Creator Interview 105: James Nguyen


JN SelfieGreetings comic lovers!
On deck today is James Nguyen, creator, artist, and writer of the comic Alpha Red.  His professional comic book work includes a short story in Atomic Robo Volume 2 issue #4 and F.U.B.A.R. #1.  James has also done sketch cards for Upper Deck on the Marvel Masterpiece III collection.
He can be found in artist alley at random comic-cons around the northeast.  James recently moved from the central PA area to Central NY with his wife and three kids.
Now for the interview….

When did you first get into comics as a reader/fan? As a writer/artist/creator?

I think I was always a fan of the medium.  I can remember being drawn to them in grade school but it wasn’t until I got to high school that I was able to buy and collect them.  I remember Spider-Man #1 by Todd McFarlane was the comic that kicked off my collecting addiction.  I was already a fan of his work on Amazing but only read my friend’s copies of them.  After he started Spider-Man #1, it was GAME ON!  I had to have my own copy.  With money from an after-school job, I found all of the Image Comics founding artist on their Marvel titles and followed them all the way to their new company.
The artwork is what I was attracted to the most because I was an artist.  It wasn’t until I found comics did my artistic side find its focus.
Like most comic fans/artists in the early 90s, I aspired to work for Marvel or Image.  I found myself creating my own superheroes until one of the Big Two or Image returned my calls.  None of my stories saw completion until I teamed up with other artists to create an anthology called Realms.
Why comics? What do you like most about this medium?

I’m attracted to the artwork.  I’m not much of a reader so it’s great to have something that compels me to do more reading!

Say a little about the project(s) you have worked on in the past (if any), and what they were about?

Realms was the first thing that I created that went all the way to print.  It was a black and white anthology that came out around 2001 and my story was simple yet complex and boring and not worth talking about here, lol.  I was given the opportunity to draw 4 pages in Atomic Robo Volume 2 issue #4 after meeting the creators at a comic book convention in Pittsburgh.
After that, I created a character called Wingman, a soldier who almost dies fighting for our country and is used in a government experiment.  It was supposed to make him a super-human soldier but because the geneticist was crazy, he also added the chromosomes of an eagle, which gives our hero wings.
Later, I illustrated 8 pages of a zombie anthology called F.U.B.A.R. #1 for some creator friends.  It was fun and I was so inspired by their project, I created my current project Alpha Red.
JN AlphaPin1
What project(s) are you currently working on?
Alpha Red started off as a secular comic about an average guy who gets a chip implanted into his head, gets super powers, and thwarts a government conspiracy while saving the world and getting the girl.  After a few months working with a co-creator/writer my friend, Adam, asked me if all the time I was spending on this project was honoring God.  Convicted, I severed ties with the writer and rewrote the story about an average guy who is chosen by an organization called “The Kingdom.”
It’s a story about an unbeliever’s journey to faith…with super powers mixed in.  He is God’s chosen champion to find Satan, who has been cast into the body of a human that has been made indestructible.  So Satan has been wandering the earth for the last forty years as a powerless human, who cannot die. The Devil being the evil demon that he is, is up to no good and Alpha Red has to find out who he is, what he’s up to, and stop him from destroying the world.

What format(s) do you prefer for telling your stories (e.g., on-going series, mini-series, one-shot, graphic novel, etc.) and why?

I have a story to tell and it will take as long as it takes.  Right now, Alpha Red looks like it’s going to be a 5 issue min-series that I’ll collect into a graphic novel.  Issue #1 is done.  Issue #2 is completely drawn and scripted, and the Kickstarter is now live!

What sources of information and inspiration have helped you along the way?

Artistically, I can name two artists that continue to inspire and influence my art style.  Jim Lee and Joe Madureira.  I try to weave scripture into each comic too as I’m inspired by the Bible while writing certain scenes.

Say a little about how you’ve been able to communicate your faith through your project(s)? What has that process been like? How has it evolved over the years?

Until I was convicted to make Alpha Red a Christian-based comic, it didn’t feel special.  Now this is something that I can be proud of and share with my kids and brothers and sisters in Christ.  Before, I would have to apologize or warn people that my projects weren’t meant for kids or that they had adult themes.  Now I can proudly share my faith THROUGH my comic.  I feel like this is how God wants me to share my faith with my fellow comic creators and fans of my artwork.

What advice would you give to other Christians who are considering making comics?

Do it for His glory and not your own and you’ll make a better comic.

Are there any future projects you are working on, or would like to work on?

I plan on going back to my creation Wingman after Alpha Red.  I will update parts of the story to make that a Christian comic as well.

What do you hope readers take away from your project(s)?

I hope that Alpha Red can have the impact that faith-based movies are making in entertainment.  I want to give Christians an alternative to the mainstream superhero comics that continually get darker and whose moral messages keep moving farther down the path of sin.

What is your take on the current state of Christian or Christian-themed comics? What, if anything, would you like to see more of in the future?What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?

I think Christian-themed comics have a ways to go to make the impact that we as creators would like to see.  I would love to see successful Christian creators take a break from their mainstream titles and create something that might expose their fan base to the faith.  I think that would legitimize our efforts as well and expose more people to the Gospel.
I would also love to see large Christian publishers invest in the genre.  I think it would help to bring attention to what Christian comic book creators can offer and hopefully create a demand for what we do.  Imagine if a major Christian publisher signed a deal with a professional comic book writer to create a comic book and hired a top tier artist to illustrate it.  I think that would create a lot of crossover appeal for fans of both the writer and the artist.
Are you currently reading any Christian-themed comics? If so, which ones?
Unfortunately, there is only so much time in the day and only so much money in the bank.  The more I dedicate to my family and creating Alpha Red, the less I get to enjoy comic book reading.
What is the best way for people to contact you, and to read/purchase your work?
You can reach me via e-mail (JamesQartist@gmail.com), the Kickstarter, or my personal website. Keep visiting the website for news about future issues and ways you can support Alpha Red!
There you have it! I hope you enjoyed the interview, and stay tuned for the next one! #makecomics

About R-Squared Comicz

I'm a Christian, husband, student, & comic writer. I like comics, hip-hop, basketball, & learning, and at the end of the day, I pray that my life meant something.