Monday, February 9, 2009

Flint Portraits: David Petersen

Flint Expatriate David Petersen is the creator of Mouse Guard, a thought-provoking comic about mice with names like Midnight and Saxon who live in a beautifully illustrated world based on medieval Europe. The A.V. Club has a great interview with Peterson, whose work has garnered him two Eisner Awards, where he talks about Flint's influence on his art and how to write for both kids and adults:

AVC: You've spent a lot of the book drawing nature scenes. Did you grow up in the country?
DP: I grew up in Flint, Michigan, which everyone knows from the film Roger & Me, unfortunately. And even though it was a city, the area where I grew up had some really nice parks, actual wooded parks. Not just like a manicured park. But I grew up in a city, and I live three blocks north of the Detroit city line right now.
We vacationed all over the country, and my favorite vacations were always the ones where we just hung out in Michigan, just kind of explored our own state. So I did a lot of camping growing up, and that's where I think a lot of this comes from.

AVC: With your comics and your children's projects, you've tried to appeal to both kids and adults. What are some things you've learned about making that work, or things you've learned to avoid?
DP: It's a really hard tightrope to walk. One of my rules is, never talk down to kids. I think a perfect example is tyranny. You want to use "tyranny" in a book, you think like, "Uh-oh, tyranny's a big, funny-looking word." But the bottom line is, every kid knows what tyranny is. If they've been on a playground, they know what tyranny is. They've had the king of the playground be a tyrant to them. It's really just then an opportunity for them to learn that the funny word with the "y" has a meaning they already know. And if you don't talk down to them, and actually give them a chance to ask, "Hey, what's this mean?" instead of just spoon-feeding them stuff… I think it needs to really go beyond what they know, and are comfortable with, to kind of see what their limit points are. As long as you're not doing anything gratuitous, violence-wise, [and there's] no kind of sexual energy or anything, they're going to be okay with it. And most of the parents that come by, I show them the pages [of Mouse Guard] that have blood on them, they go, "Oh, heck, my 4-year-old can sit through Lord Of The Rings."


  1. I love this style of illustration. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Thanks for this-I'm going to have to check out Mouse Guard, it looks great!

    Although I haven't moved far from Flint, I still miss it and hope to see it (and Detroit) back on its feet. I've linked to you on my new blog! Thanks for keeping us updated!

  3. Off-topic, Gordo. Sorry. The Don just resigned ahead of the 2-24-09 recall election.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at