In case you missed it last Saturday, Archaia released a new Free Comic Book Day Hardcover anthology book. I contributed a cover piece and an 8 page story. This is the 5th year I've done a FCBD story and the 4th in a row of this type. After my first offering, I started the tradition of opening each story with a younger version of a Mouse Guard character being told a morality tale which shows the audience a bit of insight into how that character became who they are as an adult mouse. This year's story is being told to Rand, and it deals with some mythic lore about the history of the Black Axe: The Tale of the Axe Trio:
As I said at the top of the post, this story is a tale told to Rand. He hasn't been a major player in Fall or Winter, but he will be in the upcoming (and as-of-yet unscheduled) Weasel War of 1149. So, this story gave me the opportunity to introduce readers to him a bit more. At the start of the story we see that as a child he and his father (and mother too) lived in Shorestone, a city I featured in Black Axe and is a building trade craftmouse den as well as having secret ties to the mythic Black Axe itself.
In past years, I used a few objects as lead-ins for the stories: stained glass, marionettes, and storybook style illustrations. This time I chose cards. In my blogpost about the cover, I described the visual influence for these cards. I've got all my notes for how a complete set of them work (with their own versions and counts of suits and numbers) The cards we see for the story are 3 axes (each with a different Haven Guild founder 'suit' and a pair of acorns. The acorns were chosen as the other symbol because I'd already drawn the cover with the characters standing on a pile of acorns and didn't have a way to visually explain it beyond that it looked cool.
As the tale within a tale begins, the readers are introduced to some Black Axe lore. Orren as the 4th wielder of the Axe was covered (in pictogram) in The Black Axe book, but the story of his death and children are new for this story. The location of Nettledown, is from Nate Pride's Legends of the Guard story "The Ballad of Nettledown". I studied Nate's pages to try and be consistent with the visual depiction of the location. And while it's never appeared on a map, I have a suspicion if I ever draw a much older map of the territories, you may find it listed there.
The idea of having three young sibling mice take over the role of the Black Axe was something I'd come up with back when writing the end of Fall 1152. I shared the idea with Mark Smylie over breakfast at the Baltimore convention that year, and we both agreed that while fun, seemed too much like a light hearted children's tale compared to the tone at end of the Fall book. So I stuck it away in my back pocket until the time was right.
The three sisters are obviously analogs for Kenzie, Saxon, and Rand. Beyond personalities I added a few visual cues: Omaira's tied sash-belt echoes the tied knot of Saxon's cloak, Lynea's hood is ment to remind you of Kenzie's hood in Winter and the long ribbons in front are to symbolize Kenzie's longer slender frame as well as the verticality of his staff, and Celandine's scale armor is symbolic of Rand's shied both in function and shape. Part of my goal was to pre-explain how Rand, as a mouse who mainly ever carries a shield, functioned with a Saxon and a Kenzie.
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Phoenix Comic Con: June 5-8
Heroes Con: June 20-22
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
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