I imagine that Dustin Nguyen’s cute, chibi-style drawings of the Batman cast in Batman: Li’l Gotham will weed out the segment of comics readers who truly don’t care for that kind of art. For those who like the style, though – or those who, like me, don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about it – the first issue of Li’l Gotham kicks off what promises to be a great all-ages series.
There’s a scarcity of DC and Marvel comics that are appropriate for kids, so I’m all for whatever new thing those companies want to try. Nguyen’s character designs for Li’l Gotham are so adorable though that when I first saw them, I expected a super-sweet tone that I wasn’t sure I’d respond to. I want comics that kids can enjoy, but I don’t want them to be slight or to change the characters’ personalities beyond all recognition. If Li’l Gotham was just going to be Batman’s Precious Moments, I wouldn’t be able to stay interested. But that’s not at all what it is.
Despite his shortened body and enlarged head, Li’l Gotham’s Batman is my Batman: overly serious and unswervingly dedicated to fighting crime. But his rogues gallery isn’t as homicidal or destructive as the current, canonized versions of those villains, so Batman’s able to be a little more relaxed about how he takes them down. They’re still lawbreakers, just not especially deadly ones. For example, Nguyen and co-writer Derek Fridolfs are able to get them together at an Italian restaurant for Halloween without murdering each other.
While some are pointing to changes to a Batgirl costume in the digital-first Li’l Gotham comic as further evidence of behind-the-scenes hijinks designed to erase Stephanie Brown from DC Comics, the truth may less conspiratorial — if still a little odd.
Bleeding Cool pointed out this morning that a panel from the Dustin Nguyen/Derek Fridolfs story had been altered from the preview released early Wednesday. In the original version, a blonde girl can be seen among the trick-or-treaters dressed in what’s unmistakably a Stephanie Brown-Batgirl costume. However, in a second version posted on the website, the same girl is shown now with dark hair but without the purple stripe familiar to Stephanie fans, leading Bleeding Cool to conclude, “Yup, in the DC Universe, not even little kids are allowed to dress up as Stephanie Brown.”
But in the comic downloaded this morning by Robot 6 (below), the purple stripe remains, clearly marking the costume as Stephanie Brown’s. Still, it’s definitely odd, particularly considering that the ash-colored hair is almost indistinguishable from the mask. Of course, why that figure was the only one on the page changed is a bit of a mystery — as is why there are seemingly two edited versions of the panel floating around.
We’ve reached out DC Comics for clarification, but the offices are closed because of Superstorm Sandy, so it may take a while for a response.
Update (9:25 a.m.): It appears the panel posted at Bleeding Cool is fake. The girl’s hair color was changed from the time of the preview’s release, as Robot 6′s downloaded image shows, but not her costume.
The Halloween-themed debut of the digital-first Li’l Gotham won’t be available on the DC Comics website for another couple of hours yet, but BuzzFeed has the lovely and entertaining first look at the comic by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs. It’s Damian Wayne vs. trick-or-treaters! What more could you want?
As we reported on Tuesday, new installments of the serial — it’s appropriately titled “The Calendar of Small Events” — will be released each month, keyed to specific holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years follow today’s Halloween chapter.
Keep reading for a glimpse of a pint-sized Halloween in Gotham City, and visit BuzzFeed to see more. The full chapter will be available for 99-cent download at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on the DC website.
DC Comics is expanding its digital-first initiative Wednesday with Li’l Gotham, a monthly serial featuring Dustin Nguyen’s popular chibi-esque renditions of Batman’s friends and foes. Nguyen’s frequent collaborate Derek Fridolfs will co-write.
The story, called “The Calendar of Small Events,” is holiday-themed, with the first installment tied to Halloween. Subsequent chapters will center around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
“This has been a passion project of mine for some time now, and for anyone that’s followed my work, I’m sure it’s more of an ‘its about time!’” Nguyen told DC’s The Source. “The look and style is a slight departure from my usual (think the exact opposite of serious), but the idea has always been the same — to take our favorite existing Gotham characters, place them in fun scenarios without having to be tied to just one continuity or look and feel. It’s basically a Batman book for fans, by two huge fans.”
Welcome to the new weekly interview series Conversing On Comics, in which Robot 6′s Chris Arrant talks with notable people in and around the comic industry, focusing on the creative lives of artists, writers, editors and other figures in the industry. Look for new installments every Friday.
Dustin Nguyen isn’t your traditional superhero artist. Sure, he can draw like the best of them — and has done so on Detective Comics and Wildcats 3.0. But Nguyen’s managed to forge his own path without sacrificing his own sense of style, from his early angular work on DC/Wildstorm’s Jet to his maturation as a storyteller in Wildcats 3.0 and onto his entrenchment as a veteran on various Batman titles. And like some of his contemporaries, he’s brought painting into his work, but not in the mold of Alex Ross or Steve Rude; he relies upon a nuanced palette and application using watercolor and acrylic.
For the past five years, Nguyen has devoted himself almost exclusively to the Dark Knight and the denizens of Gotham City with runs on Superman/Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Batman & Robin and Batgirl. But now Nguyen is spreading his wings and pushing himself to what seems like the next stage of his career as he begins writing (with longtime inker and friend Derek Fridolfs) the digital-first Batman Beyond while also preparing to go outside of superheroes — and outside of the DC Universe entirely — as he draws a new American Vampire series subtitled Lord of Nightmares. And Dustin’s not finished yet, as the project he wants to do next is a first for him: a creator-owned book of his own.