Dungeons + The Divine
A new comic book series wants to explore the way that players find themselves absorbed by the worlds of roleplaying games.
Die is being written by Kieron Gillen – a noted tabletop fan and co-creator of acclaimed comic series The Wicked + The Divine – and illustrated by Stephanie Hans, whose impressive back catalogue includes work for both Marvel and DC. Clayton Cowles, a letterer who previously collaborated with Gillen on The Wicked + The Divine and also has credits on Batman, Star Wars and Daredevil books, makes up the third part of the creative trio.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Gillen described Die as “Jumanji as horror”, with a darker tone and atmosphere than the (arguably still terrifying) children’s film starring Robin Williams as a 12-year-old boy who is sucked into a board game and forced to survive inside its dangerous universe for almost 30 years.
In Die, six teenagers instead find themselves sucked into a roleplaying game in 1991, re-emerging two years later unable to talk about where they had been or what had happened. The comic begins in 2018, as the now adults once again find themselves drawn back to the game they thought they had escaped.
Expanding on the tabletop inspiration for the comic, Gillen said that the idea had first emerged as he jokingly considered the fate of the adventurers in the ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, which was cut short before its finale showing their eventual escape from the in-game world was produced.
He added that unlike some of the other comics based on roleplaying games such as D&D that took a lighter touch, Die would be “a lot bleaker”.
“I take fantasy games as seriously as I take pop music and this is a product of that,” he said.
As part of the creative process for writing the comic, Gillen revealed that he had designed a fully playable roleplaying game system from the ground up, which he hopes to release as a PDF alongside Die’s first trade paperback and then as a print edition once the entire series has concluded, with the RPG updated to reflect the storyline in the comics.
“My original plan was to release it as back matter in the single issues, but I reached a point when I realised the smallest form of the RPG gives huge spoilers for the last issue of the first arc,” he said. “Basically it lets you play through your own version of the first arc in a couple of sessions.”
Die’s first issue will be out this December. Its creators haven’t revealed whether they have a planned length in mind for the entire series.