Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Before Mouse Guard was Mouse Guard, I had an idea for an animal story that was more akin to Disney's Robin Hood than what Mouse Guard is today. It was a way for me to get to have fun with animal characters which I enjoyed drawing, and have a way to script out stories like the roleplaying adventures my friends and I were playing. I started working on this around my freshman year of high school, when my friends and I were making up all sorts of comic characters and stories (including Cats Trio) The comic was to be called 1149, referencing a date in the middle ages (which was also the starting year of one of my favorite computer games: Defender of the Crown)
A Fox who got by in life by conning kings into thinking he was royalty, getting invited to their castles, and then making off with their treasures in the middle of the night. A tiger, who was a monk that had strayed from a religious path (in a violent rage fueled event) and became a wandering adventurer because he was no longer welcome at his monastery. A duck who was a grumpy butcher and was the most fearsome merchant in his village. A ferret archer who was exiled from every kingdom and lived in the wild. There was also a bear character, a rabbit, and an opossum who were never fully fleshed out. These drawings represent the earliest versions of the characters.
As high school went on, my friends and I would rotate duties on various comic projects we were dreaming up, but the next time I got back around to these characters, I honed in on the tiger, fox, duck, and ferret. They were going to be my main cast (I also planned on keeping the opossum at this point, but I can't find any drawings of her). I was trying to draw these characters consistently (which is probably why most of these are drawn in profile, as though I was prepping to do turn-around model sheets), because that summer, I started drawing the first 8 pages of 1149 while on a summer trip. Unfortunately, none of those pages survive today.
Towards the end of high school and into the start of college, I did another batch of re-designs on these characters. I was using new materials to draw and color with, and had learned from getting several false starts with comics in high school, that a streamlined design for the characters will only help you draw the story more comfortably. I think this was some of my first realizations about drawing like yourself being easier than trying to mimic other folks (even your friends) This was marked the last time I tried to draw them with the hopes of 1149 being a comic series.
While in my first year at college I started a re-write of 1149 from the ground up, and had plans for it to be a novel series that I would also illustrate. I expanded the species list (to also include a civilization of mice) and tried to find a sensible way of honoring some of the old characters while still explaining why their species would be on the same landmass as the others. I painted these as character portraits to inspire me as I wrote. The first chapter dealt with two monk rams who found the half dead body of a tiger in a snowstorm on their monastery's mountain. The two rams debated whether to care for or kill the beast. Chapter two started off with three mice: Saxon, Kenzie, and Rand...
In 1996 I also drew three ranger-esque mouse characters for the novel I was starting to write. Saxon, Kenzie, and Rand represented myself and my friends Jesse & Mike. They also represented Sword, Wisdom, and Shield...or to put it another way, aggression, calm, and defense. By developing what their group of Guardmice did, why it was there, and how it functioned, I realized the heart of this story had to be the mice. They were the ultimate under-dog, their struggle was more interesting and important than any of the other species. I dropped the idea of the predators as characters away, and kept them as races meant only to be the threat...of the Mouse Guard.
Boston Comic Con: April 21-22
FCBD: Jetpack Comics: May 5th
Heroes: June 22-24
San Diego Comic Con: July 11-15
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept 8-9
New York Comic Con: Oct 11-14
Detroit Fanfare: Oct 26-28
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