Thursday, May 9, 2013

Holmes' Saurians

Detail of Holmes' Saurians

This is a detail from the picture posted yesterday. Billy identified these figures as Dragontooth Saurians, and suggested the giant lizard is the same as the one in the Basic Book (pg 3) that I also have at the top of this blog. I had also noticed the similarity. The lizardmen are probably Heavy Bowmen, and the giant lizard is part of the SMC1 Champion Mounted on Giant Lizard:

Drawing of SMC-01, possibly from a catalog, image from Lost Minis wiki
A painted SMC-01, image from Lost Minis wiki
SMC1 Saurian Champion in original packaging, image from a recent auction
It is certainly possible that the David Sutherland drawing influenced the Dragontooth mini, or vice versa. The question is, which came first? I don't have a good answer for that. The Holmes rulebook was first published in July 1977, but I'm not sure when the Dragontooth mini was first available. Dragontooth started selling minis in 1975, but the earliest I've found the Saurian minis is in an ad in Dragon #9, Sep 1977 (coincidentally is the first issue with an advertisement for Holmes Basic):

Dragontooth Saurians ad from Dragon #9, Sep 1977
Holmes was clearly a fan of the Dragontooth figures. Here's what he had to say about them in his FRPG book (1981), Chapter 11, "Little Metal People":

"Dragontooth Miniatures makes a line of utterly delightful fantasy armies. These little fellows are intelligent lizards and frogs and come dressed in a variety of armor, carrying a variety of weapons. There are lizard armies, alligator armies and frogman armies. With the varied figures of the armies come an array of imaginative mounts and vehicles. Bird drawn chariots, beautifully detailed dinosaur and iguana mounts, howda-equipped giant chameleons, and a huge triceratops, a veritable prehistoric tank ready to carry his handful of screaming lizard men to victory or death"

The "iguana mounts" here may refer to SMC1 figure, and the triceratops is also from the Saurians line. The alligator and frogman armies, bird drawn chariot and giant chameleon are from the Amphibians line. Here's a later (1978) Dragontooth ad pitting the two lines ("Saurian Empire" and "Amphibian Confederation") against each other:

Dragontooth ad from Dragon #17, Aug 1978, Amphibians vs Saurians


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, and in addition to the frogmen ("Ranideans"), the Amphibian line includes two types of fishmen (Tritonites). Holmes' Dagonites are describe as having frog and fish characteristics. Based on the name I think the original inspiration is Lovecraft's Deep Ones, which they are even called once in the story. The froggy aspect may have come from elsewhere such as these figures, although Holmes does call the Deep Ones "amphibious" in his 1977 Dragon magazine article on Cthulhu, before the Amphibian line (1978, I think).

      Some of the Tritonians are sharkmen, although Holmes' original wereshark story (A&E, 1976) also predates this line.

    2. Actually, I just remembered that Lovecraft actually refers to the Deep Ones as "fish-frogs" in "Shadows over Innsmouth". I discussed this in a post last year called Shadow Over Portown.

  2. That last ad looks aesthetically very similar to that of the Saurians supplement for first edition Chivalry & Sorcery. I wonder if there is a connection.

    1. I finally pulled my Saurians down and all the art that isn't Simbalist paleontological studies is Mike Gilbert from the Dragontooth catalogs. As the last page of Saurians notes, "the intelligent Saurian races are inspired by the line of Saurians produced by Dragontooth Miniatures" and then there's an address for Loback in NYC. More on the Plus...

  3. This is fascinating. Thank you! I love seeing the Lizard rider. There has got to be some way to figure out which came first. I wonder what other secrets will come from this collection.

  4. Hi all,

    I reached out to Tom Loback, and here is his reply:

    Hi Tom,

    How kind of you to remember. The Saurian Mounted Champion was sculpted by Steve Tofano and added to the Saurian & Amphibian line which I created and for which I did most of the sculpting. As I recall, Steve came up with the idea for the piece himself and the line drawing in Dragon Magazine came much later and was based on Steve's piece - I believe the editor at the time actually asked if that was ok with me. I don't recall who did the drawing in the mag, but we certainly had almost all our pieces done in line drawings by Mike Gilbert in our catalogs when first released.
    Hope this edifies somewhat.

    Best, Tom Loback

    So it would appear that the original miniature came before the DCS III illustration in the Holmes Blue Book, and the customized and painted lizard & rider in my collection were modeled to resemble the picture at some time after the release of the Blue Book. At least that's how I'm reading this.

    Tom Kristensen
    The Lead Dragon

  5. Excellent article thank you. We have just been discussing 'which came first' on the Facebook 'Vintage Lead' page.