Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Feb 2014 Q & A

Last month I did a Question and Answer post and put out a call for questions. A lot of questions came in, so I decided to carry them over into this post. I plan on doing these Q & A posts more often, and will put out a call for questions as I'm preparing the next one. But until then, here we go:

Q: When a mouse is forced to combat a snake or larger creature would it be like a human battling a dragon or is my thinking off scale?
-Neil Rickmond

A: Yes, the scale is as accurate as it can be...provided dragons aren't real and so their size varies from fantasy realm to fantasy realm. For that same reason, I find the mouse vs snake story more compelling. Mice are very tiny real creatures and snakes are quick and deadly adversaries...we know this because they exist and we've seen them. Humans are us, and we don't think of ourselves as fragile, like we think of mice...and dragons don't exist, so the idea of that battle is more of excitement, thrill and fantasy, where the mouse and snake battle resonates from a place of our worry for the characters.

Q: Do you think you'll ever be able to up my Mouse Guard "fix" to occur monthly? Possibly by alternating Mouse Guard and Legends of the Guard issues?
-Kirk Vangilder

A: Early on when planning solicitation for the Black Axe series, the plan was to do a monthly shedule alternating between Legends and Black Axe. However, I couldn't do it. Black Axe (or any Mouse Guard feature storyline) is a full time job, and Legends is a rather large undertaking as well, so I couldn't manage the full-time project and also take on all my duties with Legends (and that was still with Paul Morrissey as co-editor on Legends) We ended up putting Legends out first and then having me get back to Black Axe. The only way to make a tighter Mouse Guard release schedule work is that I'd need to have almost all the book done before we started soliciting and shipping issues, which would also mean a longer break in between story-lines. This is what I'm hoping to do for the Weasel War of 1149. As a one-man show (who doesn't want to, nor do I think you want me to, pass off any of the duties: writing, drawing, inking, & coloring) it takes a long time to get a book done.

Q: Are you planning to touch more upon the matriarchal structure of the guard in future stories?
-Holy Frickkin Sanjula

A: This is a hard question to answer without revealing future story-lines. The short answer is yes...I'll start by saying that when I showed the Matriarch's room in Black Axe #5 (and in the extras of the hardcover) with all the stained glass tributes to important Matriarchs, I certainly opened the door for lots of potential stories. I also touched on some of the Matriarch lore in the Role Playing Game text. There I mention how a Matriarch writes the name of her successor down in a sealed envelope only to be opened by her at her own retirement or after her death and a new Matriarch is needed. I'll say this...I know someday I will tell a story where a matriarch other than Gwendolyn is in charge.

Q: Do you have any plans to introduce rats to your world? I love reading about the mice, but rats are a special favorite of mine.
-Malcolm Young

A: Sorry, Malcolm (and to all other lovers of rats), but I don't think I'll ever use rats in Mouse Guard. The Rats I eliminated because I didn't want a "big brother" species that close to the mice. Rats also come with some connotations I'd have to work though: being vicious, and filthy, and an auto-villain, but also as a dweller of rural environments. The species I choose to use tend to feel more woodsy, native, and indigenous to the Mouse Guard world. For this same reason we won't ever see cats or dogs....they imply a human world right around the corner that I don't have in Mouse Guard. However, Bill Willingham asked to have a cat in his Legends story, and it made it in, so perhaps if someone in the future pitches me a good rat story I'll also open that door in Legend form.

Q: Do you use photo references? or any of that kind to make those dynamic angles? -Dean Carantes

A: Yes, I do. I reference photos of animals (some from Google, some from books, and some I've taken myself) but always try to do my own take on the drawing and inking. For the mice I don't reference much but my own past drawings. I have to draw them so often, and stylized enough to do the things they do (stand on two legs, hold weapons, talk, emote, etc) that I had to kind of design my own mouse. The other species I try and get more accurate because they need to be the realistic setting, backdrop, and threat to my characters. If this all looks too animated or simple, or stylized, the reader won't invest as much concern into the characters. For the locations I used to rely on stock photo reference, but quickly found it limiting for all the angles and design changes I wanted to do, so I started building my own models.

Q: Which is harder for you to do in a comic, a full, single panel page or a page with a number of panels?
-Aaron Ebertowski

A: Since I do everything on Mouse Guard, there are several different points of view I can have on this question depending on which part of production I'm doing: writing, layouts, pencils/inks, or colors. From my writing point of view, the harder is the single panel page, but mainly because of my 23 page count per issue, I'm giving up a full page for one moment. That moment will need to be worth it to justify cutting away from other moments and scenes. When I'm doing the layouts, a page with a number of panels is the more difficult since I have to puzzle piece together a series of moments (some in tall panels some in wide panels) in a way that fits in the page and still has clear flow for the reader. Once a layout is established and I'm drawing and/or inking, the two are often the same amount of difficulty. Both occupy 11" x 11" on my original pages...and while the multiple panel pages have gutters, that space is negligible. When coloring I can also go either way as to which is harder, and is more dependent on what the content is on each page rather than the size or number of the panels.

2014 Appearances:
MSU Comics Forum: February 22
C2E2: April 25-27
Comicpalooza: May 23-25
Heroes Con: June 20-22
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12

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