The Mule: an impossible project

It started with a random conversation with colorist Marissa Louise during a convention, discussing theoretical methods in which to translate the infinite canvas of online comics into print and emulate Flash animation-style FX through a static medium.

Below is the best I could come up with. The Mule is wonderfully illustrated by Mike Norton, colored by Marissa Louise (of course), and lettered by Crank!.

This one is understandably a real hard sell. Every publisher balked, mostly because the story is completely dependent on what we can afford to do. “No I can’t tell you what happens in it yet, now give me A LOT of money” is a bad pitch. I get it. However, if there’s a publisher with deep pockets and a willingness to make none of it back, my contact info is around here somewhere.

THE MULE or: The Baddest Trip

A hallucinogenic journey into the mind of a middle-aged smuggler during a job gone bad.

“It wasn’t the first time a cannister broke open inside of me, but it was the worst.”
Leonard Farley is a guy with problems. His ex-wife hates him, his daughter won’t talk to him, and his boss will literally kill him if another job goes sideways. See, Leonard is a drug smuggler, and due to a genetic mutation giving him superhuman tolerance, Leonard is one of the very best. When the makers of a powerful new synthetic hallucinogen need a mule to carry their product across the Atlantic, Leonard’s the lucky bastard who gets the call.

But higher tolerance does not mean immunity. When one of the drug-filled cannisters inside his guts springs a leak right after takeoff on a crowded 10-hour flight, an accident that would kill anyone else, Leonard instead embarks on a hallucinated nightmare journey of his past failures and imagined conspiracies of lizard-people who secretly run the world (and who also ruined his marriage). Now, to avoid prison, death, or a one-way trip to a mental hospital, Leonard must regain his grip on reality, avoid drawing the unwanted attention of the on-board air marshal, make it through customs, and finish the damn job.

He doesn’t have a chance.

The Mule is an 80-120 page graphic novel for fans of Better Call Saul or Ozark, crime shows that delve into the mindset of low-level schmucks. It will also appeal to fans of cool art, trippy visuals, and experimental explorations of what comics can be. By incorporating a variety of special printing effects, such as transparent overlays and internal diecutting, The Mule will fully immerse the reader inside of Leonard’s bad, bad trip.

THE STORY: The flight itself would be used as a framing sequence, allowing us to explore Leonard’s life through a series of flashbacks and hallucinations that deteriorate along with Leonard’s mental state. Primarily, we’d learn that for a drug smuggler, Leonard’s not such a bad guy. He just wants to do right by his family but can’t help but screw things up, making the worst possible decision at every turn despite the best intentions and desires.  

As the drugs cause Leonard to hallucinate on the plane, his deteriorating mental state also bleeds into his memories, creating delusions and altering Leonard’s entire reality. (This is one of the places where the special printing effects would really shine.) Leonard starts to believe that he’s trying to rescue his kidnapped family from the cartel he works for, that there’s a race of lizard people who are trying to get their scaley hands on his cargo, and that the drugs in his system come from an alternate dimension, among other things. Leonard’s mental trip lasts about as long as the physical one, and Leonard is able to fight off his mental demons without drawing the attention of any authorities. His final flashback as he returns to his seat is a happy one, where his family is safe and happy and waiting for him at home with open arms.

Off the plane, Leonard meets his contact and reports that he had a small leak, but that he handled it with no issue. His contact comments that this is Leonard’s third leak in a month, and if he’s not careful, the boss will think he’s poking holes in the balloons on purpose. Leonard, full of joy and drug-induced contentment, merely smiles and wonders aloud “when’s my next run?”

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS: Taking literal pages from college textbooks, fashion magazines, and the world of high-end marketing materials, The Mule would incorporate multiple printing and design techniques that would affect the reading experience in many delightful and disorienting ways.

NOTE: The following samples were found online and are for illustrative purposes only.

Interested publishers can reach me at [email protected]