I finally reviewed the contract Justin LaNasa (JL) wants me to sign. That’s when I took a stand and gave my answer: “I prefer not to be directly involved in any way with your lawsuit against WOTC. Therefore, I do not give permission to use the Wizard-head logo.”
For the longest time, I tried to remain neutral, aloof, and unaffected. I wanted to avoid being associated with the bombastic claims of the new TSR.
JL first responded with a denial: “We were not planning on having you in the lawsuit this is why we ask for your permission.” Then a guilt trip: “We really tried to bring back something good with TSR.” Then played the underdog card: “it seems like WOTC and their supporters have a lot of fear and sway amongst the industry.”
It’s upsetting if JL thought I would be stupid enough to sign a contract without reading or comprehending it. In my response, I referred him to item #3 which obligates me to defend his position in his WOTC lawsuit.
The pressure they are putting on me to reconsider has increased. Ernie Gygax thinks granting my permission for them to use the logo—which, btw, they are already using anyway—is key for their successful arbitration. He intimated if I don’t give in, sign away my rights and take their money, I’d be hurting some people I really care about. He also suggested I can “up the ante” for double the amount initially offered.
JL has since amicably proposed to work out a contract that excludes me from the lawsuit. He’s been very nice and cordial to me throughout. Nevertheless… I’ll bet the contract will retain the first sentence where I declare that I have “not previously transferred my rights to any entity or party.” What? As I understand it, logos don’t work that way.
The most important thing to me has not been addressed. As a visual thinker and logo designer, I am very particular about the nuances of what I create. Yes, I designed the original wizard-head logo back in the ’80s. That is not in dispute. However, the logo produced as “Exhibit ‘A’” in JL’s contract is not my logo. It’s a bastardization—a greyed-out, fuzzy, lesser version—of what I designed. I detest the spindly letters used for “The Game Wizards.”
Therefore, I cannot honestly take money for it because I do not and will not claim it as mine. I’m extremely picky about choosing my clients. Before I would consider designing a new logo for the new TSR, they would have to demonstrate ethical behavior as a business entity.
Ever since they appeared on the scene, the new TSR has been plucking the heartstrings of those who fondly remember the good ole days when the hobby was in its infancy. JL’s lofty words: “to honor and remember TSR, the Dragon, Gary and all the alumni of the old days of gaming” sounds inspiring. But I remain unmoved. I never want to return to Lake Geneva to relive those “good old days.”
If I were to endorse the new TSR, they have to correct the mistakes of the old TSR. They must be kinder and more generous to artists and authors in their employ. They would show proper respect, listen to, and honor women, both within the gaming field and as consumers. They would be more inclusive and sensitive enough to address the needs of individuals beyond the white male demographic. They would be fair to their customers and transparent in their actions.
Besides, the idea of me endorsing TSR—new or old—is laughable. Not always, but in general, I did not have a positive experience freelancing for TSR. Looking from the outside in, I witnessed how the growth spurts of TSR turned it from being an “all-for-one; one-for-all” company into an uncaring corporate entity with an “us vs them” mindset. With few exceptions, success brought out the worst in those TSR people given positions of authority. I witnessed how the creatives got the brunt of TSR’s unfair predatory policies. No, I do not yearn to return to that stressful, hostile, and toxic atmosphere.
My memories of TSR are clear because they are frozen to the time I needed to leave Lake Geneva for my own mental health and well-being. I turned my back on the growing number of small-minded TSR people who created and spread malicious rumors and hurtful lies about me, made me feel unwelcome whenever I visited the building, told me my art was not very good and caused me to doubt myself and my abilities.
I left to pursue knowledge, my MFA, and the prospect of new beginnings with no intention of returning. Gary Gygax contacted me in 2005 and coaxed me back. That’s when he and I became fast friends. In the years since I’ve discovered—for the most part— nothing much has changed for females in the gaming world (ie: gamergate). TSR’s unfair internal practices (abusing creatives financially) seem to have followed the RPG industry. How do I know? Having worked as a professional in the “real world” since 1984, I’m aware of the many disparities.
Today, I decided to publicly share my “power of no” because I recognize this as a teachable moment for the dispossessed. Charged with 42 years of suppressed emotional pain, my “no” is big and empowered. It includes “no” to bullying and unethical business practices; “no” to the unfair treatment and compensation of artists, creatives, and women; and “no” to taking advantage of the disadvantaged to profit at their expense.
My “no” is also cathartic for me. With it, I officially reclaim those lost parts of myself I abandoned so long ago. To have the courage to take this stance, my desire for money had to be relinquished. Only then could I clearly understand the implications of what saying yes meant. As tempting as a yes would be, it is ultimately disempowering.
Compromising my integrity for money is the same as selling my soul.
Therefore, I choose to continue living like I always have, modestly. I choose not to allow temporary feelings of desperation or depression to rule me nor compromise the greater truth of who I am. Perhaps I should credit JL for catalyzing my healing process and helping me demonstrate what feminine power looks like.
Good for you, Darlene! I agree with you 100%
Darlene I can’t thank you enough for having the courage to stand up. I stand with you. (not that I’m anything in the industry or art worlds). I am grateful for your artwork, I have your signed and personalized WOG letter sized pages (thank you) and your coloring book. I’ll be buying more of your art as I can.
Thank you for making my old school years so very much fun.
Congratulations, your soul remains intact. I love your take and agree wholeheartedly with it.
A powerful statement, Darlene! Very much respected and appreciated, from one of those long-ago veterans. Keep on standing up for the right. Thank you!
I am very sorry you had to be subject to his behavior. Reading your open letter, and several things hit deeply. As an indie publisher, and huge fan of the OSR and older games, I think it’s critical that we can celebrate the good things (style of play, etc) while acknowledging the problematic and toxic areas that existed. If we can’t acknowledge them, we can’t be better. My last OSR project focused on recognizing diversity and inclusivity in our hobby, and I ensured I hired diverse freelancers for the work to walk the talk. I’m doing my best to be a counter to people like LaNasa in the OSR community.
If you still accept logo commissions, I have a current project I’m working on that I’d love to have you design the title logo. Not sure if you can email me directly with the info I provide, but if not you can find contact info and the project details at http://www.izegrimcreations.com
Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration and helping me learn and grow
Good for you! The ethical, more financially damaging/less financially helpful path is rarely the easier one but is always the better one. If nothing else, it keeps you away from this sort of people.
That was an incredible and powerful read. I am truly sorry to hear that you’re getting hassled by Justin “Grits” LaNasa for his ridiculous lawsuit – that the man who had a political campaign crash and burn because he had a video of two female employees wrestle in grits (allegedly for a promotion) on his own YouTube channel would now pretend to be a beacon of honesty and respect is sickening.
I hope that the years ahead are kinder and this foolishness brings you a new audience of people who will appreciate your art as art and not as a trophy piece.
Bravo! Very well said.
Darlene, thank you for your work for all these years. It has given me near-inexpressible joy. Your map of the Flanaess, bought so many years ago, has truly influenced the GM and player I am today. I’m not alone in this opinion either. Keep painting and drawing. Your “no” is powerful, but the “yes” of your work is even more so.