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Press [Chaosium] Can some Investigators help solve this real-life Call of Cthulhu mystery?: 'Out of the Suitcase' with Chaosium president Rick Meints

Chaosium President Rick Meints shares stories from a life-time as a collector of all things Chaosium


Forty years ago, on Halloween 1981, The Chaosium debuted our Call of Cthulhu RPG on an unsuspecting world. Canadian artist Gene Day, well-known for his work for Marvel Comics, painted the classic box art of a party of investigators in a graveyard (note the headstone in the bottom left corner!).

Inside, the cover of the rules book featured the now iconic picture of Cthulhu rising out of the ocean. This art was also by Gene, who died in 1982.

Until this month, what I didn't know was that Gene did not draw this particular Cthulhu image for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. He created it for an earlier unknown publication. Perhaps the following clues will allow one of you to help me figure out what that publication was? Here's what I know:


In early 1979, Shadow Press (of Canada) published a special edition collection of Gene Day's art called All Things Dark and Dangerous. They printed 950 numbered copies, each signed by Gene. It has a general list of the publications all the art first appeared in (see pic at right below), but unfortunately not on a piece-by-piece basis.


So which of these publications was the Cthulhu picture originally in? More than likely, it is from something published between 1973-1978...

BTW there's lots of early Gloranthan and Lords of the Middle Sea art featured in the book too!

These are a few of my favourite things...​

Speaking of first edition Call of Cthulhu, a while back I got to contemplating how many of the early Call of Cthulhu volumes of quaint and curious forgotten lore would fit inside the original two-inch Call of Cthulhu box. We recently brought back the one-inch Chaosium box with the Call of Cthulhu Starter set and it was well received, so a two-inch box might be doubly so. Some people know we have a desire to see what's been out of print for far too long finding a way back into print.


Lo and behold, all of the items on the table fit neatly inside of the box! Normally, a 40th anniversary is "ruby" themed, but that doesn't mean it couldn't have a substantial "paper" component to it as well...


Note: The map fits too, but I wanted a cool background.

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A note from Rick:

In my last "Out of the Suitcase" post I had a real-life Call of Cthulhu mystery to solve: Gene Day's iconic depiction of Cthulhu, as featured on the front page of the Call of Cthulhu first edition rule book (below right), was not actually commissioned for that project. In fact, it predated the Call of Cthulhu RPG by several years, and we were curious to find out what its origins were.

After doing some research and having a wonderful, informative discussion with David Day, Gene’s younger brother (who is an excellent artist as well – for Chaosium he did the cover art for 1985's Alone Against the Wendigo), here’s what we believe to be the case:

Gene used to draw pictures every day, as in every single day, whether it was for an assignment or just to build his portfolio. There are actually several Call of Cthulhu-related pictures in his 1979 art book All Things Dark and Dangerous that we believe Gene just drew as part of his daily routine.

It’s very likely that Greg Stafford, who had been working with Gene since the mid-70s, knew about this art book. When it came time to commission art for the Call of Cthulhu first edition, which had a TOTAL art budget of $750, they commissioned Gene to do a color painting for the box cover (below left), and also purchased some of his pre-existing Cthulhu pictures as well.


BTW, it turns out that a color painting by Gene Day is a very rare thing. David explained that Gene was color blind and preferred working in ink. His brothers even labelled his paint tubes for him and would color-check his work.

Alas, we don’t know who is in possession of the original cover painting. I spoke with Sandy Petersen about this, but he was not involved in the art direction – this was all done before he became a Chaosium employee, which was shortly after Call of Cthulhu was published.

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