The Making of an Inquisitor
An Interview with the Designers of the Dark Heresy Core Rulebook Cover
Corruption festers deep within the heart of the Imperium, penetrating throughout the Askellon sector. Only the Acolytes of the Inquisition can eliminate these threats to Mankind’s continued existence.
The development of Dark Heresy Second Edition involved creating enormous amounts of fantastic art, set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the design behind one of those pieces: the iconic cover of the Dark Heresy Second Edition Core Rulebook. Read below for our interview with Andrew Navaro, the head of the Fantasy Flight Games’s art department, and Mathias Kollros, the artist behind the piece, on the making of this artwork.
Designing the Cover of Dark Heresy Second Edition
FFG: What you were looking for and what do you focus on in the art for the second edition of Dark Heresy?
AN: John Blanche’s work is always inspirational, and we usually try to capture the environments that he creates. John’s art is filled with dark and otherworldly imagery in a way that truly captures Warhammer 40,000. Overall, we chose to create more environments in this edition, placing characters in environments to bring the art and the experience to life. We wanted to use the world as a character, essentially.
In terms of specifics though, that’s more of a gut feeling. An image of a Space Marine, for example, could be literal in its portrayal, but that doesn’t mean it captures Warhammer 40,000. This setting is all about the nightmarish and strange, and John Blanche’s art is full of details, while still leaving room for viewers to draw in more with imagination. It’s surreal and dreamlike and great as a conceptual launching point.
FFG: What were you looking for in this cover? Were there any special concepts or imagery you wanted to capture in it?
AN: I was looking to capture the feeling of being an Inquisitor. We’ve had covers filled with action, gunfire, and explosions, and I was looking to bring other aspects of the Inquisition to the forefront with this cover. An art piece that Alex Boyd did for a past Witch Hunters codex was very inspirational, since it showed what a trial might looks like in the Imperium. It’s filled with weirdness and with beautiful texture and detail, and I wanted to bring some of that feeling into our cover.
FFG: Can you explain the process of creating this piece, from start to finish?
AN: The cover began with an art description, which the artist, Mathias Kollros, worked from when creating his original sketch: At the fore of the composition is an Inquisitor. He should be impressive, intimidating, ruthless, and heroic (in an anti-hero sort of way). He should be elaborately and lavishly equipped in well-tailored clothes and armor. He should be large in stature, but he's not a Space Marine, just a broad-shouldered, tall, muscular man. He should be armed with a bolt pistol, but he need not be holding it at the ready.
In the background, I would like to see something evocative of a hive city, down on street level, or a crowded interior, where life is abysmal and the architecture oppresses you on all sides. This universe, in general, is a terrible place to live, so the background environment should help create that mood of spiritual oppression.
Also in the background, if it works, I think we could include some secondary figures: associates of the Inquisitor and/or a heretic, strung up and captured.
An early version with added armor detail.
I’ve worked with Mathias on several projects, and we’ve gotten pretty like-minded for Warhammer 40,000 art. His initial sketch was what I was looking for, so there wasn’t much to change as it developed into the final cover.
Much more detail in foreground and background. The color palette cools. The Inquisitor gets an eyepiece.
The biggest change came after Mathias had done a close-to-final version of the Inquisitor and his surroundings. The cover went around for review, and we felt that it could push the boundaries of presentation even more. The decision was made that the cover would feature a large Inquisition “I” symbol to prominently distinguish it from the previous edition. While a great idea, this put me in a bit of a bind as I didn’t want to lose the Inquisitor.
In the end, though, we moved the Inquisitor to the back cover so we could make the image one big wrap-around cover for the book. This let us put the Inquisition symbol on the front in a really strong image. Mathias essentially painted another side to his original art to flesh out the right side of the Inquisitor. The double-page art image was filled with so many wonderful details that we kept words on the cover to a minimum, to show off the art as much as possible.
First sketch of the extension from Mathias. Inquisitor head design changes.
FFG: What items did Mathias suggest/add to the piece?
AN: The Inquisitor’s armor was all him. Mathias also suggested all the details surrounding the Inquisitor. He really gave it his all, and I feel that this piece truly stands out among Warhammer 40,000 artwork. As we developed it, I often asked him to focus on one area or another, and he filled those areas in with the wonderful, strange details that bring the image to life.
Details fill in. Note the man in the vat. He disappears in later versions.
FFG: Mathias, what can you tell us about the cover and your work on it?
MK: The story of this cover is funny, as the left side, now on the back of the book, was originally planned as the front. The added cover scene on the right gave me the opportunity to add a little twist to the story. Instead of the Inquisitor speaking judgement upon heretics, we witness an argument between various characters, maybe even the start of a rebellion or schism within the order.
I used a lot of classic Warhammer 40,000 art as a reference for this piece, especially Karl Kopinski’s work, since his portrayals of this universe are incredibly rich with details and life. Regarding the design, it needed to be gritty, dirty, uncomfortable, and dark. A key part of the Warhammer 40,000 universe is that the distinction between the "good" and "bad" guys is almost nonexistent. I wanted to depict that idea, because it’s what gives me the chills and makes this universe so intense.
Submitted final. Spot the one difference between this and the final cover!
Stand Against Heresy
Thanks Andrew and Mathias!
If you want the art from the Dark Heresy Second Edition Core Rulebook as a desktop, you can download it from the Dark Heresy Second Edition support page! Stay tuned for more articles on Dark Heresy Second Edition, and preorder your copy at your local retailer today.