David Petersen’s Mouse Guard is the story of of noble mice in a medieval setting, in a world without humans. Its engaging stories have won two Eisners, gathered a rather faithful following, and has spawned a pen-and-paper rpg. Petersen opens up to Blog@ about the future projects of Mouse Guard and talking to educators about using comics as reading tools.
Blog@: So, David, before we start talking about your upcoming projects, you recently made a trip up to Alaska to give a speech. What was that about and like?
David Petersen: The Alaskan Library Association invited me to be a guest speaker at their annual conference this year in Anchorage. I gave two presentations, one on myself and my career, and the other on graphic storytelling. It was wonderful to have so many educators and librarians embracing comics and graphic novels. There had been some acceptance using comic material as a ‘easy read book’ to get reluctant readers started, but now it’s more widely accepted with teachers and librarians that graphic storytelling is a medium in it’s own right, like film, or music.
We were up to Alaska last year for a reading program in Fairbanks. This year we went back to Fairbanks for a quick visit and some school appearances before heading down to Anchorage. It was a great trip, and Some of the groups up there are interested in having me come back again!
Blog@: So how excited are you about the new printing of Mouse Guard Vol. 1: Fall 1152? You must be really thrilled about it selling so well.
Petersen: I’m very excited! I think it’s amazing how well the book has caught on. When I started doing Mouse Guard I was hoping for a small, but loyal fanbase, and it seems I’m lucky enough to have recieved a large loyal fanbase that continues to grow. It’s heart-warming to know people like and continue to reccomend the book to new readers.
Blog@: There’s a few Mouse Guard stories coming soon. Can you talk a bit about those?
Petersen: The next Mouse Guard arc is a prequel story. It takes place before many of the Guardmice we know were born. In Winter 1152, Celanawe promises to tell Lieam of the day his paw first touched the Black Axe. This is my return on that promise to fans.
Blog@: Now you usually illustrate your books as well as write them, but you’ve got Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin, Polly and the Pirates) on board with a project. Was it weird having somebody else do those duties for you?
Petersen: Ted came in as a guest artist on the spin-off Mouse Guard anthology: Legends of the Guard [coming out in May]. And because the project, by nature, is one that has other talented foks pulling the reigns, it wasn’t weird at all. When we started batting around the idea of doing this anthology, I had two names on my list: Mark Smylie & Jeremy Bastian, but I started thinking of creators I knew who I thought would be a good fit for Mouse Guard. I looked for creators who are both writers and artists in one. Ted was an obvious choice.
Blog@: So after the Black Axe prequel and the Legends of the Guard, you have yet another book in the works?
Petersen: I have the two story arcs planned after Black Axe. One is the Weasel War of 1149 that I refer to in my previous books. The other will pick up where the end of “Winter” left off….well sorta…there will be a gap in time between that story and the end of “Winter”. I want to give those some breathing room. Allow for time to have passed.
Blog@: You’ve mentioned in the past you have a difficult time putting battles on the page, do you think you’ve gotten better since then?
Petersen: Fight scenes can be tough for me. I like to try and coreograph them as much as possible to get the action and momentum to be believeable. And since most of the fighting in Mouse Guard is a tiny mouse against a big predator, it’s already pretty unbelieveable by nature.
I also walk a tightrope with the all ages aspect of my book. I want to make sure it’s accessable and that it won’t turn parents off, while still being interesting and edgy enough to hold adult interest. And battles are the trickiest part of that.
In “Winter” though, I feel like I had some good fight moments in there. I dealt with a battle that ultimately took a main character’s life. So I’m ready for the battles in Black Axe. Hopefully those will prepare me for a full-on war!