Comics: Mouse Guard Legends of the Guard: Process
My buddy Alex Kain introduced me to David Petersen at NY Comic Con last year. David and I didn't have much opportunity to talk then, but through some subsequent emails we started discussing a pin up for Mouse Guard. Soon Legends of the Guard came up, and the possibility of doing an entire story was on the table. At this point I was feeling a bit like a little dog trying to bury a dinosaur bone. Alex and I had been looking to do a project together for years, and this sounded like a great opportunity. Someone apparently misread our names as Kavalier and Clay or something because we got the stint.
"Great," he said. "Now how in the heck do you make one of these things?''
Our Legends story started as a script, and the script started with a description of the first page. I was pretty firm on that. The first panels ran as follows:
A glass vial opens, some crushed herbs pour out onto the ground. We see Eskel and Osric in the tree, the contents of the vial fluttering about as they settle towards the ground. Similar to Fall, their names are displayed in boxes to show who they are.
Illustrating scripts is fascinating. One thing that comes up continually is the difference between what the writer and the artist think is important. I became very interested in the glass vial, but I also thought the image of popping a cork or a stopper was too minute to read well in a panel. What we finally decided to show was determined by what actions looked good on the page. Put another way, I drew a series of hand (paw?) actions that looked interesting and then drew a container that fit into the actions. This gave me a sort of metal canister that opened with a skeleton key. We later agreed that the contraption made sense because the mouse is carrying around bear bait and he wouldn't want the thing the open accidentally.
To make room for these developments, the name-display panels were dropped. We also wound up revealing the mice on the second page instead of the first.
The panels themselves were thumbnailed on copy paper with a .5 mm pencil. Once approved, they were traced on a photographer's light box onto 400 Series Strathmore cream drawing paper, scanned, and tweaked in Photoshop.
I tend towards muted colors because I really like the tone of the paper, and I try to get the colors to blend with the base. In this case I wound up looking at a lot of Andrew Wyeth watercolors, which have always been a huge influence on me. The first panel was actually just given an overlay of one color with the layer set to Linear Burn. I found Linear Burns were really effective for adding color while maintaining the detail of pencil drawings: