Thursday 15 March 2018


Jes Goodwin

Getting into Space Elves for the first time since 1988.. 

My GW hobby started with white dwarf issue 101 in May 1988, as I have said previously on this blog. On the first page beneath the imperial guard land speeder , limited edition chaos renegade and the squat thudd gun was the an Eldar war robot with accompanying battle drones , designed by the legend Jes Goodwin.

The War Robot came hot on the heels of the other Eldar stalwarts the War walker and the Dreadnought
and the D-cannon

"I have never painted an Eldar model"

A chapter approved double page spread further into the magazine laid out previously unknown notions on ghost warriors and the proto  infinity circuit . To say I was intrigued would be an understatement.
And yet in the all the years since.. I have never painted an Eldar model..I think there are a few reasons for this , Eldar traditionally have been painted to extraordinarily high standards .. Look at those chequred patterns and thorny freehand. A tradition which has carried on in the hobby, and one that is hard to disassociate the Eldar from.

Amazing .. but also daunting...

I find it difficult to not see Elves as humans ..

But another less obvious problem I have with the Eldar or "Elves" - "Aelves"  "Aeldari"  in general, is that I see them primarily as extensions of our humanity. Pride, arrogance, self absorption, beauty and lithe aestheticism. Its the same reason i primarily play humans in 40k..

Or rather i find it difficult to see them as Aliens , or at least...other, 

but its not only Elves..

Dwarves are culpable too..  but in 40k dwarves (squats) are still part of humanity ) where as space Elves ( Eldar ) " Aeldari " are trying to have you believe they are completely  Alien.
It never fully worked for me to be honest , nothing to do with the quality of the models or artwork or even the extensive and beautifully tragic world building down to the very authentic runes. I just couldn't see them as Aliens from the other side of the galaxy, To be fair i have the me problem with start trek , in fact i think it started with star trek.. 


 Its impossible to think of Eldar or even any Elves in GW lexicon without thinking of Mr Jes Goodwin.

The world Building Mr Goodwin has achieved with the Eldar is nothing short of superlative , his design ethos is constant and evolving and runs through the race like a parallel history of GW. Like all Mr Goodwin's  design work , nothing is left to chance , everything is thought about and re thought about in the lived in myth of 40k.  the expansion from Space Elf pirates to carftworlds exodites  and commoragh has been handled with passion skill and foresight for thirty years i often wonder if Mr Goodwin's own multidisciplinary skill set are what inspired the specialization of  paths in the ascetic Eldar

All this world building is Beautifully and extensive realized , but for a causal observer its hard to know where to dive in , the backstory the names the runes and even the aesthetics.. have all eluded me until fairly recently.

useful links regarding Runes

as an aside , no mention of Jes Goodwin and Elves spacey or not should be bereft of his sterling work  on fantasy and Bloodbowl . In that first issue of WD I bought I also saw Mr Goodwins BB elves ..

 so good..

My first fantasy army was High elves , it would be enough that Mr Goodwin just designed elves , he is obviously ridiculously talented at making those pointy eared androgyny.. very desirable, but as we know these ranges form just a fraction of his encompassing  GW design stable .

whether that be  ,woody, spacey, crafty, spacey dark, sporty or high..

A near impossible task to completely quantify the works of Mr Goodwin on the Eldar ranges but steve Casey does a sterling task of it on the stuff of legend site.

Mr Goodwin Talks..

Apart from the difficulty I have seeing Eldar as Alien , I love pretty much everything else about them, The Philosophy of a dying "spent" race ,the brink of collapse brought about by its own hubris is tragic and compelling , add to that the brilliant design ethos by Jes / Jez Goodwin , the spiritual overtones and the stunning models they have produced over the years.  The amount of passion spent on this 40k range over the past 30 years is evident. I would even go as far as to say the Eldar are GW's  second most iconic range after space "knights" marines .

Rogue Trader era  space elves & dark space elf  to Eldar corsairs and craftworlds

1st Dark space Elf !

Love how Tony Hough makes these Eldar  seem totally Alien

Edit : upon closer inspection it looks like Mr Hough's Eldar space pilots are based upon
Mr Goodwins Eldar officer / which seems to have inspired his own sculpt Taal spellsinger musician model from the Eldar command group. there are a few deviance's , like the ribbed muscles  instead of the chain-mail under garment

shown here from the most excellent magpie and old lead blog

always loved the look of  these Rogue trader proto Ulthwe Eldar


Forgeworld corsairs

lifted from the stuff of legend

Rogue Trader Pre-Craftworld Warriors

After a trip up the Nile, Jes Goodwin designed five Eldar models which were clearly forerunners of the later Craftworld Dire Avengers with their bulkier Shuriken Catapults, helmet crests and Powerswords. After WD127, these were rolled into the Guardian range."

I wont list a chronological order to the Eldar as the stuff of legends site is far more knowledgeable but i do want to add a few of my favorite pieces of 40k Eldar art as inspiration.

I was suprised to see Fur back on the new Visarch Model , but was pleasanty surprised to see it has a long history appearing on the Eldar .

Dawn of war 2 trailer

Dawn of war 3 trailer


  1. I love Tony Hough's take on the Eldar, they had something so Gigeresque about them that they were undeniably alien. I fear to say that I think Goodwin took something away from that in his later designs.

    I get your point on the human factor though too; at best elves (be they space or fantasy based) appear as an other (almost like when you symmetricise a human face) and at worst an androgynous human with pointy ears.

    Personally, when it comes to fantasy elves, I like the Aly Morrison sculpts from the Marauder range. ^^

    1. Looking again I think tony Houghs Designs are based off Mr Goddwins Eldar officer concept and Taal spellsinger Model.. abeit with a few minor changes, I do love that skinsuit and the general creepyness of them , your spot on with the geiger influence i find a lot of the early GW stuff particularly Tony Hough and Will Rees were very much Geiger and Dune inspired . In an interviw with Gav Thorpe Jes mentions he wanted to make the Eldar the opposite of the imperium in many ways eastern and apposed to western influences bright as opposed to dark , so it makes sense that they moved away from the gothic elements. Love the marauder range , very diffrent in style to the citadel but like bob olly stood equally with its peer.

  2. Tony Hough's ones remind me of the aliens (Warpsmiths and Qys) from Alan Moore's Miracleman (also Neil Gaiman's follow up, of course - an oddly forgotten part of their careers it feels like). The pipes seem to have been generally dropped from their designs, in favour of plates and skinsuits, it would be interesting to bring that back in with liberal use of guitar wire and greenstuff rollers. The new AoS Fishelves might offer some useful parts too, and some of the Morathian parts, especially the masks, would add some drama. Basically, bring back the creepiness of Eldar/Aeldari, they're not waifu.

    1. Not aware of the Those references although i am a fan of Gaiman and Moore's work my gogle foo is weak , do you have a link ?

      Yeah as i mentioned to gretchin , it seems the moving away from the gothic imperial style might have been the intention to create an obvious difference between the imperium.. I really like that look though, looks to me like Tony's work was influenced by jes's minis and designs though with his own geiger dune flare .Maybe jes could design some Ynarri in ancient Officor armour ,or exodites musicians it would also make sense that the don't have access to new psycho plastics to create new Armour .

  3. What an absolutely lovely, massive pile of inspirational Eldar material, Neil! Thanks for collecting it all! Browsing through the artwork made me realise how much I like the Eldar and how much they are an integral part of 40k lore -- and arguably much more interesting then "Elves IN SPACE!" have any right to be. Thanks to Jes Goodwin, of course ;)

    Seeing that Space Crusade Eldar add-on cover again tugged at my heartstrings, as that was my first contact with the Eldar race. And I couldn't even imagine what they would look like underneath the helmets, back then: I didn't find out they were basically elves until much later. Still have that Space Crusade Eldar squad knocking about, though.

    I still have fond memories of my own Dark Eldar army too, mostly made up of Gary Morley's plastic Dark Eldar: They haven't aged gracefully, but they were wonderful kits to work with back then, and I must have converted them in a hundred ways ;)

    A year or two ago, I painted the model based on that "Battlefield Warlock" sketch with the fur cape. Lovely model, still as classic -- but then, that's Jes Goodwin for you.

    I definitely get what you are saying about having difficulties seeing the Eldar as more than just pointy-eared humans. An angle that has worked fairly well for me was to imagine them as pretty human, until they're not. Which is to say I like the idea of them being able to pass of as similar to humans, while having strange, utterly alien and rather feral sides that are all the more terrifying when they come out. Like the depiction of faeries in classical mythology, or the way the elves/faeries are depicted in Tad Williams' "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" trilogy. Another book that felt very "Eldar" to me was "War of the Flowers". It may a bit pulp-y, arguably, but the depiction of the faerie city and society with its rituals and weird idiosyncrasies first gave me an angle on what a place like Comorragh might actually look like.

    One bit of weird trivia: I distinctly remember a preview spread for an Aspect Warrior-based videogame from the early to mid 90s. It was supposed to be released for the 16-bit consoles and had glorious pixelised interpretations for all kinds of 2nd edition 40k models. Maddeningly enough, I cannot find any mention (let alone screenshot) of it online, but I distinctly remember it being featured in one of the German videogame magazines I read back then.

    Anyway, sorry for the pointless rambling, mate ;)

    1. For the Dark Eldar and Harlequins specifically, the way Terry Pratchett presented his Elves in Lords and Ladies seems like a good comparison. Humans just see the Glamour they put out, but when that's broken, they're clearly hideously cruel and vicious.

  4. You make some good points , seeing the eldar as human like until they are not is a good idea , the barely contained extremes bordering on horrific .. Like galadriel and frodo . The helmeted heads really do add to the alien otherness . The aspect warrior game is intriguing , I have been thinking a bit about gw and video games of late , never heard of that one .

    1. Oh yeah, Galadriel is another excellent example! I was also thinking about this wild and feral aspect of them that barely ever comes out, only when it does, they would be really terrifying, like you were suddenly dealing with something very alien, made all the more terrible for its almost human shape. Like I said, some classic folk tales (the kind collected and illustrated in Brian Froud's "Faeries", for instance) do a fantastic job of capturing this alien side: The protagonists in these tales think they are dealing with something human, right up until the mask slips and they get a glimpse at what's underneath, as well as the strange an eldritch rituals governing the fair folk.

      The 16-bit game confounds me, as it does not seem to appear in any list of released or unreleased GW games. I remember the article clear as day, though: It was going to be an isometric shooter (similar to the later Skeleton Krew, if anyone remembers that one) where you would cycle through three of the classic warrior aspects (falcon, banshee, khaindar). It had a glorious pixel screamer-killer Carnifex and space orks. And there seems to be absolutely no mention of it online -- maybe I have to dig through my stacks of old magazines to find it...

  5. I've noticed that GW is good at doing alien aesthetics*, but not so much at alien behaviour or thought patterns. It's not just the Eldar. The Orks, Necrons, Tau, and even Nids and Daemons feel far too humanistic for what they should be.

    Truly non-human feel is really hard to do. It has been pulled off (by old-school SF writers like Larry Niven, or Vernor Vinge in, say, a Fire upon the Deep, and by newer writers, as in Ann Leckie's Ancillary trilogy or Tanya Huff's Confederation series), but it's pretty rare. I had to think for a while before I was able to pull up even those few examples.

    *Actually, I'd argue that they've become worse at this as time has gone by. But I think that was less due to conscious design changes, and more to employing better artists and getting better design/casting technology. A significant part of the alien nature of a lot of the early stuff was really from Uncanny Valley effects as a result of low-budget illustrations and the limitations of miniature manufacturing resulting in a lot of things being just a little bit "off".

    1. Excellent points.. i suppose tyranids are the exception.. I guess to make a Xenos race really alien , is to not reveal very much of its background, motivations etc.. not read much of the old sci-fi authors , always fancied ring series though.. i get what you mean about the early artists having a a more raw style, i don't consider that worse though , even if some of the artists themselves do , " Tony Hough and a few others were talking about it been near impossible to capture their early 40k style without having to unlearn stuff..( on face book a while back ) I found that early stuff hugely engrossing and wildly imaginative whilst leaving plenty of room for your own ruminations , much more so than the albeit arguably more conservatively structured current 40k art. With a few exceptions.. but i get your point and do agree.. maybe it takes some unlearning to see the sci fantasy world best , i know hayao miyazaki as stated similar sentiments , about been able to look afresh and unlearn the rules after learning them to better to be able to see the world as a child might.. as an aside i found the aliens in the novel forever war compelling because of their lack of explanation too..

  6. When I say "worse" there, I'm talking in a strictly technical sense. In many ways, I actually prefer a lot of that older aesthetic, especially when it comes to Eldar, Nids, and Chaos.

    And yeah, Old Man's War is another good example of a really alien depiction of an alien species. I forgot about that one.

  7. I quite like the idea of using very different art styles to help better differentiate xenos species , or chaos gods or even subsets of the imperium like ridley scott did with alien , not very practical though.

  8. You might enjoy this article..

    1. Cheers , i think i might have linked that one , very interesting.. 👍

    2. Oh yes, there are so many great links in your post that I over looked it 😄