‘Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D’
Creating a biographical work in comics is a very distinct venture. It requires a fine agility as you’re balancing a myriad of facts, more than you will be able to neatly fit into one graphic novel. Any number of factors can add to the complexity, such as the writer figuring what to use if he has personally conducted interviews. David Kushner was one of the last journalists to interview D&D co-creator Gary Gygax prior to his death. He has now teamed up with award-winning illustrator Koren Shadmi on a nonfiction comic book chronicling Gary Gygax’s life and the creation of D&D: RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER: GARY GYGAX AND THE CREATION OF D&D, recently published by Nation Books. It is an ambitious undertaking, the first of its kind, and well worth a read.
Dave Arneson, a true dreamer.
Kushner and Shadmi do a wonderful job of laying down a behind-the-scenes narrative to Dungeons & Dragons, a pop culture phenomena that we all know to some degree. You may have never seen yourself as a role-playing game enthusiast, but you can’t help but get caught up in the details and history of a bona fide subculture. This book succeeds in putting a face to what has become known the world over as Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, there are two prominent faces involved here: Gary Gygax, the original guy to tinker with new ideas for role-playing games (instead of always military themes, why not include wizards?); and Dave Arneson, the guy next in line who refined what Gygax set in motion (don’t get lost in the rules and keep it fun!). Gygax was a middle-aged man with a family and Arneson was a young security guard working his way through college.
For the love of the game.
The best moments in the book are once we get to observe Gygax and Arneson just being themselves, warts and all. Gygax turns out to be more motivated towards turning his innovations into a profitable business. Arneson is far more the dreamer, only interested in refining the game. Arneson is so caught up in his own D&D world that he is left out of the burgeoning D&D business venture by Gygax and his associates.
“One day, you catch a break that will change your life.”
Kushner’s script places the story in various first-person points of views. At times, the narrative boxes are quoting Gygax or Arneson or simply become omniscient. While this narrative shift can be disconcerting at times, it’s understandable given the many segments to cover. You have a broad canvas to fill with this person saying this and that other person doing that. And, given the interview source material, there are times that you want to do a flashback scene and other times that you want the person to speak in the present moment. Overall, Kushner and Shadmi do a commendable job of bringing this tale to life. One thing is for sure, you will never look at Dungeons & Dragons the same way again.
RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER: GARY GYGAX AND THE CREATION OF D&D, published by Nation Books, is a 144-page black & white trade paperback. For more details, visit Nation Books. You can also purchase the book directly from Amazon right here.
“I’m going to smile, and my smile will sink down into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit
THE ABADDON is a very popular webcomic and is due out as a collected work on November 12th from Z2 Comics. It’s my pleasure to share with you some observations on the work and to share with you an interview with its creator, Koren Shadmi.
You’re this young guy in a new city who is desperately looking for a room to rent. You just happen to find what looks like the best deal you could hope for: cool roomies, one a potential romantic interest, a spacious loft, and you can pay what you want on rent. Huh? How does that work? Before Ter can ask too many questions, he’s voted into the group. Little does he realize he forgot to check if he hasn’t just made the worst mistake of his life. And so begins Koren Shadmi’s very quirky graphic novel, THE ABADDON. It is loosely based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s play, NO EXIT, and is due out November 12th from Z2 Comics.
I took notice of Koren Shadmi’s artwork with the recent graphic novel, MIKE’s PLACE: A TRUE STORY OF LOVE, BLUES AND TERROR IN TEL AVIV, published by First Second Books. You can read my review here. Shadmi has a very appealing style that truly brings each character to life. In the case of the character-driven THE ABADDON, he runs the spectrum of personalities, all of which are quite dysfunctional. Poor Ter never had a chance, although he may beg to differ. Shadmi does a masterful job of taking us on Ter’s surreal journey. Even if he were to escape his roomies, does he seriously think he can escape The Abaddon?
Shadmi is the sort of artist/writer who is at home with asking the big questions. With a cartoonist’s instinct for concise and precise communication, he distills those big ideas into accessible and entertaining content. He’s not taking anything away from the integrity of the subject at hand; even existential matters are fair game for comics. In fact, what better subject to tackle in the comics medium that questions of why and how we exist? The Abaddon proves to be a highly satisfying read.
In our interview, we touch upon existential matters, what led to the creation of The Abaddon, and what lies ahead for this up and coming illustrator and cartoonist.
GOD by Koren Shadmi
I begin by asking him about one of his most compelling illustrations: a museum exhibit with a display for God. It’s one of the illustrations that you can purchase through his website right here. Click below to listen to the podcast interview below:
THE ABADDON is available starting November 12th from Z2 Comics. You can also find it at Amazon right here.