A short review of the comic and an interview with the author.
Words: Ion O’Clast
Art: Rachel Dukes
Cover: Andy Warner
This comic had me from the cover. First of course the imagery of a cop car crushed by a d20. Well, hell yes, I’m going to read this. Happily I can say there is a lot to like in this short little comic.
I really don’t want to give away too much of the content, but I’ll share a little. For me this is such a nice summary of why I think projects like AGR are important in our radical space. The comic follows the narrator’s journey through subcultures talking about how each group has informed them. (I just realized I’m using narrator here. I assume it’s Ion, but I forgot to ask.) The idea of fantasy as an escape from anarchism was one that hit close to home for me, but also the idea that fantasy provides us with tools to inform our anarchism.
Our narrator states that these “subcultures don’t have a lot of overlap, but I do.” Which is probably a statement that the readers of this site will agree with. But I have to wonder. The majority of anarchists I know are geeks of one variety or another. Is it more true to say that we have just traditionally separated the two? I know for myself these two identities remained separate for years. Yet I can thank my early dreams of playing a Ranger/Druid who protected the forest from the encroachment of civilization as a catalyst to discovering Earth First. It’s only been more recently, after comes to terms with the fact that at least for me the two are inseparable, that I have found greater comfort in both.
Or to use words from the comic:
“…it’s obvious that radicals make for prime turbo-nerds. Which makes sense. If there’s one group that could appreciate the concepts of chaotic good vs lawful evil, epic struggles, suspension of disbelief, and (of course) pageantry, it’s anarchists.”
The comic also does a nice job of critiquing mainstream sci-fi and fantasy. I particularly liked this line: “This “all monsters are evil” trope is some Cis-Het Bougie-Morality Euro-Centric Civ-Loyalist dogshit.” The Con scenes are really great as well.
The interior art is pretty damn good and does a very nice job of working with Ion’s story. There’s a lot of little gems hidden in the panels and I found a few new details each time I reread the title. Rachel does a very nice job with it.
Seriously, check this out. It’s a short read that will be well worth your time.
Over the last couple of months, I had a chance to ask Ion a few questions about the comic. Despite our shared travel heavy schedules and long breaks from the internet we did a little interview.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m an A-gendered trash golem who sometimes exists in the bay area. I write comics, scare easily and wanna be friends.
What inspired you to create “No Gods, No Dungeon Masters”?
Originally it was my extremely talented cartoonist-bud Rachel Dukes prodding me to collaborate on a comic for the “SubCultures” anthology by Ninth Art Press. Which kinda threw me into an existential crisis. “What is a subculture!?” “What are the social cliches that take the wheel in my decision making!?” “Do I have, or have I ever, had a horde to call my own!?”
Most of the time I am a shitty nihilist hermit who is scared of everyone so social scenes aren’t something I put a lot of energy into the past 2 years. But they were very important at crucial times of my life for better or worse so there’s some very obviously traced threads going back to the nebulous realms of sci-fi/fantasy nerd bullshit & the (A) team. I decided to write about where those worlds toppled into each other, or where lessons from one bled into practices of the other. After the anthology was released we added a few extra pages and started tabling that baby all over the ding-dong place.
One of the inspirations for AGR has been a realization that for many of us anarchist folk, sci-fi and fantasy have been huge influences on our lives. How has your “geek” identity influenced your “anarchist” identity?
I went from Oogle Traveler Kid Reading Richard Feynman Alone in Corn Fields to trying fairly seriously to become an astrobiologist for a few years until I realized some things. Things like College=money & my scientific interest mostly orbited the theoretical (read: not yet proven to be real, kookoo, no-way sci-fi masturbation theories). I have learning disabilities that make academia/theory kind of impossible on my worst days. So narrative is the lense through which I have developed most of my political skeleton. Fiction, metaphor, poetry, folklore, ect have been indispensable in helping me gestate my sense of identity where life experience just was not enough. So my “geek” and radical identity don’t necessarily inform but influence each other so much as that I am always looking for the subtext in every story that makes someone an illegalist in waiting and sometimes my activism just turns into insurrectionary LARPing. There is real life struggle that would be dismissive to relate them all, (esp the ones I have the privilege to merely be outraged, not threatened by) back to some not real Tolkien shit. But it helps me to process struggle from the predictable, horrifying and often losing battle, to a place where it feels like a more subtle war of symbology and secession. And theory is important, I am thankful for what it has done to influence the people in my life who in turn influenced me. But I got more out of Frankenstein than I did from No Future.
I’ve always thought Anarchist praxis boils down to a kind of actualized fantasy right? …Or maybe the world building of fiction trained me to develop a paracosm that helps conjure meaning through resistance to systems that literally murdered an entire planet? Shit dude…I dunno. Leave me alone. I’m tired. What I am trying to say is I am the worst and I will ruin your party by yelling about orcs.
We spoke briefly at Emerald City ComicCon. What is it like tabling with a radical comic at a fairly mainstream event?
I am lucky to just latch myself onto more successful budz who table bigger cons and help out in exchange for a space to sling my comics. And like a 15 year old with a mohawk on picture day I kind of relish being that person at the con where the biggest weirdos are usually dudes in utilikilts. Weird femme goblin lurking behind a table, stalking the aisles, hissing at anyone who looks at me but also getting really flustered when people compliment my tights or I find other trans/radical babies. When people come by the table they usually know what they are in for kuz I dress like a slutty bomb throwing garbage bag and I talk often and loudly to any who will listen about what I think of corporate geek culture (against) and what we should do about it (burn it down). People who are already down seem to be taken in by the amazing cover repurposed from a shirt that Andy Warner (world’s wisest & most gentle cartoon man) drew for us. So then I get to talk about chaotic goods vs. lawful evils//segway into my sales line “Do you hate cops? Do you love D&D? Oh boy have I got a deal for you!”. People are usually pretty jazzed on it but I wish comics were a bigger part of more overtly radical events because I realize tabling straight COMIC conventions with no ideological undertone uniting everyone after we went back and added some more too the point panels that were not originally in it (to secure our royalty from the anthology) it became way less palatable to good natured con folk with its subtle “Yeah riots rule ok. Also, hit gross men at comic conventions, hit them with weapons. Respectability politics are the least important thing ever. Straight society must be ruined with many large rocks.” stance.
What’s up in the future?
I have a new comic out that my friend Elia and I made on our long stupid journey to get to SPX. it’s like high fantasy fanfic of a nihilist and a communist arguing. Also 2 synestesiate incorpoream’s dark magik ritual to capitulated a empire crushing void-monster. But mostly just orcs arguing.
Check out Ion’s work at: