Nathaniel Dolquist Created Hulkling and Wiccan

On Saturday, March 9, 2024, I was invited to the world premiere of the fan fiction web series Hulkling and Wiccan, produced by and starring a fellow Yale in Hollywood colleague, Nathaniel Dolquist. Unfortunately, when I got out of the Polish Golden Award event for my former UCLA professor Jerzy Antczak late, arriving at the Hulkling and Wiccan premiere, I had already missed the screening. Nevertheless, Nathaniel was kind enough to send me a screener the next day and I was immediately a fan after watching the full 6 part mini web series which has a running time 12 minutes or so. With a nod to contemporary television like Modern Family and the superhero cinematic genre, despite being a fan fiction series, Hulking and Wiccan created a genre on its own where the superhero genre meets LGBTQ cinema. I highly recommend checking this short series out on Nathanie’s Youtube channel.

Why did you decide to make a fan web series on Hulkling and Wiccan?

ND: I’ve loved Hulkling and Wiccan since I first saw a random comic book panel of them together on the internet about five years ago. I read their comics, and while they’re primary characters in the Young Avengers, there actually aren’t that many comics of just the two of them, and they’re largely unknown to anyone except comic book readers. What’s wonderful about these two isn’t their powers, it’s their relationship. As one of the most prominent gay couples in Marvel, if not the MOST prominent, I wanted to show what their relationship looked like a few years down the line: living together, navigating their relationship, and of course overcoming the unique obstacles that having superpowers brings to a relationship between a shape-shifting, winged space emperor and the most powerful mage of his generation. I asked Jim Cheung, the original illustrator, if he had ever drawn Hulkling and Wiccan as 20-something characters.

When I discovered these characters, I saw myself in Hulkling immediately. He is the first comic book superhero that I felt is a direct representation of me: we look alike, he feels a great deal of responsibility in his life, and he loves his partner with his whole heart. While his powers are not the most interesting or potent, that’s not what drew me to him. He, like many queer people, felt alone growing up as he tried to understand himself. Wiccan balances him, and Hulkling is a better man because of him. Comically, every guy I’ve ever seriously dated bears a striking resemblance, both physically and personality-wise, to Wiccan. That’s a pattern that existed before I knew about the comics!

I heard from the grapevine that you financed this yourself. How did you put this production together?

ND: I financed this entire project myself, and the premiere in LA as well, by working extra at my day job as an academic tutor. Last fall I took on as many students as I could handle, and while it was insanely difficult, I made enough money to fund the production to the level I wanted it to be at. I was tutoring 4-8 hours a day up until the day before we started shooting, then resumed immediately after that. I insist on paying all the artists I hire: even though many of them are close friends of mine, they are professionals, and I want to live in a world where artists are compensated for their work. 

Tell me about your journey of how you’ve ended in LA and producing your own web series?

ND: After graduating from Yale, I moved immediately to NYC and started auditioning for theater. I had amazing mentors there, and while I haven’t been on Broadway yet, I learned so much and I love NYC dearly. I played roles regionally and Off-Broadway, and was finally getting my first Broadway auditions when I booked a cruise ship job as a singer. I moved to Germany for training and rehearsal in January of 2020, then embarked on the ship on March 5th. A few weeks later all the passengers had been sent home and we were stuck on the ship for two months. We were “parked” in Barbados: we did not suffer! In fact, it was a really beautiful experience.

When I got off the ship I moved back to New York and swiftly decided it wasn’t the right place for me anymore. I love theater so much, but it takes a long time to develop projects. Film and tv moves faster, and I think is more current with the stories that need to be told right now. It also reaches a broader audience. So, in fall of 2021, I moved to LA and have loved it ever since. 

I audition for projects multiple times a week. Sometimes I book them, but of course, most of the time I don’t. I learned a long time ago that if I’m not actively creating something or expressing myself, I swiftly go crazy or get depressed. The antidote is to create my own work and tell stories that are important to me. Then, no matter what else is going on in my life, I jump out of bed in the morning to get to work.

As an actor, what’s your approach to creating this Hulkling character who’s queer and also a superhero?

ND: I didn’t write a script for Hulkling and Wiccan. I knew the story beats we wanted to hit and was specific about the plot, but I wanted to see what would happen if we improvised, since that’s the way the characters would interact with each other at home. Evan Gambardella, my co-star, and I read as many HAW comics as we could get our hands on and practiced reading the scenes out loud together. Then we gave ourselves a situation (who does the chores in the house? What are the pros and cons to living together?) and talked as the characters. 

Then we did exactly the same thing on camera. Everything in the show is improvised. Our director would ask us questions (do you have any secrets from each other? What are the cons to living together?) and we just went for it. I have never had so much fun bantering with someone before, and I think it makes it feel real and honest. Evan is a really skilled actor, and he brought all of his humor and wit to Wiccan.

Yes, Hulkling and Wiccan are two men, but their love story is just that: a love story. Their relationship and connection to each other is the most important part of this, and their superpowers, and even the fact that relationship is gay, are secondary. It’s two people in love, who support and care for each other no matter what, and they just so happen to be gay and have powers. I actually took this idea from an interview I heard with the cast of Charmed (the 90s-2000s series): they’re sisters who happen to be witches, not witches who happen to be sisters. When you center the relationship, not the magical powers, that’s what helps keep it real and gives people a way to connect with the characters. 

What are other comics that you like other than Marvel’s?

ND: To be honest, while I love comics, I REALLY love manga and anime. The stories are so heightened and sometimes ridiculous, but because of the style they’re created in, that’s exactly the point. They tell larger-than-life stories and often focus on beautiful themes like friendship, supporting each other, and finding creative ways to solve problems. Favorites of mine include Avatar: the Last Airbender, Magi, and Sword Art Online (the first season). I also love older shows like Cardcaptor Sakura. Fun fact: I always watch anime/manga in whatever language it was originally made in with English subtitles. I feel it’s more true to how the creators intended it to be seen.

At this point in your career, what is your most important goal?

ND: Every time I create something I go a little bigger. Hulkling and Wiccan is the biggest, most expensive project I’ve ever made. It has connected me to so many amazing artists, including tons of people I never thought I’d get the chance to meet, like the authors of the comics. They have been so supportive, and it means so much to me to be able to contribute to this world and to these characters. I have had a truly beautiful, humbling experience interacting with Hulkling and Wiccan fans who have supported this project with their whole hearts. It has meant the world to me.

I want to keep scaling up. I want to work on bigger projects with amazing people, and hopefully find ways to not have to pay for it myself all the time! What’s the most important to me is continuing to tell stories that I feel connected to and that I feel I am uniquely equipped to tell. If I follow that, I know my career will take care of itself.

What’s another project that you’re working on now or planning to make?

ND: Of course I have many, many more ideas for Hulkling and Wiccan, but I’d need a much larger budget to make them come to life. I have a fantasy book series I want to write, and have even been thinking about creating a comic book series of my own. Meeting so many comic book writers and illustrators this year has really inspired me!

What advice would you give to aspiring creators who need to overcome the inertia of wanting to create something to actually creating something?

ND: It does not have to be expensive. Just get out your phone and try. Recruit your friends and see what you can create together. It doesn’t have to be about creating a finished product: what’s much more important is honing the skills of collaboration, creation, and risk-taking. If you’ve got a story that you want to tell, find a way to tell it! It doesn’t have to win an Oscar to be a worthwhile endeavor. The world needs more artists who aren’t afraid to say what they want to say, even though it’s intensely vulnerable to do so.

Watching Hulkling and Wiccan on Youtube now!

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Author: Quentin Lee

Quentin Lee is an international filmmaker of mystery.

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