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5

BOOKS: The Monster Manual (part 1.2)

I realized that many readers may no longer have the aforementioned AD&D Monster Manual, don’t remember the art, or simply have never seen it. So, just to give an idea of how groovy it was, here are a few scans of some of my fav images from this book by artist David A. Trampier.

Hill GiantLizardmanSalamanderFire Giant
…of course, these images are © TSR/WotC/Hasbro.

It was a surreal moment for me to be able to get the opportunity to render some of these classic monsters for 1994’s Monstrous Manual, but I’ll yammer about that in the next post.

9

BOOKS: The Monster Manual (part 1)

As a maker of books, I am a collector of books. Actually I am a collector of many things as you will soon see in future posts.I want to share books that have affected me in some way: either by art, story or otherwise. My hope is that it will inspire other young creative minds like me or, at least, give a clue to my influences.

After the last post, I thought of focusing on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But I think I will save that one for later and, instead, hop to another book that had a tremendous impact on me: the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual.

First let me tell you that I did not own this book until about 10 years ago when I bought a used copy at a flea market in Brooklyn – its true. So how could this book have such an impact on me?

It is 1981, and a game craze has swept the nation. Next to the Rubik’s Cube and Atari 2600, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D for short) has all types of people rolling dice and casting spells before it recedes to a crowd of brainy intellectuals and geeky nerds. I am in 7th grade, and I fall under that latter category.

I attend Murray Middle School (we called it Murray Mental) and I still look like I am 9 years old even though I am 12. At this point in my life I love to draw, and have done so since I was very young – but so too have other kids, so I don’t think I am doing anything out of the ordinary.

One of my good pals, Rob, has all things D&D.

I have the basic boxed set – and that I have to share that with my younger brother and sister. Rob has all the hardcover books, even the Cthulhu version of Deities & Demigods.

I have notebook paper to create my characters on. Rob has pre-printed “official D&D player sheets”.

I have one adventure, “The Keep on the Borderlands”, that came with the boxed set, Rob has every adventure module you can think of and the little lead miniatures to boot.

But my favorite thing of all that Rob owned was the Monster Manual – an encyclopedia of all the D&D monsters. Immediately I loved the simple, high-school-student-folder-doodle pen & ink drawings of David Sutherland, Erol Otus and, (my fav of the bunch) David Trampier (or DAT, as he signed his art).

AD&D Monster Manual

Trampier’s woodcut-like, tattoo-inspired graphic renditions of goblins, dragon turtles, lizard men and giants just blew me away. And I wanted to draw just like him. So I used a tried-n-true technique that all grade schoolers know, and asked, “Hey Rob, can I borrow this book tonight and bring it back to you tomorrow?”

Sure enough, he was cool about letting me take the sacred tome home where I meticulously copied as many of the images as I could before returning it. He also let me borrow it so that I could use the schools art dept. opaque projector to copy some of my favorites. In a time before copy machines, scanners and jpegs, this was the only way I could get a copy of some of these cool images for my own library. And I loved these drawings so much. I still have them to this day.

lizardman1.jpg

To say that this had an impact on my art and career would be an understatement. Next, I’ll ponder on just how much of an impact it truly had…

firegiant1.jpg

11

Sophia Marie

hands1.jpg


Sometimes I wonder why it is I am so driven to do what I do.

I decided I wanted to write and draw stories for children my senior year in high school. My art teacher, Tom Wetzl, gave me a one-on-one assignment of my choosing for my portfolio. I chose to re-imagine and re-illustrate Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Re-reading the book had me hooked in ways it had never done before. I saw a deeper working to the words and pictures and tried to find allegories in it that I could relate to. Almost the way we try to associate to the meanings of lyrics in our favorite songs. I ended up re-reading all of my childhood favorites, House at Pooh Corner, The Lorax, Where the Wild Things Are, etc, and KNEW this is what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Anyways, I finished art school, worked for Dungeons & Dragons and bunch of other fantasy projects that were rich and rewarding to me. And all the while, I tried to sell my children’s book ideas to publishers.

Finally I was successful at doing it, and a logjam of ideas and concepts for stories (some that had been in my head since I was very young – especially one about a certain fantastical field guide) began to flow out of me. Every day, I feel like there is never enough time to tell all the stories and create all the books I want to in my life. But I never really asked myself why I HAD to do this.

There were so many directions I could have taken my art – right after receiving my degree, I tried submitting caricature and editorial work to all major magazines. I did fine arty modernism paintings in college and hung around a lot of local art galleries curious as to how one made a living as a painter. I even came pretty close to becoming a puppet builder for Jim Henson’s company. But somehow, I really only wanted to do books for kids. Why?

I suppose because I felt that if I had something to say, I wanted to say it to the younger generation and the families that surrounded them. I kept my childlike wellspring free of the clogs of cynicism and the muck of reality – no matter what Angela and I were experiencing in the world around us. I felt that was my job, my duty, to tell children to keep imagining, keep dreaming, and keep going on adventures of fun.

My idea wellspring is still very full and very unclogged. But last month, my daughter Sophia was born, and something got in my waters of inspiration that had not been there before – something that made me even more excited about doing what is that I do.

I can’t quite put my finger on it at the moment, I am still basking in the amazement and joy of this event, but I think that all the time and energy I have put into entertaining and inspiring other kids (and kids at heart) has come back in the form of a baby of my own so that I can relive and recharge my childhood as Ang and I experience the world again through her eyes. What a grand adventure this will be.

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