On The Adventure Zone Graphic Novel, Blue Taako, and Representation
Yesterday, we revealed some pages for our graphic novel adaptation of the first Adventure Zone arc, and received some criticism of the direction we went with for Taako’s coloring. This artwork reveal came some months after the first reveal of some of our characters, for which we also received criticism of our three leads, all of whom were white in these initial designs. Us and the graphic novel team realized that, yes, that is extremely bad, went back to the drawing board, and had several long discussions about how to best rectify this situation, resulting in the artwork revealed yesterday.
More or less all of the criticism we’ve received centers on Taako, whose skin is a pale blue color in these designs. What we’ve heard most is disappointment that Taako is not realized in these pages as a person of color — or, to be more specific, a Latinx or explicitly Mexican character. There was concern we had failed to follow through on an opportunity to get better representation for Latinx listeners, instead opting to take a safe route, and make Taako a fantasy color without any kind of real-world connection. Much of the criticism also focuses on how that color (or, to be more specific, green skin) has anti-semitic connotations.
This conversation was happening in certain corners of our fandom long before the graphic novel art reveal took place yesterday. We’ve heard criticism from some folks over our policy of not having canonical visual representations of any of our characters — a policy that has resulted in a genuinely humbling ocean of fan art, but also some instances of in-fighting between members of the community who take umbrage with one another’s disparate interpretations of these characters. Another criticism of that policy is that it inherently does not foster good representation, and in fact represents a noncommittal way of handling racial representation on this show.
Here’s the truth of the matter: I think all of this comes from this underlying friction between where The Adventure Zone and us, its creators, were when we started doing the podcast, and where we, the show, and you, the community, are at now.
Hey friendly reminder to everyone that Jenkins is the only character to have such a bad roll that he died
Griffin: Uh, and he points his wand at the meat monster and a bolt of fiery flame shoots out of it. Uhhh,
Griffin: And he rolled a 2. And uh, misses the meat monster by a country mile!
[Travis and Justin laughing hard]
Taako: The worst!
Griffin: Uhh, and uh, with that, it’s back to the top of the order! [laughing] Uh, which is, the meat monster [Justin laughing hard]. Which, uh, trudges over to Jenkins, uh, picks him up by the throat, and throws him off the back of the, uh, open caboose door. And Jenkins… [rolls dice, scoffs] rolls an 8 on his dexterity saving throw. And you don’t see Jenkins anymore, he is gone, he has been deposited out of the back of the train. You hear him go:
Jenkins: Smell ya laterrrrrrrrrrrr~~~
Taako was right; Jenkins was such a shitty wizard that he died from his own bad rolls.
“Lup and Barry are liches, and Taako is literally dating death so he’s just waiting for the day he can join his dead family.”
Killian laughed as Carey explained this during their in-home date. Carey sat on the couch in her favorite pj’s (Killians pj’s), and ate fantasy thin mint cookies. Her wife was busy next to her with her knitting, a hobby she picked up after marriage. Domesticity is a plague she welcomes.
“Okay okay so I guess that one wasn’t fair.”
“Your turn; Magnus, Avi, Kravitz.” Carey laughs to herself as she adds her best friend to the mix.
She hesitates for a second, looking down at the floor and slowly furrowing her eyebrows. Her teeth poke out further as she places her chin on her fist, putting her needles down and thinking. Carey snickers again at the cute face her wife makes before getting squished as Killian leans deeply against her.
“This one is haaaaaaaard babe~” she teases as she slowly smooshes a giggling Carey into the soft couch. Soon all that’s left is a struggling and outwardly laughing Carey underneath the much larger and now smirking Killian.
“You can’t just kill someone to avoid answering a question!” a muffled voice from the couch laughs out.
“Okay okay,” Killian tells the couch while still lying on her side, “Fuck Avi, Marry Magnus, kill Kravitz.”
Killian feels the couch struggle as her lovely wife escapes from under her with difficulty, only managing to pry her waist and up out, “You would kill Kravitz??”
“He’s dead! You just justified killing Taako cuz he’s dating Krav!”
“He’s also sensitive! You saw him on his first date with Taako, I feel like it would hurt his feelings to try and kill him…”
“But I also wouldn’t want to kill the other two! He’s a very understanding man when it comes to death.” Killian shifts not to lean all her weight onto the small dragonborn, she likes her women not crushed.
“You would rather fuck Avi over Magnus?”
“That was the more difficult part. Magnus would feel like a competition in bed. Avi is very kind, and he’s got really good alcohol. Magnus would give you free ducks for life though and I love ducks.”
“You do love ducks.”
“Not more than I love you, my sweet.” Killian smiles down at Carey as she slowly readjusts herself to get back up into a sitting position.
“Noooooo don’t get up you’re warm,” Carey whines as she wraps herself around Killians arm (almost as wide as her whole body).
“What, you steal my pajamas now you want to steal my warmth?”
“Well you stole my heart so I feel as if it’s only fair.”
Killian looks down at Carey with mild surprise on her face as bright scarlet spreads across her face and up her ears. She brings both hands to cover her face and Carey is taken with her, still clinging to Killians arm and laughing.
“You can dish it but you can’t take it, babe! I’m a rogue of course I have sappy things to say about stealing!”
They both collapse together in a pile on the couch. They giggle at the stupid games and laugh at the answers, enjoying each other. (And of course, the fantasy thin mints).
fun fact: taako lost some of his beauty in wonderland, altering his appearance. this was not an easy sacrifice to make, as he is a performer at heart, and it was a heavy blow even with what little he knew of the situation.
he is only realizing now that he no longer looks like his twin sister.
ok so a couple people have talked about a double wedding for the twins but i offer you this alternative…
imagine the twins giving each other away at their respective weddings.
each of them has their own day but they still walk down the isle together
At lups wedding she is buzzing with excitement and nerves for the man that she spent over a century with. Taako has his arm wrapped around her cuz he knows that she feels like she’s floating away and is probably a little numb from feeling so much. When they reach the alter he hugs her before going to stand next to Barry and places a hand on his shoulder, a last silent sign of approval
At Taako’s wedding he grips his sisters arm and she holds his white knuckled hand, rubbing slow circles with her thumb. they walk shoulder to shoulder and when the end of the isle comes she pulls him to her and embraces him firmly, probably whispering some joke about how somebody in a filagree white suit can be so fucking goth. she slips away and stands next to Kravitz. Taako visibly relaxes at seeing the two people he loves most in the world.