, TOME is absolutely all about the artifact.
It’s really just going to be a cross between a lot of things, all of them and none of them at the same time. Comics, paintings, drawings, photography, even music … definitely high level. It’s mere presence on a table is going to be noticed because of it’s dimensions. It’s name was chosen quite literally.
How does this book feel to work on, say, compared to a monthly comic? You’ve got to bridge being your own publisher and create art from your heart and mind in your studio. For the artists, you are pouring your heart out on the page. And as businessmen, you are starting from scratch with a new business model funded by people that are passionate about your work.
MENTON3: It’s awesome, like a dream come true. Having the support of people who are interested in what we are doing be behind us, just makes doing art for this project that much easier and more fulfilling.
The point of being an artist is to try to make an image that communicates something, and this frees people up to be able to do that without the typical constraints that you get.
Everyone at 44FLOOD is their own agent. That’s to say that you aren’t relying on a publisher, publicist, art dealer or manager. My initial inquiry was answered by you directly. Is that a comfortable space for you all to live in? Artists are usually rubbish at this sort of thing. You are not!
BEN: I think one thing I’ve learned from doing so many things over the years now is that yes, not every artist markets and deals with their work the same. Some are better than others, some hate it, some love it. I’ve seen great creatives pay a high price for not being able to get the word out or organize themselves, be it the sort of deals they’re forced into or just the lack of financial reward. Part of my personal ambition with 44FLOOD is to empower great creative people and create a bit of a platform for them to benefit more from their own creativity instead of having to compromise or deal with people who don’t understand creativity. You know the type, middle management who just treat a project like they’re in a box factory.
Treating people like they’re valued … that their creativity is valued … is key.
The business model for the money at Kickstarter aside, is it better to be your own agency and have that control over how the world sees you and your project and motivations? From your amazing videos and what I hear from the music so far, 44FLOOD has both vision and a vision.
BEN: The model is many things: empowerment, branding, strength in numbers … doing things that don’t fit regular publishers because they’d freak out over the financials.
I guess for us it’s not ever going to just be business, it’s going to be art first.
Will any of the ‘Pages’ or ‘Paintings’ be available for sale?
NICK IDELL: As part of the Kickstarter campaign, Ben and Menton offered up some of the original art they’ll creating for TOME to help fund the project. But as far as if there is any more original art from TOME for sale, that is completely up to the individual artists that have been gracious enough to contribute.
When TOME comes out, if there’s artwork that someone is interested in, then they can contact us, and we’ll do our best to get you in touch with the artist.
Why the large format?
KASRA: We wanted to explore the experience of art and how to push engagement with the viewer as far as possible. The dimensions of the book were one element of this approach. Start thinking about dimensions and expectations … 4″ x 6″ is an index card, 6″ x 9″ is a sketch book, 8.5″ x11″ is standard multipurpose paper, 9″ x 12″ and 11″ x 14″ are Bristol pads, 11″ x 17″ is standard comic art board for production. For us, 12″ x 18″ is the dimension where your mind finally crosses over into thinking of a painting.
And when TOME is open, it’ll be closer to 24″ x 18″, which is well into the domain of canvas and panel paintings.
Vampirism. That’s a pop culture go-to. Seems like you are approaching Vampirism from a high concept for TOME. Have you seen, for instance, any unintended threads running through all of the art or stories? Something true to vampires that no one has touched on before? Collected stories from all of these amazing artists and writers will leave people feeling a certain way after reading TOME. And then perhaps differently thereafter.
MENTON3: It’s always been a subject matter that has interested me quite a bit, especially from the standpoint that I grew up with a friend of mine that actually believed in them from a few events that happened to him. This wasn’t a stupid gentleman, this was actually a very intelligent gentleman that experienced some things in World War II. That’s always been very compelling to me. It is a pop culture go to. The thing that kind of annoys me at times is that I’m a vampire story fan and all the kind of fun stuff but not the way that I see them from this guy’s perspective and being able to do artwork from that perspective is a great deal more compelling than doing your typical stuff.
On the other hand, when we are talking about vampirism in TOME we aren’t just talking about vampires, we are talking about the exploitation of others and parasitic relationships. So that really moves into a great many different territories, and we thought it would be a great theme to start the first book with.
How did you curate the artists involved in the collection?
KASRA: The four of us have worked in arts-related fields for some time and in different capacities, so we had a deep base of knowledge and connections that we initially drew from in conceiving 44FLOOD and TOME itself. From there, we wanted to explore some possibilities in the merging of various art forms and see how far we could take it for this first edition of TOME. Our curatorial bias was perspective, looking for artists with unique voices that would only bring something different to the anthology.
We ended up in a lot of different spaces: tattoo artists, graffiti artists, clothing designers, gallery-represented fine artists, musicians, poets, writers, sculptors, caricaturists, photographers, illustrators, comic book artists, filmmakers.
Should people still support the project on Kickstarter? Is it too late to order a book?
NICK: The TOME Kickstarter campaign just ended, but you can still get a copy of TOME. Until the end of this month, we’ll be offering the same deal that we offered on Kickstarter. Whoever still wants to get their copy can contact us by emailing me at nick@44FLOOD.com. After this month, we’ll be making the remaining copies of TOME available on our website and through select comic book shops and bookstores at its retail price.
Lastly, if TOME is the beginning of 44FLOOD, then what’s next? There has to be another project! If you don’t want to spoil the reveal, that’s fine, just promise to come back, and we will be sure to let everyone know about it. Everyone will be talking about how great TOME looks on the shelf and how great it feels in your hands. To be able to inspect artwork at full size is amazing. Thanks for your time. Best of luck shipping and giving your fans an amazing book!
MENTON3: TOME is not the last thing, TOME is the beginning. From the conception of TOME and 44FLOOD, it has always been the intention to basically build a publishing company that we would want. There is a gap missing for us a lot of the times, between comics and art books. And me and Ben as fans and me and Kasra as fans want that to exist. We have literally six to nine projects lined up right now and have had some of those for months. The next one we will be rolling out will be very soon. It’s a project with me, Steve Niles, and Ben Templesmith. We are very excited about it.
We’re not expecting to be successful with any of it — we might fail miserably — but at the same time we would rather die on our feet than on our knees. It’s something that we truly believe in and something we really want to do.
So, thank you for the interview, and thank you for the kind words. We really appreciate all the support. We are completely shocked and taken aback by the overwhelming response.
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