Two weeks ago, we ran an interview with Keith Champagne about his new project with artist Tom Nguyen – The Switch. They were about to launch their Kickstarter campaign – and though they figured it would take 30 days to fund, this dynamite duo had the book fully funded in a week. Now they’re working on making it even better. Since we’d heard from Keith, a long-time friend of Fanboy Planet, it was high time we let Tom Nguyen speak before making him get back to work on The Switch.
Derek McCaw: After those six weeks rum-running in Macao, you swore you’d never work with Keith Champagne again. What brought you back?
Tom Nguyen: Think of it as the battered wife/girlfriend being asked by Maury Povich’s audience, “Why did you go back?? Why don’t you kick him to the curb?!” And the answer is “BECAUSE I STILL LOVE HIMMMMmmmmm….!!!”
Derek McCaw: But seriously, what was it about Keith’s pitch for The Switch that intrigued you?
Tom Nguyen: Well, superficially it was the fact that it was about a sexy hot female lead (I love drawing them wimmens), and it could have just stopped right there. But if we decide to look a little deeper into his premise, it’s quite compelling. Keith wanted to explore the concept of people growing apart over time-the whats, whys, and hows-and apply it to The Switch. His example to me was, Do you know how some circle of friends just grow apart throughout life, and for whatever reason? In this case, our main character is-WAS-a super villain. One of the worst, in fact. Over time, she gradually has a change of heart, and doesn’t want to play the “bad guy” game anymore. So she changes her life and decides to do good. But not without consequences…! This is something that really intrigued me. It’s not a typical simplistic comic book plot of good guys vs. the bad guys. This premise is something we can all relate to.
Plus, Keith and I have worked together a few times directly on projects just as IDW’s Ghostbusters, Titan Books’ WWE: Timequake, and Dynamite Entertainment’s relaunch of Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, among other things. His writing is such a blast to draw, his nuances in character development are very impressive over a storyline. Finally, who doesn’t want to work with friends??
Derek McCaw: What are you going to bring to The Switch that fans may have not seen from you before?
Tom Nguyen: I think fans have seen a little bit of everything from me, but not much coloring (or they never knew that the coloring was done by me). So I’ll be handling most of the coloring chores on The Switch while Keith, also being an artist himself, is ready to help. Other than that, it’s more of the same from me, I guess! Just more interior sequentials in a bigger volume.
Most art I’ve done have been pinups here, covers there, gaming card art somewhere…it’s been a while since I’ve done some interior full art. The last few years have kept me busy doing full inks, Marvel Legendary art, and freelance storyboard work for television. But it really shouldn’t be a drastic change; I’m quite looking forward to it full time again.
Derek McCaw: What’s the most challenging aspect of bringing the story to life for you?
Tom Nguyen: Fighting my OCD to change art and panels after I’ve drawn them. It will just slow me down. There can be several ways to draw scenes effectively, I just have to pick what I feel is the best angle/layout/lighting to tell the story and just stick with it. The beauty of The Switch being just my and Keith’s creation-and no one else’s- is that we won’t have editorial or a committee’s additional opinions to slow us down. This is going to come out exactly the way we want it for our fans and new readers.
Derek McCaw: What inspires you to sit down at the board and tackle a page?
Tom Nguyen: I look at the bills I have to pay, and I’m like “okay, this is what I have to draw today to pay off this bill….” BUT-! In addition to that, it’s just my innate desire to create and show the world. I want to do stories and stir people’s imaginations. That’s what I’m born to do. It’s just like any creative: a musician creates to share and stir emotion. A writer creates, an actor creates, a photographer creates, a sculptor, and so on. It’s our drug.
Derek McCaw: Who are your artistic influences?
Tom Nguyen: This is hard to say, because I don’t really have an objective view of my own work. I just draw and lines come out. I can say who’s work I definitely enjoy (i.e., Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Frank Cho, Art Adams, Adam Hughes, Pat Olliffe, Pat Gleason, amongst MANY more), but as far as which if those artists’ work consciously or subconsciously comes through in my lines is better for others to point out.
But okay… if I had to pick one artistic influence….I did grow up (literally) in the Doug Mahnke school of art! He basically taught me everything I know about drawing comics since I was 15 years old. That is such an impressionable age to grow as an artist. I just know there are “Mahnke-isms” that will randomly show up in my artwork. And let me tell you: that’s not a bad thing. Of all the “first pro artists” that I could have met, fate couldn’t have picked a better mentor and friend. I could have been stuck meeting a hack artist at age 15 and picked up abominable habits. Thankfully I didn’t.
Derek McCaw: You’ve worked on many different books. Is there a favorite character you’d love a chance to tackle or even redefine their appearance?
Tom Nguyen: Even though it’s not in the actual comic books, per se, I can proudly say that I’ve finally and officially drawn Spider-Man for the Marvel Legendary series of games a couple of times. He’s always been my favorite character, although Batman has come quite close over the last decade. But if I were to draw Spidey in a book, I probably wouldn’t redefine it; I’d just bring back McFarlane big-eyes Spidey back haha!
Derek McCaw: You also work out quite a bit. Have you considered becoming a personal trainer for nerds, and if so, what would your regimen be like?
Tom Nguyen: Back in the early 2000s I was heavily into bodybuilding. I even competed and qualified for Nationals back then. I pushed every angle I had to get more and more buff. If I’d had access to it I’d have considered SARMS.io’s tool, but in the end, my approach worked just fine for me! Around that time I actually did get a crappy online certification for working out and for nutrition. But outside of training a few friends for free, I never did anything with it seriously. Comics got busy and I had enough of a taste of personal training to know that it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
I still train a few days a week just to keep fit and strong, though. Recently, I have also been getting more into yoga as a way of toning my muscles and improving my flexibility. There are even some yoga certification courses out there that have caught my eye too. But if nerds wanted to be trained by me, it’d depend on if they wanted to lose weight (more cardio and emphasis on diet) or gain weight (muscle size/strength = eat more protein and lift heavy). Above all else, the hard part is the diet regimen, believe it or not. Sticking to it is not easy. But knowing how the fan community is in comics, I’d be very proud and happy to talk to any fan about health and working out. Anyone can come to me at a convention and not feel shy or intimidated to ask any workout related questions like they might be in a gym environment. I love all my nerds!
Derek McCaw: Will you be out on the convention circuit to promote The Switch? Where can we find you?
Tom Nguyen: I have appearances sprinkled about all year as I usually do. As of this interview, I’ll have appearances coming up at Lakeland, Florida’s Fanboy Expo and Art Pop Comic Expo in Jonesboro, Arkansas. If you visit my website, TomNguyenStudio.com, you’ll scroll down on the landing page and see the full list of my 2016 appearances. I hope you’ll come out to say hi, and support The Switch!
Thank you, Tom. We will!