Bob Pepper and the Dark Tower

As a kid I wasn’t much into electronics or anything remotely resembling video games — it wasn’t until my son pulled me into Minecraft and WoW a few years back that I spent more than a few minutes on one, and in fact just had my ass handed to me in Halo for the very first time last week. But back in 1981, Milton Bradley’s Dark Tower game really had my number.

Sure I loved Orson Welles in the  iconic commercial because what kid doesn’t enjoy watching a massive bearded thespian taking such deep-voiced delight in an electronic board game? But what 10-year-old me really adored about Dark Tower was the stylized, vaguely psychedelic art:

darktower

As a pre-adolescent AD&D fan (albeit one who enjoyed character creation a lot more than the actual gameplay), I loved this stuff. I had always assumed that these were by some unappreciated house artist at Milton Bradley painting in a moment of shroomy inspiration. So I was pretty thrilled to find a site a while back with the name of the artist — Bob Pepper — and even more thrilled to find that he was a well-known SF cover artist in the 70’s and 80’s. A Google image search on his name returns what are quite possibly the coolest search results ever. There’s a whole lot of Philip K. Dick (at first glance more or less Dick’s greatest hits), some Bester and Moorcock and Ellison, a smattering of early high fantasy like Eddison and Peake, as well as a few I’ve never heard of and can’t help but now find intriguing:

scannerdarkly

demolishedman

joychant

Great stuff. According to Wikipedia, the game was the subject of a lawsuit and disappeared from shelves soon after release. I’m not sure what I did with mine, but I assume it met its fate in an adolescent toy purge. Maybe it stopped working — I really have no memory of getting rid of it. Shame, though.

I hadn’t heard of the card game Dragonmaster that Pepper also did the art for, but the warriors, druids, and nomads featured on the cards are just as gorgeous as the rest of his work.

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