The first RPG books I ever bought were the AD&D Monster Manual and Monster Manual II. I had played AD&D a little with my older siblings, but I didn't buy the books because I thought was going to use the rules. I bought them for the pictures.
To this day, I'm fascinated by illustrated, encyclopedic books that list lots of creatures or character. If you looked at my bookshelf during my childhood you'd find things like Donald F. Glut's Dinosaur Dictionary, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and any number of illustrated wildlife guides and encyclopedias. The Monster Manuals were a natural fit.
Monster Manual II was my favorite, for a variety of reasons. First of all, it contained a lot of really inventive creatures - though they crop up on "dumb monster" lists these days, I loved weird stuff like the executioner's hood or the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing. Secondly, it had the boggle, which was a favorite of mine, since my brother's long-running AD&D character had been reincarnated as one. Third, I just plain liked the artwork more.
Now, don't misunderstand me. These days I've found plenty to like in the original Monster Manual, not least of which is the fantastically cool artwork of Dave Trampier. But at the time, the guy whose art really appealed to me was Jim Holloway. His work was clean, clear, and it popped off the page. More to the point, I felt like his monsters had personality, and as they say in Pulp Fiction, "personality goes a long way". Holloway's grippli had a serene sort of smile on its face that, as an eight-year-old, instantly made me want to hang out with him. His tasloi stepped out of the shadows with a mischievous smirk. His stench kow looked downright displeased with itself. I loved it (and still do).
I also appreciate the art Holloway's done for various adventure modules. His characters look like D&D player characters should. They carry chipped swords, battered shields, and mismatched, scavenged armor. They drink, laugh, goof off, make rude gestures, shout battle cries, chop monsters down with bloodthirsty sneers, and flee in terror. It's fun stuff.
I recently found Jim Holloway's site and while it's a bit clunky, it's worth visiting. I'm especially impressed with some of the revamps he's done of his original monster illustrations (they're about halfway down the page). Check it out.
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