IDW and Oni Press have joined forces to deliver one of 2018’s most unexpected crossover events: Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons. As the title promises, Adult Swim’s iconic duo have dived into D&D with Rick’s signature lack of caution. The first issue also established that Rick’s been rockin’ a D20 since the ‘70s, and he’s passing on his knowledge to Morty in the most irresponsible way ever.
Writers Patrick Rothfuss and Jim Zub are collaborating with artist Troy Little on this four-issue miniseries. SYFY WIRE recently caught up with the entire creative team to get their thoughts on the story and share some exclusive pages from Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons #2, which resolves the first issue's cliffhanger ending. One of the things that was immediately clear is that early exposure to D&D helped shape all three creators.
“I genuinely wouldn’t be a writer today without D&D,” said Zub. “It made me want to create characters and tell stories. It made me want to entertain other people with those stories.”
Zub also told us that he started playing the first edition of D&D when he was eight years old.
“My brother is four years older than me and my cousins older still, so there wasn’t a heck of a lot we could do together where we were ‘equals,’” shared Zub. “When we played D&D though, my stats and dice rolls were just as potent as theirs. When I had a good idea or made everyone at the table laugh, it meant the world to me. I was hooked.”
“Way back when D&D was a shortcut to Satan and nerds bought comics from spinner racks, I somehow got my hands on a Red Box,” added Little. “I probably spent more time making characters than playing the actual game. I played on and off with a few friends in grade school until the sessions became fewer and further apart.”
Rothfuss’ first D&D experience wasn’t quite as positive. But he was immediately intrigued by it.
“I was in the 5th grade when I first learned about D&D,” said Rothfuss. “I didn't know anything about the game. But during recess there were a few kids in my school who huddled in the corner of the gymnasium. They had maps and dice and little figurines. They had books with dragons and wizards on the covers. It looked like fun… I asked if I could play. They said no.”
Morty’s first D&D exposure unfolded in a similar way, although he was invited into a campaign run by a girl named Annika. Of course, Morty doesn’t really know anything about the game. That’s where Grandpa Rick comes in.
“These days, D&D is everywhere, and all the cool kids are doing it,” explained Rothfuss. “So when it shows up on Morty's radar at school… well… you know Morty. He wants to be part of this cool new thing. But he doesn't know anything about D&D, and let's face it, Morty is always looking for the easy way out. So he goes to Rick for help and from there, pretty much everything descends into madness.”
“Rick has been playing D&D since the first edition,” added Zubb. “He’s OG with the DMG. He’s also a deranged obsessive-compulsive power gamer. It’s quite the combination.”
The first issue also introduced Rick’s old gaming crew, including a guy who looks suspiciously like Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin.
“I didn’t do that intentionally,” explained Little. “Also, I may be lying! Please roll a perception check.”
“That whole exchange is a bit of a loving homage to one of the classic gaming comics from way back in the day: Knights of the Dinner Table by Jolly R. Blackburn,” noted Rothfuss.
“If I had my way, Rick’s OG gaming crew would get their own series,” added Zub. “First Edition questing is a harrowing experience worthy of its own story.”
The crossover also gave Little the unique opportunity to mash up with the Rick and Morty cast with D&D classes and races.
“Getting to play around with different designs we could go with is endless fun,” said Little. “I could do that all day if I didn’t have to sit and draw the actual pages. Cleric Morty had me laughing at my own drawing for way too long. I’d draw a whole series spin-off about the misadventures of Cleric Morty.”
“I love Cleric Morty,” added Rothfuss. “Just looking at him makes me laugh.”
“There’s a great page in issue #2 where I got to draw the group doing classic D&D monster fighting, magic, collecting XP, treasure and traps,” noted Little. “It’s one of my favorite pages because it just has it all. The very first image I drew for the series was the cover with a Beholder/Gelatinous Cube team-up. It’s the stupidest deadly duo I can imagine. Jim and Pat have written a veritable menagerie of monsters and mayhem to keep me happily scribbling away.”
Additionally, Little noted that the crossover gave him the chance to revisit some of the classic D&D artwork that inspired him as a child.
“When I was a kid I would marvel for hours and Larry Elmore’s cover art,” said Little. “I’d try and copy them and they basically informed my thoughts on “This is how dragons are supposed to look.' I was obsessed with his Dragonlance art. His illustrations are spot on fantasy and as iconic as a Drew Struzan poster to me. I had the opportunity to draw little recreations of some of the classic D&D book covers in Rick and Morty style, which was a lot of fun and somewhat familiar territory.”
The first issue largely focused on the titular duo. But as you can see in the accompanying pages from issue #2, Beth and Summer are about to enter the story in a big way.
“As the story progresses, more and more the core family gets caught up in it,” said Rothfuss. “That’s really what I wanted to explore with this, the relationships at the heart of the family. Sure, Rick and Morty are the titular characters, but when you bring in Summer, Beth, and Jerry… that’s when things start getting really interesting.”
“Blips and Chitz shows up and there are are a few quick nods to other episodes, but we mostly stick to the core family in terms of characters,” added Zub. “The D&D material takes precedence over blowing [the] cast out and making it unwieldy.”
Rothfuss indicated that Rick and Morty bonding over D&D was very satisfying to write, but his favorite moments of the story have yet to unfold.
“I’m really happy with a scene in the first issue when Morty comes to Rick for help learning about D&D,” said Rothfuss. “I don’t know if that’s entirely my favorite though, there are a couple moments in issue #4 that I’m really excited about too… A lot of feels. I’m coming to the realization that I don’t feel like I’ve done my job as an author unless the reader cries at at least a little. I don’t know what that says about me.”
“Issue #2 has a big fight scene that cracks me up,” added Zub. “Troy jam-packed every panel with violent exuberance.... Troy and [colorist] Leonardo Ito are absolute troopers. The stuff we’ve asked them to put on the page, it’s quite mental. Hordes of monsters, constant character design changes, world-busting magic, and weird very specific references to D&D canon and pop culture. There’s a montage of the adventuring party gaining experience and growing bitter that Troy knocked out of the park. Every panel is its own story.”
Zub and Rothfuss also hinted at a few familiar D&D locations and monsters that will show up in the remaining issues.
“A horde of D&D monsters will be showing up throughout the series,” noted Zub. “Undermountain makes an appearance. We give lots of little nods to classic stories and settings.”
“I also make a bunch of s*** up,” added Rothfuss. “So good luck on figuring out which is esoteric lore, and which is the pure child of my demented brain.”
Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons #2 will be released on Wednesday, Sept. 26.