Here There Be Gerblins – Adventure Zone Graphic Novel Review

TRAVIS MCELROY: Stop singing Kenny Chesney! JUSTIN MCELROY: How does everyone think the adventure’s going? laughter TRAVIS MCELROY: I’d say a solid B-. JUSTIN MCELROY: So far, so good by me. GRIFFIN MCELROY: Are you saying the content of the adventure– JUSTIN MCELROY: You don’t hear this happening! GRIFFIN MCELROY: OK. JUSTIN MCELROY: Shut up God! Oh hi! I like fantasy. I like roleplaying. I’m usually Mary Poppins … but that’s
for a different time. I want to talk about the Adventure Zone. A podcast that began in 2014 and grew to be
one of the most important pieces of fiction in my life. And it was completely unexpected. I’d played Dungeons and Dragons in my life. Yes, I got to that level of nerd. But I always became disillusioned and frustrated
by the experience. I never really understood what I should be
doing. Reading 12 giant books as reference seemed
too daunting. And I think the most egregious fault was that
I felt we never got to the adventure. We’d spend hours upon hours in towns collecting
materials and talking with townsfolk. I felt like I was being told a boring backstory
without ever feeling like I was involved in creating the story. So when enough people recommended that I listen
to The Adventure Zone, I finally caved. I just couldn’t believe that I would like
to listen to people play Dungeons and Dragons. And in fact, the first couple episodes I heard
a group of people that were nervous and inexperienced. My patience was wavering. And then the goofing started. The characters began to be more well rounded. And it grew to be something that I binged
over the span of a month. I caught up to the show in real time and was
able to experience the last few months of the show crescendo into it’s final episode. I vividly remember listening to the final
episode and crying, just huge ugly tears. In the middle of a mall. “Mommy. Why is that large albino man sobbing so hard
that his mascara is running.” “Johnny, it’s not polite to stare and
also Santa’s not real.” It was a pretty heavy day for everyone. So when it was announced that the first arc
of the podcast. The one entitle “Here There Be Gerblins”
was going to be adapted into a graphic novel, I was pretty excited. And then I got really nervous, and eventually
became pretty skeptical. Because the thing about The Adventure Zone
is that it was entirely conceived as an audio piece of entertainment. A lot of the fun and why it works is because
our imaginations are able to create these vast tapestries that often the visual medium
cannot replicate. It also could take away from the relationships
of 3 brothers and their dad going through a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. These four men know each other so well. They can goof, commiserate, and scheme together. They can riff on each other’s jokes. So much goodness was had on the podcast that
really didn’t involve the DnD game they were playing. And how about the DM or GM in Griffin McElroy? He infused so much passion, and humour, and
inventiveness. To take out his voice seemed like a bad idea. So then this arrived in the mail. (Except it didn’t. Amazon made a mistake and said it had been
delivered on Monday and by yesterday it still hadn’t arrived, so I had to go buy it from
the nearby bookstore. But we’re good at roleplaying, right? Let’s imagine that Amazon didn’t totally
crit fail and did deliver my book on time.) I devoured it. I read it all in a couple of hours. And I have to day that I really enjoyed it. There are going to be the obvious differences. Names of characters and places had to be changed
because the first few episodes were based on a campaign thats given to you when you
buy the starter pack of Dungeons and Dragons. So I’m guessing there was some sort of copyright
thing they were trying to avoid. And they pretty quickly show you how Griffin
is going to be included. That the entire adventure is essentially going
to be the characters breaking the fourth wall of the fiction. Which, I mean, the podcast did plenty of times. TRAVIS: Is there some way for us to kill both Klarg and this dude? CLINT MCELROY: Oh yeah, we’re going to. JUSTIN: Yeah, we’re killing everybody! I thought that was implied. CLINT: As soon as Meemaw turns his back– GRIFFIN: Yemic! CLINT: Yeah. Whatever. TRAVIS: Did he hear that‽ GRIFFIN (hand covering mouth): It’s Yemic! CLINT: The voice of God just yelled His name. GRIFFIN: Quit thinking about murdering me! But it’s cool seeing stuff that was originally
something that I consumed in my earholes written down and drawn. In fact there are some beautifully rendered
drawings all throughout the book. What the book is able to avoid is that nervousness
that I mentioned that happened at the beginning. I recently re-listened to the first six episodes
of the podcast which this book is adapting and I was struck by how different everyone
sounded at the beginning. In fact Griffin even mentions how nervous
he is before they begin rolling dice. GRIFFIN: I’m nervous. Like I’m not psyched about saying things like “Neverwinter” and “Gundrin Rockseeker.” I still miss the true interplay between Griffin
the GM and the players. But this story is so rich. There are allusions to the future that started
in this first arc. And yet this has always been my least favourite
part of the Adventure Zone. Not that it’s bad, but it develops into
something so much more. Much like how The Simpsons’ first season
seems so weird to watch, especially when you know how those characters evolved. I feel the same way here. But the way that the story gradually world
builds, and layers on difficulty, coming to my absolute favourite part of both the graphic
novel and the podcast. When Taako, our wizard has had enough to go Abraca-FuckYou! It’s magical. Like I said. Adaptation can be hard. You cannot simply verbatim take everything
from a podcast and just produce a graphic novel. I really think that would have been the worst
way to approach this. Some things have been cut, others have been
abridged, slight tweaks are made here and there. And now that this is being adapted into a
precise narrative and not role-played they can have characters mention things and lay
the groundwork better for future arcs. I enjoyed this book immensely. Because I’m so close to the story I don’t
now if non-podcast people are going to appreciate it. I really don’t. I think there’s enough here for the layperson,
but perhaps if you are that person you can let me know in the comments. What I do know is that the writing coupled
with the art really works for me. But I’m much more excited about Murder on
the Rockport Limited, the next arc and already promised on the last page of this book. Patrick Rothfuss, a fantasy author that I’m
a really big fan of, writes the introduction to the book. And there’s a paragraph that I think needs
to be repeated. He writes: “…I’d like to say that the McElroys
have done something with D&D I have never seen before. They’ve done something that I didn’t know
it was possible to do. They’ve made something magical, and loving,
and kind, and beautiful. The world is better because this story is
in it.” I couldn’t agree more. Let me know if you’ve had the chance to
read this novel, or if you’ve listened to the Adventure Zone. Let’s just geek out about it in the comments
below! And as always, I will talk with you next Thursday.

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