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Red Box DnD artist pushes back on recent gender reveal

Larry Elmore, creator of the iconic image from the 1983 Red Box DnD set has said he painted a man but "you can interpret it however you want".

DnD artist red box gender push back - original cover art image showing a barbarian fighting a red dragon

The DnD artist behind the iconic 1983 Red Box set Dungeons and Dragons cover has clarified that the dragon-fighting warrior, recently interpreted as a woman in a miniature by Wizkids, was originally “painted as a man”.

Posting on Facebook on May 7, Larry Elmore, 75, initially seemed irritated by the idea that the 5e Barbarian, only seen from behind in his art piece, could be a female character – an idea that’s explored by a recent DnD mini from Wizkids. His initial statement quite definitively claims “it’s a man” and adds: “This is stupid. I painted it, I should know.”

In just a few hours, however, it appears Elmore’s position had softened, as he then edited the post multiple times. He first added a postscript: “Just to be clear, the thing that I love about D&D was that anyone can be anything in this game. Male, Female, both, neither, it does not discriminate. It’s a game of imagination and you can be and do whatever you want.”

He then seemed to grow less rigid about the Red Box piece itself, adding in a later edit: “You can interpret it however you want, for that is the magic of art”. And he even jokes about the gender of the other ‘character’ in the piece: “now the dragon on the other hand…”

Elmore’s amended post explains that he was asked about this in an out of context question. It seems obvious there’s a link to the Wizkids mini, announced on May 6, which has attracted a lot more heat and anger from the permanently outraged than I for one expected.

We’ve reached out to Elmore to find out how he initially felt about the suggestion his drawing could be a woman, what prompted the change of heart, and what he thought of the Wizkids mini, but haven’t received comment so far.

Dnd mini showing female barbarian

Larry Elmore is a US-based fantasy artist and the first professional illustrator for Dungeons and Dragons, hired by TSR in the 1980s, where he did a lot of the early work on the Dragonlance DnD setting.

As a freelance illustrator, he’s produced Magic: The Gathering cards, illustrated for the Tabletop RPG Traveller, and published a book showcasing his art.

Elmore is now retired. He stopped taking commissions in 2021, saying in a Facebook post that “at this time, I would like to paint for myself”.

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