fan­tas­tic voy­ager

Pasatiempo - - SET IN STONE - — from Michael Abatemarco AU­THOR AND IL­LUS­TRA­TOR TONY DITER­L­IZZI

Where is “Faerieland”? Its po­si­tion is elu­sive. It is some­times just over the hori­zon and some­times be­neath our feet. Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee

Fan­tasy was a big deal in the early 1980s, which saw a slew of “sword and sor­cery” epics hit the sil­ver screen. One, The Sword and the Sor­cerer, ac­tu­ally took the fan­tasy sub­genre as its ti­tle. The suc­cess of more re­cent fan­tasy works, such as di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son’s adap­ta­tion of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings tril­ogy and Ge­orge R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire se­ries, on which HBO’s Emmy Award-win­ning se­ries Game of Thrones is based, has brought the genre — nor­mally the do­main of fan­boys and fan­girls, geeks and nerds — into the main­stream. Comic-Con In­ter­na­tional, San Diego’s an­nual comic con­ven­tion, is per­haps the best-known event of its type in the United States, but sim­i­lar con­ven­tions have popped up the world over — in In­dia, East­ern Europe, Canada, South Amer­ica, and else­where — most of them com­ing into ex­is­tence early in the new cen­tury. Role-play­ing games (RPGs) such as Dun­geons & Dragons (or D&D), which has been around since the mid-’70s, are still pop­u­lar to­day.

Back in t he ’ 80s, au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor Tony DiTer­l­izzi played RPGs, and in the fol­low­ing decade he be­gan work­ing for TSR, Inc., the pub­lisher of D&D be­fore Has­bro, which owns it now, took it on in 1997. “I had an amaz­ing time work­ing for TSR,” he told Pasatiempo. “I was a huge nerd. I loved play­ing D&D when I was a kid and was ex­cited to be able to con­trib­ute to the game. I learned a lot about world­build­ing by work­ing with the game de­sign­ers be­cause it’s not about just the char­ac­ters and mon­sters. It’s all about the ar­ti­facts and the weapons, the story, the world, the set­ting. Ev­ery­thing is in­ter­re­lated.” In 2003, DiTer­l­izzi co-au­thored and il­lus­trated the chil­dren’s book se­ries The Spi­der­wick Chron­i­cles with writer Holly Black, an au­thor of fan­tasy nov­els for chil­dren and teens. DiTer­l­izzi par­tic­i­pates in a live in­ter­view with Ge­orge R.R. Martin, a screen­ing of the 2008 film adapted from the books, and an au­di­ence Q& A at the Jean Cocteau Cinema on Tues­day, March 1. Books by DiTer­l­izzi are avail­able at the event.

An ex­hi­bi­tion of DiTer­l­izzi’s orig­i­nal art­work, fea­tur­ing some of his il­lus­tra­tions for Spi­der­wick, is also on view in the lobby gallery. The show in­cludes im­ages of the fan­tas­ti­cal North Amer­i­can Grif­fin, Toad­shade Sprite, and a uni­corn. The books and the film fol­low the ad­ven­tures of three chil­dren — Jared, Si­mon, and Mal­lory Grace — who dis­cover a field guide to fairies called Arthur Spi­der­wick’s Field Guide to the Fan­tas­ti­cal World Around You, writ­ten many years be­fore by a dis­tant re­la­tion. The dis­cov­ery prompts them to un­der­take an ad­ven­ture in­volv­ing an ogre who wants to use the in­for­ma­tion in the book to con­quer the world. In­spi­ra­tion for the field guide came from DiTer­l­izzi’s own for­ays into pseudo­nat­u­ral his­to­ries as a kid. “I had been toy­ing with a con­cept I came up with from play­ing D&D when I was twelve. I col­lected lizards, in­sects, and fish — I was that kind of kid — and I had all th­ese field guides. I spent one sum­mer fill­ing a note­book with dragons, trolls, and fan­tas­tic crea­tures, but writ­ing about them in a pseudo-sci­en­tific, nat­u­ral­ist way. I never for­got about it. I had pub­lished a few books with Si­mon & Schus­ter and pitched them this con­cept of a man who made a field guide, who was like a John James Audubon, and they were keen on it.”

Black, DiTer­l­izzi’s co-au­thor, first met him when she in­ter­viewed him about his il­lus­tra­tion work for D&D for an ar­ti­cle in an un­der­ground mag­a­zine. “We both loved all that fan­tasy stuff from the late ’70s and early ’80s. We loved Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s book

Faeries.” Faeries, pub­lished in 1979, of­fers an overview of gob­lins, trolls, dwarves, gi­ants, ogres, elves, witches, and a host of other su­per­nat­u­ral be­ings from folk­lore and leg­end. Froud, a fan­tasy artist, worked on the con­cep­tual and cos­tume de­signs for cult fan­tasy films such as The Dark Crys­tal and Labyrinth. “I was hugely in­flu­enced by Brian,” DiTer­l­izzi said. “When

Spi­der­wick was first pub­lished, there was only one per­son who I wanted to blurb the book, and that was Brian.”

Black and DiTer­l­izzi did their re­search to cre­ate a world that was true to fairy lore. “We are avid fans of old fairy tales and folk­lore. Holly re­ally un­der­stood the folk­lore much bet­ter than I. I’m a bit more of a tra­di­tional fairy tale en­thu­si­ast. A fairy tale like Puss

in Boots, where Puss out­wits the ogre by get­ting it to shapeshift into a mouse, which Puss then sees and eats, is what we bor­rowed for how we de­feated the ogre Mul­garath in Spi­der­wick. A lot of the rules and world-build­ing in the fairy realm were in­formed by folk­lore. For in­stance, fairies can’t touch iron be­cause it hurts them. Fairies tend to be dis­pelled by, or have an aver­sion to, the color red, and are at­tracted to the color green, which is why Jared wears a red hoodie in the books and in the film. But it’s never re­ally ex­plained in the film.”

The film does have a redcap, an ex­cep­tion to the rule. Red­caps are gob­lin-like fairies who fre­quent bat­tle­fields and soak their caps in the blood of the dead. “Most of the fairies in Spi­der­wick are English, Ir­ish, and Celtic types of fairies. We wanted to do an Amer­i­can ver­sion,” said DiTer­l­izzi. “I had wanted to show — by hav­ing the redcap wear­ing the uni­form of a Revo­lu­tion­ary War sol­dier — that fairies live a lot longer than hu­mans. We re­ally wanted to do chap­ter books for younger kids but still re­tain the edge that an old fairy tale like some­thing by the Brothers Grimm would have.”

The film adap­tion of The Spi­der­wick Chron­i­cles con­denses the events in the first five books (about 500 pages in all) into one self-con­tained screen­play. Black and DiTer­l­izzi con­sulted with the film­mak­ers on sev­eral ver­sions of it be­fore the fi­nal drafts were in. “We had lots of con­ver­sa­tions with the pro­ducer and the di­rec­tor Mark Wa­ters about the spirit of the film, the mood of the film, and how to trans­late that,” he said. “At first I think they were a lit­tle leery of hav­ing the au­thors in­volved. But as time went on, they un­der­stood that Holly and I wanted to help them make the best movie pos­si­ble. We un­der­stood there would be changes to the source ma­te­rial. It looks and feels like the sto­ries, and that’s re­ally the best you can hope for.”

de­tails

▼ The Spi­der­wick Chron­i­cles screen­ing, au­di­ence Q& A, and in­ter­view with Tony DiTer­l­izzi and Ge­orge R.R. Martin

▼ 6:30 p.m. Tues­day, March 1

▼ Jean Cocteau Cinema, 418 Mon­tezuma Ave., 505- 466-5528

▼ $10; $35 ad­mis­sion and hard­cover book

North Amer­i­can Grif­fin, 2004, Acryla gouache on Bris­tol board; top, Toad­shade Sprite, 2004, Acryla gouache on Bris­tol board; both im­ages from Arthur Spi­der­wick’s Field Guide to the Fan­tas­ti­cal World Around You, pub­lished by Si­mon & Schus­ter Books for Young Read­ers; op­po­site page, The Hair­cut, 2006, Acryla gouache on Bris­tol board, un­pub­lished

Uni­corn, 2004, Acryla gouache on Bris­tol board, from Arthur Spi­der­wick’s Field Guide to the Fan­tas­ti­cal World Around You, pub­lished by Si­mon & Schus­ter Books for Young Read­ers; top left, The Field Guide, 2002, Acryla gouache on Bris­tol board, cover il­lus­tra­tion for the first book in the Spi­der­wick Chron­i­cles, pub­lished by Si­mon & Schus­ter Books for Young Read­ers

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