[Community] Khepera Publishing Releases First Art Book Sketches!

Today is a very good day for Talislanta fans! Just about anybody reading this knows that Talislanta creator Stephan Michael Sechi released his 20+ year RPG, for free, to its adoring community of fans; ultimately closing the door on any new Tal RPG material from being licensed or published ever again. However, some of you may not be aware that Talislanta is far from being retired. Please turn your attention to Exhibit A, which is a snipped from my interview with SMS entitled The Origins Of Talislanta;

Marques: Surely this doesn’t mean that Talislanta, as an intellectual property, is being retired indefinitely?!

Stephan: By cutting ties with any further paper RPG editions of Talislanta, I thought it might just give me the incentive to try something else with the Talislanta setting. For instance, I’ve always wanted to create a Talislanta comic book or graphic novel. We came very close to getting one published back in the late 80s, but the company that wanted to do so went out of business 3 months before our title would have been released. At the very least, I plan to do an online comic. Kind of a dream of mine since I was a kid.

Khepera Publishing is working on a full-color art book that I think is going to be a very cool thing. Jerry’s take on Talislanta is really, really interesting. I’m currently working on a couple of ideas for licensing a different era of the Talislanta milieu in other media. I’m still hoping to license Tal as a video game. Ever since I saw that video game, Myst, I’ve been thinking: “how cool would it be if there was a Talislanta video game?” That would really be cool. I’m still licensing Talislanta, but not as a paper RPG.

Jerry Grayson of Khepera Publishing has released the first images from the upcoming Talislanta art book! Each one of these should be considered a work-in-progress. At this point in time he really wants to hear from the Tal community; specifically any suggestions, feedback, or critiques you have to offer. Please consider leaving a comment for Jerry, as well as casting your vote in the poll below.

Which Khepera Art Piece Is Your Favorite?

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I would really like to share my thoughts on this subject with all of you now. To be honest, I have been fearing this very day. I love Talislanta. No seriously, I LOVE Talislanta! Nothing would please me more than to see a completely new wave of non-Tal-aware folks introduced to something that has bestowed so much happiness upon me. A well done Talislanta Art book, the kind that truly invokes images of wonderment in the mind of a reader, could very well spark a wave of new Talislanta fanatics.

This book has the potential to achieve so easily what this website, three forums, and the Tal mailing list collectively cannot. For the first time in the history of Talislanta, a product is being released that targets a completely new demographic. One whose majority is composed of non-gamers. On top of this, art books have been successfully boosting the ranks of wargamers for well over 20 years (I’m looking at you Warhammer FRP and 40K).

As a Tal fan I have been afraid of what Khepera might produce. I have seen many art books released for my favorite IP’s in the past, and 4 out of 5 times I have been rather disappointed. I think IP based art books are a rather difficult item to do well. One of the biggest ways such a book can fail is by using a unique art style that diverges greatly from the established, and often iconic, standard of existing published illustrations. Given that Talislanta is well known for its unique and defining art style (oh P.D. Breeding Black let me count the ways in which your art completes me), I pessimistically waited for Khepera to confirm my worst fears.

Nothing could have eased my fears more than what I laid my eyes upon this day. I am just blown away by the art style and use of color. This is absolutely amazing work! Writing the part of this article that covered my collective fears has made me feel… dirty. In the wake of such awesomeness I feel like a heretic. To every last soul at Khepera Publishing, please accept my apology. I will, quite impatiently, be awaiting further news and previews with baited breathe. Jerry and the fine folks at Khepera, utterly fantastic work! Your portrayal of Talislanta is undeniably EPIC!!

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  1. Marques
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:21 PM | Permalink

    Here is my critique of the first two images. I will post feedback of images three and four soon =)

    Image 1: Necromancer with bottle-imp
    I’m really digging the designs on the throne and the necromancers garments. The way the robe curves along the bottom of the chair really adds a sense of reality to the image. It is very common to see such an image with the garments perfect and pristine as if the individual was deliberately posting for an important picture. I absolutely love the trinkets hanging off the hand that holds the bottle.

    The tattered curtains and skulls oozing with classic necromantic green flames really help to set the ambiance for the image. I love that you chose a star filled backdrop behind the curtains. My only desire would be to see a few more stars. I didn’t notice they were stars until the fifth or sixth time I came back to examine the picture. I think the Sardonicus he is holding is stunning. Its color and pose really portray the imp’s devious spirit and grumpy demeanor.

    The only portion of the image that seems a bit out of place is the candles. They are all very short so it is likely they have been burning for quite some time. Yet there is no buildup of wax on the floor. It also strikes me as a bit off that the candles are just balancing on the ground with no container. If they were affixed by a large buildup of wax they would not only make sense but look very natural. With so much detail in this image they seem to be the only component that doesn’t appear to be given as much thought. Almost as if they were thrown in there at the last second.

    Image 2: Female Thrall
    This is the image I voted as my favorite. I feel that this image really captures the brutal aspect of Talislanta. Due to the size of the poor beast at her feet the first thing my eyes jump to is its gaping maw. I love the different coloring used on the teeth. The inside of the bottom jaw contains detail I wouldn’t normally expect to find. With the absence of a tongue I would think the mouth would be bland but I found it quite droll.

    The position of the slain creature is actually quite provocative. It appears as if it died a rather painful death, writing in agony before finally perishing. The area directly below the creature appears to be out of focus which is a nice touch. It makes the image appear more like a photograph, the camera focusing on the Thrall herself. A very welcome touch.

    The Thrall is simply divine. Her cold and focused gaze penetrates, like that of a seasoned killer. The blood that is spattered on her body and dripping off her weapons is just perfect.I am in love with the Tattoos. I feel they are very well represented and tastefully colorful (unlike that of the Thrall that appears on the 5th Edition cover of the Chronicles Of Talislanta. I was happy to see that a little flesh was left without tattoos on her breasts and that which does exist is a mirror image of each other. Very tasteful and alluring.

    Her garments are well done and their varied nature really adds character to the Thrall. I especially enjoy the earrings. It isn’t often you see hoop earrings on the face of a battle hardened warrior! The two strands of plant vines?, that are attached to the hilt of her sheathed sword, blowing in the wind is awesome. It isn’t clear to me if the dark image on her back is a shield or something else entirely. I thought the two feathers were a very nice touch.

    Finally there is the fiery backdrop. I think this is awesome! It really helps the characters personality and the brutality of the image just jump right off the page. I just wish that I had some kind of idea where she was standing so I would know what is actually ablaze. Some field grass or the silhouette of a tree or building would go a long way in establishing what kind of setting this picture is taking place in.

  2. Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:30 PM | Permalink

    I like all of these. Really, I do.

    But… (you could hear that coming, yes?)

    With the Necromancer, could the Sardonicus’s head be a little bigger?
    (What race do you folks think the Necromancer is? Cymrilian? Sickly Zandir? some old Archaen?)

    Can the female Thrall also get some garde armor? It doesn’t have to be huge and bulky and spiky, but something to illustrate what garde armor looks like would be awesome.

    Being able to see the Kaliya’s body would be kind of cool, but the heads emerging from smoke and mist and shadow is cool. The Warrior’s armor looks more Greco-Roman inspired than something from Talislanta, though. But that might just be an initial gut reaction.
    (What race do you folks think the Warrior is?)

    The Kang on the strider is very well done. I might encourage making his sword a bit larger, but that’s a personal preference.

    All in all, I have to agree with Marques; these are epic. Can’t wait to see more!

  3. Posted October 25, 2010 at 10:41 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I’ve been a fan of Talislanta for a long time and this is one of the cool things I hope I can do justice to. These are all just works in progress and I promise that the rest will blow you away. The pictures all look disjointed but when it comes together the book will tell a narrative with a beginning middle and an end.

    What I hope to do;
    -Show not only the characters of Talislanta but the splendid cityscapes, horrific blasted wilderlands of Zaran and the wondrous floating cities.

    -The treasures and artifacts of Talislanta

    -A witchgate

    -The hidden horrors of Werewood and the old Phaedran tombs found there.

    -And maybe Savant in the city of Cymril holding the Wizard king’s hand

    Oh wait did I say hand? I meant head….maybe I’ve said to much

    -Lots of Erd meat

    My favorite of the 4 is the Necromancer

    He’s incredibly sinister without having to menace.
    Ciao for now


  4. Drohem
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

    Wow! Just freakin’ *WOW*. This is awsome! They are all so cool, it was hard to vote. :D

  5. sammi summerland
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

    i love hydras. my daddys widow lady sent me a hydra incense burner that blows smoke out 5 heads….i call her Happy. the art is very comforting and sweet.

    annonymous chaotic evil dm

  6. Marques
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 5:26 PM | Permalink

    Image 3: Warrior before a Kaliya
    The Kaliya in this image is stunning. Every aspect of it is fantastic; the coloring, the texture of its skin, the contrast between the Kaliya and similarly colored background, and I really enjoyed seeing the more calm expression (maybe it’s just me?) of the head located in the mid-ish to bottom left. I can’t tell you how much I dig those glowing red eyes. The color used for the skin is beautiful, just like the background behind it.

    Teal is my favorite color and Teal tends to come in a few different shades. The usage of teal and black, the balance and contrast of it… fabulous. The Talislantan standing in front of the Kaliya is very remenicient of someone from Robert Howard’s Hyboria. I just can’t say enough about the masterful application of color throughout the image.

    The only thing I can think of to complain about the Talislantan’s left arm. It has an awkward sharper to it which I find unnatural. Although I am really straining to find something to complain about. This picture moves me.

    Image 4: Kang Warrior mounted on a Strider
    While I voted for the Thrall it was a very hard choice to make. This definitely comes in as a close second place winner for me. As with all the images the use of different colors, the smooth transition from one hue to another, the way the images just jump off the pages, is utterly magnificent. I am a huge prehistoric life junkie. The strider in this image reminds me of such life. I enjoy how easy it is see both a beak and teeth on its mouth. Its harness is well done and attractive.

    The patterns on the Strider’s skin are very reminiscent of the Jurassic Park 3 dinosaurs, something I had never seen prior. Now I have a massive book with all the different life forms that are cataloged from prehistoric times, and such color schemes are common. I swear this Strider is an entry right out of the book… minus the Kang Warrior of course =P.

    I love the Kang’s armor, the little designed spread across it, the feathers? on its helmet, and its a lovely shade of gray. However, its upper body seems disproportionate to its sizable legs and pelvis. The skin color seems a tad to pink or orange. It certainly doesn’t strike me as fiery red as the 5th Edition Player’s Guide describes them. Overall though I am very happy with the Kang. The posing of the Kang and Strider in this picture is just perfect!

    My Ordered Favoritism
    1. Female Thrall
    2. Kang Warrior mounted on a Strider
    3 & 4. A tie between the Necromancer and Kaliya

  7. Posted October 26, 2010 at 5:52 PM | Permalink

    These are outstanding. As I said at The Piazza, these pictures all seem to have the high quality of comic book covers (rather than the less high quality of internal panel art).

    They really look “three dimensional. I like all four of these, but my preference would be:

    1) Image 2: Female Thrall
    2) Image 1: Necromancer
    3) Image 3: Kang rider
    4) Image 4: Hydra attack


    Image 1: Necromancer. This guy really has a “dead” quality to him.

    I’ve got to agree with Marques about the hard to see stars. Is this guy supposed to be in front of a window of a wizard’s tower or something like that?

    There is one other thing that I find confusing. From what I can tell, he is on a high chair, with his feet above the ground, but his legs just seem to disappear into nowhere. There is a central part of his robes that drape down onto the floor, but this just makes me wonder if he has a long trail (like a bridal dress) or extra long shin-bones that are behind that part of the robes.

    Maybe my ignorance of Talislanta means I am missing something, but this part of the picture bugs me a bit.

    Image 2: Female Thrall: This really reminds me of some of the best parts of Brom art, like this picture:

    I really like her attitude. There is a slight risk that her direct stare at the “camera” breaks the forth wall, but I think you have got away with it. And her physique actually seems a lot more realistic than the Brom picture.

    The fire is great, but it robs the picture of the chance of some background details to tell the story of the battle that has just taken place. I would love to see more pictures of this woman.

    Image 3: Hydra attack. The hydra really looks dangerous. I think you have really done that well.

    The mist looks good (it does sell me on the hydra being able to surprise the warrior) but there is the same trade-off in loosing background detail. And the lack of background detail confuses me slightly about what I’m seeing.

    I see something a bit like stars around the hydra, but yet the centre of the image seems to be full of fog. There is brightness around the part of the critter that is vanishing into the mist. That makes me wonder if it is springing out of a bright place or if it has been magically transported there through something like a portal. If it is popping out of a portal, why am I seeing star-like lights?

    The ground looks a bit like magma. To the right is another head. Is that connected to the same critter? I find that head fairly confusing, as I see no neck connecting it to the rest of the creature. And it just doesn’t seem to have the fearce beauty that the central heads have. And it makes me wonder if the rocky features on the left are another neck (with the head out of shot). If I cover that head up, the picture works better for me. The central heads are brilliant and they do the work for me.

    The right arm of the warrior looks a bit strange to me. I’m not sure if it is an optical illusion, caused by the shoulder piece, but the middle part of his arm looks bent towards the left of the picture. And while the left arm details look like rippling tendons, the right arm looks somehow “saggy”. I think, again, that this might be an optical illusion caused by the sticking out bits of the armour, but I’m finding it hard to “unsee” that and see the great looking guy facing off the hydra.

    Image 4: Kang Rider: This image is a great outdoor image. It has a great subject and the mountain range and sky really make it seem like it is in a real place.

    My only possible niggle is that it looks a bit like the kang is about to make his dinosaur mount jump off the end of a cliff. It makes me wonder if he is on a high point looking out at the land to see what is around. Maybe a previous image, showing the Kang travelling up to a high viewpoint would explain this part of the image to me.

  8. Paul
    Posted October 27, 2010 at 8:14 PM | Permalink

    Very cool pictures! I refuse to vote because I think they’re all equally awesome!

    When it comes to game-related art, I always judge it first and foremost by whether I can actually use it as an in-game illustration, and these samples definitely fit the bill. I can easily imagine my players stumbling across these scenes, and their jaw-dropping expressions as I whip out these illustrations to augment my verbal description of what their characters are seeing.

    I’d like to see some Talislantan locales, but from the list that Jerry shared in his comment, it sounds like there will be some very interesting sites shown in the book. I can’t wait!