The First Authorized Paperback Edition of The Lord of the Rings (Ballantine, 1965)

Fellowship 1965

Towers 1965

Return 1965

Tolkien did not initially want his trilogy to appear in so “degenerate a form” as the paperback book. What happened is that Donald Wollheim, then editor-in-chief of Ace Books, released an unauthorized edition of LOTR in 1965, believing, or claiming to believe, that the soon-to-be literary phenomenon was in the public domain. The Ace edition, being affordable at 75¢/book, sold extremely well, and Tolkien immediately embraced the paperback medium. Ballantine’s revised and authorized edition, 95¢/book, appeared in October, 1965 (The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers) and November, 1966 (The Return of the King). Said Tolkien to his son in October of 1965:

Campaign in U.S.A. has gone well. ‘Ace Books’ are in quite a spot, and many institutions have banned all their products. They are selling their pirate edition quite well, but it is being discovered to be very badly and erroneously printed; and I am getting such an advt. from the rumpus that I expect my ‘authorized’ paper-back will in fact sell more copies than it would, if there had been no trouble or competition.

Wollheim’s unscrupulous maneuver—he was eventually forced to pay Tolkien the royalties he deserved—was the single most important event in the popularization of the fantasy genre.

You can see the spines and back covers of the original Ballantine editions at Tolkien Collector’s Guide, where I found the images above. The cover artist is Barbara Remington.

Middle-Earth Mural Poster Puzzle (1968)

Middle-Earth Puzzle 1968

Middle-Earth Puzzle 1968-2

Middle-Earth Puzzle 1968-3

The art is from the first authorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings, released by Ballantine in 1965. Artist Barbara Remington famously had not read any of Tolkein’s books before completing the project; she had only heard accounts from friends. The end result befuddled and irritated Tolkien, but became hugely popular with his young fans—and most everyone attracted to mind-altering substances.

Remington’s bright canvas came in a poster version as well, seen below. The demarcations separating the individual covers are obvious.

Remington Poster

(Poster puzzle images via eBay)

Photos from the Inaugural World Fantasy Convention, 1975

WFC Bloch deCamp Munn

From left to right: Robert Bloch, L. Sprague de Camp, and H. Warner Munn

WFC Lin Carter 1975

Lin Carter

WFC Epic Fantasy 1975

The `Epic Fantasy’ panel. From left to right: Fritz Lieber, Lester del Rey, L. Sprague de Camp, Andrew J. Offutt, and Lin Carter

WFC Ramsey Campbell 1975

Ramsey Campbell

WFC Ackerman 1975

Forrest J. Ackerman

WFC Wellman 1975

Manly Wade Wellman holding his World Fantasy Award, a bust of Lovecraft sculpted by Gahan Wilson

WFC Williamson 1975

Chet Williamson at Lovecraft’s grave

All of the photos come from Hunding’s Flickr set, with the following note:

I attended the First World Fantasy Convention in 1975 in Providence, Rhode Island, where I took the following pictures. They were starting to fade badly, so I decided to scan them, tweak them a bit, and post them here, where they may be of historical interest.

The theme of the convention was “The Lovecraft Circle.” Quite a few noteworthy speakers attended, including Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp, two of heroic fantasy’s greatest popularizers. Robert Bloch, who started corresponding with Lovecraft when he was in his teens, is famous for the novel Psycho. Like many of Lovecraft’s friends and Weird Tales contributors, Bloch extended and expanded the Cthulhu Mythos in his own works.

According to this 1975 Hour article, the three-day convention began on Halloween, and 400 people were expected to attend. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune has the figure at 500.

The World Fantasy Convention was modeled after the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), first established in 1939. Both conventions are still going, with focus on intelligent conversation at the expense of dressing up like comic book characters.

More pictures—including a young Jeff Jones—at the first link. You can hear audio of some of the panels at

Fisher-Price Alpha Probe Ad (1980)

FP AP 1980

Fisher-Price Adventure Kit: Alpha Interceptor (1982)

FP AK 1982

FP AK 1982-2

Gorgeous. And I like how Fisher-Price gets us to assemble our own toy—very Tom Sawyer. There were four Adventure Kits, three of which are seen on the back of the box. The fourth was the 4×4 Trail Boss. All of them are part of the superior Adventure People line.

(Images via The Shiplomats/eBay)

Child World Newspaper Insert (1978): Shogun Warriors, Star Wars, and More

Child World 1978-2

Child World 1978-3

Child World 1978-1

We didn’t have Child World in Southern California, but my mother did put lots of stuff on layaway. Try to explain that concept to Gen Y.

The Flying Finnegan game on the second page looks pretty sweet—for about five minutes.

Here’s a great view of the Cheerios box appearing in the ad, courtesy of Gregg Koenig.

Cheerios 1978

D&D/TSR Commercials (1982 – 1985)

These are all the TSR-produced commercials I’ve been able to find so far. They aired in (from top to bottom) 1982, 1983, 1983, 1984, and 1985. I’ve posted them before with the exception of the 1984 spot, which is very well done and advertises not only the red cover Basic Set (Frank Mentzer revision), but the Marvel Super Heroes and Adventures of Indiana Jones RPGs. The 1983 Star Frontiers commercial is my favorite.

Let me know if I missed any.

All My Children Game Commercial (TSR, 1985)

Because TSR wasn’t making enough money at the time—from $27 million in 1981-1982 to a projected $60 million in 1982-1983—the “products of your imagination” crew decided to lap up a license for the second most popular daytime soap. General Hospital, consistently first in the ratings, already had a game.

College girls (note the Yale flag in the dorm room) and yuppies are the clear marketing demographic.

“To be good, you’ve got to be bad.” Indeed. TSR had embraced the Reagan era. The shark had been jumped.

All My Children 1985

All My Children 1985-2

Spectral Cthulhu T-Shirt Crafted from Wall of Lovecraft’s Famous Text

CoC Litographs

CoC Litographs-2

CoC Zoom

Zoom out and behold Cthulhu, perched on the dark seas of infinity, an icon of cosmic terror. Zoom in and read the iconic short story. Not too shabby.

The shirt is new from Litographs, a company that specializes in the art-out-of-text technique and offers some indelible designs, most of them subtle and poetic enough to impress the most discerning literature worshiper. The epiphanic A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man print, for instance, won’t make any sense unless you’ve read the book. (A quibble: James Joyce—the beloved artist-hero and champion of Ireland—is listed under British Lit!) And Poems by T.S. Eliot won’t give you a little chill unless you recall the immortal words of J. Alfred Prufrock—“I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

If t-shirts aren’t your thing, all of the designs are available as posters and tote bags as well, and here’s something else that caught my attention: Litographs is

committed to promoting literacy all over the world — to make a direct impact, we proudly partner with the International Book Bank to send one new, high-quality book to a community in need for each product we sell.

That’s not too shabby, either.

From now until next Tuesday, July 22, you can get $5 off the Call of Cthulhu t-shirt—and anything else you want to pick up—by using the code 2WARPS2NEPTUNE in the discounts field.

Artist and animator Benjy Brooke designed the Cthulhu print. Check out more of his work here.

Dungeons & Dragons Club, Circa 1980

D&D Club 1980

The sign is cut off (and `Dungeons’ is misspelled!), but we’re looking at an AD&D club, hence all the core books and Tramp’s Dungeon Master’s Screen on proud display.

That’s got to be a homemade shirt in the middle, right? It’s not any TSR dragon that I’ve seen.

Our teacher rep, the only woman involved in the proceedings, seems quite happy to be there. I wonder what she thought at the time.

(Photo via Story Games forums)




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