Rat Queens Take Over at Emerald City Comicon
One of my favorite comics running is Rat Queens by Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. This book has been gaining fans steadily since its debut in September 2013. Both Sarah and I reviewed the series on WatchPlayRead in the months leading up to Emerald City Comicon—we loved it. On March 29th at Emerald City Comicon, I witnessed the growing popularity of Rat Queens first-hand. This popularity was evidenced by the fastest selling merch at the con, the near-constant crowd at table X-02, and the corps of cosplayers. Wiebe and Upchurch took questions from fans at a moderated panel and hosted a Rat Queens Social Club Live event at Raygun Lounge as a fundraiser for Gay City while in Seattle. I went to both and gained an even greater appreciation for this well-crafted series and the guys who make it.
The Rat Queens panel on Saturday experienced some technical difficulties at the start, but nothing can stop the power of dedicated fans and enthusiastic creators. Wiebe started the panel by cursing his cheap computer and it’s in ability to get a connection to show his presentation (images from the presentation can be seen on the Rat Queens Facebook page here. He kicked off the panel with a brief history of the origin of the Rat Queens. At first, they were envisioned as The Goblinettes, who were like a Josie and the Pussy Cats and Lord of the Rings crossover. They were a punk band that sang songs of love instead of angst. The title of this book was “Pussy Rats.” Wiebe and Upchurch agree, in retrospect, that is was not the best title. Soon after a few rejections, they started sending out their pitch pages without a title at all. With further refining, the ladies of the mercenary team Rat Queens emerged as college-age young women living in the literal fantasy world where they are paid well for their work and have lots of time on their hands. This scenario can get messy, as you’ve seen if you are reading Rat Queens. But that scenario can also be fun and allows for Wiebe to construct well-rounded characters with depth and emotional connections.
When asked where the inspiration comes for the Rat Queens, Wiebe admits that each is a facet of his own personality. The dislike of social situations the Dee displays in Rat Queens comes directly from Wiebe. Because he identifies with Dee’s personality more closely than the other characters, he claimed to be saving a Dee-centric story for the next arc. And, that is story will be slightly darker than what we’ve seen to date. He also said that the emotion of the books has taken a few readers by surprise. Those emotional parts are Upchurch’s favorite parts. He wants to make folks cry.
Wiebe went on to talk about his youth and growing up on the oil plains in Canada. He spoke about coming from a conservative household without Dungeons and Dragons, but where Star Wars was OK. And that the creativity he gained growing up has helped his comic stories not get stagnant.
I find Rat Queens to be empowering and fun along with many other women. Those attributes don’t always go hand-in-hand. But did Wiebe and Upchurch mean to create and empowering book? Wiebe says that it was not a specific intent. He does have a number of strong and wonderful women in his life, so the creation of powerful female characters happened organically.
Are the creators surprised at the success of Rat Queens? Both Wiebe and Upchurch did not expect Rat Queens to take off as it has. Certain creators are cornering the comic market right now. Like Wiebe said, “Fraction. You can’t beat that guy.” Upchurch ascribes success to the characters being real in personality and image. It is easy to relate to these characters. Wiebe adds that every reader picks their favorite characters and even the supporting roles are getting love from the fans, like Braga and Orc Dave. Violet is Upchurch’s favorite. He says, “Ginger and violence is a match made in heaven.”
Later that evening the creators hosted Rat Queens Social Club Live fundraiser for Gay City, an organization that supports the LGBT community in Seattle. Upchurch’s original Rat Queens panels and a few other pieces of precious swag were up for auction. It was a nice time and the creators were happy to chat with the crowd that gathered at Raygun Lounge. I met other Rat Queens fans and reconnected with a few old friends. It’s proof that comics bring people together.
The whole experience surrounding Rat Queens was awesome. Whether you are already a fan or if this post piqued your interest, there are resources for you. The Rat Queens Social Club is a live chat with Wiebe and Upchurch the weekend prior to the next issue’s release. Be sure to like or follow the Facebook page because there are new announcements all the time. A merchandise website is coming soon. Keep checking RatQueens.com (http://www.ratqueens.com/) and pick up yourself something special!
Buy your own copy of the Rat Queens TPB Vol. 01 Sass & Sorcery now!
by Adrienne Fox
Adrienne is a regular consumer of speculative fiction, fantasy, and horror content--with the occasional costume drama thrown in for good measure. She resides in the Seattle metro-area and is all too often relaxing at home with champagne cocktails, a stack of comic books, and her trusted canine companion by her side.