Our partner Akileos Publishing is responsible for the upcoming French edition of Dungeon Crawl Classics. We recently ran an interview they did with our own Dark Master, Joseph Goodman, as well as another interview conducted with Harley Stroh—but that’s not the end of it.
Akileos had one more interview in them: Peter Mullen. This interview was already run on their site in French but the whole thing was conducted in English, and we thought you might want to read it for yourself.
Here is the English version of the interview. This will give you some insight into Peter’s creative process, and the things that
twisted his mind influenced his creativity!
Hello Peter! Thanks for answering a few questions for us.
First of all, could you first introduce yourself and tell us your background, how you discovered RPGs?
Hello! My name is Peter Mullen.
It was either ‘81 or ‘82 when my mother, who did the Christmas shopping at our house, picked up the Moldvay Basic set (with the Erol Otus cover) and the Star Frontiers boxed set for my two older brothers. I was horrified that Santa didn’t give them Star Wars action figures. Whatever they did it must have been pretty terrible! I remember looking through the books when they put them down and liking the pictures – especially the ones in Star Frontiers since it most resembled the Star Wars phenomenon at the time. After a while of not being included, as I was at that time the youngest, they finally let me in to play a fighter because their elf and wizard guys kept dying. Eventually, we got the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Players Handbook, and Monster Manual and that’s pretty much all we’ve ever played since. My high school friends and college buddies played 2nd Edition D&D but my brothers and I always stuck with either B/X or AD&D.
Do you still play?
Yes! As a good dad, the kids are being trained in the fun, wonder and intellectual growth provided by tabletop role-playing games! DCC RPG is great for us as it’s fast, easy to run, and doesn’t take a week to prepare! One of my big goals this year is to get the kids to write up their own adventures and get to be a player for once!
Could you tell us more about your technique? Your style is so easily recognizable. What are your influences?
My “technique” grew as a result of drawing what happened in our D&D and Star Frontiers games with my brothers and cousin. In middle school, I mimicked the art styles of comic artists that I liked at the time. Which can be seen in the drawings I was making in high school. These were populated with muscle-bound brutes in furry loincloths swinging lots of ornate swords and such. Later, the focus shifted to a style that tried to embody the wonderment and weirdness of artists like Erol Otus and Dave Trampier. One of the things that drew me to the older D&D artwork was that there were no super-heroes depicted. They seem like your average everyday weirdos like that skinny kid talking to himself at the library or the guy hanging out at the comic book shop arguing about who’s the best Batman artist. I wanted my viewers to come away from my work with a sense that the poor motley fools about to be eaten had a chance! Admittedly not a huge chance but if they were scrappy enough or clever enough, they could come out of this encounter victorious. I think we tend to root for the underdogs in any match and empathize with a “hope springs eternal!” outlook. This is what I always saw in Erol Otus’s work.
Comics were always of great interest to me and I remember being really into Spider-Man and the X-Men when I was in middle school and then when high school came around I was avidly looking for things like Appleseed, Frank Miller’s Batman, anything by Mike Mignola, Cerebus, Groo the Wanderer, and all the comics that nobody wanted and were willing to sell for a penny and anything else that was weird or unusual. The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes were also highly prized and much more readily available. I would clip them out every week from the comics page my aunt Jenny use to save for me. In college I got the Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind perfect collection and still think it’s one of the best comics ever written. Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Sin City, and anything with Geoff Darrow or Frank Miller. It was also around this time that I started going back and finding old Flash Gordon collections by Alex Raymond and Prince Valiant comics by Hal Foster. I love Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew and have recently found Frank by Jim Woodring – which is fabulous!
I hear you work as an art teacher. Was this choice a way to earn a living and/or a true calling?
I’m currently teaching as an Adjunct Professor of Drawing and Painting at a branch campus for Penn State University. I’ve taught art now for almost 13 years between high school and college levels. As an art major, I love teaching art. It can be challenging though when trying to teach someone to look at things a different way. But at the same time, I find I learn just as much as anyone when I see the students investigate solutions that I wouldn’t have come up with. To me, teaching and learning are reciprocal in their use and execution of ideas.
Do you also produce some painted covers? Do you prefer black and white illustrations or enjoy both sides?
I enjoy creating cover work! It’s fun and very challenging to try and encapsulate an entire book or module into one painting while also creating an element of mystery and a desire in the potential buyer to find out what is going on. It’s a balancing act between not enough information and too much!
It’s impossible to decide whether I prefer black and white or colorwork, I really enjoy both. With pen and ink, I like to explore textures and mark-making processes. In my colorwork the interplay of light and shadows and how color can inform the viewer of the uniqueness of the environment.
What’s on your drawing board right now?
Some interior illustrations for Goodman Games’ Empire of the East Module for DCC RPG!
Thanks for your time, Peter.
Thank you very much!