Tag Archives: Dungeons & Dragons

Books Acquired Recently

Cruz, Nicky, with Jamie Buckingham. Run Baby Run. 1968. Newberry, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2016.

Wilkerson, David, with John Sherrill and Elizabeth Sherrill. The Cross and the Switchblade. 1962. New York: Jove Books, 1977.

Mennonites like to play what is known as the “Mennonite Game” whenever we meet a Mennonite whom we haven’t met before. We try to figure out how we are connected to them via mutual acquaintances. This often involves hearing their last name and asking, “Oh, are you related to (person with same last name that the person asking the question knows)?” “Cruz” is not an ethnic Mennonite name, but many Mennonites of a certain generation still know it because of Nicky Cruz’s and David Wilkerson’s memoirs about converting gang members from New York City to Christianity. So members of my family used to frequently be asked “Are you related to Nicky Cruz?” The answer is no. Cruz is about as common a name as “Smith” is, but most white Mennonites don’t realize that. I am doing some writing about my family’s Mennonite history, including my father’s experiences as a non-ethnic Mennonite, and decided that I should actually read Cruz’s and Wilkerson’s books to help me understand why they were popular with Mennonites in the 1960s and 1970s.

Miller Shearer, Tobin. Two Weeks Every Summer: Fresh Air Children and the Problem of Race in America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2017.

Miller Shearer was one of my youth group advisers in high school before he went back to graduate school to get a Ph.D. in history. The Fresh Air program is one that many rural Mennonites have participated in, hosting children from cities (including some Mennonites) for several weeks in the summer. I heard adults talk about it all the time when I was a kid, so I look forward to reading his history of it.

Witwer, Michael, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer. Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History. Ten Speed Press, 2018.

As a result of my new Dungeons & Dragons obsession, I’ve been trying to read as much as I can about its history. I found this huge book about the game’s visuals on sale for $31.00 (the cover price is $50.00) and decided to buy it.

I purchased all four books from amazon.com because I had a gift card.

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Books Acquired Recently

Brautigan, Richard. Revenge of the Lawn, The Abortion, So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away: (Three Books in the Manner of Their First Editions). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

I received this omnibus edition of three of Brautigan’s books as a Valentine’s Day present. The only book by Brautigan that I’ve read is Trout Fishing in America, and that was about 17 years ago, so it will be good to have a fresh dive into his work.

Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2014.

Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2014.

Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2014.

Some friends and I have recently started playing Dungeons & Dragons (yes, dear reader, it was possible for me to get even more nerdy). After completing our first adventure, we decided that we want to continue playing, so I decided to buy the box set of playing manuals. I purchased these, Williams’s, and Womack’s books from amazon.com.

Williams, David. When the English Fall. 2017. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2018.

This is a novel about how the Amish fare after an apocalyptic natural event. It sounds like a similar premise as Leigh Brackett’s science fiction classic The Long Tomorrow, which assumes that Mennonites will come to prominence after the fall of current American society because they are used to living simply without modern technology. Williams’s biographical statement says he is a Presbyterian, but in his author photo he is wearing an Amish-style beard, so I wonder if he is ex-Amish or has Amish ancestry.

Womack, Ytasha L. Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2013.

My current research project is about two African American speculative fiction writers, Samuel R. Delany and Sofia Samatar, so I thought I should do some reading about Afrofuturism, which I know a little about, but not much.

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An Ode to Advertisements in Old Comic Books

I’ve been reading some older comic books lately, and I’m struck by how a large part of the aesthetic pleasure which results from this activity comes from the advertisements sprinkled throughout the books and on their back covers. In other words, the activity is more about re-experiencing material culture to create pleasant nostalgia than it is about revisiting my favorite super heroes. Here are some examples:

Defenders advertisement

This is a great page of ads from The Defenders #53!  It’s colorful, the range of fonts make it visually interesting, and it is also a fascinating artifact of the time when comic book dealing was becoming big business. There’s also the obligatory strength-training ad.

Here’s the back cover ad from the same issue:

Dr. J ad

Who doesn’t love a cartoon version of Dr. J? Are you a nerdy, 98-pound weakling type who needs the strength training offered earlier, or an athlete who likes to shoot hoops with his friends after school? Comic books bring both types together, just like a print version of The Breakfast Club.

But Marvel did not have a monopoly on great ads. Here’s a fantastic Bubble Yum ad from Tales of the New Teen Titans #4, complete with instructions for a magic trick:

Bubble Yum

And here’s an excellent Dungeons & Dragons ad from the back cover:

Dungeons & Dragons ad

The ads are light-hearted, meant for children, unlike those in comic books today. For instance, in the X-Men issue I wrote about in my previous post, there was a car ad and an insurance ad inside the book, and a motorcycle ad on the back cover (though I must note that the insurance ad was written in comic form like the Dungeons & Dragons ad above). Obviously the target audience for comic books has shifted in the past twenty years from younger teenagers to adults who grew up with comics and still read them (this shift has almost exactly coincided with my own maturing–I was the target audience in 1992 and I am still [or, perhaps, am once again?] the target audience today), but I think something is lost in the more expensive, high-gloss comics of today. The books themselves feel sterilized and are unpleasant to hold. The artwork is beautiful, but the objects that contain it are not.

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