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D&D General D&D Red Box: Who Is The Warrior?

A WizKids miniature reveals the iconic character's face for the first time.

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The Dungeons & Dragons Red Box, famously illustrated by Larry Elmore in 1983, featured cover art of a warrior fighting a red dragon. The piece is an iconic part of D&D's history.

WizKids is creating a 50th Anniversary D&D miniatures set for the D&D Icons of the Realms line which includes models based on classic art from the game, such as the AD&D Player's Handbook's famous 'A Paladin In Hell' piece by David Sutherland in 1978, along with various monsters and other iconic images. The set will be available in July 2024.

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Amongst the collection is Elmore's dragon-fighting warrior. This character has only ever been seen from behind, and has never been named or identified. However, WizKids’ miniature gives us our first look at them from the front. The warrior is a woman; the view from behind is identical to the original art, while the view from the front--the first time the character's face has ever been seen--is, as WizKids told ComicBook.com, "purposefully and clearly" a woman. This will be one of 10 secret rare miniatures included in the D&D Icons of the Realms: 50th Anniversary booster boxes.



The original artist, Larry Elmore, says otherwise. (Update—the linked post has since been edited).

It's a man!

Gary didn't know what he wanted, all he wanted was something simple that would jump out at you. He wanted a male warrior. If it was a woman, you would know it for I'm pretty famous for painting women.

There was never a question in all these years about the male warrior.

No one thought it was a female warrior. "Whoever thought it was a female warrior is quite crazy and do not know what they are talking about."

This is stupid. I painted it, I should know.
- Larry Elmore​

Whether or not Elmore's intent was for the character to be a man, it seems that officially she's a woman. Either way, it's an awesome miniature. And for those who love the art, you can buy a print from Larry Elmore's official website.

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Big Mac

Is this going to be the new mini while they also produce the “old” look?!

E.g. old 1e pit fiend and new 5e pit fiend like the rest of the collection

If so this whole discussion will be hilarious! If so very nice catch!
At this stage I don't know.

I suspect that ComicBook.com might know if super-rare mini they showed is part of a pair. But I didn't think their story really explained the product line well.

Even if the rest of the product line is a showcase of minis that show the 1e style and 5e style together and the specials are all only done in a "this is how 5e would reimagine miniatures for 1e art" way, the main premise for this topic would still incorrect. This would not be the actual face of that original character.

I actually think that reimagined art is an interesting thing. I would, for example, find it interesting to see artists taken modern D&D monsters, like Warforged or Dragonborn, and do pictures of them in a 2e, 1e or even OD&D style.

Black and white OD&D-style pictures of the Critical Role heroes would be super-funny to see. I think that mixing old and new styles is a very cool way to celebrate the full range of D&D products.

I saw some fake 1st Edition AD&D product covers, a while back. (They were made for a TV show set in a past era. Not Stranger Things - something else.) I'd love to see an artist knock up a fake orange-spine 1e-style "Eberron Adventures" hardback, with a cover painting in the style of Larry Elmore of Jeff Easley. :D

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Right, but the author in a modern piece of work usually has the most influence, and is sometimes even around to talk about what they meant if the work is recent enough. Sometimes, as with George Lucas and Han shooting first, it's pretty clear they're trying to change their mind, but if Tolkien tells me Sauron isn't Hitler, well, fine, at least he didn't intend that. You can argue it came out subconsciously, and I might even agree with you, but at least authorial intent is one interpretation. Of course, there are others.
A student of mine wrote their extended essay discussing Sam and Frodo as queer archetypes while deconstructing gendered relationships in The Lord of the Rings. I'm pretty sure that Tolkien didn't see their relationship in that context, but my student made a great argument and their paper earned an A from IB. Their interpretation was both valid and good.

If someone wants to interpret "Every Breath You Take" as a love song and use it at their wedding (as many have) then I think that's a weird interpretation of the song, but it's valid for them, and bless.

Edit: I want to clarify the above, because I think it's relevant to this topic. My student originally wanted to explore Sam and Frodo's relationship as one that is specifically coded as gay. I challenged them on whether they could write a persuasive argument, given that Tolkien's work in generally is incredibly chaste, with virtually no description of sexual desire for any characters. The student reflected and modified their argument to explore the relationship as queer instead. This wasn't because of the author's intent, but because a good essay has to analyze what is actually identifiable in the text.

With the red box cover, all we have for the text are the back and legs of a warrior. There is nothing about gender, and a reasonable person can analyze that art and interpret it as any gender. The only reason that so many folks are convinced that it has to be a man is because it fits their personal assumptions about what the backs and legs of men look like (even though most male-identifying people look nothing like the image on the box cover).
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Morkus from Orkus
Perhaps you should look at what others have claimed. Because your argument that the author has a privileged position is certainly being used the way I’m talking about.
Sure, but a lot of us are not taking the position that all other ways are invalid. You can't paint us all with the same broad brush here.

Look at what licensed action figure got released last year. So much for the WizKids claim of the revealing of a 50 year mystery (for a piece of art that was publicly released in 1983 which was 41 years ago).
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We've already been over how that isn't what happened:
I think you are being mislead about this mini by the ComicBook.com article you pulled your original post from.
The actual story on what WizKids is about to do was posted three months ago on Wargamer by Matt Bassil:

There isn't a picture of this actual mini there, but in the pictures in Matt Bassil's story he clearly showcases multiple "recreations" of 1e monsters (Matt's word not mine) alongside 5e "interpretations" (again Matt's word not mine). Go look at the pictures. the 1e miniatures from WizKids are very true to the original artwork. The 5e minis are very true to recent WotC artwork.

WizKids are clearly showcasing both "old school and 5e art" alongside each other as Wargamer said.

ComicBook.com could have published a more balanced story about the WizKids, process but instead of doing that, they put an unattributed three word quote into this paragraph:

Now your story says "D&D Red Box: Who Is The Warrior?" and "A WizKids miniature reveals the iconic character's face for the first time." And you have people arguing if the art is supposed to be a man or a woman.

But if you read Matt Bassil's story, you can see that the pictures at the top of your topic are the work of WizKids minatures designers who did a "5e interpretation" of Larry Elmore's painting.

WizKids are not saying that this is the face and front of the original character. Their team have done a pretty good job presenting the old takes and new takes alongside each other in the photos of the Wargamer article.

Rather than this being "A WizKids miniature reveals the iconic character's face for the first time" story, the actual story here is "A WizKids miniature reveals how their miniature designers have reinterpreted a classic Larry Elmore painting into a new character designed for 5e D&D." And people here are missing the point and elevating what they think about Larry Elmore's painting over and above what the WizKids artists are trying to achieve with their 50th anniversary booster set.

It's a bit sad that the WizKids artists have gone to this effort to contrast original art and new art in the miniatures coming out later in the year and the focus of the conversation is not on what the artists at WizKids are trying to achieve.

The thing that I think is most sad about this process, is that everyone knows that Larry Elmore made the original painting, but nobody is giving out the names of the new artists who have been engaging in the "interpretation" and "recreation" process and making sure their names are celebrated.

The three month old Wargamer story does make it clear that the WizKids figure you have pictures of in your original post is not supposed to be the exact same character that Larry Elmore painted. It is supposed to be a new 5e character in the exact same pose as Larry Elmore's painting. Having people in the topic debate if Larry Elmore painting a man or a woman is kind of missing the point. The intentional change in skin tone, in the pictures of the mini in your original post should make it obvious that it is not supposed to be the same character.

I'm fairly confident that WizKid's artists would have known that Larry Elmore painted a man, otherwise ComicBook.com would not have had that unattributed "purposefully and clearly" quote in their article. They took a picture of a cool looking male fighter and they made a female fighter as a modern counterpoint to Larry Elmore's old school painting of a man facing off a dragon. And by making it a woman who is as bulky as Larry Elmore's male fighter, they are making a miniature that shows a high strength woman in a realistic way.

Gary Gygax asked for a male warrior. Larry Elmore painted a strong male warrior. The artists at WizKids knew it was a male warrior and reimagined the picture as a strong female warrior. That's kind of the entire point of the WizKids mini. If the box of a D&D product shows a man fighting a drgon and you want to play a PC that is a woman fighting a dragon, you can do that. Larry Elmore said this better than anyone else:

So I think the artist intent here is actually important, because we have a pair of artists showing a man and a woman doing the same thing. Cosplayers have been changing the genders of characters they want to potray for years. And you have here an artist at WizKids who has done the same with a painting they wanted to turn into a miniature.
When artists like Larry Elmore painted their iconic paintings, they only needed the painting to look good in a two dimensional picture. When people try to convert a 2D image into a 3D miniature, they have to try to make it look good from multiple angles. And they also need to design it to fit into a mold so that stuff can be put into the mold and the miniature can come out without getting stuck. They also need to make adjustments to the thickness of things that are thin, so that miniatures don't snap in half or have all the weapons drop off. So it's not a done deal that Larry Elmore's painting was something that was viable as a mini. Compromises might have needed to have been made. And, on top of all this, we have something that is not a straight conversion from painting to miniature. We also have this "traditional vs modern" nature of the set of miniatures coming into play. And just like a female cosplayer wanting to cosplay The Incredible Hulk has to make some creative decisions, the artist at WizKids who is trying to build a blob of plastic that looks like a female version of Elmore's warrior also had to make some creative decisions.

And, if you look at D&D art from AD&D, through to AD&D/Classic D&D, 3rd Edition, 4th Edition and 5th Edition, you can see that improved printing technology unlocked the ability to put better pictures into D&D products...and the transition from lead miniatures to plastic miniatures and Print on Demand technology has unlocked the ability to make 3D models that look better too. But there are still technical limits to both mediums. And WizKids is trying to celebrate older D&D art, without making the new recreations of that old art look terrible. Go check Wargamer's pictures and I think you will agree that the old school recreations do a pretty good job. (It would be nice if Wargamer had better resolution pictures, but the "recreations" and "interpretations" both look fairly good to me. I would happily use "recreated" and "interpreted" githyanki alongside each other.)

So when they are making 5e interpretations, WizKids are not trying to make the work of the original artists look bad either. All of this is derivative of things that started 50 years ago. The fact that they chose to evolve this mini from Larry Elmore's painting is a compliment to the original painting. That's the entire point of the 50 years of D&D theme. To show the evolution of D&D. It's new artists standing on the shoulders of giants. (And like I said, it's a shame the names of the new artists are buried.)

I'm not sure how big this miniature is. If this is a 1 inch high miniature, that is a counterpoint to Larry Elmore's painting, I think it does a really good job of being both similar and intentionally different. And the blobs on the shield are not stretched. I used to have plastic Airfix figures and they quite often had stretched bits round the side. This mini looks really good. (Although I don't think it's so good that I'm going to randomly buy $25 mystery boxes in the hope of finding this rare mini. I don't have the money to blow on multiple duplicates of things I was not trying to buy.)

A number of people (both here and elsewhere) have said they would like to see two miniatures. If you actually reach out to WizKids you might even find that they have also made a "recreation" version of this, that has a front that is male. They may even have done enough research to have seen the toy figure based on Larry Elmore's painting and pulled some of the features of that back into a 3D rendering of "what Larry Elmore might have done". (Of course, that would not be the front of Larry Elmore's figure either. It is still a different artist being inspired by the original artist.)

There may well be a number of concept drawings made for all of the miniatures (old and new) where the artists at WizKids were figuring out how much detail they could get into the various miniatures, without making the molds too complex. I would love to see those sort of sketches.

If you do reach out to WizKids, it would be nice if you could do an interview with the artists who design the miniatures, rather than just talk to some sort of spokesperson, who wasn't involved in the process.

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