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Colville and Samson Clear Up the Murky History of Vox Machina
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Colville and Samson Clear Up the Murky History of Vox Machina

You’ve probably picked up the digital first issue of the Critical Role comic book Vox Machina: Origins already. (If not, go check it out!) If you’ve been wondering about the story behind the story, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Writer Matt Colville and artist Olivia Samson have answers to your burning questions, including, “How much are Vox Machina themselves involved in the comic book?” and “Did you have to re-watch 100+ episodes of Critical Role?”

Minor spoilers for Vox Machina: Origins follow.

Friend + Fan = Incredible Creative Team

Matt has been familiar with Critical Role longer than the game has been on the stream. While chatting one day at a voice recording studio with his friend Liam O’Brien, Liam showed off some of his videos of their home game. “He said, ‘I think we’re going to start streaming our game for Geek & Sundry,'” recalls Matt, “and I thought, ‘This is going to be huge.'”

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Olivia has been a fan of the show since Episode 30. “I stumbled upon them on YouTube, and pretty much binged all the available episodes, and have been following along ever since,” she says.

While Olivia has seen some episodes so many times she didn’t even need repeat viewings to begin work on the comic book, Matt had a clever method for brushing up on Vox Machina’s adventures without making it through a hundred episodes again.

“There are tons of ‘Best of Scanlan’ or ‘Best of Grog’ videos out there,” says Matt, “and those are useful for two reasons. Obviously they condense down a ton of character stuff into one video, but they’re also great because they’re curated by the fans. I get to see what the fans think is cool or fun or memorable about a given character.”

It All Starts With Vex, Vax, And a Swamp

The first issue opens with the most natural team-up, twins Vax’ildan and Vex’ahlia. The pair have obviously adventured together their entire lives, and are distrustful of others, says Matt. “They’re two people who are used to relying on each other, and no one else, so there would have to be some extraordinary circumstances that force them to see other people as trustworthy,” he says.

Vox Machina Origins

The others, we’ll see, are also in team-ups, but nothing like the unbreakable bond of Vox Machina. “I thought it would be fun to see our heroes on different teams, teams where they obviously didn’t fit in,” Matt says. “The other heroes, when we meet them, they’re sharing their screentime with these NPC teammates. So focusing on the twins meant you get a first issue that’s highly concentrated Vox Machina.”

Capturing Vox Machina in Comic Form

It was important to both Matt and Olivia to get the characters just right when making the jump from the Dungeons & Dragons game to the pages of a comic book. For Matt, it was expanding the group’s motivations and mindsets.

“The great thing about Vox Machina is that they’re classic character archetypes, the fast-talking charismatic bard, the hard drinking, dumb-but-loyal barbarian,” he says. “But at the same time, they’re not Lawful and, in many cases, not Good! They do the right thing but often because it seems like if they don’t, no one else will.

“I think of all the characters we meet in these first six issues, it’s only Keyleth who is really just a good person who wants to do the right thing. That’s her background as an Ashari. She’s lead a somewhat sheltered life and it doesn’t really occur to her NOT to do the right thing.

Keyleth

“There’s a moment in the show where Keyleth says, ‘We are not good people,’ because she’s just overwhelmed with the sheer bodycount it’s taken to get where they are. I wanted everyone to meet the 2nd-level Keyleth who will eventually be overwhelmed at the trail of blood these guys have left behind. They do the right thing! But they don’t count the cost.”

Olivia focused on the smaller moments and subtle expressions to make sure that Vox Machina feels like Vox Machina. “I do quite enjoy leaving little hints to the individual character’s personality and relationship to each other, where I can,” she says.

As For the Real-Life Vox Machina…

The one question probably asked more than any other about the Critical Role comic book is how much the cast is involved in crafting the story. “Matt and Liam read all my scripts and give me feedback,” Matt says. “Marisha too, if she has time. Matt’s feedback, you will not be surprised, focuses mostly on the worldbuilding.

Stilben

“I go back and forth with him all the time on what terms these heroes would use for various things. Like, I wanted Scanlan to say something akin to, ‘If that guy’s a cop, I’m Eleanor Roosevelt,’ but I need the Exandrian version of that, and that’s when Matt gets a text from me at like 1:00 AM.

“Liam is pretty thorough when it comes to feedback about the characters, about what they all knew when, how they behave. Liam will text the other players if there’s something he’s not sure of.”

Olivia is excited to be a part of the comic book as a fan of the cast and show and as an artist. “I was very surprised and ecstatic (and a little tiny bit scared) when I was asked to join the project,” she says. “It is kind of a dream come true scenario.”

Pick up the first issue of Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins now on Dark Horse Digital and ComiXology.

All Images: Geek & Sundry / Dark Horse Comics

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