Monday, 14 May 2018

Dem bones, dem bones...

Sometimes, when you see a new miniature, it resonates with you in such a way that you simply have to have it. I imagine anyone who collects wargaming models is familiar with the feeling. A mixture of fascination and appreciation, combined with just a hint of dread, knowing that you will end up spending cash on more tiny toys that are likely to sit around unpainted for much of the foreseeable future. Not just a wonderful opportunity to paint something beautiful, but also the burden of another unfinished task.

Or is that just me? Am I wracked by some strange negativity? A sense of apprehension or foreboding, like shadows reaching out of darkened corners?

Could it be the nature of the models themselves?

You see, recently a new set of miniatures has been triggering that desire to acquire, quite overwhelmingly, in me. It's the skeletal Sepulchral Guard for Warhammer Shadespire. I can hardly stop looking at the pictures of them in White Dwarf. I find myself browsing the GW website late a night, looking for additional information. I'm convinced that if I wasn't in the middle of my Addiction Challenge, I would have bought them already, and they'd be sitting in another box on a shelf in my house somewhere.

But, as I am prevented from 'investing' in any new toys until I've fully completed 100 old ones, that's not the case. I am both happy and sad about this restriction, so I have decided to turn these tumultuous feelings to my advantage.

Instead of buying new miniatures I've gone through my boxes and boxes of old ones and dug out everything that could be classed as undead.

The first thing I discovered was this little squad of skellies that I had converted and repainted about a decade ago. I brushed them off and decided to swap their bases to match the Sepulchral Guard's round Age of Sigmar ones. That way if this project gets off the ground, these guys will be the vanguard of the new force.

Then I dug a bit deeper and found some miniatures from way back when I was a small child – probably about 30 to 40 models in total, mainly from the mid to late eighties. Most of them were in pretty bad shape, broken and covered in thick paint, but a few were box-fresh, still on their sprues.

These excited me, so I snapped off a quick picture. But I was clearly so horrified by the terrible condition of the other models that I didn't want to document them. They weren't fit for public consumption. Just small amounts of metal and plastic, soaked in thick globs of glue and paint. I left these ones to soak in two different baths of paint stripper. Dettol for the plastics, and acetone for the metals.

And finally, for now, I decided to have a quick stab at converting some of the parts off one of the sprues. I upscaled the weapon with a cleaver from the plastic beastman sprue, added some plasticard belts, and sculpted a tiny bit of green stuff into some fur and torn fabric. This last addition being more about giving the flimsy model some internal solidity than anything else.

So, although I have ended up adding 30 or 40 more models to my painting backlog, I have at least cleared some old boxes from my shelves. Hopefully there will be something worth seeing within in a month or two.

Friday, 27 April 2018

A farewell to arms (and legs, and forcibly grafted prosthetics)

It's a minor celebration today. About this time nine years ago, I built a small handful of miniatures that I thought represented everyday servitors in the Imperium of Man. I've just finished the final 3 of the original set, plus another from Forge World that I added later. This means it took not quite a decade to complete what turned out to be a 17 man* squad. Embarrassingly it's probably one of my quicker challenges.

The characters in the above photo are based on the following miniatures: on the far left is an Inquisitorial servitor from Forge World, now available as part of Solomon Lok's retinue, third from the left is a mildly adjusted Scrap Thrall from the Privateer Press Warmachine range, and the other two are both conversions of out-of-print bad guys from Rackham's Confrontation.

I've talked about my converted civilian servitors before, sharing some of the other miniatures as they were finished, and going into a little more detail on the subject. The original post can be found here, with updates here, herehere and here.

But who can really be bothered to click on all those links? So below are all the completed miniatures from this project, including the two Track Team members that I added after starting this blog.

Another four painted models drops my Addiction Challenge score down in the seventies. This means at the current rate of progress it will be roughly another three and half years before I'm allowed to buy any new miniatures.

In reality I don't know if I can hold out that long – which is kind of the point with addictions – so I have a plan to speed up my progress. It's basically about dropping my already bad paint quality even further, and batch painting a whole bunch of miniatures using only the most basic techniques. It's hard to believe, but the miniatures on this blog are likely to get even worse in the coming months.



*Man, woman, cyborg, bio-mechanical victim of a brutal regime.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Meat for the grinder

Imagine a really skilled painter. A painter who specialises in tiny plastic toy soldiers, just over an inch high*. Now imagine you stripped out all of that painter's skill and technique, removing every shred of their artistry, and replaced it, instead, with the crazed fumblings of a middle-aged man-child.

Well, imagine no more. Welcome to Torva Tenebris.

It's been nearly a month since I posted anything, so I'm slinging up a couple of pictures to show what I've been doing.

I've finished another two of the miniatures that have been sitting around on my desk. They're both inhabitants of my Imperial hive city, Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda. The kind of characters you might see if you were unlucky enough to have to visit the place**.

The first is a bounty hunter or hired gun that I constructed back here. I've used a paint scheme I was eager to try out, where the slightly battered armour panels are a bright, vivid colour, but most of the rest of the model is muted and knocked back. 

My painting technique (or lack thereof) is about trying to convey a quick impression of what my characters might look like. I sometimes think of it as a middle ground between the bright, primary coloured approach of something like Warhammer 40,000 second edition, and the don't-worry-too-much-about-painting-within-the-lines style of Blanchitsu. But with all of that aforementioned skill stripped out.

Now if you thought the painting on the first chap was bad, wait till you see this next guy. He's meant to be an officer in some kind of Imperial military facility, and was based on a character from a Rogue Trooper comic. You can read about that process, and see an unpainted picture of him hereI originally intended to lavish attention on this model, to really go to town. I was going to showcase the very best of my ability. But every tiny mistake I made, somehow seemed five times worse after I'd tried to correct it, and it wasn't long before the model looked like an old pantomime dame wearing too much make-up. So I changed tack, and decided just to get him finished as quickly as I could. Being able to move on to the next model has become increasingly important ever since I began my Addiction Challenge.

Talking of which, here's the new score:


*The toys are just over an inch high. Not the painter.
**Yes, I am aware it's not real.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Get your heavy on

In the WH40K universe, the Imperium of Man is an overwhelmingly martial culture. It's geared so strongly towards warfare that a heavy-duty, military aesthetic would probably have filtered down and permeated regular civilian life. Conurbations would likely be full of suits, machines, and structures, engineered to withstand the brutal rigours of daily use in a society that cares nothing if its people live or die.

This harsh, civilian existence, away from the frontlines and battlefields of the distant future, is slowly starting to be covered by the official Citadel Miniatures range. It's what Dan Abnett and the other Black Library writers jokingly refer to as domestic 40K, and it's something that has inspired a few of my previous modelling projects.

Abnett writes most extensively about the subject in his Eisenhorn and Ravenor books. A growing set of novels and short stories that bring the civilian aspect of the Imperium to vivid, visceral life. His latest Eisenhorn collection, The Magos was released earlier this month, collecting all the short stories together in one place, along with a brand new novel.

In a strange, coincidental twist, Eisenhorn's call sign is Thorn, and the original name of the two civilian/industrial suits I'm sharing today was the Thorn Heavy Industries Utility Carapace.

Released by Mike McVey as part of his stunning, but limited Sedition Wars range, they later found their way into his Kickstarter campaign to launch the boardgame Battle for Alabaster. I found McVey's whole Kickstarter range quite tricky to work with, due to the nature of the plastic and casting, but there's no denying it contained a tonne of interesting miniatures.

These ones in particular neatly embody the hulking, utilitarian, military aesthetic that I mentioned above. They've had a little conversion work to help them sit more comfortably in the gothic and outlandish WH40K universe – a head swap and some additional tools or weapons – but hopefully nothing that detracts from how cool the original models were.

In my collection these guys now represent a haulage and transit crew, wearing heavy lifter rigs used for loading, maintenance and repair on one of the many industrial sites throughout the city of Kru. They're not fully fledged members of the Adeptus Mechanicus, but I imagine they at least have some kind of working relationship with them.

I started these two characters at the same time as my Aedes servoloader, and as such they suffered from the same basic problem that did: my utter inability to use an airbrush, even for simple base coating. The initial, flat yellow coat pooled in the model's recesses and remained thin and translucent where I needed it most. It made the models difficult to work with, and left my final paint job looking even more amateur than usual. But I did what I could, and, as always, tried to hide the worst of my mistakes behind plenty of weathering.

Regardless of the errors, I'm fairly pleased with how they turned out, and happy to call them finished. Especially as it means I can move on to something else, and try to knock the following score down a little further.



Friday, 9 March 2018

Completely original movies that aren't

With the recent release of both the latest Cloverfield film and Guillermo Del Toro's Oscar-winning The Shape of Water, I wanted to talk about original, big budget, genre movies that share a striking similarity to unrelated, earlier works.

I'm not saying the following films have copied, stolen or plagiarised – that's for the courts to decide – but I think it worth noting that original ideas might not be as original as one may think, and that flashes of inspiration can sometimes draw on long forgotten memories.

But before we talk about the big films, let's discuss a smaller, independent science-fiction film from nearly 30 years ago, that got into trouble for borrowing its ideas a little too blatantly.

Hardware (1990)
If you saw Hardware upon its release, and also read the comic 2000AD, you might remember that the film bore a strong resemblance to a short story which first appeared in the Judge Dredd Annual 1981* called Shok!. The comic was written by Steve MacManus (under the pseudonym Ian Rogen) and illustrated by Kev O'Neill. In it, a man visits an old battlefield and brings back some interesting looking detritus to give his girlfriend, a sculptor, to use as raw material. The junk turns out to be the main components of an old war droid, which promptly reactivates itself, manages to reassemble its key body parts, and chases the sculptor around her apartment block until one of them dies.

The plot of Hardware is almost identical to this comic, but at the time, the film's writer and director, Richard Stanley, didn't acknowledge his debt to 2000AD. It wasn't until several years later that a court case forced him to come clean about the provenance of the story.

As it turns out, in the world of big movies, this kind of illicit 'borrowing' is more common than you'd think.

The Shape Of Water (2017)
The Shape of Water is currently being dragged through the courts for it's similarity to a play from 1969. In Paul Zindel's Let Me Hear You Whisper (adapted into a TV movie in 1990) a cleaner at a military research facility forms a friendship with a captive dolphin, eventually attempting to free it. The lawsuit, brought by Paul Zindel's son David, outlines similarities in concept, characters, themes and plot points. According to these similarities include "the fact that the main character is shy and doesn’t speak; their settings against the backdrop of the Cold War-era 1960s and, more specifically, a lab at which experiments are being conducted by military personnel; scenes in which the woman feeds the creature and dances to records in front of it; and rescue missions, both involving laundry carts, devised after plans to kill and dissect the creatures come to light."

At the time of writing this case is ongoing, but Guillermo Del Toro has stringently denied that his film was derived from the play.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Back when 10 Cloverfield Lane came out it was generally thought the Cloverfield films would form an anthology series, of unrelated stories, linked only through their themes of science-fiction and horror.**

The sci-fi horror anthology concept had been borrowed from some of the most imaginative television shows ever produced. Programmes like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits had been doing this kind of thing since the 1950s and 60s. And shows like Black Mirror, and Métal Hurlant Chronicles had more recently picked up the baton.^

But the anthology concept might not have been the only thing the Cloverfield franchise borrowed from these shows. There's definitely a case to say the entire second film was simply lifted from an episode of Métal Hurlant Chronicles.

After being knocked unconscious, a young woman wakes up to find herself imprisoned in some kind of underground bunker. There's a man in the bunker who explains that he dragged her down there to save her life, because the outside world has been devastated by a terrible catastrophe. The girl is unsure if she believes the story, and decides she is being fed a lie when she discovers evidence that suggests the man is some kind of pervert. After a fight, she is able to knock him down and escape the bunker, only to discover the world really is in ruins.

It was a 2013 episode of Métal Hurlant Chronicles, called Shelter Me, directed by Guillaume Lubrano, itself based upon a comic from 2002, written by Dan Wickline and illustrated by Mark Vigouroux. If you haven't seen 10 Cloverfield Lane, let's just say the plot is suspiciously similar.

As yet there has been no lawsuit, and the creators of 10 Cloverfield Lane have made no acknowledgement that they based their film on Dan Wickline's story. For his part, Mr. Wickline seems remarkably pragmatic about the affair. You can read his thoughts here

The Terminator (1984)
In 1964 two particular episodes of The Outer Limits aired on American television: Soldier and Demon with a Glass Hand, both written by Harlan Ellison. Soldier, based on Ellison's 1957 short story called Soldier from Tomorrow, sees a soldier hurled back in time to eventually give his life defending innocents from an even mightier warrior sent back from the same future. In Demon with a Glass Hand, another man is sent back in time to present day America only to discover he is a robot encased in human skin. After The Terminator was released, Ellison brought a law suit against its production company, Hemdale, and the distributor, Orion Pictures. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount, and the credits for The Terminator now include a line that says "Acknowledgement to the works of Harlan Ellison."

James Cameron fervently denies any plagiarism ever took place.

Poltergeist (1982)
Episode 91 of The Twilight Zone was called Little Girl Lost. It was based on a short story by Richard Matheson, first published in The Shores of Space in 1953. In his story the parents of a little girl are woken in the middle of the night to find their daughter has gone missing from her bed. She has fallen through a portal in her bedroom to become trapped in a strange and unsettling, alternate dimension. Although by no means the entirety of the plot to Poltergeist, rumour has it the two stories shared enough similarities to prompt Matheson to get in touch with Spielberg (who produced Poltergeist, and, it is said, possibly even co-directed it^^).

It is thought Matheson was subsequently hired as a writer on the Spielberg produced Twilight Zone: The Movie, not just for continuity, but also to discourage any potential lawsuits.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
And finally, if you're one of the few people who reads this blog regularly, you might already be aware that Raiders is thought to have been loosely based on an old Charlton Heston film.

In Secret of the Incas (1954), Heston plays roguish adventurer Harry Steele, looking for golden treasure in the Peruvian jungles. Throughout the film he wears a brown felt fedora, a beaten-up leather jacket and khaki trousers, and is often seen sporting light stubble, carrying a satchel, and wielding a revolver. He frequents tough drinking holes, flies light aircraft, and explores ancient tombs, where shafts of light reveal hidden locations.

The Wikipedia page for Secret of the Incas states that Raiders’ costume designer, Deborah Nadoolman (wife of director John Landis), said the inspiration for Indiana’s outfit came directly from Secret of the Incas: “We did watch this film together as a crew several times, and I always thought it strange that the filmmakers did not credit it later as the inspiration for the series.

*Reprinted in 2000AD prog 612.
**Now that the most recent Cloverfield film, The Cloverfield Paradox, has been released on Netflix, it is generally thought to act as a prequel to the earlier two (Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane), tying them together in a single universe. Or perhaps, more accurately, multiple parallel universes.
^Métal Hurlant Chronicles, although less than ten years old as a television show, actually dates back to the 1970s with its roots as a science-fiction anthology comic, co-created by the artist Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius, and later published in the United States as Heavy Metal.

^^It's a long story. You can read about it here.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Drive it like you nicked it.

This is my looted Land Raider, Mark II conversion. It's another model from my old Ork armoured brigade. It may even be the oldest model in that particular army. Or at least the first to be completed and not then subsequently hacked-up, stripped or rebuilt.

And not only is this one of my earliest Ork vehicles, but the base model, underneath all the conversion work, is one of the first plastic tank kits Citadel Miniatures ever made. It was the Land Raider Mark I, originally released in 1988 as the RTB05 Imperial Land Raiders kit (plural, because you got two of them in the box, for just £12.99).

The 1988 kit was a very exciting release for young me. A seemingly huge tank, the likes of which had hardly been seen before in the fledgling WH40K game. It was so exciting that I was kinda awestruck by it. Scared to even glue the pieces together. And as a result they ended up sitting unconstructed and neglected until an incredible new Land Raider was released about 10 years later. One that had been tweaked and updated to give it a whole new look.

But I'm not talking about the current kit, the Mark III Land Raider. That wasn't released until 2000. No, the kit I'm referring to was the Mark II, brought out in Epic scale in 1998. The Mark I, had come out for Epic three years earlier, but the Mark II gave the tank a more aggressive profile, and heavy duty sponsons. I was immediately taken with it, and vowed to build a 28mm scale version

Here's another variant of the Epic Mark II, with a slightly clearer picture, and here's a very neatly painted one I've just found on Google. These are exactly the kind of images that inspired me to attempt a larger scale portrayal.

But attempt is the apt word here. Knowing my conversions skills weren't good enough to make a crisp, clean tank, I decided it would be easier if the thing had taken an ass whooping on the battlefield, and had then been salvaged or stolen by Orks.

So I grabbed one of the tanks from that old, neglected Imperial Land Raiders kit, and set about extending the front, cutting down the top, and replacing the tracks.

By the time I had finished the basic build, Citadel designer extraordinaire, Brain Nelson, had taken over the Ork range, injecting the entire race with a darker, more brutal aesthetic. It was a simple matter to use spares from his new kits to bring my Land Raider closer in line with his vision.

Not only did the new parts add instant Orky character, but they also served to further hide my shoddy workmanship.

The final addition was the makeshift gun emplacement, thrown together in what I think of as typical Orky style. The sandbags which make up the bulk of it were sculpted roughly out of green stuff, while the rail for the big shootas was just a piece of thick wire.

These days Forge World make a whole bunch of Land Raider variants, including a remodelled Land Raider Mark I, which now seems to be called the Proteus. So there are some easy but expensive alternatives if you don't fancy hundreds of hours of badly cutting up sheets of plasticard, slicing your fingers, getting glue on everything and generally making a bloody mess.

Although clearly no kind of Ork mekboy would ever pass up an opportunity like that.


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Waaagh battle tanks

If at first you don't succeed, cheat. That's probably how any self-respecting Ork would have it. Although with them cheat is likely to mean brutally eliminate the competition, whereas in my case it's just about posting pics of old models from my collection because I haven't had time to paint anything new.

So here are two more vehicles from my old Greenskin armoured brigade. These tanks sport killkannons and rotary big shootas, and are probably a little smaller than Forge World's Kill Blasta (or Bursta) tank. I guess I see them as kinda like an Ork equivalent to a Leman Russ Battle Tank without the sponsons.

I've been thinking about my Ork army a lot recently. When I originally put it together I only ever got about halfway through all the things I had planned. I still have a whole bunch of units to complete, most of which are going to involve at least some level of customisation. It's quite a labour-intensive endeavour, even if most Ork conversion work can be fairly easily achieved simply by gluing a load of off-cuts and rivets all over the place.

With the model below, I started with Secret Weapon's awesome 6x6 Rapid Assault Vehicle. It's a great model, so I didn't want to do anything too drastic. I think in the end I simply added an Ork commander (made from a standard Citadel Nob, with a head from Kromlech's Orc Veteran set), then glued a load of those aforementioned off-cuts and rivets all over the place.

And with the second tank it was even easier. I don't think I did a single thing. The original model said it all. It's the Maxmini Scrap Tank. I only needed to paint the sucker. So I tried to make both vehicles feel related by starting with a beaten-up, red paint job, but then use different patterns for detailing, to make each scheme feel a little more unique.

These were completed many years ago, so my Addiction Challenge score remains the same.


I'm slowly posting a bit more about my old (yet continuing) Ork army, so if you're a fan of these muscle-bound, green menaces, you can follow the entirety of my thread here.