As a kid in the 1970s, I had heaps of activity books of all sorts — brain teasers, mazes, puzzles, coloring, paper doll and cut-out model books. As a new Dungeons & Dragons gamer, I loved 1979’s “The Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album” which captured two of my childhood passions within 30 or so pages of absolute wonder.
This was no ordinary coloring book on any level. Even as a kid, I was always impressed by its long and prideful title. This was a “coloring album” instead of just another “coloring book.” The drawings were by Greg Irons who famously worked on posters for Bill Graham’s legendary Fillmore Auditorium rock concerts and the 1968 Beatles animated film Yellow Submarine. To my young eye, Irons’s art in the coloring album looked liked the work of a Medieval woodcutter or like uncolored stained glass windows. Lines were dark and heavy, but the drawings wildly animated each page in a progressive story of adventurers and monsters familiar to D&D gamers.
The other aspect that made this publication unlike any normal coloring book was the text by Gary Gygax, the co-creator of D&D. Knit within the story-like captions accompanying the illustrations by Irons, Gygax delivered an actual game you could play. While vastly simplified, Gygax borrowed heavily from some of the basic D&D terminology and concepts with which I was quite familiar by then. And there, at the center of the book, was a two-page dungeon map on which the short adventure could be played. Despite the game having little replay value, I remember playing it repeatedly just because I loved this book so much.
Out of all the stacks of throw-away activity books I had as a kid, “The Official Advanced D&D Coloring Album” is one of the few standouts in my memory. Like the game that inspired it, the book presented and inspired so much fantastic creativity in a way I had never seen before and have seldom seen since.
Collector’s Note: “The Official Advanced D&D Coloring Album” is out of print but scans are available online for free download here and here. Copies of the original unused book can also be found on eBay for an astonishing $75 and up, and partially-colored copies start in the $15 range from online rare book dealers like AbeBooks. You can also check out some of the Fillmore-era posters from Greg Irons at Wolfgang’s Vault, although buying one will run you into the thousands of dollars.