April 04, 2015

Creative Equity

I had done this interview recently on CREATIVE TREK with Sean O'Daniels where I talk about creative equity and my thoughts on achieving creative independence. This is something I've been working toward for a very long time and finally achieved. Once you achieve that the trick is to sustain it. I like this interview because I talk a lot about failure...the best thing that will ever happen to you if you are an artist.




March 04, 2015

Pigs are flying!

The entirely new re-mastered edition of OINK being published by Dark Horse Comics this month and is flying to stores shortly. I wanted to take this opportunity to explain the deeper meaning of the book. OINK has hung around somehow for 20 years, people have sought me out and remember the book fondly. When people contact me and express that the book was important to them it always surprises me. The reasons for that is the story was deeply personal for me, so I didn't really get how it could relate to someone else in that kind of way…but it has. I think there is an honesty in the book that is hard to come by in entertainment these days. In 1992 I was fairly fresh out of high school and these feelings I had about it were very raw to me. I was really angry and a lot of that comes out in this story. When I decided to re-master it 20 years later it was important that I leave that 'angst' intact. I wasn't going to de-claw it for the sake of commercialism and I felt like I would be doing a disservice to the original if I got too heavy handed with it. I did make changes but they were mostly janitorial to focus the story more on the main theme and reinforce what the story was actually about…education...or lack thereof.

I am the lucky pig who fell off the truck, ran for the fences and escaped. OINK is a survivor story and it is my testimonial and indictment of the public education system. The story of OINK is the story of my personal journey through that system, it’s also about how I overcame it, eventually finding my own version of Heaven. You might be wondering if I burned stuff down and killed stuff to do that…no, but I did burn down and destroy all the negative and false beliefs I had about myself and what they attempted to teach me in that institution…most importantly that I wasn't a stupid, below average, failure at 18.  It wasn't until I did that I was able to have this vision for my life as an artist, the person I was always pretty sure I was before I was institutionalized in the PS system for 12 years.

God…about Him.

OINK is rife with religious imagery, but OINK is not really an indictment of religion…the allegory for me was more about institutions and the quid pro quo of achievements as the gate keeper to all your hopes and dreams...of Heaven. In the story you could almost swap the word Heaven whenever you see it for America and the allegory will read more clearly.

OINK’s escape into Heaven was my graduation from the institution and the realization that the real world was nothing like what I was told it would be. The characters in OINK are actually people who were either helpful or hurtful toward my own journey escaping the slaughterhouse. The character Mary was my 9th grade English teacher Mrs. Christian who gave me 1984 and Animal Farm ironically this was required reading way back in 1984...maximum irony!  Judas and his gang were the collective bullies who preyed on the weak. The villain Bacaar was my guidance Counselor who told me I could never survive as an artist. She showed me charts and graphs that were meant to prove that being an artist would be my undoing. 

 The character Spigot was no particular person. Where I grew up we had a really high number of deaths amongst our student body. Most were alcohol related car-wrecks but there was an unusually high number of deaths while I was in high school.  Along with that body count there were so many kids that seemed to hold so much promise that were cut down mentally in the system…you know punished suspended for fighting, just troubled kids this system was not elevating. The system was just ‘sorting’ them for slaughter into modern life. It’s wrong and it’s vile, and we can do better today. Spigot’s crucifixion represents them.

The Butcher in the story was my dad, I think like a lot of young guys I clashed with my dad at that all important age of 17. We fought over everything, especially the idea of me going to Art School, the idea of me leaving my small town. The fight in the book with this character was about overcoming my father’s vision for my life and striking out on my own regardless of his warnings and expectations. We are the best of friends now and I'm thankful he challenged me on my ambitions and ideas. We never fought physically...just like I never burned down any buildings or killed anybody, haha. I think every kid who struggles, who doesn't fit the very narrow mold goes through this. We spend most of our young lives feeling like failures, like we're not measuring up to the super-narrow standards of success which are reinforced day-in-day-out at the institution...athletic, good grades, good looking...whatever it is. I think about that whole manufactured education system that was apparently built for 'my' wellbeing and the purpose of learning and conceptually these institutions are one of the worst collective ideas in modern history akin to insane asylums and factory farming.

With all this said I’m really hopeful about the future of education. I feel change is coming in the form of online education, getting kids out of these prison-like structures and into one room classrooms with a small capable staff of teachers mentoring a curriculum taught by the brightest minds the world has to offer.  I believe this idea is going to happen in my lifetime because the education system is abhorrently expensive and has terrible performance....things like that cannot last in this day and age. Education I think is the next great frontier, more localized free-market choices, affordable choices on how to educate kids. I want to thank those teachers who did find time to help me along my own journey. My experience was terrible, but the teachers are what made the it bearable. Keep the teachers and innovate the delivery method.

Thank you for supporting the book.


Austin, TX



March 03, 2015

Review links!

Some super reviews coming in on the new book! I'll be updating this post with new links! I'm also going to be doing a signing here in Austin at Dragon's Lair comics March 11th. Stay tuned for more details.



Geeks of DOOM!

TAG us in social media #oink2015 We need your help promoting the book! 

February 27, 2015

My Photoshop brushes

Hey all, I wanted to share my Photoshop brushes because I get a lot of questions about 'what  Photoshop brushes do I use'? I did not create these brushes it's a collection I've assembled over the years so I'm giving them away for free. My approach to brushes is to keep your palette small so that you can learn to use the tool to the best of it's ability. Some people collect brushes and they have these giant palettes of tools they may have only used once or twice. My philosophy is the same rules of traditional painting apply to the digital world, half the battle of making good art is knowing your tools! The more you use a tool the more you realize what you can do with it. I have a limited set of brushes because if I  haven't used a brush in six months I delete it. So this set has been culled from hundreds of brushes that you can find on the internet.

90% of my painting is done with the first two brushes in the set! The rest I use for effect and texture. I have some tutorials in my shop if you want a deeper dive on these brushes. 

When I first started painting my teachers only gave me three colors to paint with. The reason for this is the more colors you add the more complex you make the problems. The same is true for brushes, limit yourself to three brushes for your first paintings or even as an exercise if you are more accustomed to working digitally. The point of the exercise is to really spend more time with a few specific tools. You could do this as a regular exercise, pick three brushes and create an image using JUST those three brushes. If you do this regularly you will learn how to use your tools and it will make you a better digital artist...guaranteed!

Check my shop to download my free brushes

John Mueller


February 11, 2015

The Butcher's Boy

Some of my favorite parts from the new edition of OINK are the NEW story sequences I added. There were some parts of the story that had always felt rushed to me, so going back and doing it again gave me the opportunity to expand on those. I had always wanted to have more detail about the relationship between OINK and the character Spigot who was a mentor to him. The events that happen with Spigot are the spark that sets OINK on his journey. I wanted to show why that was important and so I added a sequence of pages that goes back to when OINK was just a boy.

The initial idea was not about OINK, it was about a little boy-pig that works for a butcher drawn in the style of an old  story book. There was a little girl he was friends with, he was sort of the town-curiosity, he eventually runs away and discovers an endless factory that exists outside the little town. It was sort of Alice in Wonderland with a little pig-boy. I had been thinking about doing it in a fairy tale type book, The drawing below is the piece of art I created bleary eyed at 4am trying to capture the feeling and tone that made the dream so sad. When I read that little blurb it still gets me a bit,  during the process he sort of became mini-Oink..I'm happy I did that. I love this little guy. If I were to make a game from OINK I think the entire thing would be done in this style and tone...I still might do the story book too!

I really liked this idea and so I brought the character into the new book as a young OINK, Here he is with Spigot.

For folks in the ATX area I'm going to be signing at Dragon's Lair here in Austin on the 25th of February celebrating the launch of the new book. I'll be sketching and signing new copies of the book, come hang out!

John Mueller


February 10, 2015

Panel of the Day II

This is a good example of one of my favorite parts of doing this project. Taking something that I was never happy with both conceptually and artistically and having the time and experience to clarify the thought. I wrote OINK when I was very young, I hadn't really experienced very much and so I knew very little about loss and grief. Conceptually the idea of this sequence was OINK standing before god and being judged. I think I really hadn't given God much thought at the time at 22 to really see him the way I wanted OINK to see him. I love the way the final sequence came out, and it's one of my favorite moments in the new book.


The difference between these panels pretty much sums up the overall changes with the new edition. I feel with the new book I pulled it all together into a seamless experience for a reader of words and pictures...I hope you will agree.

John Mueller


February 09, 2015

Panel of the Day

Here's the first in a series of posts showing some of my favorite panels from my new book OINK. I get a lot of questions about how the old book differs from the new one available 2/25/15 from Dark Horse Comics. So I wanted to do a series of posts showing some of the digitally remastered panels before and afters.

This was one of those panels that way back in the early 90's I didn't really have time I wanted to get the level of finish I wanted throughout the entire book. I think one of the things I like most about the new edition is that it's really consistent from start to finish. 

This is the original panel from the 1995 edition. 

Here is the digital remastered panel from 2015

You can purchase the new edition signed directly from me or through the Amazon link at the top of my page.

Thank you for supporting independent creator owned comics.

John Mueller

Austin, TX

February 05, 2015


I am starting my 100 SHIRTS Campaign to raise awareness about my 100% creator owned book OINK. There are two goals- The first is obvious, promote OINK! A hero for the downtrodden fighting dogma and toxic ideology at every opportunity! The second and maybe more important is to raise capital to create merchandise that I can bring to shows and grow this little business so I can make more books the way I want. My hope is that this is really a beginning of something much larger, and you can be part of that story. Selling books is hard but the one thing I know to be true is everyone dislikes being naked and shirtless in public...it's a fact!  I have a modest goal with a clear vision of how to grow my little empire but...who knows. If we sell 200, 400, 1000 shirts! What then? MORE BOOKS! Less people being NAKED?!

I have two shirts available at the moment which you can purchase directly through my store (that little button up top)


So what else do we have planned? One of the things I’m MOST excited about is to have a Cast statue that the amazing Francesco  Fabiani who spent most of last year making all the  materials to make the OINK statue, but it will be expensive to mass-produce, but possible with your help. He's invested his time and the expense of producing the original sculpture. I'm going to find a way to make it happen. You can help by picking up a a shirt!

This is a great way to support independent artists. I’m running a small business, making art driven books, if you want to see me make more books like OINK a simple T-Shirt is the BEST way you can support that effort, buy one for a friend and tell them that wearing it makes them a patron of the arts and less naked...because it totally does! 

This is mostly your fault anyway, all your 'liking' and 'following' me, it's got my head all big thinking I might be able to actually make a living from this. It’s because of you that I believe this is even possible! You gave me the spark which started this fire! Let it burn!

John Mueller

Austin, TX

February 02, 2015

My Process

I wanted to do a blog post about this ‘remastering’ process. I don’t know if it’s really the right word because really this isn’t something commonly done in comics. A creator takes his own work from 20 years ago and re-makes the same story…it’s unique so I wanted to show exactly what’s involved in the process. 

Here you can see one of the original pages from OINK Heaven’s Butcher first published in 1995. This page ultimately became two pages in the new book.


Here are the two pages this page became through this process.

A lot of my decisions in the first book were driven by time management. I didn’t really have a ton of time and in hindsight there were some moments in the book that felt ‘rushed’. I did a lot of reading of Scott Mcloud’s amazing ‘Understanding Comics’ to further my own study regarding the art of telling a story with panels. Ironically I needed more ‘time’ between my panels to give this moment it’s proper due.

My process breaks into two stages of preparation and rendering. The first step  of preparation is a quick sketch of the layout I think I’m going to want regardless of what was in the original. What is the composition of the panels? I then start my study process, sketching the new things I’m going to add. You can see in this sequence it’s really a complete overhaul with nothing but the ‘ideas’ of the original still firmly in place. This image by Norman Rockwell was really in my mind during the creation of the page where Spigot makes his proclamation. I loved the idea of referencing Rockwell in particular because his work was so draped in Americana, and OINK is sort of the antithesis of that.


Once I have my sketches I scan them and begin to place them into a digital template I use for every page. This template has all the proper bleeds and padding required for printing. Once I have my images roughed in I begin to refine the rough drawings.


These first steps are really the important steps of my process, the rest is just rendering. I spend almost equal time in preparation layout vs. rendering.  I’m going to jump to another example here to show my rendering process. Typically I am painting flat color first, but during this I'm thinking about lighting. The rendering process is time consuming and what I’m doing is just slowly working through the image one element at a time.


 Now with my rendering complete I focus on lighting. This is where I start to use things like focus, debris, shadow to refine the image into the end result. These are often done using layer properties in Photoshop. I use Darken or Multiply for my shadows, and Screen, Overlay, or Lighten for my highlights. Once I have that in place I'll start adding in polish elements such as the debris, smoke, objects with motion.


I hope you enjoyed this deeper look into the remaking of OINK. Thank you for supporting independent, creator-owned comics! 


John Mueller

Austin, TX

January 29, 2015

OINK from 1990-2015

When I started this project I originally called it 'The Digitally Remastered' edition, but after 5 years and repainting the entire book I now just think of this as what I actually intended to make if I could have 20 years ago. I started working professionally at 21 and this was a college project that lead to an actual publishing deal with Kitchen Sink Press. It was a great run, but sadly KSP ran out of gas in 1998.  When your publisher goes out of business and your book goes out of print, it’s a bad feeling. I think at 28 I felt defeated, It was a tough time in comics in 1998 and a lot of creators like me were just squeezed out financially. I didn't really have a dance partner after KSP so I left the comics industry, but I think I knew someday I would be back. That was 17 years ago...which reminds of the saying 'Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.'

 I think it was around 2008 I wanted to get OINK back into print, but I couldn't get interest in just a ‘reprint’ because OINK, while successful was not a huge hit. It was just some relic from the past with a new cover, which I understood from a business perspective, that’s when I came up with the idea that  I could ‘update’ it. The image below was the very first page I did…I liked the experience. It was exciting taking my old work and redoing it with 20 years of experience making images. I was very meticulous about retaining as much of the original as I could. Working digitally was an obvious choice for me because I had spent so many years painting digitally. What started as an 'update' turned into a five year project and me completely remaking every page. It's been a ride I hope you enjoy it!


If you are new to OINK he’s been on a 20 year journey to your doorstep. Thank you for supporting creator-owned comics, it's an endangered medium please help keep it alive. There are many projects like OINK that will never happen without your support, seek them out and you will not be disappointed. You will not just be a consumer you will be a patron of the arts. I am so thankful to the people who gave me those words of encouragement and kept me going when I was lost in the dark, thank you for the spark that started this fire.

Below are some of my before and afters from OINK. It is also worth mentioning I've added about a dozen or so new story pages, like when OINK was a piglet. I think they give the story new life and depth.

I wanted this to feel like a European painting depicting a religious moment of sacrifice.

Every page in the book has been completely re-made. The panel layouts and flow are completely different thanks to my curled and well worn copy of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. I learned so much during this project and I can't wait to apply that to future projects. 

Keep supporting independent books! You can click the link above to get your copy!


John Mueller

Austin, TX