Dragon Magazine began publication in June of 1976. They were still calling it "The Dragon" back then, and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hadn't even been invented yet. But the original D&D rules had been out for a few years, and fantasy gaming was beginning to amass quite a serious following.

The quality of the magazine closely paralleled the quality of the D&D franchise itself (and later AD&D). The early issues (like the earliest D&D books) were very low in quality, but covered very interesting topics, most of which had never been covered before. The art on these early issues was horrible, as most of it was done by people at TSR who were not artists (by skill or by profession).

Fast forward to the late 1970s. AD&D was released and The Dragon changed as well. They changed the title to simply "Dragon", and the quality of the art and the writing picked up immensely. In fact the art and writing in Dragon had already gotten better than the art and writing in the AD&D rulebooks themselves. The art I cannot really explain, but the writing is simple to explain. The first edition rulebooks (and early modules) were largely written by people who were still learning how to write (Gary Gygax being foremost among these). But Dragon was getting submissions from a lot of experienced writers, many of whom had writing skills far beyond those of the TSR staff.

AD&D 2nd edition was released in the late 1980s, and the entire industry had changed by then, and Dragon had changed with it. The industry didn't have room for mediocre writers anymore, and even the most unimportant "one-shot" modules were of higher quality than the best stuff that TSR had available in 1978. This is the point where the quality of Dragon Magazine and the quality of gaming material in general came into sync (and it has stayed that way ever since).

Today Dragon Magazine largely covers the 3rd Edition D&D rules, and has a very similar look and feel to general 3rd edition line of products (which is to say everything is in color, and far to "overproduced" in my opinion).

The Comic Strips

Over the years Dragon has had many different recurring comic strips. Such as "Wormy" which was about a group of humanoids that played war games (Wormy started in issue 9 and ran for more than a decade). Larry Elmore's SnarfQuest was also a favorite with many readers, although you couldn't really miss an issue due to the complicated storyline (SnarfQuest started issue 75 and also ran for over a decade, with a brief hiatus in the early 1990s) .

Other popular comic strips in Dragon included What's New? with Phil & Dixie, Yamara, The Twilight Empire, and the ever so popular Knights of the Dinner Table. Often times picking up a Dragon Magazine was a lot like picking up a Playboy magazine, except that instead of flipping to the centerfold, you flip right to the comic strips. That was the only part of the magazine you could ever be sure about enjoying, as TSR loved to put out "theme" issues that were all about a certain theme. If you didn't like the theme, well at least you still have the comics to read.