Keep It Simple: An Interview With Descender Artist Dustin Nguyen

Descender #30 (Image Comics) cover B (detail) by Dustin Nguyen

With SDCC now solidly in the rearview, we can focus on some of the more significant things that have happened in the world of comics. Like, say, the ending of Descender and the announcement of Ascender. Luckily, at SDCC, I had the good fortune to approach Descender artist and industry rock star, Dustin Nguyen, and ask for an interview.

Dustin Nguyen, photo © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons
Dustin Nguyen, photo © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

Being the cool guy he is, he was more than up for it. We set up a time and date for later that weekend. For those of you who have never been to SDCC, it is the most insane weekend of the year. Foolish me for thinking that an award-winning, best-selling artist would actually have time to sit down and talk.

On the last day of SDCC, a mere minutes before I had to leave to catch a plane back home, I managed to ambush Dustin and pester him about one of my all-time favorite comic series.

Nguyen On the Beginning and the End

Anthony: When did you and Jeff come together to talk about Descender? How did everything kind of fall into place?

Nguyen: I was coming out of my contract with DC of 13 years, and so was Jeff. We both spent 13-14 years there. So we said “Let’s do something on our own. It’ll be fun!” We bounced around a few ideas, and he wanted to write a little robot boy. I said, “Dude, I want to draw a little robot boy, and big robots, and just robots.” It was really organic. There was hardly any planning or anything. Jeff already had an idea in what he wanted to do, and the more we talked about it, the more characters we were able to flesh out.  You know a lot of the characters were developed while the series was going on.

Anthony: Really?

Nguyen: Yeah! So, we started out talking about doing 12 or 13 issues. We ended up with 31-32 issues. So yeah, it was a lot of fun. It’s just been one of those things where I want to draw it. I think that’s what makes the book so easy to draw is that I want to draw it. That’s the reason we’re able to put it out on time every month. I don’t think we’ve ever missed a deadline. I think part of that is just ’cause when you have a really good script to work from, it’s easy. Every story Jeff writes is exciting and something new.

Anthony: So what’s been your favorite thing to draw in Descender?

Nguyen: Any scene with Telsa. She’s just a really fun character, you know? Drawing her is one thing, but painting her–its a color palette I really like. She’s a character we created that I’m like “Oh man!” It’s cool to create a character you like because you’re going to have to draw them all the time. If you don’t like it–just don’t draw them with a million straps you gotta keep drawing. Keep it simple. You’re gonna have to draw it every day.

What’s Coming Next?

Anthony: Totally. So, with Descender coming to an end, is there anything looking back that you wish you had explored a little more?

Nguyen: No. We did the flashback arc, and that took care of everything we needed. And we do have Ascender coming up next year. So anything that we haven’t gotten to do, we’re going to do it there.

Anthony: What was it that made you guys want to continue the story with Ascender after Descender officially ends?

Nguyen: I don’t know about Jeff, but for me, I wanted to keep going because I just love working with Jeff. I love the characters we work with, and I just wanted to see where they go. I want to keep taking them as far as we can. And honestly if we can keep selling books and people keep reading, why stop?

The final issue of Descender hit comic book shops on July 25, 2018. The final collected trade will hit shelves September 19, 2018.

Ascender, published through Image Comics, starts monthly in early 2019.

*This interview has been lightly edited for comprehension.

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