Comic Book Curious

Living with a Graphic Novelist

September 16, 2022

I know absolutely nothing about comic books nor Dungeons & Dragons. I grew up on a basketball court. I learned at a young age to prioritize things: 1. Basketball. 2. School. 3. Family & Friends. Unless, of course, it was Sunday, then God would fit somewhere between School and Family but never, ever before Basketball. Basketball above all else. So, my free time didn’t quite exist the same as other kids. I followed my path of jockdom to the United States Naval Academy, became a Navy pilot, and now, I am 33 years old and still have never seen a single Star Wars movie. Of course, somewhere bobbing along on a deployment in the middle of the Gulf of Oman on no-fly days, I could have made time to watch it, I’m sure. The real truth is that I have no interest in sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes, etc. It’s hard to explain more than that.

The cover art for the Barbara Streisand movie Yentl

Credit: MGM

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am beyond weird. I have successfully lost my voice to Barry Manilow’s greatest hits, more than once. In high school, I would sneak the film Yentl late at night as if Barbra Streisand exposing her breasts after posing as a Jewish man to earn an education, was equal to being caught watching porn. I spent hours dramatically reciting Sylvia Plath’s poetry into my mirror until it was committed to memory. Trust me, I have weird covered. Nerdum just never really crossed my mind. I am green with envy now. Envious of the fandom that seemingly connects all walks of life in universes I know nothing about - but boy, am I curious.

My curiosity has a catalyst. We will call him “Gabe the roommate.” It’s Thursday morning, around 11:00 am, and Gabe’s door has been closed since Sunday evening. I was beginning to think he moved out. He never pees. Nor eats. Nor brushes his Einstein-like hair. Nor teeth. What is he doing in there? I knock. He mumbles something in response which I perceive as an invite into his lair. Pushing the door open, I discover him lounging in bed, hunched over his keyboard, snickering at his own jokes. This is the life of a graphic novelist, apparently.

The weekend arrives and I stumble upon a DJ performing in an outdoor amphitheater. It’s there that I perform my best rendition of ‘college me’ - getting drunk on margaritas, dancing like my life depends on it, to stumble down the street on a hunt for late night pizza. The Uber drops me off safely, and I fumble for my house keys. Hearing hoots and hollers from inside, I peer through the window to see cards and dice on the dining room table. In that moment I was sure that “Gabe the roommate” runs a large poker ring in our very living room. I burst through the door, excited to watch. However, where are the red and black chips? The suits, suspenders, and felt fedoras? The faux green table, the cigars, and expensive watches thrown in the center to double down? The glasses of light beer? (Clearly, I have no idea what a modern-day poker game looks like.) What is this?

A box sits at the edge of the table. A fuchsia gargoyle sits in the center. One friend removes a card from the center pile and expresses concern for the entire table. The dice roll.

“He got me. We all got hit. We all got blown back. Does Gabe get blown back? I think we all get blown back. Monster is dead, moving on. It’s an all-out war against the Ashardalon! Come on baby kill him! (Another die is rolled.) We did it! Take that mother trucker Ashardalon! (Fist bumps are shared.) The monster is dead!”

I’m not sure if it’s my own tequila haze or if I’m really seeing three men in their late 30s wearing Black Sabbath t-shirts, sipping cans of vodka seltzers, working together to defeat an imaginary monster on a Saturday night. I shrug it off and go to bed.

The next morning, I stare at the kettle on the stove through smeared mascara and a hangover. Eager to brew coffee that will save my life and, somehow, return an ounce of my dignity. My eyes drift towards the counter. I spot the infamous black box again; “Dungeons & Dragons.” I have heard of this game before. It’s the one they play in Stranger Things, in that sole episode I watched with a friend. As I pour the boiling water over my hipster fare trade beans, Gabe emerges and plants his hand down on the box, interrupting my gaze. “You know what this is?” Nope. But definitely not poker.

Gabe asks me to read a letter from some guy named Luke Gygax, whom he holds in high regard. As I read, I start to understand that Luke is the grandson of the creator of “Dungeons & Dragons.” That his grandfather cared immensely about storytelling; it doesn’t matter whether your story includes a red dragon so long as you tell it well and share it with others. This game is so much more revolutionary than my ignorant brain can ever comprehend. “Choose your own adventure,” Gabe tells me through a mouthful of cheesy gordita crunch.

I inquire, “When’s your next poker tournament?” Gabe looks at me confused. “I mean, when can I play ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ with you? Also, is the Black Sabbath t-shirt a requirement? Because I definitely do not own one of those. I prefer to wear a suit and a fedora.”

To be continued…

About the author: Erin Edwards is a Navy pilot who has seen the world from the sky and is eager to write about it on the ground. Though she is just beginning to dip her toes in the comic world, she is passionate about meeting new people and unfolding a whole new universe.

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