David Petersen knowns a thing or two about how to recruit quality talent for his "Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard" anthologies, the latest volume of which kicks off with three artistic heavy hitters. "Hellblazer" and "Fables" artist Mark Buckingham, "Rocket Raccoon" and "Wizard of Oz" artist Skottie Young and "Jim Henson's Storyteller" artist Hannah Christenson each write and draw their respective installments, which weave in and out of Petersen's "wraparound" story.
Arriving in stores today, March 11, from BOOM! Studios, "Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard" Volume 3 #1, as always, features visitors of the June Alley Inn sharing libations and trading stories from their journeys and adventures. This time around, Buckingham, Young and Christenson bring their own styles and stories into the world Petersen has built with tales featuring an album-inspired armored goose, the mystery of the moon and a brave blacksmith.
"I wanted to draw the most legendary mice in comics," Buckingham told CBR News of his reason for accepting Petersen's invitation to the Inn. "Truth to tell, I have always loved drawing animals far more than people, and 'Mouse Guard' is a particular favorite of mine. I have been lucky enough to have been friends with David for a few years now, and have been talking to him for a while about doing something for one of his books. I'm so pleased it finally happened!
"David allowed me a lot of creative freedom," he continued, explaining the inspiration for his contribution. "I remembered he was particularly fond of a goose in armor I drew on the poster for the 'Fabletown and Beyond' convention, so I suggested that should be the start point for my tale. The story revolves around an incident with a greedy young gosling. I took inspiration from a 1970s recording by ex-Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips, whose album 'The Geese and the Ghost' has long been a favorite of mine. The title and the cover art both influenced my tale."
Hoping to remain faithful to Petersen's style in the other "Mouse Guard" books, Buckingham found that his renditions, while different from Petersen's, still matched the feel of the world.
"I re-read a few of the books so I had the general look of his mice in my head, but then I just started drawing the strip in my own style, as if it were an animal-based sequence in 'Fables,'" Buckingham said. "I didn't want to use a lot of texture, like David does, but I did want the overall effect to have a similar richness, so I introduced ink wash to the pages, which worked beautifully."
As it turns out, Young also wondered about whether he should alter his distinct style to come in line with Petersen's.
"I did at first, but that's how I always start projects," Young said. "I put the pencil down and go safe. Then I remember, that's not how I like to make things. I like to push myself with art styles and experiment, so I took another pass and found the version of the story that made it to the page.
"I think the biggest challenge was making sure I didn't take too much away from the 'Mouse Guard' aesthetic. My work is -- well, it is what it is," Young continued with a laugh. "I wanted to make it look and feel like a world I would make up but with in the world that David has established so well over the years. I probably still made it a bit more me than I should have!"
"David and I have been friends for a long time now, and I'm a big fan of 'Mouse Guard.'" Young said. "It really was as simple as him asking if I'd do one and me saying yes. I had an idea what message I wanted to get across in this small tale, but there was one little thing missing," Young said. "I got on Skype with David, and we figured that piece out together. He has a love of fairy tales and myths and things like that, so we are on the same page. Sometimes it's just better to verbalize your ideas with someone and get some feedback in the moment. We did that here, and it worked out great."
Young's story revolves around crafting a message, a skill his days as a dad have helped hone.
"I'm father of a 5-year-old son, and have one on the way," he said. "We also have two large dogs, so my life is mostly about making art and teaching lessons of some sort. Sometimes, that lesson is, 'Go find that makes you happy and do that a lot,' and sometimes it's, 'Don't touch that, or you'll be in a lot of pain.' Either way, it's really great to watch them learn and grow in front of you eyes.
"My story is that," Young continued. "A father teaching his son a lesson by encouraging him to search for his own answers. It's always more fun to find an answer at the end of a long journey than it is to have it given to you. Remember how fun it was to be stumped on 'who played that one role in that movie?' You'd sit around and say random names until someone finally nailed it. But now, the answers are given to use so instantly that some of the fun of the search is gone. So, this is a tiny examination of that, in a way."
While Young's story revels in the idea of a time before technology made facts instantly available, Christenson's involvement in the anthology owes some amount of its existence to that very kind of access.
"I first started talking with David over Twitter about some work I had posted," Christenson recalled. "He mentioned that we should work together some day, but I didn't meet him in person until several months later at Phoenix Comic Con. We chatted for a bit, and he invited me to participate in 'Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard.' I was ecstatic! I loved reading the 'Mouse Guard' books and I was excited to be a part of that world."
Christenson's tale about a blacksmith mouse combines elements of fable-like storytelling with her own longstanding interest in the subject of bending metal into a variety of shapes.
"I find that I enjoy short fables, legends, tales, etc. with a lesson -- or even a warning -- I think that those types of stories are the most memorable and powerful for me. Everyone struggles with insecurities at some point in their life, so I wanted to write a story about a mouse who doubted if he was fast enough, smart enough, or strong enough to help someone in need. Ultimately, it's about a mouse who decided to try anyway.
"I've been interested in blacksmithing for some time," Christenson continued, explaining the source of the other half of her story's origins. "At a very young age, I saw a blacksmith making trinkets for kids at some sort of educational event and I was deeply impressed. I would tell my mom I wanted to be a blacksmith when I grew up. My dad gave me a tiny anvil to play with, I'd wear my mom's apron out to the barn as a "blacksmith's apron" while hammering nails and scraps into different shapes. I was into it. I took a blacksmithing class at the same time I was writing out story ideas for the anthology. I sent in about five story ideas covering different topics/themes, one of which was about a blacksmith brave enough to have his metal tested."
And, like her fellow artists, Christenson enjoyed the challenge of lending her own style to the "Mouse Guard" mythos.
"I don't feel that I ventured too far from my usual style in regard to drawing and doing work for the anthology," Christenson said. "Before this, I didn't often get the opportunity to do a lot of line work professionally, but it is something I enjoy, and it was a blast!"
"Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard" Volume 3 #1, by David Petersen, Mark Buckingham, Skottie Young and Hannah Christenson, is on sale now.