HaiNaNu “Nooligan" Saulque is an artist, comic creator and graphic designer based in Sacramento, CA. An old soul in a young body, HaiNaNu finds inspiration in times past. From the cartoons of his youth to films he missed by decades, Golden Age comics and classic newspaper strips, you will find a creator who has immersed himself in what he loves. His style is contemporary with a flare of nostalgia.
DC Collectibles is about to release the next wave of DC Artists Alley designer vinyl figures featuring Nooligan’s cutting-edge designs of Batman, Harley Quinn, and the Joker. The collection spotlights artists who have an “offbeat art style” and who might not get a chance to do a traditional comic with DC, but ones that the company wants to work with nevertheless.
The statues (the regular version, a black and white version and a Day of the Dead version) will hit comic shops on September 26, and SYFY FANGRRLS had the chance to head over to DC headquarters in Burbank, CA to check them out and chat with Nooligan. In addition, we got to check out his Nightwing statue, which will be available in December.
Tell us about how you got involved with DC.
This is my second project with DC Collectibles. I was actually given the opportunity to work with them, doing bookends based on my style already. And after that, they gave me the opportunity to be a part of this line too. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it, and with such a talented company. Like the title of Artists Alley, they kind of found me in Artist Alley. I was posted up there selling my own artwork.
So they just stopped by?
Yeah, they stopped by. They didn’t tell me. They just scouted me out and looked at my stuff. And I think one of the guys bought some stuff from me. They took my card and contacted me later on and gave me the bookends. After that was done, they offered me this. It’s super cool. I don’t fit the mold for a continuity-driven comic book. From my perspective, I didn’t think I was going to work for a company like this. I thought I was always going to be doing my own stuff. It was very cool of them to take a chance on me, and all of us because we’re all so different in that realm.
You have a huge following online. What’s that been like, starting out as an artist, gathering a following and then working for DC?
So, I had to do it all on my own first. I always like to say that I kind of had to bully my way into this stuff because when you make that decision not to be a house artist, you are on your own. You’re not necessarily fitting the mold of what they need you for, because you’re going against the grain of what is needed. So I’m in a very underdog situation. I went out there and did my thing and tried to build a fanbase on me, on my own style, my own look, my own thing. It’s been 15 years of me going to shows and doing stuff. I’ve been fortunate enough to do it full time before DC approached me. I was able to go and do all these shows and I was living off of my fanbase that I built on my own, which was crazy.
So it’s one of those things that you don’t realize it’s happened until it happens. I was a graphic designer for like 10 years, and then you make that economic choice, where this is doing better than that. Then you make that choice. No, I’m just pretty much independent. I travel a lot and do a lot of shows and meet a lot of fans, and then I get more fans… it’s sort of a surreal situation.
Can you tell us about some of your influences?
So I grew up loving cartoons, loving art, and loving drawing. I’ve known ever since I was a kid that this was the only thing I ever wanted to do. It’s fortunate to know that from the very beginning. I was looking at a lot of comic books and I’m a big Jack Kirby fans and a big Will Eisner fan, and I love the stories of Alan Moore and old Disney cartoons and Fleischer Studios and Looney Toons.
When I first got into this industry, I really did try to be a house artist. That’s what you think needs to be done to be a part of anything… early on in my career, I definitely tried to do that. It was not — it wasn’t even just hard. It was impossible for me to draw that way. I tried and I tried… once I let go of that and decided to draw whatever I wanted, I came up with this thing with all my influences from cartoons and from old comic books. My favorite artist was Jack Kirby. We have the same birthday, too! His stuff was so dynamic and different from everything else, and back then, that was a really big thing. Now it’s not a big thing. Now everything has to tell a story and has to continually go together. I just knew I wanted to be me. I kind of bet it all on me. I never looked back.
Tell us about the Harley Quinn statue.
When I developed these statues, they needed to tell a story. The frozen statue needs to tell a story, and the body type needs to be very animated, very fun, and look like it could move. That's how I approached these things. I wanted them to go together. The whole pose is based on Babe Ruth calling the shots. I'm a big baseball fan and when I was given her, I knew I wanted to do something really special.
She's very [much] a New Yorker. I know she's from Gotham City, but the way she speaks, the way she acts, everything is very New York. There's no better way to approach her than giving her the stance of Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth was so sure of himself and then you have Harley being so sure of herself. These two iconic things fit so well together. It's totally based off of the calling of the shot. It's super cool and I love that. When I did that pose, I was so happy that they chose it, because I thought it would be super cool to look at. For her, I did about five or six designs and they picked that one immediately.
Tell us about Batman next.
He was the toughest to do because there were so many versions, especially between statue and toy form. There are so many. When I approached him, I wanted to exaggerate certain things.
So I exaggerated the Batarang, and the stance and stuff is purely based off his and the Joker’s interaction. I made it so they can mirror each other in their interaction. [The Joker] is so open. Batman is so closed in and angsty and mad about the situation. They’re very opposite of each other in every way. They go so well. That’s the only way that Batman worked for me was to have them interact.
The Joker pose is so cool. Like you said, he's very open, but he's also almost joyous about his evil.
Totally! And I think that he owns it. I think there is something very honest about his pose, and his face. The one thing you can't call the Joker is a liar. That's one thing about him. He's a very honest character, and Batman is very closed off with who he is. They work so well together.
I love that pose, the lankiness. It's so animated. That's the fun in all of these things. It's supposed to be fun. There's a serious side to the heroes now, but they're based on fun. The reason I liked them as a kid is not that they were mean and violent and all that. It was because they were fun.
Let's talk about the shoes because they're fun and we want to own them.
Thank you! I think that shoe is one of the most owned shoes over any pair of shoes, ever in history. I think everybody owns a pair which makes it very easy to kind of connect with my artwork because that is a thing that I did on accident.
I started putting Chucks on everything because it was fun. It became a thing and I just started putting it on everything. People started really enjoying it, [and] I love the style. Simple yet sophisticated where you can wear it anywhere. You can see them on a red carpet. You can go to a funeral in those. You wear the all black ones. I think applying these shoes to these characters worked out very well.
Can you tell us about the Day of the Dead versions?
These are really cool variants that the guys on the team here combined with what I was already doing. With what my fanbase is, I was already applying Day of the Dead stuff with different characters and I just thought it looked dynamic. I have a large family that’s a part of it and I just think it’s so striking and so cool, and it means so much to people.
I started applying it to certain personal artwork, and then when they wanted to do a variant, one of the first ideas was to do a Day of the Dead variant. I said I would love to, and it would be super cool. Once we put it together, we had a lot of detail with the different bones and making it more pop art and more fun. We even have little skulls on the shoes. It’s amazing what they can do. They started adding a lot of little details that I did and designs. They added little roses, and they even changed the logo on the bat with a little sugar skull [on Harley]. I thought it was striking.
Tell us about the Nightwing statue.
The reception was so well done on the main three that they were able to get us another figure for a companion piece. They offered me Nightwing, which was awesome. In the first design, I had him in a hoodie which was black. We kind of just took the aesthetic from that same design and changed him.
I wanted to set this figure apart from what traditional Nightwing looks like. I wanted to make him a little bit more post-modern, especially nowadays. I wanted to update him with today’s fashion. I took a chance with designing a classic jacket for him and an attached hoodie. It kind of works out really well for who he is. And I gave him a parted hairstyle.
You could sell that jacket and people would buy it.
Yeah, you know what’s interesting is that before the figure even came out, I shared my design once they revealed him, and people started creating this jacket already. There are a number of cosplaying people who already created it. They put the logo on the back and they’ve done everything. It’s crazy! I didn’t think about that when I was developing it. I just wanted to set myself apart from what Nightwing usually looks like. I’m very proud of all these figures.