The main Advanced Dungeons & Dragons title ran for 36 issues (plus an annual), while other titles concentrated on popular settings like The Forgotten Realms (25 issues) and Dragonlance (34 issues).
However, in retrospect, the Spelljammer title was a bit of a strange choice. As a game setting it was always rather controversial, with many players objecting to the mingling of science-fiction elements into their 'straight' fantasy settings and many of the alien races were rather comical (hippopotami in Victorian naval costumes and giant hamsters being the ones using held up for ridicule).
Of course, Dungeons & Dragons has a tradition of mixing sci-fi with fantasy as many of its originators sought their inspiration in the pulpy sword-and-sorcery tales of the '30s and '40s, rather than Tolkien's high fantasy oeuvre (just look at the Blackmoor, Arduin or Tekumel campaigns).
Several smaller companies have produced Dungeons & Dragons comics since the DC era (including Kenzer & Co and Devil's Due).
The latest company is IDW which is bringing out a Dungeons & Dragons title in November (based off of the 4th Edition of the game) and then a Dark Sun title in the new year (set in the popular campaign world of that name).
The company also has plans for a Forgotten Realms comic later in 2011, although I suspect that may depend on sales of the initial brace of titles.
Oh, and there's rumours of the Wizards Of The Coast community forums that Spelljammer is coming back as a game setting for 4e in 2011.
As part of a cross-blog endeavor to promote lesser known comic book titles (entitled Read This Too), I am beginning my issue-by-issue review of the Spelljammer title today - and will hopefully stick to a weekly schedule to cover all 15 issues of this odd, little title before moving onto other Dungeons & Dragons comics.
Spelljammer (issue 1) - Journey's Song, Kirstig's Tale
Publication: DC Comics, September 1990
Creators: Barbara Kesel (writer), Michael Collins (penciller), Dan Panosian (inker)
Plot & Review: The narrative begins with cleric Kirstig leading a caravan of her tribe across the desert of a nameless world, looking for a new homeland, when they stumble upon a downed Spelljammer ship - which they mistake for an exotic but abandoned building.
In an almost Hitchcockian way writer Barabra Kesel then switches the focus of the story to the inhabitants of the ship - although a sub-plot involving an unpleasant scout trying to emotionally blackmail Kirstig into marriage does return towards the end of the issue. The ship's crew is a miss-matched bunch from several worlds and this provides Kesel with a good opportunity to info dump the nature of "spelljamming" on the reader - and the natives.
This segment also allows for some namechecking of other familiar Dungeons & Dragons worlds and places - such as Krynn and Waterdeep - and some well-known monsters (ie. umber hulks).
The caravan, which has dragged the spaceship along with it, soon reaches water and that's when trouble begins as the moody scout, Thrar, accuses one of the ship crew, Pax, of trying to steal Kirstig away from him. In the ensuing brouhaha, the spaceship takes off with its old crew joined accidentally by Kirstig and a number of other 'stowaways'.
A solid introduction to the series, with slightly too many characters to keep track of and Kesel taking the rather disappointing approach that when magic is cast, all the spellcaster does is say the name of the spell (e.g. "dispel magic", "know alignment" etc), which resulted in a strange panel where three people are just saying the word "tongues".
However, the universe we are introduced to - especially in Pax's pocket guide to cosmology and spelljamming - is wide open for adventure and excitement and if I had been picking this up in 1990 I certainly would have been on the look-out for issue two.
It's going to be fascinating to see how the high fantasy worlds of Dungeons & Dragons are to be merged with the space travel and low-tech sci-fi of Spelljammer over the next 14 issues.
Other blogs taking part in this drive to promote lesser-read titles, Read This Too, can be found below. Please visit my comic book colleagues and bathe in their wit and wisdom...
- Adam Strange at It's A Dan's World
- American Vampire at Doom Patrol
- Astro City at Speed Force
- Booster Gold and Zatanna at Red Tornado's Path
- Essential Man-Thing at Firestorm Fan
- Forgetless at Girls Gone Geek
- Franklin Richards digests at Once Upon a Geek
- Glamourpuss at Being Carter Hall
- Peter David's Hulk at Fortress of Baileytude
- Jonah Hex at Boosterrific
- Scott Pilgrim at Toyriffic
- Son of Tomahawk and Thor the Mighty Avenger at Aquaman Shrine
- Spire Christian Comics at Mail It To Team-Up
- Strange Science Fantasy at Siskoid's Blog of Geekery
- R.E.B.E.L.S. at Indigo Tribe
- The Unwritten at K-Squared Ramblings
- Welcome to Tranquility at Girls Gone Geek