Everyone has a ‘First Dragon’, and for me it was Dragon #88. Sure, I didn’t actually own it, as it was in the possession of a boy I didn’t get along with overly well, but he did sit across from me in art class and laid this issue on his desk one afternoon in middle-school.
I was both amazed and intrigued by it, and when I actually got to flip through the pages I was blow away by the artwork I found [because of course at this time I had no idea how to actually play D&D]
For that reason, Dragon #88 will always hold an extremely special place in my heart, and I hope you’ll join me as I take this look back at it.
The magazine itself contains the mini-board game Elefant Hunt [which I’ve actually played and enjoyed] by Tom Wham as the main content, but other features include Physics of falling damage [and how many of you have wondered about this!?], the Ecology of the Rust Monster [those bastards!], and Gods of the Suel pantheon [including Syrul, Fortubo, and Wee Jas].
It is a solid issue, with contributions from the Ares magazine section dedicating 16 pages to Star Frontiers as well as great comic art from Wormy and Snarfquest.
However, it is really the artwork that holds my attention.
With an incredible cover by artist Jim Holloway [I mean seriously, as much as this guy comes up on my blog you’d think people would give him MUCH more credit for contributions made to the genre than they actually do] the magazine starts out with a bang. I well remember my first impression of it, and the terror in the young woman [halflings?] eyes as the orcs passed below her in the swamp. I was also confused by the legs in the image, but the more I’ve studied it over the years, the more I’ve come to realize that Holloway got the twisting angles right as she’s been forced to brace herself to keep from falling as the orcs closed in. Holloway’s use of color is also perfect, his muted greens and flashes of brighter avocado both on branch and pants really adding to the camouflage essence of the piece.
Inside, black and white contributions are done by a very young Mark Nelson [AWESOME!] and a more seasoned Roger Raupp who produces one of the most astounding fighter images I’ve ever witnessed. I once asked Roger about the image, but found that ALL of his original work from Dragon was destroyed in a flood in the early 2000s and to me that is crushing.
Artist Jeff Butler, who I’m not particularly taken with, breaks out of his usual style to take on an absolutely stunning rendition of the goddess Wee Jas [not to mention Fortubo and Syrul which are also some of the best work of his I’ve ever seen].
In all, it is an astonishing good issue from August 1984, and if you are a fan of Star Frontiers it is a must own because the Ares content is superb [even if the artwork in it isn’t awe inspiring]
Artistic Rating: 4.5 [out of 5]