Darths & Droids for Best Graphic Story

This is a recommendation to nominate the webcomic Darths & Droids for the Best Graphic Story Hugo award.

I wrote an extensive description of the comic back in 2009, and I've mentioned it now and then since then, but I keep forgetting to write a more specific nominating recommendation.

The core premise of the strip is that it reimagines the Star Wars movies as a tabletop roleplaying game that's being played by players who live in a world that's much like ours except that Star Wars doesn't exist.

So, for example, the GM invented a group of mystical warriors called the “Jedi.” One of the players is a guy named Ben, who's really into roleplaying; he plays a Jedi named Obi-Wan Kenobi. Another of the players is a guy named Pete who doesn't care about roleplaying per se at all; he's a minimaxer who plays a robot named R2-D2. To quote his description from the cast page, he “designed a character to maximise all the skills he thought would come in most useful in a space game, at the cost of being a short, squat robot with no arms.”

All the images in the comic are screen captures from the movies, and all of the characters have (essentially) the same names, but the plots are radically different (the characters end up going on a quest to find the Lost Orb of Phanastacoria), and all of the dialogue is original to the strip.

The Australian group who makes the strip (the Comic Irregulars) finished the last of the prequel movies in 2012 (they're now well into episode IV). Which makes this a great time to nominate the first half of the story (the three completed movies) for a Hugo.

The story is often hilarious, is chock-full of geek references and entertaining stuff about roleplaying games, and makes a lot of Star Wars stuff make more sense than it did in the movies. (The Gungans, for example, are the product of the imagination of Ben's young sister Sally, who starts out as an overimaginative kid who got dragged along to the game, and ends up being one of my favorite characters.)

It goes through a slow patch at the start of episode IV, but it's picked up again lately. But it's really worth starting at the beginning.

Which will also get you relatively quickly to the most amazing thing the comic has done. I'll quote here from my 2009 entry:

[What] I found really amazing was the extravaganza they created for strip #50. In the text notes at the end of that strip, they reiterate that in the alternate universe that the players live in, Star Wars doesn't exist, and they elaborate on what side effects that lack has, with bits like “Throughout the 80s and 90s, all the greatest Hollywood blockbusters were big-budget family-oriented musicals.” And then they note that in that universe, the Comic Irregulars exist “and are making a screencap comic based on Harry Potter.” And they link to strip #50 of the Harry Potter screencap comic, titled Wands & Warts, which comes from the universe that the Darths & Droids players inhabit. (Strip #50, alas, is the only strip from that series that you can read in our universe.)

And at the end of that strip, the alternate-universe Comic Irregulars explain that in the universe of their fictional players, there's no such thing as Harry Potter. And in that universe, the Comic Irregulars are doing a screencap comic based on The Sound of Music, and there's a link to strip #50 of that comic, complete with notes on what pop culture is like without The Sound of Music.

And this goes on through two more levels of this alternate-universing.

It's an amazing tour de force, and I laughed and laughed. Each alternate-universe comic has its own FAQ page, and its own cast page, and my description is not doing justice to it; you really have to see it for yourself. But you'll enjoy it even more if you start with strip #1 of Darths & Droids and read through to #50 before you start looking at the alternate-universe versions.

Which is all still true, but it gets even better. Because every fifty strips, they add a new level of alternate-universing. They're now eighteen levels deep.

So even if you don't decide to read the whole thing, I strongly recommend reading strips 1 through 50 and then going through the alternate^n-universe versions of #50.

But do it soon, 'cause Hugo nominations close on March 10, this coming Sunday.

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