We are delighted to be joined by the writer Mark Sable this week. Mark is the writer of many comics including Graveyard of Empires, Grounded, War on Terror and Miskatonic just to name a few. Mark is working on a new project called Chaotic Neutral and we are delighted that we can about it with him today.
Hi Mark, we are so delighted to have you here with us today. We have been fans of your writing since Graveyard of Empires. We are soexcited to chat with you.
I’m delighted to be here! And thank you for the kind words about Graveyard of Empires, that’s a book I’m proud of and it means a lot.
We understand that you are working with Chris Anderson on a new project called Chaotic Neutral; can you tell us all about Chaotic Neutral?
CHAOTIC NEUTRAL is a 48 page comic and RPG adventure rolled into one. Inspired by old school role playing games like D&D, the goal is to capture the weird, wonderful and dangerous fantasy RPGs from the 80s in comic book form. And then let readers become players and interact with the world of the book.
Can you tell us about the origins of Chaotic Neutral?
I’ve collected role playing game books for almost as long as I’ve collected comics. I say “collected” because I was extremely shy as a kid, and had a hard time working up the courage to get a group together. So I’d study rulebooks and modules like they were the Talmud, roll up characters and craft these imaginary adventures…but never shared them with anything else.
Flash forward to 2014, when the Fifth Edition of D&D came out. I finally had enough self-confidence to first play, and then run games with strangers and friends. That was a life changing experience – to this day I run a weekly D&D game, and the camaraderie helped get me through the pandemic.
But something felt like it was missing from modern day RPGs. The books were more polished, but also…safer. Old school RPGs had painted covers, but inside was this amazing black and white art. Sometimes it was amateurish, but it was often edgy – with demons and devils – and always weird. It made you feel like anything was possible.
I learned that of fantasy had been watered down as a result of the so-called “Satanic Panic of the 80s”. Religious groups tried to convince parents that games like D&D could corrupt kids souls, and gaming companies folded much like comic companies did with the Comic Code in the 50s.
CHAOTIC NEUTRAL aims to correct that. Our tag line is “They said fantasy roleplaying games were dangerous and they were wrong. But now? Maybe they were right to be afraid!” We’re trying to bring back that edge, and imagine what a comic that would truly scare those fear mongers would be like.
At the same time, it’s not edge for edge’s sake or shock value. While taking inspiration from the old school, this is a book that’s diverse, inclusive and welcoming to the new batch of players that shows like Stranger Things and Critical Role have brought into this wonderful hobby.
Chris Anderson is the perfect artist and co-creator for this book. His work conjures up the weird nature of old school artists like Erol Otus, Dave Trampier and Bill Willingham (yes, the man known best for writing Fables used to do rad drawings for D&D)…but he brings a modern sense of whimsy that helps balance out the darkness and make it accessible for everyone.
Ryan Browne is also working on Chaotic Neutral; how did this collaboration come about?
Part of the propaganda of the Satanic Panic were these so-called “Chick Tracts”, pamphlet sized comic-books like “Dark Dungeons” by the late Jack Chick that depicted kids who dabbled in D&D meeting grisly ends. While the main story is told seriously, I wanted to satirize Chick’s work to add to the feeling that CHAOTIC NEUTRAL was an artifact of the 80s. I’m lucky enough to be friends with Ryan, who does humor better than anyone in comics, and it seemed like a the only person who could pull that off.
We understand that Chaotic Neutral will also have trading cards; what can you tell us about these trading cards?
In the early 80s, D&D had these monster trading cards with stats on one side and old school art on the other. We decided to do a modern spin on that by enlisting 9 superstar artists to illustrate some of the classic and original monsters in Issue one of CHAOTIC NEUTRAL. We’ve been lucky enough to enlist Max Dunbar (Dungeons & Dragons), Jeremy Haun (Haunthology), Maan House (Godkillers), Jeff Johnson (Boondocks), Tom Neely (The Humans), Dan Panosian (Slots), Jim Rugg (Mtsryr: Octobriana 1976), Tim Seeley (Money Shot) and Kyle Strahm (Spread) in creating them. They are a true murderers row of talent.
As a creator, does the crowdfunding model and dealing directly with the public make the project more special for you rather than using a traditional publishing model?
I work equally as hard on all my comics, but there is something special about the process of crowdfunding. One of the things I’ve always loved about comics is the proximity of fans to creators. I love film, but I could never go up to a convention and meet Martin Scorsese. Comics was welcoming to me as a fan, and I love the opportunity to establish those connections to readers as a creator.
Do you have a favourite Kickstarter reward?
There are some cool stretch goals that haven’t been revealed yet, but my favorite reward connects back to your question about the special bond with the public Kickstarter can create. For a select few backers, I’ve offered to run the adventure in CHAOTIC NEUTRAL live (over Zoom) as Dungeon Master. I’m hoping that will be special for fans, and I personally can’t wait to challenge run them and their characters through the dangers that await inside.
Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?
Just that I know there’s a lot of great comics to choose from, but Chris Anderson and I are offering a unique experience. Whether they are comics readers, role-players or both, we’ve crafted something special for them.
A big thank you to Mark for sitting and chatting with us, we would like to wish Mark and all of his team the best of luck with their Kickstarter.
Feel free to check out the campaign: Chaotic Neutral on Kickstarter.