RPG Idea: The Kirbyverse

You might have noticed a theme in my posts this week. NOooooo, smartass, not that they were cheap jokes (I'm working on something big, so brevity was of the essence). Rather, all the material came from Jack Kirby-drawn comics (even the Joe Simon feature). You know, Kirby is one of my all-time favorites. I love the imagination, the dynamic action, the crazy designs, the pure comic book goodness.

The question I'm asking myself today is: How do you reproduce that in a role-playing game setting? Maybe you're using the Fourth World in a DC Adventures game. Or the Eternals or Devil Dinosaur in Marvel Super-Heroes RPG. But you might want his flavor in non-superhero games, because guess what, there really isn't any type of comic he didn't try his hand at. Space opera is covered is Captain Victory, 2001 and the like. Kamandi is postapocalyptic. Tales of Asgard was straight-up fantasy, as was Atlas and about half The Demon. He's done war comics, western comics, horror comics, crime comics, romance comics... So we have enough of a corpus to derive the requirements for a Kirbyverse RPG...

1. Anything goes, the more comic booky, the better. Kirby has given us space gods that dress like WWI German officers and cowboys, death on skis, a lovable red carnosaur, energy crackle over Camelot, an fetal supervillain, and Don Rickles in spandex. Literally anything can happen in the Kirbyverse. When it comes to your plots, let your freak flag fly. Import things from other genres and other games. Be outrageous. Create things based on puns. Kirby enjoyed a good collage, so should you.
2. That wonderful tech. Kirby injects a lot of crazy technology into his stories, because he loves to draw it. This is a difficult thing to bring to life in what is essentially an aural medium, but not only should super-advanced tech with colorful names exist in your setting, but key locations should also be impressive. A knack for description should be cultivated. Kirby pages might be passed around as a visual aid. Indeed, his tech rarely looks like it's got a definable function until it is actually used, so you can repurpose all sorts of drawings. Players will soon start putting points in Understand Tech.

3. When in doubt--ACTION! Even Kirby's romance stories had their fair share of action. Every session should include a healthy amount of Clobberin' Time. Characters shouldn't run out a door when they can crash through a window. And destruction should be epic. It's important for a Kirbyverse GM not just to engineer violent encounters (violent, but not gory), but to describe the consequences of that violence in the most entertaining way. Hopefully, your system includes cinematic rules; you're going to need them.

4. Enthusiasm!!! Read the comics Kirby actually scripted himself in the 70s and 80s, and you'll find a level of bombast unmatched in comic book history. No matter what the circumstances of a fight are, characters should always be allowed to make bold statements before it starts. Everything should be blown out of proportion. The pride! The egos! The angst! The despair! All of it. Feel free to give bonuses to the most enthusiastic players/characters at the table. Those exclamation marks should be worth something.
5. Your sourcebook: The Kirby Reader. Dynamite's Kirby Genesis books from a couple of years back had the right idea. They cribbed through Kirby's non-DC/Marvel work and made use of characters who sometimes were barely more than a sketch. But Kirby's sketches are more evocative than other people's entire series. Let yourself be inspired. The Kirby Reader continues to be collected and features a lot of the King's sketch work which could inspire PCs and NPCs alike. The trick is finding the issues (or trades) that have the best sampling of "unpublished" art. A lot of the published stuff is fairly obscure too. Take the slim (or complex) back stories, or don't. I think letting yourself be inspired by a single image is perfectly legitimate when it comes to putting the Kirbyverse vibe in your game.

Don't be afraid to think BIG!


Bryant said...

Actually it was Dynamite, not IDW that did the Kirby Genisis series.

Siskoid said...

Good catch. Wow, how quickly I forgot about that company.


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