The digital comic Batman: L'il Gotham used to only be released around the time of holidays, but the success of the all-ages comic has convinced DC to release it bi-monthly beginning this week.
The new twice-a-month approach kicks off with a Valentine's Day story this week, and it's apparently a good enough story to prompt the guys over at Newsarama's Best Shots Reviews to give it a whopping 9 out of 10.
The series, written by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen, features fun stories and uniquely cute depictions of fan-favorite characters from the Batman universe, drawn by Nguyen himself. This week's issue, for example, takes a humorous look at the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker.
The series has had four holiday-themed installments released in October through January. Now that it's going bi-monthly and getting some respect from reviewers, we talked with Nguyen about his art, the "L'il" characters, and what comes next.
Newsarama: Dustin, what inspired you to start drawing these versions of Batman characters in the first place, and how did you decide the right approach to the stories that go with these characters?
Dustin Nguyen: I started to do them just for fun, while doing the main Batman titles, which were a bit more serious. This was sort of the “lunch break” exercise. Sometimes they were done as notes on the side of a page, or a sketch in someone’s convention sketchbook. Eventually, I started to like drawing this way a lot more than I thought I would, so hey... let’s make it a book and see. Derek and I decided to go with shorter stories, so we can do more one offs. In the digital medium, it also gives it a nice episodic feel to each story. Our initial pitch was to have it read a lot like the old Batman: The Animated Series TV show.
Nrama: What makes the digital medium the perfect place for something like Batman: Li'l Gotham?
Nguyen: I feel it gives us a chance to try it out to a different audience, as well as those already familiar with Batman and Gotham City. Also, it looks less like your mainstream version of a Batman comic, but not completely far from it. And that’s how reading comics on a digital format feels at this point to me.Nrama: What medium are you using to make the art look like this? Can you describe the "how" behind the work?
Nguyen: I illustrate the pages in simpler watercolors and colored pencil on watercolor board. It’s drawn closer to the scale we read at, so you see all the sketchiness, sometimes rough lines behind the colors. An unfinished sketchy look is almost desired sometimes, I feel it gives the pages a bit more handmade feel with the few nuances and mistakes that you usually make drawing with paper and pencil. Drawing with that sort of almost non-planning and non-cleanup makes it a lot of fun for me, and I wanted to keep that energy going for the book as well.
Nrama: Up until now, you guys have themed the issues around a holiday. What's the direction for the series now that it's a bi-monthly title?
Nguyen: We're keeping with our “Calendar of Small Events” for the first stories, each themed with that month’s holiday or events. With one more chapter each month, we get to take the Gotham cast on even more adventures we weren’t able to before. Some of which gets them to leave Gotham for vacation and such. It’s going to be a blast, we also have a few two-parters lined up.
Nrama: The series has used a few of the more obscure characters from the Batman universe in previous issues. Do you have more surprise characters showing up in coming months?Nguyen: Yes! And they’ll remain a surprise for now! Really though, I’ve found the most fun so far is giving Damian a friend to relate to. So far, it’s impossible, but the fun is trying, so you’ll get to see some fun characters show up.
Nrama: Anything else you want to share about Batman: Li'l Gotham?
Nguyen: Mostly, I just wanted to thank the people who’ve given this book a chance to make it. It took a while to get off the ground, but once it did- with all the support, we’ve moved much further and faster than I thought we’d be able to in less than half a year. Thanks!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!