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Interview with ‘Descender’ Creators Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

Descender #7 Cover
Descender #7 Cover

The companion robot Tim-21, his creator Dr. Quon, and the rest of the supporting cast for writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen’s Descender will return on Nov. 11 with issue #7.

“The reception to the book has been overwhelming, and it fuels us to keep pushing ourselves to live up to the promise of arc one and even surpass it,” said Lemire via email interview

Descender began in March of this year and came out monthly until August, at which point the series took a break in between story arcs. In the first issue of the series, a group of robots later referred to as The Harvesters attacked the major worlds of a futuristic science-fiction universe, which led to widespread hate of robot-kind.

After a series of killings of robots by those consumed with hate, the government is excited to find Tim-21, who is not just a robot who hasn’t been killed, but one whose internal architecture could be helpful in discovering the origins of The Harvesters.

It seems like the second arc of the series, called “Machine Moon,” is going to dramatically switch things up.

“Arc 2 is called ‘Machine Moon’, and the title itself is a bit of a hint. We will see the hidden home world of the Hardwire, the robot resistance. More specifically, Tim-21, Telsa, Quon and the gang will be brought there,” said Lemire. “But not all of Tim’s companions will make it that far.”

Lemire also promised an exploration of Tim-22, a character revealed towards the end of the last arc, and the introduction of a new character with heavy implications for the series.

Nguyen also hyped up big changes coming soon to the series.

“I’d say by the end of issue 7, readers will see this book expand in a whole new light,” said Nguyen via email interview. “We kick off with a huge reveal.”

The first arc of the series turned out “even better” than Lemire had originally expected, he said.

“Dustin continued to exceed my wildest imagination. He is an incredible collaborator and artist and I’m lucky to be working with him. He takes all my ideas and does so much more with them,” Lemire said. “It’s a thrill to see each page come in.”

Nguyen didn’t dedicate much thought to anticipation of the book.

“I didn’t really have many expectations, I just wanted to draw fun things I’ve always wanted and hopefully have it sell enough so I can keep doing it for a while,” said Nguyen. “So I suppose it’s better than expected.”

From Descender #1
From Descender #1

Much of Nguyen’s art doesn’t stray much from Lemire’s scripts.

“I’d say a lot of it, I don’t stray from a script much, and when it’s as solid as Jeff’s there’s no need at all,” he said.

Nguyen’s art incorporates a painted style, for which he does his own colors. An average issue of Descender takes him around two months, he said.

“Everything starts with the pencil layout, then I move to paints and letters,” said Nguyen. “I think the only difference from my usual pages for mainstream [work] is that I skip the inking part and move right to colors, coming back to do line-work after.”

The book is yet another critical success for Lemire, known for his work on superhero books like Animal Man and Justice League United, but also for creator-owned projects like Sweet Tooth and The Underwater Welder. Lemire said the following when asked about his attachment to Descender in comparison to his other creator-owned projects:

“[Descender] ranks right up there. It’s certainly my favourite project that I haven’t drawn myself. Obviously when I draw things myself I’m putting even more of myself into a book, but Descender is just as important to me as Sweet Tooth or anything else. I think that’s a testament to how much I enjoy working with Dustin and how in sync we are.”

As The Hollywood Reporter revealed in January, Sony obtained movie rights for Descender months before the first issue even released. Lemire claims that he and Nguyen are not writing the series any differently knowing about this movie deal.

Descender #1 Cover
Descender #1 Cover

“Our priority was and is to make a great comic book,” said Lemire. “How Sony chooses to adapt it is up to them, it does not influence us in any way.”

Nguyen’s name should be familiar to fans of the all-ages DC Comics series Li’l Gotham, featuring cutesy, lighthearted stories about Batman characters, typically themed around whatever time of year a given story releases.

This is in stark contrast to Descender, a series that contains intense violence and mature themes despite the inclusion of characters like the protagonist Tim-21, a cute, robotic little boy. However, it’s not a jarring leap for Nguyen, he said.

Something that is significant about Descender for Nguyen is the unique feeling it gave him, among the rest of his projects.

“It’s been nothing short of amazing to know we only pitched it a little over a year ago and now have the first trade paperback out and being as well received as it has been,” said Nguyen. “I’ve been in the industry for roughly 15 years now, but this is the first time I actually feel like I’m learning how a book is made.”

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