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N1SB Labs: Restored 1st ed 40k Genestealer Art Retrospective

1st ed Chaos Bladed Cog Brood Brothers Concept Art N1SB Labs

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+++ Thought of the Day: Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. +++


Hi Fraters, N1SB Labs reports document experimental painting techniques, but I was brainstorming Genestealer Cult army ideas by re-reading the old 1st ed 40k Compilation and found concept art imho worthy of sharing.  Many elements from that era have been retconned, so this isn't an argument about what's more canonical, but sometimes old ideas lead to new ones.


(I previously made a similar thread before Xenos were accepted in these forums, but it was deleted as Genestealer Hybrids were in a grey area at the time.  It was the right decision by the mods as they were enforcing the rules of that time, and I've gone on to further restore the images, so all the better.)


With the recently released 8th edition Codex now out, taking another look at these with the new rules in mind puts them in a totally different perspective.  Beyond bringing them up to a higher resolution standard nowadays, I actually further restored them by adjusting contrast and other design tricks, stitching certain things together, smoothing them, etc.  Let's leap straight into an example:



+++ Double-page Spread by John Blanche +++




This restoration took some work because afaik this piece HAS been posted online, BUT at a far lower resolution with a visible seam in the middle...because it was a 2-page spread.  I used some blurring effects to "fuse" it together.  The full image is 1912 x 1350, please click on the image to see it at full size.


This is such a typical John Blanche piece.  It's overflowing with concepts, creativity, characters, explosions and just energy.  Now, I realise not everyone is into his gritty, grotesque style.  However, even if you see it as mucky, I humbly posit to you that this muck was the primordial ooze from which 40k evolved.


As if showing that very evolution, we see on the left a Purestrain sheltering a Magus, above 2 Hybrids, then a screaming Brood Brother, on or around a throwback to 1st ed, the Genestealer Cult limousine.  Before them charge a horde of Brood Brother Guardsmen AND Beastmen.  But 1 thing more...




Chaos permeates this piece.  Notice even the Hybrid atop the limousine sports robes adorned with the 8-pointed star.  Genestealers existed as early as the original rulebook as the Ymargl breed, where they looked like some sort of many-limbed leech, and were featured in the boardgame Space Hulk.  When they made their way into 40k, they had a strong Chaos linkage, to the point there was a separate list for Chaos-tainted Genestealer Cults that had additional options.



+++ The Gothic Patriarch +++




There are actually multiple images of Patriarch's seated on various thrones, in fact there's a classic metal mini in such a pose.  This image is less commonly seen, seated in a stonewalled room in what's almost like a medieval castle with a candelabra.  He's depicted like an alien vampire.


The vampire comparison is not totally ridiculous.  Genestealers are often depicted as ancient terrors that hibernate for long periods, striking from the darkness, with the ability to hypnotise people to be converted, similar to vampires.


The context of all this is that 1st ed 40k was kinda like Fantasy But In Space.  Obvious examples are how Eldar are Space Elves and Orks are...Orcs with more dakka.  Squats were still around as Space Dwarves.  But what exactly was the Fantasy equivalent to Genestealers (or Tyranids)?


Perhaps you've formulated your opinion on this.  I haven't, or I'm just keeping options open...and apparently so was Games Workshop at the time.  They were just exploring what could be done with this theme.  It's an intriguing notion now, though, with the different Cult Creeds, maybe one could do a vampire theme.


But in the meantime, notice the Chaos symbol on the throne itself.  While there was a Chaos version of the Genestealer Cult army list, this picture wasn't taken from there, as this was supposed to be the generic Patriarch.  Fun Fact - a Chaos Patriarch was known as an "Oracle" back then.


Not sure who the artist is.  I've got my own theory, but don't want to misattribute it.



+++ Make Grandfather Proud by Adrian Smith +++




Adrian Smith is another legend who established the look & feel of 40k that remains relevant to this day.  Whereas John Blanch was known for large epic spreads, Adrian Smith often did these quiet, reflective slices of life moments that I equally love...even in this very violent image.


This image accompanied a short sidebar story of how Harlequins slew a Patriarch in front of 2 Brood Brothers/possible Hybrids (despite their hair), who referred to the fallen Broodlord as their "grandfather".  Then they attacked the Harlequins out of vengeance, to make their grandfather proud.


A great piece to demonstrate the undying zealotry of Genestealer Cultists.  In the recently released Codex, I noticed the Brood Brother Detachment that Genestealer Cults lose Regimental Doctrines, but get a +1 to Leadership instead.  It's an interesting way to reflect their zeal as represented by this artwork.


As an aside, note the canine-like mask of the Harlequin on the right.  With these Troupers taking on the roles of ancient Eldar mythological figures, I wonder whom...or what...the hound-faced Harlequin represented.



+++ Brood Brothers...or perhaps the 1st Renegades & Heretics, by Paul Bonner +++




Since we're on the subject of Brood Brothers, here's a beautiful little unit drawing I'm 99% sure comes from Paul Bonner, whose influence remains in 40k today with his styling of Freebooter Orks (he also did a lot of work for Squats).  I recognise his style with the beautiful shading and flowing ripples in the wrinkles of the Guardsmen uniforms, as well as the proportions of these figures.  Everything he draws just adds a bit more fun.


Although this was within the Genestealer Cult army list for 1st ed...I'm sure you already noticed these look like Renegade Guardsmen, what with the Khorne symbol on their helmets and shoulderpads.  This image might very well be the the 1st Renegades & Heretics, hiding among Genestealers.


With the Brood Brother Detachment rules available, it's actually kind of interesting to think of how they can be a new way and better way to do Renegades & Heretics than the Forgeworld Index.  They get to use the Astra Militarum orders are psychic powers.  And on that note...



+++ Rogue Psyker +++




Not a Genestealer Hybrid Magus, but a rogue human psyker allied to the Cult.


What interested me was this blurb in relation to recent lore (it's expanded on in other fluff from this very book).  It's long been hinted very lightly, here & there, over the years, that humans are slowly evolving to be a psychic race like the Eldar had.  This was cemented in the Horus Heresy novel, Master of Mankind, where the Emperor describes this is the inevitable fate of humanity, which was why he focused on the Webway project and other initiatives to keep mankind away from the Warp's influence (even as Horus was moving to usurp him, so important was his great work).


Even back then in 1st ed, at least within the context of Genestealers, they saw psykers as "prime specimens".  There is no doubt that psykers were critical to the Imperium that so hated them because/despite of their powers.  But rather than being useful (and therefore tolerated) mutants as was often depicted, Genestealers, with their very Darwinian view of the universe due to their nature, actually identified those with psychic powers are, in fact, more evolved.


Just an interesting observation of how current Black Library lore still is coherent with stuff from all the way back in 1st ed.



+++ Could this be an early concept of the Bladed Cog by John Blanche? +++




I like the Cult Creeds, especially the rules for the Bladed Cog, a more mech-themed Genestealer Cult, but I had trouble conceptualising them.  Genestealers and Hybrids are basically bio-weapons like Tyranids, just embedded in human DNA/society, so at 1st I thought there was a disconnect.


Then I saw this 1st ed picture and I can tell the idea was already there, with how heavily bionically-augmented some of these Hybrids are.  I can even see how, because the Cult needs to hide away from the rest of society, they needed to perhaps go to hazardous areas where they know regular humans won't venture.  Their standard armour, after all, are hazmat suits meant for dangerous minding environments.  This image suggests this with the use of respirators and gas masks, plus other further augments, like they're living in the toxic environment in some hive city's wake that require that equipment.  At the heart of the Genestealer DNA is to adapt to even the most difficult situation, and if their adaptation is in the form of mechanical tools to survive, then so be it.


Again, it's just interesting to see how recent 8th ed ideas tie in very neatly to early concepts from 1st ed.



+++ Conclusions +++



I didn't set out with an agenda or concept.  I was just nostalgically flipping through old books just to get some ideas.  It wasn't even a Hallmark Moment where "to see where you're going, you have to know where you've come from," rather, it was more like "there's really not much GSC content except for 1st ed."  So I went in with an open mind.


Time and time again, there was this association between GSC and Chaos, which leads me to ask: why the Chaos connection?


The book explains in a blurb that a small or weak Genestealer Cults may pragmatically seek Chaos as just a source of power, rather than out of a sense of actual worship.  Although Tyranids are not susceptible to Chaos corruption (as far as we know), that human component of Genestealer Hybrids is enough to call to them.  The Chaos powers see Genestealer Cults as a better-than-average choice to deal with, almost in a barter relationship.  Genestealer Cults are, after all, a little bit more psychic (with Patriarchs and Magi, to say nothing of the gestalt hivemind Hybrids all seem to share to some degree) and are good at hiding among other humans.  It's a win-win relationship.  That's the official take.


It's been 7 editions now, with much of that old lore retconned, so I tried to see if I could come up with an alternative, more updated concept.  Here's my personal take.


Let's take a whole brood of Genestealer and Hybrids, been born and bred to serve some great power from beyond the stars that we know as Tyranids.  They constantly await the call to action using their psychic gestalt hivemind.  Finally...something answered...but it turned out to be Chaos.  The Genestealer strain is strong, but the human side that they've bonded with, ha, not so much.  Their prayers finally answered, the Cult marched, albeit to the wrong gods.


Just an idea, but something worth considering for an army, like an alternative to the traditional Renegades & Heretics Index from Forgeworld using the GSC Brood Brothers.  I imagine things like Aberrants aligned with Nurgle to reflect their Feel No Pain ability, etc.


Sorry for the long post, didn't have time for a short one, sharing some restored art and just some ideas I had in the process.

Edited by N1SB, 14 March 2019 - 11:13 PM.

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Very thorough, I like it all :tu:
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gallery_48988_6285_30678.pnggallery_48988_6285_19365.png gallery_48988_15200_3735.pnggallery_48988_15151_2653.png gallery_48988_15094_14664.png

Check out my current and past projects HERE  Heralds of Devastation

Help fund the B&C : Buy a model painted by me



Chaplain Dosjetka

Chaplain Dosjetka


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Interesting to see where the design team could (and most probably did) get their inspiration from. Thank you for sharing this with us. :tu:

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You carry the Emperor's will as your torch, with it destroy the shadows.

Accept all challenges, no matter the odds.

Suffer not the Heretic to live.

Abhor the Typo.

Closet Skeleton

Closet Skeleton


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Older editions of Warhammer fantasy battle also blurred chaos and other factions more, with Undead and Dark Elves being open to chaos worship and undead creatures being present in Chaos armies. Later editions limited made the factions more bounded.


First ed 40k also had Khorne Orks (in art, the flavour text explicitly made Orks immune to chaos and Khorne icons among Ork Storm boys just being childish posing).


They were also trying to write rules for people with limited model collections. Letting people use their chaos models in other scenarios would have been something the writing team would have been thinking about, being gamers of that era themselves.

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Slave to Darkness

Slave to Darkness


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This thread kicked me right in the childhood. Was good to see these images again, cheered me right up that did.Thanks and nice one for taking the time to do this... 

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Unbearable, isn't it? The suffering of strangers, the agony of friends. There is a secret song at the centre of the world, and its sound is like razors through flesh.


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This thread kicked me right in the childhood. Was good to see these images again, cheered me right up that did.Thanks and nice one for taking the time to do this...

Indeed! The same here.

I might add some Chaos iconography to my GSC now. I was looking for something to put atop a magus’ staff...an icon of Khorne might be quite eye catching...

Edit: decided to do it.
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Brother Chaplain Kage

Brother Chaplain Kage


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It's amazing how much Adrian Smith grew as an artist from the early days. I'd seen some of his Rogue Trader art ages ago and only found out it was him a few years ago. 


Cool thread. thumbsup.gif

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Hope is the first step to despair.




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Such awesome artwork. I've always loved the art throughout the years but there's something special about the older stuff. Just so primal and raw whereas now a days it's all so..."processed" so to speak. Still good, but just lacking in several ways to the old stuff. Even if the old stuff was out right cheesy at times. :D

Edited by SwashBuccaneer, 03 April 2019 - 09:06 PM.

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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: 1st ed, Chaos, Bladed Cog, Brood Brothers, Concept Art, N1SB Labs

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