Murder on the Rockport Limited: From Podcast to Graphic Novel

With the release of the second The Adventure Zone graphic novel, Ally from Ally’s Appraisals and I thought it would be a great idea to look at how we each experienced the novel; myself having listened to the entire TAZ Balance podcast, and her only having read the graphic novels.

Naturally there are a few differences in structure for graphic novel adaptation, but a lot has thankfully stayed the same.

Warning: If you haven’t listened to the podcast for this arc, here there be minor spoilers.

 

How did you enjoy the story knowing/not knowing the podcast?

Amy: I loved the story because I loved reliving the story in visual form. I heard the boy’s voices in my head and I loved being able to read it with their voices.

Ally: Before reading Murder on the Rockport Limited, I had read the first in the series, Here There Be Gerblins and I remember really loving both the story and characters. While I’m not as familiar with the characters as Amy, I very much got a clear grasp of their characters.

Amy: With the hints and clues to future events I knew what was coming and I loved the easter egg hunt to see just what Carey had included in the illustrations. From background detail, characters in crowds or the smallest detail in character stat sheets it was a fun read to see the references I understood, and it often replaces some of the jokes that were excluded by simply making them visual.

Ally: Sometimes I would see little details in the background or read an offhand comment by a character and it would pull me up. Just the knowledge that this story has already been told in a different format really made me aware of little things like this – I couldn’t help thinking, ‘I am sure this means something to someone.’

Amy: It’s hard to say just listen to the arc to match the graphic novel because it draws from multiple episodes. Murder on the Rockport Limited takes storyline from episodes before and after the actual arc and even alludes to things that are far from happening.

Ally: I will admit that after I finished the graphic novel I did flip back to certain pages and ask my partner questions like, ‘will this come back in later books?’ or ‘Is this character important?’ I swear the characters Angus talks to at the end were too fancy and pretty looking to just be throw away characters – I swear they must be coming back or something!

Things Amy noticed that were missing or different from the podcast

While the majority of the storyline was there, naturally not everything could be included. Seeing which scenes and lines were omitted was an interesting game I played while I read and while I know some parts couldn’t possibly be included because the content wasn’t quite story related or only possible in the audio medium, they were missed.

  • I missed the references to everyone in the town of Rockport looking like Tom Bodett, and I wished desperately that Carey had made all the background characters look like Tom Bodett as a subtle nod, but I understand why she couldn’t do that.
  • In the podcast, The Director gives the trio tokens and are told to present them to the resident artificer and “he will help [them] out with acquiring a few new tools that [they] can use on [their] adventure”. She also provides directions and instructs them about how to find the chambers. In the graphic novel this is brushed over with the characters getting a guidebook which explains everything they need to know about navigating the moon base, and Taako mentions their first stop is to see Leon the Artificer.
  • Connected to this, Leon mentions it is against the rules of the Bureau of Balance to hand out magical items to people, and that instead they leave it to fate as a work around situation. This is the only explanation given before the tokens are put in and each character gets their new item. Everything else is the same, the items they acquire are the same, and Taako has the first of his many funny and trying interactions with poor Leon about how he uses the machine.
  • Structurally it contains not only the Rockport arc, but the Moonlighting episodes from before and after. These episodes, come to be known as Lunar Interludes, are the events that happen on the Bureau moon base that are separate from the adventure arcs. This is where characters level up, buy items and you get more of the overarching story from the Director. The way they have been split is perfect for the graphic novel as it gives great cliff hangers and it allows the Interludes to be included because they hold vital information as well.
  • There were a couple big scenes not included such as the initiation test the trio were required to do to join the Bureau of Balance as well as a battle in a swamp when they first land near Rockport. These are inconsequential really, though there were some great origins of later events, but this was early on in the podcast when Griffin was trying to have more random mini battles for the players and not simply continual story.
  • Robbie at the moment is only visually referenced which means no Pringles just yet but I have high hopes for his return if the story stays on the same track.
  • Just as in Gerblins the official licenced names of characters and places have to be changed so instead of going to Neverwinter the train is heading to Ever Summer which is just adorable.
  • The other big one is of course the ending. While the podcast arc ends simply enough, the novel adds a little extra that extends the character development and brings a few more details forward so we don’t need to wait for further arcs to learn things. It also gives a greater sense of the Bigger Picture and great foreshadowing.
  • Not quite a difference but additional dialogue is included that doesn’t happen in the original story. This is often still within the established scenes though and is more for space and timing than anything else. There is still word by word dialogue taken from the podcast, even if it is out of order it is included. Clint has tidied up Griffin and the boys’ conversations into something succinct and appear more intentional, the jokes that are spur of the moment on the podcast become clever and funny dialogue in the story.

Looking at the list it goes to show how much actually stays the same. The tiny jokes and the off the cuff remarks are the main things missing but they are also things that are funny in the podcast, not actually connected to the story (see Jenkin’s voice crisis which is a delight).

Ally: Oh wow! This does answer a lot of the questions that arose for me when I was reading. I did think the whole scenes on the moon were over so quickly! It just seems all so easy and glossed over how they joined the Bureau of Balance – I’m glad there is more to that whole part of the story.

Also Tom Bodett? Pringles? I – I honestly have no words…

 

Things that didn’t make sense to Ally as a first time reader of the story

While I extremely happy to pick up the two The Adventure Zone graphic novels and read them with not much prior knowledge, there were a few things that I thought I was missing out on. Nothing too serious just small moments and throwaway comments that let me thinking that there was probably more to it than what I read.

  • No dogs on the moon – I honestly have no idea why this caused such a passionate response. I know Magnus asked for a dog but the passioned panel of NO DOGS ON THE MOON really confused me. I just kept asking myself, why? What did the dogs do? Why aren’t they allowed back 😛
  • Leon and the gashapon machine that the trio used their tokens on really confused me. While it certainly was a visual joke that worked well, I think the conversational tone really threw me as I did not really get what was happening.
  • The part where the trio find out about the organisation and the moon base happened so quickly!

I felt like I had barely been introduced to this before we were speeding onto the next adventure. Like, what is the Bureau of Balance – I have a basic understanding but it did leave me quite unsure and curious.

As you can see, the main points that didn’t completely gel with me were the ones based on the moon. So, while I completely followed the main story, I did feel like the larger story and world building was a bit vague. Due to this, I did feel this part of the story left a lot of gaps for questions for me but because of how awesome the rest of the following story was, I was quick to forgive and move on.

 

Final Thoughts

Ally: Having read Amy’s post about her experiences with the graphic novel, I am shocked at how much content has been left out as well as how much foreshadowing there appears to be. Some of the content left out does appear to relate to moments that confused me, so it is good to know that there is the chance that it will be included and fleshed out more in future releases.

Amy: Overall, I think it certainly acceptable to only experience the story through the graphic novels because I have full trust in Clint and Carey to bring to life Griffin’s story and all the wonderful additions the boys made on their epic journey during production.

Ally: I’m not ready to sit down and listen to the podcast but as a first time reader, I am really enjoying the characters, the story, and the way that the DnD elements have been incorporated into it all.

*          *          *

It was fascinating to see how the graphic novel came across to someone who had never listened to the podcast.

If you’d like to read my review of Murder on the Rockport Limited click here or if you’d like to get started listening to The Adventure Zone: Balance from the very beginning you can find it here. If you enjoy a great story or actual play D&D podcasts it might be just the story for you.

 My review of the first book Here There Be Gerblins can be read here. The third book Petals to the Metal is available now.

 

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins (#1) by Clint McElroy

Published: 17th July 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 First Second
Illustrator: Carey Pietsch
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Star

Welcome to the Adventure Zone!

SEE! The illustrated exploits of three lovable dummies set loose in a classic fantasy adventure!

READ! Their journey from small-time bodyguards to world-class artifact hunters!

MARVEL! At the sheer metafictional chutzpah of a graphic novel based on a story created in a podcast where three dudes and their dad play a tabletop role playing game in real time!

Join Taako the elf wizard, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Magnus the human warrior for an adventure they are poorly equipped to handle AT BEST, guided (“guided”) by their snarky DM, in a graphic novel that, like the smash-hit podcast it’s based on, will tickle your funny bone, tug your heartstrings, and probably pants you if you give it half a chance.

With endearingly off-kilter storytelling from master goofballs Clint McElroy and the McElroy brothers, and vivid, adorable art by Carey Pietsch, The Adventure Zone: Here There be Gerblins is the comics equivalent of role-playing in your friend’s basement at 2am, eating Cheetos and laughing your ass off as she rolls critical failure after critical failure. 

The Adventure Zone podcast is a love and obsession of mine. For years I have followed the McElroys and their work, inhaling anything they put out with enthusiasm. They satisfied my desire to experience D&D before I was able to get into a game myself. This is the beginning. The start of it all, the three year, emotional journey that I suffered through that was the best and most brilliant piece of creativity and storytelling I have ever had to honour of listening to.

This is not about that. This is about the graphic novel of that podcast and aside from a few legal changes to official D&D names this is still the beginning of the story I love. The podcast was adapted to graphic novel by Clint McElroy and it has all the joy that the podcast brings. It remains true to the story and is a wonderful start to what would be a seven story arc experience. This first installment has the introductions of our characters Taako, Magnus, and Merle and the beginnings of their hilarious antics. Aside from reliving this story again, the bonus of seeing it play out visually was fantastic. Pietsch has done a brilliant job and the designs of these characters feels true to their personalities. The colours are diverse and vibrant and seeing what I had imagined unfold in front of me was delightful. I also love that Dungeon Master Griffin gets to be included in visual form. His little figure hanging over them is amazing and the inclusion of the interactions with the players is part of the brilliant humour.

If you love this, then you should check out the podcast from the very beginning because it will take you on a wild ride and as the boys become more familiar with the game and Griffin develops his story it is such an emotional investment, you genuinely will have emotions as a result of this arc. If podcasts aren’t your thing, there will be a graphic novel of each of the chapters in the Balance Arc so we will be able to relive the mastery through all seven of these story arcs. I cannot wait to have all seven of these graphic novels sitting proudly on my shelf to swoon over.

To adjust a quote from Justin McElroy who commented at the conclusion of this epic adventure: “Thus ends begins the Adventure Zone Balance, the story of four idiots that played D&D so hard that they made themselves cry.” A great teaser about what is to come.

You can purchase The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust