Dragon #112: The evolution of Dragon right over a cliff...
Dragon Magazine #112 shows some great promise with an incredible Daniel Horne cover, but there is an absence inside that the editors were not really ready to fill. Now remember, this issue is from August 1986, a full year after Gygax was ousted from TSR, and I think the magazine is feeling those ‘growing pains’, or more correctly, the evidence of shrinking sales and budget cuts looming overhead like storm clouds.
As stated, Daniel Horne [‘saving the best for last’ October #126] is a paragon of Dragon artwork, and it would be hard to compose a Top 10 list of covers without have at least one Horne on there, so this magazine should sell [and did, as I bought a copy when I was 15], but overall, the art is extremely thin.
Artist Jim Holloway does spend time poking his usual fun at the TSR art department, and he also revisits some of his MMII dinosaur illustrations in the massive ‘Dinosaurs’ article about life in the Mesozoic Era. However, you find little to no art outside this piece! There are some random item sketches for ‘A First Full of Credits’ concerning Star Frontiers equipment [odd, since Gygax pulled the line the year before], and a Marvel Super Heroes piece on Dire Wraiths, but that is about it.
When I went through the magazine, I was shocked by the art treatment, and so it was with great interest that I read Editor-in-Chief Kim Mohan’s article ‘Dawn of a new age’: A fresh look, and outlook, for DRAGON magazine. In it, Mohan takes the reader through an explanation of what readers have said they want, and what they don’t. To his point, readers wanted less SF and Hero articles, thus Dragon cut the ARES section [a personal favorite of mine, but oh well], and readers also demanded much more coverage of video games [*sigh*, there would soon be whole magazines dedicated to this subject], and the readers wanted shorter articles without stat blocks and charts. His quote, ‘You think we are getting stale; you’re sick of theoretical articles, “realism articles”, and articles that are nothing more than the trimming around a set of boring statistical tables’. Also, readers hated advertising… go figure!
So, in essence, as of Issue #112, Dragon was to become obsolete. You see, with one-hundred and eleven issues behind them, pretty much every article on D&D was going to be a bit ‘stale’, and without added SF content plus leaning on quickly outdated computer game reviews, how could Dragon continue to be an industry leader? If I’m correct, and I think I am, then the downward slide of Dragon began right here, and by 1990 the bulk of the readership finally turned away for good. Sad, but true.
Now, I guess it is my job to relate the above to my fellow designers at Gygax Magazine so that we don’t make the same mistakes twice, which I’m off to do right now. And please, if you are able, HELP SUPPORT AOTG THROUGH OUR ONGOING THE FOLIO KICKSTARTER TO THE RIGHT! Good gaming!
Artistic Rating: 3 [out of 5]
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