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

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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.

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