David Petersen's Mouse Guard series has been touching readers' imaginations with a fantastical world centerting around a band of warrior mice for a shade under a decade now. For the past couple of years, Petersen has released a brand new Mouse Guard story for Archaia's Free Comic Book Day sampling and now these stories are collected in one place: Mouse Guard: Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales. Alongside the four stories, there will be two brand new Mouse Guard tales, giving the reader a broader look at the Mouse Guard world.
Newsarama spoke recently to Petersen about the Mouse Guard legacy as a whole, the expanding of the Guard's mythos into RPGs, and how he sees Mouse Guard ending should it ever do so. Petersen also supplied Newsarama with some first look art with a page from each story featured in the book.
Newsarama: David, Mouse Guard has been with Archaia for almost a decade now and now we have a recently announced new Mouse Guard anthology: Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales. This was done completely by you instead of the Legends of the Guard formula where you enlisted other great talent. How'd it feel to jump back in the saddle again, so to speak?
David Petersen: Yes, this book is all my work again, but still a collection of short stories. Some of the stories in this collection are from my past years doing Free Comic Book Day stories. And back when I was starting those, I was seeing how much fun all the contributors to Legends of the Guard were having telling tall tales and folklore in the Mouse Guard world, that I wanted to play that same way. It's really fun to be able to do a collection of stories that builds up the lore and history of Mouse Guard, but without being as epic and labor intensive as a traditional Mouse Guard series like Fall 1152 or The Black Axe. I love folklore and I love exploring the corders and past of this world I've set up.
Nrama: Can you tell us a bit more about "Baldwin"? It almost seems like a collection of fairy tales and almost history lessons.
Petersen: The new hardcover book contains six short stories that act as morality tales being told to younger versions of the mice from the Mouse Guard series. The title story "Baldwin the Brave" is a fan favorite where a young Saxon watches a marionette puppet play about a mouse who took action instead of just shrugging his shoulders in bad events and how that paid off for him and also shaped Saxon's life outlook. Four of the stories were featured as Free Comic Book Day offerings, but I've added two all new stories. And as teasers, I'll say that one features characters shown in a Legends of the Guard story by Jeremy Bastian, and the other reveals a little information about what happens in the Mouse Guard world after Winter 1152 (since every story I've done since it's release has been a prequel). The new collection has a new map, an introduction I've written to the fans, and a little poem. I wanted this book to be as bed-time story feeling as possible, and I hope to use it as the best point-of-entry for new Mouse Guard readers
At Comic Con this year, we are doing a Mouse Guard panel with a live reading of 3 of the 6 shorts from this book as the panels are displayed on-screen. And special guest readers like Meredith Salenger & Hal Lublin will be providing their voices. It will be a special event to promote what I think is a special book.
Nrama: Now you just recently had a successful Kickstarter about a Mouse Guard tabletop game. This is actually the second Mouse Guard RPG you've helped make. What is it about this universe and gaming that makes it a perfect match?
Petersen: To clarify, the Role Playing Game Luke Crane & I made, is a traditional Roleplaying Game (like D&D) played in the imaginations of the players and Game Master who are collectively telling a story. That book has been out of print for a while, but is coming back in shortly; in fact, Luke just sent Archaia the revised & edited files for the book recently. But this Kickstarter is for a traditional abstract board game. It's more akin to Othello or checkers/chess than a roleplaying game. It's called Swords & Strongholds and is featured in the pages on Mouse Guard as a game the mice play in taverns. And now that the Kickstarter has reached funding, Swords and Strongholds is going to be a reality! We still have lots of time on the Kickstarter, so anyone who wants to secure a copy of the game still can: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/burningwheel/mouse-guard-swords-and-strongholds
As for why gaming and Mouse Guard work? I don't know that there is a simple answer. For the RPG, everyone knows what it feels like to be the little guy in life, to feel like you can't compete against the world around you or overcome the obstacles in your way, and while that is a true summary of any RPG, playing out an adventure where you are a mouse sets it apart as all the more honest of a relatable struggle.
Beyond that, I think there's an element of me being a gamer myself that translates into the pages of Mouse Guard so it's a natural fit for the fans...which is a good thing, because Luke and I are collaborating on two more games for Mouse Guard.
Nrama: Which do you enjoy more, doing the narrative with Saxon and the Guard or exploring some of the world's mythology and folklore?
Petersen: Hard to answer. I do have less stress writing and drawing a folklore piece, but the payoff at the end is of a different quality. So I'd say that when I'm in the thick of it, I slightly enjoy the folklore stuff more, but when it's done, I can be a bit more proud of the larger stories. Including the main characters from Mouse Guard as the audience for the shorts allows me to stick my toe into the waters of the larger narrative and give the reader a bit more info about character development while still doing a short.
Nrama: You've done some interesting variant covers as of late, but what's it feel like whenever you get to come back to Mouse Guard? Or do you relish in working on something different from time to time?
Petersen: The freelance cover work is fun for exactly the reason you mention, to draw something different for a change. However, I love working on my own book and I have so many Mouse Guard stories I want to tell, that I don't want to take too much time away from them. And while the editors on those other books have always been great to work with, it is a big change to suddenly have someone else making requests for changes (either on behalf of the publisher or the parent rights holder), something that doesn't happen on Mouse Guard. That being said, I'd love to do some more "Ninja Turtles" or Rocket Raccoon covers again in the future.
Nrama: Do you have any favorite moments of the series so far? Either done by you or any one or many of your Legends of the Guard contributors?
Petersen: It seems horrible of me to say so, but I think my favorite moments in my Mouse Guard work is when the characters are upset or really sad. I've done death scenes, funeral scenes, finding a loved one has passed away when you were not around, these feel the most successful to me because they feel real, like I did my job. The most recent moment I can pinpoint is in Black Axe after Celanawe, the lead character, has just killed a fox at the request of a ferret king, he discovers it has kits. I like that he's a bit torn on what to do next and in a discussion with his foil companion Conrad, gives us a rationalization for dealing with the young foxes. In "Legends" everyone has done such a great job, and there isn't a dud in the bunch, but the story I come back to the most, the one that makes me think "damn, wish I'D written/drawn that" is Jeremy Bastian's story...which is why I'm fitting some characters from that story into one of the shorts in Baldwin the Brave & Other Tales.
Nrama: There have been plans discussed about a movie in the works. There was even that fan-made animation test a while back as well, but how would you like to see a Mouse Guard movie done?
Petersen: I'd love to see it happen! After the first journey down the movie-road took up a lot of my time and didn't payoff, I was a little closed off to the idea for a few years, but recently a studio and I have been chatting about things, and I'm not only open to it, I'm really hoping for it to come together. I can't say much more other than that I really liked the take they had on the material and how the wanted to handle the story in terms of an arc and in technical terms of making mice walk and talk and fight snakes. Fingers crossed, because I want to see that movie too.
Nrama: Lastly, David, do you see an end game in sight or is Mouse Guard something you'll want to work and come back to for the rest of your career?
Petersen: I don't see a "The End" for Mouse Guard as a whole. I think that at certain points I'll take breaks (as it is I'm giving myself some built-in breaks between major arcs with Legends of the Guard volumes, smaller projects like Baldwin the Brave & Other Tales, and new games) but I have a feeling I'll always come back to Mouse Guard. Certain characters already have a "the end" in my mind...which could be soon or not for a long long time, but I can tell prequel stories or future stories and I think I've mapped out a big enough world that I can do that for the rest of my career.