Friday, February 24, 2012
Obscure Art Friday: Masher by Erol Otus
I'm going to start a weekly series called "Obscure Art Friday". First up is an image I've used for years as my avatar on the Acaeum & Dragonsfoot forums. It's small (low-res) and has a moire pattern in the background due to its source: I snagged the image long ago (2004?) from an auction of original Erol Otus drawings that was posted on the Acaeum. The seller was the Burntwire Brothers, who are long-standing Acaeum members with an impressive game room featuring their collection and much original artwork, which they shared in this thread. The Collector's Trove (who I believe purchased the Otus artwork) later indicated that the back of the drawing has "Monster Manuel" [sic], "Reduce 60%" and "Masher" written on it. This suggests the drawing was intended to illustrate the Masher entry in the 1E AD&D Monster Manual, which describes them in this way: "These worm-like fish move slowly along coral reefs, crushing and eating the coral growth...Mashers have a number of dorsal spines, 4' long, with poisonous secretions". The drawing fits this description accurately, showing an underwater worm with dorsal spines, mashing coral.
The Masher originally appeared in the Blackmoor supplement, albeit with much less description: "Coral eaters, harmless unless frightened, if so is just like 20 hit dice Purple worm, with treasure". This is one of Steve Marsh's contributions that Gary elaborated on for the Monster Manual, which thanks Marsh "for devising the creatures for undersea encounters which originally appeared in BLACKMOOR." The masher is one of the most obscure monsters in the MM, often entirely forgotten due to being aquatic and lacking an illustration. The Monster Manual had artwork added to the first four printings (1977-1979), as detailed here, so this piece may have been intended for a further revision that never happened; the original MM never included any Otus pieces. The Masher would certainly gotten more attention over the years if it had a cool Otus illustration!