Wednesday 17 May 2023

Russ Nicholson - The Passing of a Legend

We were very sorry to hear of the passing of Russ Nicholson last Wednesday, after a short illness, and know that many who read this will be feeling just as bereft as we are.

'Legend' is a word that is over-used these days, but it certainly applies when talking about the man who brought the first Fighting Fantasy gamebook to life. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was the readers' introduction to the world of FF and it was Russ's illustrations as much as the text that drew children into the deadly dungeon that was the Warlock's lair.

Russ's work also set a high benchmark for others to follow. Oft imitated but never surpassed, when Russ took his pen for a walk across the page he conjured inriguing characters, hideous monsters, whole armies, and entire worlds from the nib. To see him work was like watching a wizard practising his craft; he waved his wand and visceral scenes of action and adventure were brought forth upon the page in ink.

Steve, Russ and Ian at Fighting Fantasy Fest 3 in 2019.

Ian Livingstone said, "I first had the pleasure to work with Russ during the early years of Games Workshop. His wonderfully atmospheric illustrations filled the pages of White Dwarf. I fondly remember working with him when he illustrated the cards in Workshop’s Warlock game published in 1980, and later Eye of the Dragonthe solo adventure which I wrote for Dicing with Dragons. Most famously, Russ illustrated the first edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, his iconic pen and ink illustrations setting the standard for future Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. Russ was an amazing man with an incredible talent, and he left an incredible legacy. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him."

Steve Jackson added, "This is dreadful news. Russ was the founding father of the black and white art which became so important as one of the features of FF. Sadly, his adventure has ended here. Gone but not forgotten. Our condolences to the Nicholson family.”

Those of you who have read Secrets of Salamonis may have noticed a personal tribute to Russ by Steve. One of the lead characters in the book is named Ruznik Ulsson in his honour.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time, and all those who were inspired by his incredible work.

Zagor the Warlock, by Russ Nicholson.

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