Tag Archive: Mouse Guard


If you want to see a good argument for enforcing antitrust policy against mega-sized media corporations, here’s one.  Along with so many other change-ups, delays and cancelations, add Fox’s big-(estimated $170 million) budget Mouse Guard movie to the list.  The writer, artist, and visionary creator of the Mouse Guard universe, David Petersen announced the news back in April, two weeks before the scheduled filming date.  Reportedly Disney directed new subsidiary Fox to cancel the film.  No reasons were announced, but it’s difficult to surmise any reason other than a coordinated effort to own the theater box office with its own projects.  Just how much work had already been done?  How big was this film going to be?  Director Wes Ball (The Maze Runner) and Petersen released two videos over social media this week (and more participants have since released even more great pre-production content) that paint a picture that will leave you feeling like audiences have been out-right robbed.

The first video includes a pan of the offices where the pre-production previz work was already completed, including miniatures, maquettes, dioramas, costumes, performance capture and CG-mock-ups, and thousands of pieces of compelling concept art lining the work area walls.  You really get a sense for what audiences will be missing with the second video, another development piece for sure, yet even as a demo or “sizzle reel,” anyone who is a fan of fantasy movies can see this was going to be something entirely new.  Matt Reeves (The Batman, Planet of the Apes reboots) was producing.  Artist Darek Zabrocki was one of many artists who created thousands of pieces of concept art (see above and below) to push the film forward (see Zabrocki’s Instagram account here for several images).  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story screenplay writer Gary Whitta′s script was in-hand (he’s now released it via his Twitter account for everyone to read here).  Composer John Paesano had his first theme in play with a warrior’s quest-evoking theme in a James Horner/Randy Edelman vibe (listen to it here).  It was all just ready for Weta to step in and take over with production, and wham, that House with the Mouse slammed the door.  But it looks like no other mice will suffice for Disney.  So Fox will either sit on the rights, sell them, or the rights will revert in a few years.  All these pre-production pieces will likely get warehoused until they get auctioned off for space reasons down the road as happens with studios (studio storage is expensive!), unless another studio or filmmaker steps in with some money (Peter Jackson?  Guillermo Del Toro?  The Jim Henson Company?).  But we seem to already be past the eleventh hour for that to have happened.  On the one hand, outsiders will never know why the decision was made, corporations make these calls for all sorts of business reasons.  But what is clear is that without the approval of that mega-merger of behemoth media empires, this expression, this idea, this story, this vision, would be coming to your local theaters soon.

Voice actors enlisted for the film included Idris Elba, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Jack Whitehall, Samson Kayo, and Andy Serkis.  In the meantime, Petersen keeps creating, new Mouse Guard and other worlds.  Petersen’s comics and compilation hardcover editions, along with his version of The Wind and the Willows, are the picture books I have purchased more than any other for gifts–ever.  His artwork is fantastic, fantastical, and magical, and it came as no surprise when he announced a film in the works back in 2016.  Petersen’s Dark Crystal and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic cover art also has him as a contender for the year’s best cover artist.  Mouse Guard is one of those rare worlds in my lifetime that evokes the wonder of Jim Henson, the creativity of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the gravity and import of Mr. Rogers.

Enjoy the little of the film we get to see, these great videos released by Ball and Petersen:
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The Jungle Book.  The Hobbit.  Winnie the Pooh.  The Last Unicorn.  Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  The Dark Crystal.  Mouse Guard.

There is an exclusive royalty of fantasy tales featuring non-humans in fantastical realms.  These books and movies should be on the bookshelves of everyone with an imagination.  Strange worlds familiar and yet unfamiliar.  Steeped in tradition, filled with myths and legends and populated by extraordinary creatures.  These are fantasy masterpieces that make us look beyond our humanity.

Based on a world of characters he created in college in 1996, in May 2005 artist and writer David Petersen self-published the first of several stories of his micro-universe called Mouse Guard.  In 2006 Archaia started publishing Mouse Guard issues  books.  Petersen earned the 2007 Russ Manning Award for Most Promising Newcomer, and in 2008 he earned Eisner Awards for Best Publication for Kids (Mouse Guard Fall 1152 & Winter 1152) and Best Graphic Album – Reprint (Mouse Guard Fall 1152 Hardcover).  We at borg.com have been bragging up Petersen’s Mouse Guard series from the beginning.

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This month Archaia is releasing the first Mouse Guard Coloring Book, and we have previews of the book below.  It is a fantastic book to go crazy with crayons or pencils.  But it’s even more.  The more than fifty black and white illustrations in a format larger than what is printed in the Mouse Guard series shows the intricate detail of the environments, cities, and characters from across the Mouse Territories.  Although some images are printed smaller than the original artwork behind these previously published works, this is the closest you may come to getting your hands on an affordable gallery of Petersen’s original pencil and ink drawings.  At a convention commissioned inked 7×7 works from David Petersen go for $500.  Original Mouse Guard pages sold for that amount a decade ago but would sell for at least triple that today.  So this coloring book serves also as a look at what Petersen sees with his original art pages, as well as a great convention sketchbook.  And costs less than $15.

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Munchkin_05_A_Main    Sabrina_03-0

It’s another big week for comic book releases.  This week we’re featuring previews from some titles from Archie Comics, Dynamite Comics, and BOOM! Studios that we think you’ll be interested in.  We’ve kept our tabs on many books this year, especially from the independent publishers.  The best reads this year have been produced by writers and artists from the independents.  Let’s take a look at previews from six issues coming to comic book stores everywhere tomorrow, Comic Book Wednesday, May 27.

Munchkin is based on the popular fantasy card game, and the series has kept up with the spirit of the game, and offers something for everyone.  It’s now up to Issue #5, written by Tom Siddell and Shannon Campbell, with art by Ian McGinty and Rian Sygh.  Published by the BOOM! Box imprint of BOOM! Studios.

Like Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is one of those series from Archie Comics you just can’t pass up.  From its new Archie Horror imprint, the series is now on Issue #3, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, with artwork by Robert Hack.

SS-Masq-Kato-Cov-A-Tan    RSv2-16-Cov-Stagg

From Dynamite Comics we have the next tie-in to the Swords of Sorrow event series, Swords of Sorrow: Masquerade & Kato, a one-shot issue.  Written by G. Willow Wilson and Erica Schultz with art by Noah Salonga, this will be a must-have if you’re following the big mash-up series of the year.

Also from Dynamite Comics is the next issue of Red Sonja, Issue #16.  In addition to the classic fantasy art cover art with each issue, Red Sonja has some of the best interior work being published, thanks to artist Walter Geovani.  Gail Simone is writer on this series.

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Mouse Guard 1

Last weekend at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, Archaia, the imprint from BOOM! Studios announced the forthcoming release of The Art of Mouse Guard 2005-2015.  The over-sized hardcover will chronicle a decade of writer/artist David Petersen’s award-winning series about a group of medieval warrior mice.

Better yet, the coffee table style book is printed in a 12-inch x 12-inch format–the same size in which Petersen rendered the original images of his Mouse Guard series in pencil and ink, so fans will be able to see the full-sized artwork as it originally appeared.  The series was originally published in a 8×8 format–making it unique among comic book works.

Mouse Guard 2

Winner of both Eisner and Harvey awards, Mouse Guard is a one-of-a-kind fantasy universe that we reviewed previously at borg.com here and discussed extensively here.

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Hawkeye issue 11   Afterlife with Archie main cover

The annual Harvey Award nominations close tomorrow.  The nominees for best works in the comic book industry are being voted on by comic book creators, with the final award ceremony to be held at Baltimore Comic-Con on September 6, 2014.  The recently combined publisher BOOM! Studios and imprint Archaia lead this year out of the gates with 30 nominations.  Independent publisher IDW Publishing received no nominations and the biggest, DC Comics, received only one.  Probably not surprisingly one of our favorite books, Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye, is a top contender, along with David Petersen’s latest Mouse Guard work.

More of our favorites are recognized again this year: Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife With Archie is up for Best New Series and Mike Norton’s Battlepug for best online comic.  Here are the 2014 nominations for 2013 works, followed by this year’s Eisner Award winners for those that may have missed their announcement during the busy weekend of SDCC 2014.

2014 Harvey Award Nominees

Best Writer

James Asmus, Quantum and Woody, Valiant Entertainment
Matt Fraction, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Brian K. Vaughn, Saga, Image Comics
Mark Waid, Daredevil, Marvel Comics

Best Artist

David Aja, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
Nate Powell, March: Book One, Top Shelf Production
Chris Samnee, Daredevil, Marvel Comics
Fiona Staples, Saga, Image Comics
Jeff Stokely, Six Gun Gorilla, BOOM! Studios

Best Cartoonist

Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Comfort Love and Adam Withers, Rainbow in the Dark, uniquescomic.com
Terry Moore, Rachel Rising, Abstract Studios
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
David Petersen, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, BOOM! Studios/Archaia
Paul Pope, Battling Boy, First Second

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Hawkeye issue 11

The 2014 Eisner Award nominations were released today.  Not a lot of surprises again this year.  The nominations tend toward more serious subjects in the year’s comic book offerings as opposed to action-packed superhero titles, sci-fi, fantasy, humor, or popular works.  But there are exceptions, and some can be found this year.  And should you think the books reviewed and lauded here at borg.com might be out of touch with the Eisner nomination committee, actually some of our favorite books from 2013 can be found throughout this year’s nominees.

The ringer of course is Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye series.  Not only do we like it, everyone seems to agree this is the best book around, two years running.  And it’s up for multiple awards again this year.

But no Afterlife With Archie?  Where are all the Dynamite Comics nominees?  Where is recognition for the jaw-dropping visuals on Dark Horse Comics’ landmark series, The Star Wars?  Why not more from IDW and Dark Horse?  How about some variety?

So… congratulations to all the nominees, and extra snaps to some of our favorites (the full nomination list is after the break):

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
Hawkeye #11: “Pizza Is My Business,” by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel).  This made the borg.com Best of 2013 for Best Single Issue.  I even bought extra copies of this one.  It’s that good.

Best Continuing Series
Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel)

I read books this year from other nominations in this category: Saga, East of West, and Nowhere Men (we weren’t fans, but reviewed Issue #1 here), and the others just didn’t make our review list.

Black Beetle poster

Best Limited Series
The Black Beetle: No Way Out, by Francesco Francavilla (Dark Horse).

We reviewed this series here at borg.com this year and decided it should have made our Best of 2013 list had we reviewed it earlier.

I also read nominee Mike Richardson’s 47 Ronin–a good read, which I may review here later this year.  I had a review copy of The Wake from DC Comics, but didn’t find the story or art as gripping as others.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
Itty Bitty Hellboy, by Art Baltazar and Franco (Dark Horse).  Reviewed here, I’m glad this wasn’t passed up for consideration.

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Miss Fury Dynamite Comics

We tried on for size almost every new book that was released from comic book publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Archaia/BOOM!, and Image.  We tried to sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics had to offer, too, and although we didn’t have enough time to review everything we did try to put out there for your consideration those titles we thought our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro bent.  Our pull list included issues from Afterlife with Archie to Django Unchained, from Liberator to Larfleezeand from Velvet to The X-Files.  This past month we have reviewed the year-long run of the best of these titles, as we narrowed our selections to 21 of the very best entries in genre entertainment outside of TV and movies, which we revealed here yesterday.  So here are the rest of our picks for the Best of 2013.

Kane Starkiller borg by Mike Mayhew

Best Borg Appearance — Kane Starkiller, The Star Wars.  Borgs showed up everywhere this year, from the lead characters on Almost Human, to Doctor Who, to countless comic book series including Justice League and RoboCop.  Our favorite appearance came from the young mind of George Lucas as he created the original script that would later be edited into the original Star Wars trilogy.  And through Dark Horse Comics’ The Star Wars monthly comic book event we learned one of his best ideas was merged into other roles and one of his best characters entirely cut.   That character was Jedi Kane Starkiller, who would reveal his cyborg chest implants that kept him alive, later to heroically give up this life-saving technology to save his friends.

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Best Comic Book Series — Miss Fury, Dynamite Comics.  A uniquely crafted tale, a compelling and seductive superhero, great action panel after panel, sourced in a long-shelved classic character of the Golden Age of comics.  Rob Williams and Jack Herbert’s Miss Fury is a carefully rendered update that rings true to the edgy spirit of the world’s first female superhero.  Beautiful panels set up an ever-changing time and place and pull readers along for the ride.  And stuck-out-of-time Marla Drake and her alter ego Miss Fury could not have looked better, whether carving out her place in the 1940s or as she was teleported into the future.  It’s a series no one should miss.

Clint Barton Hawkeye by Fraction

Best Comic Book Writing – Matt Fraction, Hawkeye.  Last year revealed one of the best comic book series we ever read, focusing on that “other” superhero archer, the second tier Marvel Comics superhero Hawkeye.  Matt Fraction gave us the most interesting set-up and look into the daily life of a superhero who isn’t Captain America or Iron Man.  This year he kept up the momentum in his Hawkeye monthly series, providing stories that challenged readers, each issue taking a different peek into Clint Barton, another costumed superhero called Hawkeye, and their trusty dog.

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Mouse Guard The Black Axe hardcover

By C.J. Bunce

In his very best storytelling in the world of Mouse Guard so far, David Petersen takes us through his unique style of beautiful words and illustration on an epic adventure in Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, as noble mouse Celanawe (pronounced khel-en-awe) searches for a legendary symbol and talisman.  That’s saying a lot considering this third hardcover edition of Mouse Guard continues Petersen’s already brilliant 2008 Eisner Award-winning Mouse Guard : Fall 1152 and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152.

Despite his great earlier work this new legendary tale manages to convey even more emotion, more fear, empathy, and excitement for these little warriors in their elaborate world within our own world.  Taking place years earlier than the past tales in 1115, three unlikely individuals are brought together as a reluctant Celanawe learns about a destiny shared by himself and another mouse, the older and wiser matriarch Em, shared relative of an ancient bloodline, whom Celanawe is directed to protect by his own matriarch, Bronwyn.

Mouse Guard The Black Axe interior page

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Alice in Wonderland cover

Fans of classic fantasy and manga will be interested in a new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland by Filipino comics creator, writer and illustrator Rod Espinosa.  The new hardcover edition from Dark Horse Comics collects Espinosa’s four-issue series from 2006 in a nicely designed storybook form and is scheduled for release January 30, 2013.

So how close does Espinosa get to the original Lewis Carroll work, considering it is not a complete word-for-word adaptation and it reveals the story in manga form?

Espinosa Alice interior page

Espinosa’s take on Alice–adapting both story and art–approaches the realm of picture books, revealing a possible entry point to Alice for little kids.  If you’re not outright reading the original work to a kid not old enough to read, and the kid needs pictures to hold his/her interest (as Alice herself does) and he/she holds a fondness for manga or anime, this may be tailor-made for you.  And as book design goes this volume is right up there with several well-done Archaia Publishing books–known for their nice presentations–such as David Petersen’s Mouse Guard series and Jeremy Bastian’s Cursed Pirate Girl.

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For the past decade I have tried to ask at least one artist at every comic book or pop culture convention that I attend to draw me a Green Arrow or Black Canary (or both) sketch.  I’ve asked this from artists whether or not they have drawn these characters before and most artists are happy to do it.  Some well-known artists charge a fee for sketches and many others will sketch for free.  Sometimes the key is letting the artist know your sketch is not just going to appear on eBay the next day.  Adam Hughes was in the news about this a few years ago when he worked all day on a sketch for someone that promptly flipped it on Ebay for several hundred dollars.  He vowed off Con sketches after that.  Some people, usually guys who have been going to cons for much longer than me, started with a sketchbook—a blank art book—and hand it off to artists at conventions.  These books convey to artists that this fan is going to keep whatever they draw and sometimes artists will take more time when they draw in someone’s sketchbook.  I’ve never gone the book route but like getting sketches on blank paper, usually supplied by the artist soI don’t have to leave a book behind.  I have featured some of this original art at borg.com previously.

So Comic-Con this year was no different and I added two new Green Arrows to my collection.  First up was by Cat Skaggs, who recently created the cover for Smallville Season 11 Issue 1.  Not only did I get a signed print of that cover, but she drew a quick free-form sketch of Green Arrow for me.  She is not a regular Green Arrow artist, and it was fun to watch her think about how the hat and goatee look:

   

It makes a nice addition to my collection.

I have had some comic book artists draw sketches for me over the years many would consider industry legends, including Mike Grell, Michael Golden, Rich Buckler, Joe Staton, and Howard Chaykin.  This year at Comic-Con I got to chat with Neal Adams, the guy who created the look of the Green Arrow character I am such a big fan of.  He created this classic, cocky Green Arrow image for me:

Pretty awesome.

I had met David Petersen at several prior conventions and he had a slot in his sketch schedule so I asked him to draw me a fox as seen in his current run of Mouse Guard:

A nice watercolor image in his unique style!

So not a bad haul for not being at the Con for a full weekend.  I also picked up a few SDCC exclusives.  Frank Cho was selling his new Liberty Meadows calendar:

I also picked up the new Alex Ross sketchbook:

At the Alex Ross booth I actually spent a lot of time talking with Sal, Justin and Chris, who are always great guys to talk to and deal with.  They had some great sketches and painted original Alex Ross art available.  As a fan of Six Million Dollar Man as early borg, Ross’s original cover sketches for Issues 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the current Bionic Man series struck me as particularly cool, especially seeing the change in logo evolve over the course of creating the covers.  Look at the sketches compared to the final image on the book covers:

   

   

   

   

Featured in last year’s SDCC 2011 exclusive Alex Ross sketchbook, this sketch jumped out at me this year on display:

I love Zatanna in her magician’s box, waiting to make an appearance.  This sketch was created for an Infinite Crisis card game.

Prior to Comic-Con I had connected with the artist for the current Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover series Assimilation², JK Woodward. He was at the Con with writers Scott and David Tipton.  I never caught up with them but luckily my friend William got an extra autographed copy of the book.  Check out these great original, painted pages from Issue #2 of the series.  First, the TARDIS in the Enterprise-D holodeck:

Next, if you like Trek and Doctor Who like I do, you just can’t beat the Eleventh Doctor on the bridge with Captain Picard.

And check out that great rendering of the Enterprise-D soaring above!

Again this year Michael Turner art was available at the Aspen booth and it is always amazing to flip through the late artist’s work.

If you like seeing the creative process behind the scenes, it’s hard to beat seeing original comic art in person.  And if you have the time hundreds of artists in Artist Alley are there sketching away throughout the Comic-Con weekend, and love to talk about their work and process.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com