David Petersen stops by the Outhouse to discuss Mouse Guard, its success, and its future!
David Petersen is the critically acclaimed writer and illustrator of the hit series Mouse Guard. He stopped by the Outhouse to discuss his influences for creating the series, where it will go next and the success he and Mouse Guard has enjoyed.
The Outhouse: How did you first come up with Mouse Guard? What were your influences for creating the vast world of Lockhaven and the surrounding territories?
David Petersen: Mouse Guard grew out of an all animal fantasy story I was working on in High School. In college I dusted the idea off, made some changes that included making the animals real animals (like Aesop's Fables) and less like a Disney cartoon. I decided to focus on the mice and show the story from the perspective of the underdog.
I was influenced by all sorts of things: Role Playing Games, Wind in the Willows, Being a Boy Scout, Disney's Robin Hood, My home state of Michigan, the world building of James Gurney in Dinotopia or Henson and Froud in The Dark Crystal...I could go on and on.
OH: For readers that haven't read Mouse Guard, what is the series about?
DP: It's an all ages comic series about mice with swords. Mice are low on the food chain and they build their cities hidden and spread apart to avoid being wiped out by predators. The Mouse Guard is an altruistic group of mice that patrols the open country between cities, becoming escorts for goods and messages, finding safe routes, and sometimes even driving predators out of their territory. Two series have been completed and collected into hardcover editions as well as a spin off anthology called Legends of the Guard with guest contributors writing and illustrating their takes on the tall tales and legends of Mouse Guard.
OH: One of the many things that makes Mouse Guard such a unique series is the actual size of the comic itself. Why did you choose the 8' by 8' format instead of something more traditional?
DP: Before I started Mouse Guard I had toyed with the idea of doing mini comics (comic made from folding sheets of copy paper and stapling them together). I wanted a mini comic that would stand out and saw that I could use legal sized paper instead of letter size and get a very different shaped book without increasing my costs very much.
I never did do a mini comic in that scale, but it led me to think about how page size and proportion can effect storytelling and panel arrangements. I went with the 8" x 8" for Mouse Guard to force the horizontal panels to have more impact on the page, like a panoramic picture.
OH: What sort of challenges have you faced in both writing and drawing Mouse Guard?
DP: Walking the all ages line is a challenge. I never want to dumb down the content and I never want to make it inaccesable either. It's a tightrope walk for sure with both the writing and the visuals. Having a main character who wields an axe made coreographing battles difficult. Swords are easier to cut around or make the impact seem more palatable in terms of violence...but an axe is much more difficult.
Other than that, I just always want to be doing my best work, and that is a constant challenge.
OH: How do you feel about the favorable response that Mouse Guard has received?
DP: I'm thrilled of course! It's rewarding on many levels. I have teachers and parents thanking me for giving them an all ages option for their kids to get involved in reading, I have comic professionals who I admire asking to do Legends stories, and most importantly, I have comic fans of all ages enjoying the work I do.
OH: Volume 3 of Mouse Guard: The Black Axe is due to come out soon. What can readers expect to see in your newest volume?
DP: The series is a prequel about the mouse Celanawe (pronounced Khel-eN-awe) and how he came to wield the Black Axe and take it as his namesake. It digs into the origins of the axe itself, takes the characters and readers across the sea to unmapped country, mice will face crows, fishers, ferrets, and a few other beasts.
OH: Why did you choose to go with the prequel route instead of moving forward with the plot from the first two volumes?
For a few reasons. Fall 1152 introduces readers to Celanawe and the legend of the Axe, and in Winter 1152 I tried to reinforce the mythos and then pass the torch (or in this case an axe) to a new mouse. Before I jumped in to showing that new mouse wielding the weapon, I felt it was time to show more of it's backstory and help to push it's importance. This should also build anticipation for the reader to want to see the new mouse in the role.
OH: Archaia Press has come out with a companion piece to Mouse Guard, Legends of the Guard. How did they (or you) line up all the creators to help out on the book?
DP: I had a few in mind when we designed the project. But then I made a list of comic storytellers I admired the work of, had given me positive feedback on Mouse Guard, and ultimately felt like a good fit to tell a Mouse Guard type story. Then between myself and the editor Paul Morrissey, we called, emailed, and asked those people in person. We only had one cancelation and a surplus of willing and talented people.
OH: With a second volume of Legends of the Guard coming out, can you talk about any of the creators you have lined up to share stories in upcoming issues?
DP: Well, the release is a ways off (I need to finish Black Axe before I can assist in the editing and add my pages of the tavern scenes) but I am thrilled to say that about half the series is promised to the following (provided they are still available and willing when the time comes): Kenneth Rockafort, Nick Tapalansky & Alex Eckman-Lawn, Stan Sakai, Jim McCann & Janet Lee, Bill Willingham & Eric Canete (!!!)
OH: Do you have any other upcoming projects coming up?
DP: For right now, I'm trying to focus on Mouse Guard and get Black Axe closer to being 'on-schedule'. But a Children's book I already finished called "Snowy Valentines" will be out next fall through Harper Collins.
Mouse Guard: Volumes 1 and 2 as well as Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard are available at a comic book store near you.
Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer