Interview with David Petersen, Author of Mouse Guard

Interview by Logan Kaufman, Adventures Underground

David Petersen is a young author and artist who has recently been receiving worthy attention for his mini-series Mouse Guard. Chronicled in a six-issue series and published by Archaia Studios Press, Mouse Guard tells the story of mice that provide safe passage for travelers in the open wilderness between hidden mice villages.

The first issue of Mouse Guard was published in February of this year, and quickly sold out to high acclaim, quickly entering its third printing. Each subsequent issue of Mouse Guard has also sold out, and a trade hardcover of the first Mouse Guard is already planned.

Logan Kaufman: Is this your first time at San Diego?

David Petersen: It's going to be my first time as an exhibitor. I was here last year as a patron.

Logan: I noticed you have some pages up on Comicartfans...

David Petersen: Yeah.

Logan: Have you collected for awhile?

David Petersen: I had a very small collection for awhile that was just a couple quicky head sketches that I got from a show in Chicago, and then I met Guy Davis who is a Michigan native like me, and quickly began collecting some of his pages. And then started to diversity when I was here last year. I got a really cool Jason Alexander page, and am looking to pick some stuff up at this show.

Logan: Are you actually going to have time to get out of your booth?

David Petersen: Yeah, yeah I am. I actually told my publisher that I'm going to be setting some hours. Although, I don't how that's going to work. But yeah, I'll definitely make sure that I'm able to enjoy the con as well.

Logan: I wanted to talk to you about was how you got started in the illustration field...

David Petersen: I'd always been interested in drawing, since I was able to hold a crayon. And liked reading comic books, newspaper funny strips, things like that. Animated movies. I liked the idea of sequential artwork. In high school I was able to team up with some friends and we'd come up with characters and storylines and things like that, but they wouldn't get very far just because of it being high school and short attention spans and other things coming up.

I unfortunately went to a school that kind of frowned on illustration as an artform, and I had to kind of find a new voice for awhile. I always did little stuff on the side during that time. I tried to get a portfolio available to do children's book illustrations, a portfolio to send off. It didn't really go very well; I didn't get very many responses back. And by the time I was done with college, I needed to find a nine-to-five, and just kept working on my own illustrations, my own ideas and concepts as I went.

I always loved superhero stuff so I would keep them in mind from time to time and I set up at a local convention in Michigan, the Motor City Convention, and it went off from there.

Logan: At college, did you actually major in art?

David Petersen: Yeah, I majored in fine art at Eastern Michigan University with a concentration in printmaking.

Logan: How did that come about? Printmaking...

David Petersen: Well I started at a community college in Flint, which is my home town, and my first semester I had a 2-D design course with a professor named Sam Morello, and he was a really good teacher.

You'll find in any kind of field there are people who are teachers because they really know their subject, or, because they really know their subject and they can convey information. Actually get you to understand. And Sam Morello was that second type. He knew his stuff and knew how to convey it. The 2-D design course was just a basic intro class, but his main area of teaching was printmaking. So before I left that school I made sure I took a class with him, and I loved it.

He had a summer semester class that was a couple weeks long that I took also, which ended up being the last class he taught.

And then when I went to Eastern Michigan University I thought I might do watercolor because I had done a lot of watercolor on my own, or do printmaking. And I decided in that first semester that I had a lot more to explore in printmaking and wanted to spend more time doing it.

Logan: Once you graduated in printmaking, did you kind of have to do an about-face to get back into illustration or did it transition fairly well?

David Petersen: I always tried to sneak a little bit of it into my school stuff, but it did take awhile where I went "Oh, that's right, I am allowed to do this again. I don't have to answer to anybody, I don't have to present this for a critique where it's going to get slammed just because its illustrative."

Although, I think having those reigns on me for a couple years also helped, because it made me focus on other things. It made me focus on what could I (still) do with illustration and what did it take? And what it took was focusing on things like line quality and composition, and even though I wasn't allowed to explore some of the subject matter, some of the thematic elements I wanted to, it really got me to hone some craft that I think shows. Especially with the printmaking background, the etching and woodcuts and things like that, I think it shows in Mouse Guard.

Logan: A lot of the pages do have an etching, especially in the backgrounds - how you handle texture in the background in wood or leaves.

David Petersen: Right. The way I ink Mouse Guard reminds me a lot of what I would do with an etching.

Logan: Throughout college, were you always working on story ideas?

David Petersen: Oh sure. The basis for the idea that is Mouse Guard came about when I was in high school, really. It was a much larger concept with lots of animals, and with more of a basic adventure or fantasy story, except the main characters were played by animals. It kind of resembled a Robin Hood sort of thing, but it eventually shifted gears. So throughout that period of college and high school, it kept morphing. My tastes would change, the plot would change, or the characters, or the style of drawing. I've had lots of things on the table since that period. I played around with developing a board game. My friends and I have a whole bunch of characters that are common lore for us, but nobody really knows them about them.

Logan: What made you decide to flesh out this one as opposed to any of the others?

David Petersen: From the minute I really came up with some solid characters, I thought this was my best shot. This was the best thing I've come up with. I always had a soft spot for it, like it was truly my baby. It didn't have as much influence from friends. Because we did a lot of group think-tank things where we'd each come up with a character and make a team out of it or something like that. And the characters from Mouse Guard were very much things that I had kind of built on my own.

That first convention that I went to in Michigan, I didn't know what to take. In fact, a friend kept encouraging me to do it and I kept resisting saying "But I don't have a comic book to sell. I don't have anything published, I don't even have a mini-comic ready to go." And he said, "That doesn't matter, just go and take whatever you've got." So I took a little bit of everything. I took watercolor paintings of superheroes, I took pencil drawings of fantasy characters like Dungeons & Dragons kind of stuff, I took pen and ink drawings, I took serious illustrative things like paintings of war, I took basically everything I could, even sculptures. And the last thing I brought were some Mouse Guard images. And I layed it all out and figured I'd wait and see what people said, and whatever people responded to, maybe I'd tried to bring some more of that for next time. And the overwhelming question was "When does this book come out?" and they were referring to Mouse Guard. Which I thought was funny, because there was no book at that point.

So I promised them I'd have a book for the next convention. My answer after maybe two or three people asked quickly went from "I don't know" to "Next convention I'll have it." Motor City runs twice a year, my first time setting up was the fall show which was in October, and the next show was in May, the spring show. So I just worked hard, and in between working my nine-to-five and spending time with my wife and our dog, I illustrated the first comic and had it self-published.

Logan: So thirty-some-odd pages of writing and illustrating?

David Petersen: It was twenty-four, and I was going to make it a little shorter at first. It had a lot to do with it being my first big sequential piece, not knowing if I really had an audience outside the Motor City Comic Con and just kind of experimenting. So I had about twenty pages planned out and then by the time I got around to that point I realized I was a page short, and I figured out what I could do to fill it, but it was going to take more pages and it ended up being a twenty-four page book.

Logan: How did you break up your time doing the first issue? That seems like a lot of stuff to do on your own in six months.

David Petersen: Yeah, it was kind of rough. The friend who convinced me to go to the Motor City Con hosts what he calls Art Night. There's actually a formal organization called Sketchbook Sessions that basically does the same thing, but his was already dubbed Art Night. And on Thursday nights, after people get off from work, we gather somewhere and we work on whatever project we're working on and we bounce ideas off of each other and get group critiques going. It's just about the camaraderie, and some of it's just about forcing you to do it. If you know that Thursday night is Art Night, you know that you have to have stuff ready to work on there.

So it was a break up of trying to get pages that were ready to ink before Thursday and then trying to get as much inking as I could done at Art Night.

I didn't have a script actually written out. I had a really good idea of what I wanted characters to say on various pages, but for the most part I'd just written an outline about what kind of things needed to happen. So the writing part of it was a little different than what most people think of as the writing. The writing actually came after all the pages were done and I went back through, and decided, okay, here is definitely what this word balloon says and here is what this word balloon says.

Logan: When you first started, were you looking at it as a one-issue thing that got fleshed out into a series?

David Petersen: Well, like I said, I had been living with the lore of Mouse Guard for years. The original concept, when it actually became Mouse Guard and stopped being that high school thing with more animals, it really came about in '96. So, almost ten years I've been coming up with various storylines and elements and big points in their history that I know happen. So, I definitely had a lot more story to tell but figured that this little thing I was going to put out for the comic con was going to be just a one-shot. And then when I got to that short page count, part of what helped me push it over the edge was figuring out a way to tie in more story, which was the last couple issues of issue one, where they find out the plot is bigger than they realize.

Logan: Once it got a good reception at the con, when did you decide to take it even further?

David Petersen: Well I sold out of my initial print, that was at the local level when this was still a black-and-white book, and I promised them "Okay, next time I'll have issue two ready." and the next convention then was in the fall. I fleshed out the rest of the story, knowing where issue two, three, four, five and six would take place and how they would round out.

And then last year I went to the San Diego comic convention, just kind of wandering around I saw a guy there, who is a Michigan native as well: Phil Baker, a comics journalist. And he said "Hey, how you doing? Have you been shopping your book around?" And I said "No, no, no - I've got some copies here because I knew there was going to be some out-of-state friends that were going to be here that I could get the book to. "But no, I'm just here to walk around and take this whole place in." And he said, well you really should be shopping it around and said you should take it over to Archaia Studios Press because they're accepting new fantasy genre books and I think you'd be a good fit. And I said "Wow, y'know I know Mark Smylie. I actually met him several years ago in Chicago and he was really cool then. There was nobody at his table when I walked up, which I felt good about, because I'm always nervous about meeting creators and I don't want to take up their time or keep people from buying their stuff. I spent a long time talking to Mark at that Chicago show and he looked at my portfolio and gave me some suggestions on what I could be doing differently, what kind of things I should be submitting to whom. And I actually left his table and then forgot some of the information, I forgot to write down some of the stuff he told me, and I came back and he spent another twenty minutes with me after I wrote down the key elements he was trying to tell me about, who to send some things to. So I had already known that Mark was a good stand-up guy and had taken some time, so gave him first shot at it, and he said let's roll.

Logan: How much did you have done, if any, on issue two by then?

David Petersen: I don't think any. Because at that point, I was still working on this kind of slow pace. I had about six months to finish a book. The Motor City Con in May had ended, and then it was July that I came to ComicCon. I might have started to rough out an outline or done a couple sketches for some thumbnails...Well, that's not true. That's not true, because I do remember showing of a couple pages. I had maybe two pages done, but not much of issue two was done. And then that changed the schedule, obviously.

Logan: So Archaia accepted it just based on that first issue and sketches?

David Petersen: He talked with me a little bit about where it was going, what I thought it should be. He talked about color, because at that point it was still in black and white, and he really wanted to see it in color. We talked about the ideas for how it could look in color, who should be doing the color and things like that.

And he felt like it was a good match for the company. He told me that he couldn't give me a definitive yes, that his business partner, Aki Liao would have to take a look at it first. After I got back to Michigan, we started e-mailing and made it final.

Logan: How much are you ahead at any given time? Are you done with this first series now?

David Petersen: No, I'm not, unfortunately. The reality is that I'm still working the nine-to-five, and it's about an hour from where I live, so I'm commuting two hours a day and trying to squeeze in as much drawing time as I can.

Logan: And some sleep...

David Petersen: Yeah, and some sleep. And time with my wife, and time with family and various birthdays and the general celebrations that you have to, and want to, generally want to attend. I think the farthest I was ahead was I got a whole issue ahead. But that's all pretty much gone now. I'm starting on issue five, I've got issue four done. Issue four is going to be out for Chicago.

And Mark is pretty forgiving, so far - so far I haven't really missed a deadline. I think I was a couple days late on this last one, but he was okay with that and he understood. Especially when I'm doing the writing, the inking, and the coloring, the pencilling...all of it.

Logan: How did you decide to settle on computer coloring?

David Petersen: I had watercolored the cover to issue one, and back when I was doing the black and white copy, before I knew that I had a publisher and when I was looking into self-publishing issue two as well, I started selling the pages to try and finance the printing of the second issue. So by the time Mark and I had met and the book was going to be with Archaia and needed to be colored, most of the original art was gone for the first issue. So there was no other option. I could have printed out versions of the black and white on some kind of higher-quality paper and then tried to do a watercolor but I just thought that's going to be tedious and weird. You're starting to get second generation copies of linework then. And I had experimented a little with some coloring. Mark kind of thought that I should be doing the coloring, and I was worried that it was going to be too much work for me, and he said that he could get me in touch with some other colorists if I needed, "But let's see what you're capable of. Can you hand in some samples?" and I said "Yeah, and that can also serve as a guide if someone else is going to be brought in." I turned in two pages, one of which took me about three redos before I came up with what I wanted style-wise. It took awhile to decide what the pallet should be, how do I treat some of my line work. Pages that I had never envisioned being in color were now in color, so it took me awhile. And then when I came up with those pages Mark said "Yeah, that's definitely the way it should look," and I agreed. I felt like I couldn't let somebody else color it at that point - it had to be my kind of sensibilities on it.

Logan: When you moved on to issue two and later, what made you stick with computer?

David Petersen: Part of it was that I had already set the precedent: doing color holds on some of the line-work and that stuff that I couldn't really do on the originals unless I was painting the pages as I went, instead of doing the linework and adding color later. It went smoothly, and a lot of people really liked the first issue's color. A bunch of people kept calling it watercolor at that point...

Logan: Yeah, that's kind of what I thought. You have to second-guess yourself when you are looking at it, because it doesn't look like your idea of computer-colored at all...

David Petersen: I also found, and I really hadn't done this for the first issue cover, but I definitely did it on the second, which was that after I had the line work scanned, I colored it on the computer very roughly, just to get an idea of what I wanted the color pallet to be. I could mess around on the computer, change the colors just slightly or dramatically if I wanted, without ever having to worry about putting paint on the paper. And then once I had my own guide, I could then apply the color to the cover. And then after doing that with the second cover, and then doing some experimenting on pages in the second issue, by the time it came to the third cover, I thought I'm already coloring the cover digitially essentially, I might as well just do it the full blown-out way. And most people are liking the color on the interior pages, so it's not like there's anything wrong with these colors. So now, issue three was the first digital colored cover, and they'll continue from them.

Logan: Are you selling your watercolor paints? Giving it up forever?

David Petersen: Oh, no no no. Definitely not. And I haven't confirmed this, well, I shouldn't say confirmed because the only person I have to confirm it with is myself, but I'm pretty sure I'll be painting the collected cover. Try to give it a little more of a nostalgic feel, a little bit more timeless.

Logan: When you do future series, do you think you'll stick with the same format, both in coloring and in size of the comic?

David Petersen: Yeah. Yes to both. I really like what the page layout does for the panels. I realized that on a regular-sized comic page, it's really hard to get the sense of a panoramic view because of how narrow the page is, the page is so much taller than it is wide. And without doing something like a double page spread, it's hard to get a panel that seems really wide. With the square format, I can make these panels seem really expansive and show a great wide distance, kind of get a cinematic effect. I enjoy it being the size that it is, and I think I'd continue doing that, and most definitely with the color. It means that I can still sell the black and whites, it's less worrisome for me - I can't make as many mistakes. I can always fix things, where if I was painting each page, I'm sure that it would take me twice as long to finish an issue and I'd have a nervous breakdown.

Logan: Since this is a time consuming thing, doing every aspect, how are you going to try and juggle your time in the future? Are you thinking of taking a less demanding job, or...?

David Petersen: Yeah, the goal is to make sure I can be doing art full time. But, we'll see. Other than that, I think with each issue I'm getting a little better at time management and figuring out how to do things a little faster. I've figured out a couple shortcuts on how to scan my pages faster, just some stuff like that. My wife and I usually go through the dialogue once it's all done, and we're second guessing ourselves less when we're doing some of that editing, just because we have a feel for how it's going now, what the characters should sound like, what amount of dialogue is the right amount.

Logan: I know the book has been enormously popular with readers, but have you found other doors opening in the publishing world or doing freelance illustration?

David Petersen: Yeah, yeah unfortunately right now my plate is a little too full just keeping up with demands of the book. The offers so far haven't been enough to pull me away from the book or from the nine-to-five. Definitely though, I'm definitely getting more requests for commissions, I've been asked to be included in a couple different books that are coming up.

Logan: Would you see yourself leaning more towards freelance illustration or doing other traditional comics?

David Petersen: I don't know. I once said that I never thought that I would be drawing for anybody where I don't own the characters. It would always my idea, my concept, my characters, my story. And no offense against the guys that do the other stuff, I just never saw myself as a guy who was going to draw the Hulk or Spiderman or a Batman book, something like that; it's just not really what I aspired to. But, some friends of mine have called me out on that, and said "Oh come on, tell me really, if you got the chance to draw a Ninja Turtles story, you wouldn't?" Okay, okay, yeah I'd probably do one of those just for the fun of doing it and a couple of those that I would probably involve myself with.

But I don't think anything long-term. I think so far, there's enough of a place out there in the market for Mouse Guard that I'm just going to continue with that, and if I need to launch off a new idea, I've got a couple on backup. And maybe if I can get a couple little fill-in pieces here and there, do some covers or some pin-ups for people whose work I really respect or some concepts that I adore, that'd be great.

Logan: When you finally get around to collecting the issues, will Archaia press be able to do that or will you have to re-solicit the book?

David Petersen: Archaia Studios Press is going to be doing that. We're going to do a hardcover.

Logan: Will it be sold as a graphic novel, or will you try to market it as a children's book?

David Petersen: It will probably be under the graphic novels section, I assume. Archaia and myself are pretty firm in the belief that this is an all-ages appropriate book, not just a children's book. I don't want it to be pigeon-holed as such in any case.

My first convention after the book had come out in color was the New York convention and I had just as many older adults as kids come up and praise the book. And I get e-mails frequently from people who are parents who say that "I ended up having to buy a second copy because my daughter wanted to know what I was reading, and insisted on having one for herself." So the parents bought it initially for themselves and the kids followed suit. And I've read it the other way, too, where the kid brought something home and the parent said "What's that?" gave it a read and said "Wow, you've got me hooked." And I intended it to be that way, I don't mean that in an ego-maniac sort of way, like this was all sort of my master plan, but I certainly didn't want to exclude anybody. I didn't want my book to be written like it was dumbed down for kids, and I didn't want to make it so advanced that a kid couldn't pick it up. I guess that paid off.

Logan: Well, your original intentions had been to be a children's illustrator, or to do children's books?

David Petersen: Yeah, I did want to be a children's book illustrator, but most of the children's books I really like are the ones that work on multiple levels as well. Where the adults get just as much enjoyment out of reading it as the kid gets enjoyment hearing it. I have a couple young nieces and when they come and stay with us: bedtimes, story times, they go and pick books. I try to weed out some of the selections -- so we're not listening to really silly sacharine stuff that doesn't mean anything -- stuff that either teaches a lesson or is just timeless, or funny, legitimately funny. And I think that there are just as many adults out there who are interested in the mythos of, say, Robin Hood, or Conan, or Tarzan, as there are kids. So even though you would think of those as kind of being children's books, or children's storybook characters, they are definitely more than that.

Logan: Did you a lot of reading of young adult literature, as you were growing up?

David Petersen: I kind of dropped out. My mom kept trying to get me to read books. I had just gotten to a point where I got bored with anything that was available for me. I read the really young stuff, and was an adamant reader when I was really young, you know, when I was still in the early part of elementary school. Toward the end of elementary school, and even middle school, I didn't do a whole lot of on-my-own reading, and there are a few exceptions: where my grandparents bought me The Chronicles of Narnia. I really liked the fantasy genre, but my parents weren't keen on letting me play Dungeons & Dragons with my friends -- I was kind of restricted from doing that. And the years where these books, where they were fighting witches and trolls and centaurs and goblins and they have swords and ride horses, and I was like "Wow, this is Dungeons & Dragons, but Grandma and Grampa say it's okay to read this, so I guess I'll read these and kind of fill that niche in my life." And the other was I think I had a picture book of Robin Hood that I really liked the illustrations of and didn't kind of discover a lot of that other literature until I went back as an adult, just kind of knowing that I really enjoyed the artwork of Maurice Sendak and Ezra Jack Keats.

Logan: The one thing that stood out about your writing, that I like quite a bit, and reminds me of a really good children's book author, is that you don't over-explain, and you don't over-describe. That's something that really irks me about a lot of adult novels, where they describe the smell of a rose and they assume I'm too stupid to know what a rose smells like.

David Petersen: Right. There's a fine line between adding to the mood and the sense of time and then being way too wordy, just wasting time and pages. With the Mouse Guard book I had always been told...and this is my first big sequential -- I had done a four-page story and then a seven-page story just for a little fun-stuff publishing thing that my friends and I did, but Mouse Guard was going to be my first big one. I was a little bit nervous about going into it, and the big recommendation that I always hear is "Work on your storytelling." And one of the best ways to work on your storytelling is "Can you understand what's going on in the pages without any dialogue?" And so that's why I approached it without having anything but an outline, and just kind of an idea of what they were saying, because if I had to draw it without words, it had to emote what was going on. Otherwise, what am I drawing? I don't know. So that was the plan and then when it came time to add the words in, part of the editing was deciding "Do we want them to say something here, or over here? Not both." Try to keep it down, because it ended up not needing as many words. A couple people have harped on that as a negative point of the book, but more people see it as positive.

Logan: I think one definite positive about that as well is it keeps people wanting more. I've seen a lot of message board discussions where people are trying to figure it out. They think they've missed something, or they feel like they need to know more.

David Petersen: Yeah, and the goal is to have them want to know more, and not feel like they missed something. I've read a couple of those where they ask, "Did I miss an issue? Did something come out before this that I don't know about?" and I'm hoping that it's just that they're kind of missing the obvious, that it's right in front of their eyes, but like I said I hope that that's the case, and that it's not a mistake on my part, some key element out that of course I understand because I've got the whole thing in my head.

Logan: Well, I got it.

David Petersen: I hope they stick with it, and I hope that by issue six it pays off for them. I think it will.

Logan: You say it gets wrapped up in issue six -- How are you envisioning the whole Mouse Guard ethos? Is it kind of like miniature storylines that may overlap slightly? Or a saga?

David Petersen: I think miniature storylines that overlap, or kind of fit nicely together, or with a slight bumper in time where you don't need to know about what happened during the next three months but then after that things pick up, or something like that. Overall, there'll kind of be a grand story, but it doesn't fit together. If you take all episodes of Star Wars and put them together what you basically have is a Greek tragedy, and it's the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. So those six movies fit together to make one big storyline, one big point. Mouse Guard won't do that. They will all fit together in terms of space and time, and I'll carry some elements over from one to the next, and make some points along the way, but I'm not trying to tell one big message of "Don't do drugs, kids," or "Mind your parents." It's just kind of about adventure, and sense of adventure, and heroes, and villians: all that good stuff.

Logan: Will Saxon, Kenzie, Lieam -- all of them play roles in future books?

David Petersen: Not all of them. There will be some books that take place before the time period we are in now. I've planned out I think the next four series, at least in terms of some rough outlines about what I need to accomplish in that main series. I know that there'll be one that takes place before any of them are Guard members and one of them will take place before Lieam is a Guard member, but when the other two already are, and then some other characters...Over the fourth of July weekend I was talking with some friends of mine who were asking about the end, do I have an end? Like JK Rowling knew going in what happens in book seven of Harry Potter. I said "Not really"; I've sort of come up with an end for this current group of mice, and not in a bad way, just a kind of "If something had to happen to Saxon, where would I want him spending his days, or would I still want him alive?" The same with Kenzie, Lieam...I came up with some major things that I know have to happen to all those characters before they live out their days sort of thing, but that's not really The End, because at that point I can start with a new group, or some of the side characters, some of the newer recruits that come in toward the end of these series could take the reigns and become the main characters. So as long as I keep coming up with ideas that I like I think I'm going to keep going on with Mouse Guard.

Logan: Will you, for the forseeable future at least, just be sticking with six-issue-type series?

David Petersen: I'll try to keep it in that range. Yeah, I see one of them maybe being a little shorter, but I've got a friend of mine who's pushing for me to make it bigger -- I was thinking four issues -- he was saying "That's not fair to tell that story in only four issues." So we'll see. It comes down to when I start outlining things, how it all works out. At some point I might try to throw in a little two-issue thing, depending on time frame and all that, but I think it's just going to depend on what's coming down the pipe, and when, and how my time looks. If it looks like I need a break from a six-issue saga, down to a two-issue little fun here's just a quick adventure, that's really just an adventure for an adventure's sake, I'll probably throw in a two-issue jobber. But that's not the plan at this point. It's an escape plan I guess, so to speak.

Logan: For your other future products that you might have in mind, is anything concrete right now?

David Petersen: No

Logan: It's just Mouse Guard.

David Petersen: At this point, yeah.

Logan: Is there anything you'd like to be working on?

David Petersen: When my friends kind of called me out on it, one of the things that Dark Horse had just recently acquired -- or re-acquired, I don't know how the politics work -- the rights to publish Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Epic Comics had published a four-book series of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser that Mike Mignola drew and I think Al Williamson inked, Sheryl Van Valkenburgh did the colors. They're out there on eBay; they're a little hard to find unless you try to pick them up on eBay, but I guess Dark Horse has the rights to reprint those and along with that, the prose works of the the author, Fritz Leiber, to publish his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories through Dark Horse Books. And then they were going to start looking at an ongoing Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series. I was introduced to the characters through the comic series that came out through Epic and kind of fell in love with them being quintessential sword-and-sworcery adventurers. I later found out that Fritz Leiber kind of coined the term, sword-and-sworcery, and then started reading his prose. I just really adore the characters; they're fun. I don't know if I'd really want to pencil a whole story of them because I know what my expectations of a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story would be, but I wouldn't mind trying my hand at that, or at least a cover or a pin-up or something, definitely. And then the Turtles, they were a childhood favorite. My interest in the Turtles kind of hit just before the cartoon hit, so while all the other middle schoolers were into the "Cowabunga!" pizza-loving Turtles, I was reading Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman's black and white -- and I had the color graphic novels that were put out by First -- you know, the beer drinking, cursing, turtles.

Logan: The good ones.

David Petersen: We're really into this for life and death versus the Shredder. I really like what they did with that series, and it was fun stuff and I would certainly revisit that because it was quality stuff and a great nostalgia thing for me.

Logan: For the rest of the week at the con, do you think you'll have to be selling yourself anymore, or do you anticipate more opportunities coming to you?

David Petersen: I'm worried that people are going to start coming to me. Like I said, at this point I've still got a full plate, and I want to make sure that Mouse Guard is my focus - and I don't really want to take anything on until I get a little further along in the Mouse Guard world, to make sure that that's taken hold. But we'll see, we'll see what kind of opportunities come up. I'd love to do more with Mouse Guard merchandise-wise, just because I've been asked about it. People have asked me about T-shirts and toys. I did some sculptures that are on my website and I get asked that question a lot, "Are those for sale, are those for sale?" They're not. I did them for myself even before I started working on the book. I had the critters hanging around my house all the time, and then I use them for reference when I'm working on the book, just to help remind me, "Which ear is Saxon's notch? You know he's got a little cut in his ear -- which ear is it again that he has the notch in?" Lieam has a notch in the opposite ear so I'm always forgetting which side is which and having to pull down the figures and take a look at them and stuff like those.

So people ask me about those, and any time toys or cold-cast statues come up they go "Yeah, yeah we'd love to see those" so I'm hoping for some stuff like that. If people want them, then I'd love to see it happen, that'd be fun.

San Diego 2006

David Petersen: It is strange. It was basically one year ago, like I said, my wife and I just went out here to the convention center to get our badges. And I said "Here we are honey, this is the place I was telling you about" because she wasn't here last year, and she said "Can you imagine, it was one year ago that you took your self-published thing and showed it to Mark, right here." It's a year. And it seems like more than that in some ways. I've done interviews and Wizard did that awesome write-up and things like that. People are talking about toys and t-shirts, people are speculating on the internet about where the plots going, so that's just crazy.

And here it was, only a year ago that I was on those message boards putting up preview pages going "What do you guys think? Is this looking good, would you guys buy this, how's it going?" So I kind of went from being fan to semi-professional in less than a year, and that's a really weird transition to be making. Because I know this weekend I'm still going to geek out. I'm going to see somebody and I'm going to get really excited, and get nervous to talk to them, and the truth is I can just go up to them and talk to them. I can do that, it's not that big of a deal. But they're still big comic book people, and I'm the fan.



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Interview Conducted by phone, July of 2006
Copyright © 2006 Adventures Underground