For more than thirty years, fans of Fantasy and Science Fiction have enjoyed the artwork of Larry Elmore. The Kentucky native, who now lives in Leitchfield, began his professional work as a freelance artist in the 1970s. That work led to becoming a staff illustrator for TSR, then the makers of the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game. Elmore’s evocative paintings became the covers of TSR games, novels, and magazine covers for much of the 1980s. After parting with TSR in 1987, Elmore has produced his distinctive work for game and toy companies, the software industry, and most of the major fantasy and science fiction book publishers.
Elmore has proudly lived in Kentucky most of his life. “Kentucky is home. My relatives have been here for generations,” he said. That connection to his home state has often made its way into his art. Elmore is especially pleased with the diversity of local scenery. “The only thing [Kentucky] doesn’t have is snowcapped mountains and deserts.” He notes that in “a lot of [my] scenes, the landscape comes from Kentucky and I just add mountains.”
One of Elmore’s most beloved creations is SnarfQuest, a comic strip that was first published in the pages of Dragon magazine in 1985. SnarfQuest chronicles the misadventures of Snarf, an unusual hero with both human and animal characteristics, in his usually unsuccessful pursuit of fame and fortune. The original strip ran for two years, and was considered by many to be the highlight of Dragon at the time. SnarfQuest has encountered a bit of a modern resurgence as well. Further monthly installments of the fantasy story have appeared in Knights of The Dinner Table Magazine since early 2013.
The character Snarf is based on Elmore himself, perhaps more than even he realized when he initially created the strip. “About five years later, I picked up the book and read it” the artist remembered, “and realized that it was an autobiography.” Snarf’s quest for fortune and fame mirrored Elmore’s own journey: “I left Leitchfield to work for TSR, I thought that would be a good chance to be well known. When Snarf became king he realized that being king was hard work and boring. I looked at my own life, I finally got to be what I wanted to be and I realized it was a lot of hard work.”
Elmore believes SnarfQuest’s continuing appeal is because readers relate to the obstacle filled path Snarf travelled. “To move the story, I would think of the funniest way to get from point A to point B instead of just the simple, clean way of getting there.” While Snarf’s struggles were often more humorous than the average person, his journey “was like life is. It is never that simple.” Elmore is pleased that his art connects with the reader. “It makes people happy at a bad time in their lives and that’s worth more than the money it makes me over the years.”
Recently, Elmore began an effort to collect the original Dragon magazine strips into a single complete graphic novel. Over the years, parts of SnarfQuest have been reprinted, but much of the original art has been sold or gone missing. Imagined Interprises, a Las Vegas based publisher, plans to digitally re-master the strips from scanned files. This edition will have new lettering to correct the one aspect of the original strip that dissatisfied Elmore: “My deadline was tight, I did three pages a month. Sometimes I was working the weekend before the deadline on Monday. My lettering got faster and faster. Sometimes it was jumbled and hard to read.” In addition, the project will augment the original strips with pages that Elmore produced for special projects after the initial run of Dragon strips ended.
To fund the project, Imagined Interprises has launched a Kickstarter campaign. Spearheading the effort is author Maxwell Allen Drake. Drake is a fellow artist and a longtime fan of the strip: “I first read SnarfQuest as a teen when it first appeared in Dragon magazine. From then on out I was hooked.” Drake frequently encountered Elmore at fan conventions where both were presenters and became friends. As a prominent member of Imagined Interprises, he felt it was “a good fit for me to help run the campaign.” Elmore has previously used a successful Kickstarter campaign to print an album of his full color artwork. Once the SnarfQuest campaign ends, he plans a November drive to fund a compilation of his pencil and ink work. The Snarfquest Kickstarter ends on Monday, May 5 and can be found at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/imagined/snarfquest-30th-anniversary-remastered-graphic-nov.