The Series: Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, and Stjepan Sejic.
The Heroes: A team of hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, fun-loving, totally asskicking female mercenaries.
The Ideal Format: A live-action series with a serious budget for the necessary magical SFX and prosthetics—HBO or Starz would be a good fit, given the mature subject matter.
When you hear “Dungeons & Dragons campaign,” your mind probably conjures up a dank basement, a card table, and four or five pimply boys with nasal voices and smudged glasses.
In truth, the D&D community is full of women, college students, and fantasy geeks of all ages and stripes who love to tell stories and enjoy a sense of community. The parents'-basement-dwelling social outcast is more an outlier than an apt representative of the collective whole.
In my own personal experience, I've known over a dozen lady D&Ders to every one man. That's a helluva ratio.
Which is why Rat Queens is so damn important: it's essentially a D&D campaign driven by women. The heart of the story follows the eponymous mercenary team, a brash quartet who know what they want and just go for it.
- Hannah is the mage: an aggressive, tattooed, and confrontational lady who would like nothing better than to pick a fight with the entire world. Her parents are necromancers, so she has a direct line to the next world.
- Violet is the resident dwarf and swordswoman. She's got a chip on her shoulder re: her culture and family and shaves her beard as a statement. She's also the most heavily-armored of the Queens and has a driving need to prove herself.
- Betty is fondly referred to as a “smidgen” by her teammates; she's pretty clearly a halfling/hobbit, and because of her size and speed, she's often the thief (when they need information) or a projectile weapon (in a melee). Betty's typically high on a lethal mixture of magic mushrooms and sugary candy and is pretty laid back as a result.
- Dee is the group's cleric and healer. An atheist with divine abilities, thanks to being raised in a cult that worships a flying squid—think Lovecraft meets the Flying Spaghetti Monster—she's also the homebody of the Queens. While the others love nothing more than a rousing bar fight, Dee would prefer to stay home with a big book.
Each lady is great in her own way. They all have different body types, personalities, and tastes and share a ride-or-die bond that sees them through a number of battles and betrayals. It's hard to pick a fave when they're all so damn good.
On the off-chance that you don't relate to any of the Queens, good news! There's a slew of other ladies to love and admire! Lola is the muscular second-in-command in the city guard; Braga is a death-defying lady orc built like a tank; Tizzie is Hannah's very blonde and very feminine friend-turned-chief rival; Faeyri is Betty's punk elf girlfriend.
Even some of the baddies are women! “Old Lady” Bernadette is a merchant, tired of the Queens constantly destroying her businesses, and the team has to face down a troll army led by a pissed off girlfriend (after they killed her boyfriend earlier in the story—hey, the dude was trying to smash them all into paste! It was absolutely self-defense!).
At every turn, there's ladies, women, girls! Kicking ass, cursing up blue storms, drinking every other mercenary under the table…
The men in the series are great, too, don't get me wrong—faves include Sawyer Silver, a former assassin and current head of the city guard, plus Hannah's “friend with benefits,” and Dave, Violet's burly orc mage boyfriend, who usually has a flock of bluebirds nesting in his impressive beard—but it's just so damn refreshing to see a fantasy story positively bursting with women!
As mercenaries for hire, the Rat Queens go on standard D&D quests and adventures: they slay trolls, clear out goblin caves, and battle mushroom people and tentacled hellbeasts from other dimensions. Due to their wild partying, they're on the mayor's naughty list in their current home base of Palisade and have frequent brushes with the law (good thing Hannah can usually seduce the Captain of the Guard and get them all off “on good behavior”).
The series is rife with humorous nods to classic fantasy RPGs—one of the competing team of mercenaries is creatively called “The Four Daves,” since everyone in it is named Dave. Orc Dave is Violet's boyfriend, not to be confused with human Dave, who's currently seeing orc Braga and looks damn good in a vest and little else.
Lovecraftian Elder Gods show up and start to tear apart the fabric of reality, which is never good for business, and the girls all complain about spending coin on armor repair and healing potions.
Game of Thrones remains the biggest thing on TV right now, appealing to both fantasy nerds and the Average Joe. This may sound blasphemous to some, but I'm gonna say it: if Rat Queens was a TV show, it would surpass GoT in pretty much every way.
Action? Yup, Rat Queens has that to the nines, and it's plenty bloody and thrilling.
Badass characters? So many to choose from! They've got cool outfits, badass scars and tattoos, super sweet weapons and magic wands. Tragic backstories, twisted family dynamics, secret husbands, and religious conflicts—simply pick your favorite poison!
Fantasy trappings and monsters galore? We've got your trolls, we've got your orcs, we've got your goblins and dragons and Cthulhus. Magic spells, healing potions, fine dwarven crafts, skull pendants, and necromancy!
Sex and romance? Check and check.
All of that, plus laugh-out-loud situational humor, witty dialogue, and some of the best swearing you've ever heard. Because fantasy can be serious and epic, sure, but it should also be fun. Rat Queens proves that just because you have sorcerers dabbling with unknowable arcane horrors, that doesn't mean you can't also have some downright silly comedy thrown into the mix, too.
And, let's not forget, some killer representation. Not only is there an amazing preponderance of ladies, there's also people of color (in a fantasy world! Because if you can have dwarves and dragons, you sure as hell can have black people) and LGBT+ representation (Betty's a lesbian and Braga's transgender).
For all of its classic fantasy trappings, Rat Queens definitely has a contemporary vibe to it. These characters don't sound like they attend Ren Faires or stepped off a Shakespearean stage—they sound like you and your friends (if said friends are really into boozing, brawling, and cursing, anyway).
That modern sensibility would set it apart from GoT, and there's definitely room for another well-done fantasy series in today's TV landscape. Rat Queens would be a great alternative for all of those who have gotten frustrated with/tired of/too angry about Thrones, are still suffering Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit withdrawal, or find The Chronicles of Narnia a little too PG.
With so many of us ladies demanding better representation and hungry for anything starring women, the network that adapted Queens would also be guaranteed a huge female viewership, which is nothing to sneeze at. We're half the population, folks, and we deserve to have more loud and proud heroines to admire in our media.
Rat Queens may currently be on an indefinite hiatus (woe!), but there are still three full volumes of material to adapt, and plenty of room to expand the characters and the world around Palisade. Wiebe and Co. created some meaty material that a wily TV crew could turn into a multi-season winner—and the pre-existing fans are already hungry for more.
By Bilford Bogin, a well-done TV adaptation would definitely not go amiss.
Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.