Today sees the release of the third Legends of the Mouse Guard special from creator David Petersen and a laundry list of impressive comics talent.
This week's exciting installment features work by Skottie Young, Becky Cloonan and a number of other big names -- as well as some talents Petersen characterizes as either up-and-coming or underrated.
Petersen joined ComicBook.com to discuss the book, which you can get at your local comic shop or find digitally here. You can also see the solicitation text and a gallery of images from the book below.
You talk in your introduction about the fact that there are some underrated and/or fairly new talents in this book. Are there any stories that really feature somebody's work you think deserves more attention?
There are a few from almost complete unknowns to most comic readers that really did amazing work that was up to the level of any comic veteran working today. Hannah Christenson did a beautiful story about a mouse armor maker. She'd been taking some blacksmithing classes and it became the foundation for her tale. I was instantly a fan of her graceful detail, especially in the images where she knolled items (arranging related objects parallel or perpendicular to one another as a method of organization) and I asked her to include some pages with knolled armor parts.
Ryan Lang is an accomplished artist and concept designer (who has worked for Disney and Pixar) but he'd never done any sequential comic work. I'd seen Ryan's blog post about a Hansel & Gretel story pitch development assignment in his Disney training days and crossed my fingers hoping he'd have the time to do something as completely realized and thought out as his pitch for Legends of the Guard. His contribution is an amazingly digitally painted story that is the essence of Mouse Guard bravery & ideology, but presented in a way that looks like stills from a realistic CGI film. It's beautiful.
I think all the people in this book are worthy of more attention, even if they are well known, I wouldn't have asked them to be part of Legends if I didn't want more people to appreciate their work.
For the most part, these creators hew pretty closely to the look and feel of your own Mouse Guard work in their stories. How much guidance and input did you have in helping them decide how they wanted to present the world?
I always try to stay out of the process as much as possible. There are ground rules I give up front about do's and don'ts in Mouse Guard and Legends. Mostly those have to do with excluding species of animals (no dinosaurs or cats or humans or tigers). I really want them to do their story....if I wanted a David Petersen story, I'd just do it myself. That's not to say I don't offer up editorial suggestions when asked or when it feels appropriate. Like I mentioned for Hannah's story, I saw something she was doing in her personal work, and asked for there to be a way to incorporate that into her story. Skottie Young wanted to hop on Skype and chat out what he was going to do. I don't think I added much input, but I was available for that part of his process. For a few of the stories, I pretty much didn't see them until they were done. Art-wise, I've never asked someone to change the way they draw mice, so what you see is exactly how they wanted to draw the characters.
Obviously some of the artists in this book have their own voice and style that's widely known. How difficult is it to get some of the higher-profile talent's schedule to work—or is it fairly easy since they're short stories and everyone loves Mouse Guard?
The short story format is a huge blessing in that regard! But still, it can be very tricky. I think sometimes it's because it's a short story that it becomes harder to get to the finish line, because it falls through the cracks of their busy schedules (something I'm guilty of as well when I do other projects). These are folks who I know are fans of Mouse Guard or fans of my work in some way, so it doesn't take too much arm twisting usually. Another bonus for making it work for the contributors is that we keep the page count flexible. We ask for anywhere between two and 10 pages and they choose the length of story they want to do. As other creators start to claim their page counts, we do have to start recommending story lengths to the remaining folks, but we are still flexible in that regard because I can add a few tavern pages to pad things out in an issue. Mostly we want the contributors to have fun, to enjoy getting to do something different from their normal work that isn't a big epic monster pieces, but a short mouse fairy tale, with as few strings attached as possible.
Are you ever reluctant to let another creator tackle some of the bigger events in the world you created?
Yeah, that's another one of the don'ts I let folks know up front. Don't play with my main characters or events like the Weasel War or Midnight's uprising, etc. Now, if a contributor came to me and said they really wanted to deal with one of those things, and had a great pitch, I'd let them do it without hesitation. The only case that has come close to this though in the course of three volumes of Legends of the Guard, is when Karl Kerschl asked to do a story about Sadie. She resonated with him and he had a wordless story about her being isolated in the winter up in Frostic, and it's a beautiful story (it "won" the in-world contest in Volume 1). I think when faced with working with stuff I've already covered or a wide open world of mouse fables, the contributors choose the latter.
I sometimes feel like when a project like this goes from a one-time thing to a regular affair, it gets less attention from fans and the press. What makes this particularly volume so special?
The contributors! It's what makes every volume of Legends of the Guard special and unique. Skottie Young, Becky Cloonan, Dustin Nguyen, Mark Buckingham, Jake Parker...these are greats doing fantastic work in comics who came to play in the Legends of the Guard sandbox. Legends Volume 3 is also the first time any Mouse Guard book had variant covers, and I made sure we collected them all in the hardcover collection. So if you missed seeing or grabbing a cover by Ramón Pérez, Eric Muller, or Humberto Ramos, you can see them all here. This volume also marks the last one for a little while. I'm going to be ramping up into the Weasel War of 1149, and won't have time to do another Legends volume until after that is completed. So it marks the last visit to the June Alley Inn for at least a year or two.
Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 3 HC
Publisher: Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writers: David Petersen, Mark Buckingham, Hannah Christenson, Becky Cloonan, C.M. Galdre, Ryan Lang, Mark A. Nelson, Dustin Nguyen, Jake Parker, Ramón K. Pérez, Lauren Pettapiece, Fabian Rangel Jr., Kyla Vanderklugt, and Skottie Young
Artists: David Petersen, Mark Buckingham, Hannah Christenson, Becky Cloonan, Aaron Conley, Nicole Gustafsson, Ryan Lang, Mark A. Nelson, Dustin Nguyen, Jake Parker, Ramón K. Pérez, Lauren Pettapiece, Kyla Vanderklugt, and Skottie Young
Cover Artist: David Petersen
Format: 8" x 8", 144 pages, full color, hardcover
On sale: Nov. 4 in comic book shops, Nov. 10 in bookstores
Synopsis: The third volume in the New York Times bestselling and Eisner Award-winning series, Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Volume Three features tales written and illustrated by a collection of award-winning and critically acclaimed storytellers personally selected by series creator David Petersen. Once again, patrons at the June Alley Inn are challenged to tell the best Mouse Guard tale, with the winner getting their tab cleared!