TSR Darlene tells NuTSR NO!

The artist Darlene, who designed one of the original TSR logos that TSR3.5 is currently using, has emphatically and publicly refused to endorse the company's use of the logo.

Darlene's work appeared in early Dungeons & Dragons materials, and included the full-color map in 1980's World of Greyhawk.

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In December, I finally reviewed the contract Justin LaNasa (JL) wanted me to sign. That’s when I took a stand and gave this answer: “I prefer not to be directly involved in any way with your lawsuit against WOTC. Therefore, I do not give permission to use the Wizard-head logo."

For the longest time, I tried to remain neutral, aloof, and unaffected. I wanted to avoid being associated with the bombastic claims of the new TSR.

JL first responded with a denial: “We were not planning on having you in the lawsuit this is why we ask for your permission.” Then a guilt trip: “We really tried to bring back something good with TSR.” Then played the underdog card: “it seems like WOTC and their supporters have a lot of fear and sway amongst the industry.”

It’s upsetting if JL thought I would be stupid enough to sign a contract without reading or comprehending it. In my response, I referred him to item #3 which obligates me to defend his position in his WOTC lawsuit. 


The pressure they are putting on me to reconsider has increased. Ernie Gygax thinks granting my permission for them to use the logo—which, btw, they are already using anyway—is key for their successful arbitration. He intimated if I don’t give in, sign away my rights and take their money, I’d be hurting some people I really care about. He also suggested I can “up the ante” for double the amount initially offered.

JL has since amicably proposed to work out a contract that excludes me from the lawsuit. He’s been very nice and cordial to me throughout. Nevertheless... The contract will most likely retain the first sentence where I declare that I have “not previously transferred my rights to any entity or party.” What? As I understand it, logos don’t work that way.

The most important thing to me has not been addressed. As a visual thinker and logo designer, I am very particular about the nuances of what I create. Yes, I designed the original wizard-head logo back in the ’80s. That is not in dispute. However, the logo produced as “Exhibit ‘A’” in JL’s contract is not my logo. It’s a bastardization—a greyed-out, fuzzy, lesser version—of what I designed. I detest the spindly letters used for "The Game Wizards." Ugh!

Therefore, I cannot honestly take money for it because I do not and will not claim it as mine. I’m extremely picky about choosing my clients. Before I would consider designing a new logo for the new TSR, they would have to demonstrate ethical behavior as a business entity.

Ever since they appeared on the scene, the new TSR has been plucking the heartstrings of those who fondly remember the good ole days when the hobby was in its infancy. JL’s lofty words: “to honor and remember TSR, the Dragon, Gary and all the alumni of the old days of gaming” sound inspiring. But I remain unmoved. I never want to return to Lake Geneva to relive those “good old days."


If I were to endorse the new TSR, they have to correct the mistakes of the old TSR. They must be kinder and more generous to artists and authors in their employ. They would show proper respect, listen to, and honor women, both within the gaming field and as consumers. They would be more inclusive and sensitive enough to address the needs of individuals beyond the white male demographic. They would be fair to their customers and transparent in their actions.


Besides, the idea of me endorsing TSR—new or old—is laughable. Not always, but in general, I did not have a positive experience freelancing for TSR. Looking from the outside in, I witnessed how the growth spurts of TSR turned it from being an “all-for-one; one-for-all” company into an uncaring corporate entity with an “us vs them” mindset. With few exceptions, success brought out the worst in those TSR people given positions of authority. I witnessed how the creatives got the brunt of TSR’s unfair predatory policies. No, I do not yearn to return to that stressful, hostile, and toxic atmosphere.


My memories of TSR are clear because they are frozen to the time I needed to leave Lake Geneva for my own mental health and well-being. I turned my back on the growing number of small-minded TSR people who created and spread malicious rumors and hurtful lies about me, made me feel unwelcome whenever I visited the building, told me my art was not very good and caused me to doubt myself and my abilities.

I left to pursue knowledge, my MFA, and the prospect of new beginnings with no intention of returning. Gary Gygax contacted me in 2005 and coaxed me back. That’s when he and I became fast friends. In the years since, I’ve discovered—for the most part— nothing much has changed for females in the gaming world (ie: gamergate). TSR’s unfair internal practices (abusing creatives financially) seem to have followed the RPG industry. How do I know? Having worked as a professional in the “real world” since 1984, I’m aware of the many disparities.


Today, I decided to publicly share my “power of no” because I recognize this as a teachable moment for the dispossessed. Charged with 42 years of suppressed emotional pain, my “no” is big and empowered. It includes “no” to bullying and unethical business practices; “no” to the unfair treatment and compensation of artists, creatives, and women; and “no” to taking advantage of the disadvantaged to profit at their expense.


My “no” is also cathartic for me. With it, I officially reclaim those lost parts of myself I abandoned so long ago. To have the courage to take this stance, my desire for money had to be relinquished. Only then could I clearly understand the implications of what saying yes meant. As tempting as a yes would be, it is ultimately disempowering.


Compromising my integrity for money is the same as selling my soul.

Therefore, I choose to continue living like I always have, modestly. I choose not to allow temporary feelings of desperation or depression to rule me nor compromise the greater truth of who I am. Perhaps I should credit JL for catalyzing my healing process and helping me demonstrate what feminine power looks like.
 
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It occurs to me to wonder: when products are reprinted by trans creators, do the publishers update the credits to eliminate those deadnames? They should.

I don't think that's standard in the industry.

Lora Johnson was a publisher of a number of reference works for Star Trek and Star Wars, including Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise and Worlds of the Federation and the Star Wars Technical Journal, on top of a number of novels she wrote, but all those books are still published, and listed in places like Amazon.com under her deadname of Shane Johnson.

I suspect that publishing industry practices are still firmly stuck in the 20th century.
 

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Vicente

Explorer
I don't think that's standard in the industry.

Lora Johnson was a publisher of a number of reference works for Star Trek and Star Wars, including Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise and Worlds of the Federation and the Star Wars Technical Journal, on top of a number of novels she wrote, but all those books are still published, and listed in places like Amazon.com under her deadname of Shane Johnson.

I suspect that publishing industry practices are still firmly stuck in the 20th century.

I think it's similar in other places too. My wife is a researcher in academia, and she has published articles under her maiden name, under her first marriage name, and now under her new marriage name. None of the previous published articles were updated to her new name.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
On a certain level, it probably doesn’t matter much to them, for a variety of reasons.

I’m an artist (since early childhood), gamer (since 1977), and IP lawyer (since 1994). I have paid almost ZERO attention to the credits for my RPG products until I had a particular question to answer- usually if/when things got nasty. Ditto albums, movies, tv shows, etc.
Yeah, I was playing from the early 80s. It wasn't until I got back into TTRPGs in 2014/15 and went on a nostalgia trip that I really became interested in the history of the game and the early designers, writers, and artists. That's why I think the recent books, documentaries, and articles on the history of TTRPGs is so important. We have closing window of opportunity to capture this history while many of the original creators are still alive.

In the 80s I would recognize maybe Gary Gygax, Margaret Weiss, Tracy and Laura Hickman, Otis, Elmore...and that's about it.
 


MGibster

Legend
Yeah, I was playing from the early 80s. It wasn't until I got back into TTRPGs in 2014/15 and went on a nostalgia trip that I really became interested in the history of the game and the early designers, writers, and artists. That's why I think the recent books, documentaries, and articles on the history of TTRPGs is so important. We have closing window of opportunity to capture this history while many of the original creators are still alive.
I'm in the same boat and I suspect it's partially a function of getting older. It's not 20 somethings who are the target audience of the History Channel. Or at least it wasn't 15 years ago. I kind of get a kick learning about these people who's words I read or art I enjoyed without really knowing anything about them or their contributions.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site









Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Did anyone else spot LaNasa's YouTube response to Darlene's post? Here it is:
I did not. Probably because he has me blocked. Over something minor, if I recall.

Either way, was there any reason why he couldn't have just typed that as a response instead of doing a video? And what does he mean by "I'll do my best to keep you out of the suit." Do your best? She's not part of it unless he decides to sue her as well (which I wouldn't put past him based on his current suit). The only way she becomes part of it is if he makes her part of it. What a weird thing to say.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Here is Darlene writing about the TSR moon face logo in the Wisconsin Calligraphers Guild

Nice find! Good description of the process.

I’ve done a handful of logo designs over the years, some more difficult than others. Some clients were more difficult than others, too. One in particular convinced me not to do too much business with buddies if I really wanted to do it for a living. (And the last one I did was for one of my best friends, and I did it gratis.)

Only a few are still in use.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Here is Darlene writing about the TSR moon face logo in the Wisconsin Calligraphers Guild

That's a fascinating read, especially in the context of the conversation she and I had earlier today (I guess technically yesterday lol) regarding the title logo she is doing for me. I've had artists do logos for me in the past (like my profile pic for one). In nearly every case, the art/image is the focus and the words/lettering almost seems an afterthought.

For Darlene, the lettering is the focus. Which makes sense, considering she's an expert at that. I've quickly found out that her attention to detail is second to none. She's asked me design questions that no other artist has asked me, and some questions I never thought of, but when she asked, I was like, "Oh yeah! That makes total sense to consider that!"

I have no doubt in my mind she is a consummate professional at the top of her field just based on what I read from articles like that, and from just a few brief conversations. She's one of those I feel totally comfortable giving complete creative freedom to, and I would completely defer to on the design. Sometimes you as the client need to step back and trust in your artist, because they are thinking of how your art will look in different scenarios (contrast, print, size alterations, etc) that you might not have thought about. She's clearly one of those people. She's someone you listen to, and give her ideas the thought they deserve.

And it makes total sense why she took such offense at the faded logo LaNasa presented to her, knowing what I know about her now. LaNasa is the type of person who has no problems skating by on cheap knockoffs, and Darlene is an exceptional creator who takes pride in her work. Even outside of everything else, that is oil and water right there. Do you remember a few years ago when that painted face of Jesus was painted over in an attempt to restore it? That's what this reminds me of. LaNasa providing the after picture and asking Darlene if she would attach her name to it because she did the original.

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nyvinter

Explorer
I don't think that's standard in the industry.
But it is good when it happens, but yeah, it's not standard anywhere sadly outside of certain publishers. IDW updates the credits on their tradepaper back reprints, the most high-profiled one was older stuff drawn by Sophie Campbell and they went in and changed all the credits.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Here is Darlene writing about the TSR moon face logo in the Wisconsin Calligraphers Guild

That’s an interesting article. I really like Jim Roslof’s logos too (from her link at the bottom), but Darlene is right about the logo‘s role and need to withstand reduction, and Roslof‘s wouldn’t have fared as well as hers.
 

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