Sunday 27 October 2013

Where are they now? Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Cover Painting Discovered in Canada!

Pat has framed the piece beautifully. Imagine having this hanging on one of your walls?

A glorious sight is it not? Beautifully, and dare I say tastefully, framed and presented yet safe in the collection of a enthusiast. No tragic skipping for John Sibbick's seminal Warhammer artwork, as we have learnt to our great misfortune, happened with much of Gary Chalk's GW art. You may remember some months back I set out on a quest to track down the whereabouts of key pieces of art from GW dim and distant past. If your memory needs a jog, or you never read the original post, it can be found here. The search has proved successful so far, with Realm of Chaos 80s uncovering Tony Hough's Eldar and Tim Pollard's Collection and all the old school goodness that follows in their wake. 

As I said, this post is dedicated to the cover of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, published in 1986, and is, for me anyway, the defining resource for what the Warhammer World should actually look like. The forests, towns, mountain ranges, people and creatures that dwell amongst it all. Sibbick's front cover is perhaps the most iconic of them all when it come to the 80's Warhammer Mythos. The crumbling underground tomb, the band of heroes (including the troll slayer, who I always assumed to be Gotrek), the Ogre Face banner with squiggles radiating out of it, the mohican with black and white chequers, the green, bandy goblins and the deep sense of inevitable doom for all of the characters involved.

Just looking an the picture above sends me back to the glory days of Warhammer gaming. I can smell the Christmas pine needles, hear the wrapping being torn from gifts and feel the rough sensation of the Rudolph jumper I was wearing when I first laid eyes on the WFRP book during a long ago '80s Christmas Day. I can recall the wild adventures I made up for my friends, The Oldenhallen Contract, The Enemy Within and all the rest. I hope it triggers similar memories for you too. 

But how did the famous painting come to be framed and enjoyed in distant Canada? Well, I was contacted yesterday by one Pat Robinson, a collector of fantasy art who resides somewhere nearby Naggaroth. let's ask him...

RoC80s: How did you come to own this incredible piece of 1980s Warhammer artwork?

PR: I bought this directly from John a while back, and it took a great deal of convincing, as I think it was his last Warhammer piece, and he really wanted it... But, eventually I won him over.   This book was special to me, as I received it for Christmas in 1986 and it took over my life for a number of years.  To this day, I will still open it and flip through to look at the amazing art within when I walk by it on my shelf.  I have about 60 Warhammer RPG books, but this was always my favourite.  

I framed it with a dark green suede matting as I like the organic moss look that I think works well with the scene.  It is stunning in real life, and John kept it in immaculate shape.  The gold trim is a scale pattern which I think plays with the orc skin pretty well. 

RoC80s: You also own a preliminary sketch by Sibbick, which to my knowledge has never before been published, does the early drawing contain anything different to the finished piece?

The original concept sketch. I believe that this is the first time this has been published. So enjoy it!
PR: On the right of the sketch, there is a different character than in the final, and John has a note "Should there be a magician in the here somewhere?"   Ultimately, there was, and the outlaw (who an be identified as such from the career sketch of the outlaw at pg. 32 of the WFRP book, despite John calling him a "thief") was replaced forever.  I guess that outlaw should have saved one more fate point! 

What I found interesting is there are 3 bats in different spots in the painting, (can you spot them all?)  which surprised me, as there was only one on the book... Or so I thought, from many years of use and long car rides.  It turns out, by coincidence, 2 of the bats were under the text of the book, so could not be seen.  A nice little surprise. 

A close up on the right hand side. The large square is a text box, indicating where the blurb would go. 

PR: Also, the sacrificial altar, which looks great in the painting is not on the spine of the book (which did not have art) so that was another nice reveal in the final painting.  

John had written at the top of the preliminary sketch "Temple to the Worship of Khorne - God of Chaos", so now we know where this band of adventurers was heading. On  the bottom, John identifies that the first sketch of this was accepted by Games Workshop - with good reason, I should think.

Can you spot the difference? Hint! Have a look to the right of the ogre.
PR: Anyhow, this piece now hangs in one of my art rooms, along with my other game book covers.  There are 2 Endless Quest book covers and 4 Fighting Fantasy covers, so it is with some good 1980s friends.  

I would probably collected more game book covers if I had not read a book called Game of Thrones in 1996 and started buying all of its bookcovers, and a bunch of other book covers from some guy named George R.R. Martin... 

Speaking of magicians... 

Keep up the great work on the blog.


Pat from Calgary

The image was used elsewhere too. Here, after a flip, it forms the cover for Magia i Miecz, the Polish language edition of Talisman City. Isn't strange to see such a similar image the other way around?

As always, a huge thank you needs to go out to Pat for contributing to this blog. I am sure that many of you will want to do the same below in the comments section. What is your opinion about this picture? Does it summon similar memories for you as it does for Pat and myself? Or do you dislike the image, and if you do, why?

Additionally, if YOU own any old school GW artwork? If the answer is yes, please, please share it with us here. You will find a very captive audience just waiting to froth over your artwork!



  1. I'm pretty sure that IS Gotrek, actually. The third Gotrek and Felix short story, 'The Dark Beneath the World', contains this exact scene - I'm sure the author set up the plot and characters just so he could feature the scene.

  2. It's nice that this legendary piece of artwork is in the safe hands of someone who appreciates it. :)

  3. Still love the artwork and the entire feel of the Warhammer word - so evocative, but never quite took to the role play rule system. The I remember running a 'red box' D&D campaign but set in the empire; took a bit of converting of stats and made using the trades system a bit tricky, but with a bit if fudging it factually lowed really well.Happy days! Cheers for the post.

  4. I love this artwork, representing the real oldhammer spirit. Unfortunately I got this book only in early 2000s, but I'm young and wfrp's 1st ed is is older than me!

  5. Many happy memories of WFRP! I still drag it off the shelf for a bit of a reminisce occasionally too!

  6. A couple of bits of trivia for you: I never heard this from John himself, but I was told that the severed head on the goblins' banner-pole was a self-portrait. Also, I heard that the faces of the warrior and the magician were based on Bryan Ansell. They certainly look like he did at the time, although I don't remember him being clean-shaven back then.

  7. Nice!
    I like the "flipped" version better, everyone is left-handed in the original! Always bothered me. :P

  8. This is an iconic image, and yes Liam, I think exactly the same, it is Gotrek and Felix.

    This picture is surely the source of that scene (even down to the fact that they don't get their magic weapons until later in that story if memory serves me right).

  9. Brilliant article! Great to seeing the sketches. Love this picture and the game itself. Played it so much with friends.
    I'm sure it is Gotrek and too. If you look in the rulebook (P 289 in the paperback version) there are models of the guys on the cover. The fighter in the armour is Aldred Fellblade. The wizard is Johann Zauberlich. The guy on the stairs in the green isn't Felix though, I think he is a ranger or thief.
    I think the The Dark Beneath the World was written some time after this was painted and the writer just used the scene as inspiration.

  10. I tried commenting but I guess it didn't work.

    My group and I have been playing WFRP since 1987, and I have been collecting since then. I contacted Mr. Sibbick about purchasing this piece about six months ago, and he said it had "Been sold long ago." Additionally, when I brought up everyone being left-handed, he said he never really noticed that, and never intended it.

    The story The Dark Beneath The World was indeed inspired by this painting. If you look closely, however, the Dwarf in the painting has both eyes, and Gotrek, in the stories by this point, has already lost his eye, and it's even mentioned in the story.

    I'm an avid collector of old WFRP stuff (I recently bought the first-issue dwarfs and chaos dwarfs -- the ones featured in the rulebook) at a gamer's estate sale, as well as a couple boxed sets of McDeath, The Riding, etc.) and our group plays only WFRP, and only 1e at that.

    One thing I must ask, even if it's tacky — how much was this? I had a dollar amount in mind when I contacted Mr. Sibbick, which was upwards of $20k, but I am wondering what the final price was.

    Also, @Graemedavis: The head on the standard is either Sibbick or Gallagher; I'll have to check WARPSTONE, the great WFRP magazine, as there is a section called "Secrets of the Warhammer Artists," and this was mentioned.

  11. Ah, I've got the original book with this artwork, and it inspired me to read the Gotrek and Felix stories. Sure enough, there's this EXACT scene in the Dark beneath the World, to which I immediately sprang up and heaved the book out to check. After careful examination, lo and behold, Felix is not present in the artwork. Sure, Gotrek still has both eyes, but it's undoubtedly him. Even the Ogre is as described in the book, with alternating black and white hair. And Johann is there too. The man on the stairs is the Bretonnian, Jules.

    Sibbick, you forgot Felix! :)

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    2. 15 years? Geheimsnisnacht was published in October 1989!!!! Merely three years after this painting was first published. (; Though no one seems to be able to recall exactly when the story was first conceived, I agree that this famous painting came first.

  12. Came here looking for this after reading Gotrek & Felix omnibus 1 again. It's undoubtedly Gotrek, Johann Zauberlich, Jules Gascgoine and Aldred Keppler. I suppose Felix Jaeger isn't in the picture because it's viewed through his eyes!

    Takes me back to happy times as a 13 year old kid. Warhammer felt more strange and exciting then. Maybe I just got old.

  13. 80's at its best.... really magnificent art. This and also Titan's book cover art by Chris Achilleos also from 1986 are really one of the best for me.