Reposted 4/3/98; Edited 4/6/98
Exclusive to Radio Free Wyhtl
In 1988, Dragon Magazine published an issue that held the last episode of its best comic, and the first episode of the comic that would help it reach its greatest circulation. They are forever frozen there, each on either side of the same printed page. WORMY, by Dave Trampier, was about to cease abruptly, and the as-yet-untitled YAMARA, by yours trulies, was about to launch.
Throughout the 1980's, there arose in the United States excellently written comics, beautifully rendered. Heavy Metal led the way when it was a monthly, early in the decade, being certain to include at least one thought-provoking story amongst the softcore that filled the rest of its pages. Lee & Kaluta's StarStruck and Findlay's Tex Arcana kept us buying the magazine when all else was Italian punkery and French titillation. (Tex Arcana, by the way, is canonical reading for Deadlands players.) With the comic collections of Fantagraphics, and innovative independents like Cerebus, comics had their last great rally before computer graphics and the web trumped their wonder, perhaps forever.
|Above. An amusing passage becomes a sinister aside
with the artist's vanishment.
See Project Blue Plate.
At a time when most players considered encountered creatures as just another pretext to kill, rob, and augment one's own fantasy character, Trampier showed the "monsters" as beings with a rich social life, pursuing the means of peace and happiness in the their corner of their world. Fight scenes were always depicted with the starkness and terror of real bloodletting. Even the title character, a very toonish dragon, came under sudden assault by an elegantly rendered dark being, and had to drop his pool-shark pretensions to scramble for his life.
But the most dangerous side to the strip was its political stance. In one scene an oafish ogre is guarding a captured troll while his savvy brother is "gaming" with other enslaved trolls in the other room. The oaf is giggling over a comic book, and the troll tries to engage him in a conversation to convince him that ogres and trolls shouldn't be fighting each other when there were so many other ways to live. The episode becomes page after page of increasingly angry tirade against his very readership. The troll's fury is a transparent overlay of the artist's own: Why are you just gaming and reading comic books? Why fantasize at all when there is a real world outside your door to build, to fight for? But you're letting it be stolen from you through stupid inaction.
Imprisionment was also the theme at the end of the strip as the same angry troll tried to rescue a small heroic friend from an unjust jailer. He was about to march into a city hall and take on an oppressive governor when Wormy stopped without a warning.
We were excited about being accepted to Dragon, to have our little corner of Dragonmirth, and to be in the same pages as our favorite game and one of the finest comics we had ever followed. When our four-panel strips began to run, we noticed Wormy was gone.
Calling Art Director Roger Raupp over further submissions, we posed the question over the fate of Trampier's presence. "He didn't turn in any art," was the answer. That was the only month we turned six episodes in ahead of time.
Years passed, and nothing was seen of the artist, or his work. One day in the mid-90s, we called a ranking TSR employee, a gentleman well respected and known for his calm and friendly approach to everyone, and asked whatever happened to Dave Trampier. "I will never work with him again," was the terse and uncharacteristically angry reply. We didn't press the issue, but shortly thereafter we had cause to call Fantagraphics, and casually added in the question, "Have you ever considered a collection of Dave Trampier's work?" The guy on the other end (who sure sounded like Gary Groth) simply said, "Never heard of him."
But it was at DexCon 4* that we began to hear the rumors of his complete disappearance. One industry light had heard he was living in his car in Canada. Another said that he was buried in Pittsburgh. Only they were serious. Phil Foglio spoke with us at the con; he had noticed when Wormy stopped running, and called Kim Mohan to ask what happened. Kim, then editor, told Phil that payments for the strip were returned unopened. "When an artist's checks are returned uncashed, he is presumed dead," Phil drily stated.
This was getting worse than Abe Vigoda, who keeps being presumed dead, but survives to make another surprise appearance on TV. Dave Trampier became our industry's bona fide X-file, and is to this day. As for tales we've been told of his fate-- and this is no joke-- no two are the same.
There has been no reprinting or compilation of any of his work, despite interest on the parts of many savvy businessmen in this industry, because no one, including TSR, could secure the rights to the work of a missing man. If he wasn't the most brilliant comic artist gaming has seen, if his work was not so controversial, if he hadn't been with Dungeons & Dragons since its beginning, his disappearance would seem far less sinister, and the indifference to his absence less offensive.
Come on, people, this is a mystery! We're supposed to be good at this! One of our own falls down a dungeon precipice, and we sit on the sidelines like a flock of shy hens, gossiping. What happened to this exceptional creator?
Enter the might of the World Wide Web, and its shadowy legalities. If Mr. Trampier lives, he may have to run to protect his creation from public domain** now that a fan has plastered many episodes of Wormy up on GeoCities. Take note: Aetherco does not support the illegal practice of copyright infringement. But in our opinion, this bizarre situation warrants every effort to bring the author or those responsible for his estate into the light of day.
Anyone with accurate information as to the fate or whereabouts of Dave Trampier are encouraged to write us: email@example.com. We will not use your name if you request, but we will require a means of confirming any information you pass along to us.
Godspeed to him, wherever he may be.
Update of 3/6/98:
We've been pretty busy lately (as our "New at Yamara Page" can testify) but we ARE receiving input on Trampier, even some leads. Please keep sending your emails, and we'll post some results soon...
* Phil and Kaja Foglio were guests of Dexcon 4, not Dexcon 5 as we had earlier reported. Our apologies for any confusion. - 4/3/98
** David Trampier's copyright and possible trademark claims are by no means out of jeopardy. Anyone who knows his whereabouts is encouraged to contact him and inform him of the online situation of his property. -4/6/98