This is the first time I’ve seen them and had a genuinely gut-punchy emotional reaction. Not just “This person gets it” or “This really captures them perfectly” – or even “They look better here than in my head”, the last of which is true with surprising frequency. Not even “I love that my characters meant so much to someone”, which is about as perfect a feeling as an author can get.
In this case, I mean an actual wrenching internal lurch that made me feel – just for a moment – the same way so many people feel when they tell me they miss First Claw. It was the first time that seeing them again actually made me miss them, too.
Here’s Augustus’ thread if you want to see more of his work.
As you’re probably aware, our webcomic The Road to Jove is up and running, and we’re about halfway through the Prologue: In Crow Country.
I’m getting a lot of questions about it and I thought it was probably time to shed some light on a few of the recurring ones. Firstly, thank you if you’ve been reading and enjoying it so far. The feedback’s been awesome considering how new it is, and how little we’ve promoted it through traditional webcomic channels.
Here’s where we’re at right now.
- The Website. We know, we know, it’s very bare bones, but the fact it exists at all is an engineering marvel. I wanted to say thanks to a surprising number of people who’ve come forward and offered to do us a website for free. That’s incredibly generous and super-humbling. The prologue was a soft opening so we could get our wheels spinning, and we’ve got a new site in the making by the wonderful gentlemen at 49th Floor. Everything should be ready for y’all when Chapter One: Black Feathers goes live in about a month or so.
- Physical Copies. The intention was always for RTJ to be a webcomic, but there’s a constant stream of requests for physical copies – and that’s something a lot of webcomics do at various points in their run, too. We’re looking into it. It’ll definitely happen at some point, in some form, but we want it to be great. Throwing up a temporary website for the prologue is one thing. Releasing and distributing physical copies of something like this will need a fair amount of work. tl;dr – Yes, at some point.
- Is It Free? We’ve both had various friends in marketing shout at us about this, as well as other artists and writers saying we’re insane for doing this for free. Not because any of those guys and girls are tools, but because it’s taking a lot of work and a lot of our time, as well. We’ve even had interest already from traditional comics publishers, which is sort of scary. David and I went into this as endearingly naive as you can imagine about the whole process, which is probably understandable, so we had no idea just what a bitch it was going to be on our free time. I mentioned elsewhere that we now have over 100 reference images and a novel-and-a-half’s worth of notes for the project (about 150,000 words at this point). The prologue going online first like this was our canary down the coal mine to see how everything worked in reality. That means it’s free, but it’s also very, very slow. We can’t sustain more than one page a week with all our other work commitments, so we’re looking into the possibility of monetising it in order to speed the hell up. That may take any number of forms since we’ve got a few decent options on the cards, but the most likely angle will be Patreon, like X-million other webcomics. If we do that, RTJ will still be coming out for free but voluntary monthly patronage will speed us up significantly, and come with a bunch of extra rewards. More on that later, if and when we do it.
- How Much Do You Bring It Up? Not very much. Weekly update links and links to interviews, as you’d expect. Recent changes at BL have a tighter lid on current projects so I share my novel stuff a lot less on social media, but I have a personal rule of keeping self-promotion to only about 25% of blog posts or Facebook/Twitter updates at maximum. (Yes, I’m aware this is much less than a lot of writers. Shut up. I’m shy.)
For the record, here’s our first RTJ interview with Liam Salt at The Cult Den, and I keep forgetting to mention that David’s doing commissions for kicks as a change of pace, so hit him up if you want something done.
That’s the Legion I finally settled on.
We’re a week from the first deadline so I thought it was time to share a little more jazz behind the process. Those who’ve read my work might think that the XII Legion was the most obvious answer in the world. The truth is that there’re several reasons that the World Eaters were dead last on my list of possible Legions, but have risen inch by inch – clawing over the carcasses of fallen and unworthy ideas – to stand proud at the apex of my hobby pile.
Maybe they’re holding axes in their hands while they’re up there, screaming their hatred to an uncaring and distant genetic grandsire. Maybe! That’d be pretty dramatic, right? How super-deep.
However, it’s much safer to assume that they’re really looking at every other project I’ve abandoned in the past and wondering if their place is already assured on what John French calls my “Shelf of Shame”.
As I’m fond of reminding people, I used to play with a 4,000-point High Elf army, of which a single Phoenix Guard was the only painted fellow. I like to think that in the narrative of that particular army-wide failure, his rank-upon-rank of elven friends exalted him as a hero. They probably just bullied him, though.
I had some nice results with a variant Emperor’s Children colour scheme that Eddie suggested, so I may have them show up at some point. I like that idea a lot, and I prefer mixed-Legion Expeditionary Fleets as a general rule.
I sense we’ve strayed, here. What the fuck was I talking about?
Oh, yeah, World Eaters. Specifically, the fact they were dead last on my list.
I’ll go into that later, as it’s not all that interesting or relevant. Here’s why I ended up deciding to do them, instead.
1. My impatience is maximum. I think it’s probably fair to say that – of the Legions – the Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Dark Angels, and Thousand Sons, will be the most distinctive four, and I’ve got a feeling they’ll be the most ornately done; the most popular and attractively sculpted. That’s probably not an unfair guess given how distinct those Legions look in artwork, how different their rules are likely to be in some cases, and how overwhelmingly popular they are in the license. It feels like a safe bet to say they’re probably going to be something special. The Ultramarines are a similarly safe bet to make that Top Four into a Top Five, but I digress.
The first reason I’m choosing the World Eaters is because I can’t be bothered to wait for any of those guys. Fuck that.
2. The models are lush. The second reason is that the World Eaters look great. Their shoulder pads, their Contemptor, and their head/torso upgrade kits are dead lush. A lot of the Legion-specific torsos work for any Legion anyway, but the World Eaters are especially sexy.
3. My friends are all on the Blue Team. The third reason is because of who I actually play with beyond the Tale of Five Heretics and its various guest stars. My local 40K/RPG pals are almost uniformly into loyalist Chapters or the various branches of the Mechanicum. They’ve already said they’ll be going along similar lines if they ever get into the Heresy, and the rough landscape here looks a bit like Mechanicum, Imperial Fists, Space Wolves, and a Knight Household, so… Yeah.
In that respect, the call of the Red Team is somewhat inevitable. I have no real preference on Red or Blue Teams. I just need a decent storyline to run with.
The fourth reason is the main one, and that’s because I had an idea for an army.
4. Cohort LN-27-5555. Cohort LN-27-5555’s serial number is a bastardised mesh of its original garrison assignment code and its subsequent place in one of the many Expeditionary Fleets ranging far from the light of the Emperor and his primarchs. There’s nothing especially noteworthy about them in this regard. The cohort has always been said to serve as a haven and exile for squads blighted by disciplinary failures, but the same is often said of countless World Eater forces. The veracity of this claim has variously been challenged or ignored by the cohort’s command structure, depending on the officer in charge at the time.
By the way, no points for spotting the blatant referential nod in the name.
5. “So how ’bout them bolters?” Cohort LN-27-5555 was utterly unprepared for the Heresy. While the same could be said for many Legiones Astartes forces spread across the galaxy, in the cohort’s case it was more a matter of lacking the requisite armament, not reluctance or a lack of information.
Since its inception, LN-27-5555 has been armed for service primarily against xenos threats, leaving compliance of human worlds to its secondary forces, such as the Mechanicum and Army counterparts present within its Expeditionary Fleet. In keeping with such duties, the cohort still possess an abundant armoury of volkite weaponry, rotor cannons, chainaxes, and rad-weapons for annihilating alien targets. If you’ve read the rules, those the kinds of things that tend to either be specifically designed to kill xenos in the lore, or aren’t all that brilliant at killing Space Marines in general.
In contrast, the cohort lacks the increasingly abundant supplies of plasma and bolter weaponry more tactically viable against ceramite, and they now themselves relatively disadvantaged in confrontations with their own kind as the Heresy rages closer to Terra.
6. From Rebels to Chaos Marines. This is the big one in terms of the army’s appearance. White is one of the few colours I can reliably paint fairly quickly, if not particularly beautifully, and that makes it pretty tempting right away. But bear with me, as I’m doing mine red.
One of the questions I get asked a helluva lot is: When do the World Eaters go from white and blue to red and brass? It’s a great question; one that’ll be answered in the fullness of time. I can answer when mine go from white to red, though. Right now.
I want my cohort to have a transitory vibe. They’re up to their necks in the Heresy, partway between the unstable Space Marine Legion they were and the blood-maddened Chaos Marines they’ll become. Not yet Warp-touched or decorated in symbols of Khorne’s favour, but definitely on the way there.
The ways I’m going to show the transition from “rebel” to Chaos Marine won’t win any awards for originality, but I think they’re going to look distinctive and effective all the same.
One of my favourite pieces of old World Eater lore is the way it’s common to see a single piece of their old heraldry and colour scheme showing through all of the red and brass that they’re more commonly associated with as Khorne’s chosen. I love that image, and it’s stuck with me for years. With the cohort, I think it’ll be done with their Legion shoulder pads. The rest of them will be red, but they’ll keep their original colours on their shoulder guards.
They wear the Eye of Horus on their opposite shoulder guards to show their allegiance to the Warmaster, not just as a Heresy-era practicality but also as a modelling nod to their eventual fate. A lot of Chaos Marines have the Eye of Horus on their armour, and while the cohort has no idea of its future in the Eye, the grand tradition followed by so many Chaos Marines shows it has its roots in simpler, more innocent and ignorant (and conversely, more loyal) beginnings.
My first month’s pledge is a Despoiler Squad, kitbashed to heck and back from a squillion kits. (I don’t ever convert. I just kithbash lots.)
Anyway, that’s why I chose the World Eaters. I have to admit, I’m, dead psyched about all this.
As promised, the reasons why the World Eaters were dead last on my list are below. I try to avoid playing anything I write about, and writing about anything I play, and I’ve always played very shooty armies. I’ve mentioned this in interviews a bunch of times, but if you’re at all interested, here’s the dealio:
- Excuses, Excuses…
The reason for several failures at getting a Chaos Marine army going (along with the usual amateurish gripes about Forge World’s Plague Marines being too hard to paint) is because one of the easiest – and wrongest, and stupidest – ways to make a writer look bad is to say “She/He only made Faction X look good in a novel because he/she loves them”. It’s never true for anyone over age 12, but the myth persists.
Admittedly I don’t get it a lot, but it still annoys me when I see it said about anyone.
It’s the licensed fiction equivalent of saying a musician has sold out. “They sold out” might’ve once meant something, but now it means something completely different to almost everyone who says it (like “hipster”, these days) and is usually teenage shorthand for “I don’t like this but other people do, thus I’ve remained pure and other people suck”.
So to avoid that particularly stupid trope, as if anyone is that unprofessional in their day job, I’ve tried to avoid my hobby and writing crossing over too many times. Plus, I like so many things in 40K that it’s not really hard to avoid that crossover.
I’ve been getting over that pandering, lately. The more I write, the less I care about triggering a frothing opinion somewhere. These days, I trust most readers and reviewers with the discretion and intelligence not to make those kind of assumptions, and if someone is the kind of soul to genuinely think “He made a faction good because they’re his fave army” then you know there’s basically no reasoning with them, anyway.
I write what I have ideas for at the time. If I wrote what I loved most, you’d all be proud to ignore One Ratskin Guide’s to Life in the Necromundan Underhive, interspersed with instalments in That High Elf Love Story Which Will Never Be Written Now Because of the End Times.
I don’t like any faction more than any other; I just like different aspects of different factions at different times, the way people’s favourite songs can rotate and shuffle year by year. For nostalgia reasons, I tend to dig the Blood Angels sliiiiightly more than the other Legions but that’s nostalgia, not: “I think these guys are more interesting”. I like the Transformers cartoons out of nostalgia and still enjoy them. I don’t think they’re better than, say, Deadwood, or HBO’s Rome.
This is the kind of headache-tastic handwringing that has plagued me for years, but I’m getting over it now like a big boy.
Another thing that put the World Eaters dead last is that I’ve played shooty armies for most of my gaming life. My 4,000pt. High Elves did a lot of shooting. My 1,000pt. Wood Elves did nothing but shoot. My 1,000pt. Chaos Marines were Marked by Khorne (not even my favourite god)… and apart from the Biker Squad they did nothing but shoot all the time. My House Cawdor gang, who were juiced up with bonuses for hand-to-hand combat, also did nothing but shoot and throw grenades.
Well, they also died a lot. That should go without saying.
So, y’know, an army predicated on melee often needs transports (which I’ve historically been too scared to paint and risk fucking up) and when it comes to playing I tend to default to what I’m used to. Which, of course, is standing back and shooting.
But I’m trying something new, here.
And now you know.
This is probably the last of the annual videos for Shakes to look back on one day and hate me for. I’d always planned to do three – not just for him, but for distant friends and family, too – so here’s (probably) the last. I know I wouldn’t want my entire growing-up reduced into bitesize chunks on my dad’s blog (or, in fact, anywhere…) so I don’t want to inflict it on the beloved heir, either.
As with the first and second years, the usual rules apply. Feel free to give it a miss if you have zero interest in the Dembski-Bowden clan. No harm, no foul. You don’t force-feed me videos of your kids, after all. It’s only fair if you ignore mine, too. I still love y’all.
Allies of the family, take note: there’s a big announcement in this one.
This is the first Sevatar I’ve seen with his red hands. Though, in fairness, he’s so new this may actually be the first one I’ve seen painted.
A WIP stolen from Chris Seadon:
Yes, I based the “red hand” idea off of the Nick Cave song, as well as the Mafia’s punishment of choice. A happy alignment of ideas.
No, I’m not ashamed.
Sorry this is a little late. I had a deadline, then the world’s shittiest cold, and then I was back in the motherland seeing Monster Magnet with Graham McNeill. As evidence by this hauntingly grainy yet very treasured selfie, taken during ‘Space Lord’.
Anyway, as promised, here are the photos of what the Heretics sighingly call the Failure Years. This is a grab bag of photos to highlight the best bits, because uploading everything that Eddie and Ead managed to get done in the last 2 years would use all of the internet’s megabots and gigatrikes, which I’m reliably informed are totally real things.
In a few days, I’ll get to our Feb pledges for the rebooted Tale, which – thankfully – are actually going pretty well so far. I’ll also talk about my newest, most annoying, least surprising army change yet.
But for now, I give you the highlights of the Failure Years. Most of these are presented without their army background for now. We’ll shift back into those gears once the first month’s pledges are up and running.
Let’s start strong, with Neil’s Ultramarines. Yes, that lovely guy that does the HH novel covers.
Next up, John’s Blood Angels, which ended up largely being allied Mechanicum because those models Goddamn those Mechanicum models though amirite.
As an aside, John’s first Knight here is from House Orthos – the Knight Household John and I dreamed up together. Orthos was allied with the Blood Angels Legion in the Heresy, and took its oaths down the millennia to the Red Seraphs and the Angels Numinous – the two Blood Angel Successors we’re working on.
Moving on to Ead’s Iron Warriors:
Jesus Christ, that guy likes his tanks. Not looking forward to facing him on the tabletop.
Annnnd here’s Alan with the Alpha Legion:
Cyber-mastiffs always win my heart. As do hammers.
Alan’s still going to guest star in the Tale as we go forward, so expect more from his traitorous, Blanchian brush.
But now, what every fucker and their dog has been waiting for…
Eddie’s Fallen Angels. Let’s start with the Dreadnoughts, Venerable Brothers Claudin and Accolon:
…and here we have Yvain, the Lost Knight of New Caliban:
…sigh. I love Eddie, I really do, but sometimes knowing him is a burden.
Here’s the Black Lion of New Caliban, described by Eddie as (get this, kids) “pre-Daemonification”:
And yes, before you ask, he’s done the Black Lion post-Daemonification, too. Because of course he has.
I find it profoundly difficult to ever pick out one or two details I like in Eddie’s stuff. It’s just this sensory overload of “Jesus Christ, that’s a good idea” moments. I mean, the lion even has tusks, for fuck’s sake. Look at that flail. God, what a lovely scroll. Look at that helm! Dude, those wings. Jesus, plague censer nodules? Man, what a flail. What’s that leash even made from? God, even the base is glorious.
Let’s move on before I grind my teeth to dusty, jealous powder.
That, my pretty chickens, is a Lionstrike Interceptor. Now you know.
This is a Rhino with a havoc launcher.
Let that just sink in for a few minutes. That is a minimally-costed basic transport option in Eddie’s army. That fucker right there.
It’s okay to hate him, you know. Don’t feel bad about it. I sure don’t.
Some daemon allies. Grody.
Eddie refers to these as a “motivated underclass of freedom fighters disenfranchised with an entrenched political class”.
Are we done, yet?
Nope, here’s the Aldurukh-pattern Land Raider, ‘Arrogance’s Redoubt':
And who’s this?
Then you have the handsome jerks of Veteran Knight-Legionary Squad Durnure:
Closely followed by the Knight-Legionaries of Squad Cadorius:
And lastly, the Havoc Squad, Caliban’s Thunder:
And before we sign off for a few days, let’s just remind y’all of the Failure Years’ true failure.
Here’s a Blood Angel that I got bored of doing:
Here are some Space Wolves that I fucked up when I tried to paint them:
Here’s the usual level of conversation that takes place in our private Facebook group:
Here are some Iron Hands heads I got bored of doing:
Here’s more Facebook chatter in the secret group, wherein Eddie explains his process:
And a brief moment of confession where I reveal the depths of my true feelings:
So, those are the Failure Years, which – for several of the Heretics – were plainly successful, after all.
Up next: February’s pledges from the rebooted Tale, and a squillion words explaining my army idea.
Thought for the Day: “Pooh of the Tau would be a way better book than The Tao of Pooh.”
Just a heads-up in case you missed: The Road to Jove went online last Friday night.
The site’s very WIP at the moment, natch, but the prologue’s cover is up with the first three pages. For now we’re updating every Friday. Obviously that’s as slow as balls so we’re looking into ways of speeding that up, but even with a buffer zone of finished pages, well… David originally considered inking it – and it’d be way faster if he had – but we settled on painting it out in the end. The look of the painted pages was just too gorgeous to resist.
My comments under the first update cover all I need to say about the comic itself right now, so I’ll leave it at that.
In other news, I’ve been laid low by yet another fucking
brutal cold manflu (thanks, beloved son) so I’ve not been at my desk much the last few days. Suffice to say I’ve gathered about 50 pictures for the next Tale of Five Heretics update, which – now that I can type again – I’ll post before the weekend.
No prizes for guessing who you can preorder now.
So. Games Workshop have made a mini of one of my characters. That’s a sentence I’ve basically hoped would be true since I was a little kid, and is a pretty significant tick on the bucket list. I thought this’d be a moment where I jumped up and down and shrieked in playgroundish delight, but the truth (just like the day I hit the New York Times bestsellers’ list) is a bizarre sense of awestruck serenity.
More surreal than anything else.
Well, surreal and awesome.
It’s both obvious and weird that it’s Sev. Obvious because he’s easily my most popular and asked-about character, and he has a rank in the Heresy that deserves some time on the tabletop. Weird because authors don’t always write what they love; sometimes they write what they have ideas for at any given time. I occasionally joke about not liking him the way Paul Sheldon doesn’t like Misery Chastain. That’s not true but the analogy always tickles me, and there’s at least a thread-thin sliver of truth there. I like that people like him. That matters more, sometimes, especially when you’re trying to tell people a story.
But I digress. There’s gushing to be done.
Dat mini, tho.
People will ask if he matches what’s in my head, and I’ll say no – because that’s the truth. He looks waaaaay better for a start, and secondly, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really have concrete and definite pictures in my head for every detail of a character’s appearance. When I see artwork or modelled incarnations of my characters, I do the same thing I do when I’m writing them: I look for the 3-4 key details and the overall vibe. Talos isn’t a clear, definite image in my mind: he’s a vague aura of characteristics and details, like the runic faceplate; the exposed cables of Mark V armour; the broken Aquila on his chestplate; and the distinctive weapons he stole – all with an aura of melancholic anger and optimistic self-delusion, which is the core of his personality to me.
Capture a handful of key details and the overall vibe, and I’m sold. That’s how it always is with the many models and pieces of artwork I get sent, depicting my characters. That’s how it is with my novel covers, too.
So… what about Sevatar?
It’s impossible to overstate just how rad and fucking brutal Sev looks in his tabletop incarnation. Alan Bligh and John French gave him awesome, characterful rules, and Forge World’s Steve Whitehead has floored me with this resin-born slice of wickedness.
What can I even say, really? He looks perfect. The model speaks for itself.
(Also, I maximum adore the bareheaded Ravenloft look he’s got going on here, and in his HH book artwork.)
As you probably know by now (for y’all are wise and learned folk) I’ve got a webcomic starting soon. It’s called The Road to Jove. It’s about a road going to a place called Jove. It’s also about people, robots, rust, robots, war, robots, mythology, and some robots.
The next blog post is going to be another Tale of Five Heretics / Hobby Chatter update, but while that’s still being written I decided to steal a chance to actually discuss RtJ rather than just allude to it and run away in question-dodging silence, like I’ve been doing for the last few months.
My webcomic (by which I mean “our webcomic”, since the artist David Sondered is the one doing all of the really hard work) launches in two weeks, which is trouser-fudgingly close. If you wonder whether I – the celebrated Master of Missed Deadlines – have it all in hand this time, well, the answer is a resounding: “Yeah, kinda.”
Working with someone else means there’s a baseline level of constant pressure to Get Things Done. This palpable eternal pressure is pretty motivating, in the way nebulous things like “I need to pay my bills” and “My innocent child is starving before my very eyes” have never managed to kick me into gear.
I went into this project blind about half a year ago, with a few vague ideas circling my head and several possible artists to hit up for discussion. After checking the Notes document that contains all of mine and David’s planning and brainstorming since the fateful day I first contacted him, there are now 200 images of reference and concept art and over 100,000 words of discussion – which is the length of an average novel. Soul Hunter and The Talon of Horus were about 100,000 words, give or take. For better or worse, it’s fair to say a lot of work has gone into it even before it launches.
Dan (of the Abnett Clan) has helped out behind the scenes with advice and examples of his own comic scripts, which have been more valuable than gold in working out how to structure my own script. A comic script is sort of “for the artist”, if you get me, whereas I’m so used to writing “for the reader”. It sounds obvious, I know, but in practice it makes all the difference. This is hallowed and unfamiliar ground. It pays to tread carefully.
I’m under no illusions that a lot of guys and girls who read my work purely with a 40K eye won’t give a fuck that I’m starting to do non-40K stuff. That’s totally fine, I swear. This has been a long time coming though, and as nerve-wracking as it is to see it building up to launch, it’s also incredibly refreshing in the oh-so-rarely-professional sense. In some ways RtJ is a bit of a love letter to things like The Mysterious Cities of Gold and The Dark Tower Cycle – things that have inspired me since forever, and with moods that stuck with me through the years, informing a lot of my preferences in what I read and write. The game Another World (I think it was called Out of this World in the States) is another example.
Not the events of those stories. Just the feel and the sweeping sense of unreal distance they present to you. Worlds you knew were vast and dangerous, yet wanted to explore them despite how alien and treacherous they could be. Not a quest or a mission or a trek. A journey.
I hope when you peeps get to see it with your own skull-socketed gummi-spheres that it triggers some of the same feelings in you, too.