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Tabletop RPGs and Comics Make a Beautiful Baby in Rat Queens #1

Holy smokes. It’s no terrible secret that on top of a love for comics and video games, I am also an RPG nerd (and sometimes RPG artist, if I may own-horn-toot). I am not alone in my penchant for high fantasy, either, but finding high fantasy themed anything that doesn’t slap some boobplate or a chainmail bikini on the ladies is sometimes few and far between. I know the official D&D comic lost me after the first issue, and while the Pathfinder comic is a better choice it still has its moments of broken spines and in general didn’t grab me. I mean, basically, D&D has long been the bastion of epic but predominately male heroes, and while women have always been players at the table, finding representation within that game is still rare enough that when you find it, you hold onto with everything you’ve got.

And boy howdy am I holding onto Rat Queens so damn hard.

I mean, not only is the art gorgeous, but never have I ever seen such an incredible cast of women where I wanted to be/hang out with/make out with all of them in their own way. Each of these characters comes out the gate as fully formed characters, each with a distinct personality dripping with backstory. And where Pathfinder lost me in terms of immersion—a little too heavy-handed with the old-timey Tolkien-esque dialogue and dramatic circumstance—these characters are immediately relatable. I think it has something to do with the way the author has managed to adapt modern anachronisms into a world full of swords and sorcery and make it feel entirely natural and relatable.

For example, why shouldn’t a high fantasy world have some kind of cell phone equivalent?

Even if it does come with a price.

Plot-wise it does start out as your usual standard high fantasy adventure. Party gets together, party gets handed a basic quest, basic quest gets infinitely more complicated; these are how our most memorable campaigns begin. Where Rat Queens shines is in taking the tropes we know and love and subverting them with almost whedon-esque skill. That’s right, I’m comparing this to our beloved female characters in Buffy or Firefly and telling you, point-blank, Rat Queens is on their level and then some.

I’d write more but I’m still not over the incoherent internal screams of joy and it’s hard to form sentences over that excitement. Pick it up and check it out for yourself!

How about you? Read it? Loved it? Something else you liked better? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Suzanne Larsen

    Never even heard of it, but I’ll be on the lookout for it now, thanks!

  • Skemono

    ComicsAlliance had a preview of the first issue for anyone curious.

  • Eisen

    I read the first issue, and quite don’t get why the costumes in this one are okay, and in other comics are not.
    The warrior girl has a boob-halfplate and leggins, the two spellcasters have those kind of stockings and very short skirts (and I believe the dark skinned one has no skirt at all, but clothing stripes and bare hips). there is also quite some cleavage, and not just on one character only.
    After the main story there is a short side-/backgroundstory, showing one of the characters crawling through a room. And there you have some serious “Hawkeye Initiative” stuff – bended backs, major cleavage, ass shots….

    I liked the firste issue, it was okay. Nice puns and overall a lighter and funnier take on the fantasy RPG setting. But the costumes? Not such an enlightenment as it’s described in your article, sorry.

  • Joe Informatico

    Because in the overall aesthetic of the book, no one is wearing anything remotely practical or impressive. All the male characters have bared arms, for one. The outfits of the Brother Ponies include a guy whose vest completely exposes the flanks of his torso, and another dude in a belly-baring midriff shirt. And unlike some other fantasy art, it’s not done as a male power-fantasy to emphasize the strength of the characters. Rather, they look as silly as everyone else.

    Thus, it avoids the usual problem with fantasy art where female characters are drawn to emphasize their sex appeal first and foremost, and any other attribute second (if at all), while male characters are simultaneously drawn to emphasize how strong or dangerous they are. Here, everyone’s drawn the same way. Without knowing the artist’s actual intentions, I might even interpret Rat Queen’s art style as a parody of typical fantasy art.

    And warrior, offensive spellcaster, healer/defensive spellcaster, and rogue is the most basic fantasy RPG party composition there is. I don’t see the “class” choices as stereotypically female so much as stereotypically D&D.

  • Eisen

    Thats not true, absolutely not. Flip again through the first pages. The males in the courtroom wear normal clothes, and later this “Sawyer” guy has a pretty cool outfit, without showing anything. And bare arms are not the same as stockings, skirts or tops showing major cleavage. The only males who show bare skin in a kind of unpractical or even comical way, are the “brother ponies” (and I think somehow it’s a pun, but anyway). In the group “Four Daves” there is one male with bare chest, but it doesn’t seem impractical to me, not like stockings and short skirts, or strapless tops. Others, including the “enemy” later on, are mostly full and practical dressed (okay, Obsidian Darkness may not be practical, but they are fully dressed).
    Because I was courious myself, I counted.
    You got a total (I didn’t count characters that were only in the background, but it would have been more) 16 of male characters, of which 3 are scantily and impractical dressed. And yes, I also counted the guy with the bare chest. On the other hand you have a total of 7 female characters, of which are definitely 4 are scantily dressed – the two peaches and two of the main characters. I didn’t count the gnomegirl in, even if she wears a shirt so short you can see her belly, and with a V neck that almost reaches down to her belly too.

    But I’m with you on the point that they are not drawn for sex appeal only. But I never said this anyway, with exception of the last background chapter. This is for sexappeal only, because you have about 8 panels of a crawling character, without anything happening except from cleavage, ass shot and bent back in scantily clothing.

    When it comes to the classes, for me they are the most stereotypical female classes. I seldom experienced males als healers or full casters. Maybe this is only an experience by me, but I asked myself why it was this setup, and not a barbarian, a ranger, a paladin (in fullplate), an alchemist or a kind of monk. These are also DnD classes (except for the alchemist, this one is from Pathfinder), and for me this ones would have been a newer, fresher experience than a female rogue, a female spellcaster and a female cleric/spellcaster.

    Once again: I didn’t say Rat Queens was bad. I liked the first issue, it was a nice, light read. But even if the problems I mentioned (clothes, posing) are less distinct as in other comics, it should be mentioned, and not be stated that these are nonexistant in Rat Queens.

  • Thomas Hayes

    That looks kinda cool.

  • Stewart Zoot Wymer

    While it seems that some folk are distressed by the relatively usual “stripperific” fashions of females in fantasy and poses to go with (as Eisen notes), I do hope that this, or something like this, will help more women get into RPGs. For a long time even video games were considered off-limits to women, I have heard of some horrible practices that have been inflicted on female MMORPG players, for example which definitely discouraged my friends a bit.

    Tabletop is still somewhat sparse with female players – I think it’s awesome that my Pathfinder game has two and various clubs in my city had “girls only” noob groups so that women could get to grips with things before jumping into a mixed group. Of course, what really helps is the average male tabletop gamer accepting and not tokenizing female players – some RPG enthusiasts seem to think women are “invading” their male bastion or some rubbish :P and then you’ve got the other type, lonely male gamers who will use the game as a half-assed dating/stalking tool … yeah.

  • jenni

    My Uncle Elijah recently got a nine month old Volkswagen Routan just by some parttime working online… why not find out more


  • Lexx Ravenhallow

    Saw this cover sitting on the wall when I waltzed into work that Wednesday morning, and knew I had to read it. And boy, was I glad I did. Howled with laughter through the whole thing. Really excellent book and really looking forward to more!

  • Charlie

    For me it’s not really about what they are wearing but how they are drawn. Two pictures of Red Sonya, in the exact same chainmail bikini, can send very different messages when for example one is traced from porn and the other isn’t.

  • Mark Matson

    The original AD&D basic character classes where Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user and Thief. Each of these had sub-classes like Druid, Ranger, Illusionist and Assassin. There was also the Monk, which (quote from first edition) “is the most unusual of all characters… That is why the class is given out of alphabetical order”. And finally, the Bard in Appendix II. The Bard, Monk and subtypes are clearly less typical or normal than the main four.

    So yes, Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user and Thief really are the most typical, basic D&D classes.

  • Eisen

    Okay, those classes may be the first, but in modern RL I did not have one group (and I’m usually the only female there, and most of all the only female Gamemaster), where the males played clerics, other healers, or full spellcasters (Spellsword and Dragon Disciple yes). Most of the time my players end up being Fighters, Barbarians, Rangers, Paladins, Rogues (but then not halflings, and then more dressed as in Rat Queens, with heavy dark leather and stuff).

    But even if the build of warrior, cleric, mage and rogue is typical, you can’t deny that apart from DnD/RPG most of the time women are filling the roles of spellcasters, healers and everything else that dresses lightly and does not involve in physical combat.
    I don’t say Rat Queens made a bad choice, but at least for me it’s not very surprising. A group of women featuring a paladin in fullplate, warrior, barbarian, ranger, monk, or something very new like the alchemist or a full dressed combat rogue would have been fresher. That’s all I’ve been saying.

  • Eisen

    You are totally right. It could be worse, but most of the time the characters are drawn quite “normal” – the big exception is the background chapter I mentioned.

    Again: I don’t think Rat Queens was bad. I don’t thik that at all. But I think it has it’s weaknesses, and at least for me the experience could be better if the characters were more practical dressed, and the background chapter would not involve panels just for the sake of gazing.