Pick a colour, but choose wisely…
The classic Fighting Fantasy artwork from the 1980s returns in a new collection of books in which YOU are the colourist
Making their debut in 1982, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy gamebooks opened up magical worlds in which the reader was the swordwielding hero. Now four of the titles are back as colouring books, featuring the distinctive line art from the series.
Ian, the co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy books, is happy to give readers a new way to enjoy the illustrations. “For some, these colouring books are wonderful art books, collecting together some of the best Fighting Fantasy art of the past three decades,” he says.
The set of colouring books is made up of four early titles: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, The Forest of Doom, Deathtrap Dungeon and City of Thieves. “The images from these books are more suited to the colouring book format than the others,” Ian adds, “as there is plenty of detail and not too much heavy shading.”
By taking scans of the artwork, and in some cases tidying them up on the computer, Ian believes the books present the illustrations as they deserve to be seen. For The Forest of Doom illustrator Malcolm Barter, his art’s legacy makes up for the personal misgivings he has about his work.
“It’s still difficult for me to look at some of them,” he reveals. “It still amazes me to have had any influence on a young person’s formative ‘inner world’ or to have produced ‘iconic imagery’ (not my words).”
Russ Nicholson’s work in the first two books is also rated as among the best in the range, despite reports at the time describing his work as the most disgusting to appear in a children’s title. “That gave me pleasure,” he laughs. “I had worked hard to create frightening
I worked hard to create frightening images suitable for a 12-year-old, without them being too scary…
images suitable for a 12-year-old, without being too scary and which would have appealed to me at that age.” For Fighting Fantasy cover artist Iain McCaig, whose concept art has since fuelled many high-profile films and video game, the series shows him still pioneering his own painting style and searching for an identity for the books. “I hope they’ve lived on because of the characters,” he says. “Even if it’s just in my head, there’s always a story behind the things I create, making the Fighting Fantasy covers not-too-distant cousins to the many characters that I’ve designed for the film industry.”
In fact, fans have noticed that the skeletal creature on the City of Thieves cover bears a striking resemblance to Iain’s Darth Maul character design years later. “I’m afraid Zanbar Bone is simply a coincidental design,” Iain confesses. “The spikes bristling across Darth Maul’s head were a late addition by master make-up artist Nick Dudman, who interpreted the stiffened black feathers in my original design as horns.”
The Fighting Fantasy colouring books are available as hardbacks and paperbacks from Snowbooks (
Now you can colour in the writhing worms lurking in the depths of Deathtrap Dungeon. One of Iain McCaig’s lighter artworks from City of Thieves. Iain McCaig’s cover for City of Thieves features his favourite motif: a picture within a picture.
“Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are a great form of escapism, and so is colouring,” says the FF co-creator Ian Livingstone.
The Serpent Queen is one of the City of Thieves’ many surprises, courtesy of Iain McCaig’s storytelling and art skills. This prospective picture of a werewolf secured Malcolm Barter the job as illustrator for The Forest of Doom. Russ Nicholson drew the Warlock from the first book. It’ll be up to you, the colourist, whether you leave some of the line art uncoloured, for added visual impact. Iain McCaig says he enjoyed painting every pustulous part of the loathsome Bloodbeast.