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DF Interview: Dustin Nguyen talks robot amour, Lemire stress relief and why he’s loving Descender
By Byron Brewer
The highly-anticipated SF comic Descender is obviously special to its creators. Artist Dustin Nguyen will even be painting over his own pencils with watercolors, giving the space opera an otherworldly, organic look and feel.
Like writer Jeff Lemire, who spoke earlier with Dynamic Forces, Nguyen is coming off an exclusive contract with DC Comics but will continue to work on several projects with the publisher.
To get the artist’s point of view on Descender, already tagged by Sony for film treatment, we sat down with Nguyen at a robot shop outside Poughkeepsie.
Dynamic Forces: Dustin, from the beginning tell us the process in your co-creation with writer Jeff Lemire of the eagerly-anticipated comic book Descender.
Dustin Nguyen: I'd say coming together and creating it was as organic as I felt any book could possibly be. We were both coming out of our contracts with DC, I’ve been there well over 14 years, and Jeff around the same, I believe. We both wanted to create something new, a genre we both have always wanted to touch on, and of course, it would be fantastic if we could own it! We brought the idea to Image and immediately got their support, it was as simple as that, I guess.
DF: We know this is a tale of robots and an AI boy on the run. What went into designing characters like TIM-21, the Harvesters and others? Is this something that is fun for a comic book artist because you are relieved of reality’s bonds, or a pain making robots look different from one another?
Dustin Nguyen: It's definitely more fun. I've always been drawn to the otherworldly, not only because it allows me to really just have fun but also because I’ve always struggled drawing the everyday things. You'd be surprised how much easier it is for me to draw frogs in spacesuits jumping out of a rocket than say ... Jeff walking a dog down Time Square. There are artists that can illustrate everyday life amazingly, I wish I could, but I’ve accepted that I can’t. So I focus on robots, haha.
DF: Jeff said in a separate DF interview that you contributed key ideas to the making of this high concept story of Descender. Can you discuss this? You and Jeff ever have a difference of opinion on a story element, for example?
Dustin Nguyen: We throw ideas back and forth, but really Jeff is such an amazing writer that I’ve never felt like I need to question anything. That's probably why I love Descender so much, it's been a truly collaborative concept, but when the actual work needs get done, we both trust each other to deliver the best on each end.
DF: I know it is early – the comic has not even hit the stands with a #0 or #1 yet – but what/who is your favorite character thus far in Descender? I am betting TIM-21?
Dustin Nguyen: Ah, that's tough. Every time we create a new character, I just think, “THIS is going to be the coolest character ever!” I go all out designing them and fall in love with them. Then we create a new one, and I go though the same motions again. I guess off the top of my head ... it could be Bandit, the little robot “dog”. He reminds me a lot of T-Bob from M.A.S.K. (even though T-Bob was an actual droid capable or speech and all), mostly because they both seem like toys I can transform into a small ball and put in my pocket.
But yeah, maybe ask me after a year or something, when we find out who the jerks are. Kinda like kids. (smiles)
DF: Your art, Dustin, has been very associated with Batman in various books during your career. Nitty gritty, street level. Do you like science fiction and did you have to make any changes in your style for such a grand opus as you have created here?
Dustin Nguyen: Not too much, I've always drawn this way for my personal pieces and just for fun really. The biggest adjustment was really to learn to draw and paint better, faster. Being it's a monthly book, there's less time to sit around and noodle at a piece for days until I’m happy. So every page is not just an opportunity to get better, but also, it's gotta go out ASAP.
DF: I always ask this of writers, so turn about is fair play: What does writer Jeff Lemire bring to the table? (laughs)
Dustin Nguyen: I could go the obvious and say an amazing story, great ideas, and being Canadian everyone will like him, meaning they'll probably like the book?
But to go off-path: Jeff lowers my stress level, a LOT. All I want to do is draw, I don't like to have to deal with anything else. So going back to the earlier question, I just want really amazing scripts full of cool s**t I wanna draw, that leaves me with no questions and I can dive right in. Drawing a monthly book is time-consuming as hell. When I was only penciling, it was semi-acceptable, 8-10 hours a day, everyday, every month. Painting a monthly book, I’m clocking in about 12-14 hours a day, so I don’t have time for much else.
DF: Elephant in the room: What is it like having one of your creations optioned by a film company as powerful as Sony, AND before issue #1 hits stores?
Dustin Nguyen: It was definitely a lot to handle, huge! Again, though, I've been chained to the table drawing 90 percent of the time that I haven’t really given it much thought outside of, “Whoa! Now we HAVE to make this book rock.” Because last thing you want is for a possible movie [to come out], then people find the original material and say, “Wow, how did THIS get picked up?”
I told Jeff maybe I'll use all the money if they make the movie to buy a ton of copies of Descender, boosting our own sales, haha.
DF: How will being a film’s executive producer and Hollywood mogul change the life of artist Dustin Nguyen?
Dustin Nguyen: I just want to draw.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Dustin Nguyen for taking time out of a very busy schedule to answer our questions. A much-anticipated Descender #1 will hit stores March 4th!
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