THE ADVENTURE ZONE and BUBBLE Meet in This Hilarious Interview - Nerdist
NEW
THE ADVENTURE ZONE and BUBBLE Meet in This Hilarious Interview

The Adventure Zone. Bubble. Adventure and RPGs and monsters. Two highly entertaining Maximum Fun network podcasts, two expansive fandoms, and one group of hilarious creators. All of that is coming together in a new group interview where they all talk about their upcoming graphic novel releases from First Second. And Nerdist has an exclusive excerpt from said interview.

Illustrated characters on the cover of The Adventure Zone: The Crystal Kingdom graphic novel

First Second

But first, let’s talk about these podcasts. The McElroy family hosts The Adventure Zone podcast, which premiered in 2014. They play a tabletop RPG (very Dungeons & Dragons) as a family and explore fantastical worlds in different arcs, taking their characters through boss battles, puzzles, and more. First Second has already published three graphic novels that adapt the McElroys’ adventures. The next graphic novel, The Adventure Zone: The Crystal Kingdom, arrives in July. Carey Pietsch joins the McElroys as writer and also illustrates the story.

Illustration of a girl looking at her phone on the Bubble graphic novel cover

First Second

Then we have Bubble, a scripted comedy podcast. A band of monster killers drives the story. They try to keep things safe around Fairhaven, a city that’s a bubble of safety and order. A literal bubble. But Morgan, known for her skills at taking down monsters called Imps, takes on a job with Huntr—a service like Lyft but for monster hunters. Things get weird. The graphic novel Bubble adapts the story of the eight-episode podcast. Jordan Morris and Sarah Morgan wrote the story, while Tony Cliff illustrated it (with colors by Natalie Riess).

Now for that interview, check it out just below this splashy spread from Bubble.

Illustrated comic book panels show a girl killing a monster in Bubble

First Second

Get ready for silliness with this interview.

Jordan Morris and Sarah Morgan—Co-writers and co-adaptors for Bubble

Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, and Travis McElroy—Co-writers and co-adaptors for The Adventure Zone

Alison Wilgus—Editor

Alison:

So, friends. One of the most exciting things about your books is how both teams use the adaptation process as a sort of revision pass for your stories. Looking back, what was that like from your perspective?

Jordan:

One of the issues with adapting Bubble is just, like, tonnage. It’s episodic, so there was stuff that happened in the podcast that was fun and funny but didn’t really serve the big story. The book’s a little more about the characters than it is about the plot. And, you know, I think a good example is the character of Van, we added a lot of backstory for him. That was actually Sarah who did a lot of the Van backstory-ing stuff…

Sarah:

I’m the girl, that’s supposed to be uh….characters and feelings. (laughs) It was mostly taking away, wasn’t it? All this “theater of ear” stuff of the podcast where you’re painting pictures with words, and then… obviously you have actual artists doing that in the comic, and you realize that you can take your massive chunk of dialogue out and put in like, one sound effect, and you say everything you wanted to say. That was the hard thing for us, wasn’t it? Putting pen marks through what everyone had worked so hard on.

Justin:

It was a nice opportunity for me, who was kind of more focused on my character than the overarching plot. [Adventure Zone Balance] was a story that we told over a couple of years and we were figuring out who these characters were as we were telling it. There was a span of a couple of months where I flirted with the idea that my character was an idiot, and that he was just making stupid choices. And now I can just go back and pretend that never happened. I didn’t do that. I knew what I was doing the entire time. It’s like a reverse magic trick.

Travis:

I’m interested in comparing this to the Bubble perspective, because Bubble seems like it was a much more polished product before the podcast ever aired. Are there things that you’re discovering about the characters and the story and stuff through the adapting process or like, “I didn’t realize that about this person”?

Sarah:

I’m going to toot Jordan’s horn for him because there’s so many different bits of world building going on with Bubble. There’s the podcast, there’s the comic and there’s the movie that’s going to be coming, and I know the story is different across all of them. So for me it’s more like writing like really good superhero characters. It’s like being handed Batman to write something about. The story is always solid. It’s much more about how deep we can get with these characters and make them do interesting things.

Travis:

Do you think that’s a product of like, comic book format versus podcast? Like because you can see their faces and facial expressions? Because that’s something we’ve found a lot, is body language and facial expressions have contributed so much to character work that we couldn’t do in the podcast.

Jordan:

Yeah, I mean, after pencils came in, we did a fair amount of rewriting. Sarah, I’ll go out on a limb and say that because we have both written a lot of late-night TV, you know, a value in that kind of writing is just like… sheer pages. How many pages of jokes can you turn in?

Sarah:

Yeah, we’re both very adept at doing jokes by the yard. And it’s such a process of taking the jokes out a lot of the time.

Justin:

I really wish we had had extra jokes to cut out. God, that would have been quite the luxury. Instead of staring at the page like, “Certainly there’s a joke somewhere. Certainly.

Everyone: (laughs)

Justin:

That’s actually one of the more embarrassing things to discover as you’re going through adapting and looking at transcripts and stuff. Like…man, a lot of the stuff I said was not actually funny but was just said loudly. (laughs) And then you see it on the printed page, it’s like, “Okay I can’t live with that for time immemorial, I’m going to have to actually come up with a joke here”.

Travis:

That’s where we would usually like, turn to Carey [Pietsch] and say like, “Hey, couldn’t you make that funny with like a weird eye twitch…”

Justin:

Maybe like a funny-eyed face.

Griffin:

Maybe his pants are falling down when he says it.

Alison:

I want to back up a little bit. You mentioned earlier about how Van, for instance got fleshed out a lot.

Sarah:

Well with Van….you know, we’re comedy writers, and we know that the best thing to do is find out where someone’s pain comes from. (laughs) It doesn’t get funnier than that for mining. And Van was the fantastic joke bucket where you can write amazing gags about hacky-sacks and being extremely online and all that stuff that Van is. But actually, if we’re going to go on a self-contained journey with him, we’ve got to find out why he’s so messed up. So we really put him through the ringer I think in the comic. In the end, I hope everyone understands why Van is as…Van as he is.

Alison:

Yeah and, in Bubble specifically, one of the things that I was really surprised by was how much more I cared about some of those secondary characters over the course of making the book. Like I would fucking die for Bonnie. She’s evil as shit, but I really love her.

Travis:

I think from our experience, that’s something that I think is a very “only in comics kind of thing.” Being able to see the facial expressions of the secondary characters as they react to some of the extremely dumb shit that our main characters say is so endearing.

Alison:

I wrote in my question, and I actually do mean this, that like when new pages turn up in my inbox, it’s like Christmas. Can any of you think of specific moments where you’ve opened up that PDF or that folder of images and you’ve had a moment of like, “This is so exciting! I’m so excited!”

Clint:

The train crashing into Jenkin’s garden was pretty remarkable. That was a huge one for me.

Griffin:

It’s a cop out, but the entire battle wagon sequence in Petals [to the Metal], which is like, to Carey’s great credit, about a third of the book? I was looking forward to seeing that and she did not disappoint. It fucking rips ass. It’s so cool.

Sarah:

I love how Tony does some amazing noises. Don’t you think, Jordan?

Jordan:

Oh yeah!

Sarah:

I mean his drawings are beautiful, but if he’s also writing sound effect for something, like someone squeezing fruit and it says “Squinch Squinch.” Annie smokes a bong and…I had to cut and paste this earlier, it’s “flocker plopppa flopper flopper popper”? (laughs) He fills the whole frame, oh it’s gorgeous. Sound effects! That’s an “Only in comics,” right?

Jordan:

Yeah. I absolutely agree with you, Alison, there’s nothing more fun than looking at new comics pages. I’m like…why have I not been doing this my entire life.

Sarah:

Mm-hmm!

Jordan:

There’s a moment where a character is talking to an asshole at a party. And in the comic, the characters have to push their way past the word bubble where the guy is talking about Crossfit. And we don’t have a ton of like, fourth-wall-breaky stuff in the book, but that was such a perfect visual example of what it is like to be trapped in a conversation with someone who won’t shut the fuck up about something you don’t care about. So yeah, it’s just like stuff like that, taking that kind of throw away-y joke and making it into something that’s like a million times more impactful.

Alison:

Jordan and Sarah, this is for your book, is there anything else that you both wanted to specifically talk about today?

Jordan:

Uh… let’s see, I’m going to go down this little pageroo here…. Oh, I want to hear from the TAZ crew about any visual or text-based jokes that you really like in your book!

Griffin:

It’s so stupid. There’s a scene in Petals where they’re climbing an elevator shaft, and an elevator car falls and they have to grab on to a cable, and they’re all hanging from this cable and Taako is like, trying to clamber up the other two, and accidentally pulls Magnus’ pants down, and his butt comes out. It also says like, “Butt,” like as if it is making the sound “Butt.” It is one of the more sort of puerile moments of the entire Adventure Zone cannon I would say, and Carey sort of like…made it more than what it is? And it just cracks me up.

Clint:

There’s a scene in Petals where Merle seduces a plant which was very much an audio joke in the podcast. But the reactions of Taako and Magnus in the art makes it five times funnier than it was when it first came out [in the podcast.]

Travis:

I literally cannot count the visual jokes that are so good in the books, because I’m still finding them? From time to time, Carey will just like go on Twitter and be like, “Here’s an Easter egg joke from Gerblins that no one’s found yet.” Like every sign in every town on every tavern has some kind of like joke baked into it. It’s really good.

Alison:

Sarah, you also have to answer this one.

Sarah:

(Laughs) If I could own one frame of artwork that I’d have it in like a, like a poster for my wall, I would like Annie with the burrito in the opening shot. It’s not even a joke, it’s just such a beautiful way of introducing the character. It’s a whole page of a woman happy with a burrito. And I think that’s a beautiful thing in life. Even if the cheese has pooled.

The full interview appears in the Bubble graphic novel, out on July 13. You can place pre-orders now for Bubble and for the next The Adventure Zone graphic novel.

Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of A Kid’s Guide to Fandom, available now. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.