Interview with John Mueller, Creator of OINK! Heaven’s Butcher
Growing up during the 90s some of my all-time favorite comics (and comic creators) came from the dredges of indie publication. Eric Powell (The Goon), Trent Kaniuga (Creed), Randy Queen (Darkchylde) and plenty more served as constant inspiration to strike out and create something of my own. Little did I know that many of them, despite finding varying levels of “success” in small press, were just like me; kids living in tiny town dreaming of making it to the mainstream. Some have moved on to other projects, other careers, but as creators all of them have established a legacy. And that’s what makes John Mueller‘s resurrection of OINK: Heaven’s Butcher so interesting. While he may have moved onto to a career in video games, he’s never forgotten that legacy and now he’s looking to ensure it’s one he’s proud to leave behind.
OINK is the foundation of my career, and I couldn’t really think of a better way to take another swing at comics. I’m really proud of the work I’m doing for it, and I think it will lead to good things. There are also more OINK stories, and so I thought if I was going to do that I wanted to reset the foundation.
As someone who swims in the ether of nostalgia everyday I find this endlessly fascinating. We are currently a remake-centric society, often seeking to recycle the past in the form of films, comics and even TV series. Far less often, if ever, does the original creator get a chance to come back and refine their vision. When Mueller first conceived of OINK 20 years ago, it came from a different place – a place of self-discovery fueled by an angst-ridden young artist looking to rebel against authority. Today Mueller is looking to rediscover that place, albeit as a man who’s a bit wiser and more skilled.
JOHN:MUELLER: 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.
When I started the project the best advice any writer will get is that you have to write what you know about, don’t try to make something popular. So, OINK really came from that thinking, it was my influences of Orwell, Pink Floyd, Primus, Tom Waits, Robert Williams, Simon Bisley, all balled up into an angry pig-like thing named OINK! When I was scripting it out I had this homicidal pig murdering religious figures, killing angels, burning down Heaven… I was not really giving a crap about being popular, but the book really succeeded and I think it’s because of that, it’s a very honest, raw kind of story. I was clearly not trying to make a Hollywood movie.
You’re working on a Remastered Edition of OINK – what motivated you to revisit the book instead of telling a new story?
JM: I really just wanted to take all my experience and dump it into a focused project and I knew I could do that with the Heaven’s Butcher story. OINK is the foundation of my career, and I couldn’t really think of a better way to take another swing at comics. I’m really proud of the work I’m doing for it, and I think it will lead to good things. There are also more OINK stories, and so I thought if I was going to do that I wanted to reset the foundation.
JM: There are a ton of new pages, new story additions, it’s really a huge effort. I’ve been working on it now for almost 6 years, which sounds crazy, but it’s been working nights and weekends. There were some years where it was really hard to make the time, but I’ve just hacked away at it and it’s finally shaping into something.
Now that your work is all digital, what’s your process for getting each page re-mastered?
JM: Well I do a lot of traditional sketching to work out ideas and some of the panels, then I scan my work and bring the sketch to completion in Photoshop. Once I have a finished sketch I paint it, it’s pretty straightforward. You can watch my Livestreams of me painting the pages to really see how I do them.
Talk to me about legacy a bit… what does it mean to you that this book is creator-owned?
JM: Creator-Owned means this is my personal project, which I’ve made no creative compromises on; every page will be me trying to be my best. I have received no money to create this giant body of work beyond people buying sketches at my store, god bless em’, and I’ve toiled into the darkness of night without knowing how it would see the light of day as a real product. It means the circumstances under which it was created had not a lick to do with money, business, or common sense. I just saw it very clearly in my head and I have slowly and meticulously crafted this book for you… yes, YOU!
JM: Well I was a ninja… in training, but seriously I had the outfit, kitted out with full-on samurai sword, nunchucks, throwing stars, climbing claws, tabby (ninja shoes). I had a poster of Sho-Kasugi in my ninja closet. I remember trying to scale my neighbor’s house in the middle of the night with my friend….also geared out in full ninja attire. I think we were 12…don’t ask why my parents were okay with me having enough weapons to storm a castle, they were 70’s parents, we could get away with anything. I think our plan failed due to a faulty grappling hook…good thing too we probably would have been shot…can you imagine finding a ninja on your roof peeing itself when confronted….anyway that pretty much tops it. There’s a chicken costume story, my life as a teen model, but you only asked for one story… so you get the ‘I was a teenage Ninja story.’…holy shit that’s a great idea for a book!
Here’s a sneak peek of some of the new pages – a HUGE thanks to John for sharing these and for the interview!
OINK: Heaven’s Butcher Digitally Remastered is currently intended for release sometime in 2014 while digital Prestige Editions of the original three issues are currently available at the official Big Pig Ink store.