David Helber

What was the time frame for production of the Green Box sets and the White Box sets? Why was there the switch from the Green to the White Box sets? Cost?

Green Box was first, while we were still at Monroe I think. Box set copyright 1980. Green boxes were put out on the cheap. The color art was identical on all, with a light green title rectangle wherever the title was to be and a green color tint back panel (first release). The color part of the boxes were printed up in large quantity for the volume discount. Only the black plate needed to be changed out for the different individual products. It contained black type and illustrations on the back, and black rectangles with type reversed out to let the green show through for the title and specific product info. A second run of color-art boxes was done for the second release, the only change being a gold tint to replace the green, so there was at least some immediately perceivable difference on the shelf to identify the new release.

The Royal Guardsman (Heritage’s factory store) catalog of summer 1980 lists Paint n Play and the first release (green type – 3501, 02, 03, 04, 05) of the green box sets. No white box sets or second release Green Box sets. In fact, several of the figure packs containing white box figures were marked as new summer 1980 releases, so the white boxes were in the future.

The Fall 1981 Heritage USA SALES MANUAL AND WHOLESALE CATALOG lists the Green Box sets and Paint n Play, the blister packs, ten Painted Figure packs, and the first issue Dungeon Floors (black-grey-only mechanical artwork, in shrink-wrap), and the last hurrah of the scenoramics line “Dungeon Walls” under the DD imprint. Also, the Denizens of the Dungeon sets (plastic figures), the Adventure Game Starter Sets (plastic figures, paint, brush, die, tiny rules); both with no Dungeon Dwellers markings – probably in order not to attach the shame of plastic to our flagship line, or piss off TSR who licensed AD&D to us for metal figures only, I seem to recall. AG Starter Sets was the leadoff product in the catalog, surprisingly. No White Box sets listed.

So WBs had to be a 1982 product. The white boxes were done right. Sturdy construction, foam inserts top and bottom, individual art. That was after we knew we had a winner (such as it was) in the Dungeon Dwellers fantasy figures, and were willing to invest more. Interestingly, the Dungeon Dwellers name is very small in plain type on the boxes – don’t know if that was to avoid offending TSR after we lost the licensing for Advanced D&D, or if we tried to de-emphasize the name because the line was fading (?), or if I just got tired of it, or forgot to put it on and added it as an afterthought. The old creepy DD art and style did clash with the new Heritage “White Boxes” style on Dwarfstar and Swordbearer, which I wanted to make the new Heritage corporate style. Bright to attract the customer’s eye, very clean for an upmarket look, very legible in terms of type and individual product ID. One disadvantage of the DD art is that it was dark and didn’t jump off the shelf to the customer’s eye. 

What was the time frame for production of the Paint n Plays?

Late 1979 to (my guess) the bitter end. Late ’82, the first few weeks of ’83, don’t recall exactly. Probably have the last bounced paychecks somewhere.

How / why was David Wenzel chosen to do the Artwork for the White Box sets?

Howard Barasch was tickled by Wenzel’s 1980 picture book “Kingdom of the Dwarfs” and showed it to me. I contacted him about the Denizens of the Dungeon plastic figure sets. I wanted Frank Cirocco for all four, but cost prohibited it. Cirocco was expensive. Wenzel, in spite of the book publication, was more reasonable in price and willing to work with us. I made it a point to offer all the artists credits on the box (unusual at the time) and purchased only First Publication rights, so the artist got back the painting and could exhibit or sell it or even sell for publication within the terms of our contract. These were significant bonuses to the artist that cost us nothing, so we got fairly good illustration prices from good illustrators.

For the White Boxes, money was tight, so I asked Wenzel if he could do us some quick works (watercolor, as I recall, with little inking), not as completely finished as his usual art, and he agreed. I think only the Level 4&5 Monsters illustration really shows the economy. It was the last, and really crowded the deadline. It obviously was done very quickly indeed. Still we clearly got our money’s worth on the series as a whole. Wenzel was great to work with.

Why is there a gap in the numbering between the Green and White Box Sets?

I think we (maybe just I) really thought of the WBs as a different product line. I guess we left room in the 3500s to add more Green Box sets, if the WBs were not successful or if for price or some other reason, we decided to continue the old version in addition to the new or instead of it. 

Besides you, Who else did the line art for the inserts? I have seen “CM” on a couple of images.

Those are by Cynthia Sims Millan, a Heritage Art Dept. employee for a while, and a far better draftsman than I. I think she also did some contract work for us after she quit. As I recall, some of the bigger figures were done in an unusual way – Max was swamped with work, so Cindy did some line drawings that a contract sculptor, and Max in a few cases, worked from. I remarked that it was very strange that Cindy, who drove me to distraction with the sweet, rather feminine look on the Adventure Game Starter Set artwork, suddenly caught fire when asked to illustrate these demonic subjects. Cindy also did the “Diorama Background” art and box art for the red Boxed Painted Figure sets that Duke wanted to reflect the red elongate Britains classic lead soldier set boxes. But ours was vertical. I don’t think anyone confused the two. Any unsigned line art is probably mine.

Do you recall any other outside sculptors used to sculpt some of the DD miniatures? There are a few that Dave, David, Max and Steve do not claim.

As mentioned above, a contract sculptor did some of the late, larger pieces, the demons and others. I think it was a woman, and known in the hobby, so I’m tempted to say Julie Guthrie, but it’s just a stab in the dark. Max might remember, or Ed Andrews. Some or all of the contract pieces were done to Cindy Millan’s drawings. “Dave”?