This is a very unusual issue of Forgotten Realms. I think it is best just to let Vartan explain it.
Yep, it is an inventory issue. You don’t see these much nowadays since comic book companies no longer seem to care whether a comic ships on a regular schedule or not. Back in the 80’s or 90’s though you would see them from time to time when an artist or writer fell behind.
Of course, this issue isn’t being run because the creative team fell behind. This time it is because next issue is the last one, so the creative team obviously decided to use this issue while they still could.
This is also going to be a very difficult issue to recap, since it doesn’t have much plot in the conventional sense. Rather, it is an opportunity for Jeff Grubb to have a little fun showing the “behind the scenes” process and for Rags Morales to draw pretty much every character in DC’s Dungeons & Dragons comic book line at the time. I mean, look at this page:
Vartan’s first stop on his behind the scenes tour is to talk to some of the magical luminaries in the Forgotten Realms. Specifically, he stops to talk with Captain Omen, Kyriani (Agrivar’s half-sister from the AD&D comic series), and Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun.
When Vartan tries to ask how magic works, Khelben and Kyriani quickly remember they have places to be. Vartan does manage to corner Captain Omen though, who stalls for awhile before admitting that “if you knew how it worked, it wouldn’t be magic now, would it?”
I should note that while they are discussing this, they walk past Elminster discussing “12th century Mulhorandain pottery” with two rather harried looking individuals.
The man with the stunned look on his face is Jeff Grubb, who in addition to being the writer of this comic was the Forgotten Realms lead in the games department at the time. The man changing out the tape recorder is James Lowder, who wrote the portion of the TSR Worlds Annual that contained the Realms’ Master crew and was the Forgotten Realms fiction line editor.
The next stop on tour takes us to a demonstration on swordplay from our two favorite fighters: Priam Agrivar and Ishi Barasume.
The two have an entertaining battle before Ishi ultimately outsmarts Agrivar and gets the upper hand. Ishi then takes a moment to give the reader a quick Forgotten Realms geography lesson.
After Vartan gives a brief weapons demonstration using a mace, he cedes the floor to Foxilion. He speaks briefly about rogues while struggling to set up a slide projector. Foxilion then gives a hilarious presentation on the races of the Forgotten Realms.
Foxilion points out that “the smaller the race, the more intelligent” before going on to talking about the monsters. He flips through hobgoblins, orcs, gnolls, giants, beholders, dragons, ogre magi, and dopplegangers before getting to one he doesn’t know. Unfortunately, when they turn on the lights it turns out not to be a slide!
The Realms’ Master crew engages in battle with the thing only to find out it has high armor class, is magic resistant, and breaths fire. Before they can slay the beast, R&D shows up to collect it. Apparently, the monster is so newly created that the haven’t even established its ecology and family habits!
The concept of worrying about this beast’s family habits sends the Realms’ Master crew into peals of laughter.
Vartan decides to visit R&D next. Outside of the R&D room he encounters Minder at her wits end. Apparently, the writers and artists are looking to redesign her again.
When Vartan enters the room, R&D briefly considers giving Vartan a twin sister, amnesia, a Ring of Contrariness, a Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity, or all of the above. Minder and Vartan flee, locking the door to R&D behind them.
I should note that when they do show the R&D staff, which obviously consists of people who worked at TSR at the time. The artist seems to be Rags Morales, but unfortunately I am not sure who the other ones are supposed to be. If anyone knows, please feel free to leave that information in the comments or to email me.
Anyway, having fled R&D Vartan and Minder are summoned “back to the set” by Foxilion. Vartan then takes a few moments to muse on how this story fits, or rather doesn’t fit, into the continuity. Is it just a just a passing fancy of Vartan’s mind? Isn’t it all imaginary anyway? Are we sure that we invented the Realms’ Master crew for our amusement or did they invent us for theirs?
Vartan doesn’t give any answers. He just turns the page, which shows the last panel from the previous issue, and tells us to “enjoy the story already in progress”.
- This issue is a lot of fun. It was a great idea for an inventory issue as well, since it is almost completely divorced from the continuity.
- This is the final issue to feature Rags Morales’ art. I can’t complain though as he gets to draw dozens of characters from different series and insert a ton of cameos from real life TSR staffers.
- When Vartan is fleeing being redesigned, one of the TSR staffers makes a joke that no one would be able to tell if they gave Vartan a Ring of Contrariness. This joke cracks me up.
- I have to thank James Lowder for identifying Jeff Grubb and himself in the Elminster scene. He sent me a nice email that talked about it after I put up my recap/review of the TSR Worlds Annual.
- Speaking of which, the fact that this inventory issue features Minder in her new form shows how quickly the TSR/DC deal soured. If you want more details about what went down between TSR and DC concerning the D&D comic book line, Jeff Grubb talks about it on his blog here and here.