Five Questions with Hoang Nguyen, creator of Carbon Grey

Chris Thompson – I remember getting your huge art book at SDCC a few years ago, featuring a lot of what would later become Carbon Grey. When did you first come up with the concept, and how has it taken shape since then?

Hoang Nguyen – Thanks for picking up the art book, I had a lot of fun putting that together. As for Carbon Grey, I came up with the idea around 2002. I drew a sketch of Mathilde and ideas started to formulate in my head, eventually it became the main concept for CG. It wasn’t until I painted Giselle, that the idea started to solidify. I had to tell the story of the twins and their mythos.

CT – You made a big splash in comics then seemed to disappear for a while. What have you been up to, and what made you come back?

HN – I got burned out and went into gaming. A friend asked me to stop by the studio and he show me stuff that just blew me away. I got to do concepts, design levels and test out the game, it was too good to turn down. I then moved on through various companies and worked my way up; eventually, becoming the studio art director.

I never felt like I left the comic industry, unfortunately, I’m just not producing as much. I worked on a few creator-owned projects but none really took off. Around 2002, I started fleshing out some new ideas about twin sisters and their family of assassins. At the time, it was called the “13 Greys”. Once I had enough material, I started to recruit and the rest is history.

CT – Where do you draw inspiration for your work? Who are your greatest influences artistically?

HN – Years ago, I was heavily influenced by all the super stars in the comic industry, but now I look at fashion design, industrial design, photography and architecture for inspiration.

CT – Carbon Grey is very much a collaborative work. How many of you are working on it, and how do you maintain the visual tone you originally envisaged?

HN – On the art side there are 3 of us: myself, Khari [Evans] and Kinsun [Loh]. The writing is handled by Paul Gardner. Back in 2002, we started out with pencil and paper. Khari would pencil, I then inked and the pages was passed onto Kinsun for painting. Nowadays, Khari does everything digitally, which pretty much put me out of a job. Now, I focus on maintaining consistency and doing cover art.

CT – You’re currently part way through the second Carbon Grey mini-series. What’s next for the CG universe, and do you have any other projects you’d like to tease or discuss?

HN – We do have other projects on the horizons, but that’ll have to wait until we’re done with Carbon Grey. Khari and Paul each have their own projects that they want to do and I also have another one as well. But right now our priority is getting the second arc done and then onto the third and final instalment.

Thanks for chatting with us, Hoang. You can check out more of Hoang’s work at his website, Liquid Brush.

The Art of Carbon Grey is available in hardcover this week from Image Comics (£22/$29.95)