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Kurtis Wiebe on Rat Queens

Books & Writing, Culture, Interviews, Showcase

June 16, 2015

Kurtis Wiebe, writer of Rat Queens and Bounty and a host of other comics that we love, recently took the time to sit down and chat about his return to that title, his love of role playing games, the future of the Queens, and some of his other projects. It’s the sort of conversation that we’re delighted to be able to share, and so…

 

LMM: Hey, Kurtis, thanks for taking the time to do this with us. You’re back writing Rat Queens, one of the first – and, in our opinion, one of the best – dungeons and dragons inspired comics to feature anything other than male leads. Where did the original concept come from?

Kurtis Wiebe: Rat Queens was born out of the idea of taking fantasy in a direction I’d never seen before. I’d never come across a fantasy series, comic or fiction in general, that featured four female protagonists. I wanted to create a world where gender really didn’t matter when it came to career pursuits. So often when a woman is a warrior in these sorts of stories there’s always someone making a point of it. “You can’t do that, you’re a woman.” And then the story is about them proving that they can. I think it’s a fun concept that it’s just a universally accepted fact that a job is a job, no one questions the gender equation.

And I think it’s pretty obvious that there’s a huge element of roleplaying game nostalgia mixed in for good measure.

 

LMM: You had initially intended to kickstart the series. What was it like getting picked up by Jim Valentino before the funding went live? What was your reaction?

Kurtis Wiebe: I think it’s sort of telling in a lot of ways. I never expected ANYONE to read Rat Queens. It was a series in a genre that traditionally was a tough sell in the comic market. It didn’t even cross my mind to pitch to Shadowline until Riley Rossmo read over the pitch and said I should at least try to talk to Jim Valentino about it.

Jim responded within a few hours and greenlit it. I think Jim saw more in the series than I did at that point and took a chance. I was pretty surprised, honestly.

 

LMM: What brought you back after your hiatus?

Kurtis Wiebe: Owen Gieni. I’d been talking to him for years about working on something together. We’ve known each other long before we both ended up in Vancouver a few years ago. (Though I’m no longer there, myself.) Owen and I met up and started hanging out in Saskatoon, Canada roughly seven years ago. We played RPG’s together, jammed on story ideas and spent a few nights around a campfire having drinks. Real classic small town Saskatchewan stuff.

I’d always hoped that Owen would come onto Rat Queens for a one shot at the very least, and I’d reached out to him about coming onto the series when  Stjepan was unable to continue working on it. It didn’t work out then due to scheduling conflicts, but I’m so glad he agreed to join me for the relaunch.

You have to understand that Owen brought an energy to the series that reignited the spark for me. I had fell out of love with the series for a lot of reasons but I am absolutely loving working on it again. The best part is the level of collaboration we have. We will break story together, scene by scene. Joke by joke. This new take on Rat Queens is a real blending of our combined humor and storytelling.

 

LMM: You’ve got an interesting cast of characters to develop stories with. Who’s your favorite, and why?

Kurtis Wiebe: Tough decision. I think Betty has become the most natural for me. I know her inside and out and her ability to love anyone, despite everything, is an aspect of her personality that is a real joy to write.

 

LMM: Speaking of that cast of characters… everyone is a lot deeper than they look at first glance. Where’d you draw on the gender issues that confront Violet, where do you see her brother’s involvement in her life going, and is the rest of her family going to get involved?

Kurtis Wiebe: For Violet, it was more about family expectation. Tradition for the sake of it. Never questioning the history that came before. And the reasons her father gave her were never enough. She needed to be heard and her father, and Barrie to a certain extent, weren’t able to do so. So Violet set out to create her own traditions that were personal to her.

Barrie is already part of the new relaunch, and it’s evident he still doesn’t understand her choices. We will be dealing with that in upcoming issues and more with her family later on.

 

LMM: Violet takes care of her Queens and the Queens look like the biggest gang of heroes in Palisade – how do the people of Palisade feel about that, and how comfortable is Violet with playing politics? Will the various nobles try to use Violet and the nobles for their own ends?

Kurtis Wiebe: I doubt Violet sees herself as a hero, that would be more of a Hannah thing. But the people of Palisade are much more accepting of the Queens after they saved the town from a potentially devastating attack in Volume 2. We’ll get into that more in the series as well.

 

LMM: By the same token, you have a similar but different issue playing out with the half-orc, Braga. What was it like getting to explore her backstory, and what’s it like having her officially join the Queens?

Kurtis Wiebe: I love the one shots for that reason. We have an opportunity to tell smaller stories that reveal the history of our side characters in the series. As far as Braga, she’s always been a fun character to write. Her backstory is sad in a lot of ways, but fits in with the overall idea of found family. She never fit in with her own orcish people because of their backward violent traditions. There’s some similarities to Violet’s backstory, but Braga left to see a bigger, more beautiful world.

It was a natural fit to bring her into the fold of the Queens. It’s definitely a different dynamic, and it takes some getting used to for sure. But I’m glad we made that decision.

 

LMM: Hannah has dealt with a host of abuses in the past. Has she laid her demons to rest, so to speak, or are they going to come back to haunt her going forward?

Kurtis Wiebe: Hannah’s story is a very big part of our relaunch. I’ve said before that everything that happened in the series before matters and the relaunch is going to be a little jarring at first. I can’t say much more without giving a lot away. But, rest assured, Hannah’s history and her decisions are very much still echoing through the story.

 

LMM: Hannah’s infernal heritage has caused her a lot of grief and turned people against her not because of who but because of what she is. Do you see who she’s become as a self-fulfilling prophecy given the way she’s been treated?

Kurtis Wiebe: It can go that way. Or maybe it has. Or maybe it will. Or maybe it hasn’t. Secrets.

 

LMM: Dee’s religious background is interesting – an atheist cleric who has seen the face of her god is kind of amazing. Where did the idea of her faith come from, and are we going to see it explored further?

Kurtis Wiebe: Dee’s religious background is a fundamental part of her character and we can’t tell her story without some part of that playing a role. A lot of her experiences are based on my own. I came from a Christian family and later on became an atheist. Through her story, I’m telling my own. Even working out some of the struggles I’ve had because of it.

And Dee’s vision of her god will definitely play a large role in stories to come. For now, Dee is preparing for a career change which will be more apparent in our second arc.

 

LMM: How does Betty live on nothing but alcohol, drugs, and candy?

Kurtis Wiebe: Smidgen resilience to pleasure overload.

 

LMM: You’ve used Rat Queens as a means of poking fun at fantasy tropes while exploring modern issues of privilege, gender and sexual identity, and politics. A handful of comics have tried to echo what you built – how do you plan on keeping Rat Queens ahead of the pack?

Kurtis Wiebe: I don’t really see it as a competition. Rat Queens mirrors the community of people in my life and that’s where I draw my inspiration from. I plan to continue to be inspired by that community and try as best as I can to replicate those relationships in the world of Rat Queens.

 

LMM: Rat Queens betrays a love and knowledge of pen’n’paper role playing. Do a favorite system? What games do you play? Do you have a favorite character you’ve played in the past?

Kurtis Wiebe: I love RPGs. I play anything and everything. I think certain systems are good for specific genres or types of players. Want to introduce complete newbs to RPGs? D&D 5th edition. Want to run a deeply character driven but hilarious short story? Fiasco. It all depends on the mood and the group, in my opinion.

And, to be honest, I haven’t actually played a character in about twelve years. I exclusively run games. That’s my jam.

 

LMM: What are the future plans for Rat Queens? You’ve done some crossovers with Vox Machina from Critical Role – a live D&D show played by voice actors – and done some work for the video gaming industry in the past; any chance for a Rat Queens video game? Toys? Board games? Maybe an actual D&D expansion?

Kurtis Wiebe: Well, it hasn’t been announced yet but I’m working with Wizards of the Coast on a Rat Queens adventure supplement for D&D 5th edition. I’d love to make an RQ board game, something like a dungeon crawler miniature combat game with a huge splash of humor.

 

LMM: In the first issue of the new series, the Queens end up fighting a Giant Canadian Goose. The normal-sized ones are terrible enough, but… are there stats for the Giant Canadian Goose? For reasons of I need to inflict that on my players.

Kurtis Wiebe: No stats yet. And you can thank Owen Gieni for that one. In the script I simply said: Insert flying monster of some kind. The rest is all Owen.

 

LMM: There’s been a host of other projects that you’ve been working on, all tying into the same themes that Rat Queens draws so much from – titles like Grim Leaper and Debris coming to mind. Is there any chance we might see more of them?

Kurtis Wiebe: I’m focusing all my comic energy into Rat Queens right now. It is my number one priority and my goal is to ensure we continue to come out with fun, hilarious and adventurous stories that are also hitting their schedule. Fun fact. When issue 3 came out last month, it was the first time in the series history that we had 3 issues in a row that came out on time. That’s the goal. Consistency in schedule and quality.

 

LMM: You’ve also flirted with horror comics, as seen with Green Wake. Where did the idea come from, how did you develop it?

Kurtis Wiebe: I wrote Green Wake while going through a divorce. It was the one place I could channel all those raw emotions and transform it into something that made sense of at least some of the pain. But it was entirely a creation of both Riley and me. It was an equal partnership in both storytelling and worldbuilding and I’m super proud of it.

 

LMM: While Rat Queens was on hiatus, you started working on the sci-fi series Bounty. What was that like, jumping from one genre to the next?

Kurtis Wiebe: I wanted to do a series for a younger audience that built on the themes I’d created in Rat Queens. I’ve received so many messages about wanting a Rat Queens style story that women could share with the girls in their lives that wasn’t R rated. And Bounty came out of that. Genre jumping wasn’t a huge difficulty, I have written in sci-fi settings before and narratively it was a world that was right in my wheelhouse.
It was a lot of fun to work on. Mindy Lee is an amazing artist. Her design sense is some of the best I’ve seen in comics and it was a real honor to work with her. It was one of those things where Bounty wouldn’t have worked under anyone else’s sensibilities.

 

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Kurtis. If you’d like to chat with Kurtis you can do so on the twitters by clicking here or his personal page by clicking here. He’s good people. He also sometimes hangs out at Big Pete’s Comics and Collectables, where you can also buy Rat Queens and his other works. They’re also on Amazon, and you can find a helpful listing of his comics by clicking here. Thanks again to Kurtis, thank you for reading, and we’ll have more goodies for you as they crop up. 

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Qualitative Storytelling

Books & Writing, Culture, Opinion, The Truth

May 22, 2015

We talk a lot about storytelling here.

exodus 002

Pictured: Standing up to the Man.

Of course we do. We’re geeks, and as such we base ourselves on the mythologies we’ve crafted for ourselves. From the Legend of Zelda to Mad Max to Harry Potter, we look at the icons around us and use them to understand ourselves and our actions, and to force change when needed.

In this, we’re no different than anyone else. In olden times, it was tales of Gods or other exemplars of whatever societal virtues ruled in that particular day. With the population growth of the past two hundred years, however, society is changing at such a rapid pace that the wisdom and stories of yesteryear fall flat, even without the historical context that give those stories meaning.

Which is part of the problem – given how quickly this world and our perception is changing, we need mythologies that are changing, adaptable, and fluid. That isn’t nearly as problematic as one might think, as the best sorts of stories can change without losing their essential meaning. It’s why movies like the Ten Commandments and the Prince of Egypt can literally be different iterations about the same events while still, individually, ringing true.

It’s also why Exodus – Of Gods and Kings was such a colossal failure.

We’re going to start with one disclaimer: we are not, in any way, arguing the veracity of the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Qu’ran, or any of the texts that came from them. This essay has no interest in that whatsoever (the author, on the other hand, loves that sort of debate). This essay is talking about the story structure of the Book of Exodus, which is the second book in the Old Testament, and its modern cinematic adaptations. That’s it.

All kosher? Everyone understand? Good. Let’s get into this.

The Old Testament is one of the most impressive stories ever written. The two bestselling spin-off books – the New Testament and the Qu’ran – have influenced the entirety of western thought, and have helped shape the norms of the modern world. The lessons contained therein are considered axiomatic and culturally informing, even when people don’t necessarily understand the source material.

Exodus – Of Gods and Kings doesn’t understand the source material. It’s not just a bad movie, narratively speaking, it also misses entirely the point of the story it’s purporting to tell. The core of the Exodus tale is about God taking a stand against a nation, a deity moving into and battling an entrenched mortal power structure to free a disenfranchised people.

"I'm fighting what?"

“I’m fighting what?”

The Hebrews of the Old Testament have lost faith and have no power or strength from which to fight. They refuse to believe that they might be delivered, at least at first, and they doubt their God and the Prophet he’s sent. Moses is protected mostly by circumstance, but there’s powerful themes running throughout the story, of family and duty and faith, and that’s one of the reasons it resonates so powerfully.

Moses doubts God. He’s terrified of returning to the land of his birth, the place where he was a prince and is now wanted for murder. It’s only a brother’s love that protects him from punishment, and it’s that same brother’s love that allows him to act as God’s agent.

And, truly, that’s what Moses is: God’s agent. He has no power himself, and generally shies away from conflict. That’s one of the prime differences between the Exodus tale and every other mythology – the chosen people are slaves and don’t believe they can be anything else, and it takes God showing up and literally freeing them from the bondage of Egypt to rekindle their faith.

Both the Ten Commandments and the Prince of Egypt get this. The Hebrews never pick up swords, never attempt to defend themselves because they know they can’t. The Egyptians kill their children and the Hebrews know they are powerless to stop this. It is only through the advent of God that the Hebrews escape and return to the land of their ancestors. There’s no desire for vengeance, no conquering of those that enslaved them; the plagues the Egyptians suffer happen because of their own hubris, and if they had acted in good faith they would have suffered no more.

Exodus – Of Gods and Kings has Moses leading an armed revolt. It’s standard popcorn fare without any sort of depth or dignity, a growling macho bullshit fable that tries to undo the grandeur of the text by using character names and applying standard action movie caricatures to a story that is so much more than that and chafes at the restriction.

We see this a lot in modern cinema, characters that are suited for one sort of story shoe-horned and stitched into other stories because someone doesn’t understand what the actual story is about, or is being willfully ignorant as to what the story is about.

"I'm the prophet America deserves."

“I’m the prophet America deserves.”

See, stories are often made to fit the criteria or needs of the culture that are telling them. America is currently considering another war in the Middle East, to the extent that the politicians that are running for president in the 2016 election are already being quizzed as to whether or not they’d be willing to bomb countries in that region for, well, a variety of reasons that boil down to “we want your oil.”

Exodus – Of Gods and Kings features an American Moses going to do battle with savages in the Middle-East. It lacks any of thematic elements of family, duty, and faith in favor of crass imperialism. It’s why we’re also getting movies like American Sniper, which runs so close to parody that one would think it was taken and re-purposed from a much better movie.

And Exodus – Of Gods and Kings bombed at both the domestic and worldwide box offices. The people that made this movie thought it would be a big hit, and still don’t understand why the movie didn’t do well. The answer is simple: anyone familiar with the story knows, on an instinctive level, that this retelling of it is wrong.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to be looking at the basic building blocks of storytelling and what makes a quality story – what we’re looking for when we discuss good and bad narrative. We’re doing this because we want more Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypts and less Exodus – Of Gods and Kings. If we’re going to demand good stories, the least we can do is define what we’re demanding.

And, hey, we’re here to help people give us what we want.

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Book Review – Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Books & Writing, Culture, Heroes of the Living Myth, Reviews, The Truth

April 14, 2015

It’s taken me more than a month to write this review.

That’s not for lack of trying. The terror of the blank page is something I’ve come to terms with – crafting words is one of those things I do. It’s an action I define myself by, and I like to think I’m pretty good at it. Every now and then, though, I read something that resonates deeply enough to humble me, to reconsider how good I am at this thing by which I define myself.

Alif the Unseen is one of those somethings.

(more…)

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Red Rising – a Book Review

Books & Writing, Reviews

March 24, 2015

RedRising03

Yes. It’s one of those incredibly quotable books.

Dystopia is a common theme of science fiction, and has been since the dawn of the genre. Our need for the present to be the apex of civilization leads to us casting an increase in technology with a degradation of ethics as the only possible future. From the corporate nightmare presented by Aliens to the economic subjugation of the Hunger Games to the political bloodbath that is Battle Royale, we inevitably look to the future as a cautionary tale.

(more…)

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Interview with Peter S. Beagle – Author of the Last Unicorn

Books & Writing, Heroes of the Living Myth, Interviews, Short Fictions, Showcase

March 10, 2015

Interview with Peter S. Beagle

Date: April 21, 2014

(Back in April of 2014, Aaron Golden and Gregory Milne were lucky enough to get a chance to sit down with legendary writer, Peter S. Beagle, and his agent, Conner Cochran. They sat down and talked for a couple of hours about everything surrounding the creation, loss, and claiming of the Last Unicorn, but, sadly, the sound file of the interview was damaged. A lot of effort was put into saving that file, and we finally managed to get it transcribed a couple of months ago. At the time, we sat down and wondered about when the best time to release it was, now that we’d had to delay the interview so long, and considering what a gift we thought this interview was, it made sense to us, for us to release it as a gift to you. So, without further ado…)   

(more…)

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Fifty Shades of Do Not Want

Books & Writing, Fail, Lifestyle, Showcase, The Truth

February 13, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey is a textbook for abuse. It terrifies me that people are going to read this book or see this movie and think that this is an okay way to act, that any of the things that Christian Grey does are even the slightest shade of okay. They aren’t. As a fantasy, it’s alright – but this isn’t being portrayed as fantasy, it’s being portrayed as a blueprint and a relationship to aspire to.

(more…)

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Book Review – MYTHS ARE F***ING GREAT

Books & Writing, Reviews

January 20, 2015

Someone once described me as a “myth-head.” I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I am a massive fan of mythology in general. I’ve got a pretty good grasp of some obscure mythologies and a lot of the more popular ones, and I like hunting down new translations and new legends and stories. There are some fascinating things to be learned about the people that built those myths and about how they still resonate with us today. (more…)

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Book Review – Cat’s Maw

Books & Writing, Reviews

November 18, 2014

Fourteen years ago, three kids living in the wilds of North Vancouver came together and changed the world. One of their number, Brooke Burgess, had a vision that he called Broken Saints, and with the help of the other two he fashioned one of the first online animated graphic novels. It was beautifully rendered and lovingly told, the final chapter released online twelve years ago with two subsequent DVD releases. (more…)

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1741

Outlander: Why Should We Be Watching?

Books & Writing, Showcase

October 13, 2014

Last night marked the Canadian airing of the mid-season finale of Outlander – a full two weeks and a day behind the US airdate (Seriously Showcase, what is up? You need to rectify that situation. We can’t avoid social media for two weeks.) And in a case of WTF programming, Starz isn’t bringing it back for the second half of the season until April, making for a tortuous six month wait – because Outlander has quickly become my favourite show on television. And everyone out there who hasn’t seen it should take the opportunity to catch up on anything and everything relating to this beautiful production… so that I’m not enduring the pain of separation alone. (more…)

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