Huge treat today, friends. We’re taking a step back from webcomics for a moment and into the world of print with Mr. Wunderkind himself, David Petersen of the hugely popular Mouse Guard! Mouse Guard is the story of “mice [who] struggle to live safely and prosper amongst harsh conditions and a host of predators. Thus the Mouse Guard was formed: more than just soldiers, they are guides for common mice looking to journey without confrontation from one village to another. They see to their duty with fearless dedication so that they may not simply exist, but truly live.” David has a fantastic and rich adventure tale that he’s put out in a series of books, and he was cool enough to break it down with 9Q9A! Read on…
Q1] What are you working on right now, art-wise?
A1] I just finished the second Legends of the Guard hardcover and my third Mouse Guard story: The Black Axe came out in hardcover last month, so I’m taking a little break from Mouse Guard for a bit. I have a few pinups and covers I owe folks as well as a commission or two that are long overdue…but my main focus is going to be playing with a few new creator-owned projects. Things I can toy with for a bit, show to the world and then get back to Mouse Guard full-time.
Q2] What is your workflow like?
A2] My studio is in my basement, so I’m never not at work. Even when I go upstairs to watch some TV with my wife or have dinner, I know that just 10 stair steps away is a pile of work I should be getting to. Normally the bulk of my time is consumed with layouts or inking. Those are the two most time consuming parts of my process. The writing, coloring, and lettering are much quicker by comparison. It takes me a little over two months to write, draw, ink, letter, and color a full issue of Mouse Guard.
3] Who are your top three influences?
Q4] What is the one piece of indispensable advice you would give a comics creator for getting their work out there?
A4] To set some reasonable goals at first (don’t try and do your 100 issue space odyssey off the bat, perhaps don’t even do a 24 page issue off the bat…but set goals like: I’m going to do a 10 page story about love, but without ever having the characters say the word “love” or kiss….something to get you thinking about and working on visual storytelling) And then DO IT! Don’t do endless character designs and world building…that can all come later for your project after you have a few issues worth of drawing and writing under your belt.
Q5] What do you think your duty is to the reader?
A5] To tell the best story I can. I try not to disappoint myself and use that as a gauge of if I’d be disappointing the reader. I also think being honest with the audience is very important. If I said something publicly and then have to take it back, I’d better be honest with them about the why and what shape the new answer will take the form of.
Q6] If you could do one thing better, in regards to graphic storytelling, what would it be?
A6] Speed and confidence. I get caught up in the layout process trying to get everything just the way I want it without having repeated a panel I’ve ever drawn…it’s a lot of second guessing and redrawing.
Q7] What, if anything, do you prefer to listen to while you work?
A7] Depends on if I’m writing/lettering or drawing/inking/coloring. If I’m doing anything that involves the written word, I need to have non lyrical music on. I prefer classical or orchestral soundtracks for that. Otherwise I’ll listen to music: Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Mumford & Sons, Barenaked Ladies….I also listen to a lot of audio books and old time radio shows
Q8] What is the one comic story that has stuck with you throughout the years?
A8] Tie between the first issue of Ninja Turtles and the Hellboy issue The Corpse.
Q9] What do you consider to be the greatest power of graphic storytelling?
A9] The blending of words and pictures. You have some control over how the reader is given information that is powerful. You can give them narration, dialogue or visuals. You can cram a page with details that gives story information that a reader can linger on, or parse quickly and move on. You can have pages of wordless action scenes that don’t labor over the written word like prose would need to. It’s a nice blend of several disciplines.
Well then. Pretty fantastic, huh? David has some great insights and it’s cool to hear them coming from a professional who has worked hard and made it happen. A big “Thank You” to David for taking the time. Everyone make sure you look out for Mouse Guard books in your local bookstores and comic shops or order directly from his website!