Despite its name, no one can forget Forgotten Realms. And now the epic RPG landscape returns to comics with IDW and a very special guest: creator Ed Greenwood. Together, Greenwood and IDW are not only bringing back the older Forgotten Realms comics published by DC decades ago but also forging a path with new stories in an ongoing series.
Renowned about classic RPG fans, Ed Greenwood created the template for Forgotten Realms as a child, and took it to the then-new tabletop RPG game Dungeons & Dragons as it developed in the 70s. Over the years, Greenwood has wrote numerous campaign settings as well as prose novels, and was joined by greats like R.A. Salvatore to create memorable characters like the wizard Elminster and the dark elf ranger Drizzt Do’Urden.
And now in 2012, IDW is bringing back the franchise with collections of the late 80s DC series in things such as Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms 100 Page Spectacular coming next month, as well as new stories with the aforementioned Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms series by Greenwood and artists Lee Ferguson and Sal Buscema. Newsarama talked with Greenwood as well as IDW Senior Editor John Barber. Herein lie the lost lands!Newsarama: Can you tell us about the stories in the Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms 100 Page Spectacular?
Ed Greenwood: Sure! All four tales were scripted by Jeff Grubb, a brilliant writer with a knack for humor and dead-on insights into human nature, who was my partner in first introducing the Forgotten Realms to the wider world—and who suggested TSR publish the Forgotten Realms as a full-fledged fantasy setting in the first place! I really can’t say enough good things about Jeff, who is a nice guy, has a mind as sharp as a keyhole laser, and is as creative as they come (check out his Grubb Street blog to meet the man).
First up is a two-part adaptation of my short story “Elminster At The MageFair.” Which is a romp that mostly takes place at the Forgotten Realms equivalent of Comic-Con—a rather dangerous annual convention for arcane spellcasters only. Jeff wrote this one a few years back. Then we step back more than a decade to the early TSR/DC Forgotten Realms comics—first for the brilliant “origin story” of Jeff’s version of the stereotypical smart-mouthed halfling thief (in which we see how much more than a stereotype the character really is), and then for a wacky tale in which the main characters of the comic step out of the Forgotten Realms and into (a fictional version of) the real-world offices of TSR. So you get in-Realms romp, superb introspection, then out-of-Realms romp. Making the spectacular a good, fun read-and-re-read book, I’d say.
Nrama: Were you part of the decision making about picking the best stories from the DC series for this one-shot?
Greenwood: Yes. First we printed new copies of all the possible Realms stories, dissolved them into a grape mash and made wine, had the entire population of a town that shall remain nameless over for a wine- tasting and... oh, sorry. I’m a fantasy writer, and, well, sometimes... Ahem. Yes, I took part.
Nrama: John, what say you as editor of this series for IDW?
John Barber: We wanted to do something to celebrate Forgotten Realms when we launched the new series, and every conversation I have with Ed is a) an absolute blast and b) a lesson in some of the behind-the-scenes stories of the Realms fiction—particularly comics.
It came about naturally, if I remember right—Ed mentioned a favorite story at some point, and I thought—hey, it’d be great to have Ed pick out some stories for a big 100-pager. And maybe he could do intros, like our phone conversations… fortunately, he was game! Ed and I talked about what stories would be good, and he was the one that ultimately picked the stories you’ll see!
Nrama: Ed, what is your view of those DC issues in general? Would you be for IDW reprinting more of those in the future?
Greenwood: I loved both of the DC Forgotten Realms series, for two reasons: Jeff’s excellent, often funny characterizations, and the fact that I could settle in and read new stories—comic book stories, dang it! The Big Time!—of the Forgotten Realms that I hadn’t written. It’s a trifle hard to surprise yourself with a story you’ve written. Like every other Realms fan, there were things that looked different from how I’d imagined them, and stories that just didn’t fit well with the so-many-pages-an-issue format, but they were by gosh FUN, and I looked forward every month to each new issue.
Nrama: You’re also writing the new Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms comic series. First off, can you tell us how you became involved with this?
Greenwood: My agent, Andy Zack, asked me if I’d be interested. I suspect he managed to interpret my eager bellowings through the phone to mean that yes, as a matter of fact, I WAS interested. How Andy came to know about the opportunity is something I honestly haven’t asked about. I’ve been too busy chortling gleefully and writing stuff!
Nrama: John, maybe you could shed some light on this fated connection bringing Ed Greenwood in to write Forgotten Realms comics for IDW?
Barber: It was a case of great timing! Ed and his agent happened to talk to Ted Adams, our publisher, who put them in touch with Chris Ryall, our editor in chief, and one thing led to another! We were looking to do something with the Realms, and it really felt like everything came together perfectly.
Nrama: What’s the first story in the comic about?
Greenwood: It’s about five issues long.
And there are pictures, lots of pictures.
Nrama: Sounds promising. Tell us more.
Greenwood: It’s got fighting and lots of running around, a mystery or two, some betrayals and dastardly villains to do them, and . . .
Ahem. Okay, the first story introduces us to all three of the main characters the book will start out following. We mainly spend time with two of them, two human males who are good friends. As things unfold, they’ll have to be!
Nrama: And the heroes of this tale – can you tell us about them?Greenwood: Our heroes aren’t really heroes when the story starts. We’ll see them become heroes as their first real adventures test them (most of the time, it’ll be a little like a smith testing a new swordblade with his forgehammer!). These are new characters, not old favorites for Forgotten Realms fans, and they’re in their late teens in age. Two young guys living in Dock Ward (the harbor district of Waterdeep, notorious as its slum) named Randral Daunter (the taller, slimmer one) and Torn Telmantle (the shorter, burlier one). As our tale begins, they’re going to encounter some real nastiness, get a lot of good hearty exercise sprinting through Dock Ward with the City Watch in hot pursuit, and get involved with our third young hero: the Lady Talandra Roaringhorn. Who is, as our tale begins, far too clever for her own good. Also rich, beautiful, and politically important. Qualities that have not escaped the notice of our villains. Of which, being Waterdeep, we have more than enough of.
Nraam: You mentioned the locale this starts in, the storied town of Waterdeep that Forgotten Realms are deeply familiar with. But for those who haven’t read it, or maybe are getting greyhaired, can you give us the lay of the land here?
Greenwood: Hoo boy. The last time I tried to answer this one, it took me 14,000 words just to do the overview. Here’s the shorter version.
Although it’s now 1479 DR and some of the names (Piergeiron the Paladinson, the Open Lord of the city, for example, is long dead, all the guildmasters and other Masked Lords have changed for the same reason, there are new neighborhoods like Mistshore and Downshadow, and a lot of nobility have sold their titles to pay off their debts, so the new “Lord Ulbrinter” isn’t of the same bloodline as the old one—if you’re interested in these changes, Wizards has published six superb standalone novels set in this “New Waterdeep,” all of them still on sale) have inevitably changed, Waterdeep is essentially the same.
It’s a large, bustling crossroads cosmopolitan port trading city where coin is king, all sorts of odd creatures are tolerated, intrigues never end, and don’t worry about the details, because you’re not going to be seeing all that much of it very soon. Why? You’ll have to read the book to find out, of course.
Nrama: John, for art you’ve brought in an inspired team-up Lee Ferguson and classic artist Sal Buscema on inks. What kind of magic spell did you do to come up with this unique pairing, especially our pal Sal?
Barber: I have to give credit to Chris Ryall on this one, too! Lee had been talking to both of us, and Chris had the brainstorm that he should do this series. And Sal—it’s an honor to work with a legend like Sal. He was already doing some work on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, and it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. Chris and I are both big Sal fans—even before I came onboard, the two of us were talking about Sal over email. So it all worked out great.
Nrama: Speaking of classics… Ed, fans of Forgotten Realms know that this campaign setting is one you’ve had in your mind since you were a child dreaming up stories. What’s it like now to be able to tell these stories in comics?
Greenwood: It is GREAT. A dream come true. I have been avidly reading comics since I was very young (the first brand-new issue my Dad bought me was published in 1962, but the old barn was filled with stacks and stacks of older comics that had lost their covers), and I still have thousands upon thousands of comics. I am thrilled to get the chance to write comics—and to tell Forgotten Realms tales, to boot! Yee-hah!
Nrama: You’ve said in the past that your games running Forgotten Realms are darker than what’s in the official published stories sanctioned by TSR and Wizards of the Coast. Will we be seeing some dark stories in this comic since you’re in charge?
Greenwood: In charge? I am? Heh-heh, a big mistake on someone’s part, that I’ll make them ru—oh. Ahem. To answer you seriously: I like humor, the sort of gentle humor that points out human foibles. Wizards has approval over every script, and even if they didn’t, I’m mindful of the fact that people of all ages—some of them quite young—are fans of the Realms, and the book shouldn’t shut out this or that age. I’m going to try to tell stories, and let each tale skate its own way into dark or light territory, as the needs of the story steer me.
Yes, there’ll be some dark moments ahead, but I’ve always thought that the more explicit you are about anything, the less freedom a reader’s imagination has, to fill things in their way. So, together, we’ll see . . .
Nrama: In conjunction with the series launch, you’re doing the Forgotten Realms Character Creation contest where readers have a chance to see a character they created appear in the comics. Can you tell us more about how they will appear in the comic?
Barber: Well, that’s kinda top secret. As soon as I mentioned the idea to Ed, he was really excited, and knew exactly where the winner would show up. So there’s a real natural place in the series. Again—yet another thing that just worked out really well!
Nrama: And speaking of characters…. Ed, can we look forward to an appearance by Elminster or any of the other characters you’ve created over the years?
Greenwood: Quite possibly. I haven’t written any “famous favorite” Realms characters into the little bit I’ve finished thus far, but its early days yet. Again, I want story needs to rule, and we’ll see…