I always love to get ahold of the concept sketches for the Dark Eldar. Quite possibly the other races as well, but even more when it comes down to what went into Jes Goodwins designs for the Dark Eldar range.
Jes: One of the first things Phil and I discussed when we started the Dark Eldar was mobility; we wanted most of the army to be off the ground, on bikes, boards, raiders, even wings. But we were missing a transport that was half way between a Reaver jet bike and a Raider, something that could take either a small squad of elites or a character model. Back in the day, the Harlequins had a transport called a Venom, it was described as a modified Eldar Vyper with a small troop carrying capacity in place of the gun cradle, but most conversions were about the size of a Raider. In the end we decided to use the footprint and overall silhouette of the Vyper, but with more Dark Eldar elements from the Reavers and Raiders.
The Eldar Vyper is quite an old kit, but it was pretty successful in its day. However, there were things we wanted to change: the Vyper has quite a tall profile and the way in which the pilot sat in the cockpit didn't make the best use of the available space. Making the cockpit more compact meant that the craft could be lower, sleeker. The 'fangs' at the front had to stay, but the intakes and jets were updated to match the bikes and the Raider variants.
Because there would be very little chance of balancing a squad of models on the fighting platform (although it's just big enough to take the base of a character model), we wanted to include some 'hangers on' as markers to represent an embarked unit. We'd used the Warriors on the Raider, so I wanted to put Wych crew on this model, so that people had the option of swapping the two crews between the kits. All the Wyches are girls this time, except for one bloke, and he only gets to drive!
Tom Walton developed the model itself from the drawings and, as we had Ollie working on the Raider at the same time, there was a lot of opportunity for a crossover in the aesthetics. We used the same thorn-patterned, openwork grating for both decks, and gave the fighting compartment a balustrade that matched the Raider. The pintle-mounted weapon was put at the same height as that of the Raider so that you could swap gunners. Aly generated the crew digitally using all the scan data for the Wyches, reposing them and fitting them to the models, and adding new heads that could all be used to give even more variety. We made sure the pilot fitted in with the bikers, too, so they have similar helmet designs, and the pilot got a choice of canopies, either a full one or a rather more rakish windshield, so he could show off his topknot. Although we kept the same dimensions as the Eldar canopy, we redesigned the frame to have a more complicated pattern, less austere than the Craftworld version.
We wanted to put more decorative options in the kit, so we've two different sets of rails. You get the Raider-like balustrade - there's a buccaneering look to that - but we also made a very low one, with big trophy racks at the back. If you wanted to mount one of your characters on the Venom then you've got a lot more space to do it with the low rails. More trophy racks meant more skulls, so we slipped in a Tau skull and a Clawed Fiend skull (although a small one - must have been a juvenile) and there are plenty of options for the underside - you've got the extra blades and chains, and we made sure they were all interchangeable with those on the other kits in the range
The first design for the Scourges was drawn relatively early in the process, I wanted to nail an image that I had in my head - and we needed a concept for the artwork. Although the design was later refined for sculpting, it still stayed very faithful to the original sketch.
There are a several examples of bird-men in mythology, from Nordic Valkyries, to the Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus, to Japanese Tengu and Indonesian Garudas (the Balinese love their Garudas and make beautiful, if scary, masks representing them), and obviously the Scourges have that fallen angel feel to them. We didn't want to do just any bird-man, but we wanted a subtly avian look that was quite sinister.
The main thing was that we wanted the Scourges to have real wings. I didn't just want to do an evil version of the swooping hawks, but wanted there to be a resonance between the two. The organic wings came up early on in process; Phil and I were chatting, saying wouldn't it be cool if these things were actually grafted on and, at the same time, a Haemonculus drilled their bones out to lighten them, and restrung and strengthened their musculature. Of course that wouldn't quite be enough so there would have to be these adrenal injectors at the wing roots to ensure their metabolisms could go fast enough to actually fly. We toyed with the idea of maybe distorting the breastbone, but we would never be able to get the guns across their chests!
The Scourges betray their differences for their earthbound kin in many other, smaller, ways. Their hair contains feathers, the forearms maybe budding quills. There's a certain vanity about them - it goes back to the theme of body modification. You know, a Haemonculus would do you anything:
"Wanna be a lizard this week?"
"Yeah I'll be a lizard!"
"Can't guarantee I'll change you back..."
I knew Juan would be doing most of the sculpting on these models, so we were going to need composite drawings for the various elements. The second sketch developed the idea of how the model would break down, how the wing fittings might work. Also a little bit of the breakdown of how we were going to make these models compatible with the rest of the range. You probably wouldn't use the heads elsewhere, but certainly the arms and weapons needed to be compatible because this was going to be the place where we could make shard carbines. The idea being that you'd put in a goodly amount of shard carbines, enough to do the whole squad, but that generally people would use a lot of the heavier assault weapons. If there were going to do that, then they could use the shard carbines to make Kabalite Trueborns. In the end we got as many weapons as we could fit on the frames, space was really tight after we'd got the wings on.
I didn't want them all to have feathered wings - we wanted them to have a real difference. The feathered wings all have slightly different patterns. For the membranous wings, we did different layouts (they needed to look like expanded hands - that's essentially what a wing is). Again there was not enough room for five sets of each type, but I didn't want all one type as I reasoned that the Scourges would be as individualistic as the other Dark Eldar (we did toy with the idea of a set of Dragonfly wings at one point). I liked the idea that the large bat-wing would allow you to paint designs on them, like aircraft rondels. Juan did variations on the heads with different crests and amounts of feathers and a really nice bare face for the leader, with a broad bridge to his aquiline nose - again quite subtle. Also, we wanted to make a couple with bare feet that have an extended nails or claws, and that has echoes in some of the armoured feet - spurs, blades on the bottom for fighting hand to hand (or should that be hand to foot?).