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Wed, 13 Feb ’13

Comic Book Day: A Talk with Mouse Guard’s David Petersen

The Eisner Award winner is anything but mousey.

The idea of a comic book centering around anthropomorphic mice living in a medieval society might sound like a killer logline for a children’s movie, but the premise of David Petersen’s Eisner Award-winning Mouse Guard series is anything but kiddie fare. With a richly detailed world, complex characters and gorgeous storybook art, Archaia’s Mouse Guard is one of the best titles out there. The finale to prequel series Mouse Guard: The Black Axe drops today, so we caught up with the “Moustermind” himself, David Petersen, to talk about design influences, learning from mistakes and what’s next for the Mouse Guard universe.

Nerdist News: Tell us about the genesis of Mouse Guard and how it’s evolved over the past 7 years. I know that this title had been germinating for a long time before that too.

David Petersen:
Mouse Guard started in high school with the idea of combining animal stories like Wind in the Willows and Disney’s Robin Hood with the D&D adventures my friends and I were playing. Back then it had a wider cast of species as characters, and being only 16, I didn’t get very far with it before some other project, homework, or pastime caught my attention. In college I dusted off the idea again, but decided to make it a bit more like Aesop’s fables where the animals were actual animals rather than animal heads on human-like bodies. Each species was meant to have a different culture and mice would be the smallest of these and bears the largest. I soon realized that if those varied species interacted much, there would be slaughter…especially of something like mice, who eat only grain and are very small. Because that felt like the heart of a good story, I pushed everything else to the background and focused solely on the mice.

The only evolution since then (and the first issue) has been to try and improve as a writer and artist. The visuals and words have changed with each volume. Hopefully all for the better.

NN: Tell us a bit about The Black Axe and what’s lead up to the point we’re at now.

In the Fall and Winter series, I introduced a character, Celanawe (Khell-ehn-awe) who both wields and is called “The Black Axe.” I built up the mythology of him, the weapon and its creation in those volumes, and even had the character pass the torch (both title and weapon) to a younger mouse. The Black Axe series is a prequel story where I show how Celanawe first put paw to the axe, and I unravel some of the myth behind the weapon’s past. It’s a quest story with a blend of background history and high adventure. I wanted the weight of what the axe represents and where it’s been to factor into any future stories with the new Black Axe wielder.

NN: One of the things that stands out about Mouse Guard is its distinctive art style. What inspired the visual design of the world of Mouse Guard?

In high school and even in college, my attempts at drawing comics were always about me trying to emulate the artists I admired: Mike Mignola, Art Adams, Jim Lee, etc. The problem with emulation is that unless it just inspires you to do something on your own, you are always at a loss for how to draw something new until you see that other artists do something similar first. I started drawing Mouse Guard seriously at a time when I was figuring out how to draw like myself (I did a blog post all about this subject a while back). Mouse Guard is drawn in a way that I feel comfortable with so that I can draw it without needing to reference other artists and also in a way that suits the story. I want there to be some grit and wear in the world they inhabit.

You can read our complete interview with David Petersen on Nerdist.com and then you can treat yourself to a brand new copy of Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #6, which hits stands everywhere today.