Trevor Mueller (Reading With Pictures, Albert The Alien) has started his newest project on Zoop! Los Ojos of the Dead follows a hitman for hire with a unique ability, allowing them to see whether a human is an angel or a demon!

The Beat caught up with Mueller to get an in-depth look into the project and explore how our protagonist’s abilities shape his morality, the creative process behind the comic, our own human perception, and more!

DIEGO HIGUERA: Los Ojos has been described as “John Wick meets John Constantine.” What aspects of these iconic characters and their worlds influenced your creation of this graphic novel?

TREVOR MUELLER: With comparison titles, you always want to pick something contemporary. With Los Ojos, I wanted the action and visual storytelling of John Wick, but the supernatural/horror elements of a John Constantine. It’s a story about one man with two guns fighting demons – some of which may be his own personal demons. There are also some similar themes of found family, redemption, and an unrelenting need to do what’s right.

And truth be told, there might’ve been a Keanu Reeves marathon going when I came up with those comparison titles.

Los Ojos of the Dead

HIGUERA: Andres Sanchez’s ability to see people as angels or demons adds a fascinating layer to the story. What inspired this unique twist, and how does it shape Andres’s journey throughout the narrative?

MUELLER: Andres’ ability started off as a question: “If we were to switch bodies, would green still look like the same color?” I took that question a step further and asked, “Would I see the world and the people in it the same way?” Andres has a unique way to perceive the world around him, but it’s also very binary: Good and evil. And he operates in this way very carefully. There are some things he intentionally turns a blind eye to because it makes his crusade easier. In the very first issue, this perception is called into question after having done this job for years. His world is thrown upside down, his crusade called into question, and Andres has to figure out how this belief needs to change – especially as he takes on the role of being a surrogate father to a kid he helps rescue.

Having kids myself, they’re basically balls of “chaotic neutral.” And so for Andres, who only really sees good and evil, he has to learn how to navigate this new way of thinking. All the while trying to figure out, are the demons he sees real…or are they something else?

Los Ojos of the Dead

HIGUERA: The theme of questioning reality and morality seems central to Los Ojos. How do you explore these themes within the context of a fast-paced action narrative?

MUELLER: Great question. My approach to this was to start simple – in binary terms, like the way Andres sees the world. Some of the early villains Andres encounters are very clearly evil. But people in real life never see themselves as villains, no matter how bad some of their thoughts and actions may seem. Most people see themselves as the hero or victim of their own story. We apply that to Los Ojos. So as the story progresses, we start to see bits of “gray” appear in who these targets are. Since Andres is our POV character, we’ll start to get introduced to some other narrators throughout the story – which will hopefully give a more rounded approach to the way Andres perceives the world. Andres is taking on new monsters in almost every chapter of this story – each a reflection of their own personalities – and his worldview continues to get called into question as the story progresses.

HIGUERA: Can you share any insights into your collaboration with artist Francesco Iaquinta? How did his artwork contribute to bringing the world of Los Ojos to life, especially considering its mature themes?

MUELLER: Francesco and I actually made Los Ojos many years ago for a publisher that doesn’t exist anymore. It was supposed to be a backup story for another series, and when the editor saw Francesco’s artwork, he decided to print it as a single-issue story. It served as a stand-alone tale, but I always thought it could also work as a setup for a larger story. But it wasn’t until years later that a larger story finally came to me. Around that time, my life changed – and I figured, what would happen if we threw a similar curve ball to a character like Andres? I pitched this idea to Francesco, and he was totally on board!

So the first issue in this collection is that original story (now in color), and then the continued chapters we added to expand upon it.

For this new tale, Francesco was very excited to draw monsters. He wanted to see a variety of demons for Andres to fight, and he wanted to explore Andres’ origins more. Where does this ability come from? Is what Andres sees real, or just in his head? At the same time, Francesco had really wanted to push our original story in terms of mature themes and content – and the editorial team at the time was pushing back. This time, we’re self-publishing the book – so we can put whatever kind of dark and crazy stuff we want to! And with no restrictions, Francesco and I were really able to have fun, do some crazy designs and unique-looking monsters, and put as much mature content in it as we wanted!

HIGUERA: Andres Sanchez’s internal struggle with questioning reality and morality is a compelling aspect of Los Ojos. How do you balance character development with the fast-paced action sequences typical of the genre?

 Trevor: I think the two play well with each other. On the one hand, you have an action story about one man with two guns fighting demons. On the other hand, you have the unreliable narrative component – and questioning his grasp on reality – and those thriller tones help add to the tension in some of these more intense action sequences. We have a moment in this story where someone actually calls Andres out on what he’s seeing right now, and we (the reader) see what he does…compared to what the other person sees. And we have to ask ourselves, “Is what Andres sees real, or is he just crazy?”

As the POV character in the story, I’m also hoping we’ve made Andres a bit sympathetic. He’s doing a bad thing (hitman for hire is illegal, last time I checked), but for good reasons (he fights monsters). So hopefully the reader will relate to Andres as he’s figuring out what’s really happening around him, and enjoy the backdrop of all the fight scenes throughout as well.

HIGUERA: The title Los Ojos directly references the protagonist’s unique ability to see the world differently. How important is the concept of perception versus reality in shaping the narrative, and what do you hope readers will glean from exploring this theme?

Trevor: Los Ojos is Spanish for “The Eyes,” but “The Eyes” isn’t a very catchy title. At the time I was writing the original story, I was watching a lot of 90s action movies – like Desperado. I thought having a title in another language would be fun. I speak a little Spanish, and I love the music and the culture. And knowing Andres was Hispanic, it would also tell the reader a little something about him before they picked up the book.

To answer your question, the concept of perception vs reality is a very strong theme throughout the story. To Andres, he sees himself as a crusader ridding the world of evil. But he’s also being hunted by two FBI agents who see him as a serial contract killer. I think in today’s day and age, it’s very easy to assume what you know (or what you think you know) is reality, but that’s not always the case. There may be more layers, nuances, or details that make what should be a simple thing more complicated. I hope with reading this story, readers will start to think a little bit about things through other people’s eyes. How do they see the world? Why do they see it differently? And in a world with varying perceptions, what is reality?

Los Ojos of the Dead

HIGUERA: Creating a graphic novel involves meticulous planning and execution. Could you walk us through your creative process, from initial idea generation to final publication?

Trevor: In the world of writing, there’s a spectrum with two opposing ends. On one end are “plotters,” and on the other end are “panters.” There are pros and cons to both, and writers tend to go back and forth between these two. It’s not binary, it’s a spectrum. I tend to lean more towards the “plotters” end of that spectrum. So with Los Ojos, it all started with that question of, “If we switched bodies, would I still see the world the same way?” Then I added, “How would someone make a living with a different perception of the world?” Hitman-for-hire seemed like an interesting angle. And then I asked, “How could I turn this character’s world upside down?”

That last question was the hard one for me and took years to come up with. It wasn’t until my own life changed (I had kids) that it finally dawned on me what to do with Andres for a longer adventure. And until the original tale (which was 25 pages), this one would need more time to explore. So when I pitched it to Francesco, I told him my plan – and he was totally on board!

In terms of timing, once I had that new idea figured out, it didn’t take long to outline the entire tale. I write pretty fast, so the script came together quickly. Francesco is also a really fast artist – he’s great to work with, and keeps me on my toes – so we turned the art around quickly. Then because his art style had changed since the first book, I wanted a way to unify the stories so they didn’t look as different – and that meant adding color. That took a little longer. Francesco introduced me to Marco Pagnotta, who does an incredible job with the colors! And then we turned it over to the brilliant hands of Taylor Esposito for the letters, and he knocked it out of the park and finished it off for us!

All in all, it’s a story that’s been in my head for almost 7 years. But it took us maybe a year to put it together into this book!

HIGUERA:  Lastly, is there anything about you or your work that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share with Comics Beat readers?

MUELLER: Los Ojos is a love letter to action horror stories, and my first time writing a mature readers graphic novel. It explores complex, mature themes – all under the backdrop of high-octane action. It has human moments. It has frightening moments – and not just because some of the monsters are scary, but because of human moments. Paranoia, questioning reality, and finding things to fight for – it’s all in this book!

It’s been a fun, exciting learning experience for me as a writer. And I am very excited to get this book into the world so people can enjoy the story I’ve had in my head all this time.

To learn more check out the project here!