Remembering Jim Holloway
By Joseph Goodman
TSR artist Jim Holloway recently passed away. He will be missed.
Why do you play D&D? Because it’s a social experience that brings smiles, laughs, and camaraderie built around the spirit of adventure. While the wargames that preceded Chainmail and D&D were strategic and serious, D&D has drifted steadily into the realm of “social entertainment.” Now in the year 2020, we’ve fully accepted D&D as entertainment. Heck, you can even watch D&D be played by professional actors on Twitch who are just there to make you laugh. In 2020, we know this. Way back in 1981, there was an artist who figured it out before the rest of us. That artist was Jim Holloway.
Jim brought a playfulness to TSR’s in-house stable of artists. His fine linework and natural humanoid poses were informed by an inner chuckle. You could tell this was a man who saw humor with every glance. As an artist, he brought that humor to the surface. Every battle, every monster, every spell: just beneath the surface—and occasionally right on top of it—there was a joke waiting to happen.
Jim’s resume is impressive. Many years of D&D work at TSR, later work on Paranoia and BattleTech, and much more. Plus many years of work for Goodman Games. In the early days of DCC RPG, Jim’s art perfectly captured several important game concepts. His illustration of the DCC funnel has become “iconically DCC”: the confident skeleton scolding a hapless farmer’s failed pitchfork attack as his friends the candlemaker, baker and blacksmith flee. I can’t tell you how many gamers have told me this is their favorite image in the DCC RPG core rulebook. Everyone remembers it.
Jim’s image of the spell misfire is equally iconic. Just look at the careful linework in that image. The correct sense of body weight for each and every humanoid. The individual faces give such distinctive character to each person: the fainting halfling, the bored elf, the beefy warrior now with a hen’s head. The physical reality of this art is believable. And funny. Even with an umber hulk about to win the day, you can’t help but laugh. That’s exactly the right way to draw a spell misfire.
I also have to call out Jim’s fumble image from the DCC core rulebook. I think it’s the best fumble art I’ve ever seen. The axe head suspended in mid-air: so simple, so effective.
Jim’s illustration of the shadow is among my favorites. He deftly captured facial expressions. The moment of tension, fear, anxiety in this image: we all feel the emotions of those two frightened warriors. How many times have you seen a D&D illustration of the “shadow” monster that basically looks like a charcoal smudge? Jim took a different approach and it works so well.
Laughing, smiling, and having fun at the tabletop while sharing in a grand adventure: that is the essence of the D&D experience. That is also the essence of Jim Holloway’s art. I think he captured the fun of D&D intuitively. Years later, I realize he was right all along.
I wish I had a chance to know Jim Holloway better. Jim, I really enjoyed the times we had together. DCC art won’t be the same without you.