Sass & Sorcery! The Rat Queens, Putting the Fun (& the F.U.) Back Into Comics!

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

All Hail The Rat Queens!

Writer Kurtis J. Wiebe has a new fan. That fan, obviously, is me. And it’s all thanks to a burlesque show. I shit you not. How is that possible you might ask? Well, allow me to explain.

During this year’s ECCC (2015 Emerald City Comicon) the almighty Jo Jo Stiletto, the Professor of Nerdlesque, marshaled her forces to give the world this fantastic event: Guardians of the Sexy: A Geeky Celebration in Burlesque. The Professor “assembled a star-studded lineup of super geeks to explore what happens when fandom and burlesque meet live on stage. Our mission, should you choose to accept it, is defending the sexiness of all nerds regardless of gender, sexual orientation, body type, race, or ability. We are the Guardians of the Sexy.”

Now, the show was spectacular! Jo Jo is one hell of a producer. She knows how to arrange her shows to get the most out of each act, performer, and the crowd. Which, in turn, creates the best experience possible. If you haven’t had the chance to catch one of her shows, you really are missing out.

But, I digress.

One of the acts of this amazing show was called “The Rat Queens.” The act was a blast (thanks to Rebecca Mmm Davis, Crystal Tassels Johnson, Maxie Milieu & Tootsie Spangles for the great performance!) but it left me wondering “Who the hell are the Rat Queens, and why haven’t I heard of them yet?”

Seattle's own Rat Queens! Rebecca Mmm Davis, Crystal Tassels Johnson, Allexa Lee Laycock & Tootsie Spangles. Photo by Jules Doyle. All rights reserved.

Seattle’s own Rat Queens! Rebecca Mmm Davis, Crystal Tassels Johnson, Maxie Milieu & Tootsie Spangles. Photo by Jules Doyle. All rights reserved.

Thankfully, in modern day, all you need to do is ask Google –shit you can literally ask your phone– a question and BAM! the answer is right there before you.

My inner dialog after the search: So, it’s a comic book eh? Nice. Wow, it has less than 10 issues out…but it’s made a big enough impact to warrant an act at a Nerdlesque show already?!? Well, damn. I guess I’m going to have to give it a shot.

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

Now, to be honest, while I’m pondering these thoughts, my wife has already become enamored with the idea of the Rat Queens. So much so, that she marched up to the local comic store (with me in tow) the very next day to buy the first the Rat Queens TBP (issues #1-5).

My very first experience with the book (and I’ve heard it mimicked by another) wasn’t great. The first couple pages are extremely text heavy and, somehow, felt awkward and confusing. I could put on my comic book Editor hat and dissect it, but I won’t. My goal is to explain my initial reaction to the book’s opening scenes so if you feel something similar when you start reading the series, you’re not put off.

But, after that initial hiccup, things smoothed out letting the story, adventure, and excitement sweep over me!

The Rat Queens #1 Cover by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens #1 Cover by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

There is a whole lot to like about the Rat Queens. Wiebe’s writing is fantastic. The Queen’s (Violet, Dee, Hannah, and Betty) are a bunch of powerful, but flawed adventuring misfits. They’re a classic D&D trouble-seeking, party of adventurers. It just so happens they are also all female. OK, that’s not an accident. This book is a shot across the bow of tabletop RPGing and the comic industry as a whole. It certainly isn’t the only one of it’s kind. But it might just be the most successful one to date.

Violet & Betty with their current S.O.'s. Art by Stjepan Šejic. All rights reserved.

Violet & Betty with their current S.O.’s. Art by Stjepan Šejic. All rights reserved.

So, it’s a feminist book? Most definitely. The creative crew had the audacity to create a world in which most of the main/important character’s are female. They even went out of their way to design character’s with a variety of (semi-realistic) body types! Oh my god…the world’s going to end! Cuz, ya know, vaginas are evil or something.

Seriously, if this is a problem for you in any way…the problem is YOU, not the creators, the story, or this series. Do the world a favor and crawl back under your rock for another 100 years or so, we don’t need you.

/climbsbackdownfromhissoapbox

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

Ahem…where was I…

Oh, yeah, before I lost myself to pulpit pounding, I was talking about just how good the writing of this series is. It’s thoughtful, snappy, witty, and all the character’s problems seem so relatable, even if they are of fantasy or supernatural origin. It makes it hard NOT to like our trouble making Queens.

I enjoyed the first TPB (#1-5) of Rat Queens. After reading the second TPB (#6-10), I was in love with this series. Why? First of all, it’s fun. And I mean, really fun. But secondly, and I’m going to reiterate a point here –because it’s at the crux of why Rat Queens is such an enjoyable series–the Queens and their problems are so god damned relatable. Even the rationale behind the ‘bad guys’ actions, though somewhat (maybe even extremely) twisted, is relatable! (A Note: Wiebe’s writing of the Gerrig story arc is absolutely exceptional!)

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

As for the art, it’s beautiful. The series began with artist & co-creator Roc Upchurch, and the work he did was wonderful. But then, while working on a ‘feminist’ (I prefer just to call it a great fucking book!) comic book, he was arrested for domestic abuse. I’m just going to let that sink in for a second. I’ll not waste any more of my time talking about this P.O.S. But, if you want to know more about the incident click here. To read Wiebe’s response to it, go here.

The Rat Queens #5 cover B by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens #5 cover B by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens #7 cover by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens #7 cover by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

Not surprisingly, Upchurch was canned from the series and replaced by artist Stjepan Šejic. Which, surprisingly, might have even made the series even better!

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Stjepan Šejic. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Stjepan Šejic. All rights reserved.

Look, I could continue to wax poetic about this book, or you could just do the smart thing and go read it yourself! Image’s the Rat Queens site. Or maybe you’d like to follow the fun on Facebook: The Rat Queens.

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

The Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. All rights reserved.

Oh, one last thing. Think a book like this is only a fad? Think again, it’s seen so much commercial success that it’s already being made into an animated series!

So, Kurtis and Stjepan, you have Give Us Art’s grandest thanks for creating such a fun and entertaining book! We salute the shit outta’ you!

Art the World! (with awesome comic books!)
Savage1

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