It’s 2:15 am on a Wednesday morning and a flickering streetlight through the window of a Chicago apartment. Marcus Muller shifts through a pile of comic pages to find where he left off from his last late night drawing session.
“I’ve found that there’s a sweet spot during the wee hours of the morning somewhere between 2:30 AM and 10 AM where I get the bulk of my artwork done,” explains Muller. “I can be dragging ass all day, but for some reason during those hours I can make up for lost time and things just start to click.”
It’s just another night in the life of Marcus Muller, an independent illustrator and comic creator. The Chicago artist has provided artwork for Dark Horse Comics, Locust Moon Press, and DC Comics. His illustrations were featured in Udon Entertainment’s Capcom Fighting Tribute book and in the Eisner Award winning Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream.
Muller sets his pen down and cranks up his Danzig playlist. His desk houses dozens of art books and comics. “They’re always within reach when I need some inspiration,” says Muller, picking up an old Disney animation artbook off his desk to make room for a large mug of coffee..
“I think my first comic was a He-Man comic my mom got me when I was around 5 years old,” Mueller explains. “I didn’t start buying comics regularly though until a few years later, when I started picking up the Archie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. From there I got sucked in and would buy whatever comics I could get my hands on.”
Growing up, Muller always kept drawing because he knew would want to pursue a career in either animation or comics. As time went on, it was apparent that comics were going to win. “I think having that ability in comics to create them all on your own was a big draw,” Muller explains. “There’s a lot of flexibility and freedom in that. The medium has no limits to the kind of stories you can tell with it.”
Muller is working on an original graphic novel series called “King of the Unknown”. In the other worldly tale, a supernatural mishap causes the King of Rock n’ Roll to fake his own death and then use some new found magical mojo and Kung Fu kick-assery to become the world’s premiere paranormal investigator for a secret government agency, known as the IRSU (the Institute for Research and Study of the Unknown). “He comes to grips with a lot of stuff from his past and getting his rock mojo back.” Muller jokes, “basically, it’s an Elvis version of How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”
Muller’s pencil begins to create a rather portly version of a reigning king of rock and roll on the paper. “Aside from being a lifelong fan, I don’t think this story could be told with anyone else.” Muller says as he leans back, takes a sip of his coffee, and admires the King. “Elvis is such an icon and there’s almost like this mythology to him, and that’s one of the things the comic plays with. There’s so much material that can be mined there, and when so much of the story has rock n’ roll intertwined into it, there’s no way this could work with anyone else.”
What’s unique about King of the Unknown is that it deals heavily with the supernatural. “As a kid the paranormal and supernatural always fascinated me.” Marcus says. “As an adult, my interest lies more into how little of out world we as humans actually know. There’s so much out there that we don’t know, we’ve barely scratched the surface.”
When asked how someone could have come up with such a bizarre idea for a comic, Muller was glad to share. The first idea for King of the Unknown was born in 2007. Muller’s friends Amado Rodriguez and Bud Burgy asked him to contribute a story for an anthology they were putting together called ‘Muscles & Fights.’
“With a title like ‘Muscles & Fights’, I wanted to do something that encompassed all that that entails, silly and lots of action.” Muller laughs. “My idea was to have these two things that were like urban legends duke it out. I’m into Elvis, so putting the fat Elvis in there seemed funny, and then I figured having him fighting a Bigfoot would be pretty good and add to the ridiculousness of it.”
‘King of the Unknown’ has drawn a number of comparisons to TV shows, more so than other comic books. “I’ve heard it described as a cross between the X-Files and the Venture Bros.” Marcus states. “I’d also add in Ghostbusters since that was a huge influence on me, especially with its mix of horror and humor.” Marcus also pointed out some similarities to movies such as Monster Squad, Lost Boys, Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.
Marcus is banking on the fact that ‘King of the Unknown’ is different than a lot of the comics on the rack of your local comic shop. “I think the amount of humor in the book is a big difference that you just don’t see in a lot of comics these days.” Marcus explains. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here and create anything too deep, I just want this to be a fun comic that hopefully will entertain people and they’ll come back to it more than once.”
“Aside from the interesting conspiracy theories and stories floating around online, me personally, I think the man is no longer with us,” he laughs. “But, if he is, I really hope he isn’t offended by “King of the Unknown” and digs it. I’d like to think he’d be into a lot of the material that’s in the comic, since it does contain a lot of his interests in it…and the occasional peanut butter sandwich.”