For seven years, David Petersen's Mouse Guard series has told the story of a brotherhood of warrior mice and their adventures. The Mouse Guard brand is no stranger to success having garnered numerous awards and acclaim along the way, as well as spin-offs such as Legends of the Guard. However, unlike the other Mouse Guard books, Legends of the Guard is an anthology produced by other creators, instead of Petersen himself.
The first volume of Legends of the Guard came out three years ago and now Petersen and company have put out a second volume with publisher Archaia (now an imprint of BOOM! Studios), simply called Legends of the Guard: Volume 2. Petersen hand-picked the creators, which include the likes of Bill Willingham and the legendary Stan Sakai. Newsarama recently talked to Petersen about the success of the first volume, the comfort level of other writers and artists dabbling in his world, as well as the potential for a third volume.
Newsarama: David, the first volume of Legends of the Guard was a huge success and actually won Best Anthology a few years ago, so it makes sense to return and do another one. Who do you have lined up this time to take on your world and characters?
David Petersen: It made sense to do mainly because the fans, contributors and I all had so much fun with it! Having the Eisner win was a delightful confirmation that only made the powers-that-be more anxious to get the, already in the works, second volume rolling faster.
For this second volume I went back to what I tried to do with the first, get the right mix of creators who fans know, might have heard of, and are having their first exposure to in a Legends book: Stan Sakai, Nick Tapalansky & Alex Eckman-Lawn, Ben Caldwell, Rick Geary, Christian Slade, Jemma Salume, Cory Godbey, C.P. Wilson III, Eric Canete, Justin Gerard, Bill Willingham, Jackson Sze, & Dirk Shearer.
Nrama: Were you surprised by the success of the first volume at all?
Petersen: It was never a sure thing that an anthology project of Mouse Guard was going to work. Anthologies in general are known for being a risky publishing venture. But I put a great deal of thought into how to hedge my bets to give "Legends" the best chance it could have to appeal to my existing fanbase and also be an introduction to my Mouse Guard world for new readers.
Nrama: What elements do you consider going into picking creators for something like this?
Petersen: I handpicked everyone who was in volume one and two. I wanted storytellers I could trust to play in the Mouse Guard world, so I looked for people who were doing work I admired. They needed to have their own unique voice, be someone who would get how to tell a Mouse Guard fairy tale, and it helped if I knew them so that we could enjoy working on the project together. I wanted it to be a blend of styles...artistically, story-wise, length, vocabulary, mood, genre...lots of room to reach out in the set-up for Legends, so trust was the main factor in giving someone that freedom to play.
Nrama: Do you have anyone in particular you haven't worked with yet on an anthology that you want for the next time around?
Petersen: That is no short list! Mark Buckingham, James Gurney, Becky Cloonan, Joe Hill, Skottie Young, Gabriel Rodriguez , Art Adams....
Nrama: Was there a story in the first volume that particularly blew you away?
Petersen: There were no stinkers, it was great storytelling volume because of all involved. But the one that still resonates with me the most is Jeremy Bastian's "The Battle of the Hawk's Mouse & the Fox's Mouse". Jeremy is a good friend of mine, so I'm sure folks think I single that story out just because we are pals...but it was the story that made me say "Damn, I wish I had written that...that's the history I want to use in my books for what actually happened". Jeremy also did a panel arrangement that I knew he'd been personally wanting to do for some time: a spiral, and not only did he take the risk in my book, but it paid off and makes the story really unique.
Nrama: When starting the first volume and going back the second time around, did it ever feel weird to essentially give the keys to the castle away even for a little while?
Petersen: Not really, no. But that level of comfort was built in for me with the initial concept. Because these stories are the tall tales and folklore of the Mouse Guard world, none of it had to mesh perfectly with my stories (already published or future planned series). Couple that with my method of handpicking storytellers I trust, and I never have to get worried about giving away those keys. There are certainly stories I would have told differently, or may not have told at all, but I think that's part of the reason for doing a Mouse Guard anthology, to explore those storytelling places.
Nrama: What can fans look forward to in this volume that they might have missed the first time?
Petersen: The lineup of artist/writers is totally different than the first volume, so there is no good way to compare what's different. I think some notable highlights for Volume 2 are a watercolor story by Stan Sakai about love and also the method of revenge, Bill Willingham's return to drawing a comic story in a clever tale about outwitting those who are dangerous but foolish, a story told through song (with sheet music for those musically inclined) and the first ever two-page spread in a Legends story by Eric Canete of the biggest most viciously epic battle scene ever to be in a Mouse Guard book.
Nrama: The final issue of volume two just came out, as well as the collected hardcover, do you have plans already for a volume three or are you concentrating elsewhere?
Petersen: I do have a full list of contributors for third volume...Archaia and I have not even talked about what kind of schedule we would want to pursue, and right now I'm focusing on some other side projects, but yes, I'd say a Volume 3 is slowly being planned.