Tuesday 21 January 2014

The Malignancy of Malal: Malal's Daemonic Pantheon Restored?

I have been talking to Tony Ackland a lot over the last few days and our conversations will soon turn into a fresh interview with the Grandmaster himself. Readers of this blog are clearly great admirers of his work, as his first interview is one of the most popular things I have ever put together for this blog. I had lots of questions, as you would imagine, but I knew that the one thing that needed further clarification was what he could recall about the Malal project. After all, the Malignancy of Malal: Solving the Mystery of the 'Fifth' Chaos God is by far the most popular post I have ever produced, even more so than the interview carried out with the Mighty Avenger himself, Bryan Ansell, so I knew there was strong interest in the story, particularly the origins of the concept material. 

George Fairlamb helped stoke the fires higher with his interpretation of the lesser Malal daemon, or Hook Horror, which is available for sale at CP Models. I know lots of people bought these models and that at some point in the future we are promised additional heads and arms. Mick Leach, from Eastern Front Studios, plans on producing an 'Antiqus Malleum' product line inspired by Old School '80s miniatures and he has mentioned to me an interest in doing a range of daemons influenced by the old Realm of Chaos books.

During the discussions I had with Tony, he pointed out that one of the images that I had published in the first interview was in fact another concept for Malal. And, get this, that he has another old Malal concept that I had not yet published here at Realm of Chaos 80s! Needless to say, I got right on the case and began questioning him about what these two 'new' concepts represented.  

RoC80s: What can you tell us about the origins of Malal, the completed concepts and how his/her pantheon was to be organised?

TA: They were concept illustrations of lesser daemons that were not used. I think that the insectoid ones were for Malal.  I think it was that one was the riding beastie, and the other one a kind of war dog. I don't think that Malal himself was particularly insectoid though. This was probably me just trying to give vent to my inner entomologist when I started designing the daemons. These concepts were not only for miniature design but also to help develop future illustrations. It was accepted in the studio that the illustrations would show the 'reality' of what the miniatures represented. So the miniatures would have been simplified to some extent. 

The problem with Malal was that by the time Wagner and Grant has contributed their bit it was hard to pin down distinct characteristics. In comparison, the other Chaos Gods were very heavily planned. Bryan Ansell had the original ideas, John Blanche did some sketches, and then I developed them. I think that Ian Miller threw some ideas in too. Whereas Michael Moorcock's Elric stories were the main source of inspiration for Bryan, I leaned more towards H P Lovecraft. Without knowing what discussions took place when Wagner and Grant took the job on, its impossible to know what the true origins of Malal were. I do recall that Bryan had thoughts about another Chaos god prior to the strip. 

We have known for a while that the first two images that Tony revealed in the his interview are almost certain to represent the Greater Daemon and Lesser Daemon of Malal. Now we are pretty sure that we have identified the two other images from the aborted range, namely the 'beast' (like the Bloodhound of Khorne, for example) and the 'steed' (like the Juggernaut of Khorne). 

Have a look at my theory.

Greater Daemon of Malal

Lesser Daemon of Malal

Steed of Malal

Beast of Malal
The passage of time has ensured that we can never truly know what was originally intended, if indeed anything was actually intended at all! After all, the Malal project was cancelled before it reached a suitable conclusion. But what can we glean from these images? Are there any common traits, for instance?

Firstly, look at the heads of each of the images displayed here. Note that a skull forms the head of each of these creatures. A bovine animal for the Greater Daemon, a bird for the Lesser Daemon, a human for the Steed and a canine for the Beast. So its quite possible to interpret that Malal daemons, and perhaps even Malal himself, would have a skull like visage. The skull is an almost universal sign of death, destruction and danger and so it seems quite feasible that a daemonic entity whose purpose is to consume and destroy chaos itself may well use this symbolically. Malal's colour, black and white, could also be linked to the skull; white for bone and black for the dark emptiness of eye and nasal sockets. How often is the skull shown as a black and white image?

Secondly, we have the insectoid forms. Elements of the insect appear in three of the four images. The Greater Daemon has some kind of mantis armed tail, the steed the body and arms of a beetle like creature and most of the thorax and front legs of the Beast are also mantis like. At a push, the arms of the Lesser daemon could be evolved insect legs, mutated to sickle like blades. How could the insect forms be interpreted if Tony views Malal as not insect-like? To me, insects are often great harvesters. Think of those jungle ants that can strip carcasses clean in hours, and carry great weights long distances. Well, perhaps that is how Malal sustains himself? The daemonic entities of Khorne, Slaanesh, Tzeentch and Nurgle are destroyed, harvested and carried back to Malal where-ever he exists in the immaterial realm. Perhaps his part of the warp is fed and maintained by the dismembered parts of the other chaotic powers. I'd imagine that independent daemons would also fall foul of this 'harvesting' which could be a tongue in cheek way of explaining where all the other chaos gods have gone. Malal ate them! I am sure that I have heard such an idea somewhere before, haven't you?

There are other similar themes running through the concepts. Hoofs, fur and isolated parts of the human body. Cloven feet have long been associated with devil worship and it would only make sense that any daemon created by the emotions of humanity would reflect their primal fears. Talking of fear. Nothing revolts the human psyche than the appearance of insect life, so perhaps that is another factor in Malal's creation? Perhaps that explains the human elements away too? In a fantasy world where the true horrors of Chaos are unknown, or denied, by the vast majority of humans it would come as no surprise that many simple human fears would find their inspiration in humanity itself. The fear of the murderer, the thief or the rapist. All could have parallels in the form of Malal's demonic servants.

Before moving on to other discussions. I asked Tony about the concepts he has produced for Mick Leach's 'Antiquis Malleum' project. He explain in detail how he went about producing the models, but I shall save that conversation, and all the others, to more appropriate posts of their own. 

I did ask him this, though.

RoC80s: Would you be interested in developing a new range of IP friendly models inspired by the old Malal designs, much like George Fairlamb has done with the Hooked Horror?

TA: It certainly would be fun to play with the deities of Chaos again!

Oh, and wouldn't be fun for us to collect and paint them!

Mick Leach? What are you waiting for?



  1. Don't forget some chaos warriors of Malal too! I bet they would look ace. And beastmen.. that would be a disturbing looking foe :-)

  2. Woot!
    That sounds awesome. Especially the idea of Malal style Beastmen.
    Well done!

  3. Whatever appears out of this project, I'm sure it'll be great! It's already got that much longed-for retro appeal.

    Chaos warriors, champions and beastmen would also all be gratefully received I think!

  4. Very exciting. I'd love to see this turn into a range of miniatures.

  5. Glad you boys loved this post. Plenty more from Tony in the near future! Hopefully!

  6. I love Malal and I love your post!

  7. Just reading this and my mind blew, the bit where you describe the skulls, bovine = slaanesh, bird = tzeentch, human SINGLE HORNED skull = nurgle with a canine = khorne skull to round them off, coincidental happy accident or something much much more?...........

    Radu Lykan

  8. Orlygg, what do you think about asking Mike Brunton & Graeme Davis about the details of their work at "Realm of Chaos", specifically about their ideas about Malal?