Hackers vs. Bounty Hunters and Demonically Possessed Items - An Interview with TREVOR MUELLER
Ty Whitton, a contributor with Comic Book Yeti, interviews Trevor Mueller about two new webtoons: Nexus Point and Re-Possessed. Nexus Point is about cybercrime and a competition where hackers and bounty hunters are pitted against each other in the world of cybercrime. Re-Possessed is about a character's first job at a pawn shop that contains demonically possessed items, where some of the items sold have the potential to be world-ending sales. Nexus Point is available now and Re-Possessed will be released in early August. The two have an in-depth discussion about each webtoon, more about the creator, while also digging into what it took to create such pieces of art.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Trevor, I appreciate your time and ability in connecting with me within the land of the Comic Book Yeti to talk about your new webtoons Nexus Point and Re-Possessed! How has your year been so far, leading up to each webtoon's release this summer?
TREVOR MUELLER: Thanks so much for having me. My year has been good. Busy, but good. It's nice to see all the work we've been doing finally get released, and we can finally start talking to our fans and new readers about some of the cool things we've been putting together in these comics.
CBY: Knowing that you've been a part of very popular creations in your past, it seems that you're a very busy writer. What do you do to keep calm or find peace in between the many projects of yours?
TM: Honestly, working on the comics does bring me peace (and joy!). I like to listen to music when I write – I find it helps inspire some scenes or moments in the story, so I'll build up "soundtracks" for the stories before I start writing, and then use those playlists throughout the writing process. But when I'm not working on comics, I tend to unwind by watching some movies or TV shows and spending time with my family. My kids are hilarious, and always keep me laughing.
CBY: What are the main reasons that you enjoy conducting lectures and presentations on literacy and creativity, to name a few, at schools and conventions in your spare time?
TM: Both of my parents were teachers, so you might say teaching is in the blood? But also, I remember when I was first getting started in my career and didn't have a lot of resources to learn how to make comics. I just kind of had to do it, and learn from my mistakes along the way. Even my mentors through the years were usually seasoned comic writers, but they didn't have insight into the process beyond turning in their scripts to editors. I had to learn how to take a story from my head and turn it into a book I could hold in my hand. And if I can make that journey smoother for the next generation of comic creators, then I consider that to be a good thing.
CBY: Your webtoon Nexus Point provides a very entertaining look at how hackers and bounty hunters fight to stay ahead of one another. What motivated you to go the route of this type of webtoon and what made you pit hackers against bounty hunters?
TM: I had read an article a while back about two hackers who got their hands on a new car that had just come off the line, and spent months trying to hack into it remotely. They hired a stunt driver to drive the car around, and they would turn up the radio, or switch off the brakes. The goal was for them to write up a paper and show the manufacturer these flaws ahead of them making a presentation about it at a conference, so they could fix any virtual security issues with the car today. I hadn't read a story about hackers like that before, and I asked myself, "What if everything was hackable? What would crime look like in a future where everything and anything was able to be compromised remotely?" So this started the seed of ideas that would become Nexus Point.
In a world where everything is hackable, how do you stop criminals? Cops would have other responsibilities – and also, limitations on their jurisdiction. Someone from another country could hack into a refrigerator in your building and turn it off, spoiling everything inside. Who hunts down this criminal? Bounty hunters seemed like a natural fit, since they can go anywhere to find the people they're looking for.
CBY: Your other newer webtoon Re-Possessed shows a totally different type of confrontation, but on a more paranormal front where it's college students versus possessed furniture. What specifically influenced you to go towards more of a paranormal path in this story, compared to works of your past?
TM: I had been working on Nexus Point for a few months when we got the green light on Re-Possessed, and I had learned a lot during that time on how to make a webtoon. I wanted to tell a lighter, funnier story – like a workplace comedy, but with elements of horror and action. I worked a lot of years in retail, and wanted to try to channel some of those experiences into a comedy/horror/adventure story. Think Clerks meets Army of Darkness, but with the hero needing a bit of time to get that confident and capable. Their journey to becoming a hero would be fun and funny to read. Plus, I liked the idea of everyday mundane things coming to life and trying to kill our characters.
I try not to limit myself to any one particular genre or writing style when I work – it keeps me engaged in writing, and allows me to find new audiences with every new project that I take on. I like to keep myself guessing, too, when I work. There have been a lot of times when I'm working on an episode of Re-Possessed where I'll surprise myself. Working on these two series that are very different from each other keeps me on my toes as a writer.
CBY: What makes both Re-Possessed and Nexus Point stand out in comparing these works to what you've accomplished in the past?
TM: For one thing, they're both for an older audience than my previous series, Albert the Alien. When I was working on Albert, we would get these young readers coming up to the table, very excited to buy the next volume of the trades. But over time, those audiences started to age out, and they wanted stories that were more challenging, for older audiences, with deeper themes and harder challenges for the characters. I realized at the time that I didn't have any stories for these readers as they got older. So when we finished the Albert the Alien series, I got to work on doing more content for teens and young adults.
In these stories, the characters are older, the dangers they face are more deadly, and the tone of the stories shifts a lot more than my previous young readers series. They're still lots of fun, but they keep readers guessing more on what's going to happen next.
And also, Webtoon allows for more media to get introduced into the comics themselves. While my stories don't have any animation in them (yet), we do have original music playing in the background of Nexus Point. In fact, our first episode has a song by former Power Ranger actor and legend of the anime voice acting world, Johnny Yong Bosch!
CBY: Regarding both webtoons, did you model any of the characters off of real-life people?
TM: Not so much "modeled them off," but there were elements of inspiration from people I know. In Nexus Point, one of our leads, Gemi, is a young hacker who is both a young woman and a person of color. I have a friend who helped inspire some of these elements in Gemi. I don't normally give my artists direction on the physical looks of our characters – I'd rather describe them in terms of attitude, interests, and behaviors, and let the artist decide what they look like. But with Gemi, I wanted her to retain some physical attributes from my friend who helped inspire her. So I asked that she be a POC – and my artist came up with the look for her. And when I showed my friend the design for Gemi, she started crying, saying, "She looks like me!"
For Re-Possessed, we didn't model any characters off real-life people. But I did take some real-life situations and put [them] into the story. I have a lady friend who speaks very bluntly, comes off as socially awkward, and doesn't have a lot of female friends because of it. I loosely based one of our leads, Mari, around those aspects. She's besties with our main character, Troy, and no one can understand why they hang out together. She's abrasive and rude and bullheaded – but Troy doesn't mind those parts of her. He likes her because she's also honest and loyal and wears her heart on her sleeve. And as the story progresses, we'll find out why these two characters became friends and why they stick together through thick and thin.
CBY: Which webtoon, between the two, did you have the most fun creating?
TM: Oh goodness, can I say both of them? They're so different! And I love them both for their differences.
For Nexus Point, I like coming up with what this cyberpunk world of the "not too distant future" looks like. If everything is in your mind, what would be physical? We go to a karaoke bar in one of the early episodes, and we kept asking ourselves, "would there be a microphone? Do you need speakers, or does the sound just port directly into people's heads?" So these were fun challenges to answer as we built the look and feel of the world.
For Re-Possessed, I love coming up with the different possessed items they need to battle. In the first episode, there's a killer toilet. In later episodes, we have chairs with a taste for humans, jewelry that turns you into a floating demon, books that try to eat your face, and so much more!
CBY: Which artists would you love to work on projects with in the future?
TM: This is a great question, because I have a list of artists I'd love to work with as long as my arm! But I also really love the artists I work with on my projects today.
I'm really fond of the work done by Laura Braga (Witchblade, Bombshells, Archie and Katy Kane). Her art is so incredible to look at, and I'd love to work with her on a project someday. I'm also a huge fan of Talent Caldwell, and while he's done a poster for my Albert the Alien series, I'd love to do a project with him someday.
CBY: What creators have influenced your work the most and why did they have such a heavy influence?
TM: I really like the writing styles of people like Ron Marz, Johnathan Hickman, and Robert Kirkman. Marz has this great way of keeping the reader guessing all the time and putting twists into his stories that you don't expect. Hickman is a master world builder, and some of his stories are just so incredible. East of West is one of my all-time favorites of his. And Kirkman is a master of dialogue, making characters relatable, unique, and pacing their adventures at a pace that makes you very engaged with the story. I'm not only a comic book writer, but I'm also a comic book fan, and I love seeing how other creators use the tools at our disposal and really stretch the capabilities of the page. And now that I'm working on Webtoons, it's fun to play with that vertical scroll format in a similar way.
CBY: Do you enjoy any comic books or comic book movies in your spare time? If so, which media do you find yourself paying attention to the most?
TM: I do, for sure! For comics, I read what my friends are working on or whatever catches my eye. Both from the publishers, and I'm a bit advocate for crowd-funding indie comic projects (which, I also use those sites to help fund my own projects). I'm a big fan of the Marvel movies, but I also enjoy non-comic movies and TV shows when I get a chance to watch them. I'm really starting to study film more, since I'm working on a few movie projects with some friends of mine as well. I'm always looking to challenge myself, and a switch in media (from comics to film) feels like a fun transition to make. At least to try it out.
CBY: What do you love the most about your job as a creator?
TM: I love meeting the fans, and seeing their faces when a new project or book has come out is so rewarding. I love inspiring the next generation of creators and encouraging them to follow their dreams and tell their stories. And I love hanging out with my other creator friends and talking shop when we get a chance to get together for conventions.
CBY: Where can everyone find you online?
TM: @TrevorAMueller is my Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, etc. Find me, follow me, friend me.
You can also check out my website and sign up for my newsletter at https://www.TrevorAMueller.com
CBY: Thank you so much for your time and your incredible answers! You have two wonderful creations in Nexus Point and Re-Possessed, where I hope these two webtoons have as great of an impact on readers as they have had on me!
TM: Thanks so much for having me! And please check out the comics!