People sometimes forget that tabletop fans have celebrities too. For years, GenCon has been a place to meet some of the biggest names in the industry like Margaret Weis, Monte Cook, and, for a long time, the late Gary Gygax. That tradition continued this year, with WWE Wrestlers, actors, and streamers all coming to Indianapolis to roll dice, meet fans, and maybe even play a game or two.
We were lucky enough to meet up with two of them at the show: Clint and Travis McElroy, two of the four “idiots who played D&D so hard, they made themselves cry” that make up smash hit The Adventure Zone D&D liveplay podcast with Travis’s brothers (and Clint’s other sons) Griffin and Justin. Travis is also the middlest brother and co-host of My Brother My Brother and Me (alongside oldest brother Justin and babiest brother Griffin), the co-host of the podcast Schmanners with his wife Teresa, the internet trend show Trends Like These, Run: A Doctor Who Fancast, the micro-positivity-pod Positiviteeny, and the yearly podcast crossover between MBMBaM and The Worst Idea of All Time: Til Death Do Us Blart. He will also be appearing in Trolls 2.
Clint co-hosted WTCR-FM’s morning show in Huntington, WV until his retirement in 2017.
Dan caught up with them later in the day, discussing just a few of the many, many projects they’re working on. After they had sufficiently sanitised (a bit to zealously in Clint’s case), Dan overcame his nerding out to actually get down to the dang interview.
The Fandomentals: Travis, I know that you’ve been to GenCon before, but Clint, have you been to GenCon?
Clint: No, this is my first GenCon.
FM: This is your first GenCon. So, what do you think?
Clint: Oh, I’m loving it.
FM: I mean, it’s day one, so…
Clint: Yeah, and it’s especially my day one since I’ve never been before, and it’s, uh—I love the vibe, I love the openness, I love being able to stand on the same field *begins to “tear up”* where Andrew Luck stands!
Travis: That’s what GenCon is really all about, the sports.
Clint: No, I love it, I think it’s amazing. And it’s just the sense of friendship and cooperation and everything—
Travis: That’s my favorite thing, just walking around and seeing tables of people—and I see people, you know, they tweet about it all the time and I have friends who tell me that they have “GenCon friends” that they look forward to all year cause they’re in like different locations and that this is their week, like, summer camp to get together and all play games together. It’s really, really cool.
Clint: Yeah, yeah.
FM: [to Travis] And how many years have you been coming?
Travis: Uh, this is my third, I think, maybe fourth.
FM: So, have you seen any games that you’re already interested in or…?
Travis: Uh, you know, we were walking around and I saw a Dune game (EN: produced by Gale Force 9) which I didn’t know existed before now and I’m a big Dune fan and it also looked just complicated enough that I would love it.
FM: Yeah, that looked really cool.
Travis: I like a game that—I like a simple game, but I like one where it’s just, like, by the end of it you’re gonna hate all the rules. That’s kinda my—that’s a big hit for me.
Clint: We were sprinting through the dealer floor so fast that I think we’re gonna go back a couple different times.
Travis: Yeah, we’ll scope a little bit more.
Clint: Yeah, I picked up, uh, Mutants and Masterminds (EN: Green Ronin’s superhero RPG), just in case we ever bring back Commitment and do a superhero story, you know.
FM: So, I wanted to ask about a couple of the things you guys are doing. First off, I think I’ll start with the Adventure Zone comic, the new volume just came out?
Travis: Yeah, just came out about a week ago. A little bit more. Two weeks? Two weeks.
Clint: Yeah. Two weeks.
FM: So now you’ve got Rockport (EN: Murder On The Rockport Express) out—
FM: And that’s really when things start to “get going” with the podcast so—where you start seeding things and get the characters set…How was it translating that to the comic compared to the first arc (Here There Be Gerblins), when you were still finding your feet?
Travis: I would say, overall, that it’s easier because we’re knee-deep into the process of working on Petals to the Metal too. I think we will hit a bell curve point where I think arcs 3 and 4 will be the easiest; let’s say 4 will be the easiest to adapt because it will be the most coherent we’ve been up to that point, but not as complicated a storyline as you get by the end. Adapting Gerblins took a lot of tweaking and stuff to make it all work, knowing what we end up knowing by the time we get to the end. And when we get to Stolen Century and Story and Song, there’s so much in the story that it’s gonna be really tough to figure out what can be trimmed without losing any context. So yeah, right now Petals to the Metal—and the next one’s Crystal Kingdom—these two I think are going to be the most fun to do. I’m having a blast on Petals to the Metal, it’s a jam.
Clint: The difference with Rockport was the fact that, since it is a whodunnit on a train (most of it), you know it was pretty linear from the moment we got on the train ’til the end of the ride. So it gave us chance to kind of expand the first part and the last part, the opening and the ending. So that was kinda fun. Once we got on the train, boom, it was straight ahead.
FM: Plus we get to meet Angus finally in the comic.
Clint: Yes, that’s everyone’s favorite moment.
FM: Same property, different genre: there’s a game coming out.
FM: As I know and as we know from TwoGether (EN:the game’s developers) it’s gonna be kind of a a hybrid kind of game.
Travis: Well, so, we can’t say much about it at this point.
FM: Right, I understand.
Travis: But the overall thing I will say is that we wanted to make a game that, much like when we worked on the graphic novel, right, if we’re going to do an adaptation of the stuff we’ve done, we want it to be like “it totally makes sense if this thing exists”. We’re never going to do a cash grab, we’re never going to do like a game —I don’t care, whatever. So we’ve been working with them to find like the perfect adaption of the game in way to be like when you’re playing it it will make complete sense to you that “this is what an Adventure Zone game would be.” And we’re really, really excited about it. We actually just started working—we got the prototype to do our first play-through of it and were really excited about it.
FM: That’s exciting!
Clint: And like Travis said, we want it to be its own thing just like we wanted the graphic novels to be their own thing, that you didn’t have to listen to the podcast. And with the game, we wanted to make sure that the people who play the game who are fans are gonna get a lot of enjoyment out of it and recognize stuff but we also want it to be playable for new people.
FM: Yeah, okay. Yeah, I think that sums it up unless…
Clint: Well, we just finished Journey into Mystery.
FM: I was curious about—how was that working with Marvel?
Travis: Oh, it was a blast. They were—and I don’t say this like I expected them to be jerks—but they were so easy to work with considering we were writing for like Miles Morales Spider-Man and for Kate Bishop Hawkeye, writing for all these like big name characters. Like we had Thor in one of the…
FM: He made an appearance!?
Travis: They were like, super cool to work with and their only notes were like “Well, actually five years ago this thing changed.”
Clint: Yeah, continuity issues. Like for instance when we wrote the first draft of it we had a SHIELD flying car that somebody was using, but SHIELD doesn’t exist anymore. So it was only continuity changes. And then my new—I did a three- story arc of Marvel Team-Ups with Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel; the first one came out this week and we’re real excited about that. The response has been really good. From what I understand I guess they’re probably going to gather Journey up into a collection—
Travis: A bound edition.
FM: Oh, that would be fantastic. That’s very cool, I know it was very successful and it was very cool that you guys did it.
Clint: We had a blast doing it, you now just the chance to play in that toy box was a blast.
FM: Well and you hope they ask you to come back, right?
Clint: Yeah! That’d be great.
FM: [to Clint] Well, they asked you to come back for a little bit, but you could bring the rest of them.
Clint: Yeah, we’ve got a couple irons in the fire. And if Travis could get that Wonder Man miniseries approved, that’d be good.
Travis: Oh, that would be a dream. All I want.
You can pick up a copy of Murder On The Rockport Limited at most major book stores as well as Indiebound. They’ll also be promoting the book as part of their greater Becoming The Monster tour, with tickets to their special TAZ shows still available in NY, Austin, and LA.
Images via The McElroy Family, Macmillan, and Marvel. Special thanks to Emma for transcribing the interview