Sunday, July 5, 2009 Blankety-Blank, you!

When I was a young kid, I read quite a few comic books. My family would go on road trips for vacations, usually to Montana or Port Angeles to see relatives, once as far as California (Disney Land, suckers!). My mom or dad could run to the store and buy a stack of comics, and my brother and I would have several hours of time occupied in the back seat (in my youth it took me 30 minutes to read a whole marvel comic, skipping over the advertisements and such, thus 2 comics/'d need 20 for a full trip to Montana but there would be spent time sleeping and talking and fighting with your brother as well). Not that my parents purchased DOZENS of comics...usually, just three or four. But my bro and I would take all our favorite OLD comics, too, and simply re-read them.

Even before I started playing D&D (or at least around the same time) I can remember coming across TSR's advertisements in Marvel comics. Though neither I nor my parents were into buying whole series o comics (that would come later for me), I was always jonesin' for the next installment. Was Indel the Elf going to bite it with the green slime? (yes), was he going to survive falling through a trap door? (yes), was he going to get eaten by the dragon? (no, as it turned out).

You can check out the whole series here...I am greatly indebted to Das Ubernerd, for allowing me to read the chapters I missed.

What's more interesting to me at this late age, is the portrayal of Indel the Elf in these comics. Although, he morphs into something a bit more heroic over time (possibly through the addition of a new artist: Willingham) the first installment of the series shows him to be much less than the shining Elf lord of Tolkien. In fact he looks more like the Snap, Crackle, Pop boys or one of the Keebler elves. THIS is a problem for me (cue usual rant).

But it makes a lot of sense, ridiculous as it is. Elves in mythology started out as god-like being, then became simply fair and magical humans, then degenerated into naked cobblers and winged faeries...tiny little cherubs to decorate Victorian wallpaper. If you asked the average American circa 1970s what an elf looked like, he or she might well have described something like the Rice Crispy trio...assuming, of course, that they hadn't read Tolkien.

This little torchbearer, who seems "merry" enough, is the humorous clown of the group...getting himself into dangerous and perilous situations, he's in constant need of rescue. About what you'd expect from one of the "non-boss" Keeblers. Ugh...who would want to play that?

Maybe someone that wanted easier winning conditions? Indel the Elf, with a prominent lack of both magic and fighting ability, more resembles the Elf character from TSR's 1975 board game Dungeon! According to wikipedia, Dungeon! was released a year after D&D, but "was already in development when D&D was released." The Elf in dungeon is runty, he has no spells, and is the worst fighter of a player's options. However, he does find secret doors easier than the other available characters and he only needs to find 10,000 gold coins in treasure to meet his winning conditions; other characters need 2, 4, or 6 times that amount!

Ugh (again)...the origins of the hobby are mired in the murky depths of 30+ years, and the evolution over time makes it difficult to sort the history from the fantasy from the guesswork. Even Grognardia's interviews can only begin to scratch the surface of those early days of game development...who knows how someone's particular breakfast experience in 1976 influenced a whole line of supplements, or how a conversation after a night out in 1985 ended up changing long-held rules for generations to come.

I guess I'm giving way too much importance and time to a game. I don't grieve for those lost comics of my youth; strange that a game for players "age 10+" still continues to affect me today. I guess I have a lot of pent up things to say.


  1. LOL! You beat me to the punch - I was planning a similar post for the near future. I suppose I'll just have to point folks here instead. :D

    It's players with characters like Indel that get their friends TPK'd. :P

  2. Ha! Even more than Leroy Jenkins!
    : )

  3. Not being much of a computer gamer, even less of an MMORPGer, and even less of a WoWer, I was baffled by that comment - until I looked it up. Hilarious! :D

    "Leeerroyyy Jenkinsss!"

    I laughed so hard, I cried. :P

  4. I'm not much of a computer gamer myself. It was my brother (who DOES play a lot of WoW), who introduced me to the antics of LJ.

    : )