Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl) is another of the three artists who contributed a short story to Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1. I asked Bastian some questions about his story and the creation thereof for this piece on Newsarama, but didn't have room to include every interesting thing Bastian had to say. So I'm putting it here. As with the previous pieces in this little mini-series of posts, my questions are in italics and the artist's answers are in regular font. (And if you're sick of these, don't worry; this is the last one. Reviews of one billion super-comics are coming up next).
How did you come to work on this project, and why was it one you wanted to devote your time too? I imagine you must have been a fan of Mouse Guard previously?
Oh yes. I am very fortunate to be able to call Dave a good friend. I've known him for several years and watched as Mouse Guard grew, not only in popularity but also the level in which he tells and draws the stories of these mighty heroes. When he asked me if I could come up with a story I said "Yeah!" with no hesitation. It was an honor and a pleasure to be invited to join his richly detailed world and to create some characters of my own.
How did working with Petersen work? Did you have carte blanche to do whatever you liked? Was there a lot of discussion regarding your story?
Working with Dave is no problem at all. Working with myself is a little different. I originally came up with a story about a band of Guardsmice who overthrow a garrison of weasels. That just didn't feel like a "legend" kinda story, so I went back to brainstorming. I eventually came up with the story you see now and when I told Dave about it I think he was a little bit relieved for the change. He could tell I was more energetic about this story and so he just let me do what I do, I’m sure it would've been different if he didn't know me so well.
What was it like drawing a story set in a world as thoroughly defined by another artist’s style and aesthetic? Did you find yourself trying to draw David Petersen-like at all? You certainly seemed to make the medieval mice concept your own in your short story.
It was a personal challenge, the kind I like the most. Like most creator owned stories, they only look their best when the person who created them is drawing them. I had some con sketch requests for Mouse Guard mice so I've had a little practice in drawing them. I didn't want to stray too far from the original but then again I didn't want them to be cut from the same die.
Coming up with the costumes was one of the points that made me eager to do the story. I tried to do original pieces of functional armor with little homages to Petersen style armor. The shoulder pieces and the vertical pieces hanging from the belt. Dave also has really individual weapons for Guardsmice and so I tried to come up with a weapon that was unique to his owner and reflected traits of the owner. Faulnir's spike represents a hawk's beak, something to do damage in one quick swing. Silfano's flail ends with a metal fox paw, one swing of this would be similar to a fox taking a swipe at you. I had a lot of fun designing the characters and their worlds.
Was it challenging working with animal characters as opposed to humans? It seems like a more difficult task to convey emotion in the face of a mouse instead of a human, particularly since the Mouse Guard mice tend to look more like real mice than overly anthropomorphic, funny animal types.
No, it was not a problem at all. In fact I like to draw animal characters a lot, and these mice were really fun to draw. When you draw an animal and it looks like the animal you were attempting, even from different angles, it just looks really cool and you think you're really talented (heh heh heh). Just small manipulations of the eyes or even ears can convey the expression you're trying to get across.
Do you anticipate Legends of the Guard introducing your work to a different audience for you?
Oh yes, the amount of Mouse Guard fans out there is really staggering. So even if a fraction of those who pick up this first issue and go, “Hey this Jeremy guy uses a lot of lines, I like lines" and search out Cursed Pirate Girl, I will have eclipsed the amount of CPG fans who already exist. This kind of exposure is greatly appreciated. Dave has been pushing people to give my work a glance for years now and I think this will really do the trick.
While the image at the top of the post form his Legends story is more representative of what Bastian's Mouse Guard story looks like, he actually started drawing Guardsmice a few years ago, and was one of the first artists not named David Petersen to have drawings of the medieval mice characters published. Here are two pin-ups he did for the first Mouse Guard mini, which are both collected in the Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 collection.
As you can probably tell from the fact that I posted all of these, I'm something of a fan of the series and, if for some reason you haven't tried it out, I'd highly recommend giving it a shot—if you live in a big-ish city, your local library should have a copy of Fall 1152, and the Legends issues seem like pretty great jumping on points/cheap samples of the world of Mouse Guard.
And if you happen to be a librarian, particularly a youth one, and you haven't checked Mouse Guard out yet, we really need to, and then to place some orders for your collection. I like Mouse Guard now, but I would have loved it back when I was devouring C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and pretty much anything with capes, swords and castles in it.
Okay, I promise to shut up about Mouse Guard now. At least until I get around to reviewing Legends of the Guard #2.