Tuesday, April 23, 2024

1149 Shield Heraldry

Long before Mouse Guard was Mouse Guard––before it even had mice as characters, it was a project called 1149. To quickly recap, it was a fantasy adventure comic I started in high school with animal characters more akin to Disney's Robin Hood than what we know Mouse Guard to be. And I created a group, like a D&D party, with a duck fighter, a fox ranger, an opossum mage, a tiger monk, and a ferret thief.

Well recently on a whim an idea came to me to create heraldry for each one that I could eventually use in Mouse Guard some day. To the left you can see the final art for those heraldic shields, and below I'll go into the creation of the art. 

I started with some stock shield designs I found online and then in Photoshop I added penciled heads, arms, and tails (and in a few cases the interior symbology). Yes, there is also a Rabbit in this mix––there were a few side characters like a rabbit and a bear who were townsfolk who'd help the 1149 adventurers, and to round out the illustration I added the hare.

The hare was a farmer, so I gave him wheat and a scythe. The duck had been a butcher turned fighter, and he used his cleavers. The fox, while a ranger, was in many more ways a bard/thief who would steal from royalty he duped into believing he was a dignitary from another land, the opossum got a book with stars to represent magic. The tiger had a spiked mace and I made the background stripes to echo the tiger's fur. And the ferret used daggers, so I filled his shield with small but deadly weapons.  

When the roughs were done the way I liked, they were printed out onto copy paper and taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. I inked them all with Copic Multiliner SP pens. Because these were simplified heraldry designs, I tried to keep the linework very simple and not add much texture.

I have an idea for how to incorporate these designs as well as the spirit of the original characters into a real Mouse Guard story...
With the inks scanned, I started the coloring process. The flat color stage is about as far as I really needed to go with this (though the final art did get some light texture added). I also established color holds (areas where I want the linework to be a color other than black) like on all the lineart, and then on specific design elements like the checkerboard, the wheat, the starburst, and the book.

The color choices were mostly all determined from the characters original designs from high-school.

Here again are the final colors.

Even though these are just simplified heraldic designs, re-drawing these characters I made up over 30 years ago was an instant time travel device that took me back to my earliest comic characters and the ideas Jesse Glenn, Mike Davis, Nick Kowalcyk and I were coming up with (stuff we'd later categorize as 'Plotmasters')

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