What It Is…
Gauntlet Comics is a shared, comic book-style universe for Gauntlet Community games. As we play more series within the Gauntlet Comics label, a more and more sprawling comics continuity emerges—centered on the bustling metropolis of New Gauntlet City.
Like the DC universe or the Marvel universe, Gauntlet Comics contains multitudes. New Gauntlet City is home to an abundance of superheroes and supervillains, as you would expect from a city that anchors a comic book line. But it also has room in its dark corners and forgotten chapters of history for monster-hunting cops, harried medical professionals, hidden wizarding schools, demigods slumming it on earth, and so much more.
This means that, in addition to many superhero games like Masks: A New Generation or Hit the Streets: Defend the Block, we can play any game that could conceivably fit into a city with superheroes. Some games focus on the more down-to-earth trials and tribulations of people who see superheroes as colorful interlopers, such as the stressed out surgeons of the E.X.T.R.A. Care Ward (run in The Ward). Other games reveal the lives of super-villains or their distrusted offspring, like the inmates—er, students—at the New Guard Academy juvenile detention center (run in Monsterhearts 2).
Though it can be fun to play around with continuity and callbacks in Gauntlet Comics games, you also don’t need to read up on anything in order to play. Like any comics line with multiple creators, Gauntlet Comics accommodates a wide range of approaches and tones, with room to reinterpret or retcon prior events as needed. There is a wiki collecting the characters, places, and events generated in Gauntlet Comics games. You can browse it for fun, and add to it if it strikes your fancy. But no pre-reading is required for Gauntlet Comics games, which like all Gauntlet games are fun, friendly, and Open Table. As Lowell Francis said of other shared continuity Open Table games, “References across games act as Easter Eggs rather than required information. But there’s an organic, emergent history there.”
A fun, but not obligatory, bonus to framing this all as a comic book line is the opportunity describe in-game moments using comic book imagery: cover gimmicks, splash pages, Kirby dots, etc. But if you don’t have that comic book vocabulary, again, no worries! We’ve all always got slightly different pictures of the game fiction we’re generating in our heads. The conversation around the gaming table helps bring our mental images close enough together to tell a good story and have fun while we do so.
Rich Rogers recounts the origins of Gauntlet Comics thus:
Gauntlet Comics was an idea I pitched to Lowell Francis and Jim Crocker, a shared-world setting that we could all play in. In the Gauntlet, we often run games for three or four sessions and have to say goodbye to those characters and stories, so we cooked up a world we could all play in, and we set up a wiki for pooling all this canon.
Once we were all on board, we invited Brendan Conway, creator of Masks: A New Generation, and played a long session of a Microscope hack called Spotlight (the same one used to set up the world for the Protean City Comics AP podcast). We used Spotlight to lay down the generational heroes and villains and some of the major events of the timeline.
And since I know an amazing artist named Alex Prinz, I hired him to create our Gauntlet Comics logo!
There are plenty of great Gauntlet Comics series Actual Plays collected on our YouTube playlist for you to enjoy! I’ll plug a favorite one or two here, and a few other Gauntlet Comics regulars will share their favorites in the days to come.
I’ve played in lots of great Gauntlet Comics games, so it’s hard to pick just one. Jim Crocker’s Coven Prime series of Urban Shadows has been a huge highlight, though. It’s a series set in 1999–2000 New Gauntlet City, conceived of as a crossover title for a number of occult superheroes like those published by DC Comics’ Vertigo lines (home of Sandman, Hellblazer, and Swamp Thing). In the first Coven Prime series, I played a noirish private eye ghost named Inspector Spectre. In the later two Coven Prime series, I’ve played a monster-hunter that I built in tribute to another Gauntlet Comics character: I imagined what the tarnished modern heir to the monster-hunting legacy of Maddie Midnight from the Golden Age Allied Angels series would be like. It’s been great, gothic, grime-stained fun!
A favorite Gauntlet Comics series I ran was Hedgewick Academy. We took the Hogwarts RPG and transplanted it into New Gauntlet City, exploring a magical boarding school in the city that prepared young wizards and witches for the trials of Coven Prime. It was fascinating running a Harry Potter-esque game in a setting of our own, where we could decide on some different facts about the wizard school houses (here called Lionheart, Raptorquill, Burrowdown, and Serpentine) and have established magical characters from Gauntlet Comics turn up as teachers at Hedgewick Academy. We packed a lot of magical mystery hijinks into just two sessions, including sinister reappearances by artifacts and antagonists who’d previously been spotted in sessions of Masks and Urban Shadows.
If you want to play games in the Gauntlet Comics continuity, you’re in luck: GMs are frequently adding them to the Gauntlet calendar, and every session is a jumping-on point! If you want, you can watch older videos and read the wiki—or you can simply join the fun and put your own spin on whatever corner of New Gauntlet City is being explored in that series.
If you want to run games in the Gauntlet Comics continuity, you’re also in luck: the list of folks who’ve run Gauntlet Comics games has slowly expanded, just like the ranks of writers and artists in a comic imprint. You might do what I did and reach out to Rich Rogers about running a Gauntlet Comics game. If you’re someone who’s played a couple of these games, he’s almost certain to give you his blessing. You might even get to name a new part of New Gauntlet City, as I got to name Undertaker’s Row in my Masks series. There’s still plenty of blank spaces on that map to fill with excitement, intrigue, and comic book adventures!