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The Weird and Wonderful Templar, Arizona

January 13th, 2009     by Tiina Johns     Comments

I recently discovered Templar, Arizona through the Comics Worth Reading blog. Their must-read Stupid Publisher Tricks feature inspired me to set aside all my DC and Marvel books for a while, and check out some more web comics.

The world of web comics can be a very diverse place, since anyone can publish their comic online. That is, anyone with lots of time, energy, talent, dedication and the right tools…

Templar, Arizona is a web comic created by a woman named Spike, whose bio made me actually LOL. It’s posted three times a week, a page at time, but rather than being a newspaper style comic, Templar is a graphic novel style, on-going series.

The story follows Ben, who moves from Washington to the imaginary town of Templar, to write for their alt weekly. But more importantly, Ben is escaping from his life in Washington, for a host of reasons—some of which become clear and some of which remain cryptic.

Ben’s new pals are mostly the other residents of his apartment buildings—a crew of larger than life, but relate-able characters.

The city of Templar is just as important as these characters, and maybe even a character itself.

Spike explains:

“It’s in Arizona, but not the Arizona you’re probably thinking of. This is a different Arizona. This is a slightly irregular Arizona that fell off the back of a truck somewhere, and now all the power outlets are a weird shape and a couple of wars never happened.”

Templar is a surreal place, that the reader discovers through Ben’s eyes. Spike’s gorgeous establishing shots show Templar to be kinda futuristic, but with a heavy Greek influence.

It’s definitely a world that’s not ours, but parallel to ours. Familiar political issues arise in Templar, but in a different, and sometimes more extreme context. We see Xenophage, a restaurant that advertises itself as “morally indefensible fine dining,” serving porpoise heads and puppies braised in human milk. We’re introduced to the subculture of Sincerists—people who believe in always being completely honest, and as a result are basically total jerks. There’s the underground world of zine-like “copy books” which are the pride of “The Low People,” who are the working class of Templar.

Through Templar, Spike addresses some interesting race and class issues, but in this strange and imaginary world. One character, Curio, is a privileged girl who is constantly trying to ingratiate herself to Templar’s Low People. But, as Spike explains:

“Her emotional immaturity and insecurity usually render her attempts to garner their respect anywhere from fruitless to moderate disasters.”

Templar is dialogue heavy, has a slow moving plot, and almost seems more like a set of character studies than a story. It can be challenging, but this is also part of what I like about it. Spike has been thinking about this comic since she was a kid, and says that the world of Templar has existed in her head for years. So through this comics, we get to see a creator slowly flesh out this complex universe.

Spike, and Templar, have been recognized both by the Glyph Comics Awards (recognizing comics made by and about people of colour) and the WCCAs (Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards).

Tags: comics are for everybody

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