Talking LEGO Ninjago Garmadon #1 with Tri Vuong
We spoke with Tri Vuong about their upcoming Skybound LEGO Ninjago: Garmadon mini-series and what it was like to explore the LEGO universe
Warning! Spoiler for LEGO Ninjago: Garmadon #1 by Image Comics and Skybound below
Garmadon’s story will continue in the all-new LEGO Ninjago: Garmadon #1 mini-series by writer-artist Tri Vuong. The five-issue series will explore the whereabouts of the Lord of Destruction since his disappearance, as he ends up helping a village terrorized by a dangerous threat. Image Comics and Skybound Entertainment is set to explore whether Garmadon has turned over a new leaf or is just disguising his evil for the time being.
LEGO Ninjago started as a set for the popular toy company, but has since expanded into an animated series and feature film in 2017. Garmadon, the series’ main antagonist, will star in his own Tri Vuong comic (who wrote the next Everyday Hero Machine Boy). We spoke to Vuong about taking on the complex Garmadon character, working with LEGO and Skybound, and what readers can expect from the series.
How did this project with LEGO come about?
Sean Mackiewicz (Editor of Skybound) asked me if I would be interested in writing and drawing a LEGO NINJAGO comic and I basically said yes immediately. We knew we wanted to do something Garmadon-centric and I was always curious where he went after walking the horizon in “March of the Oni.” I pitched the idea of Garmadon as a wandering swordsman roaming the lands of Ninjago, but with a bit darker tone. I think my elevator pitch was “Ninjago meets Princess Mononoke meets the Seven Samurai”.
To our delight, LEGO was completely receptive to this wacky idea!
What in particular made this part of the LEGO world so fascinating?
Ninjago has almost everything I loved as a kid: martial arts, giant mechs, humor, sons fighting for their father’s redemption. It’s like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meets Power Rangers and Star Wars, all wrapped up in iconic LEGO aesthetics! Ninjago’s world and themes also allowed us to skew a bit older and darker for the comic, something I definitely wanted to explore in Garmadon’s Tale.
Garmadon went through, well, let’s just say a lot. Where does this story find him? How does it feel to bring it back into the canon?
Garmadon’s journey picks up where we last saw it at the end of Season 10, “March of the Oni.” He’s at a bit of a crossroads, his constant internal struggle between good and evil manifesting in…unusual…ways. For the most part, we’ve only seen Garmadon in relation to other characters (i.e. Lloyd, Wu, etc.), but what does Garmadon look like when he’s on his own? Is he an evil overlord all the time or are his motives more subtle now? Does he even know what he really wants or does he just operate on instinct?
For me, Garmadon is the most interesting character in Ninjago. He’s kind of like Darth Vader but with more humanity and an unwitting sense of humor! It was such a great experience to be able to bring this character back to canon as well as having the freedom to evolve him in an interesting new direction.
Does Garmadon consider himself a failure?
Good question! I would say that Garmadon did everything in his power to avoid any kind of self-reflection in his quest for power, but in this story he will have to face those kinds of issues head-on. I think that when we start his story, he is not even able to ask himself these kinds of questions. At least not consciously.
Garmadon grapples with his past and his powers, how will he adjust to his new normal? Can he ever be freed from the evil within? Can it be redeemed?
Garmadon tries to adjust to his new normal the same way he handles everything: dominating who and what he can while ignoring the underlying problem. It is only in the face of disaster that he realizes that his old way of doing things no longer works. As to whether he can be free from the evil within, I would say the bigger question is whether he even wants to be?
To me, Garmadon has always gone out of his way to remind everyone that he’s an incredibly evil dude. That’s all he talks about! It’s almost like he’s trying to convince himself that there’s nothing good about him, but then he goes and saves Ninjago again. So yeah, I think he’s redeemable in the sense that maybe he doesn’t need to be driven solely by evil, but I also don’t think he’ll ever be a purely good character. I think he will always exist in shades of gray and his motivations will always be complex and difficult to decipher, which is what makes him so fun!
What challenges does he face? What can you say about his arrival in Two Moon Village and the new characters he meets?
As you mentioned earlier, we’ll see him struggle with his powers, but the residents of Two Moon Village are able to brew a special tea that has some very unusual effects when Garmadon drinks it. After that, the wheels start spinning in Garmadon’s head as to how he can leverage this to his advantage, but things take an unexpected turn when a familiar biker gang also shows up to claim Two Moon Village. and all their Two Moon Tea.
How is the collaboration with Skybound on the series going?
It was a dream ! I had a wonderful time working with everyone at Skybound on “Everyday Hero Machine Boy” and was incredibly excited to continue collaborating with Sean Mackiewicz on the Garmadon story. This story would not have been possible without him!
What was your artistic approach with the series? It obviously looks very LEGO, but in a unique way.
The art was the trickiest part of this project because obviously I had to stay true to the iconic LEGO look but I also had to be very careful not to just draw “toys”. The characters and the world they inhabited had to feel absolutely real and believable for the story to resonate. In the end, I almost had to forget they were LEGO, and approach them as if they were normal characters (albeit ones with clawed hands and trapezoidal bodies) and trust someone to bring me back if I strayed too far from the LEGO see.
Is it exciting to know that your work could inspire future Lego sets? (if not already done?)
Yes! It would be a dream come true if any of my work appeared in LEGO form!
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
First and foremost, I hope readers have a great time reading our story, whether they’re die-hard Ninjago fans or new to the property. We’ve worked really hard to produce a great comic and hope there’s something for everyone. For the Ninjago faithful, I fervently hope they feel we’ve done justice to Garmadon and hopefully even breathed new life into the character.
Many thanks to Tri Vuong for telling us about the next LEGO Ninjago: Garmadon #1 from Image Comics and Skybound, which hits shelves April 6, 2022.
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