Posts Tagged "The Lord of the Rings"

The Artwork of Frank Frazetta

Posted on Jan 24, 2013 in Art and Literature News, Tolkien News | 3 comments

Self-portrait (1962)

Self-portrait (1962)

Frank Frazetta was an American artist known primarily for his fantasy-based artwork. His work has graced the covers of many books and magazines, as well as movie posters. While he didn’t do much work surrounding Tolkien, he did produce a series of illustrations for The Lord of the Rings (which are some of my all-time favorite pieces of artwork).

He was born in 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, and when he was younger than three years old, he sold his grandmother a crayon drawing for a penny (which was enough for him to buy a handful of candy!). Through this, she showed him that there was money to be made in art and encouraged him and always showed an interest in his work.

At eight years old, his parents enrolled him in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts (which only had about 30 students, with ages ranging from eight to eighty). After his professor, Michele Falanga, died, many of the students got together and paid for the school’s rent, and the school remained open for another year before it eventually closed.

While Frazetta still continued to draw and paint a little during his teen years, he became interested in other things, such as athletics, and was offered a contract to play for the New York Giants’ farm team, which he declined.

It wasn’t until he was 16 when he had his work published for the first time. This work was called Snowman, and later that year he completed a feature called Captain Kidd Jr. He got a break three years later from Graham Ingels, an illustrator, who gave him a feature called Judy of the Jungle, which led Frazetta to do others such as Thund’a and Dan Brand and Tipi.

For a long time, he wanted to be able to do the Tarzan comic strip, but didn’t take it when he was finally offered; the idea of becoming a comic strip artist had lost its appeal at that point. He met lifelong friend Roy Krenkel in the late 40s and admits Krenkel was one of his inspirations and the reason he became interested in painting covers for books and magazines.

He created covers for paperback books such as Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and Barsoom series. My father has many copies of these books sitting on his bookshelves, and admits the main reason he bought them was solely for the cover art. One of my favorite covers is from a novel called The Reassembled Man (NSFW) by Herbert D. Kastle. In addition, Frazetta created artwork for magazines like Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella, as well as movie posters, a couple examples of these being What’s New Pussycat? and Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet.

In 1975, the Middle Earth Portfolio Publishing Company in Denver, Colorado commissioned Frazetta to create a portfolio based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It includes seven ink illustrations, and in addition, Frazetta created an oil painting of Gollum for his own enjoyment. When the portfolio was released, many Tolkien fans didn’t have the best reactions towards it. In the book, Testament: The Life and Art of Frank Frazetta, it’s stated that “it ignited a firestorm of criticism from the legion of Rings fans who took issue with Frank’s liberal interpretation of the story. Accustomed to his versions of fantasy characters becoming definitive, he was somewhat mystified by the controversy surrounding the folio.” Frazetta responded with, “Wow, I thought the Burroughs fans were particular, but the Tolkien fans were really picky.” (Sadly there is not much information surrounding Frazetta’s interest in Tolkien.) One thousand sets of the portfolio were printed, numbered, and signed by the artist. Unfortunately, while I don’t have an official set from the signed 1000, I do have prints of the portfolio, and they’re one of my favorite parts of my Tolkien collection. The artwork is different from how we are normally used to seeing Tolkien’s world, and I admit that the armor he created for Éowyn probably isn’t the most logical choice for battle, but I personally love Frazetta’s take on it.

HobbitsÉowyn vs. Nazgûl

In 1983, he released a movie called Fire and Ice with Ralph Bakshi, and a lot of the story and characters were created by Frazetta himself. (Many Tolkien fans will recognize the name Ralph Bakshi, as he directed the animated version of The Lord of the Rings in 1978.)

Frazetta had a few museums, the first one originating in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, but according to the Frank Frazetta Museum website, it is currently closed. As he got older, photography became a larger part of his life; he owned several cameras and used his own darkroom to develop his work. In 2003, a film documenting his life and career called Frazetta: Painting with Fire was released. In it, artists such as Neal Adams and Bill Stout, director Ralph Bakshi, as well as former late editor for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Forrest Ackerman (along with more people), discuss Frazetta and his influence in art.

Frank later suffered from several strokes, causing him to lose ability in his dominant hand, but eventually switched and taught himself to use his left hand. For him to be able to paint beautifully with his non-dominant hand is absolutely amazing! That takes a lot of determination and practice and I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of work that took.

On May 10, 2010, Frazetta died from a stroke at the age of 82, and a month later one of his original artworks for Weird Science-Fantasy No. 29 issue was sold for $380,000. This set the record for the largest amount of money paid for a comic book page by an American artist. Additionally, during San Diego Comic-Con in 2012, Frazetta’s original 1971 oil painting called Conan the Destroyer was sold for $1.5 million!

Frazetta - Comic Book Page

While Frazetta very rarely talked about his work, Dave Winiewicz, a Frazetta historian, asked if he could put into words how he felt about his career. In response, Frazetta wrote in The Burroughs Bulletin:

“I would consider myself to be a creative artist, not just a fantasy illustrator. I work purely from my imagination with swipe flies or photographs sitting by my easel while I paint. I stress good composition and a sense of design that borders on the abstract in spite of the subject matter. When people look back on my art, no one is ever going to say that I was the best draftsman who ever lived. And they’re not going to say that I painted the most beautiful women or the most heroic figures. But I think they’ll say that I made the most unbelievable things believable: that standing in front of one of my paintings caused a suspension of disbelief. Achieving that wasn’t done with style or color or technique; it was achieved with attitude, with a look, with a gesture. Imagination is all of it and I firmly believe that is what I’ll be remembered for.”

My own father is a huge fan of Frank Frazetta, and over the years I’ve become very familiar with his art. Frazetta was able to create such incredible worlds within his paintings and illustrations in such an original way; he went above and beyond. His work has an incredible impact on today’s concept of fantasy-based artwork. When Frazetta died, A Song of Ice and Fire’s author, George R.R. Martin said, “One of the giants of SF and fantasy art. In his heydey, it is said that having a Frazetta cover on your paperback would double your sales… Frazetta had a profound influence on many artists who came after him as well, some of whom went on to become giants in their own right.” I’d consider Frazetta to be one of the best fantasy artists of the 20th century, if not of all time.

Frazetta - Gollum

For more information about Frank Frazetta and his art, visit the Frank Frazetta Museum website.

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The Real Deal: Interview with Mark Ordesky, Executive Producer of LOTR

Posted on Dec 14, 2012 in Gaming News, Movie News, Tolkien News | 2 comments

Authored by Middle-earth Network Founder Mark Ostley.

Hollywood. The name evokes images of glitz, stars, red carpets, and jaded studio executives who sit in ivory towers. Meet Mark Ordesky who turns that image upside down when it comes to studio executives.

Ordesky was a convincing force inside New Line Cinema that swayed the studio to take on Sir Peter Jackson’s epic vision of bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s works to the big screen. Because of his friendship with Jackson, and his passion for Tolkien, New Line appointed him Executive Producer of the films. The rest is history.

Ordesky is featured in the appendices of the three films, and if you look closely, you can see some of his passion for the genre overflow.

Before 2001 and the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, we were confined to watching remastered releases of Star Wars, and E.T. Since then, 38 of the top 40 all-time grossing films have been either sci-fi or fantasy related. A windfall for fans everywhere, due mainly to people like Sir Peter Jackson, and Mark Ordesky, supported by a host of professionals who shared that passion—the passion which sent Hollywood a loud and clear message. Fantasy films can make money. Lots of it.

It’s worth remembering that if it hadn’t been for these pioneers, we wouldn’t be enjoying The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey today.

We were fortunate enough to catch Mark for an early morning interview to candidly find out about someone, who, in my opinion, has been one of the people behind the scenes who has arguably changed motion picture history for fans of the fantasy/sci-fi genre.

In the interview you’ll discover a person who, like the rest of us, really shares the same passion and excitement when it comes to Tolkien, D&D, Narnia, Michael Moorcock, etc., and miniscule content details that every self respecting aficionado of the genre knows.

We track Mark’s journey from a high school teenager who discovers D&D (he still meets with his original D&D group), to his work with New Line Cinema, and some inside background and anecdotes on becoming Executive Producer of the Lord of the Rings films.

In a surprise twist though, you’ll also discover one of the most genuine people I’ve meet. Unassuming, intelligent, excited, and as Mark describes himself, “One of us.” He is, as we would say, the real deal.

You can also catch Mark reading his favorite passage from The Hobbit for us, and many other great videos at Middle-earth Networks YouTube Channel.

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The Ring: From Middle-Earth to Modern History

Posted on Nov 24, 2012 in Art and Literature News | 2 comments

Recently I had the honor to be a guest blogger for Jens Hansen and write an article on the ring as jewelry. The following is a sample of my submission.

[A ring is] “The article of jewelry around which centers tradition, antiquity, utility and symbolic meaning of the greatest reverential character.”

In the JRR Tolkien classics, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring represented the embodiment of evil, control and hate. Its presence and influence was such that some would say that the One Ring was the tenth member of the Fellowship.

“There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power.” – Gandalf

The ring was of a simple gold appearance without design or identity. The simple outward appearance of the One Ring is purposeful. The simplicity was meant to hide the internal nature of the ring and to hide its real purpose. The lack of design further strengthened the Rings disdain for a cultural identity to any people in Middle-Earth. Of course, when put to fire, the real nature is revealed as the inscription magically appears on its surface;

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In our history, a ring has represented unions of marriage, social and political allegiance, trophies, religion, and intrigue.

“Marriage requires a person to prepare four types of rings: engagement ring, wedding ring, enduring, suffering” – unknown author.

It was the Egyptians that started the tradition of wearing a wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand. This was due to their belief that a “love vein” was within the third finger which led directly to the heart. The wedding ring is arguably the most know and greatest symbol that a ring holds which is a gesture of love and commitment. A historic ring representing love and commitment would be the Claddagh Ring. Created by Richard Joyce, while in captivity, was inspired and later presented to his love whom he married.

My new wedding band!

When looking for my own wedding ring years ago, I wasn’t used to wearing rings so I chose a very plain gold band. When designer Jens Hansen and Weta Workshop released the One Ring – Gold Plated Tungsten Carbide recently and I knew I wanted to own it. Later this turned into a thought of “I wonder if my wife would be alright with me wearing this as my wedding band”.

After talking to my wife about it, and after some rolling of her eyes,she finally agreed. Now I wear it as my wedding band, as proud as any nerd could be! A friend of mine found it funny that my wedding band was something depicted as the…

You can read the full article on the Jens Hansen Blog here.

Follow Steve “Rifflo” Fitch on TWITTER: @HobbitSteve

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Enter the Middle-earth News Tolkien Week Photo Contest!

Posted on Sep 17, 2012 in Art and Literature News, Movie News, Network News, Tolkien News | 2 comments

Photo Copyright

“If more of us valued food and cheer and … Photo Contests, what a great prize you could win!”

Release your inner Hobbit, Dwarf or Elf by taking part in our Middle-Earth News Photo Contest! Starting today, September 17th, enter a photo of yourself dressed as your favourite Tolkien character or a shot of some beautiful Middle-earth-esque scenery and you could win a fantastic prize from Middle-Earth News in celebration of Hobbit Day!

One (1) Grand Prize Winner will receive all of these amazing prizes: Official Hobbit Tote Bag, Hobbit Day T-shirt, Middle-earth Network Hobbit Day Album, Official Gandalf for President button, Official ‘The Hobbit’ Movie Poster, Lonely Mountain Band Album, an official Ted Nasmith digital download of ‘The Hidden Door’, Official ‘Second Breakfast’ Mug, an official Joe Gilronan “Fireworks In The Shire” print, and an official Lord of the Rings replica sword – Narsil!

Submissions must be received by September 28th midnight. The winner will be announced October 1st right here on Middle-Earth News.


Submission requirements are as follows:

  • Send submissions to
  • Submissions must include your name, email, photo, title of your photo, and small paragraph describing it’s content and why you chose it. If its a scenery photo please let us know where it is in the world!
  • Photo must be your original content (no copyright infringement) and not have been submitted for any other photo competitions.
  • Any indecent photos will immediately be exempt from contest (keep it clean!)
  • Photo must be either of a Tolkien character or Middle-earth-esque scenery

Current Contest Submissions:

[nggallery id=2]

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Interview with Tales from Wilderland author Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

Posted on Sep 5, 2012 in Gaming News, Misc Articles | 1 comment

Exclusive Interview with Tales from Wilderland 

Author Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan is Line Developer for Cubicle 7 Publishing‘s Dr. Who: Adventures in Space and Time and The Laundry Files. He’s made numerous contributions to many role-playing games over the years, including the classic science fiction game Traveller, Trails of Cthulhu and the esoteric game of what it means to both human and divine, Nobilis. Mr. Ryder-Hanranah was kind enough to spare some of his time and give the Middle-earth Network a peek inside the monumental task of writing the first supplement for The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild, entitled Tales from Wilderland. It is a 160-page, full color supplement that consists of seven adventures that can be combined into a single epic journey across Wilderlands in an effort to stem the growing strength of the Shadow.

James: Before we step into the Wild, I’d like to thank you for taking time out for all the Free-Folk here on the Middle-earth
Network. Tell us about your journey as a role-playing gamer, writer and eventual designer. Your credits include a diverse library of games. You’ve worked on everything from popular liscensed properties like Middle-earth, Dr. Who and Primeval to classic gaming staples like Cthluhu and Traveller, to truly unique games like the cerebral and spiritual Nobilis. You seem to have a finger in every pie! Where did it all begin and how did it all come to be as it is now?

Gareth: I could claim it was all part of a cunning plan, but that would be a blatant lie. I started out writing short scenarios for role-playing conventions, and got a few small freelancing assignments based on that work. I never intended to make a career out of it. I actually started out as a programmer, and intended to keep that as my day job and do a little writing on the side. Then – wow, nearly ten years ago – the IT company I was working for cut a large chunk of the staff. I had three months’ salary saved, so I decided to postpone getting a real job and try writing full-time.

Well, it’s worked so far.

Back in 2009, I convinced Cubicle 7 to let me write the Laundry RPG, based on the novels by Charles Stross. That led to a job there as line developer for the Laundry Files game, and that expanded into managing the Primeval and Doctor Who lines too. Cubicle 7 also picked up the Lord of the Rings license in association with Sophisticated Games, so I was well positioned to fulfil a long-held ambition of mine to work on a Tolkien-inspired game.

J: While you’ve been absolutely critical in the development of role-playing games of other liscensed properties, including the table-top adaptation of the beloved and enduring Dr. Who television series, I’d imagine that writing in Middle-earth is a bit of a different beast. When it came time to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, I suppose), how did you go about preparing for such a monumental task? Just contributing to Middle-earth a huge endeavor, but the groundwork laid by Mr. Nepitello’s core set material has got to set the bar even higher.

G: Reading The Lord of the Rings was a family tradition, so I’ve been a Tolkien fan since the age of eight. I reread LOTR every year or so, and I’d read a lot of secondary material like the History of Middle-Earth books. I reread the Hobbit before starting work on Tales from Wilderland, but that was just to have JRRT’s writing style fresh in my mind.

The main preparation I did was to look a bit more at Tolkien’s own inspirations. Francesco urged me to read William Morris and Beowulf and so on, which was very useful. I also spent a while poking at history books for reference.

J: Can you give readers unfamiliar with Tales of Wilderland an overview of what this product brings to Adventures Over The Edge of the Wild? What was the desicision making process involved that made everyone at Cubicle 7 Publishing decide to go with an adventure-supplement rather than the more common first supplement types such as a general “player’s guide” or Culture-focused book? Once the choice was made and the adventures began to take shape, what guided your pen as you developed these seven adventures into one collective story?

G: I can’t recall the exact chain of reasoning. I certainly think that an adventure anthology is always a great first release for a game, as it shows gamemasters how the game is designed to be played and allows those who are short on time to start campaigns. Tabletop roleplaying games have to compete with the instant gratification of computer games, so anything that makes a gamemaster’s role easier is great.

The original concept of the book was a six-adventure series, with each adventure corresponding to one of the Heroic Cultures in Wilderland – Hobbits, Beornings, Bardings, Woodmen, Dwarves and Elves. I wanted there to be a single overarching plot linking them together, so that called for a villain. I couldn’t use the Ringwraiths, as they play a part in the Darkening of Mirkwood campaign, so instead – very gingerly! – I came up with an original villain, a corrupt spirit called the Gibbet King that fled the ruin of Dol Guldur and now plots to conquer Dale.

Writing the adventures went tremendously smoothly. Several of them really wrote themselves. The biggest stumbling block was the dream sequence/spiritual battle in Those Who Tarry No Longer, as it’s hard to get that sort of dream reality right. You have to thread a narrow path between ‘cheesy’ and ‘incomprehensibly obscure’, and I really hope I got the balance right.
Finally, we added a seventh adventure to tie in with the scenario in the Loremaster’s Guide. “The Marsh-Bell” starts and ends in Dale, and “Of Herbs and Stewed Hobbit” – the original first adventure in Tales – starts west of Mirkwood. We wanted to provide a reason for the player characters to be on the other side of the forest, hence “Don’t Leave The Path”.

J: As I mentioned before, The One Ring sets a high bar in how accurately and deeply it reflects the unique and subtle aspects of Middle-earth that make Tolkien’s work a singular setting. When writing Tales, what were some chief things you did to ground these adventures in Middle-earth, beyond settings and cultures? Did you find yourself having difficulty with any of the choices you made as Tales from Wilderland took shape and you started to fill in the “blank pages” between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings?

For each adventure, I had a particular piece of text from Tolkien that I used as a touchstone. If the feel of the adventure evoked that text, I knew I was on the right track. My touchstone for ‘Kinstrife & Dark Tidings’, for example, was the tale of Turin, so it’s full of outlaws, murders and very bad decisions. The Crossings of Celduin was inspired by the Battle of Helm’s Deep and so on. Anchoring each adventure like that ensured they always felt like Middle-Earth.

(As an aside, that approach won’t work for every adventure. Something like a murder mystery will need to be grounded in another way, as there isn’t a suitable ‘anchor text’ in Tolkien’s writings.)

Most of the big problems in the writing of the adventures stem from the supernatural elements. ‘Those Who Tarry No Longer’, for example, deals with the wraith-world and the spiritual side of Middle-Earth. In a novel, you can control how much the protagonist sees, and you can decide how many questions to answer. Frodo glimpses Glorfindel shining at the ford, Gandalf explains that Glorfindel is a powerful elf-lord and so is especially visible on the other side, and Frodo accepts that answer. In an RPG, you have to expect more questions and experimentation on the part of the players – what exactly is visible in the wraith-world? Can you tell one shimmering figure from another? How does spiritual combat work?

The villain of the piece, the Gibbet King, was another worry. He had to be sinister and inhuman because we wanted to emulate the major villains in Lord of the Rings, but then we didn’t want him to obviously be a low-budget copy of Sauron, or a Ringwraith version of the fifth Beatle. He ended up being a former slave of the Necromancer because that connected him to the canon bad guys but didn’t force them to be involved in the adventures. (If the Gibbet King was still working for Sauron directly, it would undermine the return of the Nazgul to Dol Guldur. Sending one servant to reclaim one’s former fortress is fine; sending a second when the first fails is a little too saturday morning cartoon villain crying “curses, foiled again!”)

Really, anything beyond the most mundane elements was very carefully considered. Everything had to feel right. (Names are a big part of that – Tolkien’s choice of place names and character names is very hard to emulate, but you have to try to get it right.

J: Cubicle 7 Publishing has long been very supportive of their fans and fan-created content. This is clearly reflected in the acknowledgment of Luke Walker’s house rules and how they were adapted for this supplement, as mentioned in the credits of Tales from Wilderland. How has the fan reaction and passion for the game influenced the growth and evolution The One Ring?

G: We’re as supportive and open as we can be, bearing in mind we’re bound by the terms of the license. I’d say that fan passion has sustained the game instead of influencing it – we haven’t changed our plans much, but fan material has filled the gaps between official releases. The vocal fans also help us zero in on areas of weakness, like the organisation of the rules, and the fans (especially James R Brown) helped us produce a super-detailed index in response.

J: Finally, Mr. Ryder-Hanrahan, can you give us a hint of what’s to come for the future of The One Ring? The Lake-Town Sourcebook and Lore-Master screen was on sale at this year’s Gen Con and we’ve heard all manner of hints regarding the mysterious Darkening of Mirkwood – not to mention Jon Hodgson’s slip of the tongue with the title of Heart of the Wild. Can you shed a little light on these shadows?

G: As promised in the Loremaster’s Guide, the Darkening of Mirkwood is our big Wilderland campaign book – it covers thirty years of play, from the first hints of the returning Shadow to the potential destruction of the Woodmen as a culture. The Nazgul return to Dol Guldur, and stir up all the evils of the forest against the Free Peoples. Each year of the campaign has events and adventures for the player characters to get involved in, but there’s also a lot of emphasis on being part of a culture, defending a homestead and so on. Plus, since the adventure is thirty years long, human player characters will end up retiring and handing the mantle of adventurer onto their children.

The Darkening of Mirkwood was originally going to have a guide to the forest, but that chapter grew in the writing, so we’re now planning to split it off into its own book, the Heart of the Wild. We’ve added another lengthy writeup of the Vales of Anduin, so the Heart of the Wild now covers everything from the Misty Mountains to the eastern boundaries of Mirkwood, along with new monsters and other fun stuff. The exact breakdown of content between Heart of the Wild and Darkening of Mirkwood is still in flux, but that will all be locked down and polished up very soon.
Tales from Wilderland hit shelves this week, so check out your local game and comic shop. If you don’t have a local gaming shop, head over to the Cubicle 7 Publishing Store! I’d like to thank Mr. Ryder-Hanrahan again for this delightful conversation. Stay tuned to the Middle-earth News for all the latest The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild news as they continue to add new rich and depth to Tolkien’s Secondary World.
The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild logo, and Tales from the Wilderland cover are copyright Cubicle 7 Publishing, Sophisticated Games and Middle-earth Enterprises. All images are property of Cubicle 7 Publishing and used with permission.
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