Comics / European Comics

Donjon


By Patrick Bérubé
Dec 9, 2008 - 8:00

Donjon_01.jpg
The first volume of the series where it all began
The dungeon series began in 1997 when Joan Sfar kept asking Lewis Trondheim if he wanted to work with him on any project. After several turn down, M. Trondheim finally agreed to collaborate on a fantasy series that would parody the genre as well as being serious and entertaining at the same time. The story would evolve around a dungeon and his main inhabitant: Herbert the Timorous Duck, Marvin the vegetarian dragon and Hyacinthe the Dungeon Keeper. The dungeon is depicted like a business where adventurers are lured and then killed to obtain their treasures. And everything is done to attract more and more adventurers: rumors, new monsters, a captive princess...The setting, instead of being simply a generic medieval time/dark age, is Terra Amata a Earth populated by anthropomorphic characters. Thus was published the first volume of Donjon ( Dungeon) in 1998 and was originally supposed to be simple, stream-lined and be done by the tandem only...

After a second volume, also in 1998, it was a matter of time for the two fertile and hyperactive minds to come up with something they had not planned. Joan Sfar grew tired of not drawing and against Lewis Trondheim advice began to work on the 100th volume of the series. This new volume would take place in the future and would show the dungeon in his declining days. When M. Trondheim saw the first five pages pencilled and inked with an almost full script he agreed to start the new series which would be called Donjon Crépuscule ( Dungeon Twilight) but at one condition. If they were to do volumes in the future at the same time as the present, they also needed a series relating the beginning of the dungeon. So a third series saw the day and started his numbering at -99 to eventually catch up with volume 1.

Below you will find a list of what have been releases so far in these three series and a general description of the different plots.

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Donjon Potron-Minet volume -98
Donjon Potron-Minot (Dungeon The early years): This series is set at the beginning of the dungeon and start his numbering at -99. It is drawn by Christophe Blain. So far five volumes have been published in french (-99, -98, -97, -85, -84). NBM has translated and collected vol. -99 and vol. -98 in one comic book. The main character of this series is the Dungeon Keeper (who is not yet the Dungeon keeper...) featured as a young and naive man entering town for the first time in a quest for love and justice. Many characters of the later series will make an appearances and will reveal many secrets of the dungeon. This is definitely a coming of age tale with a mood that keeps remembering me of the Three Musketeers and Renaissance era adventure.

Donjon Zenith (Dungeon): This is the original series and thus start his numbering at 1. So far six volumes have been published in french (vol. 1 to vol. 6) The first four (collected and translated by NBM) are entirely done by Sfar and Trondheim while vol. 5 and vol. 6 are drawn by Kerascoët. The story evolve around the Dungeon and Herbert finding various magical objects that will change him forever... This series is one my favorite with a perfect mix of fantasy parody, humor, adventure and drama.

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Dungeon Twilight volume 1 by NBM contains the first two volumes of the original french series
Donjon Crépuscule (Dungeon Twilight): Set in the future of Terra Amata, the story evolves around a very different Marvin the Dragon and Marvin The Red, a rabbit born red and named after the Great Marvin. Both of them are trying to convice the great Khan (which is in fact Herbert) to set to world right after he stopped Terra Amata's rotation thus creating a region called ''The Twilight''. Like many post-apocaliptic stories, this one is very dark and grim. Like if everyone knows that thing can't get worse and that anything that will happen will definitely be better. Volume 101 to 106 have been released so far in French and NBM has translated the first four in two different volumes.


Donjon Monsters: Did you think Sfar and Trondheim were going to stop with a 300 volume series in the work? If you did, you don't know them. In Dungeon Monsters, the duo scripted a bunch of stories about various inhabitant of the Dungeon. Those stories are set in various era so we oftenly get a glimpse of what will or what did happen in certain plot threads. They also have been using this series to elaborate some characters background which would have beed impossible inside the regular titles. Twelve volumes have been published so far with a different artist each time. This kind of give a hit or miss feeling to each volumes but most of the time I appreciated the art.


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Donjon Parade volume 1
Donjon Parade: I always wondered why this series existed. Instead of stories spanning decades and many characters, these one were set in a precise moment (between vol. 1 and vol. 2 of Dungeon), were shorter and always revolved around the same cast. That's when I spoke to Mr. Trondheim that he explained to me that there was once a project to adapt the title as a cartoon and nobody knew how they could adapt such a wide plot. To solve the problem, they created material that could be easily adapted into another medium. This is probably the more all-age series.


There is many ways to read all these series. You can read them by series or by their original publishing date. You can also read the whole story chronologically which is my favorite way of doing it. Doing so, you can really see the evolution of the dungeon and it's inhabitant. Some smaller trilogies also appear within this universe, following the same characters at various era of the dungeon. Since they are not listed as ''official'', you have to discover all the links between the characters which make for an interesting read.


In conclusion, the Dungeon series is one the new european classics. Ten years and more than 30 volumes later, the serie has a cult following and has been translated. The main authors, Sfar and Trondheim, do not seem ready to stop producing even better stories. I just have one warning about it. Even if most volumes seem all-age material, they are not. Dungeon, Dungeon Parade and some Dongeon Monsters might be but the rest is not. Under their funny and light aspects, many adult themes are aborded (rape, drug, murder). But don't let that or the huge numbering stop you. You should definitely read this series which as I said above is partly available in english from NBM.


 


Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 12:13

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