Friday, 30 October 2009

Dragon Warriors Elves

So I gather copies of Prince of Darkness for Dragon Warriors are making their way into the eager hands of the punters. Which is always good! So for this book I got a true treat - to make the first images of elves for the new edition. Elves in Dragon Warriors are something of a conundrum. The game's 1980s roots demand elves as a player race in line with D&D. But the authors were never so hot on that idea. The elves of Dragon Warriors are the Shi, the Tuatha de Dannan, the people of the Otherworld, The Erl Kings, rather than the shield-surfing pointy eared uber munchinkins we've all become a bit too familiar with.

The original elf drawing by Bob Harvey in the first Dragon Warriors book was, whilst a typically masterful pen and ink piece, a little... odd. The elf noble pictured seems to be wearing speedos. Looking at it just now, I actually appreciate it a lot more than I did as a kid, when it made me feel a bit repelled. I was a proto-hippy even aged 11, and basically wanted to be an elf. I didn't really picture that involving black swimming turnks with a big belt. Maybe that was Bob's take on the other-worldly quality. I have no idea how the art direction went back then, so maybe he was just doing what Corgi Books told him to do? On the very slim chance Bob should ever read this I should just add I have been consistently in awe of his work since I was yea big, so I hope my mild mickey taking of his elf doesn't offend. I can rest safe in the knowledge that my interpretation of DW elves will get worse, no doubt.

Anyway. Every now and then I see a film and think "Dammit!" as an idea I had already had gets used on the big screen, and is then completely lost to me. When I was a kid running roleplaying games we always had our elves as these terrible, otherworldly creatures who were bleached white like those earwigs you find in ancient blanket. And when I saw Hellboy 2 some 17 years later I felt (happily) robbed. Their Tuatha De Dannan were precisely the elves from my imagination, right down to the bronze age influence in some of the costuming.

So some of that went into these. I reclaim it, or at least my share of the common idea floating in idea-space that we all tap into. Tackling elves is always a difficult one. But without breaching any confidences handling my beloved DW elves did at least prepare me a little for a much bigger, more daunting elf-related task that was to fall into my lap some months later...

Enough talk.

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(C)2009 Jon Hodgson and Magnum Opus Press.


  1. "But without breaching any confidences handling my beloved DW elves did at least prepare me a little for a much bigger, more daunting elf-related task that was to fall into my lap some months later..."

    Urrrghh!! And the Oscar for teasing the shit out of everyone goes toooooo...Jon Hodgson!

    I like this painting. The composition feels good and I like the forest, reminds me of a place near my hometown. The elves themselves (elves themselves...hyhy, I'm going to grin stupidly about this for a while) are indeed quite different and definitely in a good way.

  2. Haha, I agree with Jan - you're a terrible tease. :P

    I particularly love the tallest elf and the one on the ground. They feel somehow more... alien than the other two. I can't quite put my finger on why, though. Perhaps the faces, or the clothing, or something else entirely!

    Awesome painting. :)

  3. I stumbled on your blog via a twisted path from the Dragon Warriors mailing-list.

    Still yet to get my hands on the latest book, "Prince of Darkness", though have high hopes for it based on the other books so far.

    Much as I love the original illustrations from the first edition of Dragon Warriors and have been inspired by them since the mid 80s, there are some I was never quite satisfied with (yes, the elf in speedos is one I skim over).
    This, it's how I've pictured they "should" look, in my head, all these years. As others have said, their alien-ness/otherworldliness is spot-on, and I love the details of their faces and armour/clothes. As someone who cares a lot about composition in art (and my own photography), I think this illustration's got some nice, strong lines/blocks.
    Thankyou, and I can't wait to see more. :)

  4. Also reminds me strongly of Tad Williams' Norn in the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. Hostile to humans and very susceptible to cold iron...
    Really like your work Jon, fits well with all the re-released DW stuff.

  5. I loved the Norn. I figure they are a very good fit for DW elves.

    Glad you're enjoying the work Mike!