This is a great time to be a Mouse Guard fan! The first two Hardcovers are on the shelves, the first softcover is already available and soon there will be two new series running simultaneously! In a couple weeks the fourth issue of Legends of the Guard will hit stores followed by the new series, the Black Axe. The latter is a prequel story that will hopefully fill us in on the back story for Celanawe who is something of a living legend among the mice. The Legends of the Guard is an anthology series that will give us different stories in the Mouse Guard universe by different creators, all handpicked by Petersen himself. The talent pool is fairly substantial and features: Jeremy Bastian, Ted Naifeh, Alex Sheikman, Sean Rubin, Alex Kain, Terry Moore, Gene Ha, Lowell Francis, Katie Cook, Guy Davis, Nate Pride, Jason Shawn Alexander, Karl Kerschl, Craig Rousseau, and Mark Smylie.
In the spirit of the series, David was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to give us even more insight into his fan favorite series. We have twenty juicy bits of info that you’ll find nowhere else straight from the man himself, so strap in and tool up for a whole new Mouse Guard adventure:
Here are the first ten.
1: The first Mouse Guard story I ever came up with (back in 1996..last century!) had Saxon, Kenzie, and “Rand” as the main trio. In 2004, when it came time to draw the first issue of Mouse Guard, I opted for a different starting point for the audience, and set the story after that original tale. I did this because the story with Rand involves a huge war with the weasels, and I wasn’t ready to draw and write anything as complicated as a war. I also felt if I found it complicated, then it was a bad introduction to the world.
2: Music and Lyrics: When writing Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, I asked Jesse Glenn (a friend of mine who was the best man at my wedding and is the guy Kenzie is based on) to write the music for the ballad that would appear in issue four. Having never written a song before, I felt I needed a melody to write the words to. Later, for the funeral ballad in issue six, we did it the other way around—I first wrote the lyrics and he followed up with music. One of those ballads (“The Ballad of the Ivory Lass”) is available as a free MP3 download on mouseguard.net.
3: Kenzie sings both of the ballads in Winter because I was looking for a way to make his character more interesting. As the calm rational mouse, he can sometimes be a bore, so I looked to the guy he’s based on for inspiration, and Jesse Glenn does a lot of musical theater. This is why when it came time to record the MP3 of “The Ballad of the Ivory Lass,” it’s Jesse performing it.
4: The idea for singing also was planted in my mind because of a new report I read about scientists discovering that mice “sing” to attract a partner to mate with. I knew that I had a Kenzie and Sadie romance blossoming, so decided the singing would be a great way to show tenderness and tie in with obscure, real-world-science.
5: The character Conrad was created when Guy Davis asked for one of my mouse sculptures I have of the main characters. I didn’t want to break up my set, so I offered to sculpt him a new mouse, one who is not a character, that I would be willing to part with. While trying a new polymer clay, I was having trouble sculpting two matching legs, so I replaced one with the broken end of a paint brush. Liking the pirate look, I pulled off some of his ear and gave him a little earring. When I handed the sculpture over to Guy, I told him he got the sculpture, but I was going to use the character. Guy named him Conrad.
6: Many of the settlement names in Mouse Guard have personal meaning or are a reference to a real Michigan location:
Flintrust: after my hometown of Flint, MI
Oakgrove: after the sanitarium there that was the site my high school was built on
Frostic: after printmaker and MI naitive Gwen Frostic, who had a love of the natural world
Appleloft: after the Flint estate of the C.S. Mott family (I attended Mott Community College)
Ferndale: after my current city of residence
Dawnrock: reference to Petoskey’s meaning of sun rays (and the petoskey stone is Michigan’s state stone)
7: I have hidden a few Star Wars bits in various panels: Han and Luke mice, R2D2, the Millennium Falcon, an AT-AT and Darth Vader’s lightsaber appear throughout the Mouse Guard books.
8: The hares, who appear in Winter 1152 issue six, are named after three of the members of Monty Python. I looked up the etymology of their surnames and Terry Gilliam became Gylham, Eric Idle became Ydell and Michael Pailin became Heilyn. Ydell makes a comment about how the owl has “ceased to be,” a nod to their famous “Dead Parrot Sketch.”
9: There will never be cats in Mouse Guard. I think any domestic animal will break the feeling of this being a medieval story. And even though there were cats then, they are not what you think of as wild-forest-dwelling creatures.
10: At the time of this writing, I have drawn 341 story pages of Mouse Guard. Before Mouse Guard, I had never drawn more than 10 pages of anything.
Check out the second half: Here.