Picking at the bloated carcass of geek culture...occasionally!!!

Larry Elmore revisited

In Books, Roleplaying Games on September 2, 2009 at 9:44 pm

I’ve been lightly re-reading the Dragonlance: Legends series recently.  I’ve been on a fantasy kick recently and just finished Joe Abercrombie’s excellent yet somber First Rule series.  I’m in need of some light, junk-food reading while I’m student teaching.  Something familiar and pleasant but not something that will suck me in.  I haven’t read the Legend series in quite a while so…why not?  Okay, I feel like I am apologizing a bit for such a adolescent pick, but whatever.  I find the prose has suffered a bit and I’m not exactly digging the character interaction as much as Chronicles, but it’s doing its job of entertaining me just fine.  Looking at the books, however, has made me re-examine the work of Larry Elmore, the artist of the original Dragonlance novels and all-around TSR company man.

Elmore was my first favorite fantasy artist.  When I was younger than ten, I remember looking at my older cousin’s Dragon Magazine.  It has a weird color comic by David Trampier called Wormy about a cigar-smoking Dragon and his efforts to play wargames in peace away from the annoying adventures always messing with him.  It was awesome but I was more drawn to a black-and-white serialized comic called Snarf’s Quest, a comedic adventure about a long-eared, snouted warrior-in-exile, his robot sidekick, a hot warrior love interest, and a surprisingly relatable brain leech.  It was by Larry Elmore and I loved the hell out of it.

My brother had this collected edition years ago.  I wonder if it holds up.

My brother had this collected edition years ago. I wonder if it holds up.

But Elmore continued to impress me as I got into Dragonlance.  I found that his work blew away anything Jeff Easley or Keith Parkinson did for the world.  His portrayal of the characters was what I thought they looked like at the time.  The faces of his figures were unique and were instantly recognizable for me.  Though I question some of his design choices, such as the scantily clad Caramon and Tika on the Dragons of Spring Dawining, I still have a very soft spot in my heart for that fantasy art, cheesy as it may be.  Elmore changed his style through the 90s and into the new century.  I can’t put my finger on it.  Maybe I’m older and more critical of new stuff, while still looking at the old stuff through the eyes of an eleven-year-old.

I guess pants were not in-style in Krynn during the War of the Lance.  But I suppose bedazzling leather, collarbone armor was.

I guess pants were not in-style in Krynn during the War of the Lance. But I suppose bedazzling leather, collarbone armor was.

I’m trying to look at his work (and not just these amusing examples) with the harder, sarcastic sensibility that I have developed in the last twenty years.  It’s not really working.  I have no desire to undo those positive feelings.  I wonder do any of you have cheesy shit from your early adolescence that you are unable to tear down.   I’m tired so that will be all for now.

  1. One of the weirdest side effects of years of art history is that I am now cheesed out by fantasy art that I used to really love. Its not the geeky costumes as much as the way these compositions get put together. For instance, above we can see that he drew the four figures separately first, then then created a composite composition. Raistlin has a nearly passable posture, but I suspect if it wasn’t obscured by robes we’d see that his spine is broken. Cam and Tika are a little more exposed. Cam’s head is about twice as big as his feet, but his legs are tiny. Tika is just a mess: her spine isn’t actually connected to her pelvis, which isn’t so obvious at first glance because her left foot and ankle are hidden so we can’t see what’s going on really. All three of them are hovering between an inch or three off the ground.

    All of this seems mean, but its actually pretty hard to get this right. That’s why they’re all just sort of standing like gunslingers. McFarlane was masterful at disguising his weird drawing by twisting spidey into all sort of weird “super heroic” shapes. Most everyone in the 90’s avoided this altogether by making every human form utterly grotesque. John Cassasdy has a great sense of the human figure but has a difficult time placing that form in any realistic 3-d space.

    And Jan VanEyck, the great Flemmish master was terrible at this to. Not just terrible…incapable.

    In fact, oddly enough, there are only a few people who really stand up for me, mostly illustrators from the 50’s and 60’s, people like Frazetta. Aside from his use of color and his ability to model dimensionality with very few brushstrokes, his sense of anatomy was honed by drawing and painting pinups from models for years.

    Anyway, I guess you just touched on a geek nerve. I wish I could love this the way I used to, but I guess instead I love academic painting in a way I never thought I would.

    I’d love to hear what you other artists think of this. I’m I the only one who has this problem?

  2. Don’t talk shit about John Cassidy, Noah. Planetary is one of my very, very, all-time favorites and I will not hesitate to defend it with surprise kidney punches!

    Personally, I always thought Cameron should have been bigger, more muscular, like the Hulk. Tika, too, but mostly in the boob area…

  3. Hey Scott,

    I just started Abercrombie. Did you finish all three already? What did you think?

  4. The following has maybe no capital letters:
    Cheesy things I refuse to [tear?] down? Let’s see: 1980s + before chuck norris films, 1960s bullwinkle cartoons, mr. moore + connery james bond films, 1980s he-man action figures, bugs bunny cartoons, early eddie murphy films, rambo films, Disneyland, burger king, captain kangaroo, making long-strange-gotistical lists, [Ha!], etc.

  5. Ok, I meant, “egotistical”, not “gotistal”, I’m too sleepy to think right now.


    • I agree wholeheartedly. The only thing you can do by analyzing the beloved memories of your youth is make your life a little sadder.

      And list-making is not egotistical. It’s what separates us from the animals.

  6. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for agreeing with my post. Yeah, why bother analyzing the joy-making things of our youth? No need. “List-making is not egotistical. It’s what separates us from the animals.” That’s a cool look at list-making. I’ll have to remember to say that to people. 🙂

    Have a Good Day,


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