INTERVIEW: “I think it’s fun.” Dustin Nguyen talks SDCC, revisiting Li’l Gotham and what we can expect from the upcoming Batman Tales: Once Upon A Crime

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By: Aaron Roberts

Dustin Nguyen blew the roof off the comics scene five years ago when Batman: Li’l Gotham hit shelves. He and David Fridolfs created a modern classic that struck at the heart strings of all caped crusader fans and found a new angle for an 80-year old character. Now Li’l Gotham is back in a new TPB that collects the original 12-issues.

How’s your con so far?

Dustin: Good man. San Diego’s always great. I love San Diego. This is the con I got hired at. It’s nostalgic to me.

How’d that happen?

Dustin: Just a portfolio review. Just jumping around, chasing editors down. That’s how it happened way back in 1999. This is my 21st San Diego Comic Con.

So you’re an SDCC veteran

Dustin: I’m old, dude.

You could walk these halls in your sleep.

Dustin: Yeah. They’re a little bigger now though.

So, Li’l Gotham. The reception to the original Li’l Gotham was fantastic. Obviously fans wanted more. People were ravenous for it. What do you think makes those characters, that setting, those stories, that ascetic relate to people? Why do people want more Lil’ Gotham?

Dustin: I think they’re just characters that people are familiar with already and we make them fun. You know what I mean? You can jump in any time, they’re stories they enjoy. It’s like it doesn’t take too much… I don’t want to say reading comics is “work” but it’s just not too much work to enjoy them. You know what I mean? They’re characters they already know and are familiar with and now they’re in, you know, fun stories. I don’t know why man. I think it’s fun.

You and Derek Fridolfs have created some incredible comics. Why do you think you guys work so well together?

Dustin: We’re good friends. When I first came into this, he was my anchor. They tried probably three or four different anchors on me and Derek was the one who worked with my work the best. We just kept in touch and outside of comics. We just have good banter and we make jokes with each other. Li’l Gotham is written pretty much based on jokes we make on the side. Like you know, “it’d be funny if this or that…”  and “oh yeah yeah let’s make that into a book!” Derek and I work great together because I’ve known the guy for as long as I’ve been in comics.

Batman: A Lot of Li’l Gotham comes out at the end of August and it’s a trade of the entire 12-issue run. The original Li’l Gotham came out five years ago. Coming back to it now and what’s coming up on the horizon, was it more exciting for you or were you scared to dive back into it? What was it like revisiting those characters?

Dustin: I would say it’s exciting but at the same time I never really stopped drawing those characters. For the last five years, I still draw them every day. I draw them for fun, I draw them for my Instagram. I never stopped drawing them so it’s pretty simple.

What can we expect from Batman Tales: Once Upon A Crime?

Dustin: Oh man, it’s going to be good. It’s basically the same characters in the same style but it’s not going to be just the comic book. We’re going to make it where the arts does a lot of the narrating but not in the comic book form. So we have a lot of great splashes and we’re just trying crazy, different and experimental ways to tell a story knowing that we can do it now. When we first did the original Li’l Gotham, it was meant to be read digitally so everything had to be break down in a certain way. This one, the first formats going to be print so we’re going to do whatever we want.

Was that way more challenging?

Dustin: The other way was more challenging I think. Maybe not more challenging but it took a little more planning. This one allows us to have a lot more fun. We can do full-page splashes, double page, anything we want. It’s great and it’s in full watercolor just like the last Li’l Gotham.

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