Hasbro and IDW recently announced the launch of all-new Dungeon & Dragons comic books, beginning with a debut issue this August. We asked IDW editor Denton J. Tipton to shed some continual light on these forthcoming series—what we can expect, who's on board, and what Optimus Prime would be like as a D&D character.
Wizards of the Coast: To start with, can you kindly introduce yourself and your current slate of projects (as much as we all love Dungeons & Dragons, you work on additional titles at IDW, correct?)—who are you and what's your role in IDW's upcoming D&D comic series?
Denton: Thanks. I go by Denton J. Tipton, and I’m lucky enough to edit comics for a living. It’s a ton of hard work, and hardly as glamorous as some misguided souls imagine, but there are few things I’d rather be doing. Among the licenses I handle are Transformers and Doctor Who. Other titles include Tank Girl, and various other creator-owned series. But after more than two years, I’ll be stepping away from the Robots in Disguise to concentrate on producing the best Dungeons & Dragons comics possible on this Earthly plane. My partner in crime for the past year on Transformers, Andy Schmidt, will be lending a hand, providing his extensive expertise for the launch. It all starts in August with Dungeons & Dragons #0 in comic stores and available digitally.
Wizards of the Coast: Before we dive into the comic series, let's talk about the game—specifically, your involvement with D&D. You've confessed to being a roleplaying junkie in high school; how did you first getting started playing? Any memorable characters or adventures (what’s the story on with the tarrasque incident)?
Denton: Toward the end of my freshman year of high school, I made friends with a sophomore in my English I class. Living in a small town, we had met each other years before and soon discovered we dug the same music and comics. Before you knew it, he took me over to his friend’s house to try out Dungeons & Dragons. I was hooked from the first session, when I created my most memorable character, Opie the Barbarian. I much prefer being a player because DMing is so much damn work!
The tarrasque wasn’t so much as an incident, as it is a metaphor for the trap that can be your hometown. Those guys failed their Perception check and didn’t make it out. But if we could recapture the magic of those long-ago Saturdays, I’d almost move back. Almost.
Wizards of the Coast: Turning to the D&D comics, can you give us a rundown of what we can expect in the series? Who are the initial set of characters we'll meet, and can you set the stage for their initial adventures?
Denton: Our band of heroes is led by Adric Fell, a human warlord. Adric’s a fine leader and tactician, whose charm and luck doesn’t exactly extend to the card table. His friend and right-hand dwarf, the paladin Khal, loves nothing more than smiting creatures in the name of Moradin. Rounding out the group are Bree Three Hands, a halfling rogue who may be greedier than Gollum, and the elven ranger Varis, who has the most intriguing twist that I can’t quite spoil yet. They’re based in the town of Fallcrest and bounce between dungeon delves and missions for the powers that be. That’s about all the setup you need. We strived to make the book as accessible as possible. The $1 price tag goes a long way toward that end.
Wizards of the Coast: Can you now reveal any more who's who of the series creative team?
Denton: We have assembled a fantastic creative team for our flagship Dungeons & Dragons series. John Rogers has signed on as series writer, I’m extremely excited to say. John’s a talented creator who has made his mark across multiple media, in Hollywood for writing the first draft of the blockbuster Transformers movie for Paramount, on the small screen for creating and producing Leverage for TNT, and in comics for co-creating the new Blue Beetle for DC Comics. His stories are fresh, fun, and capture the feeling of the most enjoyable D&D session you can recall having. That’s because John is a bit of a gamer himself, and as I understand it, has some cachet in that community.
And bringing John’s spirited scripts to life on the page is artist Andrea Di Vito. In the Italian maestro, we’ve landed a big-time talent who flexed his artistic muscle on Thor and Annihilation for Marvel Comics. He’s longed for a break from the spandex set, and his enthusiasm shows in every line he makes. Andrea was born to draw this book.
We’ll also have covers by the likes of D&D cover boy Wayne Reynolds, and Paul Renaud, French cover artist for Marvel Comics. I just got Wayne’s pencils for #1, and it’s pitch perfect. Can’t wait for people to see it on the shelves.
Wizards of the Coast: It's been mentioned that some stories will take place in the core world; as this world has so far been loosely defined in the current edition of the game, how will you go about fleshing it out for readers?
Denton: We’ll be exploring other settings in our upcoming Dark Sun and Forgotten Realms miniseries, but the Dungeons & Dragons ongoing series will all take place in the core world. Andy and I went to Renton and met the entire D&D team at Wizards of the Coast, and they were very gracious in welcoming us to help develop this brand new world. Our comics will begin fleshing out the “core world” along with upcoming novels by Bill Slavicsek and Alex Irvine. Bill personally reads our outlines and scripts, ensuring that it meshes with what’s in the game and the novels. Wizards has also provided us with early manuscripts to aid us in fashioning a cohesive world.
Wizards of the Coast: When it comes to the crossover from a roleplaying game to a comic series, is there a balance you'll look to achieve between these two genres—in other words, how will handle the freedom to tell your story in the comic versus sticking to the mechanics and rules of D&D?
Denton: A comic is an adaptation of the game, just like the many novels. We aren’t a slave to game mechanics, but we definitely want those elements to be present, and even embrace them. Those moments won’t derail the story, but gamers will instantly have an aha! moment. That said, we’ll be careful not break any rules that would be decidedly un-D&D. This is a Dungeons & Dragons comic, first and foremost. That’s the flavor we plan on capturing.
Wizards of the Coast: Likewise, will storylines tend to follow the conventions of comic books or roleplaying games; that is, in comics you tend to know a character's abilities upfront, whereas an RPG character gains new powers and items as they increase in level. Might we ever see this kind of development in the characters, or does this tend to complicate storylines and the ability to identify characters to new readers along the way?
Denton: We won’t be following many of the trappings of superheroes. This book will be a swashbuckling adventure, with plenty of action and amusing moments. John will be building on the characters, and as they grow so will their powers. And their threats.
Wizards of the Coast: One more on comics vs. RPGs! Traditionally in comics, a character's death is an unlikely and therefore monumental event; in RPGs, death is a far more frequent occurrence. Given those two measures, how will you balance death and the danger of dying in the D&D comic series?
Denton: Actually, life has become pretty cheap in superhero comics. Batman and Captain America died again recently, but neither were for long. Some superheroes that were on the “never to be resurrected” list came back: Bucky, Flash, the second Robin. But when you cheapen life, you cheapen the stories. Resurrection is a part of D&D, but you need to find a caster, a ritual book or scroll, components, and a lot of gold pieces. Most Dungeon Masters are pretty lenient when it comes to his or her friends’ characters, but John will make it quite a bit tougher on Adric and his crew.
Wizards of the Coast: Might we ever see the comic's characters statted out in D&D terms, or does it lend more to their mystery and possibility to keep such detail of a character's abilities and powers relatively undefined?
Denton: We will absolutely have our heroes statted out, one each for the first five issues. We also plan to share the monsters and other game content for readers to plug into their own games. Each issue will have bonus content to bring added value to the package. There will still be plenty of mystery in the story, and the characters will surprise you.
Wizards of the Coast: Conversely, how would you categorize some of IDW's other heroes in D&D terms: What kind of D&D character would you say is Doctor Who? Tank Girl? A Transformer?
Denton: Great question. Doctor Who would have to be a grand wizard on the scale of Elminster or Gandalf. No, definitely an eladrin rogue. Well, depends on the season. Tank Girl would be simply chaotic neutral. (I know that particular alignment is no longer used in D&D, but she’s always been an anomaly.) As for Transformers, I see Optimus Prime as a paladin with an Armor Class of 100.
Wizards of the Coast: Finally, what else are you reading these days, comic-wise?
Denton: I read lots of stuff to keep up on the competition, but for pure enjoyment I’ve been picking up Unwritten by Mike Carey, Choker by Ben Templesmith and Ben McCool, and Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin. I really want to work with Dustin Weaver, he’s knocking it out of the park with Jonathan Hickman on S.H.I.E.L.D. But my favorite comes in my IDW comps. Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez should be at the top of the sales charts. Right behind Dungeons & Dragons.
Find out more at IDW Publishing. Follow Denton on Twitter, @dentontipton, or at his blog, fromthetip.blogspot.com.