Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Free Comic Book Day 2011 Story Process

I am very proud of the story from this year's Free Comic Book Day flip-book. I am continuing to get emails and tweets from fans who discovered Mouse Guard through the story and from existing fans who loved using it as a gateway for their friends and relatives to get into the series.
So I wanted to take a post to talk about my process in getting that story finished.
In case you missed this year's issue, you can read it for free online at Graphicly.com here before reading the rest of this post.

Last year I found the task of writing short a Mouse Guard story for FCBD rather daunting. It needed to be accessible to new readers who have never seen Mouse Guard while still having something new and plot-connected for the existing fans. I was able to do a story that worked, but this year I felt I had to try a new approach. After the success of Legends of the Guard, I thought it would be fun to change the FCBD story format to be more like a folktale or Legend. With the story being told to a younger aged version of a known character, I could show how something as simple as a bedtime story could shape who that mouse became.

On a car ride to a friend's house I started thinking of folktales I liked which I could just do a comic translation of with mice. J.K. Rowling's Tale of the Three Brothers (featured in the Deathly Hallows), Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale (from the Canterbury tales), and Snow, Crow, & Blood (I had re-written a version years ago). What they all featured were a series of items, used in succession which change the outcome of the ending.

I then settled on a trio of concepts that are frequently echoed in Mouse Guard: Aggression, Defense, and Wisdom (Saxon, Rand, & Kenzie-- Swords, Strongholds, & Diplomacy). I couldn't come up with a "wisdom" item that would work to twist the ending and swapped it for poison, but made wisdom the key attribute to acquiring and successfully using the items in the correct sequence. Therefore, it made sense that I have a young Kenzie (the character's name means 'wise') told the tale that would shape his future.

The Hawk, Crab, and Snake would gift parts of themselves in their greed to get a greater claim on mouse-prey. A talon became a sword, a shell became a shield, and poison became..well, poison. The process of making the pages is my standard: break down the script into 1 page chunks, sketch the panels in a sketchbook, scan the sketches and assemble them in a Photoshop template of the page with placed text blocked where I think it goes, print out those layouts, and ink the final artwork on bristol using a lightbox to follow my layouts as guides. Lastly I scan the inks, and color the artwork and make final text changes.

ps: Sorry about missing last week's post. I was swamped returning home from Phoenix,and
with the power outage later that week I never got a good chance to catch up on the posting.

Upcoming Appearances:
Cherry Capital Con: June 25-26
San Diego Comic Con: July 20-24
Baltimore Comic Con: Aug. 20-21
New York Comic Con: Oct. 13-16


Peter Pein said...

Thanks for sharing the creative process :)

Anonymous said...

Do you think at one point you can add a "honorable" or "noble" weasel to mouseguard? If you cant add it to the main storyline,can you do it as a side story in your free time?

Paul said...

I found Mouse Guard through the FCBD issue this year. I'm totally hooked on it! Great work in making something with an engaging story and gorgeous art. It's also nice to be able to share the story with my daughter.

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