Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Featured Artist: Darlene (and This Old Dragon Retrospective)

Ask any old school gamer to name four classic D&D artists you are likely to get some combination of Elmore, Easley, Caldwell, or Parkinson.  

Ask the REALLY old gamers and they are likely to include Otus, Dee, Tramp, and Willingham to that list.  Sadly, though this has been changing, one of the artist generally not mentioned despite her work is Darlene.

It has taken a long time, but within the last decade or so Darlene is finally getting to accolades and respect she should have been getting since the dawn of D&D.  Her name may not jump out at you, but her art certainly does.

Darlene's RPG BIO

She is foremost the creator of the full-color map of the Flanaess that came with the World of Greyhawk folio and then again with the boxed set.

Darlene map of the Flanaess

She did the cover art for Mike Carr's module B1 In Search of the Unknown.

In Search of the Unknown by Darlene

Art in the Dungeon Master's Guide,

Darlene DMG Art

Darlene DMG Art

Darlene DMG Art

Darlene DMG Art

Darlene DMG Art

Many of the logos from the classic days of D&D,

Man in the Moon logo by Darlene

Gods of Greyhawk from Dragon Magazine

Jasmine (and This Old Dragon Retrospective)

But her most personal, and certainly longest lived, project was her comic strip Jasmine.  Jasmine appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine from issues #37 to #48 and no continues on her Patreon site. Darlene retained the copyright to Jasmine.

The Dragon kicked off her debut in style with Darlene's art on the cover.

Darlene Dragon #37

The Dragon #37

In addition to that wonderfully lovey cover, we are introduced to the tale of Jasmine as "a princess marching cheerfully to her doom."  This is one of the very first color comic strips (though "illustrated adventure story" might be better) I remember seeing in the pages of Dragon.  Darlene's style is watercolor dreamlike.  We are viewing this tale through the mists of time.  They are beautiful to behold but sadly too far away to interact with.  

The Dragon #38

The Princess is ambushed and captured by a rider in all black.

Dragon #39

The magazine is now just called "Dragon" but Jasmine continues. With none of her guards perusing the cloaked the rider the Princess begins to realize that help is not coming.

Dragon #40

A bit of recap, and extended to three pages, we learn that Princess Flavia had been placed under a spell and sent to this land because she had refused all other suitors.  After two day straight of riding with her captor, the hooded man in black from #38, they enter a grove.  Their horse rears up throwing them both off. The hooded man is knocked unconscious.  Flavia then meets up with two gnome-like men who introduce themselves as The Guardians and say they are here to help her.  Flavia says she does not need their help. They reply back that she says that because she has no idea what sort of danger she is in.

Dragon #41

We learn that Princess Flavia is destined to become the next Thaumaturgist!  And it appears she already has a mystic ring of some sort on her hand.

Dragon #42

Flavia recounts to Brother Ethelred how the Ring of Emeth came to her possession. We learn of the peril her father the King is now in. We also learn that another seeks this ring.

Dragon #43

(Ah, the Witch Issue!) Here we get more background on the Guardians and the ring.  There are two who seek it, archenemies Bardulf and Thorgall the Ice King.  Only they can remove it from her finger. 

Dragon #44

Flavia spends a few days considering the Guardians' advice.  She feels trapped in destiny and soon wanders off to a bridge to be confronted by bandits!

Dragon #45

The bandits attack and attempt to rape her until they see her ring and their greed overtakes them.  She is "saved" by a Dwarf warrior who kills both bandits, but the bodies already appear to be burned and withered. When he asks her for her name she replies "Jasmine."

Dragon #46

The dwarf warrior, Glynn Kedaroakenheart has also been drawn up in a prophecy about someone named Jasmine.  Meanwhile Jasmines growing enemies plan and plot.

Dragon #47

Glynn discovers more about Jasmine and encounters others hunting for Princess Flavia.

Dragon #48

Jasmine continues her way up the temple. She is pursued by soldiers who try to attack.  When she is discovered by Glynn the soldiers have all been blinded by a powerful light. 

Jasmine the last page

Sadly here ends our tale of Jasmine in the pages of classic Dragon.  Though her tale continues on Darlene's website and on her Patereon.



Dick McGee said...

I'm sad to say I bought a copy of the Jasmine card game back in the day, only to lose it in a flood years later. One less copy of that in the world - and given the current price for the few copies remaining, I can't see myself re-acquiring the game either.

Darlene's stories about working for early TSR reflect a truly awful work environment. Makes me wonder how bad things were for other folks - Dave Trampier famously walked away in disgust as well, and how many others would have liked to?

grodog said...

Darlene used to sell copies at GaryCon and NTX directly, so you might reach out to her to find a replacement, Dick McGee.


Dick McGee said...

She still sells them on her website. They're $133.00 a copy at the moment, because they're rare as hen's teeth. I'm simply not willing to pay that much.

Ruprecht said...

Anyone have any idea what her t-shirt says?

Timothy S. Brannan said...


"Illegitimi non carborundum" meaning "Don't let the bastards grind you down."

DM_Angelo said...

Great post