Opening his Emerald City Comicon panel with a brief discussion about “Rat Queens'” most recent arc — which was much darker than what many readers had come to expect from the D&D inspired comedy series — writer Kurtis J. Wiebe revealed he had originally planned to kill Hannah, the sorceress with demonic ancestry, to boos from the audience.
After that revelation, Wiebe quickly turned to the gathered fans for their questions, which quickly led to an audience member wondering, “If you could have Roc Upchurch back on ‘Rat Queens,’ would you?” Upchurch, the series’ artist, left the title in late 2014 following charges of domestic abuse. “Roc is a good friend of mine, and we do have good conversations, and that’s where I’m going to leave that,” Wiebe succinctly replied.
“We’re going to deal with the fallout of what happened at the end of Issue #15, but it’s actually going to be funny again,” he said of the series’ immediate future. “I think Issue #17 is probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever written… There’s a scene of Betty and Violet Master/Blaster fighting…. I’ve always wanted to balance the comedy with the heartfelt stuff.”
One questioner asked if Wiebe had an end in mind for his fantasy epic. “It all ties back to what just happened,” he said, referring to #15. “That has been in mind since the beginning as well… I don’t want to do it just to fill the space. I want something meaningful to be happening, even with all the dick jokes. I’m building to something.”
Fans also asked about specific characters, such as Betty, the plucky rogue who loves candy and hallucinogens. “The thing about Betty is that she’s universally like the heart of the group,” Wiebe said. “That is a very big point in the next arc. I think there are at least three scenes of mushrooms in the next issue… No matter how silly we get with things, I have to remember that things have happened… The next arc is kind of all about trying to run from it, but it will come back.”
Regarding Dee, the Queens’ atheist cleric, Wiebe said, “As an atheist, she found out that her god exists. That’s like Jesus coming to kick you in the balls.”
“Is my wife here?” Wiebe asked, surveying the crowd when asked about his inspirations for characters. “She is not. Hannah,” he declared to the audience’s delight. “[They are all] aspects of myself to some degree, but Hannah is actually inspired by my wife, to some degree… Dee is probably the closest to me. I come from a conservative Christian family,” Wiebe said, elaborating that he now struggles with atheism and his more traditional religious background. Violet, the Dwarven fighter is “a reversal of standard D&D tropes,” while “Orc Dave is the man I want to be. I can’t do the shaved head yet. Maybe in a few years. Get some birds in my beard.”
“It was kind of a weird process,” said Wiebe about the series’ origins. “I met Roc Upchurch at New York Comic Con… He loved fantasy, I also loved fantasy. I’m a big gamer. The first pitch we did, which nobody wanted, was called Goblinettes, and that was an all-girl Goblin punk band. Because Goblins are always the bad guys, they sang about loving everybody. We still wanted to do fantasy, so we took some of that attitude and thought, ‘How about “Sex in the City” in “Lord of the Rings?”‘ Upchurch was intrigued by the idea, and ‘Rat Queens’ evolved from that. Wiebe characterized it as a response to standard fantasy tropes about women, but in “Rat Queens,” “everyone can equally do the same job.”
“‘Rat Queens’ was originally supposed to be a PG book,” Wiebe said to bewildered laughter from the audience. However, he quickly changed his tune. “Man, this does not feel the same without ‘fuck!’ And that’s how ‘Rat Queens’ was born!”
Asked about a previously announced “Rat Queens” RPG and animated series, Wiebe said the former is “kind of on hiatus right now.” Of the animated series, Wiebe said fans should “check my Twitter feed. I posted some pictures. Anything that happens in Hollywood happens insanely slowly. It is moving forward.”
Elaborating on the tonal shift between the various arcs, Wiebe said, “Comedy only really works when there’s good drama and good emotional pull. If the Queens became just a constant jokefest, you’d get tired of it. I’d get tired of it.” Wiebe mentioned Joss Whedon’s work, particularly “Firefly,” as an inspiration for the balance he attempts to strike between comedy and drama. “There have to be stakes, or you can’t relieve the tension… I wanted to deceive everyone that it was a comedy, and then ruin you.”
However, Wiebe is aware of the need to make sure he’s not cheapening the drama with inappropriate comedy. “You don’t want to make a joke that sacrifices the character… It always has to be motivated by the character… You need to be careful for your characters. You need to protect them. If Betty made some quip as Hannah was being dragged away, you’d probably have hated it more.”
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