Friday 26 November 2010

Rogue Trader The Musical [Act 3: Horned is the Hunter]

Ok this is going to be somewhat complex and windy.
We have Martin Walkyier - lead singer and songwriter of Sabbat - Wiccan influenced hymn to Pan "Horned is the Hunter". And in response to Walkyiers song "Horned is the Hunter", John Blanche graces the cover of Sabbat's first album with an androgynous sci-fi mutant in a position of meditation or spell-casting, or reading a book, or something.

The Horned God is (loosely) a male sexual deity which appears in the neopagan religion of Wicca, also associated with hunting, based on Pan, the English folklore figure Herne the Hunter  and, controversially, the medieval concept of The Devil.

John Blanche "History of a Time To Come" 1988
Incidentally the image later turns up in Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd Edition.

Horned is The Hunter

Alone he sits -
a vanquished Lord upon an oaken throne,
presiding o'er this conflict
that chills him to the bone,
for each tarnished blade that festers
is a thorn thrust in his side,
and His pain alone bears witness
to the folly of mankind.

What hope for a king with no kingdom to rule?
now his children desert him -
regard him a fool,
and are bonded to progress -
the plough and the scythe -
that lay waste and leave barren
what beauty survives
though legends of power and glory suffice -
for these 'latter-day-heroes'
who live out their lives,
chained by conformity shackled by greed -
and told to belive they don't want to be freed.

The enemy within us -
is well armed to spoil and rape,
and this mighty heart grows weaker with
each liberty they take,
so come ye from the shadows
do not tremble 'neath your beds,
at the mention of his name -
hold high your weary heads.

For in each delve and greenwood,
far wiser creatures play,
and in their veins and sinews,
live the Gods of yesterday.

Both wicked and lustful
this God's horny might,
He plays hide and seek
with the shadows of the night,
enthroned in high mountains -
nobility crowned with the wisdom of ages -
the forest his gown,
so nimble the fingers that pipe out the tune,
simple and pure is the song of the moon -
that echoes each evening the ritual performed,
a lament for a God to a Devil transformed.

Are there men among us
prepared to face the fight
who'll stand by their convictions
'gainst overwhelming might,
so do not hide like cowards
and await the bitter end,
come take your courage in both hands
and join with me my friend.

For in each delve and greenwood,
far wiser creatures play,
and in their veins and sinews,
live the Gods of yesterday.

A God of many faces
yet none of them are known
existing in all places at all times -
His glory shown in the majesty of nature,
let the Hymn to Pan be sung
for the myth is but a History Of A Time To Come.

His name is eternal - His power unknown,
the ruler paternal - He watches alone,
as great cities tumble and empires fall,
amidst this confusion the Hunter stands tall.

 John Blanche's Slaanesh from Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness (p. 14) 1988

Then we have a remarkably similar image, the horns, the hair, the being seated, the ambiguous gender. This time it's the Chaos God Slaanesh, born from the death-screams of billions of Space-Elves. Blanches black and white Slaanesh is more hermaphroditic than the androgynous Sabbat figure, it's also nice to see the Dark Elf references with the chainmail armour. 

The later fluff for the elves (WFB4+), introduces the horned god Kurnous (clearly referencing the Celtic figure identified as Cernunnos, who some claim influenced Herne the Hunter and is part of the syncretic wiccan concept) and his avatar Lord Orion, king of the Elves who thematically extends the relationship between the elves and a Horned God to before the Fall of the Eldar (although this does depend on reading a certain macrocosm-microcosm relationship of the Warhammer 40k and Fantasy universes) - could mean that Kurnous was intended as an aspect of Slannesh, or just that the whole thing is coming out of the same melting pot of influences.

Re-reading Walkyiers lyrics, certain lines do lend themselves to the character of Slaanesh:

Both wicked and lustful
this God's horny might

Although any direct influence would be pure speculation. It is clear that looking at the two images, Blanche was either re-using the same visual motifs, or perhaps drawing some form of comparison between the neo-pagan Horned God and the Chaos deity.

Scarloc's Wod Elf Archers | 1987

Scarloc, the leader of the Wood Elf Archers, is of course, named after a character from Robin Hood folklore, Will Scarlock (or Scarlett) and the band of green-clad forest dwelling bowmen clearly references the popular image of Robin Hood. Of course, based in Nottingham, the legends of Robin Hood would have been difficult for the denizens of GW to escape from. 

But more specifically, the leader of these merry elves, Skarloc is given a hood, a rune-sword and is titled "The Hooded One"...

Skarloc 'The Hooded One"

Michael Praed as Robin Hood
Judi Trott as Lady Marion
Robin of Sherwood (1984)

In the 1984 TV Series Robin of Sherwood, Michael Praed plays Robin of Loxley, given the title "The Hooded Man" and like Scarloc goes around in a hood quite a bit, as you'd expect. However, Carpenter adds a neopagan twist to his retelling of the tale, and Robin is also "The Son of Herne" - a mystic shaman / avatar of the Horned God, an innovation unlike the Moorish Hashashin Nazir, that hasn't become widely adopted .  This decidedly mystical bent gives much of the flavour, but rather than a strictly Anglo Saxon paganism with Woden, Thunor and Tiw, that would follow from the 'Saxon rebels and Norman oppressor' background of the story, Carpenter created a somewhat romanticised Wiccan basis for his pagan insurgents.

Back to Scarlocs, according to the description on the box-back Kia Stormwitch (the standard bearer) carries the ashes of an 'elf hero' called Kern - son of a goddess, which again seems to be a reference to Herne / Kernunos aspects of the Wiccan Horned God (who is somewhat perversely both the son and the lover of The Goddess) - the Kerne -> Herne consonant shift thought by some folklorists to be evidence for the figure of Herne as a 'survival' of a Celtic deity. In the TV series Robin has the magical rune-sword named Albion (one of a set, forged by Germanic folk hero Wayland the Smith) which may not be used to slay him - whilst similarly Scarloc has a magical rune-sword with runes of swiftness, armour and protection (rather than say, a Minor Death rune of goblin slaying or other offensive capabilities) .

So it follows, if the wood elves are based on Robin of Sherwood, so too might their deity and spiritual leader be, hence the development of Orion/Kurnous/Slannesh as gods of the Elves - all depicted with antlers, and 'lusty'. Robin of Sherwood was hugely successful TV series at the time, and even spawned a couple of Fighting Fantasy style gamebooks by Graham Staplehurst (who also wrote the Robin Hood supplement for Iron Crown Enterprises in 1987, and a couple of articles in White Dwarf on the subject too if memory serves) and illustrated by Russ Nicholson.

The Hooded Man? Robin of Sherwood Gamebook Russ Nicholson

Sabbats History of a Time To Come remains one of my all time favourite albums to this day, and Robin of Sherwood still a very entertaining and TV series I'm somewhere in the middle of series 3 of Robin of Sherwood - The Complete Series although Mrs Zhu seems to have lost interest after Praed was replaced by Connery, still the costumes and scenery are nice to watch. I'm still not regretting selling my citadel wood elves, honest.

Friday 19 November 2010

Insane Robot Shadows: Simon Bisley's ABC Warriors

Simon 'fraggin' Bisley, everyones favourite Art Droid, turned Heavy Metal dude. Probably better known for his fully painted Slaine and HM work than his insanely detailed and splattery black and white stuff that the Biz scribbled out for 2000AD in 1988.

Bisley brought an angular, stylised organo-mechanic with chainz! skullz! spikez! Just tipping the ABC Warriors over the edge from a war-encrusted sci-fi comic, into stranger occultech and philosophic territory, thanks to Deadlock, the best robot magic user ever.

Back in the day 2000AD was regularly printed on toilet paper which really don't do justice to the artwork.  And the current graphic novel reprints that I've seen are just too small for all those scratchy  details. Someone really needs to do a 1 to 1 size print of the original artwork.


Found some awe inspiring photos of the original art, which is apparently in the hands of private collectors:
 The site doesn't allow image hotlinking, so go, click and drooool...

Sunday 14 November 2010

AD&D Gamebook 4 The Soulforge. Who Wants it?

First person to leave a comment on this thread wins a copy of AD&D Gamebook 4: The Soulforge.

Front and back covers have a  crease, the character sheet / bookmark has been detached and has been written on in pencil, but is still in the book.

As a Gamebook, it seems to prefer dice mechanics over decision making, which is a bit different. Storywise, it follows Raistlin's Test in the Towers of High Sorcery, basically about him becoming a proper mage.

"Why are you giving it away?" I hear you scream - well...  the Towers of Zhu are currently occupied by cardboard boxes full of junk very interesting and entertaining stuff - VHS videos, vinyl records, and my gaming collection. Looking though the box of pretty decent gamebooks I came across this. I devoured Dragonlance as an early teen,  played in the campaign, but this book has no place in my collection - I don't plan on collecting the rest of the series, and as a Dragonlance book, I can live without it. I don't know anyone who wants it, but figured it might have value to someone else in the world, and it's better they have it than me.

So all you have to do win this amazing tome from 1985 is leave a comment below, and I'll post it off to you. If I get no offers from The Thirteen Followers of Zhu (or any random passer by) before the 19/11/10,  I'll offer it up, first at, then if that fails, the local charity shop book bin.

Friday 5 November 2010

Orcs in Disneyland

.. of the pig-faced variety of course!


Tom Oreb, Don DaGradi, Ken Anderson, Bill Peet have design credits on Sleeping Beauty (1959), and checking around I'd plum for Bill Preet being responsible for the above concept drawings. Several pig-faced goons here, alongside some bovine and rather muppet-like creatures.

Uruks on the storyboard for Sleeping Beauty. I especially admire the goblin-hat, or should that be hat-goblin? Unfortunately he didn't make the final cut,  the anthropomorphic clothing is very Boschian medieval monsterism. Also, note the pink nosed, green skinned hooded orc in the top right. 

The bumbling buffons are an embarrasment to the forces of evil, a couple of screencaps of the movie, showing the Pig Faced Orcs alongside their Eagle-faced, Goblinoid and Gargoylesque brethren. The colourscheme has been muted down from the design phase, giving a nice consistent feel across the randomly shaped creatures.

From the Sleeping Beauty experience at Walt Disney world, which opened 2 years after the movie (1961) - which appeared under blacklight (UV) giving them a peculiar "blueish sheen", green skin and pink noses familiar to the description of the Orc in the AD&D 1e Monster Manual.  However, these appear to be crossed with the the ultra-rare Cyclopean Orc (Britanicus Editionus Adeeandeeus Uruk).

For those not versed in modern Orc lore, the Pig Faced Orc (green skin, lighter/pink nose) also appears as Gammorean Guard in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the Orcs in the 1980s Dungeons & Dragon cartoons, 1970s Lord of the Rings paintings by the Brothers Hildebrandt, and yet true origins in popular culture remain somewhat mysterious. Certainly their first written appearance as specifically Orcs is in the 1e MM, but it's entirely possible that someone at TSR (Gygax?) had been to Disneyland and had drawn upon the imagery whilst reinventing the Orc.

Monday 1 November 2010

Rogue Trader - The Space Rock Opera [Act 1: Amazonia Gothique]

"Carving out an empire across a billion shattered star
systems, one super being stood supreme. Biting the
hand that shaped him Dominator's new order reigned
with a grip of iron, dissident's were executed or
imprisoned on maximum-security lunar compounds."

1988 Dominator Album by Cloven Hoof, cover 'Amazonia Gothique' by John Blanche.

1986 White Dwarf, magazine cover 'Amazonia Gothique' by John Blanche.

"Sentenced to burn exiled in purgatory.
A man made cage, in a distant galaxy.
But tonight we leave, so spread the word around.
Breaking out, never to be found.
Over the top, past security.
Through the fields of energy."

1986 sculpt by Micheal Perry based on 'Amazonia Gothique' by John Blanche.

"Renegade forces  of the world unite.
Imprison our captors,  freedom is in sight.
Storm the watchtower, tear down these walls.
Nothing can stop us, heed no master's call.
In the night, the sirens wail.
Imperial Storm troopers,  on our tail"

cira 2010 some emo/scene bird

ZOMG! Hair is LARPing 0_o
Gimmie Kozmic Akse!

I've always imagined Amazonia Gothique to be Blanches contribution to the Eternal Champion mythos. Whilst not, directly Ilian The Champion of Garathorm (the only literary female Eternal Champion), Blanches Amazonia Gothique is a transcendent figure, she stands like some orbital moon with her huge white 'fro eclipsing a raging sun. She stands at the centre of a cosmic event. The Major Hero, possibly a Champion of Slaanesh (Realm of Chaos:StD).

Dominator by Cloven Hoof is a rather hackneyed sci-fi flavoured piece of hair-metal, in all honesty the art director probably picked the John Blanche at random, there's no celestial goth/emo girl character. But the storyline could make the basis of a pretty cool Rogue Trader 40k / Gamma World campaign or a stage musical written by Ben Elton.