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God of Comics – Rat Queens Orc Dave #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 28, 2017

Rat Queens Orc Dave #1 (Image Comics)

A big part of fantasy writing these days is taking expectations and either subverting them or expanding upon them. Standard fantasy is old hat; we all know what an orc is and what a dwarf does, and we can recognize them from one world to the next. Authors take those concepts and need to do different things with them – and those things are almost always playing against type (a smart orc!) or expanding upon it (dwarves are also inventors and miners with a deeply artistic culture and history).

The very best fantasy writers do both.

Look at Terry Pratchett, for example. Pratchett took a standard fantasy world and over the span of thirty-something books turned it into one of the most expansive mythologies that spoke more to humanity and what it is to be a person than any other body of work I can think of off hand. At the same time, he subverted expectation at every turn; his elves are monstrous, his dwarves complex, his vampires bored, his orcs and goblins people capable of great things.

I mention this because Kurtis Wiebe has done much the same thing with Rat Queens. It started as a subversion of standard Dungeons & Dragons tropes, a foul-mouthed group of female adventurers that seemed hellbent on subversion that has veered into expansion as time went on, and then started weaving both qualities together.

And that brings us to today’s comic. The Rat Queens were initially only one of a number of adventuring parties working within the city of Palisade. We were introduced to the others and, of them, the Four Daves looked to be most respectable rivals the Queens had on tap: four adventurers all named Dave who looked like a mid-boss battle waiting to happen.

Instead, we got to see the Daves and the Queens become friendly with one another, and the dwarven fighter who leads the Queens fell hard for the orc druid who was the magical expert for the Daves. The two of them had a pretty complex thing going on, what with Violet definitively being the more bloodthirsty of the two, and it seemed like a cute side part to the larger whole.

A couple of things happened, then, one in the world of the comic and one in the real world. Rat Queens went on hiatus for a number of reasons and the story and characters were abandoned. When they came back, we learned about the latter: something had happened to Orc Dave and Violet was pretty upset about it. About the only thing we know is that the two of them did not break up.

Given how the past tends to haunt these characters, however, it seems likely that we’re going to peel back the layers and see something new and different. The Story of Orc Dave. The Saga, maybe? Fable? Tale? Epic?

This is what we know: Orc Dave grew up somewhere ideal that had a problem with monsters, but it was nothing that his family and the other druids could not handle. The world was lovely, idyllic, serene. And then came a force that could not be stopped or reasoned, a force that could not be fought: a collection of warriors known as the Rat Queens.

Kurtis takes is through the veil and into the murky green depths of Orc Dave’s past and the more sordid history of the Queens, accompanied by artists Max Dunbar and Tamra Bonvillain. This is the sort of thing that proves that there is still good in the world. Pick up this comic and you’ll see what I mean.

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236

God of Comics – Rat Queens #4

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 5, 2017

Rat Queens #4 (Images Comics)

Violet’s got some problems.

I mean, clearly. She’s a dwarf who shaved off her beard in defiance of tradition, left the mountain keep that was her home, and started a small-scale adventuring company called the Rat Queens. Her reasons have a lot of to do with the misogyny and isolation of her native culture, but she left that all behind her.

And she’s done so many things since! Created a family for herself, exposed the corruption lying at the heart of her new home, waged war against an army of orcs to defend her new home, and even saved the world from a Lovecraftian cult that nearly drove everyone she has or would ever meet insane.

Those accomplishments, though? It’s hard to remember when family comes to town.

Family, in this case, is her brother, Barrie. He shaved his beard mostly to annoy her and has been living in her new home city also mostly to annoy her. He’s built up his own band of adventurers called the Cart Kings because seriously, Barrie, we need to talk. I’m pretty sure that mushroom thing isn’t even sentient.

Anyways, things have been weird for the Queens and they’ve just added a new member to their party, a half-orc named Bragha who might take the edge off, so to speak, by adding another edge to their side. It’ll keep Violet from getting cut as much, is what I’m saying. And this is a good thing, given that the Queens are heading into the depths of a dungeon full of traps, monsters, and sentient decor that all wants to kill them.

Seriously, Barrie, the dungeon found sentient decor and you’re stuck with the mushroom thing? I think it might just be your druid’s familiar. Or the start of an invasion from the mushroom kingdom. Because you are not the sharpest axe in the keep.

Kurtis J. Wiebe pens another tale to keep us going, the sort of fable that feels like it spilled off the table of a really good DM and into a comic. We talk to him about that a bit, actually, and you can read his words by clicking here. New artist Owen Gieni adds his special kind of madness to the setting, including giant Canadian Geese because the small ones aren’t bad enough.

If you like tabletop role-playing, you’ll love this comic. If you’ve never done tabletop role-playing but have heard of it and want to see what all the fuss is about, this is a pretty good introduction. Rat Queens is awesome. 

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837

Kurtis Wiebe on Rat Queens

Books & Writing, Culture, Interviews, Showcase

June 19, 2017

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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388

God of Comics: Rat Queens #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Rat Queens #3 (Image Comics)

Yes, it’s the third issue of Rat Queens and the third time I’m talking about Rat Queens in that time. Can you tell that I’m happy this series is back?

Rat Queens is the brainchild of Kurtis Wiebe, one of the more progressive writers in comics with a liking for stories that deal with complex characters and modern issues set against a background of whatever genre has caught his eye. In the case of Rat Queens, this means classic Dungeons & Dragons fantasy tropes.

The Queens are an all-female group of adventurers that address a multitude of backgrounds and concepts: the atheist cleric who knows her god exists and doesn’t care, the half-demon and half-elf necromancer with more chip than shoulder, the literal manic pixie dream girl, and the tradition-smashing dwarf warrior who leads them.

All four of them are troubled and come from places that demanded that they make a family rather than rely on the ones they were born into, and their histories haunt them as much as the monsters that they face. There’s a lot to unpack here, and the first run of the series inspired a host of imitators and echoes that can’t quite capture the same feel or complexity of the original.

The newer iteration, then, is amping up the complexity of character and issue to further set itself apart. The cult that the atheist cleric escaped from would really like her to come and rule them. The necromancer really wants to be left alone. They’ve adopted a transgendered half-orc into the family. The dwarf warrior’s older brother has come to town with his own group of mercenaries and adventurers, the Cat Kings, in an effort to show up his sister.

The Cat Kings have a mushroom druid and the manic pixie dream girl is trying to get high by eating him.

It’s… well, it’s pretty much comic perfection, the most accurate portrayal of the best kind of Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Rat Queens perfectly captures the creativity and madness of campaigns run amuck and characters risking all for the sake of cool, because that’s what Dungeons & Dragons is.

New artist Owen Gieni proves worthy to the challenge of Kurtis’ scripts, inventing monsters on the fly and making me wonder what the stats would be for a Dire Canadian Goose. The normal ones are vicious bloodthirsty animals, but a dire one…? Yikes. He also handles magic and violence and sexy well, and all of these things are important because that, friends, is the heart of this comic.

If you like fun, give this a read.

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344

God of Comics: Rat Queens #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 12, 2017

Rat Queens #2 (Image Comics)

There is a giant dragon goose. I did not see that coming.

We typically try to avoid drawing attention to the same comic one month after another, but this is Rat Queens and you will bow down to the Queens. Kurtis J Wiebe found a new illustrator in Owen Gieni and the two of them look to be having a blast with the all-female adventurer troupe that works out of the small town of Palisade.

If you’ve ever played a sit down role-playing game, you will immediately see the appeal of this comic. If you haven’t, this is the sort of thing that will make you want to play one. It’s so good that the Critical Role crew once cosplayed as the Queens for Halloween, so good that you must read it right now.

Rat Queens is also one of the most LGBT+ friendly comics you could hope to find, with positive portrayals of transgendered, gay, and interracial couples throughout. There’s stories of acceptance, the family hardship that comes with bucking tradition, and so many other complex themes woven into a deceptively simple narrative that it is, simply, mind-blowing.

Once you see how good this comic is it is impossible not to see it.

Also, there is a giant dragon goose monster.

The giant dragon goose monster is a recent addition; the Queens were hired to do a job and are easing their way back into things. Their leader, a dwarf named Violet who shave her beard and left her clan because she couldn’t stomach the conservative traditions of her people any longer, took the job and then ran into a problem: her younger brother.

Dude was sent to bring her back home and got his ass stomped by Violet. This was not a good moment for him, so he’s shaved his beard and recruited people that mirror the Queens in an effort to annoy and outdo Violet. He’s even named his adventurer group the Cat Kings because he’s kind of a dick. He thought he was doing pretty okay until a giant goose dragon attacked and broke his party.

Violet saved his dumb ass, but their rogue got ate in the process and is currently stuck facing off with a merchant in the literal belly of a beast. Meanwhile, Violet is about to lead her Queens into the most violent fight they’ve ever had, because normal geese are vicious monsters and dragon geese have to be worse.

If that isn’t enough, Patrick Rothfuss – the guy what writes the Kingkiller Chronicles – is doing a backup story this month. Why? Because he loves the Queens. You should, too.

Look, it’s Rat Queens. It’s awesome. Buy it, read it, love it.

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2119

God of Comics – Rat Queens

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

September 19, 2015

A quick note: this essays aim to be an in-depth analysis of why a given comic series rocks. This means there will be spoilers. Lots of spoilers. I’m pretty up-to-date on my comic readings, and if I’m writing about a comic it’s because that comic came out this past week and I couldn’t not talk about it anymore. Double negatives aside, that means I’m going to use every tool at my disposal to figure out why a given comic works or doesn’t. Savvy? We good? Great. Also, this particular article is probably not safe for work. You hear me? NSFW. Because of one image, but don’t take the chance. Alright? Alright. Let’s get this going.

I was torn this week – Death Vigil, Prez, or Rat Queens was going to get the sort of analysis we do here this week. There was a facebook poll and people wanted Rat Queens, so Rat Queens it is. Secret Six was in contention, too, before I realized how much I wanted to talk about Gail Simone in connection with Red Sonja, but we’ll get to that.

Right now, there’s Rat Queens to discuss.

There’s some controversy over this title, having to do with the original artist. We’re not here to discuss that. There’s plenty of other places that have, and if you don’t know why the original artist left, well, you’re better off. When it comes to Rat Queens there’s only one thing you really need to know: these comics fuckin’ rock.

Back before World of Warcraft there was Dungeons and Dragons. Creatives the world over would get together with their friends and create characters, and then go on adventures, battle monsters, and grab loot with those characters. It was a good way to get together with a group of friends and share stories with one another, to bond over a game that actively encouraged imagination.

As silly as it is to think about now, there was a scare way back when about Dungeons and Dragons. Tom Hanks even starred in a made-for-tv-movie about the dangers of Dungeons and Dragons, but, thankfully, there was an expose about what your average play session was really like, and there’s plenty of those going around now.

And this is because these games are a good idea; that initial game spawned dozens of others – Rifts, the World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, Pathfinder, the Iron Kingdoms, In Nomine, Don’t Rest Your Head, the Triune Legacy all come immediately to mind. Hell, Dungeons and Dragons itself has had multiple editions, most recently the fifth.

All had their own mechanics and their own fluff and that can differ heavily from one game to the next, but one thing stays true: the creativity of the players.

You get people that run or play their games in ways that no one can ever truly expect or prepare for. Half the fun is heading off on different tangents, when things change due to some random bit of chance. Stories can go off in radically different directions, for good and ill. Gamers take on a language of their own as the events of the game change and twist, in-jokes develop and camaraderie is born.

There are as many comics that have tried to capture the feel of these games as there are games themselves: Skullkickers, Demon Knights, He-Man… even licensed ones based on games, like Dragonlance, Exalted, or and even Dungeons and Dragons itself.

And yet, none of them have ever quite gotten the chaotic feel of what it’s like to actually play one of these games.

None of them until Rat Queens.

Rat Queens 002

I’ve run parties with similar battle cries.

On the surface, Rat Queens is about a company of adventurers who go by that name. They operate out of a small town that has a few other rival adventuring companies, and they all cause as much trouble as they solve. They get co-opted as trouble makers by the town they live in and go on adventures because they have to, and if that were the full of it Rat Queens would be an okay comic that wouldn’t be getting this write up.

No, what sets Rat Queens apart is those characters: the adventures are secondary, playing to the narratives of each individual member of the Queens and how it effects them as a whole.

The leader of the group is mostly an elf named Hannah, and it’s that mostly that haunts her. She’s a mage and a necromancer, so she’s already going to get a bad rap because most people hear necromancer and think bad things. Seriously, necromancy gets a bad rap, but there can be good necromancers and Hannah is one of them.

She comes across as reactionary and tough, yes, but it’s all rooted in trauma. See, the other half of that mostly is demon – in Dungeons and Dragons there’s a race of half-demons called Tieflings, and Hannah is descended from them. They’re not any more evil than anyone else, really, but distrust runs rampant against them, and the guard of a town murdered Hannah’s mother in front of her for consorting with demons.

From behind, mind you, as she was comforting her daughter, after being driven out of a store where she’d been trying to buy things. I think we’ve mentioned before that comics are one of the most visceral forms of social and political commentary…?

What we know about Hannah from there is that she grew up alone, somehow got into mage school, graduated, and started an all-female mercenary company. We also know that she has a connection with the leader of the town guard in her new home, a complicated one that was built on love and ended because of this:

Rat Queens 001

It’s the horns. The horns are what’s shocked him.

Yeah, it’s hard to trust anyone completely when those closest to you have been either killed or rejected you because of what you are. Hannah is tough because that’s how she copes. There are moments where we see the extent of her sadness, how utterly broken she is, and her strength in fighting and holding her own is admirable. Heroic, even.

A conflict rooted in racism, trauma, and abuse would be enough for most comics, but Rat Queens starts there and builds.

The next character in our four person party is Dee, a cleric. Typically, in Dungeons and Dragons, your clerics are priests and healers who call upon the powers of whatever god they worship to keep the party going. Dee is kind of not that. Yes, she calls upon the power of a god, but it’s a god she doesn’t really believe in. Dee, the cleric, is an atheist. At the very most, an agnostic.

Rat Queens 006

We do conga lines at my synagogue.

See, she grew up in a death cult that worships a squid headed god, and was raised to be the high priestess of the next generation. At some point she started questioning her faith and left. She recognizes that the god she worshiped is evil and that a lot of the things she took for granted don’t actually work within a larger context, so she’s stuck trying to define her morality without the faith that she feels she’s outgrown.

Funny thing is, we see her family from time to time, and they’re living and supportive even if they are confused by their estranged daughter and sibling. Her brother even comes to town to check on her and make sure she’s doing okay, and doesn’t press her to come home and leaves when she asks him to.

It’s hard for her, because she’s dealing with a family she dearly loves but cannot reconcile with, and they can’t understand why but feel the need to respect her decision. There’s a sadness to both her and her family, their faith keeping them apart. She’s decided to have faith in herself and that’s power enough to funnel her healing and any other magic she needs to call upon.

This, again, would be a strong enough story all by itself for another comic, but Rat Queens is still just getting started.

Another character with family related issues is Violet, a dwarf fighter who’s shaved her beard. She’s bitter, angry, and suicidally violent – throwing herself into danger and frequently needing Dee to hear her during and after the fights that she gets into. She’s calmly self-destructive, and we learn that comes from her family.

Rat Queens 005

Not that she’s tolerant of their attempts to reclaim her.

She’s part of a rather wealthy clan that luxuriates in the quality of the things they produce, but have forgotten what those things are actually for. She was trapped by tradition and expectation, and those expectations were slowly killing her. She actively avoids and rejects her family in order to maintain her freedom, but her family is important to her and their distance is just as deadly as their presence was.

Violet is, effectively, a cutter – she gets her enemies to cut her and them murders them, spitting in death’s eye while seeking to punish herself through death and pain. She never vocalizes this, and when her family forces their way into her life she sends them packing, on her own terms, pointing out their flaws while keeping a brave face.

In this, she shares theme with Braga, a half-orc from one of the other mercenary companies in town, a mighty warrior who we’ve recently found out is transgender. The characters who are aware of the change keep it quiet, but Braga was once the champion of a whole tribe of orcs who would kill her because of who she is.

Fighting gender norms and family expectations to stand apart and self-define? The anger and frustration that comes with needing to be something so far out of one’s kin’s understanding that they not only abandon, but actively hate you? The courage and strength it takes to hold true to yourself, knowing that there might never be any sort of reconciliation while secretly hoping for same?

All of that, again, would be a strong enough story to explore in and of itself. When it’s woven with the other characters, though, it turns Rat Queens into something exceptional.

There’s still more, though. The last of the Rat Queens is Betty. She’s called a smidgen here, but in any other world she’d be a halfling or a hobbit. Tiny and childlike, Betty is full of an alcohol and drug-fueled innocence. She’s carefree because she refuses to engage in any sort of drama, but that sort of lifestyle is not something that is easy for others to accept.

Rat Queens 007

Especially for those that are trying to keep their lives calm.

Her friends in the Rat Queens accept her for who she is, mostly, but there’s other people that she loves that cannot accept her because she doesn’t consider immediate or long term consequence. Is it possible to maintain relationships without respecting the boundaries that come with close ties? That’s an interesting hook.

It makes Betty a fascinating character to watch, because she accepts everything, even those that don’t accept her. She’s aware of their non-acceptance, but doesn’t hold that against them. She moves, she is, and she is the light of the others, the person that keeps them all moving no matter what else is happening.

There’s a power in seeing to the heart of a tie without being caught in the drama of it, and Betty fully embraces that power.

Quick recap: this is a comic that deals with racism, abuse, faith, expectation, and responsibility starring a group of women that are carving out a place for themselves in their world, all with a great degree of success. It’s trans-friendly, gay-friendly, with a whole whack of underlying themes that could spark any degree of conversation. There’s even some nice stuff with corporate greed and political corruption serving a doomsday cult, how media can pervert truth, and there being consequences for actions.

Again, that’s all neat, but what truly ties it altogether is personhood and crass humor. These characters feel like people, and as any group of Dungeons and Dragons players can tell you, crass humor and modern references are things that happen. So there’s all this character and statement stuff going on, and it’s mingled with jokes and viewpoints that parallel modern conflicts. We can look at what’s going on here and find references to our own experiences, and draw strength by knowing that we’re not alone.

That’s why this comic works – it’s an echo of our games and our lives, it’s fun and twisted and complicated, it’s crass and ridiculous and utterly perfect.

Rat Queens 004

This kinda speaks for itself…

And that is why, Kurtis J. Wiebe, we thank you for this story. The quality and strength of it make it worth waiting for, and make every moment reading it something to enjoy and cherish. Readers will laugh and be touched, often on the same page, and they’ll be entertained all the while.

One can ask no more from a story than this.

 

Previous God of Comics analysis includes:

Hawkeye

Imperium / Harbinger

Loki, Agent of Asgard

Ms. Marvel

Nextwave – Agents of H.A.T.E.

UFOlogy

Velvet 

X-O Manowar

 

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268

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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1655

God of Comics 2015-03-11

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 12, 2015

This Week: All-New X-Men #37, Ant-Man #3, Batman Eternal #49, Captain Marvel #13, Coffin Hill #16, Guardians of the Galaxy Team-Up #2, Hexed #8, Magnus – Robot Fighter #12, Ms. Marvel #13, Ninjak #1, Rat Queens #9, Red Sonja #14, Sheltered #15, The Sixth Gun – Dust to Dust #1, Spider-Gwen #2, Star Wars #3, Thor #6, Unity #16, X #23

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1469

God of Comics [2014-02-26]

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 2, 2014

This Week: Aquaman #28, Batman / Superman #8, Bloodshot and HARDCorps #0, Cataclysm – Ultimates’ Last Stand #5, Catwoman #28, DC vs. Masters of the Universe #5, Deadly Class #2, Five Weapons #7, Ghostbusters #13, Guardians of the Galaxy #12, Hacktivist #2, Hawkeye #15, Origin II #3, Rat Queens #5, Revolutionary War – Super Soldiers #1, Redacted Spider Man #28, Superman – Lois Lane #1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #31, Three #5, Thunderbolts #22, Tomb Raider #1, Wolverine and the X-Men #42, World’s Finest #20, X-O Manowar #22

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1449

God of Comics [2013-11-27]

God Of Comics, Reviews

December 1, 2013

This Week: All-Star Western #25, Akaneiro #1-3, All New X-Men #19, Aquaman #25, Avengers Arena #18, Avengers Assemble #21, Batman – the Dark Knight #25, Cataclysm – X-Men #1, Catwoman #25, Damien Son of Batman #2, Five Ghosts #7, Hawkeye #14, Helheim #1-5, Infinity #6, New Avengers #12, Powers – the Bureau #8, Rat Queens #3, Revival #15, Scarlet Spider #24, Superior Spider-Man #22, Talon #13, Thief of Thieves #18, Walking Dead #117, Wolverine and the X-Men #38, Wolverine and the X-Men Annual #1

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