May 31, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 95: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #1, December 1988

I remember buying this comic when it came out. I was well into my AD&D phase, playing 3 or 4 times a week with my best friends, weaving epic adventures and pathetic (in the best sense of the term) soap operas. So when this series was released, I was very excited. I collected it only for about 8 months or so, then let it go, and thinking back to the time, this might have been because I let all my comics lapse for about 6 years over the course of high school and then just after. The final issues I collected of this series seem to coincide with the last issues of Animal Man that I collected at the time, which is what I use to gauge when this lapse occurred.

Going back to the series now, I can certainly see the flaws. It seems to me a failing of this kind of adaptation comic that they feel they need to spell out (that pun will work soooo much better in a second) all the direct references to their source material that happen over the course of the story. Monsters are referred to by their proper names always, as are spells (see?), which occasionally makes the dialogue of the characters sound like it's being read from the Player's Handbook or the Monster Manual. Which, if we consider the characters in the comic as avatars of people playing a game of AD&D, makes sense. But if we're considering them as characters in a story set in the world of the Forgotten Realms, the manual-speak sounds a bit stilted.

That said, it's a pretty good story so far. Interesting characters, and a nice range of classes (for those familiar with the game). So far, in the first issue, Agrivar, the disgraced Paladin, is the most well-developed of the characters, the rest falling into stereotypes associated with their varied classes/races (i.e., the grumpy dwarf rogue, the tough-as-nails human fighter, the willowy elf mage). The centaur character (Timoth Eyesbright) is also interesting, in that his class is not immediately apparent, and as character race Centaurs were not allowed in first edition AD&D.

The series is divided up into discrete 4-issue arcs, so there's plenty of time to develop both characters and story, and, really, an adventure in-game always ends up taking much longer than it should because of the waffling associated with RPGers.

Writer Michael Fleisher is an interesting dude. In the 70s he wrote three volumes of The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes, one each on Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. Though they're old, and horrendously out of date, I've used them in critical works to figure out first appearances of particular facets of a character's mythology. They're really handy for anyone who wants comprehensive coverage of the first 30 or so years of each of those character's histories. I'm not sure how easy they are to find nowadays, but they were reprinted a few years back, which is when I got them, so they may still be kicking around the dusty corners of your local store.

Anyway, a bit more AD&D tomorrow. See you then.

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