Mouse Guard is back.
Today, comic shops will get the long-awaited fourth issue in the Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 volume of the series, a relief for fans who have been rooting for the little series to survive the restructuring of its publisher, Archaia Studio Press.
After the David Petersen series debuted from Archaia in 2006, Mouse Guard won the hearts of critics and fans of all ages -- as well as a couple Eisner Awards earlier this year. Telling a Lord of the Rings-type story starring mice, the all-ages comic looked to be a huge success for the small independent publisher. The first volume was collected into a hardcover, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, Diamond Select released a series of toys, a role-playing game was announced, and a feature film adaptation of the series was in the works.
But three issues into the series' second volume, Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, the comic came to a surprise halt when Archaia announced in May that the company was restructuring, meaning Mouse Guard was delayed indefinitely.
For months, readers have been waiting for news of more Mouse Guard, the series that used to be published bi-monthly, but now seemed questionable as all of Archaia's comic books disappeared from shops.
Finally, last month, Archaia founder Mark Smylie announced the publisher would be purchased by Chicago-based Kunoichi Inc.
The delays behind him, Petersen talked to Newsarama about today's issue and the future of Mouse Guard.
Newsarama: For fans who have been waiting, is it true? When are we getting a new issue of Mouse Guard?
David Petersen: Today! In addition I have made and MP3 download available on mouseguard.net for a ballad featured in issue this current issue, #4.
NRAMA: Was the delay all because of the restructuring?
DP: Part of the delay in the beginning was for me to finish my chores on the Mouse Guard Role Playing game. About that same time, Archaia Studios Press, my publisher, announced a restructuring that called for an unfortunate halt to all publishing. There was a lot of downtime where negotiations were getting tense, but it seems to have all worked out and Mouse Guard should be back on a regular schedule.
NRAMA: Can you give us any status of what's going to happen with the comic? Is there danger of it being canceled or anything like that?
DP: There is no danger whatsoever. If things hadn't worked out with Archaia, I had a few different ways of getting books out, including self-publishing. However, I am very glad things worked out, because it means less of a wait and transition for fans and that we continue working together.
NRAMA: So will this story finish? Will it be collected? And what comes after that?
DP: Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 was always intended to be a six-issue mini series. With issue #4 hitting today and #5 and #6 shipping bimonthly again, the story will conclude early next year with a summer aim for Hardcover collection. Beyond Winter, we have a Role Playing Game being released in December, and a limited edition of Fall being published for Feb. of '09. I have several more Mouse Guard stories plotted too, so I don't see the Guard going away anytime soon.
NRAMA: For people who aren't familiar with Mouse Guard, what's the story about?
DP: Mouse Guard is a medieval fantasy book with mice as the main characters. Mice build their cities and towns deep and hidden as well as far apart in case of a predator breach. This makes mice prisoners of their own homes, so the Mouse Guard is there to patrol the pathways between mouse settlements to ensure more than survival of the species, but a quality of life. The first series, Fall 1152, had Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam discovering a plot against the Guard itself from within. They also discovered a mythical mouse was more than legend and offering his help to the Guard. Winter picks up with some of the political fallout of Fall and places our heroes in the worst of weather just trying to get back to their home base of Lockhaven with supplies when everything goes wrong.
NRAMA: Handling both writing and art for the series, how did you get started doing this comic?
DP: Mouse Guard was the spawn of a fantasy book I started in high school with foxes and bears and rabbits and rams and ducks and every other beast I could draw. However, in college I reworked the idea to be less crazy and more serious. The mice spawned out of that brainstorming session when I decided they would be the smallest creatures in my story. Then the problem was how to keep characters who are so vulnerable alive and active in the larger story. The Mouse Guard was born in my mind and I plotted ideas for about nine years before I self-published issue #1 of Fall to see if I could sell a comic at the local convention here in Michigan. From there, Archaia saw it in San Diego and signed me for the series.
NRAMA: What collections/issues have already been released? Where would someone start reading if they wanted to pick it up?
DP: The first six issues were collected into a hardcover: Fall 1152. Issues 1-4 of Winter have been released with the collection due out next year. I have had fans say that they started in on Winter without having read Fall, but I'd start with Fall.
NRAMA: For those who aren't familiar with the plans for the Mouse Guard game, can you bring us up to speed on what's happened with that?
DP: The Mouse Guard Role Playing Game is an almost 300-page hardcover RPG by Luke Crane and myself. It contains a ton of new artwork and will act not only as a Role Playing Game but a wonderful companion to the Mouse Guard World. It contains some back-story and history to the Guard that I haven't gotten to in the comics, but won't spoil any future stories. I've seen the book and it turned out beautifully. I've play tested the game and had an amazing time. The system is based on Luke's Burning wheel system that already has a nice fanbase. It adapted to Mouse Guard very well, and I applaud Luke for his effort and attention to detail in making the game fun and sticking to the Mouse Guard lore and feel. It's scheduled to be out in late December.
NRAMA: Is there anything else you want to tell Mouse Guard readers?
DP: Well, first and foremost I may be biased, but I think I have the greatest fans on the planet. During the past several months while sorting out all the restructuring issues, I have been contacted regularly by my fans and they have been so incredibly supportive and understanding that words cannot truly explain my gratitude. So to my fans I'd like to say thank you, and I am looking forward to continuing to hear from you now that the frustrating times are behind us. It's been an amazing journey, and it's because of my fans that I have this opportunity; again, THANK YOU!
Lastly, I wanted to remind the fans that the ballad featured in issue #4 has some significance. The music which accompanies the lyrics was written and played by my good friend Jesse Glenn. When I finished the ballad's lyrics, he then agreed to perform the ballad to his music. I will be making this mp3 available on my website www.mouseguard.net on my blog page free of charge. I hope the fans will visit my site and listen to the "Ballad of the Ivory Lass" while reading that portion of Issue #4.