“Bulette” (1974)

There is an irony to TSR suing Hong Kong toy manufacturers for copyright infringement, considering the origin of several iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters.

This is what collectors call a Chinasaur, a plastic toy made in Hong Kong. Though designed as a knock-off of Japanese kaiju toys, these wound up filling out packages of plastic dinosaurs exported to the United States from the early 70s right up to today. As a childhood dinosaur enthusiast, I can distinctly recall my confusion at getting what-is-its like this alongside my T-Rexes and brontosauri.

Obviously, you also know this creature as the bulette, or landshark, the creature that graced the frontispiece of the Monster Manual in 1979. The similarities are…well, come on. As Tony Diterlizzi points out in a charming essay on his site, Tim Kask, a game-tester for D&D, recalls Gary Gygax finding the toy monsters and using them for inspiration for his own creatures.

Wait, did I say monsters? That must mean there are others besides the bulette. I bet more than a few of you have a clue what tomorrow’s post is… (hint: it isn’t the rare one)

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