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At Hutchmoot this year I was able to sit down for lunch with Jonny Jimison, the creator of The Dragon Lord Saga: Martin & Marco—the new, full-color edition from Rabbit Room Press. We didn’t discuss his new book, because he was busy teaching Douglas McKelvey how to play the card game that is a spin off from the book. That was fine, because I had already told him what I hated about his book—it was “Volume 1.”
That’s right. Hated. What, hated a Rabbit Room book? Well, sort of. Spoiler alert: this graphic novel ends with a cliff hanger. I’m not sure how I missed that when I started reading it. It might have been the high-quality printing or the gorgeous handling of color or the immediate laughter that the book gave me. Regardless, I was halfway through it before I got that sinking feeling that the action and adventure was just getting started, and I was running out of pages.
I was originally introduced to Jimison’s work through the Rabbit Room cartoons he posted. My favorite was the Every Moment Holy/Rick Astley one, of course. Those strips have been loads of fun, mining the peculiarities of the people and obsessions in the Rabbit Room community. But they did not prepare me for The Dragon Lord Saga.
The book is described as part of a five-volume graphic novel series which combines the fantasy adventure of The Lord of the Rings with the cartoon humor of Calvin and Hobbes. As I have admitted, I only read the first volume of the series, so I can’t speak to the veracity of that representation. In that there are dragons in it, and it is set in a Dark Ages-sort of world, I can see the Lord of the Rings angle. And as it is extremely funny and features a young boy, I can appreciate the Calvin and Hobbes reference. But if you ask me (and since you are reading this post, you are asking me), I think of it more as if it was Pogo plays Dungeons & Dragons.
It is rare to find a comic book that feels so classic and so contemporary. It is scrumptious to look at and a blast to read.Ned Bustard
The illustration style is so classic and warm that I can’t help but see a visual connection with Walt Kelly’s famous comic strip. Walt Kelly was a Disney animator (Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia) who created Pogo, a possum who lived in a swamp with a wide range of neighbors including Albert Alligator, a turtle named Churchy LaFemme, a skunk named Cousin Downwind, and more. The strip ran from 1948–1973. The Pogo strips are funny and insightful, plumbing the depths of human souls through anthropomorphic substitutes. The drawings of the characters and the settings are beautiful and animated. Not surprising since they come from the pen of a former Disney artist.
The Dragon Lord Saga characters and settings have the feel of a classic Disney film. The artwork sucks you in. You can tell it was colored with cool software, but it never feels cold. This alone is a huge accomplishment in my mind. And reading through the graphic novel, I had a hard time dismissing the expectation that the horse was going to break into a song. He didn’t (at least not in Volume 1), but he did talk. Oops! Another spoiler! Sorry about that.
I spent many Saturday afternoons in my college years playing Dungeons & Dragons. I even played it during some study halls at school. But I made sure not to be overt about such activities, since I was in a Christian school! These games were always filled with laughter, outrageous monsters, unexpected surprises, and allusions to Middle Earth. The Dragon Lord Saga captures all those feelings for me. That is why I balk a bit at pitching this graphic novel to readers as being like The Lord of the Rings. I love Tolkien’s classic work, but let’s be honest—hilarious sight gags and talking horses are not what ole J. R. R. is known for. In contrast to the epic adventures of Bilbo & Co., this graphic novel has all the laughter, outrageous monsters, unexpected surprises, and allusions to Middle Earth that I remember from my gaming days, and so much more.
I can’t imagine a graphic novel that is more Rabbit Room-ish than this. Buy it for your kids. Buy it for yourself. It is rare to find a comic book that feels so classic and so contemporary. It is scrumptious to look at and a blast to read.