I recently found this old Planet Comic, Lost World, reproduced on one of my favorite Blogs (Pappy’s Golden Age of Comics). The hero bears the improbable name of ‘Hunt Bowman,’ and, by coincidence, he hunts with a bow. Accompanied by his sexy girlfriend, Lyssa, and his comrade-in-arms, Bruce, they wander post-apocalypse Earth and try to help the savage wandering tribes of Earthlings throw off the oppressive shackles of the invaders from Volta. It is worth noting that although Bruce looks like a Voltaman, he was originally a human whose brain was transplanted into a Voltaman body.
The Voltamen come from planet Volta and have wrinkled faces, no noses and wear Pikelhauben like World War 1 German soldiers. The have an almost Yoda-like speech pattern where they say things like, “Surrender you must!” and “Prisoners kill we will!”
Planet Comics was apparently published in the 1940s and 50s. It kind of follows the ‘savage man in a post apocalyptic world’ thing that somewhat resembles the early Buck Rogers stuff from the 1930s with Hunt Bowman standing in for Buck and the Voltamen standing in for the Mongols, but the Bowman comic is constantly referencing the ruins of North America by having the characters hide in a ruined department store, go hunting in an overgrown Central Park in NYC, jury rig a futuristic electrical generator to fire up a subway train and use it to escape from tadpole men, etc. Great stuff!
EDIT: Amazon sells a “Lost World” archive. Unfortunately, it is only via Kindle Edition. The good thing, however, is that Amazon now offers a Kindle Reader for the PC with late model OS (no Mac yet, though, as far as I know)… so if you buy the Kindle you are not limited to the Kindle’s tiny screen.
EDIT #2: (This was originally in comments, but I moved it here): I bought the ‘Lost World’ anthology for Kindle earlier but haven’t had time to read it yet. I’m glad Amazon/Kindle made the PC application available; from reading other books I think images look terrible on the Kindle (though type shows up great and I like reading word and pdfs on the kindle more than on my laptop).
The Kindle Reader for PC isn’t very versatile (but it is free). I think it was really made for reading text docs rather than comic books; it won’t allow me to zoom in on a particular part of the page to see a drawing in more detail (although it will allow me to enlarge the document till the image fills the screen on my laptop from top to bottom). Maybe if I look at it on my desktop that has a larger screen than the laptop?
The pages are scanned from old comic books and there is some variation in quality due to the condition of the old comic books (I’ve only looked at the first several chapters). On the other hand, I got about 700 pages of “Lost World” for ~$6.00 US that are, as far as I know, not available elsewhere so it seems like a good deal to me.
Recently Annie turned me on to the artworks of someone named ‘Slinkachu.’ Slinkachu takes little tiny model people and photographs them living their tiny lives and having adventures in the regular sized world. Check it out at http://www.gwarlingo.com/2011/street-art-of-slinkachu/
That’s how they did it in the old country!
Look at this picture from O.D&D of a ‘barbarian’:
Does anyone think that if I had all the back issues of Jack Kirby’s “Kamandi” comic that I wouldn’t eventually find the image of Kamandi that K. Bell used to copy his barbarian drawing?
I love Jack Kirby’s art. And I don’t think that pointing out that K. Bell, whomever he was, traced or copied a lot of drawings from comic books is a slag on K. Bell or early TSR — K. Bell may not have been a great artist, but at least he chose great artwork to copy. And I’ll take his scribblings over the airbrushed perfection of late era TSR ‘professional grade’ calendar art illustration any day simply because I find them more entertaining to look at. If I want to admire a painter’s illusion of reality, I’ll go to the museum and look at a Titian.
Now check out this picture of Kamandi about to get chowed by a purple worm:
OK, this is a dream I had last night (at least as well as I can remember it).
The dream started with me playing some sort of video game. The first part of the dream took the form of a computer video game involved loading a musket. One had to select the proper tools and parts from a list (like the ramming rod, wadding, ball, powder horn and other stuff) in the proper order and drag and drop them onto the right part of the musket. I have never loaded a musket, so it felt kind of ‘educational’ to me. There were a lot of weird looking tools in the menu; I suspect some of them were just ‘red herrings’ that my subconscious inserted in there to make the game more challenging. I think if you didn’t load the musket properly, it wouldn’t fire.
The second part of the video game was what they call a ‘first person shooter.’ You are looking down the barrel of the musket across an area where there are trees, houses, etc, as well as the shore of a river. As you sit there, possible targets appear, some of which will be things that one might presumably lose points if you shoot them (fellow citizens, milkmaids, sheep, etc.,) and enemy soldiers. The goal is to shoot the enemy soldiers (who look a lot like Hessians from the American Revolutionary war) without getting shot or wasting your shots on civilians, sheep or cows. I think every time you shoot the musket, you have to load it again.
Somehow, through the magic of dream logic, suddenly it was not a video game any more. I was in the battle, and instead of a bucolic, colonial setting, I was a part of an army defending a cliff. We could see the enemy swarming up stairways and towers. We had obviously just lost the battle.
The dream somehow transitioned to me being a captive. A group of soldiers were walking me and a companion down a road. My friend and I were dressed up like conquistadors; jackets with puffy sleeves, helmets and breastplates. I suddenly became convinced that the enemy soldiers behind us were going to shoot us in our backs and I told my comrade this. We decided to run and advised one another to run in a zig-zag pattern to make us harder to hit. The street we were on looked like part of a neighborhood that I lived in when I was growing up. We ran down the street in our zig-zag pattern and as I was running it occurred to me that by zigging and zagging it was taking us a lot longer to get away from our enemies than if we had run in a straight line. As I considered the advantages and disadvantages of both, we continued to run. We reached a hedge and dove through to escape our enemies.
Suddenly we were rolling down a hill. I was OK with this sionce rolling head over heels down a hill in a dream didn’t seem dangerous and we were getting away from our enemies much faster. At some point I landed on my head and squashed my helmet so it no longer fit on my head. It seemed to be made of thin aluminum, but, in my waking world I have been repairing our roof which involves a lot of shingles and aluminum flashing metal, so maybe there is some connection there. My helmet seemed to have been made from aluminum flashing so I don’t imagine it was much good as a helmet, anyway.
We reached the bottom of the hill and decided that although we had evaded our enemies for now, they would be looking for us, so we needed to ditch our uniforms and dress in some other clothing. Searching through a dumpster, we found some ragged old clothes and changed. At this point we were somewhere near Williams Pharmacy (which is also near where I used to live). This seemed to make sense since Williams Pharmacy is three or four blocks north and downhill from the corner of Lindell and Asbury (where we evaded our enemies). I noticed that the pharmacy seemed to be closed and paper was taped up over the inside of the windows so you couldn’t see in.
After this we crossed a busy street and hid near some railroad tracks. I realized that my companion was actually my partner, Annie. She pointed out a mutual friend of ours, Phoebe, who was unloading some stuff from a trailer that was hooked up to her car along with some other people. The ‘stuff’ looked like furniture and boxes of personal items which they were dumping on the side of the busy street. Annie suggested that we could ask Phoebe for a ride but I didn’t want to because I was suddenly self conscious about my ragged clothing (which isn’t really like me — in real life I wear ragged clothes all of the time).
And that’s where the dream ended. Weird, huh?
Inspired by the tales of Heraphalmos from Planet Algol, this post on Swords & Dorkery, and the title of the blog, “Henchman Abuse,” I decided to see if I could start a blog meme by encouraging everyone to help celebrate next week (or, hell, this week; I don’t care) as “Henchman Appreciation Week.” Write about your favorite henchies, living and dead. Celebrate them in word and song!
Where would the dungeoneer be without the hench-people? (or hench-elves, hench-dwarves, hench-hobbits, etc) They find the traps (sometimes because of skill and training, other times, well, it’s not so pretty), carry our torches, ropes, rations, extra shields, ten foot poles and other necessary delving impedimentia, haul out treasure (and the bodies of the deceased), guard our mules, bash down doors and watch us while we sleep. They get eaten by trolls, skewered by spear traps, catch arrows that might have otherwise hit someone important and can at least be counted on to run slower than the slowest party member when a hungry owlbear is chasing you since they will be carrying that anvil looted from the goblin’s armory.
Let’s take a few moments to remember some of the humble spear carriers with poor armor classes, low life expectancy and modest XP rewards who, more often than not, end up feeding the maggots on the bottom of a pit somewhere. Since they seldom live long enough to collect their meager salaries, they are usually a better investment than that extra flask of holy water!
A few memorable henchmen from years gone by:
Skwortch: Goblin guide and bootblack. Originally pressed into service by “The Company of the Summoned Monkey,” Skwortch was never credited with bravery, intelligence or good hygiene, but after the adventurers had treated him decently he managed to overcome his own base nature and behave himself most of the time. He even prevented the party from being eaten by ghouls and helped negotiate safe passage through an underground goblin village. Unfortunately, a cursed mace made quite an impression on the diminutive goblin’s skull and his corpse was discarded without ceremony. His dreams of investing the gold given to him by the party into an ‘escort service’ scheme never came to fruit.
Jocko: Jocko was a half orc henchman who defied all expectations, and, despite seeming to have the bad luck to fall down numerous pits, get crushed by falling rocks, chopped by battle axes, etc., always seemed to have just one more hit point to spare. If memory serves, he started life as a captive freed by ‘The Furious Five.’ Given armor and weapons, he helped fight the way back to the surface, and, in gratitude, agreed to serve the party’s magic user as a body guard. After a few adventures, despite all odds, this unremarkable seeming half-orc survived. Last Iremember, he had been granted full membership in the group and was given a full member’s share of treasure.
Hop Sing: Tragic. One of the players rolled up a henchman and managed to get scores good enough to qualify for the monk class (which, in 1e, was quite unlikely). In the first fight of his first expedition, an insane bandit hit Hop Sing in the head with a club and killed him. As DM, I wasn’t that sad to see an NPC named after the Chinese cook on ‘Bonanza’ leave the game, but having Hop Sing get creamed by the first blow in the first fight of the first session in which he appeared gave his brief story a certain tragic resonance.
When I was a young pup, there was a TV series about benevolent seeming aliens who had come to earth to control mankind called ‘V.’ The ‘big secret’ about these visitors was that they were actually reptiles who wore masks and wigs to appear human. They remade the series a few years ago, but I haven’t seen the new version. I tried to watch the old series a while back when I heard they were remaking it, but only made it halfway through the first episode. I was pretty amused by seeing the aliens swallowing hamsters and guinea pigs, but the acting and dialogue was so freaking wooden I couldn’t make it past the first 1/2 hour. Sometimes you just can’t go back.
|looks rather reptilian to me|
A few years ago, I heard about ‘David Icke‘ for the first time. If you don’t know who he is, follow the links. Icke claims to believe that ‘alien shapeshifters’ control the world and people in positions of power (like the Rothschilds, most or all of the presidents of the US and other nations, etc.), are members of a race of reptiles that have interbred with humans and control us. It sounds like a pretty entertaining set of ideas; I kind of wish it WAS true because that could be so cool and I could then join the freedom fighters trying to take down the evil reptiles and wear bandoliers of bullets and grenades on my armor vest like I am in some Schwartzenegger movie. And who wouldn’t want to do that? It certainly would be more fun than marching in protest against the greed of bankers and financiers and the collusion of politicians to bend democracy to the will of corporate interests. And I’d rather carry an AK 47 and kill lizards than carry a bindle and curse the man — but right now the latter scenario seems more likely.
Apparently some people think Icke is an anti-Semite. I don’t know anything about that, but, unfortunately, it would not surprise me. Ray Arnold Palmer, one of the fathers of modern UFOlogy, apparently would go on tears about ‘The Jews’ in the years before his death; I don’t know if that was approaching senility or if age had just removed the filtering software from Palmer’s brain. Anti-semitism has a long history in the conspiracy theory movement… perhaps hating ‘the other’ is a part of the dark underbelly of human imagination.
If it is not clear already, I love thinking about ‘outsiders’ and freaks and eccentrics of all kinds.
Rereading my last post on this topic, I realize that it comes across as too bitchy and negative. I ought to remind myself that the ‘art’ in RPG books usually really ought to be termed ‘illustration.’ It’s not there to ‘change my life’ or give the viewer the equivalent of an aesthetic orgasm; it’s there to illustrate.
My last post coincided with some discussion of Grognardia’s picture of a woman and a man in plate armor about to open a door in a ruin, including some related posts like here and here. I think the kiltedyaksman nailed it (wow, that sounded perverse). But his post reminded me on why I love the art from the late 70s era RPG products — it had an energy I find lacking in other ‘fantasy art.’ Opinions, being like assholes, means that everyone has one, etc., so take mine with a grain of salt. But I guess I would like to urge indie producers who are looking for art to find someone they enjoy working with and try turning them loose. No one is going to get rich off of this stuff, so we might as well have some fun with it.
As good or better is for people who don’t think of themselves as “artists” to give it a try. Back in the 70s, I heard that someone published a zine that had drawings of guitar finger tabs of three different guitar chords. It said, “Here are three chords. Now go form a band.” From that attitude, a lot of music came. I’m sure a lot of it wasn’t something I would care to listen to more than once — but some of it was great. And maybe indie rpg publishing (or the OSR) could be less about “mastery” or being slick and more about doing for ourselves. That would make this the best Christmas ever.
I think one of ther happy accidents of my own youthful enthusiasm for fantasy art is the fact that Gygax couldn’t afford the artists he wanted for TSR products because they cost too much… so he had to ‘make do’ with the likes of more ‘downmarket’ artists like Otus, Trampier, Wham and Sutherland while the ‘real’ fantasy artists made a lot more money painting Tolkien calendars and Star Wars posters. When I heard Gygax say he preferred Larry Elmore to all of the artists who illustrated the TSR books I had grown up with and loved, I thought, “What the fuck, Gary?!?” I guess Gary has the right to like whatever Gary likes — I can’t take that away from him (and hope I wouldn’t try) — but I wouldn’t have devoured The AD&D Monster Manual if it had been illustrated by the people Gary actually wanted but couldn’t afford. The slicker art of that era just didn’t light my fire. All these years later I still love that picture of the Rakasha (sp?) in a smoking jacket firing up a bowl (with a tiny Wham critter on his desk) by Trampier from the original Monster Manual. Or the Remorhaz drawing from the same book. Or the giants. Or any of the demons/devils. Great stuff.
At the time that I got into the D&D stuff, I remember liking David Sutherland’s drawings a lot less than Trampier’s. They were often rushed-looking and poses looked awkward. Since then, I’ve found a lot more to love in his work, especially the black and white work.
So, some other artists who I think deserve admiration, accolades, attention, etc.:
J. Bingham, who has been working quietly and without a lot of “my-own-horn-tooting” on various indie published things — see his work at Ostensible Cat. His recent work has been blowing me away and inspiring me to try to push my own hatch line work.
Someone I know only as ‘Human Mollusk.’ I don’t know if he has done any RPG work, but he would do great monster illustrations; I just know it.
The freaky, psychotic imaginings of art by Carl, who did a very evocative drawing of the ‘Stonehell’ dungeons’ Ogre Gateway. He hasn’t updated his page in forever; I hope he is still drawing.
Mark Allen, who I think did the drawing of the knight and the woman for Dwimmermount. I wish I could afford copies of all of the stuff he has been doing for Arduin, but my wallet is really light these days.
Jaybird, Glad and ATOM of Three Headed Troll Artworks. I see more artwork from Andy “Atom” Taylor than the other two, mostly because I think he posts more in places where I happen to see it.
Michael Bukowski hasn’t done any RPG work as far as I know, but look at his work and try to tell me that he shouldn’t, huh?
Aos is pretty dismissive of his own talents, but I think his work has a raw vitality and whimsy that should not be underestimated. He has been posting some kick ass maps lately and I love the way he mixes up the genres… people wearing gasmasks and jockstraps carrying AK-47s and swords while riding kangaroos. Plus he is just always making shit up and posting it — that counts for a lot.
edit: add Jason of Underground Ink, who has apparently done a bit of work for Fight On! and similar. Cool stuff! Slash! Pow!
edit more: Dennis Dread’s “The Battle for Art!” Heavy metal!
Theo Ellsworth “Thought Cloud Factory News.” The name alone begs you take a peek, but you will stay for the art.
There are lots more… people have posted their own favorites in the responses to the last post.
No, I’m not posting this to flog my own pony… although I ought to at least provide a link to some of my own stuff here: http://stefanpoag.com/illustration-art/
One of my complaints about the trend in OSR artwork is that most of it seems to be kind of ‘same-same’ to me (note that this is also a criticism I would apply to my own stuff). Too many things produced by the OSR community seems to be to make it look like it belongs in the circa 1978-1980 TSR catalog (right down to the fonts and page layout). I’d like to see more products try for different aesthetics. Please step away from the ‘Magic The Gathering’ inspired digital tablet art, or the goatees and spikes of the 3e era, or the ‘ready for the cover of the next Forgotten Realms novel’ of 4e or the line-by-line, pose-by-pose aping of what has been published before (yes, guilty as charged). And for god’s sake, NO MORE royalty free clip-art. I’m sick of seeing Romantic 19th century illustrations from some forgotten edition of Ivanhoe with stoic knights and weeping damsels in books that are supposed to be about ogres and trolls and fireballs blowing shit up. How about something new and different?
Sean Aaberg has done some work for Labyrinth Lord (notably the devils and demons in the ‘Advanced Edition Companion’). Check out his Flickr pages http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanaaberg/. He also frequently contributes to ‘Eaten By Ducks.’ I love the bold lines and crazy shit going on; it’s got a Trampier meets Rat-Fink in a punk rock zine feel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. He is one prolific son-of-a-gun, making zines, posters, buttons, stickers, t-shirts, etc. When does he find time to sleep?
“Fukitor” draws Hard R/X rated semi-pornographic, lurid, tasteless and horror-absurd comics which seem to center around beheading, torture, mutilation, satanism, sexploitation movie themes and other nastiness. Basically, it looks like everything that ‘Fuckus on the Family‘ thinks can go wrong with people letting their imaginations run too wild seems to be fair game to this guy. I don’t know if he has done any RPG work, but I think he seems like a natural fit for it.
Not for the faint of heart, and, needless to say, Not Safe For Work (unless you work someplace pretty unusual).
I’ve mentioned Skinner before, so I won’t do more than mention him today. Visit his site. That’s what I am talking about. If Max Beckmann had been born in Polynesia instead of Germany and done a lot of acid instead of serving in the First World War and studied under Jack Kirby instead of the German Impressionists it might have looked something like that. Or not. The guy sells paintings of wizards in pointy hats to art collectors. I’m sure he could do the cover of your next adventure.
Peter Mullen has done a lot of work for Swords & Wizardry, Goodman Games and others. I love and admire his unique work, with his goofy, desperate, skinny heroes, hallucinogenic monsters and creepy settings. All his pictures seem to tell a story, with figures often pointing at some unseen threat out of frame, critters ready to pounce from some unseen place and other madness. I love his line work and his sensibility. Some of the stuff has a real Peter Max vibe to it (in a good way) — simultaneously threatening and deceptively whimsical. If I was hiring artists to illustrate something Swords & Sorcerorish, his name would be on the top of my list.
OK, that is all for now. After this dose of inspiration, I need to get back to work.
Please add your favorites in the comments section — I’m always looking for new talent to steal from. Full disclosure: I don’t personally know any of these people (but I have traded emails with a few of them)… so there is nothing in this for me other than I think they do good work. And if you hire any of these guys to illustrate your next publication, I won’t charge a finder’s fee.