Monday, February 14, 2011

Forgotten Sutherland Art

I make no bones about the fact that, for me, David C. Sutherland III ranks up there with David Trampier and Erol Otus as one of my favorite artists of D&D's Golden Age. Certainly his artwork lacks the technical skill displayed by Trampier's best pieces or the otherworldly trippiness to be found in Otus, but there's a groundedness to Sutherland's work that I think more than makes up for its flaws. Perhaps it's because the first D&D product I ever owned was the Holmes boxed set, whose cover features a piece by Sutherland, that I was taught early to associate the game with his artwork, I don't know. All I can say for sure is that I like Sutherland's illustrations.

Which is why I was delighted to discover that FGU's Space Marines, a science fiction miniatures rules set published in 1980 and whose setting is a precursor to the Space Opera RPG, includes a whole bunch of Sutherland pieces I've never seen before. Quite a few of them follow:

I love the retro-tech look of this vehicle. It reminds me a bit of the thing Robby the Robot drives around in Forbidden Planet.

Ah, those were the days! When space marine dropships looked like flying saucers!

Here are some soldiers abandoning their damaged hover tank.

Here's a Space Nazi -- I mean trooper of the Azuriach Imperium.

This is a soldier of the alien Hissss'ist. I adore the fact that he's only wearing a helmet and an equipment harness -- no other protection!

This fellow is part of the military of the Irsol Confederacy, wearing powered armor because his species is so used to living in freefall conditions that they cannot operate in a gravity environment without artificial assistance.

An inscrutable soldier of the crustaceous Klackon species.

Not to be confused with this Bug, which is, of course, ripped bloody from the corpse of Heinlein's Starship Troopers.

Here's a soldier of the avian Whistler species. I don't remember these guys from Space Opera, though there are rules for generating avian aliens.

Here's one of the Mekpurr, feudal feline aliens whose population consists such a small percentage of males (and whose females are wholly non-combatant) that they must rely heavily on robots for their infantry, such as this guy:

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing these! I love Sutherlands work and I totally agree with you. I think there is something in his sheer enthusiasm that just really comes through. His technical abilities might not have been up there with Tramp, but DCS III still could hold his own.

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  2. Any fellow video-gamers out there remember the old PC game Master of Orion (essentially Civilization in Space)?

    I recall it having several playable races including the insect-like Klackons (their actual name in the game), bird aliens, cat aliens, lizard aliens, aliens that had to live in mechanical exoskeletons, etc...

    Is there any known connection between the PC game and Space Marines/Space Opera? The similarities seem too close just to chalk up to random chance...

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  3. Very cool. Too often I think these guys only did medieval fantasy art. Thanks for sharing these!

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  4. Cool! Did he do the art for Starguard, Orilla, etc?

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  5. @Coldstream
    "Is there any known connection between the PC game and Space Marines/Space Opera? The similarities seem too close just to chalk up to random chance..."

    Totally! The default background for Space Opera is Space Marines, to the extent that a lot of stuff in SO is really obscure unless you're familiar with space marines.

    I'd like to think that SM is to SO as Chainmail is to D&D, but I suspect that it's just not as good a system.

    If FGU stiull has the rights to SM, I';d buy a pdf quicker than you can say coagulator.

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  6. James, thanks for posting all of those interior pics! I too love DCS art & I've never seen them before.

    There's an earlier (1977) version of Space Marines published by FanTac with the second picture as the cover art. I spotted a copy on Ebay in 2006 and thought the cover looked like DCS (I bid but didn't win & have never seen another copy though I haven't searched regularly). I couldn't find anything on the net, so I asked at the Acaeum/DF & Mars helped me figure out that it was indeed a DCS.

    Here are the threads:
    http://www.acaeum.com/forum/about4250.html
    http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=18816

    Some interesting tidbits:
    -DCS liked drawing mushrooms. See the large mushrooms by the Marine's foot in the second picture. See also the Metamorphosis Alpha and mono B1 covers.
    -The author of Space Marines, Mark Ratner, was an original Lake Geneva Greyhawk campaign player: He played Ayelerach who was with Erac's cousin when he released the imprisoned Fraz-Urb-luu in the dungeons of Greyhawk.
    -Here's an interview where Ratner discusses the relationship between Space Marines and Space Opera:
    http://www.space-opera.org/GB/interviews/mark.htm
    -The 1977 version had two sections on using "Space Marines in Dungeons and Dragons" and "Space Marines in Metamorphosis Alpha". These were taken out of the FGU version, presumably because they were TSR games.

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  7. Just discovered that Finarvyn typed up that section on converting Space Marines to D&D:

    http://oldschooltrek.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=odnd&action=display&thread=207

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  8. The author of Space Marines, Mark Ratner, was an original Lake Geneva Greyhawk campaign player: He played Ayelerach who was with Erac's cousin when he released the imprisoned Fraz-Urb-luu in the dungeons of Greyhawk.

    Now, that's pretty interesting. I thought the name Mark Ratner seemed familiar but I just couldn't place it. Thanks for making the connection!

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  9. Thank you for these nice pictures. This brings back memories of the time when I was 14 or 15 and read through all the golden age space opera stuff.

    And I do remember the Master of Orion game and the Klackons therein very well. It would indeed be interesting if there are any connections to be found.

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  10. Now that's how Star Frontiers should of looked like!Something that evokes a post gamma world setting,were humans and mutants were able to get of the planet and travel the stars.

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  11. Dammit, I want another copy of this now!

    ...bought mine back in 1977 in a going-out-of-business sale for $3 (Fan-Tac edition) and I have no idea what happened to it. Being into both D&D and Metamorphosis: Alpha I thought the rules for using those were SO cool.

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