Monday, October 31, 2011

A Halloween Witch - Dragon Magazine Style

Happy Halloween everyone.  It's probably my favorite holiday of the year...a chance to dress up in a silly costume and act like a kid again, no matter how old we really are.

To help celebrate the night of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, I've been working on a few witch miniatures.  Unfortunately they are not quite finished yet (despite my best efforts) but photos will be coming soon.  But I didn't want to strike out on a Halloween themed post so I thought I'd throw up a photo of one of my favorite Dragon Magazine issues.

The issue is number 114 from October of 1986.  The cover features a scantily clad female witch perched atop a positively evil looking stone monument.  Actually, "skyclad" or nude would be a better description since the only article of clothing is a sheer robe or cape.  The painting for the cover was done by David Martin and titled "Spirit of the Night."  I think his quote from the magazine in describing his work perfectly translates the image to words:  "In a shower of moonlight, a lone figure kneels in supplication to the image of a god worshiped long ago.  Aroused, the elemental nightwind rises up, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the dead city.  It carries the smells of the forest, invisible, yet potent as a prayer in the silence."  Indeed!

Let's see, October of 1986...that would make me around fifteen years old.  No wonder I liked the cover so much.  But in all honesty, I have very fond memories of the cover, not only because I had a mostly nude female on the cover of my favorite magazine but also due to the painting itself.  The "cool" colors used to cover most of the canvas makes me think of a chilly autumn night while the full moon definitely portrays a late October evening.  As I mentioned in my last entry, autumn is a special time for me and anything that reminds me of that time of year is bound to fall into favor.  And maybe it's the use of an old broken statue to represent an ancient being or something else entirely, but the painting simply screams AD&D to me.

The articles inside were just as good as the cover.  (Yes!  I do read it for the articles!  Ha!)  To go along with the Halloween theme, a wonderful rewrite of the Witch NPC class served as the centerpiece while a small section entitled "Grave Encounters" offered several tables to help generate inhabitants of cemeteries, graveyards, and crypts.  I also particularly enjoyed the Elven Cavalier article on page 26.

Although I rank this as one of my top ten Dragon Magazine covers ever, not every subscriber and reader was happy with the issue.  In fact, number 114 caused quite a scandal.  The cover reignited a debate about the depiction of females in the game and in artwork and one reader went as far as to call it "soft-core pornography."  I wonder how many subscriptions were cancelled after that issue?  I also wonder how many new subscriptions were ordered?  After all, a cover like Mr. Martin's could be considered cutting edge at the time.

Though certainly not the intent of this post, I can't help but wonder where the gaming community stands now on such issues as scantily clad females on covers or their general depiction in gaming.  Do you have an opinion?  Is it acceptable in today's media or are females being done an injustice?  I'd like to know what you think......


  1. Personally I quite enjoy the occasionally scantily clad female form, its certainly pleasantly titillating if done right, and not too overt.
    In this instance, the witch is appropriately clad if you go along with some of the myths and legends of celtic or later era witches dancing naked round ancient stone circles…
    And of course the fantasy genre is full of clichéd semi clad female barbarian forms, it just seems par for the course…
    I guess the semi-nude or nude female form is always going to walk a tightrope in terms of definition between ‘art’ or ‘soft-core pornography’, and I guess its always going to come down to context perhaps, which again may be influences by how prudish the viewer is.
    I don’t mind it all, but might now have second thoughts if my young son were to view the same picture, that’s the tricky bit…but there again, right now he’s probably too young to realise it may cause some folks offence, and of course when he’s old enough to know better, he’ll probably enjoy it as I do! ;-)

  2. Well said Scott. I agree completely but also understand that some might find this type of art offensive. Although I sometimes think that some critics simply look for something, anything, to complain about and no matter how hard one tries, you cannot please everyone. One viewer's art is another viewer's trash I guess. As for me.....keep the fantasy art coming - in all it's variety!