Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

The Butcher’s Nails – Art & Voice Direction Suggestions

It looks like the artwork for The Butcher’s Nails, my Horus Heresy audio drama, is splashing out everywhere now to glorious acclaim.

If you’ve not seen it, here it is:

It’s loosely based on John Blanche’s original Angron sketch, which is right here:

And the art for The Primarchs, next year’s anthology, was also shown at Games Day and is now doing the rounds…

Horus (who looks like my friend Ben Cawkwell) and Fulgrim

Jaghatai Khan, Lorgar Aurelian, and Rogal Dorn

Sanguinius, Mortarion, Magnus the Red and Angron

And here we see Neil’s gone back to a more Blanchey-ish (less ‘most-muscled primarch’)  Angron. Sometimes I love the Blanche depiction, sometimes it just makes me think of Dhalsim.


But back to The Butcher’s Nails for a minute. I didn’t have much say in that artwork, which is always frustrating for an author, but it’s occasionally a mundane evil of the trade. I did manage to have the Butcher’s Nails implanted on his head, which is why he’s got those stylish cyber-dreadlocks. In my writing, I base the Nails on the later artwork of Angron (and/or his bodyguard – whomever that might be) in the Heresy, and the man himself as a Daemon Prince, when he’s got that sci-fi mane of awesome cabling going on.

Oh my, yes.

Handsome fellow, that Angron.

It’s a weird moment to realise you’re writing a character one way, and the art gang are depicting him another. With nothing but love for John Blanche, I wasn’t really writing an Angron based on his sketch, and I still don’t really see him that way. My imagination was more fueled by the other style of artwork, admittedly, as well as by my own reading of the text. But Trust Your Art Director. He knows what sells. And d’you know what? Public reaction to the Butcher’s Nails cover has been immense, and hugely positive. This strongly indicates that I don’t know shit.

I plan to have a lot more say in my next HH cover, since The First Heretic was me and Neil coordinating all the way, and it rocks on toast. It’s not about forcing an artist to depict your vision, it’s about giving an artist enough info that he or she can interpret it their own way. And as for TBN, I have no complaints. It kicks maximum booty.

May I also add that I love the Lorgar shot in The Primarchs? That’s fucking rad.

May I just add, furthermore, that I may just be squeezing into that anthology? And would it be with a novella about Konrad Curze? Yes, yes it might be.


On the topic of The Butcher’s Nails, I added some voiceover direction suggestions to the end of the document. I have no idea if the guys making it will stick to them, but it’s an interesting (ish…) slice into life behind the scenes of a Horus Heresy audio drama.

ANGRON – Ron Pearlman / Hellboy.

LORGAR – Dr. Manhattan.

KHARN – vox-altered almost all the time, similar to Throne of Lies.

CAPTAIN LOTARA SARRIN – Mid-30s, energetic English female. A moronic tabloid would describe her as “posh but saucy”, when they really mean “she speaks like Nigella Lawson”.

IVAR TOBEN – British WWII officer.

VOXMASTER KEJIC (and any other officers) – British WWII officer.

SERVITORS – Just like in Throne of Lies, as they rocked.

ELDAR REAVER CAPTAIN – a rasping whisper, disgusted to even be talking to humans, and with abrasive background noise, like the transmissions in Event Horizon. Also, when he says “mon-keigh”, can it be “mon-kee” and not “monk-eye” like in the DoW games? Otherwise it no longer makes sense and misses the point of why it’s funny.

ARGEL TAL – He speaks in two voices at the same time: one like a normal Space Marine, one lower, daemonic, and eerily resonant.

September 30, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. First!

    The cover looks very excellent, its a shame you didnt have enough input into it, but a picture is a thousand words which im sure there there is more words then that in your book, love the the old artwork never seen it before feels very gothic and archaic which is more 40k then 30k as everything is new and fresh.

    the primarchs: i wish i had a preorder button right now for it

    Comment by J.Sibley | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  2. How about T.C Carson/Kratos as Angron? or Jhon Di Magio/Jake the Dog.

    Comment by Bueno | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  3. Don’t know why, but the uppermost painting of Angron kinda reminds me of Kratos from the whole God of War series… wonder if there was a direct inspiration? Loving the Primarchs though, even if it is missing everyone’s favorite emotionally broken Primarch with a Batman complex…

    Comment by Arkady | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  4. Loving the cover, Dorn does look a little bit like an asshole, Magnus like the ugly ogre brother nobody wanted around, Fulgrim like he is better than everyone else and Angron like the little brother that always wanted to rebel. I wonder what significant meeting that requires the presence of 8 Primarchs. It looks like many people are attending and even Titans.

    Also on the voice suggestions, I totally agree there. Freaking go man. 🙂 But why is Argel Tal a part in here? This will be interesting.

    Comment by Forkmaster | September 30, 2011 | Reply

    • I would assume it’s the Great Triumph of Ullanor.

      Comment by Chapter Master Ignis Domus | September 30, 2011 | Reply

      • That would be my guess as well. 🙂 Also a sidenote. Ever since I first heard the expression mon-keigh, I believe it was either Fulgrim or Ghostmaker, second GG novel. I remember thinking how funny it was about them calling us apes in their space language. It appears it was true. 😀

        Comment by Forkmaster | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  5. *squee* On Konrad getting a novella. As if I could be more excited about that book… Looks like I need to add a few more meters to the excit-o-meter. ^^

    The primarchs cover is disappointing, though. I find it weird that – aside from all issues concerning taste and depiction – those primarchs who already were on covers suddenly look totally different. *shrugs* Horus, Lorgar or Angron have no similiarity with their earlier portrayals, which makes no sense to me.

    Comment by Liliedhe | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  6. Now i will preorder The Primarhs – they would have Curze! Cool! Only disappointment that some of the pages would go to stupid Manus and idiotic Fugrim with complex of Dorian Grey! How cool it would be to someone change the fucking old lore and kill some stupid Primarhs like Fulgrim and Mortarion!

    Comment by Anakwanar | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  7. Am I the only person seeing the giant, hairy gorilla hand reaching around to grab Horus from behind?

    Also, the expression on Magnus’ face as he’s looking down on Angron is totally ‘You’re … very short’.

    Comment by ballistichimp | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  8. The Primarch’s is the next Horus Heresy artwork so far.

    Glad you finally got to do something with the World Eaters, too.

    Comment by G | September 30, 2011 | Reply

    • Obviously “next” on the first line should read “best.” I don’t know where that came from…

      Comment by G | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  9. A Kurze novella, you say?

    *happy happy dance*

    Comment by Xhalax | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  10. Rogal Dorn reminds me of Charlton Heston.

    Comment by Ryan Parkinson | October 1, 2011 | Reply

  11. Forget Lorgar, Rogal Dorn looks badass!! Angron looks like his head has been shrunk by Magnus (who is clearly pissed at being shoved between Mortarion and Angron). Horus has a head the size of a moon! The Khan looks just the way I pictured him though. Pretty cool artwork overall. Can’t wait to read your novella about Kurze.

    Comment by NIKT208 | October 1, 2011 | Reply

  12. Hey Aaron,

    I love Neil’s artwork. When I first saw it a song sparng to my mind. Since you’re a metalhead too, I beleive you’ll like it or even find it inspiring. It’s from an 80’s Swiss techno-thrash metal band called Coroner; song “Grin”.

    If you notice the bridge lyrics before the refrain say “Nails in my brain, nails hurt…”

    Here it is with lyrics:

    Please listen to it till the end (especially the intro and abt 5′ in) I believe It’s one of the definite Angron/World Eaters songs…

    Dedicated to you and Neil.

    Comment by Mortemer | October 1, 2011 | Reply

  13. I agree 😀 Ron Pearlman would be PERFECT for Angron. Tell the boys upstairs in the Black Library to make it so! *waves hand commandingly*

    I’m excited about this one, since little is really known about Angron before the Emperor finds him.

    Also love the art of the Primarchs 🙂 interesting to see them all there. But a few are missing! Guilleman, Russ, Kurze, Alpharious/Omegon, Lion el’Johnson, Ferrus Manus, Vulkan, Corax, Perturabo,

    Unless it’s just supposed to be a sampling of Primarchs.

    Either way still an epic picture that I’d love to have as a poster 🙂

    Comment by Christopher Meyer | October 1, 2011 | Reply

  14. For “mon-keigh,” I for one rather prefer “mahn-kye” as the pronunciation. I know that it’s supposed to be humorous with the eldar looking down on the moronic humans and all, but I think that it’s funnier as a more subtle joke. It’s truly not that subtle in the first place, and I feel that it would be a bit too blaringly and unfunnily obvious for the eldar to call humans monkeys. It is after all an ancient alien language, and coincidence can only be stretched so far before it becomes too difficult to stay submerged in the fiction.

    Comment by Khaine | October 3, 2011 | Reply

  15. omg im sorry to be a fucking idiot and I understand if u want me to stfu and gtfo but this is bullcrap. Angron and Horus have been severely raped by this artist, Horus seems to be some retarded ogryn and angron is some mutated gretchin, how this gets out is a mystery. this is a fuck up and now it’s time for me to rage, stfu and gtfo


    Comment by Daniel D | October 4, 2011 | Reply

  16. It looks like Horus and Fulgrim are about to kiss…but holy shit what an amazing cover for the anthology. That one I will definitely have to order in poster format.

    Comment by Nick Sharps | October 5, 2011 | Reply

  17. I always thought it wan Mohn-kay, though looking at the word not even sure how I got that one.

    Comment by Jack 'Ages' Cordingley | October 9, 2011 | Reply

  18. I really like that you have given them direction with the voices. They should include these with books!

    I know that you’re supposed to use your imagination and that the sounds and imagery are a little different for everyone when reading a book, but it’s cool to know how characters are meant to sound. (For example whenever I read any X-men books, It’s always enjoyable to imagine them with the voices from the 90’s tv series.)

    I know I’ll be imagining something along the lines of Dr Manhattan when I’m reading Lorgar from now on.

    Comment by Svorlrik | October 10, 2011 | Reply

    • I thought Dr. Manhattan was a really resonant, powerful performance of a semi-human who thinks on levels humanity can almost understand, but can’t quite imagine. It’s how I always imagine Lorgar talking, anyway. Especially after The First Heretic, now he’s grown a pair of stones.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | October 15, 2011 | Reply

  19. While I like artistic license/interpretation, unless you are creating a character from scratch, you kinda have to go with established depictions of the character.

    You can’t decide to make Spider-man black with green and yellow costume cause it strikes you fancy, and the artists depiction of Angron is horrifically bad.

    That palette swapped Dhalsim doesn’t look like he could lift a bolter yet alone weapons called Gore-Father and Gore-Child…

    ‘Raven’s Flight’ which is supposed to be canon says no primarch short of Horus and maybe Sanguinius could have bested him in combat.

    That little gremlin doesn’t look like he could have gene-offspring that could rip the spine out of a Custodes in armour.

    Kharn the Betrayer has a body count probably in the high hundred thousands, yet him and others before him were beaten almost to death from Angron’s FISTS, the fists that dented metal and crushed ceramite like paper.

    Seriously… dude needs to up his game and come correct.

    Comment by NestersanKarl Green | December 29, 2011 | Reply

    • Not sure I know what you mean. Some of the oldest art is by John Blanche himself, and that’s the artwork that directly makes me think of Dhalsim. That, in my opinion, is what we should distance ourself from.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | December 29, 2011 | Reply

      • I mean in the sense that when you read “After Desh’ea”, the minds eye does not paint the picture of a gremlin.

        It presents the image of someone who is huge, powerful and is so off-kilter from betrayal and rage that he is barely able to keep from destroying everything around him. At the same time he is a Primarch, as to an Astartes as an Astartes is to chubby me…

        I don’t know if you read the Marvel comics line, but I imagine his rage and power would be akin to Hulk from the “Planet hulk” saga. Not a mindless brute, but a VERY smart warrior a hairs breadth from continent destroying rage.

        The World Eater depicted in the “Outcast Dead” doesn’t seem like the gene-seed of that pipsqueak.. I’m sorry just looks underwhelming and in need of vitamins.

        The depiction seems more like a sullen kid with something to prove to his bigger brothers, not a warrior supreme who is only grudgingly going along with his fathers plan.

        Think of opening a Hulk comic to see not a raging behemoth at war with the Abomination, but Hulk as Bruce Banner trying to fight the same fights.

        I know for example that he would be far stronger than any person even if he was not heavily muscled. Like Superman is. However considering Kharn’s awed description of his musculature, him ripping a Custodes into pieces. The same Custodes warrior class who had some mocking words for dear Lorgar. (I say that to say that they did not seem to be in that much awe of the Primarchs, in the way humans or even regular Astartes are (although maybe it was just that set). I cannot reconcile the image in the mind and that rendition of him on the deck… 😦

        Sorry if I’m ranty.. But this: http://matthewfarrer.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/after-deshea/ Angron is not that one in my humble opinion.

        Comment by NestersanKarl Green | December 30, 2011 | Reply

    • No, I get all that. What I mean is, I’m not sure what you mean when you say about going with established depictions of the character, as the artists *are* going with the established depictions of the character – John Blanche was pretty much the first one to ever depict him. Similarly, Neil (the current HH cover artist) bases most of his work on that.

      And yet, curiously, that’s a depiction the text is leading away from. Matt did it in After Desh’ea. I’m doing it now. We use the ancient sketch as a baseline, but… go on from there.

      Ultimately, I’m not a huge fan of the original Angron artwork, either. And I say that as a massive admirer and fanboy of John Blanche’s work.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | December 30, 2011 | Reply

      • That was my mistake, the scale of the original sketch though he has the dhalsim head syndrome looks like he could be a big hulking warrior, especially the arms and body.

        I kinda gave it a pass cause I find sometimes artists mess up the scale of a body part, either stylistically or just by accident.

        The new painting looks like the ‘Bitch Angron’ version ( Remember those badly done clones Stewie did on Family guy)

        Comment by NestersanKarl Green | December 30, 2011 | Reply

      • Aside from that I always wondered why the Primarch armour was so gaudy and mostly impractical, so many blind spots and bits for weapons to catch on.

        Then I realized they were so bad-ass in combat that the hindrance would be as much to them as me tying my arm behind my back to fight a fetus….

        Comment by NestersanKarl Green | December 30, 2011 | Reply

  20. By the way, did you see the fan version of Angron done by Studio Colrouphobia: http://studiocolrouphobia.net/2011/12/27/fiery-christmas-and-a-dragon-new-year/ It gives Angron an even more psychotic look than he has in the existing artwork. Food for thought! 🙂

    Comment by stefmanovic | December 29, 2011 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: