Gettin' Medieval on Your Mice - MICE TEMPLAR exclusive interview and art!

It’s finally here!!! This Wednesday Mice Templar makes its’ official debut at comic shops everywhere. Created by my good friends Michael Avon Oeming and Bryan J.L. Glass, Mice Templar is steeped in legend and a lot of hard work from both creators. I was able to sit down with them and get the scoop on their new project – as well as some exclusive art that can be seen nowhere else.

So let’s get with the boys and see what they have to say about Templar

Mary E. Brickthrower: MICE TEMPLAR was a long time comin’ – so why did it take so bloody long to launch.

Michael Avon Oeming: Wow, lots of things.... I had this idea (just a shell) going way back to the turn of the century. In fact, after POWERS hit and was a success and then I told [Brian Michael] Bendis I was going to do another creator owned book--he thought it was going to be MICE TEMPLAR instead of HAMMER OF THE GODS. Long story short, I just have a lot of ideas I want to do and only so much time. Not sure why other projects grabbed me when they did, but I'm glad I waited. You know what Mary, you're a good friend and I love you so I'm going to give you the real scoop on a few things- both TEMPLAR and POWERS, as well as OMEGA FLIGHT, what went on with those projects, why some were late, and how I've felt about others. Only you get this because you and Jacob saw me through a lot of this. We had intended to start way earlier on this last year, but several things came up in both Bryan's life and mine. I went through a separation with my wife and my whole world turned upside down for a while. I moved out and found myself living alone for the first time ever at 34 years of age. I was running around and traveling all over the world to try and escape myself and find a new life at the same time. It was crazy times, throwing POWERS way off schedule and putting a halt on MICE TEMPLAR for a while. So there you go, those of you POWERS fans freaking out at Brian--the lateness wasn't him, it was me. And for obvious reasons, you won't find me talking about it more than what you're reading here on Mary's site, so don't bother asking me. OMEGA FLIGHT had started at Marvel as my first monthly ongoing series, but well into issue two having already been drawn, it was abruptly cut down to a five issue mini series. A mini would have been fine if I had started it as a mini, but I wasn't writing or setting up the series that way so it really screwed with both the story and me. I almost gave up. Between that and what was going on in my life, all the love was sucked out of the experience. I'm proud of the work and the book and the fan reaction. I STILL have a great working relationship with the editors and Marvel, make no mistake about that--just because it was bad times doesn't mean I feel that way about the book or Marvel. I love both. I continue working with them and love it. And yet it represents a time when life and career felt like they were on fire... and not in the good way, but in the "flesh is boiling off my brain" kind of way. During the big NYC show in February, I had a complete meltdown one night, literally out of my mind. So if OMEGA FLIGHT fans wondered (as they often do on my own [message] board) why I haven’t commented on OMEGA FLIGHT much, on the fan reaction, the fact that it sold so well (outselling many of Marvel's ongoing titles) or even just general questions about the series future--that is why. Its just been dwarfed by personal experiences. That also explains the lateness of POWERS. I've since recovered for the most part, and I'm now hard at work on getting POWERS regular again as well as establishing MICE TEMPLAR on a bi-monthly schedule. Seriously, my working life now is solely dedicated to POWERS and MICE TEMPLAR, as well as seeing RED SONJA through. So that’s it; that's a whole lot that I won't be talking about anywhere else!

Bryan J.L. Glass: Damage to the hull, and the rigging was a disaster...then came the mutiny, walnuts, the plank, shark infested waters, and finally a school of ill-tempered sea bass! Actually, however, I'd been itching to make this book our priority right after QUIXOTE released in February 2005, but Mike was in the midst of making a splash for himself as a writer at Marvel and at Dynamite Entertainment; no blame involved, it was always just that Mike's popularity had made him so tremendously busy that there simply wasn't enough time to launch yet another project. The unexpected bonus is that it gave me literally years to refine the story, its rich mythology and vast back story of history, as well as the opportunity to flesh out an entire universe for the Templar mice to play in.

Brickthrower - I read that this was based on a short story Mike had up on his website very early in his career. Was this something that Bryan latched onto and decided to develop further or was Mike looking for the right person to expand the concept of Mice with sticks?

Oeming: I totally asked Bryan when we attended a Robert McKee writing seminar in NYC in 2003. I knew he could bring more life and a greater "world," in the tradition of LORD OF THE RINGS, than I ever could. MICE TEMPLAR has become a real world with a real mythology and history, based on loose notes from me, and I do mean "loose," that Bryan created a world from. Example, I would tell him that we should have "Great Seasons" that represent different periods in MICE TEMPLAR history and I gave one-sentence explanations for them. Bryan added a few seasons of his own and then created an in-depth social history from out of that. Amazing. And it's all relevant; we aren't just naming characters, places and things for fun, you know? Everything needs to resonate. Bryan makes that happen.

BJLG: Mike wrote and drew that original short story back in '97-98 when we were finishing the last few issues of SHIP OF FOOLS and were only starting to talk about QUIXOTE. It was just this great little tale that I liked a lot, and that Mike hoped to be able to one day transform into a series; at the time, Mike hoped to one day write and draw it himself, as it has been an inspiration that had been with him since childhood with his early exposure to the fabulous Don Bluth production of THE SECRET OF NIMH. But then, unfortunately, the comic industry imploded and everything we'd planned for was shelved until Mike found a new lease on his career developing POWERS with Brian Michael Bendis. Some time later, it was while we were both in Manhattan taking the amazing Robert McKee STORY seminar together that Mike said he finally wanted to get THE MICE TEMPLAR off the ground, and he honored me by asking if I could be the one to expand his universe. I said yes(!) and then immediately plunged into all of Mike's notes and started developing concepts that eventually became the back-story upon which everything else in the tale hinged. Everything is intertwined, from the creation of the world (as mice see it), to the ancient war when owls drove bats from the night sky; the legendary founder of the Templar Kuhl-En, and his sacred blade known as the Mark, as well as the priesthood known as The Readers of the Wheat; how Kuhl-En himself purportedly divided the day into two distinct worlds of night and day, and posted the Guardians of the Dusk and Dawn to prevent trespass between; the rise of King Icarus, and how the ideological civil war actually divided and ultimately destroyed the Templar; why rats support a mouse king; and finally why Karic is chosen, and how one small mouse might just change the entire world. That's what I brought to the story; and the whole thing just leapt from a 6-issue mini-series to a 25-issue epic (that has an equally ambitious sequel already in development). I look back now and am astounded that Mike offered this amazing gift to me in the form of this extraordinary opportunity. I only hope that I've done him proud.

Brickthrower: What kind of research was done for TEMPLAR? My sources say that you trapped 5 mice, dressed them up and gave them knives and spears, and basically wrote down what happened? Isn't that kind of cheating? Or was there more to it than that?

Oeming: Sort of. At one point I bought some mice; some came and went, but they are all dead now. They were each named after creators: Bendis, Mack, Andy Lee, and Frazetta.

BJLG: It was amazing to watch all of these natural human characteristics play out with only 5 mice in a cage, but when we saw them literally reenacting all of human history, Mike and I were astounded. The crucifixion and resurrection was particularly moving and encouraged us both to reexamine our own lives; but it was when one of the mice started calling himself Oppenheimer and secluded himself away in the little mouse bunker, that Mike and I decided the experiment had gone as far as we felt comfortable. We still don't know what to do with the two pellets that mouse produced, each in disproportionate size to the other, but we have them stored away someplace safe and secure. After that, Mike gave me his basic note outlines that inspired me to push every germ of a concept that Mike had into directions he'd never dreamed of. In the end, I am less interested in producing something that is historically allegorical--say for instance, following established Knights Templar history, or some mythological source--than I am in using historical, mythological, religious, or sociological concepts as a mere starting point to see where I can create a fantastic and ultimately satisfying tale. Telling a good story that engages the reader on multiple levels is my true goal; if the story I create can be enjoyed simply as a story first, then any individual deeper meanings taken from it are gravy.

Brickthrower: So honestly - WHO did more work? Mike or Bryan? ((I'm a writer Bryan so no matter what Mike says I'll be agreeing with you))

Oeming: No question about it, Bryan did. Seriously, the time he's spent writing and creating history, a glossary, language, rules and mythos. For as detailed as the art is here, it goes by really fast. Hell, I drew like 15 pages or so in a week near the end of issue one, is that right Bryan?

BJLG: Obviously I was the one doing far more work, as Mike had me chained in the basement and allowed only the occasional conjugal visit from my wife Judy. But the quality of the work in the end has now made all of those years of suffering worth it! If we were talking actual hours spent at a keyboard or the drawing board, I'd have to humbly submit myself as the guy that's logged the most hours on the mice thus far. One of the neat things about our mutual vision for THE MICE TEMPLAR is that we both agreed that we wanted the entire story finished before Mike even started drawing page one. The entire 25+ issue story of Karic is complete in excruciating detail: every issue, every event, each character arc and sweeping flow of the story has been finished since last November. The entire saga can be read in the form of a minimalist novella (which we may add to the comic, trade or website in installments as each arc comes to its close, so that fans can see how the finished product ultimately matched the original vision). This was not accomplished until after I completed an equally ambitious chronicling of all Mice Templar history. And only then did I finally script the 50-page issue #1 that Mike started drawing in January.

Oeming: Oh yeah, let's not forget our colorist WIL QUINTANA who did an amazing job at turning around a 50-page book so fast. His colors really add to the world in very much the same way as the line art and writing does. He's amazing.

BJLG: Let me address one aspect of the perceived MOUSE GUARD controversy that is utterly absurd: that we were inspired in any way by David Peterson's wonderful creation is absolute nonsense and a personal insult. I was in the midst of literally HUNDREDS of pages of Mice Templar history, myth, character, back-story and plot on the night Mike first sent me a link to check out the earliest MOUSE GUARD material online. Mike was instantly devastated and wanted to quit. I told him that I hadn't spent the past couple years creating all of this material just so that someone else with a mouse book could bring it to an end. We both knew we had an epic on our hands with extraordinary potential, and I convinced him to persevere. The second absurd aspect of all this is Mike's track record as a creator. In addition to his established work on titles like THOR, ARES, STORMBREAKER, OMEGA FLIGHT, SPIDER-MAN, AVENGERS and RED SONJA, Mike has established a reputation for creating startling original works, like SHIP OF FOOLS, POWERS, HAMMER OF THE GODS, BASTARD SAMURAI, PARLIAMENT OF JUSTICE, SIX, QUIXOTE, 86 VOLTZ: THE DEAD GIRL, BLOOD RIVER, WINGS OF ANANSI, and THE CROSS BRONX. Exactly what aspect of Mike's 15+ year career in comics is it that suggests he needs to take advantage of anybody else's idea. The greatest irony of all is that we first learned about MOUSE GUARD when a close friend of Mike contacted him about "this dude [who] is totally ripping you off!" That "dude" turned out to be David Peterson, a terrific guy and a brilliantly talented artist who is going to go down in comic history as one of the greats. And David wasn't ripping anybody off, as he knew nothing about the previously published MICE TEMPLAR story and was creating his own thing. We all respect and admire each other greatly. And yet there are still a small handful of these particularly insecure fans that have found a wonderful book in MOUSE GUARD and invested so much of their own identity into it[; so much so] that they now seem threatened by the concept of competition--of similar concepts playing out with different themes. The biggest joke of it all is how these fans believe they are actually displaying some kind of loyalty by commenting on and pre-convicting a book they've not even seen or read yet, as well as making moral judgments against its creators. It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. A paraphrase of what I posted on Newsarama, that in only one year, none of the comparisons will matter, and the real winners will be the fans of this genre that will have a multitude of unique visions to enjoy!


Check out these exclusive pages from issue #2 of Templar, as well as colored image above of the cover to Issue # 3!

Mice Templar will be available in your local comic shop this Wednesday. Be sure to buy a copy or 2.


~Till Next Time Kittlings.

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