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.


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