In anticipation of the Granite State Comicon, I am happy to be to hosting an interview with Eisner-Award-winning writer and illustrator, David Petersen!
A graphic from David Petersen’s visually stunning Mouse Guard, Winter 1152
Q: Let’s start with your gorgeous and visually stunning comic series, Mouse Guard. After a visit to Mouse Guard’s website, I am simply struck by the richness and depth of the world you have created. For how long have you been developing this world? Where did this idea come from?
David Petersen: Thank you. I started developing Mouse Guard as part of a larger animal world project back in 1996 when I was in college. I dropped working on it, for various reasons, but even then the goal of doing a lot of world and culture building was important to me and important to the project. In 2004, I picked up Mouse Guard development again, and began in earnest. So while the real work didn’t start until ’04, I did have eight years or so of that world’s shape. It’s almost like all the ideas went to seed and got terribly tangled and overgrown in those eight years, so I just started trimming and cultivating and bringing focus to what was already there. The idea for Mouse Guard itself was simply a desire to tell animal stories with as much adventure as my D&D adventures as a kid.
Q: So I have to ask: Why mice? What is about mice in particular that sparked your imagination?
DP: The larger animal project from ’96 was going to have all kinds of species as characters, but keeping all the predator prey relationships intact. Each species would have it’s own culture, dialect, architecture, etc. I worried about how I’d keep something as small as mice relevant in a larger story where every other species either wants to eat them or is a larger competition for the same grain source. And that’s when it hit me, that the mice *were* the story. All the other species could be pushed to the backdrop and seen as monsters from the mouse perspective.
Q: For a reader who has just discovered Mouse Guard, where would you suggest starting? Which Mouse Guard book should we pick up first?
DP: Fall 1152 is the first book I did and also is the best place to start. I wrote it as an entry point for the larger world and story I wanted to tell. That being said, I’ve had fans tell me they picked up Winter 1152 first and had no problem using that as their introduction and still enjoyed Fall. In total there are now 3 main Mouse Guard books: Fall, Winter, & Black Axe as well as an anthology series called Legends of the Guard…and while I suggest Fall as the start, any book will work.
Q: And what about your own background as an artist? How did you come to writing comics? What influenced you?
DP: I’ve been drawing since I was able to hold a pencil or crayon. I was one of the last generations to have art classes year round as part of my public education K-12. I got my degree in art (printmaking) and figured I’d do illustration work for children’s books because my work didn’t ‘look’ like other comic art. But I reevaluated that in ’04 and made the leap. As far as writing goes, I know I was making up my own stories for popular cartoon characters when I was 9 or 10, and then I did a good amount of roleplaying with friends from junior high on into college. I think all of that making things up on the fly to tell a larger narrative is where my writing is based. I don’t consider myself a wordsmith or a good writer, but a fairly okay storyteller.
Q: You will be a guest artist at the Granite State Comicon. What do you hope to do and see while at the convention?
DP: I am looking forward to seeing a bunch of the artists I know who will be there, Andy Price, Craig Rousseau, Charles Paul Wilson, Chrissie Zullo…It’s always good to reconnect with folks working in comics…but mostly I’m looking forward to seeing Mouse Guard fans (new and old)
Q: Speaking of “the Granite State”, if you had to create a “state superhero” for New Hampshire, who would it be?
DP: I suppose the easiest shot would be a Thing-like creature made of Granite who hollers “Live Free or Die”….I dunno…there’s a reason I draw medieval mice and not superhero books 🙂
Q: For bonus points: If you were a supervillain, what would your powers be, and which hero would defeat you?
DP: Ha! I’d be The Grump…a comic cantankerous comic book artist who lives in his basement studio all the time missing deadlines…and I’d be defeated by fans who turn all that around when I get out of my lair and see them and daylight.
David Petersen will be a featured artist at Granite State Comicon which takes place Sep 28-29 in Manchester, New Hampshire. You can learn more about his award winning series here.