Sunday, September 26, 2010

Judas make-over

Judas! Now we're getting into some fun stuff. This is the main bad guy's right hand, he actually was the lead bad guy in the sequel Blood & Circus. The original is definitely the epitomy of my Bisley phase.

The Angels of Mercy

So,this sequence I've been working on sort of culminates with Oink's first showdown with the Angels of Mercy. I actually don't have this page and I thought I would have to have it drum-scanned from my original film, which I was dreading a bit cost-wise. This morning I had an idea to try to photograph the page itself, the problem with using the book pages as my source is that when you scan them you get a really prominent Moira pattern from the light of the scanner being so close to the page that makes it impossible to work with...Nikon D5000 to the rescue! I cut the page out and hung it in my little lighting booth like I would the original art and I was really happy with the results. It's not as crisp as the original, but I'm practically repainting this page anyway.

This weeks page is off to a good start I think, again re-framing the panels to more clearly tell the story...have I mentioned how much I'm learning reading Scott Mcloud's books?!! He's really brilliant and if you're making any kind of panel to panel story it's required reading, it will save you a lot of me.

I also found a link to Andrew Loomis' amazing book on just about everything illustration. It's way out of print, and super expensive if you try to buy an original. This was the book i was trained with in college, it's a treasure of the man's theories from color to perspective, he covers it all.

Illustration Island

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Page of the week

This was one of those weeks, one of the weeks I knew would be challenging. I had an extremley busy week at work, and I also came down with a cold. This was also a page that in the original series was a very 'meh' type of page, one of the pages I used to blast through to get to the 'fun stuff'. So with everything else going on I was working on a page that never really did much for me the first time around, but that's why I'm doing this. I want to give every page the same bit of attention so that the story flows with the art and you don't hit 'speedbumps' along the way that slow you down or pull you out of the narrative.

This is another good example of almost a complete 'do over' because the panel flow in the original was just bad...thank you Scott Mcloud for your amazing books.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New page for the week

This is my page for the week. I'm going to try to just update when pages are done with the new one on top and the old one on the bottom. This was a fun page, my goal was to get the narrative to flow better without words. I also wanted to foreshadow the page after next...enter the Angels of Mercy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The basics

So I've really been going back and hitting the books hard on layout. Looking back on the series the truth is...I just didn't know what I was doing, or to be kinder to myself. I was learning on the job, and now one of the things I'm enjoying most about this is going back and adding clarity to the narrative.

So this example above is really about drawing out the moment, so that when we get to the 'oh my god he's going to kill me' moment it has more impact. I think in the original it's also unclear what's going on, there aren't enough moment to moment transitions to tell the reader why this guy is so terrified. The new layout shows the transient character looking on in horror as Oink hacks up his friends. Then Oink lifts his head looking back over his shoulder, next panel, close shot as the guy realizes...oh shit...he's seen me!
Now I think we have a better idea of why he's so scared. You can scroll down to see what the full page layout looks like.
Good times!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


This is the following page from that last sequence. I actually cut down the number of thugs to 3 so I could do some of the major tweaks on this page. The other guy was always superficial, and these next 2 pages IMO, are probably some of my worst panel layouts...they're hard to follow.
I really wish I could use my time machine and go back and give myself a copy of Scott Mclouds series of books- aspect to aspect, moment to moment! This is one of those major overhaul pages, but I think it reads much better and the narrative is clearer...let me know if you can tell what's going on in the scene without word balloons.

The Butcher

I mocked this up fast and furiously, it's really a blush at a cover concept. I doubt it will be the final, but it feels fresh.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blood in the gutter

I really wanted to keep the spirit of this original layout, I think I remember why I used all those warm colors, often times l use a specific color to set the emotion in a scene. Oink is not a skilled fighter he's all brute, so he's sort of even keeled, but once his cork comes out! So I really wanted to push that, you'll probably see a lot more of this red during Oink's fight scenes. Red is the dead color. Cardinal Baccar the main bad guy is all decked out in Red too.

So I'm also polishing some dialogue, some naming things I never liked. So, Billy from the original series is now Jacob, it's more biblical. I want to reinforce how this place evolved, Heaven is basically a city where all other religions were wiped out, everything in their culture would have one source.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The making of...

So the process to get this stuff into my computer has been a learning curve. The series was originally drum scanned which produced color separations that I have, but the scanning is not cheap, the most affordable way for me to do this is to shoot all the art work digitially, and retouch. The first pages I did were at a questionable resolution, just barely comic format under 300 DPI, and shot with my Sony point and shoot which really didn't get a very crisp focused shot. I don't mind painting over stuff, but the original art has some nice character that I was worried I was losing...enter the Nikon D5000 I purchased today. The resolution and crispness is really incredible, I'm still trying to figure out the right settings for my set up...I just discovered tweaking white no more yellow shots. I'm going back to take a class with the sales guy from Precision Camera, who oddly enough remembered Oink! I told him about this project, so he may even be reading this, what up Joel! Thanks for all the help today!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I was totally swamped today, but I found this quick panel I busted out. I use Jaime's brushes for everything I do these days. It's just a very simple straight forward brush set, andi haven't ever come accross something I couldn't accomplish with the set. I also discover brushes like the 50 squaure texture thing (photoshop when will you let people label brushes??) anyway- you can probably find the set by searching

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I love fixing this wrench! It's the small things! I also like the more homeless, transient, rough characters group became. I was almost mugged once when I was in college, it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. When I was in school I used to dread walking to class because we would be bombarded with homeless people hitting the students up for money. I tried all different techniques for tuning them out, one brilliant idea I had was to wear headphones...if I can't hear them how can they expect me to respond....this is the what I call 'The Ostrich" put your head in the sand and nobody will see you. So I put my 40 dollar headphones on and this really aggressive homeless guy is trying to talk to harass me for money while I'm waiting for a light to change so I can cross. I dismiss him with a shrug of the shoulders...I can't hear you homeless man, go away. The guy follows me for a block, but I didn't realize he was tailing me...into my building, and into the elevator. So he says he real quietly he wants to talk to me. He leans in and says, ' I could kill you for those headphones, or just break your jaw.' He stares at me like he knows he can....and he could...and then he slips out of the elevator. Trapped in a 4'x4' box with a rattlesnake....that's sort of what it felt like for a few brief moments.

So, I'm sure he's dead by's to my homie who taught me a valuable lesson.

Ostrich technique doesn't work, not on the street and not in life.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


This is just the kind of image I constantly drew when I was a kid, some guy getting his head beaned from the side with his head juice glooping out one side with an addled look of shock trying to grasp what just happened...honestly, I had some variant of this idea on every single book cover, every desk I sat at...I loved painting this...hope it shows. OH, and the best part is I got to fix that wrench, it's a pipe wrench I just drew it incorrectly in the original...this was back before google so reference wasn't as instantaneous as it is today.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Final...such a finicky word.

I've come to accept that nothing with me is really ever final, I just get tired of trying to get it right. So I would assume that almost everything you see me post is all a work in progress until a publisher pry's it from my cold dead hands. I would be perfectly content to make one (hopefully two) awesome things in my life, rather than lots of things that I don't feel are finished, but I have TONS of work that is half finished, or things I pushed out to meet a deadline. The beginnings of new stories...there are many.... I think it's why game development is such a natural habitat for me, we work endlessly on one thing until it's as perfect as it can be. I'm also making MMO's so in theory I could work on one game for the rest of my career...that would suit me just fine.

A few years ago I went to Italy and one of the tourist spots we hit was Michael Angelo's museum. We got to see David, and it's really amazing standing in front of it you can't believe that it was made by human hands. The most interesting part of the museum to me though was the rest of his half-finished sculptures, rough hewn stones chiselled upon here and there- a hand here, the beginnings of a face there. Michael Angelo left a lot of unfinished things about...I totally related...this is just what's going through my head as I attempt to get this page right....although he also did that chapel thingee.

Spigot leaping above the crowd, bathed in the white light of his perfect moment, the moment he chose freedom over slavery, that's what that explosive background in the original represented.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The evolving character

This page is going to be fun, it's one of those great examples of why I'm doing this. Oink just doesn't look like Oink in the original. The page layout is also wonky. I was still pretty new to layout design in 1993 when I started this, so I was trying all kinds of weird stuff like the trapezoidal frames that just make it hard to read. I was fond of abstract backgrounds, mostly because I was short on time and backgrounds are hard, haha. I was also learning how to draw the character in 3/4 which is his most challenging angle...this page has 2 good examples of me failing at that, ha!

The most important thing I'm focusing on this page is getting the environment around the scene. This is supposed to be a city street at night, Oink is attacked by some thugs who are after a reward for run away slaves. I think it's pages like this that made the original more of an art book than an easy to ready story...but I am on the case!

I just want to the art to let the story come through man!!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Buying your own book

So, I actually did not have a copy of Oink. I am terrible about giving things away.I wanted to have a copy to have on hand while I do this to plan how I take on different chapters. I think like a lot of artists I tend to enjoy what I'm working on in the moment but think everything a few months ago is crap. So I went on amazon and found some used copies for 20 bucks a pop. The mint versions of the series though are priced between $150 and $300 for the signed edition I did...those are optimistic people. Maybe with this new edition though they'll finally have a shot at selling them! I'm already fueling commerce!!

Friday, September 3, 2010


Spigot, Oink's buddy revolts, and murders one of the guards on this page. I brought the color palette into a more narrow range, fixed some anatomical issues, and finally got to paint that panel in the lower right! When I was doing this the first time I really just ran out of time on some pages and my ink sketch is what was published. This page is a good example of the first 30 pages, it was just sort of erratic stylistically. I think the hard part when I was making the series was this, I went from never really doing a comic to drawing and painting 96 pages over an 18 month period. So naturally, at 23, I had some growth through the series artistically. If you look at the last page of the series and the first it's like 2 different of my goals is unify the art style.

Working on this page with Herbert. I will always put the digitally remastered version on the left hand side when I do these side by side shots. I really wanted to push the pose to accentuate that he's pushing this guys head into his body so hard his spinal column is busting out the back. I'm still tweaking on this one.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Heaven's Butcher Digitally Remastered

I am taking the graphic novel I authored and painted in the mid 90’s Oink; Heaven's Butcher and digitally remastering it... I'm doing it. I've been working digitally for over a decade, on the computer for those who don’t know. It's a bit of a heretical idea to begin with, going back like some kind of George Lucas and screwing with your published seems wrong, but I'm doing it! I've gone back and forth on this concept for 3 years. I've done my test pages, I've thought about the arguments of investing time in the past instead of the future...blah blah blah...screw it, I'm all in! When Oink was first published it was 1994, I was just 23. At the time I saw my life in front of me quite clearly. I pictured my book shelf piling up with all the books I would write. Oink was just the beginning, all the characters I would create, all the worlds I would build.... for a couple of very simple reasons that future I imagined for myself has not least not in books. I make video games, so technically I do make characters and worlds, but it's not like the single creative venue comics offers. I created one story up to this point in my life that anyone cared to publish, within that universe I created about 200 pages of story and art for a swine filled romp of mid-90's angst called Oink. I've spent the last 14 years making video games, which has been an amazing experience, but their is unfinished business between me and this book.

The first thing is that the book went out of print when Kitchen Sink Press went out of business around 1998. I've been inspired by the digital comics age on the IPhone and Ipad and I just want to see my book on there in the wild. I also have dreams of getting it back in shops, and on book shelves in a 'digitally remastered' edition. It's a fairly straight forward bit of work, but it's 96 pages of art, each with on average 4 panels, which really amounts to about 400 paintings! I want to dispel any ideas that working on the computer somehow makes this does, but it's not like a time machine. I expect on average I'll be able to do a page per week, which means this could take a while.

The history of this is deep for me, Oink started as a senior project at Otis College of Art & Design. The school was mainly known for fashion but had an upstart illustration program that I was part of in 1992. I was living through the angst of the early 90's Trent Reznor, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, I genuinely felt that discontent of the time. I, like any self respecting 20 something of that era, hated authority and everything that represented command and control. Tom Waits and Edgar Rice Burroughs were my idols, I seethed with a desire to change the world to write something as poignant as 1984 , or an album as soul stirring as Bone Machine. I loved comics, and on one fateful trip to my local shop in Pasadena I came upon 3 books which changed my life.

The first was Frank Millers Sin City. It blew a hole through my head as big as Marv's fist, it's the book that literally made me start drawing comics. I had been away from comics all through college. I just simply did not have any money.

The second was Kent Williams 'Tell me Dark' this was fine art in the form of a Coppola-esque love tryst gone horribly awry...and I don't use 'awry' often, but the book was fine art from start to finish.

The 3rd book was a Batman story by Todd Hampton called Night Cries, it was solid art from start to finish as Todd always does.

So these three artists were really my role models, my artistic DNA for comics that I will never really escape, nor do I want to. My hope is that through this body of work I can produce something that will finally, hopefully, be worthy of them.

Oink has been good to me. I think I owe everything I have to that book, and without it I honestly wouldn't have made it to games, and I wouldn't have had the amazing career experience I've had in this industry. To this day I get at least one email per month asking me if I'm ever going to return to the series. There was something about Oink that stuck, somehow this small book from a small publisher and an unknown artist has managed to stay around in peoples conscious despite the market being flooded every month for the past 14 years with thousands of titles. People have sent me pictures of giant tattoos of Oink on their bodies, I get fans who experienced the book who say it changed their life. I'm always a bit taken back when I get these occasional letters, but for a few people it's an important part of their life story, which is incredibly humbling and makes me imagine what it must feel like to be a 'real' author. So for all those folks that sent me letters over the years asking if I was doing anything with Oink...YES! I'm doing this!

let me relive a moment that astounds me. It will make me sound really cool, but this is a testament to the type of reactions I get and why I just can’t leave Oink in the state he’s in, which is unpublished and out of print.

A few years back I'm at the premiere of Hellboy in Austin. At the time I was trying to secure the rights to make a Hellboy video game for my studio. My hope was to get an opportunity to talk to Mike or the director Guillermo Del Toro. I know some folks so I get into the premiere and I also get invited to a 'have drinks with the director'. I'd never heard of the guy...or so I thought, but I had seen Devil's Backbone, and the Blade movie he did. So I'm lucky enough to get some one on one time with him where he asks me what magazine I'm from and I tell him I'm glomming on, but I love Hellboy and in some feint at being worthy of being in his presence I say 'Well, I'm a comic book author, I make video games now and I really want our studio to make Hellboy.'...He really didn't even ask me about the game, but he said 'What comic books have you worked on?' I say 'Oh, I did a series in the 90's called Oink.' which point....his eyes go about as big as saucers and he says. You worked on 'OINK?!!! I LOVE OINK!' He then asks me what I did. I said ' Well I was the only person who worked on it.' Then he says 'John Mueller?!!' its moments like this that seem surreal to me...I think why on earth does this movie director have any clue about Oink, and more specifically about me. It was this odd reversal where I was there to get the rights to make a Hellboy game and I am honored with a fanboy moment from one of the worlds greatest and most artistic, Oscar winning, movie directors.

Like I said this story makes me sound all cool, let me assure you this is probably the most awkward moment of my life in...3...2....1

'Do you remember we talked on the phone.' he says. I imagine my face screwed into what my wife calls 'the face' where I sort of look like I just ate a lemon. He continues- 'I was working on my first movie Chronos in Guadalajara, Mexico, do you remember?' I'm literally flashing back in my head at least a more..yes there it is. 1994 I'm in my parents garage apartment 24 years old, late one night the phone rings, on the other end is this guy with a crazy Mexican accent going on about a movie he wants me to work on. We talked for a good hour about the story, I think he may have even sent me a script. I think I was all in, but when we got down to details there was no money, and I'd have to find my way to Guadalajara. So I know this sounds bad for me at this point, but really.....I'm 24, I'm broke living with my parents. I just had no means and...he did sound a bit crazy!!! I wish this story ended with me thumbing my way to Mexico with a box of pencils...but it doesn't. I honestly can’t remember why I didn't go, and really I barely remember the awfully awkward. I feel like crawling into a hole...any hole will do, just get me out of here, grind me to bits and let me blow away in the wind.
So after the movie, we shared a few more 'aha, that was cool, what a small world....that time when you called me and I missed probably the biggest opportunity of my career' type of moment...awkward, anyway I think it was all one sided he seemed pleased as punch to meet me. He says something about how we should keep in touch, but later when I go to get his email from the guy who put it together it sort of dead-ends, eh, whatever shit happens.

There is another important reason, the truth is Oink was a decent book, but due to the circumstances under which it was produced, my lack of artistic experience at age 22, and not being fully evolved as a creative person I didn't know how to fight for what was important, and my craft skills were not strong enough to carry a book of this scope.

So, why am I doing this again?...oh yeah. If I leave this Earth I will leave at least one story worth a damn, and it will be Heaven's Butcher.

What does Digitally Remastered mean? I'm taking the foundation of the book and refacing the art with a consistent style. I'm balancing the color palette to fit the tone of the story. I am re-lettering the series to make it...legible, it was my first book I lettered it with a dang croquil trying to be all old master-ee. I'm also completely re-doing some pages, like when Oink sees god.

In the end, it's going to be the book I always wanted it to be, an angst ridden classic tale of rebellion and self-discovery for lost souls.

So Over the next year I will endeavor to post that work daily, but in some cases it may be a few days between updates depending on my job. I thought a lot about this 'blog' concept. I'm typically a very private creative person, this sort of thing is painful for me to write, but the way I see it is this is my contract with the universe. I'm signing on the dotted line.