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Around the Store in 31 Days: Day Four

Brian Hibbs

I was going to write about a completely different book this morning, but then I saw the news that DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS co-creator Gary Gygax died on Tuesday morning.

The intersection between comics and games is often a pretty deep one — our forms of geekness are different, but there’s a lot of overlap between the two camps.

Back when I opened Comix Experience in 1989, it was de rigueur for comic book stores to carry gaming material. I opened my stores 4 doors down from San Francisco’s best (and, today, only) game store, Gamescape, so that I wouldn’t have to touch the things.

It’s not that I’m not a gamer (I am — dude, I was playing D&D when it was those three little booklets in the box), but I had a theory that it was better to do one thing really really well, then two things sorta half-assed.

But there are comics that are ABOUT gaming, and one of them is one of my favorite comics of all.

More after the jump!

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE is an odd bird. It’s typically (especially in the early days) just 6-8 static clip-art-style shots with lots and lots and lots of dialog.

Its also hysterical.

Some of it is kind of “insider baseball”-funny… a lot of the jokes might get lost on you if you don’t game yourself, but I think that, for the most part, the gags are pretty universal if you have even the slightest awareness of gamings tropes.

There’s a Rules Lawyer, a ground-down-by-real-life-so-he-needs-to-kill-imaginary-stuff-to-stay-sane hack-and-slasher, a hardcore roleplayer, and a dumb guy who goes along with his friends, plus their long-suffering DM, just playing games for 24 pages a month.

Some of the humor is just the absurdity of people so trapped in their world-view that they don’t know how else to deal with things (“OK, coming over the hill, you see a gazebo.” “A Gazebo?! What’s that?” “I waste it with my crossbow!” “Fireballs coming on line, BA!” “um, guys…?”), and some of it is about mechanics of games, or tropes that gamers all take for granted, but it is pretty uniformly hilarious.

A quick look at the book might make you turn away from the crude “clip art”, but the style will quickly grow on you, and sticking with it will give you one of the most consistently funny and whimsical “funny books” on the shelves today.

There are, as of this writing, something like 24 trade paperbacks reprinting the first eighty-something issues. Sadly, most of them seem to be either out-of-print, or at least unavailable from Diamond (and “real” book distributors, like Baker & Taylor simply don’t stock them), but the series is currently on it’s 136th issue, an astonishing and remarkable achievement by any standard.

I especially recommend the “Bundle of Trouble”s (that’s what they call their TPs) around the v4 to 8 range — they’ve found their voice by then, and worked out some of the kinks, and the “extra” stories in the backs of the BoT (typically, one reprints 4 issues, with another 30 or so pages of new material) like the “Bagwars” saga are amazing pieces of timing and humor.

Currently the series is a hybrid comics/game magazine — there’s 30-something pages of comics, and another equal amount of RP supplementary material. I almost always stop reading once the comics are done, but I still always feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of each issue.

I guess what I like the best about KoDT is that it is TOTALLY out of the mainstream of comics culture — it’s almost like the “Dev team” (KoDT is created by a team of writers, all switching back and forth each issue) fell backwards into the whole comic thing — it’s totally off the radar of most comics people, and yet its longer running and much much funnier than almost anything else running today.

There’s not enough “funny” in the funny books these days, so I’d urge you to try and track down some KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE today.

Me, I’ve got to get back to prepping for this week’s comics… and rolling a d20 salute to Gary Gygax…



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