Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Free Comic Book Day 2012

As Archaia announced earlier this month, they will be releasing a 48 page 6" x 9" hardcover for Free Comic Book Day (May 5th 2012). I'm doing a new Mouse Guard story which follows last year's tradition of being a morality tale told to a younger incarnation of one of the adult characters from my series. Other stories will include a Cursed Pirate Girl story by Jeremy Bastian, Labyrinth by Ted Naifeh & Cory Godby, Rust by Royden Lepp, Dapper Men by Jim McCann & Janet Lee, and Cow Boy by Chris Eliopoulos & Nate Cosby. It's going to be a real honor sharing the book with all that talent! (5 of whom either have-done or will-be-doing a Legends of the Guard story!)

Before I knew Archaia's plan to do a 6" x 9" book, I started work on a FCBD cover the way I normally would...as an 8" x 8" square flip book like the last two years. The morality tale in my story is all being told through a puppet show, so the cover features the three main cast of the play with the puppet theater where the show is staged. There was barely room to accommodate the traditionally blank space where retailers can stamp or label their store's info so new customers will know where to return. Then I got the call about the size format. I still plan to do my pages square, floating them on the 6" x 9" page with decorative elements framing the panels (so that later I can collect the FCBD stories sometime down the line in a Mouse Guard 8" x 8" format), but for the cover...that needed to be special.

With the art already colored, I needed to do a patch job to extend the artwork. I laid out more bristol board over the original inked linework and using a lightbox I added more height on this new piece feathering into the existing linework on my original below. I added a little to the top, and a great deal to the bottom. This way there would be plenty of room to place the retailer's stamp, and display all the titles for the various stories going into the volume. Scanning in my height-patches, I feathered in the coloring and tried to make it look as seamless as I could. Here is the artwork I sent to Archaia. They made some changes to the design to make room for all the titles and logos. It looks great this way too, and it sounds like the retailer's stamp/sticker will be on the back cover(?). You also notice the Free Comic Book Day banner on Archaia's version? That's one I was asked to draw. I don't know if it's fully approved by the FCBD committee yet...so let's move on (plus I could do a whole post just on the process for that logo!)

Once I started working on the story, I wanted to build myself (you guessed it) a little model of the puppet stage. I did this because 1) I had already designed the look of it when I drew the cover, so it would only mean printing out my cover at and pasting it to a few sheets of cardboard, and 2) since I was going to be blocking out a tiny theatrical play, I wanted to make sure I had an understanding of how deep the stage was, how the backdrops could be unfurled for a new scene, what room the puppeteers had etc. The model is made of cardboard a few balsa sticks and my printed out drawings from the cover art. It has one of the highest quick/quality ratios of all the models I've built.

And earlier in the year, after drawing a Mouse puppet builder, I had a bug to make my own mouse marionette. I sculpted the shapes out of Sculpy, building up the mass of the head and body with balls of tinfoil. Once the polymer clay had baked in the oven and cured, I carved the enlarged woodgrain (and various dings, dents, & scratches) with my woodcarving tools. The marionette has come in very handy for me to reference...not just for proportion, scale, and the anatomy of the joints, but for feeling the weight of how the arms WANT to hang, the head WANTS to loll to the side, the legs WANT to dangle.

That brings us to a teaser. Here is the first page of my Free Comic Book Day Story colored sans-text. I know it's a long wait till May 5th of next year for the rest of it, but now is the time to tell your comic shop that you want this hardcover!

Upcoming Appearances:
London Super Con: Feb 25-26
Emerald City: March 30-April 1 
Boston Comic Con: April 21-22


Mayhem said...

Wow, that has to be the most ambitious project I've seen for FCBD. Looking forward to seeing the finished result :)

Matt said...

I can't wait for this story. It seems like a really neat and different way to introduce new fans to the awesome world of Mouse Guard. Plus, it's going to focus on Saxon's earlier years... Forget Christmas, I'm now looking forward to May!
Somehow, I think Mouse Guard is going to become even better. Bravo Mr Petersen.

Anonymous said...

That looks freakin' amazing.

--Holding a beer and cold medicine in San Diego

Max West said...

Mouse marionettes? I'm sold. I'll have to see about getting a copy of that.

Hmm, does the world of Mouse Guard have any equivalent of Punch and Judy? That would be fun to see.

M Althauser said...

That marionette is really incredible work - hard to believe it's done out of sculpy. I'm super excited about 2012's FCBD, can't wait to see all that Archaia offers.

Diana said...

Oh, that sound like a delightful story.. I'm a huge comicbook fan and just love mouse guard. But every year the fcbd saddens me because there's a lot of great stories that i can't read. So every year i look for a way to read them online, but i'm not so often successful, which is the case with your stories.

So, i would really like to know if there's a way to get them. Or at least understand why the fcbd don't let everybody read the free comics...

Well, guess that's it. :) Hope you keep up with the beautiful work and blog.

Beijos, Diana.

DPetersen said...


The Mouse Guard FCBD issues are available to read online through Graphicly for free: http://graphicly.com/archaia-comics/mouse-guard-free-comic-book-day


Diana said...

Thank you so much, David! You just made my day! :D !

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