Friday, March 26, 2010
Emirikol the Chaotic and Trampier the Mysterious
I always loved the artwork in the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and DM Guide back in the day, but the artists themselves were never much on my mind. It wasn’t until my involvement in the blogging community that I started reading about them in places like Grognordia and finding new appreciation for them.
I was looking through the Players Handbook and DM Guide the other day prepping for the next game, and had to stop and gaze on the rendering of the mysterious Emirikol The Chaotic. This page always intrigued me since I was a kid. A bearded, not-so-nice looking gent gallops down the street while shooting what is probably a magic missile at a man, while another lies burning on the cobbles outside a tavern. Not only did he look like a cool character, but the street and buildings of the picture themselves were so well done, they forever became how I envisioned the slightly claustrophobic streets of my own main city.
David A. Trampier, who often signed his work as “DAT” or “Tramp,” drew people, monsters, and places in a sort of classical, realistic style, but they still captured the essence of D&D. Often they were the first time iconic monsters in D&D had been depicted. Rakshasa, Catoblepas, the Fire Giant, Werereats, etc. To me, I see his work and say “that is for sure an artist who played the game.” I didn’t know until this week that he was also the creator of “Wormy,” that great cartoon from the old Dragon mags that featured the point of view of a dragon and other denizens of a dungeon, who almost all seemed to have East Coast personalities (an Imp who lives in Wormy’s cave called him “Woimy”).
Not only did he do the most iconic D&D image, that of the Players Handbook idol cover (and famously used as the title image over at Grognardia), but he also did a ton of the best images from Gamma World. He touched so many things in gaming, and his visuals determined how I pictured things in game terms in many ways.
What really blew me away when I researched Trampier a bit this week was that he quit his D&D artwork, and also his work on Wormy in the middle of a storyline, and went off to be a cab driver in a small Illinois town. He was actually still getting checks for his work, but they were returned to TSR and they just assumed he had died. Can you imagine? His photo eventually showed up in 2002 in a local university newspaper, and many of his fans recognized his name and even tried to contact him. He apparently rejected the attention from fans, and politely asked them not to write or call him. Wow.
His work was so good, and Wormy so popular and it is hard to envision somebody just stopping. I’m sure the money was not huge (with tips a cabby could probably make more money than niche artists in the early 80’s), but there had to be other reasons he was “done with the game.” Did he really dislike the people he had to deal with in the business? Did the dorky fans scare him off? He could probably drive a cab and do his art, unless he is one of those poor souls who really go for the cab money and work 15 hour shifts 7 days a week.
D.A.T. has full old school cred and would no doubt get some real props if he were to pop up as an interview on Grognardia or something, but given his history, it seems he is destined to go down as yet another mysterious figure in a field that is full of them.