Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Here at Geek Obscura we usually find something that was once all the rage in the geek-averse but now has dropped out of popularity in main stream geek circles, though it is still held on to ferociously and fondly by a small cadre of specialized geeks. Today however I am showcasing something that is the next new thing in geek culture. Since us Portlanders live to be pretentious and say “Well yes I was into that years before it became popular.” It is a big deal to us. And this new comic really is a big deal.
So what is the next milestone in the geek stratosphere? The Comic book Rat Queens. Written by Kurtis J. Wiebie and drawn Roc Upchurch for Image’s Shadowline imprint. It is the story of The Rat Queen’s an all female adventuring group that lives in a sword and sorcery fantasy world. So why is it such a big deal? One thing is among certain groups it is mega-hot right now, I had to go to six different stores to find a copy of TPB 1, Sass and Sorcery. It was sold out even at such big hitters such as the Milwaukie Things from Another World, Powell’s, Borders, and Barns and Nobles, it has a week to three weeks shipping date with Amazon. So if you want in you are going to have go on a quest to find it. Also last week there was an announcement that it is going to be turned into a TV show, done by the crew that made the Heavy Metal movie. It will be animated and marketed to the same audience as Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim or FX’s Archer. Come on don’t you want rib all your friends about being Johnny-come-latelies when the show comes out.
So let’s meet the girls Violet is a red headed hipster and aggressive dwarven warrior, who can never think of a cool adlib line in time for the killing blow and the ones that she spends weeks creating never sound as cool when she says them as they did in her mind. She rebels against dwarven stereotypes. She shaves her beard but thinks about growing it back when beard shaving becomes hip among dwarf females, she won’t drink ale only wine just to be different. But say something bad about her race expect to get a fist in your face. She stole something from her clan, who has sent the most important person in the world to retrieve it, Berrie Blackforge her twin brother.
Hannah, the Rockabilly Elven mage, is the leader of this group, she leads this team of free spirits about as well as someone can herd cats. It isn’t that she is a bad leader far from it, it is just the team is made up of strong minded, blood thirsty, chaotic neutral psychopaths (and remember they are the good guys) Hannah uses ancient magic relics to call back home like it was a cell phone, and when her wand is out of magic she thrusts it through a trolls heart. Her words are often much more hurtful than she intended them to be. Unlike the noble elves of Tolkien, she is spiteful, pity and hold grudges. But she loves her sisters deeply and though she might be snarky with them they know she has their back. She also has some history with Sawyer Silver the chief of town watch.
Dee is the defacto second in charge and the one with the most commonsense. She is a clerical healer but she is also an atheist. She comes from a family that worships N’yragoth, this world’s version of Cthulhu. Having to do silly ceremonies like drinking blood from the neck of a human who has consumed enough wine to kill them, pretty much drove her from the fold of the faithful. So if she doesn’t believe in any of the old gods how can she mystically heal people? In her own words “I’m goddess enough.”
And Betty who is a hobbit (opps, after the promotional work was put out her race was changed to Smidgin. Apparently Tolkien’s lawyers paid Mr. Weibe a visit.) A hippy at heart she loves candy, drugs, and chicks with tattoos. Even though only three feet tall and a hippy she’ll gouge out troll eyes with the best of them. She is a master thief and can put clues together that would make Sherlock proud. In ways little Betty is the heart and soul of the team.
Notice something about the pictures of the girls? I think they are cute but they have realistic female body types. Their clothes aren’t super sexy. Sure Dee ought to get some pants, but maybe she buys her clothes where Brainiac does. But none of them have windows over their breast like Power Girl, or impossibly fit bodies with enlarged gender characteristics like Lara Croft.
The Rat Queens are based on a classic four person Dungeon and Dragons adventuring crew. They have a fighter, mage, cleric and a thief. They also have the four basic D&D races Human, Elf, dwarf, and Hobbit, uh I mean Halfling, uh no I mean Smidgin. Half orcs show up in the adventuring teams, The Peaches and the Four Daves. This title owes so much to sword and fantasy RPG’s that a lot of RQ mearch have the Rat Queen’s logo on a D20 on them, and an issue’s title is called “…+5 Attacks on all Guys Named Gary.” And “Surprise: Everybody gets -4 to their inish.”
The Queens are foul mouthed, and there is a fair amount of blood and gore. They see nothing wrong with excessive drinking and recreational drug use. This are by no means a kid’s book, it is target for an adult audience. So I could see why some people might want to stay away from it. In ways it really does remind me of a bunch of gamers mouthing off during a dungeon crawl.
The first TPB Sass and Sorcery’s plot is about as simple as your cousin Mikey’s first adventure as a GM. Someone is setting up the town of Palisades adventuring teams, when they go for the treasure they are ambushed by assassins. The girl’s barely make it back with their lives, and now it is payback time. Just because the plot is simple it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have twist or two and that it is not a lot of fun. In fact the simple story line allows Wiebe to showcase each of the girls more effectively as well as some of the supporting players.
There is a lot of discussion about how fan-girls are being treated now a days. Here is a book that is full of girl power much like The Powerpuff Girls or Birds of Prey. But it diffetnly isn’t chick lit with pictures, boys will love these sassy BFF’s just as much the ladies will. I expect that I will see a lot of the RQ’s at Rose City Comicon, in fact I have found the perfect cos-play for my beard and body type Orc Dave, The Four Daves half-orc healer, who blue beards miraculously appear in his beard, and Violet’s temporary love interest.
So get in on the ground floor of this awesome comic or the ladies will come to your house steal your candy and gold and burn your friggin’ house down.