“Mouse Guard,” the modern beast fable

Frame of Mind is a weekly column written by the University of Dallas Art Association (UDAA). It features articles like the one below and provides the student body with an opportunity to read about certain artists, styles, movements and exhibitions. All articles are written by different members of the Association.

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Imagine a series of graphic novels where Brain Jacques’ “Redwall” meets J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” and you have David Petersen’s “Mouse Guard.” David E. Petersen, born on July 4, 1977 in Michigan, is the author and illustrator of the comic book series “Mouse Guard.” In 2008, “Mouse Guard Fall 1152” and “Winter 1152” both won Eisner awards — the comic industry’s equivalent of an Oscar — for Best Publication for Kids.

“Digging into his love of animal stories and medieval role-playing games, [Petersen] created a fantasy adventure world of cloaked, sword wielding mice who protect the common mouse against threats of predator, weather and wilderness,” explains the books’ website.

The story is a quick read backed by plenty of history. The tediously detailed scenery and magnificently developed characters and cities engage readers in a thrilling world. Petersen’s passion for fantasy, folklore and legend blossomed into the book’s earth-toned, inky pages. Artists like Mike Mignola and Frank Miller clearly influence Petersen’s storytelling as traditional stories of good battling evil and knights on quests flow from the lovable tales within the world of the mice and other forest creatures. The pursuits of each mouse even create a very Arthurian ambiance in the adventure-packed parables.

Petersen creates the Guard of the mouse race, but does not focus the attention of the comic solely upon the Guard.With “Mouse Guard: Baldwin the Brave and Other Tales,” Petersen reaches beyond the main characters of the Guard by composing stories of other mice both within the territories of the forest and in foreign and far-off coastal regions.

Drawing from his background in printmaking, Petersen’s artwork complements the nostalgically medieval beast fable nature of his writing. Petersen uses mediums such as pencil, ink and digital painting in his sequential art. However, he does not restrict himself to those mediums and sells prints of his artwork as well as carved collectable cosplay wands.

Creating comics begins with a narrative that is then organized into series of frames. Once the tale is sketched out in storyboard format, the artist is able to scan the frames to digitally, paint the final product of each frame and add dialogue. Petersen does hand ink and color some frames, but working digitally through programs like Illustrator and Photoshop speeds up the process of completing a comic strip.

Petersen embodies the necessary openness of an artist by taking commissions and freelance assignments, creating fan art and collaborating with other artists. He also has his own website, art blog. and Instagram where fans can scroll through photos of works in progress or updates from art conventions.

Harkening back to art as old as ancient Greek and Egyptian friezes, Petersen’s sequential art is able to convey a history of a fantastic culture in an age where chivalry has not yet died.

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