Wednesday, 30 March 2016

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #23 - Dracula Pack VIII



Ah the dear old Incredible Melting Man! Back when these cards first hit the stores, this chap needed no introduction as he was something of a playground legend. Thanks to ill-timed TV spots, inappropriately scheduled trailers, and of course assorted reports from older siblings 1977's The Incredible Melting Man was one of those titles that a lot of kids desperately wanted to see,  but thanks to the UK's film classification rules were highly unlikely to. Daft really, as the tale of an astronaut who turns into a huge puddle of goo had kid's entertainment written all over it! After all, this was the era when cans of Slime were all the rage! 

Alright, there was all that business with eating folks to slow down his melting but we could have handled that! We didn't buy that "first new horror creature" lark - we'd all figured out that this was just a splattery version of The Incredible Shrinking Man! And provided there wasn't a freaking terrifying giant spider in it, most of us reckoned we could handle seeing ol' Melty gnawing on a limb or too... Of course that was never going to happen, as it was this movie wouldn't be still in theatres when we'd all grown up enough to be let in, and obviously, this was a movie that would never get shown on the telly... 



But.... a few year later, the dawn of the home video era, or perhaps more accurately, the dawn of the little shops whose owners would happily hire out all manner of dubious material to little kids era, meant that we finally got our wish!  And you know what - the movie's rubbish! Brilliant effects from a young Rick Baker mind you, but other than that utter tosh! Ah well... Some things are best left in the imagination, and old Pizza-face is one of 'em! 

So then, moving on to our next card, it looks like we are in one of the better neighbourhoods in Monster Movie Land! Or at least, so it first appears... 


Ah King Kong! A true classic! Up there with Dracula and Frankenstein in the ranks of the monsters everybody on the damn planet knows! However - and prepare for a shock here - this ISN'T King Kong. Nope, it's not the Beast from Skull Island in any of his assorted screen incarnations! And yes, that does included the somewhat mangy looking suitamation versions from the likes of Toho. However this is a close relative of Kong, albeit linked to the cinema's most famous movie primate via a little bit of legal DNA.

Basically the story goes like this... Back in the 1950s, exploitation kings AIP had had great success in taking old movie monsters and giving them a modern spin - hence Universal's Wolf Man spawned I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Victor Frankenstein gained a modern day descendant in I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (also 1957), and the Count inspired the teens menaced by vampires flick Blood of Dracula (yes, 1957 again). 

Now then the genius behind  I Was a Teenage Werewolf was a chap maned Nat Cohen, who thought the time was right for a giant gorilla thriller along the lines of King Kong but now in glorious colour! And given the success of AIP's teen monster trilogy, he was soon given a big bag of cash to go and make that happen. And hence he threw a large wedge at RKO - $25, 000 in fact - for the rights to the Kong name, and work began on a movie with the working title "I Was a Teenage Gorilla". I kid you not! However rather than the teen Americana that informed the previous monster movies, this project soon took a different direction. It skipped over the pond to merry England and Konga (1961) was born!    


Now in this movie, instead of the usual go off to some remote jungle place and capture one helluva monkey plot which served various versions and sequels for King Kong and Mighty Joe Young so well, Konga has well meaning but mad boffin Dr. Charles Dexter (played by genre legend Michael Gough) experimenting with a growth formula. He makes all kinds of giant plant and animals before testing it on a young chimp... Now swiftly stepping passed awkward questions such as how does a growth formula manage to turn one species of ape (i.e. a chimpanzee) into another different one (i.e. a gorilla), Konga surprisingly doesn't have the monster-sized monkey escape and run amok as usual. Instead our prodigious primate is hypnotized by the wicked Dr. Dexter to go and wreak revenge on his rivals and enemies!

Is it a good film? Well, not really... But a prime slice of monkey business? Certainly is! While the movie isn't as fun as the Godzilla-knock-off Gorgo who menaced 1960s Blighty, Konga is certainly more entertaining than The Giant Behemoth, a radioactive saurian that stomped London in the same era. But like Gorgo, Konga got his own comic series from Charlton, which you can read for free here!

Next week - the return of a familiar face and some unpleasantness involving a goat and Ernest Borgnine!


Friday, 25 March 2016

HYPNOGORIA 32 - The Mysteries of the Mummy Part V: Imhotep Rises


Mr Jim Moon takes on Boris Karloff's evil immortal mummy Imhotep in a full commentary on the 1932 Universal horror classic The Mummy

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  The Mysteries of the Mummy Part V

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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #22 - Dracula Pack VII


Welcome dear fiends once more to that subterranean home of terrible old horror tat - the Tomb of the Trumps! Now then after the somewhat obscure goings-on of last episode, this week we are back in classic territory - on terror firma as it were! Heh! Heh! Heh!


Now then, do I really have to explain who The Hangman is? Well, on the off chance you don't know, this green faced sadist is actually the great Lon Chaney in the classic 1925 silent version of The Phantom of the Opera! Behold! 


Now for me, and indeed for many movie buffs, the Chaney version of Phantom of the Opera is still easily the best screen adaptation of the classic novel by Gaston Leroux. Not only is it the most faithful, but still, nearly a century later, no one has bettered Chaney's own self-created make-up for the disfigured Erik. 

However as much as I'd like to sit and gush about the 1925 Phantom - seriously folks, if you've not seen it, do seek it out - we have other business with this card! For as is traditional with these old Horror Top Trumps, there's more than one source being used here in this Hangman tableaux. For yes, his victim is lifted from a still from an old horror flick too. And it's from another classic too! Yes, the Hangman's victim is poor old Dr. Marcus (played by John Carson) in that cult collaboration between Hammer and Brian Clemens Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter (1974)!  


Although, that being said, at first I did heavily suspect the Hangman's victim was none other than Christopher Matthews in anopther Hammer flick of the same vintage, Scars of Dracula! However I think that's just down to our Unknown Artist squashing the head a bit and colouring the hair blonde!


 However we're still on a classic tip with our next card too... Hang onto your hats... and your noggins too, for it's Headhunter! 


Now then despite the fearsome appearance of this card, Headhunter doesn't hail from some forgotten green hell horror flick full of savages and tropical blood rites! Rather like his deck mate Cannibal, this fearful brute is actually based on a pic from a non-horror movie. Yes, Headhunter is actually the genie - played by Rex Ingram - from the classic fantasy flick The Thief of Baghdad, made in 1940 by cinema legends Alexander Korda and Michael Powell.   


However once again, our work here is not yet done. For does not that out-of-scale little white noggin ring a distant bell or two? Well, it certainly always looked vaguely familiar to me too. And at first from the somewhat different style of inking used, I suspected that this little white bonce was perhaps a lift from a horror comic. But then, a penny suddenly dropped - the heavy crude lines weren't due to it being a steal from a comic-book, but because it was taken from a blurry old still. And noting the wonky ears, the one quizzically raised eyebrow, and the beaky snooze, there was only one place this could have come from - Nosferatu (1922)!


Yes, I heavily suspect that Headhunter's trophy is actually based on this still from the classic silent horror masterpiece. And I'm guessing from the heavy lines used by our Unknown Artist, he was working from a poorly printed and/or much magnified picture of the face of Graf Orlock as seen in this famous shot. Hence it's something of a loose likeness I grant you, but there are clear similarities, and too many to be a mere coincidence methinks.

Of course, as usual if you have any better idea, do let me know! Next week we discover an unlikely pairing of a killer monkey and a puddle of goo! 


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

MYSTERIES OF THE MUMMY EXTRA!


As mentioned in this week's show Mysteries of the Mummy Part IV - Silent Screams here's a round-up of the few surviving mummy silent movies that still survive and you can watch online... 

First up we have The Haunted Curiosity Shop - a British short from 1901 The Haunted Curiosity Shop - British short directed by Michael Booth, a former stage magician who became a leading maker of early British movies!  


Next we have another great pioneer of both cinema and special effects wizardry, Monsieur Georges Méliès and his 1903 silent Le Monstre!


And finally, we have Die Augen der Mummie Ma (1918) also known as The Eyes of the Mummy, a German silent directed by Ernst Lubitch!    



Sunday, 20 March 2016

HYPNOGORIA 31 - The Mysteries of the Mummy Part IV: Silent Screams


In this episode we follow the course of mummy stories in early 20th century weird and genre fiction, with tales of strange curses and evil immortals!  And then we discover how he shambled onto the silver screen in the silent era in a surprising number of early outings!

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  The Mysteries of the Mummy Part IV

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Friday, 18 March 2016

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Great Pyramid of Liverpool


While only officially a city since the 18th century, history abounds in Liverpool. Originally founded in a charter from King John, over the centuries Liverpool grew from a small borough to a bustling port and then into a centre of international trade. Naturally this rich heritage is reflected in the landscape of the city itself, and coupled with the scousers' love of a good yarn, there's a story waiting around every corner. Take for example Rodney Street - this row of impressive Georgian houses was the birth place of British Prime Minister William Gladstone and the poet Arthur Clough. It is famed for being the residence of numerous doctors over the years, and has been dubbed the Harley Street of the North. However what often attracts the eyes of visitors these days is the graveyard of St. Andrews Church. For many years the church itself was derelict, having been gutted by a fire back in the early 1980s, But now it has been restored and the site redeveloped. However the original churchyard remains, and among the usual leaning tombstones and weathered crosses stands a large pyramid, some 15 feet high. 

Now at first one might very reasonably assume that this is a relic of the great crazes for all things Egyptian that swept through fashionable society in the 19th and early 20th centuries - for example, in the famous Highgate Cemetery in London, there is a whole array of tombs known as Egyptian Avenue. And while the dating of the monument would fit into the general trend for Egyptian inspired architecture, in local lore this monument, often called the Great Pyramid of Liverpool, has far stranger tales attached to it.  

For this is the grave of a Mr William Mackenzie, born in 1794, and who died in 1851 at 74 Grove Street where he had resided since 1843. Son of a Scottish contractor, but born in Nelson, Lancashire, Mackenzie started out as an apprentice weaver but went on to train as a civil engineer. And it was in this field that he was to make his mark, becoming one of the leading engineers of his day, working on railways and canal projects not just all over England, but all over the world. We know much about his life thanks to detailed journals he left, that were published as The Diary of William Mackenzie, by Thomas Telford Publishing in 2000. He became a very wealthy man from his endeavours, and when he died left an estate of £341, 848 - a massive amount today but relatively worth even more back in the 1850s. 

William Mackenzie

When he died, he was buried in the Scottish Presbyterian church of St. Andrews, back then a new building having being constructed in 1824. The inscription on the pyramid actually gives us it true origin - 
In the vault beneath lie the remains of William Mackenzie of Newbie, Dumfriesshire, Esquire who died 29th October 1851 aged 57 years. Also, Mary his wife, who died 19th December 1838 aged 48 years and Sarah, his second wife who died 9th December 1867 aged 60 years. This monument was erected by his Brother Edward as a token of love and affection A.D. 1868. The memory of the just is blessed.
We should note here that Edward had good cause for affection, as he had inherited a good proportion of his brother's estate. However despite the inscription telling anyone who cares to read it that this curious monument was actually erected some 16 years after Mackenzie's death, that hasn't stopped some remarkable stories springing up around the pyramid.

To begin with Mackenzie's ghost has been spotting in the vicinity of the graveyard. But this is no amiable old phantom merely walking the streets of his old home town, for Mackenzie's spectre is something of an imposing figure in top hat and cloak, and seemingly delights in giving those who see him a ruddy good scare. Passers-by have been terrified by the sight of Mackenzie striding through the tomb, and even walking out through the the old blackened church walls. In fact according to local legend, Mackenzie's spectre has even been seen brawling with another local phantom.

For Rodney Street is allegedly home to several different ghosts, indeed it is claimed to be one of the most haunted streets in Liverpool. Now one of these other ghosts is a fellow dubbed Lantern Jaw - a tall figure in top hat and opera cape. And if you are thinking that this spectral gent sounds very similar to the reported appearance of Mr Mackenzie's shade, you would be quite right - for one is often confused with the other, and the only way to definitely tell them apart is that Lantern Jaw is somewhat taller. Of course, another way of telling betwixt the two is if you see the ghostly pair together - which according to local legend some folks have. Allegedly the two are sometimes spotted arguing and even fighting! No one is sure what the pair are squabbling about, but one cannot help but wonder if perhaps this is some spectral turf war over haunting rights! 

Now if you know anything of ghost lore, you will know that ghosts rarely haunt their burial places. Contrary to decades of spooky stories and horror movies, cemeteries and graveyards tend to be some of the least haunted places, for as a rule the shades of the dead tend to reappear at either places they were close to in life or at the locations where they passed away. So then why does old Mr Mackenzie stride around the tombs of St. Andrews and pavements of Rodney Street?

Well, the story goes that Mackenzie was a gambler and had lost his soul to the Devil in a game of cards, the deal being that Old Nick would claim his prize when the old Mackenzie was buried. However being a wily old fellow, Mackenzie therefore arranged to be interred above ground, hence the construction of his pyramid tomb. It is said he was entombed inside, sat up at a table, and therefore as he was never laid to rest six feet under, the Devil is still waiting for his soul. However as his soul still is promised to Hell, Heaven has no claim to him either, and so Mackenzie's spirit still walks the earth. However local legend has another twist to the tale - for it is claimed that several years ago, the police were called to St. Andrews one night. Apparently some one had thought to break into the old tomb. And inside the now opened pyramid, the police discovered a skeleton propped up at a table, just as the local tales claimed. But what's more, in its bony figures were clutched a winning hand of cards...


Next time on Folklore on Friday - we shall be , if you'll pardon the pun, digging a little deeper into the origins of these strange tales... 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #22 - Dracula Pack VI


Hello folks! Welcome once again to that lurid den of artistic iniquity that is Tomb of the Trumps! We are currently still trapped within the letter G of the Dracula pack, and it's fair to say things have gotten a little weird around here! And if you thought last episode's tuxedo sporting Godzilla was bizarre, you ain't seen nothing yet! 


Dearie dearie me! What on earth is going on here? Yes, we've hit my nomination for Worst Card in either of the old Horror Top Trumps decks! And that's nothing to do with the stats either - although they are pretty mediocre generally. No, for me this earns the title of Worst Card thanks to the dreadful artistic execution. Now it is true that the simple lines and colours of these cards excited many a kid's imagination, not just for the lurid hues and ghoulish gore, but also because they were drawn in a style that was easy to emulate with the contents of the average pencil case. However the Gorgon sadly tips over the line and actually looks like a child's drawing. While many of these old Horror Top Trumps were the stuff of nightmares, this on the other hand looks like the artist was having an absolute 'mare drawing it!  

But where did this demented vision spring from? Well of course, gorgons are a staple of Greek mythology and as one of the oldest famous monsters in the world they have turned up in a few movies over the years. However the artistic horror on this card resembles none of the Classical gorgon's cinematic outings. It certainly isn't remotely like the Gorgon conjured up by Hammer in their classic 1964 movie, and while some top trumpologists reckon this card was inspired by 1981's Clash of the Titans there are a couple of problems with that theory. For while this Top Trumps Gorgon has a snakey lower half like the Medusa in that movie, I'm not entirely sure that the film was actually out when these decks were being created. Of course, secondly and more importantly, the abomination above looks feck all like the late great Ray Harryhausen's wonderful creature. 

However there was something naggingly familiar about this card, and eventually I remembered what it reminded me of - this poster for an old HP Lovecraft adaptation! 


Now you may well think that there is just a superficial resemblance but look closer! We have the same triangular eyes and beast-like visage, and while the snake hair has been pushed down the sides, there some similarities in the monstrous barnet (although thanks to the crude rendition it is hard to tell).  

Much like Thor in the last deck, here we have the demented Unknown Artist seemingly having trouble getting the image to fit into the dimensions of the card and ending up squashing the image to get it in. Furthermore, learned visitors of the Tomb of the Trumps, it is my contention that the burly body of the Gorgon on the card is in fact nothing more than the torso of the nudie lady on the poster turned upside with some inexpertly rendered scales bunged on!  Certainly that would explain a) the weird body and b) why our Unknown Artist has chosen to keep the hands off camera! 

Anyhow, moving swiftly on from that horror, let's go from one of the worst cards to one of the blandest! #


Ah poor old Granite Man! Despite having some decent scores, he was beloved by exactly no one, and on reflection a Horror Rating of 71 seems distinctly generous when most kids just wondered who the hell he was. Was he a poor cousin of Marvel superheroes like Ice Man? Could be! Or perhaps a mate of Spidey's foe Sandman? That seemed likely! Was he extremely dull? Yes!  

Now on the face of it, old Granite Man does seem like the makers were really struggling to fill this second deck and knocked this up so quickly the artist didn't even bother to colour it in. However it may surprise you to know that actually this card wasn't just a quick sketch slapped on a card! In fact Granite Man is this chap!


Now that still shows the main monster from a little known 1957 horror flick entitled Pharoah's Curse. In this movie, explorers excavate an ancient Egyptian tomb and one of their number, a young chap played by Alvaro Guillot becomes possessed by the spirit of an ancient mummy. But as well as going on the expected murderous rampage, he develops a taste for blood drinking, but also he begins to age at an accelerated rate until he resembles the old geezer in his pajamas shown above. But of course his more lasting legacy was providing the template for Granite Man... However now I know where the rocky chap came from we now have the trickier dilemma of deciding whether it was a good or bad thing that the deranged Unknown Artist of the trumps left off his jim-jims...

Next time, thankfully, we are on firmer ground once more...

Sunday, 13 March 2016

MICROGORIA 26 - Mysteries of the Mummy Part III: Radio Thoth


In this episode, we take a side-step into the world of old time radio to sample a variety of Egyptological thrills. Firstly we have an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's tale The Ring of Thoth presented by Escape! and then hear the tale of the Living Mummy from The World Adventurers Club. And finally we round off with a spine-chilling tale of opening an ancient tom Whence You Came from the brilliant Quiet Please

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  The Mysteries of the Mummy Part III

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Friday, 11 March 2016

MYSTERIES OF THE MUMMY - The Tales from the Tomb


To tie in with our epic exploration of The Mysteries of the Mummy series on the Hypnogoria podcast, here is a list of links that will whisk you away to assorted classic (and not so classic) tales of mummy fiction from ages past! Featuring works discussed on HYPNOGORIA 30 – The Mysteries of the Mummy Part II: Tales of the Tomb and in the forthcoming Mysteries of the Mummy Part IV!

THE MUMMY! A TALE OF THE TWENTY-SECOND CENTURY  by Jane C. Webb (Loudon)

THE MUMMY'S SOUL by Anonymous

THE RING OF AMASIS by Robert Bulwer Lytton

LOST IN A PYRAMID, OR THE MUMMY'S CURSE by Louisa May Alcott

THE MUMMY'S FOOT By Théophile Gautier


THE ROMANCE OF A MUMMY By Théophile Gautier

SOME WORDS WITH A MUMMY by Edgar Allen Poe

MY NEW YEAR'S EVE AMONG THE MUMMIES byRobert Bulwer Lytton

THE RING OF THOTH by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A PROFESSOR OF EGYPTOLOGY by Guy Boothby


LOT NO. 249 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

THE STORY OF BAELBROW by E & H Heron

THE BLOCK OF BRONZE by Herbert Crotzer (PDF Download)

THE JEWEL OF SEVEN STARS original 1903 version by Bram Stoker (PDF Download)

THE JEWEL OF SEVEN STARS revised 1912 version  by Bram Stoker (PDF Download)


PHAROS THE EGYPTIAN by Guy Boothby

THE BEETLE by Richard Marsh

BROOD OF THE WITCH-QUEEN by Sax Rohmer

THE VENGEANCE OF NITOCRIS by Tennessee Williams

THE MUMMY AND MISS NITOCRIS by George Griffith

MONKEYS by EF BENSON

UNDER THE PYRAMIDS aka IMPRISONED WITH THE PHARAOHS by HP Lovecraft with Harry Houdini



Wednesday, 9 March 2016

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #21 - Dracula Pack V


Welcome once again dear friends to the mysterious world of the Tomb of the Trumps! This week, we are looking at two of the most enigmatic cards in either of the decks, although they are mysterious for very different reasons! 


Now then, this porridge faced fellow presents something of a puzzle. To start with he resembles neither titular terrors found in the two horror movies of the same title - looking not a bit like Boris Karloff in the 1933 British horror thriller The Ghoul, nor the diseased and crazed Don Henderson in the Tyburn movie of the same name from 1975. However we do have the source image: quite clearly the card is based on this still...



However here is where the mystery lies - for although this still is often credited as being from the 1944 mad science flick The Monster Maker, this fellow doesn't actually appear in the movie. A publicity still from something cut out of the finished film? Well, it is possible... 

...But our whey-faced fellow bears a close resemblance to a character in another vintage fright flick - George Sawaya as Sailor in The Black Sleep (1956), seen here in a behind-the-scenes shot enjoying a smoke! 


Although in the movie Sailor sports a distinctive scar or wound across his melty bonce, I think it's safe to assume that the fella on the card and in the still is the same mutated miscreant! So that's one mystery solved.. let's move on swiftly to the next more troubling one... 

Now the monster featured in our next card surely needs no introduction.... but by the power of Greyskull, his appearance needs one helluva explanation! 


Yes, that's Godzilla! Dressed as Jason King apparently! And, no I haven't a freaking clue why! All I can think is that the Unknown Artist responsible for this cavalcade of lurid imagery really had something against the Big G. Perhaps he felt the original series of Godzilla movies (which had just drawn to close when these cards were made) had descended too far into camp and silliness, and therefore he chose to dress the big fella accordingly.

...Or maybe, there was some really, really hallucinogenic fumes from those paints and felt tips he was using...

We will probably never know... And frankly that might be for the best! 

However what I can tell you, with some degree of certainty, is that actually ain't Godzilla! Now the Big G has had several face-lifts and makeovers during his six decades on the screen, and this lizard just isn't one of 'em! But that scaly fizzog always seemed strangely familiar to me... And so I started looking through pictures of other screen dinosaurs and monstrous reptiles, and I think I got a match! 


Yes, I think this 'Godzilla' - technically another Gino (Godzilla In Name Only) like that tuna-guzzling chump in the botched 1998 Hollywood version - is actually the plesiosaur from The Land The Time Forgot (1975), seen here trying to take a chunk out of Doug McClure's woolly jumper. Sadly I can't find a matching still but those heavily lidded eyes and slightly wonky teeth are uncannily close... 

I'm not 100% on this, but I am certain that this card was taken from another movie dinosaur - if you have any better candidates, do get in touch! 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

HYPNOGORIA 30 - The Mysteries of the Mummy Part II: Tales of the Tomb


In the second part of our Mummy saga, Mr Jim Moon explores the development and evolution of Egyptian horrors in fiction and literature. We encounter ancient princesses, reincarnated lovers, dire curses from the tomb and, of course, the reanimated dead! 

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  The Mysteries of the Mummy Part II

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Thursday, 3 March 2016

COVER ART-ROCITIES #27


As it's World Book Day, I thought it only fitting for this entry to have one of my favourite books that also features an infamously terrible cover! Yes, it's the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual! Of course, you could have read that on the cover reproduced above but I thought I'd mention it as you might have been distracted by the myriad of *ahem* delights swarming on it.. And it IS a very distracting cover with many prospective readers wondering  if that green fella - a troll by the way - was taking a crap.

Now all the early editions of Dungeons and Dragons were somewhat notorious for the variable quality of the art - on one page there might be a genuinely iconic illustration, while over on the next there would be something that at best could be only charitably described as enthusiastically rendered. But as they were the first ever rulebooks for role playing games, we can forgive them their failings as they were, a) at that point only one step above amateur publications b) intended for an audience used to such small press offerings, and c) and most importantly, they were inventing a whole new world of games here. And hence even the sketchiest and crudest drawings evoke not only a fond nostalgia in old gamers, but also bask in a well-deserved aura of historical importance.  

Now an excellent illustration of this fluctuating scale of art quality are the initial three rulebooks for the first edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. The Dungeon Master's Guide and Players Handbook both sported cover art that was immediately striking, and quickly became iconic. The Monster Manual on the other hand... Well, it was perhaps the most accessible of the core books, for after all, this was a tome that was packed full of cool monsters -  but all the same, this wasn't the book cover you'd show a newcomer to introduce them to this new and strange game you'd discovered. "Is that guy taking a shit?" they'd ask, and you'd have to hope to win them back with that much cherished drawing of the Succubus on page.... Guys, c'mon - you KNOW which page! Seriously though, there was some truly fantastic art inside - I mean look at this lovely Rahskasa (a type of tiger demon by the way) from Dave Trampier - 


However it is also interesting to note that the iconic cover for the first edition of the Dungeon Master's Guide was created by the same artist who did the Monster Manual - Mr David Sutherland III. And that's very typical of early role playing art too - often the same artist being responsible for both stunners and shockers! But as I said, these books were created by folks - ordinary gamers like you and me - who were self-publishing their new rules and learning the ropes as they went. And we should note that the Monster Manual was the first book in that series of editions to be both created and published, and if memory serves, it was the first ever big hardback book of rules too - now the standard format for rpgs. Hence by the time work began on last of the three core volumes, Mr Sutherland had a lot more experience under his belt, and consequently the DMG's cover is considered a bona fide classic - even by old grognards who still get the screaming heebie jeebies remembering queries about troll bathroom habits. 

And while, I (and many others) have often poked fun at the less then masterly composition of the cover of the Monster Manual, it still has a charm to it, a kind of magic that's all too often lacking in the glossy air-brushed covers of game books and fantasy novels these days. And its amateur stylings are part of that charm - for while from a technical point of view there is too much going on, it's that very busyness that gives you the sense of a world packed full of monsters and adventure. What's more, this cover connected with its original audience largely because it looked like the drawings they themselves were doing, or at least wanted to do. And that's a hugely important thing - for if the Monster Manual hadn't sold, we wouldn't have got the other books, and the nascent past-time of role playing games might not have ever emerged from the cloistered world of war-gaming to become a world wide phenomena - not only inspiring countless other pen and paper RPGs, but becoming an integral part of the DNA of video games too. 

Of course, over the years D&D and it's brethren have proven to be very powerful gateway drugs - not to devil worship and depravity as has been occasionally alleged by the hard of thinking - but to the world of reading in general. And more than few creative folks - artists, writers, actors and directors - first got their imaginations fired up shaking a handful of funny shaped dice to defeat the various denizens of the Monster Manual...