MC1 1

Monstrous Manual (1993)

There is this little illustration in the liner notes of the first Stiffs, Inc. album, Nix Nought Nothing (Anyone but me remember this band? No?) that shows a little Victorian era toddler holding a prosthetic leg. The fancy text next to it is a quote saying something along the lines of, “My daddy calls this his Glad-Glum.” I’ve no idea if it is a legitimate Victorian ad for prosthetic legs or just a convincing fake, but it is burned in my brain as the thing that comes to mind when dealing with something that is a mix of bitter and sweet.

The Monstrous Manual (1993) is a Glad-Glum. Why glum? A couple reasons. For all the limitations of the binder format of the Monstrous Compendium, I just love looseleaf. One of our Patrons, Clay, was talking in the Discord recently about the RPG hobby’s co-morbidity with a passion for office supplies and that very much manifests in my love for the Compendiums. Also, the black and white cover version of the Manual has almost universally shoddy binding that splits in the back cover. That’s always cause to be glum.

The glad? Well, it’s another monster book. Who can be down about that? The more the merrier. Big glad, though, is this is one of Tony DiTerlizzi’s first big gigs at TSR. Love that Mind Flayer’s funny little fez!

The art director did something clever with this book, too. Each artist was assigned types of monsters. So Tony’s remit was “insects, crustaceans, faerie-folk and miscellaneous creepy thing,” which is quite the brief. Tom Baxa got most of the planar critters, Jeff Butler did the dragons and the undead. Amusingly, two people — Tim Beach and Doug Stewart — get credit for the Invisible Stalker illustration (hardy har har it’s blank, get it?). I kind of love this scheme, it gives each of the monster kingdoms a unique, distinct look (and contributes, in a way, to the usability of the book).

I should mention, it includes all the monsters from the first two Compendiums, plus some new creeps. It was reprinted in 1995 with the 2.5 trade dress but no other changes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *