Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure

Lots of people, understandably, remember the Dungeons & Dragons advertisements that appeared in the pages of Marvel comics over the course of 1981 and 1982, starring Valerius the fighter, Grimslade the magic-user, and Indel the elf exploring Zenopus castle. I've always been particularly fond of this installment of the story, which features perpetual victim, Indel, falling prey first to green slime and then a trap door (that ultimately lands him in the lair of a dragon). 

However, as it turns out, there's a second series of D&D advertisements featuring a comic story drawn by Willingham of which I was unaware until very recently. Here's a representative panel:
The artwork is much more obviously Willingham's work than the other comic. His kobolds, for example, are unmistakable if you've ever seen the AD&D Monster Cards. More interesting to me is the revised cast of characters, which still features a trio consisting of a fighter, a magic-user (here called a "wizard"), and an elf, but who have different names and appearances. The wizard is named Khellek, which would seem to be a variation on the name Kelek used in other media for an evil wizard and antagonist. 

I find all these advertisements quite fascinating, since they're all from around the time period when D&D had just broken into the popular consciousness (thanks, in part, to the story of James Dallas Egbert III) and TSR was beginning to make real money from it. Clearly, the company had no idea how to promote and sell its products and was simply throwing lots of things against the wall to see what stuck. These ads are one example of their fumbling attempts at marketing – and one of the better ones, in my opinion. 

7 comments:

  1. The second comic's "artwork is much more obviously Willingham's work than the other" because the first comic is drawn by Jeff Dee.

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    1. I think the one you posted is the only one that Dee did. Willingham did most of both series; in fact, when I saw your post, my first thought was, "I thought Willingham did these ads!" But apparently Dee pinch-hit on this one.

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    2. I went looking for other installments of the story and found out something interesting. The episode immediately preceding the Dee one (which ends with them finding the green slime) is also not by Willingham, or anyone I can recognize as a TSR artist. The art is much less detailed, and Indel looks like he wandered off a cookie package.

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  2. As a kid, I often found those ads far more interesting than the actual story in the comic. Wouldn't it be great if this story had continued? Poor Indel!

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  3. Grimslade was also the name of Harold Johnson's level 5 MU in one of the Lake Geneva campaigns within TSR; he appears in the Rogues Gallery NPC section.

    Allan.

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  4. Here's a link to a blog that shows several of the comics and has a snippet of an interview with Willingham talking about the ads.

    https://kuronons.blogspot.com/2010/05/d-comics-review-part-1-cartoon-ads.html

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