Bug Week, Part Five: Giant Spiders, David A. Trampier, and Dungeon Hobos.
Actually, I’m just guessing on that one. I have no idea why a huge number of First Edition Dungeons and Dragons art pieces seem to be depicting small groups of drunken bums on dungeoneering expeditions. I’ve got this massive folder of that art on my iPad as a reference for the current setting in Adequacy, which is Fantasy driven, so I feel like I can speak with authority on the Hobodynamic nature of the costuming.
In fact, the piece above is directly inspired by a full page piece in the First Edition Monster Manual, by the late David A. Trampier. He is referenced online as “the artist responsible for defining the look of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, from the first edition and onwards.” Trampier was doggedly reserved throughout his life, to such an extent that most D&D fans know his work more than they know his name. He disappeared in 1988, leaving his ongoing comic “D&D Wormy” abruptly unfinished, and retired from illustration to drive a Yellow Taxi in Carbdondale, Illinois.
He passed away in March of 2014, but left behind him a body of artwork that created the First Edition D & D brand, and had a lasting influence on fantasy artwork. I wasn’t aware of his name until beginning to research the artwork of that setting, and quickly found that some of the most well known pieces from that genre were by him. And yes…his adventurers tended to look kind of shabby, like bums. I’ve been paying real attention to that, because of the need to design Fantasy setting characters and costumes.
Let’s look at some key pieces, shall we?
He also did the cover for the First Edition Players Handbook, which featured a bunch of dubious looking guys prying a jewel out of a statue of Satan. It was in color…and I really wanted to highlight his black and white ink work here. Obviously, he did a full page illustration for “Giant Spider,” which led to Bug Week, which led us to this post…in a fond memoriam for this artist.
Dungeons and Dragons…heck, Fantasy from the seventies in general…is chock full of giant insects. Conan the Barbarian has to fight Giant Spiders on a regular basis…and yes, i know that spiders are not insects. They are, however, bugs, and as a result, full under the parasol of “shouldn’t be giant.” It seemed like something that needed to be acknowledged and homaged during “Bug Week,” as well as an opportunity to do a brief bio of Trampier, an often overlooked influence artistically. Without his work…you kind of never get to the interest, as well as the visuals, of “Game of Thrones,” True Believers. Granted, not as many of the “Game of Thrones” cast are bums or hobos, but that’s called evolution, people.
It was also vital to me in that it looks like the protagonist’s Summer Costume has reached its end. Partially because the summer is ending, and partially because I just got informed that I no longer need to protect my injured arm with a set of hinges. Practically a clean bill of health. Not totally, but getting there. Since this costume came about to reflect that influence…its remaining time in the strip is short.
Oddly, that costume saw a huge evolution during its short tenure. It started with a cloak or cape, which was ditched very early…then a sort of jacket or vest which didn’t last. The armored sleeve and black t-shirt/pants set were the constant, as well as the frequent use of the Lenticular Shield. The Shield will probably stick around, as well as the right hand glove. I like those elements.
Still…I went back to the reference library for costuming ideas, and the hobo filled nature of Black and White First Edition D & D Line Art jumped out at me. Which led to today’s post, which speaks about the influence of an artist who fled the corporate world for a simpler life, and a simple truth of the Fantsy Genre:
It is FULL of Bugs of Unusual Size. FULL.
Although the reasons for this break were unclear, a disagreement with TSR (the Dungeons and Dragons publisher at the time) is possible; it is clear that later in life, Trampier wanted nothing to do with TSR or its successor, Wizards of the Coast. For many years, Trampier’s location was unknown to anyone and rumors circulated that he had died. Trampier was rediscovered by accident when a local reporter did a ride along in his cab and published Trampier’s name and photograph. Several companies and individuals immediately approached Trampier to commission new pieces of art, re-publish some of his most iconic pieces, or have Trampier appear as a guest of honor at conventions. However, Trampier refused and indicated he wished to be left alone.