HaiNaNu “Nooligan” Saulque is a visual artist who finds inspiration from fashion, cartoons, golden age comics, and comic strips. He is most recognized for taking pop-culture figures and exaggerating them in cartoonish fashion, always complete with a signature pair of sneakers.
Earlier in the week, we posted a review of the DC Artist Alley figures based off of Nooligan’s designs, which we will link to at the end of this article. Also based off of Nooligan’s artwork, DC Collectibles has produced a set of Batman bookends, and will release a Nightwing figure fairly soon. As well as being given a hands-on look of his figures, The Beat was also given a chance to talk to Nooligan about his Batman character designs, what it was like working with DC Collectibles, and his own brand of art.
Who are some of your favorite Batman characters?
I’m accustomed to a lot of the Bat family. The Joker, Harley, and all that kind of stuff because I kind of grew up watching the animated series. So, all the Bat family has been a huge influence.
What else have you been working while you were busy with the DC Artist Alley line?
I’m just kind of focusing on all the different variations of the projects coming out and working on promoting the Day of the Dead variant, the Black and White variant, and looking forward to the Nightwing version coming out this holiday season.
What was it like to have your already produced artworks and then having to do variants of them on top of that? How was the process?
When we were approaching that, because I didn’t think we were doing variants, only a one-off, the Day of the Dead came up for me immediately. In my own personal work, I was doing already different variations of Day of the Dead with other characters. So, when they [DC] approached the idea of variants, it was the first thing I wanted to do. So, it was super cool because they ended up being highly-stylized and with a lot of details. For example, if you look at the sneakers you’ll see that instead of a circle they have a little skull. There’s a lot of details on things like the designs on Batman’s cowl, or Harley Quinn’s baseball bat, different color variations on the flowers, the bones… There’re just these little details on all of these things. I kind of supplied so much design on these things that they did what they could. Though some stuff had to get left out, overall, they are just great to look at. Seeing them in person and seeing them in 3D is crazy for me.
How was it working with the sculptor, Paul Harding, on this project?
I can’t say anything bad about Paul. Paul is super professional, top of his field, and just one of those guys that didn’t need me to do different views. Most of us think you have to do a turnaround of all of these characters that are perfect rendition. Paul was able to knock these out with just a front version. Like, one piece, looking at the front view, and he was able to do everything just off of that. Working with him has just been awesome. He designed the bookends as well. I can’t say anything better of Paul.
Speaking a little of your design on the figures, what made you want to do inverted kneecaps on Batman?
That’s funny, because somebody else brought that up to me as well. You know, in my personal design aesthetic and how I draw in general I just take out kneecaps. [HAHA] I’ve always kind of just “scooped” them out. I just like the angularness of it. And that’s the thing; I’ve never really played by the rules. I’ve always kind of done my own thing. I’ve always tried to push it as far as I could. If you look at the noses, the sneakers, just everything I do I try to change it as much as I can and make it my own. Especially when you look at the Nightwing, you see I went a whole other way with him versus the simple leotard that he usually wears, and I just tried to push it as far as I could.
Oh definitely. For me, your Nightwing has that whole “cool kid in school” kind of vibe. What would you say was the look you were going for?
Oh yeah. For the first three, we kind of kept the traditional outfits, save for the Joker, who really at this point you can do whatever with him as long as he looks nice. With Nightwing, I tried to keep it in the spirit of his traditional look by adding a little bit more of a post-modern thing. I wanted to incorporate a lot of “New Kids” fashion, while also some 1950s. I also wanted the hoodie, the hair, and to make it a little more modern. And like you said, make him a little more “cool and cocky.” I was trying to get onto a younger audience and trying to get them excited about something that was geared more towards them. And I think that also comes in with the nunchucks and everything else to just try to make it all something a little bit new that they’ve never seen, but obviously they’ve seen him before. Just kind of introducing something else, you know?
I personally think you hit it out of the park with the Joker, even with the exaggerating of his nose that reminds me a little of the Penguin. How was it working on him and his long, iconic smile?
I enjoyed the whole designing of him. Like you said, exaggerating him was the most important thing, especially when you take on the Joker. The nose thing kind of just made sense when I first did it. I wanted to just push his nose as far as I could ‘cause he’s just so exaggerated already and there’s nothing wrong with it. I just took chances. And when it came down to it, I just wanted to put that design down as a companion piece to Batman. If you look at both of them together, you can actually see that they kind of interact. The Joker’s pose is very open and he’s just honest about who he is, and then you see Batman with just this distained look, very closed off, so you can see that I’ve designed them in a way where they tell a story to each other. That was the whole kind of story between those two characters, that they interact.
Aside from DC, what other work do you have going on currently?
Everything else that I’ve been doing is just pushing art, pushing my style, and always trying to heighten it to different places. I’m always trying to take chances, take risks, and keep my art changing with the times. And that’s kind of all I do; work on different designs, different takes. I think that’s my whole job as a visual artist, to push myself. Setting my skills towards the DC universe has been one of the greatest things ever.
What new things did you learn during the project?
I’m not necessarily use to working in a field with corporate. I’m usually more of an independent indie artist. I’ve learned a lot about working in a team and also came to understand that working in a collaborative state is something that I was never use to, but that when you collaborate you can create something that is way beyond your level of talent. That sort of thing pushes you to a point where you never knew you could get to. I think that is the magic of working in something like this.
How would you say your art style has changed? A little bit? Any at all?
My art changes kind of based on the research I do. I do a lot of research on fashion stuff, so I try to incorporate what we are doing in the fashion industry and everything and incorporate that into my character designs. That makes it a little more modern and also keeps up to date with my fanbase. My demographic tends to be between mid-twenties to early thirties, so I try to keep within that realm of understanding them and trying to make sure that I always contribute what they are looking for into my character. Especially with Nightwing, that is the whole point of his design; to try to get it back into that demographic.
Thank you DC Collectibles for sending us Nooligan’s very creative figures and for allowing us to pick the artist’s brain. The second wave of the DC Artist Alley line will be available this month, with Nightwing later in the year. The related bookends are available now.