Archaia will begin soliciting the first of four issues from the second volume of David Petersen’s highly successful Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard anthology (winner of the 2011 Eisner Award for Best Anthology).  For the uninitiated, the Legends of the Guard series boasts a variety of anthropomorphic adaptations of traditional tall tales, fables, and legends starring heroic mice in a medieval fantasy setting.  What makes Petersen’s anthology uniquely engaging is how he adopts a framed narrative similar to sort used in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

Readers encounter a group of travelers who come together in a storytelling contest with the proprietor deciding who the winner will be.  The stories, like the characters telling them, vary in nature: Some are comedic while others are romantic. There are also fables and poems in addition to stories of knights and stories of good folk outwitting the greedy and corrupt.  The stories in the first volume vary in content, tone, and artistic style due in large part to the thirteen different comic creators hand selected for this special project with Petersen providing art for the framed portion of the book.  Fans of The Canterbury Tales and even those unfamiliar with this perennial classic will appreciate this creative re-imagining of the tall tales, fables, and classics of our past from the perspective of a mouse.  It appears readers can expect more of the same with the second volume.

I talked with Petersen (via Twitter) about the next volume in the Mouse Guard series. (If the questions and responses seem short, it’s helpful to keep the 140-character limit under which we operated!)

David Petersen

Forrest Helvie (FH): How do you go about selecting writers for this collection? Loved your first one & actually recommended it in a teaching journal!

David Petersen (DP):  Mostly it’s my personal taste…but also comes down to folks who have shown interest in these types of stories in their own work

(FH): Makes sense!  Have to ask: Were you thinking of The Canterbury Tales with the framed narrative for v. 1? Came to mind for me.

(DP):  Yes, “Mouse Guard Canterbury Tales” was the catch phrase of the pitch to Archaia & when explaining it to the contributors.

(FH):  Glad to know as that’s how I pitched it at a conference full of medieval / Renaissance teachers & in a journal article due out soon! Will you be taking a similar approach w/ vol. 2 or will it move in a different direction?

(DP):  Same set-up for vol 2. Same tavern, same contest, all new mouse storytellers to match the tone of the stories from the contributors.

(FH):  Brilliant! Do you coordinate writers & artists, or do they pretty much bring you the finished story (narrative w/ art)?

(DP):  Yes. All rules for keeping the tone & setting correct. I also advise making these true tall tales & not use my existing characters.

(FH):  I esp. liked the adaptation of the Uriah/Bathsheba/King David arc last go round. Nice spin.

(DP):  That story was all Mark Smylie’s idea. He gave me a few options I picked that one (it had armor & I love Mark’s armor).

(FH):  It most definitely stood out–very well done & ornate!  And a great example of taking a known story and adapting it to the medium. Hate a plain translation, so hats off to Mark!  Any idea when this will hit bookshelves? Or is it still early on in the development stages?

(DP):  About 3/4 of the stories are turned in. I have a few covers left to do & all my int. pages and it’s ready to come out in issue form.

(FH):  So what would you say is the most challenging aspect of working on a large-scale, collaborative work like this?

(DP):  Coordination. First getting all the names together & reaching out to the talent. Then figuring out page counts, deadlines, etc.  Whoever gets back to us first sets their page count & as an issue fills up, we have to start dictating counts based on what’s left.  Looping everyone in can be a challenge. There’s me, there’s an editor or two, a Prod. Designer, etc. & up to 2 storytellers per story.

(FH):  I imagine securing talent for v1 to be tough, but did you find a lot of talent knocking on your door for v.2 given 1’s success?

(DP):  Vol 1 wasn’t too hard. I made 3 lists: Folks who had already offered, folks who I thought would say “yes,” & pipe dream creators.  I had more than enough names on the first two lists to fill vol 1. I’ve used its surplus for vol 2. But yes, more people offered.  When people offer, it can get tricky though because so much of the decision is down to my taste/whims…no response/offer = insult.

(FH):  Well, I appreciate your willingness to play 20 questions

(DP):  You are very welcome.

Archaia is steadily making a name for itself in the comics industry through publishing quality storylines with the art to match, but these titles might not always be the first local shops solicit when faced with the dozens of titles from “the Big Two.”  So if you’re looking for some thoughtful but still enjoyable comics that will provide you with a break from the mainstream, be sure to put this series on your pull list.

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