From Podcast to Comic: The struggle of translating an audio medium to print

Five years ago, one of the post popular actual play podcasts came into existence. The Adventure Zone is an podcast hosted on the Maximum Fun Network centered around the McElroy family playing dungeons and dragons. The DM (or dungeon master) is Griffin and the players are his brothers Justin and Travis and their father Clint. Since its first episode on December 4, 2014, the show had incredible success and quickly acquired a large fanbase.  Many people gravitated to the show because of its its unoffensive humor. Due to the show being an audio medium and the cast not really giving much description as to what their characters look like, different versions of the characters popped up and each artist’s rendition was different. None of them were right or wrong.

One of the most popular characters in the show was Justin’s player character Taako. The fandom quickly agreed that the character wasn’t white. I think a lot of people gravitated toward this certain look for the character because the ‘traditional’ elf look was tall, white, and skinny. Think Legolas. But The Adventure Zone is anything but traditional, so it makes sense that the fans wanted to break out of the go-to look for a fantasy elf.

A drawing of the character Taako by tumblr user lord-bilingual
Another depiction of Taako, this time by tumblr user apollinaresart

Many people also saw themselves in these characters and because of the lack of diversity in many other pop works pieces, took maters into their own hands.

The three main characters of the podcast by tumblr user princeofmints

The show carried on for three years until its first arc, titled Balance, ended. With the end of Balance, came the beginning of the graphic novel. The graphic novel was released on July 17th, 2018 and featured art by long term fan Carey Pietsch. It was met with some apprehension from fans, but once the first sneak peek of the art was shown, the fandom blew up.

All three of the main player characters are depicted as white, and while the McElroy’s have tried reassuring fans that these aren’t cannon designs, many were still upset with the lack of representation. It’s easy to see where the comic team was going with making the player characters white, the hosts that play the characters are white themselves, but that didn’t stop the fandom from voicing their criticisms.  

One of the first promotion pieces for the graphic novel

The comic team’s solution to the fan outrage was perhaps not the best option either. Taako (below left) was changed to have a blue complexion and Merle (below right) was changed to have a darker complexion.

The new designs for the main characters

While fans were still not content with the change, it’s what the official graphic novel went with in the end. After everything blew up, the show hosts issued a response to the backlash stating, “There is not an easy solution.” I have to agree with them here, really no mater what they ended up doing, people wouldn’t be happy with it. You can’t please everyone. They weren’t expecting their Dungeons and Dragons comedy podcast to gain such a avid following. While I don’t think making one of the characters aracial was the best choice, I understand where they were coming from in making the decision.

1 thought on “From Podcast to Comic: The struggle of translating an audio medium to print

  1. It’s on my list, I swear. I have friends who swear up, down, left, and right about this thing. They just love it that much. I’m not big on podcasts because I get distracted easily, but knowing there’s a graphic novel format might make it easier for me to enjoy. In the end, I just hope the creators are having fun. Things like this are a labor of love, and once the love is gone, so is the labor. You can’t make everyone happy.

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