Parverian Tales

By | Friday, June 15, 2007 Leave a Comment
When I was in my teens, I played Dungeons & Dragons with several of my friends. I had most of the books available and several years worth of Dragon Magazine. One interesting aspect about D&D, for those of you who never played, was being able to unleash your imagination through it. Certainly, the role-playing aspect of it required a lot of spontaneous creativity, but I -- and most everyone else I knew who played -- spent a lot of time in extended imaginings by developing their characters. Those of us who had any artistic ability whatsoever spent time drawing character designs and scenes from our imagined adventures, and everyone put a great deal of effort into devising elaborate histories and back-stories.

Ideas came from everywhere. We liberally stole from Tolkien, Howard, McAffrey, Eddings, Zimmer Bradley and any other fantasy writer. Imagry was copied from Frazetta, Vallejo, Hildebrandt, Elmore, Windsor-Smith, and anyone else who drew cool sword-n-sorcery images. Generally, our alter egos were, visually and characteristically, amalgams of our top five or six favorites from other creators. (My main character, Ladron, was a thief that bore quite a resemblance to Ralph Bakshi's version of Aragorn and carried a flaming katana.)

I mention all this because that's what came to mind when I began reading Michael S. Jordan's Parverian Tales. Jordan's stories have no relation at all to the characters and/or adventures we played in my circle of friends, but they have much of the same spirit and enthusiasm that I associate with those gaming days. It was only after having read some of the adventures that I went back and read up on Jordan's background, only to learn that these stories were indeed inspired by his D&D days as well!

The art seems strangely appropriate. It's stylistically very cartoony, despite the story itself not being overtly humorous. (It does have humorous moments, but it's definitely an adventure story first.) For some reason I haven't been able to figure out yet, the cartoons work. Maybe something to do with all the cartoon stories in the backs of those Dragon Magazines that I read once upon a time? Some of the older artwork seems a bit overly textured -- which Jordan acknowledges in his introduction to #2 -- but in scanning more recent stories, Jordan's gone to using shades of grey that seem to work much better.

The script is a bit verbose. It mostly works and helps establish the comic as being in the same storytelling vein as a D&D adventure, but there were a few instances where things seemed to get a little overly wordy. It does, as I said, lead to a very legend/folk tale type of feel -- which is great -- but I think Jordan seems to err on the side of verbosity just a little more than he might need to. My guess -- and this is purely armchair psychoanalysis here -- is that he's not wholly comfortable with himself as an artist and uses the text sometimes to clarify when he thinks his illustrations don't convey the story adequately enough.

I should note, though, that this is a relatively minor gripe on my part and probably is due in part to many of the books that I've read lately going entirely the other direction, letting the art tell the story with an absolute minimal amount of text. There's certainly room for failures on that end, and striking a happy balance between the two is quite nebulous. That said, Jordan's use of words generally works in his favor to set the ambiance of the story, and it's only in a few places where I feel it's a little over-emphasized.

The first two issues were published as regular comics, and the third was printed as an extremely limited ashcan. All of this has since been reprinted online, where the comic continues to this day. So, given that it's online for free, I don't see any reason not to recommend it. Especially worth a look if you spent any days in your youth playing Dungeons & Dragons, or just making up your own stories about Conan or Frodo or Belgarion.
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