David Petersen has been crafting medieval mice tales for a decade now with Mouse Guard, and from the looks of it he's just getting started. With multiple volumes, multiple Eisners, and some ancillary products like a board game coming out, Petersen and his publisher Archaia/BOOM! are enlisting top industry talent like Skottie Young, Becky Cloonan, Dustin Nguyen and more to return to the world he built with a new volume of the Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard anthology.
On March 11, Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 3 #1 hits newsstands, and it promises to offer readers another eclectic batch of stories and creators set in the world of these warrior mice. In advance of its release, Newsarama spent a little time talking with Petersen about his plans for this third volume of Legends of the Guard as well as the upcoming anniversary for the mice of Mouse Guard.
Newsarama: David, this will be your third volume of the Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard series. In the second volume, you used the tale-telling contest in the tavern as the framing device for the stories. Is this yet another storytelling contest or are you shifting things a bit in this next installment?
David Petersen: The tried-and-true tavern contest is the framing method again for this third volume. June, the proprietor of the June Alley Inn, has summoned mice who owe her for food, drink and/or lodging, but instead of just pressuring them into paying, she offers them a chance to clear the debt with a story. Only one mouse can clean their slate this way, but it hopefully proves as entertaining for the readers as it does for the mice. To make the first page a bit different than past Legends of the Guard volumes, I am showing a mouse waking up in one of the Inn's rooms and finding the summons, rather than all the mice assembled already.
Nrama: Once again, you have a slew of new contributors for Legends of the Guard Volume 3 including veteran creators such Becky Cloonan, Mark Buckingham, and Skottie Young as well as Humberto Ramos, who is providing some cover art. What can you tell readers about the creators involved and how you brought them into the Mouse Guard world?
Petersen: When I ask someone if they want to do a Legends of the Guard story, it means I'm a fan of their work, I trust them as storytellers, and I think their style will suit the world of Mouse Guard. The talented folks you mention all fit those requirements, and luckily they agreed when I asked them. Skottie loves fairly tale-type stories, Mark really enjoys drawing talking animals, and Becky does such wonderful work with medieval settings and natural environments. I'm lucky to have them all. Skottie was originally on my list for volume 2, but due to a miscommunication, we thought he wasn't available, so it's good to get him in volume 3.
Nrama: You didn’t just bring in all well-known comic creators either. Can you talk about your decision to mix it up a bit in terms of who was invited to contribute to this volume?
Petersen: I really enjoy discovering new talented voices as a reader, so to be able to offer a format for under-used storytellers or even first-time comic creators is a treat. I try to get a blend for every Legends of the Guard book of well-known names, lesser-seen names, and then first-timers. I vet the contributors with less experience and offer to help them or point out work of theirs I've seen that I feel is the direction to use for their Legend. This time we have a few folks who had never done comic storytelling (though they are accomplished artists/illustrators in other areas): gallery painter Nicole Gustasson and concept artist/storyboarder Ryan Lang. Hannah Chistenson is another who has a few comic stories under her belt, but is widely unknown to most readers, and I think these artists' work needs to be shared and enjoyed by wider audiences. I think it's a great way to infuse the book with even more visual and stylistic diversity.
Nrama: What sort of stories can readers expect from these creators?
Petersen: Skottie has a story about a father teaching a son a life lesson when answering a question about the unknown. There is a story about a mouse armor maker, beautifully painted by Hannah Christenson. Kyla Vanderklugt tells a tale of a mouse dancer and her contribution to keep her town safe. Dustin Nguyen watercolored a short tender moment between a mouse and a dying foe. Mark Buckingham's story has a gosling and a protagonist named Roland the Rotund...Yeesh, I should stop before I reveal all the stories. But there is a bit of humor, a bit of darkness, a bit of morality, a bit of adventure, it’s a nice mix.
Nrama: In some ways, this endeavor places you not only as a comic writer and artist but also editor. How much of a role did you play in terms of the development of each of the different stories? Were there some creators whom you worked with more closely in helping them tell their story? What sort of help did you provide?
Petersen: In the past, volumes I'd tried to stay as hands-off as possible. I asked the contributors to participate because I want their take on a Mouse Guard fable...without my added influence. However, I found that a good share of people want me to be more involved than I'd planned. So, beyond the approvals, I also make myself available to chat by phone or Skype or email to brainstorm no matter at what stage the story is. And I try not to make a pest of myself, so if they are fine working on their own, I only interject about deadlines and necessary approvals. For the lesser experienced, I do try and suggest a story seed that works to their strong suit based on their portfolio. Like "You do really well with tree houses and little buildings, can you have a story that features those buildings and some of your cool little lanterns?" or "Wow your armor is so great and you tend to get into spooky territory with your work...want to do a haunting type tale with an armored mouse?"
Nrama: Now, this isn’t the only Mousenews for you. Recently, you ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for the Mouse Guard board game. What can you tell us about this game?
Petersen: Yeah! Luke Crane and I designed a new Mouse Guard board game called Swords & Strongholds. Luke did the Mouse Guard RPG (soon to be released as a 2nd edition) and he and I took a model of a game I've drawn the mice playing and came up with rules for a fun two-player, light strategy game. Players take turns moving mouse pawns on a gridded board, playing cards to give their pawns extra abilities in an attempt to wipe out their opponent's pawns or get to the back corner of their opponent's side of the board. As one of the Kickstarter rewards, Luke and I played the game with some fans after a convention late last year, and it was really rewarding to see them enjoy a game not only from the pages of Mouse Guard, but one they could sink their teeth into strategy-wise.
Nrama: Is this something that Archaia-BOOM! will be releasing once the initial copies are released to the Kickstarter supporters or are you taking this elsewhere?
Petersen: The game is published by Luke's company Burning Wheel. It will be available after we fulfill the Kickstarter orders. Luke plans to solicit and make it available to comic shops, gaming stores, and online retailers. Copies will be available from the Burning Wheel site and possibly from BOOM!/Archaia as well. And I hope to have some copies at conventions where I can pack them in.
Nrama: What other plans do you have in store for the mice of the guard in 2015?
Petersen: 2015 is the 10-year anniversary for Mouse Guard, and we have a few cool things planned to celebrate. In addition to Legends of the Guard and the board game and RPG release, we are also putting together an art book of process pieces, sketches, origin drawings, inks, behind-the-scenes tales, model photos, and more that spans a decade of Mouse Guard. And at the Emerald City Comic Con in March, the ArchLUG LEGO builder club will be doing a massive Mouse Guard display of Mouse Guard architecture, populated with scenes from the books and Guardmouse mini-figs. It will be a good year! Oh, I'll also start working on the next Mouse Guard book, The Weasel War of 1149, but I don't know when I'll be far enough in to it that I feel safe starting the publishing, so that may be a 2016 thing.