Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Julia and I have had a wonderful Christmas. We spent time with family, and did our annual ornament exchange with one another. We both hope that readers of the blog had a great holiday and will continue to over the course of the week leading up to 2008.

For Julia, I continued my tradition of making something as her gift. We needed a hall bench that had to fit some odd requirements (it had to have a narrow projection so that both the front and closet doors could open, it needed storage for gloves and scarves etc, and it needed to be up off the floor enough to not block the heat vent along that wall. Using my Dad's woodshop, I did the construction and assembly, but after a bad polyurithane&stain combo-mix in the 11th hour, my Dad came to the rescue and put in some extra hours after I left to make sure I was giving Julia a gift and not a mess. Thanks for the help Dad!!

Christmas Eve I got a call from Mike Glover at our local ABC affiliate station WXYZ. They had done an interview with me about Mouse Guard a few months ago, and was letting me know that the piece was going to run on the 5pm news (it also was re-run on the 11pm) Today they posted the video on their site, take a look. Thanks to Mike and WXYZ!!

I'm thinking about a new 'feature' for the blog: Mouse Guard fan art. I have recieved a few pieces over this last year, and I think I'll try and make it a point to share one or two per post for a while. To get it started, here is a piece e-mailed to me by Darren C. Ball

Thaks Darren!!

*also note, Ramayan 3392 Reloaded #3 (with my backup story) will be out in stores Jan 2nd...or 3rd depending on how the holiday effects the shipping schedule)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hanuman Backup Story for Ramayan 3392:
I was asked by Ron Marz a while back if I would be interested in joining Brandon Peterson, Mike Oeming, Jim Sarlin, and Bart Sears in doing a 3 page backup story to appear in Virgin Comics' Ramyann 3392. Each story is designed to tell a bit of background info on one of the main characters and Ron thought I'd be a good match for the monkey-god Hanuman. It was an interesting project because the 3rd page also acts as a variant cover, so the 3rd page had to be drawn first to make it in for previews. Ron said he would draft a script for pages 1 & 2 to lead up to whatever I drew as the splashpage/cover for page 3. I had a fun time working on it and Ron was good to work with. It seems like there is a delay with this issue coming out, but when I get some on-shelf-date info, I'll let you know. Until then, here are my 3 pages sans-text:

2008 Appearances:
The year is winding down, which means it's time to nail down where I'm going next year. So far, this is a tentative list, but here is what I have planned:

Flint Public Library Reading Jan 5th
Mott Community College signing March 4
Flint Institute of the Arts signing/gallery opening March 29
New York Comic con April 18-20
Calgary Comics Expo April 26-27
Motor City Comic Con May
Wizard World Philly May 30-June 1
Wizard World Chicago June 26-29
San Diego Comic Con July 24-27
Gen Con Aug 14-17
Comic Geek Speak Sept 6-7
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept 27-28

Speaking of Cons, Here is a colored con-sketch I never got around to posting with the earlier batch. It's always fun when I get to draw something non-mousey (not that I don't love drawing them)
I think this was done at the Baltimore show (?)
for a fan on the message board.

And Lastly Issue 3 of Mouse Guard is taking longer than I expected, so it will be late (looking at Jan '08). I am very sorry about that, trust me. Here is a preview of what's to come for Celanawe & Lieam in color

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

-The Mouse Guard PVC figures have arrived!!!

I ran out to my local comic shop (Detroit Comics in Ferndale, MI) and snapped a photo of the trio all boxed up and sitting on the display table. Yay!!! It's very cool to have these guys out in time for Christmas. Word from Diamond is that the Lieam plush will follow 'in a few weeks'. I hope that can be out for Christmas as well. I can't explain how cool/surreal it is to walk into a shop and see figures of your creation...

-2008 Appearances:
I have not posted my full 2008 convention schedule yet, but I plan on nailing it down before the new year arrives. For now thought I wanted to highlight two that are coming up sooner than later and I wanted to get the info out.

-Mouse Guard Reading at the Flint Public Library.
The reading date has been moved again. I'm sorry
about any confusion this may cause, but the reading
is now set to take place Saturday January 5th at 2pm
Two of my close friends (of whom Lieam and Kenzie
are based) will be helping me read a selection of Fall
1152 aloud while the images of the book are projected.

-Mouse Guard Gallery Show
The Flint Institue of the Arts (FIA) has offered to display
original Mouse Guard artwork and asked me to do a slide-
show presentation/Q&A and signing. The gallery opening
and presentation will be Saturday March 29th.

-Death Ray Magazine
A UK Sci-Fi magazine called Death Ray did an interview with me and is now out on newsstands (Issue #8). Big thanks to Clair who did the interview and to Death Ray for the oppertunity to reach a UK audience!!

-Robotika Pin-up

It's time to share some artwork...
I am a fan of Alex Sheikman's Robotika book and was very pleased that he and ASP decided to do a 2nd series of the title. Alex's work on the first book was really cool and well designed, but it has been outdone by the artwok for series 2 (He has sent me page scans and given me an inside view of what's to come). We agreed to do a pin-up exchange. So to help promote that issue 1 of Robotika: For a few Rubles More will be in stores later this month, here is the pin-up I did for Alex. Check out the book and Alex's site and blog!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


It's the time of year where we are supposed to reflect on what we are thankful for. And while I am very thankful for the success of Mouse Guard and all that it has allowed me to do, I am most thankful for the people in my life that I get to share that with.
I am also very thankful for the fans who made that all possible.

Comics Now Magazine:

The folks over at Comic Geek Speak are launching a new comics magazine. I enjoy their podcast and they have been very supportive of Mouse Guard and asked me to contribute a poster for the 1st issue!! The first issue is due out in local comic shops next week (Nov. 28th)

Wish I had more to share. I'll have a few announcements next post.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The first sketchbook....

I received an e-mail the other day from a Mouse Guard fan who mentioned the first sketchbook I released*. He thought it would be good to share the images with the fans who may have not ever seen them due to the limited printing. I don't want to share the whole sketchbook, mainly because of the flaws I see in many of the images. This sketchbook was done after Issue 1 was out in black-and-white, but before the color version had been released. (I had promised when the b&w #1 came out, that I would have the next issue at the following Motor City show, however, Archaia became my publisher and Issue 2 wasn't going to be out until after issue 1 was colored and released through them. So as an olive branch to the fans I promised #2 to, I had a sketchbook ready).

There are images in the sketchbook I'd like to re-investigate still. Some were just ideas I thought of as I was drawing them, some were specific attempts to nail down a scene in their history or for an upcoming series. Here are a few of my favorites from that sketchbook:

We were house-sitting for some friends of the family when I was drawing most of this sketchbook. They had a lush backyard with gardens and lots of trees, and a pond & waterfall (in fact the water Lieam ,Saxon, and Kenzie cross at the beginning of issue #3 is based on the waterfall there) I found a nice big web between some gaps in the rocks while exploring the gardens. So this image came about. Later on the ASP forums (which have taken a leave-of-absence) MG fans were debating what materials mice could use for raw-textile materials. Silkworm-silk was mentioned, and so were cottons and other plant fibers, but one that got me thinking about this sketch was spider webs. It also made for an interesting mouse trade of web gathering; a dangerous job, but worth the payoff because of the quality of the material. I have included this textile and web hunting info when e-mailing Luke Crane in the Mouse Guard Role playing Game

Mouse Guard started as a different story with many species of animal, including wolves. So when the mice became the focus of the stories I wanted to tell and the rest of the world became a backdrop that the mice never want to see, the wolves became backdrop as well. However, I included their presence in the end of the Fall series beyond the mysterious 'scent border'. I don't know exactly how Sadie is going to fare against this beasty, but I do like the idea that a skilled Guard could take down a lone wolf. I have more plans for the wolves and the 'scent border' in future MG series.

Barrels of Ale:
Concerning mice....quite content to ignore and be ignored by the world of the Big Folk...a passion for food...the smoking of pipes...and a keen interest in the brewing of ales. When figuring out how mice would live, what pleasures they take, I kept coming back to the life of a Hobbit..because, who doesn't want to live in the Shire really?? It's relateable and I wanted my mice to have that. This drawing of Saxon sitting on an ale barrel was something I looked at later when doing the epilogue with Saxon and Kenzie in the Lockhaven Casks. I worried a bit about having the mice drink alcohol when MG is such a kid-friendly book. But, I don't feel like it's a problem really. With the exception of Conrad, the drink is all depicted as being consumed in moderation. It's an authentic part of medieval life (both real and fantasy) and ignoring it or pretending it doesn't exist seemed like the more harmful message than to show a mouse with a tankard or two of some stout brew.

The original character concept was to have a mouse with all black fur and not a hair of any other color. This sketch shows that I intended to ink the fur in, but realized when it was time to include him in the books, that it would be too difficult to make him look interesting and not like an ink spill (especially in his armor). This was the first design for the armor. Many of the elements stayed, but I simplified the design knowing that I'd be drawing LOTS of mice with it eventually. The sword is based on the pin-up artwork provided by Jeremy Bastian in issue 6. It was actually the first pin-up turned in for the series. I liked the sword design so well that I not only toyed with Midnight having it, but I also gave it to Lieam after he cuts his binds. Jeremy also out-did me on Midnight's armor when he did his pin-up for issue 5. I really like how he modified my design...if that armor is ever seen again, I'll be looking to Jeremy's piece again for inspiration.

Sadie's Bell:
As a part of Sadie's background I had her rejoining the Guard's patrol after being stationed at the shore outpost Frostic. Frostic will play a larger role in future MG stories. The bell Sadie is ringing here is a part of Frostic and has be incorporated into the design of that location now. I'm not fond of Sadie's face and ears in this drawing though, but I do like the 'negative space' wave splashing against the rock holding them both up.

Becoming a Guard:
I knew becoming a guard was going to be a special occasion, and wanted to try sketching out what that ceremony may look like. Since then Luke Crane (who is writing the MG RPG) asked me "how does one become a Guard? What is the training? what is the time-frame?" It got me thinking about this image again. I may show the ceremony down the road, and if I do, I'll start with this image, throw in equal parts Hogwarts sorting ceremony and A New Hope's medal scene and dust with a touch more of Edmund Leighton.

So there ya have it, 6 of the pages from the first sketchbook. Next post I'll try not to blather on as much.

*This was the 2nd sketchbook I released, but the first one had a print run of under a dozen, so at the time of this post, I was acknowledging this as the 1st

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ludington trip:
My Dad and his wife Rki invited Julia and I up to their new summer house in Ludington this last weekend. Ludington was our summer camping spot when I was a kid, and I still love the West Coast of Michigan. It was on the beach just north of our campsite that I proposed to Julia about five years ago. Anyhow, Dad & Rki's house is great and it was nice to spend the weekend with them in the lovely fall weather. We made a few trips out to the beach and was able to let Autumn run free one of the days. Got some lovely photos for future Mouse Guard stories and some nice shots of the lighthouse. Check out some of the photos from the weekend at my Flickr page

Update on the Mouse Guard site:
I updated the Mouse Guard site with a preview to issue #2 of Winter 1152 (in stores Oct. 31st), a gallery of pages available for sale, and I opened the character section. All that and more news over at
German Limited Edition Hardcover:
I was asked by Cross Cult, the German publisher of Mouse Guard, to do a new print to be inserted in their upcoming limited hardcover of Fall 1152 (or Herbst 1152 as they say.) I left the text out of the banner so that I could digitally add it to be either in English 'Harvest' or German 'Ernte'. Here is the image in English.

I was inspired by the peasant paintings of Pieter Bruegel the elder, a few scenes from Disney's Alice, and the scenes of Bilbo's birthday from both the Bakshi & Jackson versions of LotR.

Kendal College of Art & Design:
I recently spoke at Kendall in Grand Rapids, MI as a guest of the digital illustration department. The turnout was good and the students seemed to enjoy what I had to say. I talked about artistic process, things to do to promote yourself, the business side of making artwork for a living, and technique. It was a pleasure to talk to students who are really invested in making their artwork a career focus. So, a big Thank you to the Digital Art Department for having me out and the students who attended for a good round of Q&A.

Conrad's History:
This story came up at the Kendall talk, and I figured I would share how Conrad came to be. Guy Davis had seen the Mouse Guard figurines even before Mouse Guard was a book. He asked me at every Motor City show I brought them to "Will you sell them"? I always said "No". My thinking was that if I sold my Saxon or Lieam, I'd never be able to sculpt another that I would like as well as the first one. Then it hit me, I'd sculpt a mouse just for Guy (who was very supportive Mouse Guard getting off the ground). This mouse would be a nobody. Not a character from my book, just a generic mouse that I wouldn't have the attachment issue with. The night I started sculpting it, I wasn't having much luck. I had started using Super Sculpy instead of the regular stuff I was used to. Among other problems, I couldn't shape two feet that matched. Frustrated, I picked up a watercolor brush with all the paint chipped off the handle and snapped it. I took the short end of the handle and crammed it up in the mouse's leg socket thinking "now I only have to sculpt one leg"! Then I ripped his ear, and added an earring (really a loop for stained glass suncatchers) By the time I was handing the mouse off to Guy, I knew it had to be a character in Mouse Guard. So I asked Guy "What's his name"? Guy said "We will let Rosie (his fiancée) pick, I'd just come up with something dumb like Conrad" Rosie did come up with a name, but I was already attached to Conrad, so I used her suggestion "Calogero" as the outpost home he lived in.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Excuse the Blog silence.....

I am terribly sorry to have not been posting more regularly here. Convention season caught up with me (among other household duties, projects, colds, etc...) and I was trying to get out from under the past-due deadline that is Mouse Guard. With that in mind, please excuse Issue 2 of Winter's lateness.

After getting a dresser out of my office, that was left from when my sister-in-law was staying with us, I was able to finally put up two new sets of shelves. We had an electrician out to hook up a 220volt outlet for the stove, and I used the time he needed the power off to get these shelves assembled. My old shelf was so full, I couldn't fit anything on them and had a stack of books sitting on the top and on the floor in front of them, so while these two new shelves look empty, just think of all that as overflow around the old shelves.

You may notice on top of the shelves is a Lieam Plush!! aaaaand the grey Retailer-only PVC Mouse Guard set. Diamond was cool enough to send these along to me (The Lieam just arrived today) and It's very very cool to have the merchandise be stuff you would want to own. Our dog Autumn has already tried to snag the redfurred mouse out of my hands twice as her new chew toy, so hopefully now that he is up on a shelf, she will behave.

According to Diamond's website the Lieam plush is due out late November. The PVC set (in color) I am still waiting on word about.

I decided that the inside front cover of the winter series issues would be small nature panels. I enjoy doing them and wanted the landscape and season to really be a character in this series. So instead of doing a spot illustration of a mouse character each time, I'm doing a few panels to get the readers mind into the winter character. I recently finished all the remaining panels and Julia and I are thinking of using them as our Christmas Cards.

At the weekly Art Night group I attend, I did a few non-Mouse Guard pieces between pages to keep things fresh. after reading Rocketo for the first time a few weeks ago, I knew it would be fun to draw Rocketo Garrison (as well as Boaz) So I did this all with a brush and then colored it digitally when I got home. I also did Boaz, but I never took the time to add color. Perhaps I'll post him in a later blog post. Frank Espinosa has put together a great book. It has a nice mix of genre appeal where it's sci-fi and fantasy, and pirates, and high adventure, and war...Rocketo's got it all. I need to now pick up vol. 2!

The second is another Creator owned character of mine Fir Darrig. The first two short stories I did of him were published in the book Jeremy Bastian and I put together in '05: Ye Old Lore of Yore. Fir Darrig is a mischievous faeire folk who is called in by the king of the leprechauns for all the trouble he has caused. The world of men hate and despise all fay, and it's up to Fir Darrig to right those wrongs and change the minds of men by doing good deeds for them. It's my way to play in the world of old folklore and myth. The first story I ever wanted to do with him is a variation on the story snow, crow, and blood. This art night I figured it had 1)been a while since I had rendered anything fully in pencil and 2) been a while since I had drawn the little guy. Here he is tinted and on watercolored parchment. (perhaps a cover for when I get around to doing this book)

And lastly (for this post) here is a teaser of Issue 2 of Winter 1152. (The three panels shown are not all on the same page.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Back from Baltimore

I had a great time in Baltimore this weekend. Always good to hang out with the Archaia crowd. The Awakening crew of Nick Tapalanski and Alex Eckman-Lawn were there, as well as Dave Rodriguez of Starkweather and the Killing Pickman crew of John Rea and Jason Becker. And of course publisher Mark Smylie and editor Joe Illidge oversaw the ASP booth to make sure all was well.
It was also good to see folks like Craig Rousseau, Todd Dezago, Sergio Aragones, Mike Mignola, and Andy Runton (who was great enough to sign a bunch of Owly stuff for our nieces).

Friday Night Julia and I met with Don and Joanna Corcoran, the developers of the Mouse Guard Board game, for a beta-play-test. This is the third time we have gotten together to hammer out ideas for how a Mouse Guard board game should play and the third time is the charm! There were still a few kinks to be worked out, but they were small changes that I know Don and Joanna can iron out easily. The overall scope, flavor, and look of the game is there. I will be getting my own beta copy in the next week or so, to test out with my gaming group. I'm really excited about it!

Diamond Select Toys came over to the ASP booth Saturday with the paint model of the new Mouse Guard resin statue based on the Fall 1152 hardcover image. Unfortunately, it wasn't all glued down and when pieces shifted, I panicked and ended up letting a bunch of the mice, cloaks, weapons and leaves fall onto the concrete floor. I felt like such a heal. When we were cleaning up the pieces I faked like I was going to eat Lieam's head and a photo was snapped. Fortunately DST was very understanding and says that it happens from time to time.

I was approached by the folks at Blue Line Art to donate a few sketch cards for an upcoming auction they will have to benefit the American Cancer Society in March. I figured better to get them done sooner than later, and hammered them out Monday between unpacking suitcases and catching-up on e-mails. I don't have a link for the benefit yet, but I hope to post one as the even gets closer.

Cthulu Mouse was a warm-up before starting real work yesterday.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Baltimore is this weekend!!
Looking forward to the show. I'll be at the Archaia Studios Press booth all weekend. Stop by and say 'hi'

-I will be signing at Ferndale Michigan's only comic shop: Detroit Comics!
Saturday September 22nd from noon-3pm.

-I will be doing an event at the Flint Public Library in Flint, MI
on Saturday November 17th*** at 1pm. Two of the friends Mouse Guard characters are based on will be helping me read chapters of the book aloud. As a voice actor geek, I am excited to essentially be doing a 'table read' with the real life humans that inspired the mice.
I will sign books after the reading.
***The Date has been changed to January of '08. I will update with a date and time as details are available.

This last week I was stung by a bee. I was stung by a bee once before, when I was about 5 at my uncle's house. I remeber it hurting (what five-year-old wouldn't) and my Mom and Aunt putting meat tenderizer on it to nutralize the venom. So here I am a 30-year-old man, mowing his lawn, and I hit a ground nest. I'm lucky I was only stung once. I appear to be having a worse reaction. My finger (where I was stung) is swollen, and has hives. We drew a line to see if the swelling and hives were spreading or not and so far it looks like not.

Getting rid of the nest is going to be a trick. It is on the corner of our property along a chain link fence. On the other side of the fence, there is a 8" drop. So the bees also have access to their ground nest along that 'wall' on the neighbor's property. At some point next year, I want to excivate that area for a paver-walkway and patio. I'm tempted to just treat the bees with Borax and a bee trap for now and then try and dig out the hive once the ground is frozen. Although with the reaction I had to one sting, I may just call in professionals.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Borders signing

This Friday (August 24th) I will be signing at Borders Bookstore in the Oakland Mall in Troy, MI. The signing starts at 7pm and I'm happy to sign your Mouse Guard issues as well as Hardcovers. Borders will have hardcovers available for purchase. If you are in the area, stop by! more info

Baltimore Comic Con info
Only a little over a few weeks away from the Baltimore con. I'll be at the Archaia booth both Saturday and Sunday. I'll be signing and chatting as usual. I'll also be doing inked sketches for $40. I'm looking forward to seeing pals Sergio Aragones, Craig Rousseau, and Andy Runton as well as lots of other artists I am a fan of as well. This will also be my last con of the season now that the Motor City show is an anual event.

Other MG News:
Here is a sketch I did for my pals Morna and Gary I have colored the sketch for inclusion in a later Mouse guard publication.

There are some fun developments happening with Mouse Guard items we are working on..things that the fans have asked for. I'm sorry to be a tease, but I can't say much more than that right now, but I'll post things as soon as an official announcement has been made.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

RIP Mike Wieringo.

I heard the terrible news yesterday morning about Mike's passing at the age of 44. Too young. The first I saw of Mike's work was when he was doing the how-to section in Wizard comics magazine. I really enjoyed his clean crisp pencils and how well he explained forms and how well his drawings demonstrated his lessons. I met Mike last year at the Baltimore con via his pals Craig Rousseau and Todd Dezago. He was amazingly positive and friendly. Over the last year he and I e-mailed each other a few times. The most recent was a few weeks ago about the Russ Manning Award. I replied to him in brief knowing we would be able to catch-up more at this years Baltimore Con. I was wrong.

Mike's work embraced a classic all-ages approach where ladies didn't need to be half naked to be beautiful and villians didn't have to be dripping in blood to be menacing. The comics industry just lost one of their freshest voices. Even after decades in the business, his work still looked original, interesting, solid, and new. I'll miss his artwork.

Winter 1152 Issue #1 *UPDATE*
Due to a mix-up at Diamond, the books didn't ship out and have been at Diamond's warehouse for weeks. (The books were set to go out for the 25th of July!!!) Now it looks like the release date will be August 22th barring an unforseen incident.

Please accept my appologies. (I mistakenly typed the wrong day when I made this update..It's the 22nd, my appologies AGAIN!)

Black and White Hardcover of Fall 1152!

We are moving forward with it! I have talked about it over the past year at shows and people always responded positively. The plan is an oversized (12" x 12" same size as the original artwork), limited edition (1000 copies numbered), in a slipcase. Lots of people have commented on how they like seeing the original black and white linework on the pages when I bring them to cons. Mark and I have batted around this idea for a while and are looking at a Dec. release*
*please note that the details of this release may change

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