Archive for the 'Jeff Easley' Category
The Art of the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Game focuses on the heavyweights of the day: Easley, Elmore, Parkinson, and Caldwell. Thankfully, there’s also quite a selection of Timothy Truman, who I think is generally underrated. Almost all of the art above, most of it Truman’s, is sourced as “product design,” referring to the AD&D LJN toys released in 1983.
Many of Truman’s illustrations made it onto the action figure and adventure figure (PVC) cards, including the popular first series releases Warduke (Evil Fighter), Elkhorn (Good Fighter Dwarf), Zarak (Evil Half-Orc Assassin), and Melf (Good Fighter Elf). The same illustrations appear later in Quest for the Heartstone (1984), a module that includes many of the characters from the LJN line (and others that were meant to be part of the line but didn’t make the cut).
Truman’s gnoll illustration (sixth image down) is originally from Return to Brookmere by Rose Estes (1982), an Endless Quest book. His Orc (third image down) appeared on the back of the Orcs of the Broken Bone adventure figure card (below). His awesome Skeletal Warrior did not, for some silly reason, appear on the back of the Skeleton Soldiers of Sith card. The less awesome substitute is below.
There’s a nice trio of inks by Jeff Easley (seventh image down), also sourced as product design. I’m not sure if or when they were published.
One of the most obscure pieces of D&D merchandise from the Gygax era, First Quest: The Music is a soundtrack to, and narration of, an adventure outline printed inside the LP (and cassette). The music is instrumental and electronic, most of it reflecting “the forbidding and grim atmosphere of the plot.” The author of Blogonomicon, where I found most of the images above, uploaded the album to YouTube, and I made a playlist featuring the songs in the order they appear on the LP. Give it a listen here.
I have to admit that I love it all, even the bits that are overdone or amateurish. It’s such a brilliant evocation of the time. If John Carpenter or Tangerine Dream had scored a Dungeons & Dragons film in the ’80s, it might have sounded something like the best parts of First Quest (recorded on better equipment.)
David Miller, who wrote the adventure (“It is not meant to be a cake-walk!”) and a lot of the music, and who appears to be the principle organizer, recalls approaching Gary Gygax about the project in a comment at Blogonomicon.
Greetings – my name is David Miller and I was one of the contributors/organizers of/for/to this album. It was a lot of fun getting it together. As anyone who’s played D&D knows, you can’t really play a loose, free-wheeling game to the constraints of the flow of the tracks but it was a gas, nevertheless. As part of all this I went to Los Angeles and visited E. Gary Gygax to get his blessing and support. He lived (as you might expect) in this weird, large old house that did, in fact, look somewhat spooky. As I knocked on the door I heard the sound of a very large and intimidating dog barking from somewhere inside – that was somewhat unsettling… Eventually Mr. Gygax let me in, listened to the album and he was well into it. He also demonstrated for me a variety of manoeuvers by which one could dispatch a varying quantity of orcs, depending on how they approached you, what armaments they were carrying and what mood they were in […]
[…] There were also First Quest T-Shirts (of which I have a couple, still unwrapped) and other stuff, I’m sure. I was responsible for bringing Valentine Dyall on board, more because I’ve always been a huge Goons fan and he was on those recording from time to time sounding quite menacing even amidst the madness. I’m afraid I wrote his voice-over script, which is, indeed, especially mediocre and I cringe even to this day when I hear it. He deserved much better than that, especially as he passed on soon after…not the most fitting swan song. My belated apologies to him. He hadn’t been getting any work for a long time and I hear he was very grateful for this so I’m glad of that, at least. I would have loved to have met him but was out of town when his recording sessions occurred.
Miller is in a “psychedelic synth pop” band called Expandis, whose first EP, Mystic Man, was released in 1983. Phil Thornton, another contributing artist to First Quest, is also in Expandis. Filmtrax was a small British record label active during the 1980s.
The narrator of the quest is Valentine Dyall (1908-1985), a famous British screen and voice actor well known for his portrayal of the Black Guardian in the Tom Baker-era Doctor Who.
The LP cover art is from Jeff Easley’s Dungeon Masters Guide (1983 printing) cover. The sprawling gatefold art is also by Easley.
Slave Pits of the Undercity (1980): Both covers are by Jeff Dee. On the front, the wizard’s light spell saves the viewer and the party from utter darkness. (His non-casting hand is awkwardly placed, no?) Somehow, I don’t think the giant ant man’s two wooden shields are going to hold up against that hammer, but we have no idea how many of his friends are skittering to his aid, and that builds suspense.
I suspect the back cover was a rush job. The figures are finished (I like the bandaged arm of the bad guy), but the background is a blank.
Secret of the Slavers Stockade (1981): Jim Roslof did the front cover. The torch light and ensuing shadows set the mood, but the scene doesn’t sell the threat: the slaver and his Gollum-like pet are no match for the waiting heroes. The back cover is Erol Otus. The man is in absolute command of color and light, and his figures are the stuff of myth, something you might see on the vases and holy artifacts of an ancient civilization.
Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords (1981): Front cover is Jeff Dee again—substandard work, in my opinion: no motion, no life. The back cover, another Otus, is exactly the opposite: I can feel the pillars shaking, hear the cries of the warriors, the swooshing of the torch.
In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords (1981): This cover, one of Otus’s best, is a phantasmagoric, fantasy-art-meets-German-Expressionism masterpiece. It belongs in a museum. Bill Willingham goes for the throat on the lurid and bawdy back cover, a nice homage to Hammer Horror.
All of the modules (A1 – A4) were collected as Scourge of the Slave Lords in 1986. The cover painting here, a decent Frazetta emulation, is by Jeff Easley. (Is that Thundarr bursting his bonds in the background?)
Unfortunately, the series is not yet available on dndclassics.com.
I hate to nitpick at Freaks and Geeks, a brilliant, short-lived (why do the two always seem to go together?) show about the travails of teenagers in 1980, but the lads we see above would do no less. Here we see zen master Harris Trinsky holding a copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. The DMG first appeared in 1979, with cover art by David C. Sutherland III.
The version in Trinsky’s paws, however, with cover art by Jeff Easley, came out in 1983.
That’s 3 years after the scene takes place. Unless, of course, Harris traveled into the future and back again, which is well within his powers.
Later in the same episode, right before Harris tells Daniel he’d be a good DM, we see the first edition Monster Manual (1977). This cover is also by Sutherland. The Easley cover edition came out in 1983.