Friday 3 October 2014

Orctober Fest 2014

The season comes but once a year. Orctober!

Orctober is a month long celebration of Orcdom across the whole of the internet, instigated by Orcmiester of ceremonies, Erny.

Last year I wrote up something about Tolkiens origins of the Orc, inspired by Beowulf, and some speculation on where the Beowulf author may have got their idea from and what it might have meant to an Anglosaxon. And a look at where the the boar-riding aspect might have come from, probably originating with the Tusk Riders from Runequest via Citadel Miniatures (Orcs are Uz)

And previously I'd written on the pig faced goons in sleeping beauty, which was something of a speculative musing on Gary Gygax's pig-faced orcish development.

Prompted by Matthew Sullivans excellent short history of the development of the Orc over on Oldenhammer taking Tolkiens description through miniature designs from Jes Goodwin at Asgard to the Perrys at Citadel, and the development of the strong, jutting lower jaw in their Fantasy Tribe Orc miniatures (which still dominates the Warcrafthammer Ork of today) - which in comments I referenced to Frazetta's 1965 Lord of the Rings artwork.

Frank Frazetta | Orcs

Which prompted Matthew to mention Hildebrandts excellent Pig Faced Orcs from the 1976 Tolkien Calendar, as a possible starter for the Pig Faced variety (the AD&D Monster Manual, whence the Pig Faced Orc entered gaming, being published in 1977)

Snouty Piggy faced Orc Things

Hidlebrand Orcs - Tolkien Calendar 1976

Now, I love that painting, but hadn't looked at it for quite some time. And it reminded me of something.

Frith / Henson | King Ploobis |  1975

Or someone.
King Ploobis / Michael Frith
King Ploobis?

King Ploobis Ancestor | Michael Frith
King Ploobis?

at work on the Ploobis puppet

King Ploobis!

Hey! Future phoning my descendants...

Hey King Ploobis, got any cats?

King Ploobis, from The Land of Gorch. a puppet based sketch section appearing in 1975 on the long-running American comedy show "Saturday Night Live" and led by Jim Henson. Now, I've speculated that the origins of the Fimir are, in part, owed to Skred from The Land of Gorch (by way of Froud / Alan Lee) and briefly speculated that Pig Faced Orc might owe, in part, its design to King Ploobis.

Sutherlands Pig Face Orcs

Purely visually, the key similarities shared by Ploobis, Hildebrant and Sutherland and are the motif of the forward facing nostrils, the long, wrinkled or ridged nazal bone area (much more exaggerated than a rel pig, which is only ridged at the snout end) and prominent lower jaw tusks, and thin, droopy lower jaw with slightly sagging lower lip.

Listening to an interview with Tim Kask - an important contributor to early Dungeons & Dragons, when out of the blue he mentions he had been influenced by Saturday Night Lives "Land Shark" skit when inventing the Bullette (based on a plastic toy) and alarm bells went off. The Land Shark appeared 3 times in series 1, which is when the Land of Gorch was broadcast.  So  I asked Tim whether he remembered The Land of Gorch, and yes he did (in fact saying he'd recently added an NPC to an adventure based on one of the old muppets). So certainly Tim was aware of Gorch, and perhaps it was part of the wider milleu that TSR was part of back in the day.

Were the Hildebrandts, or Dave Sutherland also tuning in on a Saturday night, and picking up some muppet vibes who knows? but it looks likely to me.

From the AD&D Monster Manual, the Pig Faced Orc inspired a lovely range of simple (some may say crude) miniature figures from Minifigs, released the 1970s

Minfig Pig Faced Orc!
Then the Pig Faced Orc got not much action for a long time really, tho' turning up in the D&D cartoon in the mid 80s to do Vengers bidding:

D&D Cartoon Orcs 1983 - 1985
The D&D toon spawned some dreadful 4" bendy plastic toys, that no amount of misty eyed nostalgia can redeem. Infact the White Dwarf letters pages of the day were filled with vitriol at TSR for selling out, so nostalgia is unlikely to be tinted with anything other than righteous scorn and derision in this case.

You could actually buy these. In shops. No. Really. For Money.

Then, we lived in a pig-faced orcless wilderness, until from 2008 onwards there are Otherworlds Pig Faced Orcs  scultped by Kevin Adams (currently 20% off with the code 8THBIRTHDAY at the checkout)

Otherworld Pig Faced Orc Boar Rider 1
Otherworld Pig Faced Orc Command Set

Otherworld Pig Faced Orcs 2

These are fantastic figures, and to be frank, other than coming across an old copy of the PHB one of the main things that got me back into gaming after a 20ish year hiatus.

Then there are Spooktalkers absolutely sublime renditions of Pig Faced Orcs in 2014, based on Grenadier models, with snouts attached.

Spooktalkers  Pig Faced Orcs

More can be seen in his blogpost: The Orcs that Never Were  and well worth a look.

Anyway Otheerworlds figures, and poking around in my attick uncovering some old Warhammer stuff, led to an attempt at a Warhammer 1st Edition "Forces of Fantasy" style PFO army list, way back in the mists of time...
Pig Faced Orc Army List (PDF)

 Reinventing an old D&D character, an Orc Cleric. Orcs are a player character option, play exactly as half-orcs but look like:
Grushna the Founding

And more recently, these two Pig Faced Orcs battling a Slime Eater beneath the Cityport of Kharé, for Otherworlds forthcoming Skirmish game.
Orcs vs. Otyugh
 So maybe it's time to drop the Pig Faced, and call these guys Ploobisian Orcs.


  1. Good lord Alf is an Orc? Harnmaster had very hairy orcs as I remember so why not.

    I've never encountered Ploobis before but he certainly seams part of the mix.

    1. Dunno if Alf is a proper Orc or just shares some DNA with them :-) A Pig-faced bugbear goblin?

      Which reminds me that 4A miniatures do an Alien Life Form figure.

      Maybe with a bit of milliput and some green paint...

  2. Excellent, I would add the Gamorrean guards in Starwars as well (cuz Starwars is nothing but a space DnD game right?) :

    1. The Gammorean guards are definitely related, but they don't have the really long snout that dominates Ploobisian physiognomy.

      Also it's amazing to follow the development sketches of the Return of the Jedi creatures, neither the Gammorean Guards nor the Squid Head guy look like they started out life intending to be the D&D Orc and Ithilid that they clearly ended up as being.

  3. Fantastic article and has actually made me consider investing in the otherworld orcs. Great stuff, keep it up.

    1. Heh. Well certainly a better choice than the LJN bendy toy monsters methinks!

  4. Awesome job, Zhu! See should have read your blog first! Wonderful research, images and connections! Glad you do this type of stuff, bit hard with 4 kids, but SO glad you do it! It is amazing how much reach those little muppets have beyond kermit and sesame street, huh?

    1. Lol! I've managed to paint 3 miniatures in about 6 years, and an average of 2 blog posts a month. I'm always amazed how people get so much done. But glad you enjoyed reading it.

      Ah, just remembering your post which mentions Labyrinth reminded me of the Froud painting with Toby and John Blanche's cover for Chaos Marauders.

  5. If muppets can be orcs, is Miss Piggie an orc?

    1. That might explain her anger management issues. HIIIYAAA!

    2. Explains why she has a thing for Mr, "Its not easy being green." There kids would look like orcs, perhaps.

    3. There is evidence that suggests that might just be so...

      Plus as a genetically modified bonus: Pink Slann Babies!

    4. I had no idea. Awesome, that baby needs to go on the list of pig faced orcs.

    5. Bloody hell, half frog, half pig....
      That's a sculpt that's crying out to be done!

  6. Great post! All hail King Ploobis, I guess.
    And thanks for the shout out!

    I was perusing the website for D&D 4.0, and I noticed that they appear to be resurrecting the pig-faced orc. For myself, I think this is a neat idea -- it certainly is one way to distinguish between the world of Warhammer and the world of D&D.