Monday, May 22, 2017

Mentzer Basic Cover Art Prototype

Mentzer Basic cover art prototype.

Above is Larry Elmore's original idea for the cover art of Mentzer Basic. Frank Mentzer posted about it over on Facebook recently, with a photo of the original art taken by Jon Peterson. Here's part of what Frank wrote about it:

"Initial cover concepts were similar to the previous edition, portraying a group of adventurers with a dragon. That was almost used, but it bothered Gary [Gygax]. After the color images were ready to be finalized in oils, after a lot of plans were made, Gary changed course. He asked Larry to focus the action on just one fighter and one dragon ... and the world-famous Red Box cover emerged."

This version has more elements in common with the Holmes Basic cover art painted by David Sutherland. In addition to the huge red dragon on a pile of gold, there is a block stone archway in the background, and a wizard framing the left side of the composition, both casting a spell and providing an upraised light source (here a glowing staff, in Sutherland's a torch). 

Larry Elmore is currently offering a limited edition print of this original concept via his website. Thanks to Gus Landt for bringing this offer to my attention via a post on the Acaeum. Note that above I cropped the blank margins off the original image to focus on the painting, but that the print being offered includes the margins, which have production notes.

Update: Here's a mock-up of the Mentzer Players Manual with this artwork that Frank posted in the comments to his Facebook post:

Update #2: Over on the Acaeum, misterspock posted an auction photo of a TSR Companion Rules box mock-up. IIRC a photo of this mock-up appeared in a TSR catalog prior to the release of the set. This cover has prototype art showing the same party of adventurers - wizard in red with staff, halfling in green, fighter with the same boots and shield.


  1. Perhaps we will see such a cover someday. It's a very solid concept.

    Maybe we should alert the fellow who does BLUEHOLME.

  2. It might have been a fun idea (and similar to the concept of the 1981 books' covers where the wizard on the Expert book is watching the scene on the Basic book) if the solo fighter version had been on a pamphlet with the introductory stuff and solo adventures, and the group version on the actual rulebook (i.e. the part covering group adventures).

  3. These pieces are volumes better then what we got, I think. It's a matter of taste of course, and the one used was popular, so might well have been the right one for the majority of people. I don't understand Gary on this one, though.

  4. Thanks for writing such an awesome blog post. I love the photo it really reminds me of some of the things I saw when I was younger. I've been to many interesting sites lately but it's only until I went through some of the old blogs that I realize what I miss so much about the way the internet is.

    Nevertheless, I'm getting a bit carried away here.