It's time again for a foray into David Petersen's critically acclaimed "Mouse Guard" universe, but this installment promises to be very different from journeys past. Announced today at the Diamond Retailer Conference held in Baltimore, "Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard" is a four-issue anthology mini-series coming from Archaia in which creators handpicked by Petersen are given a chance to explore the world of "Mouse Guard."
"It's the idea of hand picking some creators that I think artistically and story sensibility-wise are the right people to play in the ‘Mouse Guard' Universe," Petersen told CBR News. "A couple of them were Jeremy Bastian and Mark Smylie who both had pinups in the first ‘Fall' series. I'm fans of both of their work and as soon as they turned in their pinups, I said, ‘Man, I would give these guys carte blanche to do whatever they want in the Mouse Guard world.' That's kind of how it got going."
In addition to Nate Pride ("Mage The Awakening"), Petersen and Archaia plan to have a few other creators onboard for the project. "I've been talking to some other creators that we can't announce yet," he says, "but it's amazing how many people say they want to do it and how much fun it's going to be. I think it's going to be a good time. I'm going to be doing covers and I'm also going to be some story pages in between the creators' stories so that it all ties together."
While the project is set to tentatively debut in the spring of 2010, it is unknown exactly how deeply involved Petersen will be in the project. "Part of the idea here is that it's going to free me up to work on ‘Black Axe' [the upcoming third volume of ‘Mouse Guard']" said Petersen. "I'm going to do the main ‘Mouse Guard' series and this thing can still happen without taking up too much of my time, but obviously I'm going to be overseeing in some capacity, whether I'm micromanaging each creator's story or I'm overseeing their work, but that's still to be determined."
According to Archaia, "Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard" will alternately ship with issues of the main six-issue "Mouse Guard" installment, "The Black Axe." While the project should allow Petersen more time to perfect the new installment, he admitted he was a little nervous about placing his pet project into the hands of others, but he is taking steps to be sure that he's comfortable with it. "That's part of the hand-picked process," he says. "I'm going with people that I already have a relationship with or I just know that what they're going to do is going to fall in line anyway and they won't need too much direction."
Beyond handing off "Mouse Guard" to other creators, Petersen is well aware that there are other challenges he'll face for this project. "One of them is going to be that managing that we talked about – how to oversee without micromanaging in such a way that I'm not going to be sacrificing too much time," said Petersen. "How that all is going to work is yet to be seen. The second thing is luckily not going to fall too much on my shoulders, but it's trying to coordinate that many creators to turn in all their work on time so that we have a book ready to send to the printer."
As far as storyline and continuity goes, these individual stories will not necessarily be in "Mouse Guard" canon. "Actually, part of the beauty is that they can fall out of canon," said Petersen. "As the title suggests, these are their legends. These are not necessarily true facts of what happens in the ‘Mouse Guard' world. In fact, the pages that I'm going to be doing are the real mice of Mouse Guard telling stories. When one of their stories starts, that's the guest artist and the guest artist's story.
"I'd say the majority of the people we're looking at are known for being both artists and storytellers," said Petersen. "Obviously, that doesn't always work out and we've had a couple people request if they can bring someone else on as a writer. We're still working on the details of that, but it does look like there will be a couple of groups that are pairs and a couple of them that are all-in-one types of guys, kind of what I do. We were trying to celebrate that idea, but at the same time, we don't want to exclude really talented people just because they focus on the art or the storytelling."
However, for the "Mouse Guard" creator, the most exciting thing is to see what his handpicked creative teams come up with. "I can't wait to see some beautiful artwork and see some awesome stories," he says. "Like I said, these are hand-picked people and I'm fans of their work. These are the kind of people that I wait for their next book anyway, I'm excited when they put out their own projects. To see them do something that's even nearer and dearer to my heart, of course I'm excited to see their work and now it's really special for me."