Art of the Genre

During the course of my gaming life I’ve run and been run in G-1-2-3 four times, and you know what, I want to do it again. To say I love these modules is an extreme understatement. They are the perfect blend of crawl, epic journey, experience points, and treasure. There is truly a perfect balance of all those things that make everything about them SO worth it. In fact, I’ve dedicated an area of the Nameless Realms to the location of these modules just so my Fleetwood family can continue to go back every few generations when the giants once again grow restless.

But really, I’m here today to talk about the artwork that went into the creation of the overall G1-2-3, with a bit of ‘love’ shared with the original modules that were put together in 1981 to make it.

This particular 1981 version was of course covered by Bill Willingham, who of all the ‘First Four’ did the fewest covers. I find this sad, because in that period, his talent was probably the greatest of them all. In fact, you could say that talent contributed highly to his success in the comics market, although his ‘final’ version of self is as an award-winning writer and not an artist.

Still, Bill did an admirable job of this cover, even if it kind of runs into itself a bit with a lot of knees and elbows. I well remember studying it in my youth and wondering, ‘Does that fighter getting his ass kicked really not have pants on?” Oddly, I wouldn’t put it past Bill, especially his propensity for trying to get nudity into most of his work, but I do think the man has a crimson Speedo on. I mean, even the ample breasts of the mother clutching her newborn is a bit over the top.

Whatever the case, I love the giants, I love the colors, and I love the rather dapper looking giant wolf [check that hair!]. You certainly get the idea of a massive Giant uprising, and thus it seems Bill did his job.

Now I don’t actually have a copy of the original G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chieftan, but at an eyeball test it looks like a Sutherland piece. Like most Sutherland illustrations, he seems to struggle with anatomy and action, this one in particular looking wooden and un-inspired, kind of like you are watching a puppet show unfold.

But enough about the covers! Let’s take a look at some interior artwork!

Our first image, the booklet cover, is by Jeff Dee, and it is one of my favorites of his. I love the action here, his lean lines [what I often call sublime] are in full force, and the ready stance of the dwarf is all action hero.

After that intro, we go to some old Sutherland stock images, although the ‘hiding from the hill giant’ is certainly one of my favorites of his. Dave Trampier throws in a very nice kitchen scene on page 5 that kind of wraps up the hill giant section, and you know what, I think I’ll stop this review there and talk a bit about Jarl in another post.

So, for G1, I’m giving it a ‘thumbs up’, and I’ll throw in the Willingham cover as part of that.  And please, if you are able, HELP SUPPORT AOTG THROUGH OUR ONGOING THE FOLIO KICKSTARTER TO THE RIGHT! Good gaming!

Artistic Rating: 3.5 [out of 5]

Written by Scott Taylor — October 19, 2014


Joe H.:

Yes, the original version was a Sutherland cover. It also included the Tramp kitchen scene and the Sutherland ‘hiding’ picture, plus a few others — I wonder if the combined version was just a straight reprint of the interior content from all three individual G modules? G1 and G2 were only 8 pages each in their original incarnation.

October 20 2014 at 09:10 AM

Timothy Connolly:

Nicely done, Scott! You’ve chosen to shine a spotlight on one of my all-time favorite TSR modules. Bill Willingham’s TSR art really stands out here. He is absolutely positively worthy of a place alongside Den Beauvais, Jeff Dee, Jez Goodwin, Erol Otus, Jim Roslof, David Sutherland III, Dave Trampier, Tom Wham, Brian Williams, and all the rest of those exemplary early-era TSR art giants.

October 20 2014 at 09:10 AM


Joe: Hard to say without having a copy in hand, but it seems likely, although they did add a handful of Dee images and a Willingham cover when they combined it, probably to give it the same feel as the other 1981 releases.

October 20 2014 at 11:10 AM


Timothy: Couldn’t agree more. ALL of the ‘First Four’ were great in their own way, and I’m happy they got to help define was D&D was in its most expansive years.

October 20 2014 at 11:10 AM

Andy Action:

Love your AotG blog & love this series in all of it’s iterations! I get a kick out of the Kool-Aid Man pitcher “Easter Egg” in the Tramp Hill Giant kitchen scene :)

October 20 2014 at 12:10 PM


Andy: LOL, isn’t that Kool-Aid pitcher outstanding! Thank Ernie for pointing it out as I’d never seen it before! Also, thanks for the kind words!

October 20 2014 at 12:10 PM

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