Farewell to Eternia…For Now.

As July draws to a close and, in typically British fashion, the brief interlude of sunshine turns to heavy rain, it is time to say farewell to Eternia. As regular followers, bookmarkers and visitors will be aware, July has been ‘He-Month’, a little side project for both myself and Roger Webb, in which we both attempt to create 28mm versions of characters from the Masters of the Universe franchise.

Since my last post on this project, Roger has completed his He-Man and Skeletor figures, having started from scratch on naked dollies sourced from Bronze Age Miniatures. He has prepared, sculpted and painted these and the results of years of experience, talent and superior sculpting skills can be found on his blog – Rantings from Under the Wargames Table.

Here however, you will find my attempts to create recognisable characters, through the use of existing figures that I have converted or simply repainted and dubbed it a “re-imagining”. Not due to laziness, but my sculpting abilities are positively prehistoric when compared to someone like Roger. Roger also commented on the amount of figures I had completed compared to him, to which I replied that rumours of an illegal painting sweatshop based in Reading, populated by immigrants fuelled by Red Bull and Hobnobs were completely unfounded, despite CCTV evidence which appears to corroborate it…

Anyway, back to the figures. Previously, both He-Man and Skeletor were almost finished, but I felt that there was a little more work to be done until I was completely happy. So, having decided that Skeletor’s face was not quite yellow enough, I dry-brushed it again until it reached the colour I believed it should be. Having also noted that his bicep bands looked out-of-place matching his skin colour, I painted these as well. And he was done.

He-Man proved to be a little more problematical. All I supposedly had to do was paint on eyebrows and eyes. However, when painting small details, all it takes is one slip…

Such was the case with He-Man’s eyebrows, which resulted in me having to repaint his entire face. I did manage to get his eyebrows painted on…finally, but gave up on painting eyes, as I felt that this was tempting fate (I’ve never been very good at eyes). This has resulted in He-Man looking at though he’s got his eyes closed, so I may have to revisit this on a day when I have rested eyes and good ambient light. Here they are:

He-Man & Skeletor

Next, we have the father and adopted daughter pairing of Man-at-Arms and Teela. Man-at-Arms was already finished, as far as I was concerned, but my re-imagining of Teela needed a little more paint. However, as with He-Man, both these figures could do with some facial detail (i.e. eyes). Here they are:

Man-at-Arms & Teela

Now, you might now be expecting me to show the progress I’ve made on the “Alter-Natives” that I introduced last time, but I have something completely new and different to show you instead.

As this particular project has fired my imagination, but I didn’t have suitable conversion fodder for some of the other characters, I was doing my usual scouring of the web to see if I could find cheap proxies that could be converted into MOTU characters. Whilst viewing the currently available Heroclix singles, I came across a cheap DC character which immediately made me think “He would make a good X”. I then remembered that I already had the figure and decided that I would attempt the conversion. The miniature in question was Blue Beetle from the DC Heroclix Hypertime set and the Masters of the Universe character was…Zodac:

Zodac

I am really pleased how this has turned out, as all I did was repaint the original figure. Whilst you can’t really see from the above picture, I managed to get his helmet ‘fins’ on, just by repainting the same area with some of that stodgy paint you always get lurking in the bottom of your pot. I have since realised, from showing a friend the original source material, that I have failed to paint his chin-strap and cheek guards. I am currently undecided on whether I should add them or leave him as is, given that my previous attempts to ‘fix’ figures haven’t always gone according to plan.

Anyway, as I am on holiday from tomorrow until the end of July, this concludes He-Month for me.

However, I WILL be returning to Eternia in the future, as I have found suitable conversion fodder for Fisto, Beastman and Merman, plus I think my rudimentary sculpting skills may be up to the challenge of sculpting Orko…He is, effectively, just a sweater and a hat with ears after all.

Next month will have a slightly Oriental flavour, as I attempt to complete my friend’s promised Buntai for Ronin and show you how a bestiary of Japanese mythical creatures need not cost very much.

Comments and feedback always welcome and appreciated.

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Eternia, Eternia, From Sea to Crystal Sea…

Sometimes a project comes along that not only fires your imagination, but also gives you an excuse to paint a bunch of figures that weren’t previously assigned to anything. Such is the current ‘He-Month’ project that myself and Roger Webb are indulged in.

If you want to see accurate 28mm representations of He-Man and Skeletor, head over to Roger’s blog – Rantings from Under the Wargames Table – to marvel at his progress so far. However, if you want to see my ham-fisted attempts at converting existing figures into barely recognisable “re-imaginings” of iconic characters from your childhood, then read on…

Eternia is quite a unique setting, as it is essentially Bronze Age characters in a medieval setting, but with high-tech weaponry, vehicles and sorcery. I have dubbed this milieu “Laser Barbarian”, which I feel sums it up in a nut-shell. The advantage of this setting, from a wargaming point of view, is that it allows you to use a wide variety of random figures together, as long as they are painted in garish primary colours, so they look like they were mass-produced in China. From a painter’s point of view, this is quite liberating, as you don’t have to worry about ‘realistic’ colour schemes.

I’ll show you what I mean:

Denizens

The three figures above are, from Left to Right, a HeroQuest Fimir, an Egyptian vampire from West Wind Productions and a Barbarian Orc Shaman from Black Tree Design.

I’ve always thought that the Fimir was an odd choice of race to include in the Warhammer universe, as it didn’t really “fit” with the background. However, a one-eyed mace-tailed lizard-thing does feel like it belongs on Eternia, hence its inclusion. Of course, it can’t just be repainted – it also needs a descriptive yet slightly cheesy name, so this character is…Eye-Saur.

As Eternia does have an ancient Egyptian-inspired civilisation, namely the Osirians who dwelt in the desert known as the Sands of Time, the Egyptian vampire was a no-brainer. Although rather than bowing to convention, I decided to paint her up as a member of the Snake Men race. And following the MOTU naming conventions, she just had to be called Serpentina.

The barbarian orc shaman is a wonderful, character-filled model and looked like he should be a denizen of Eternia – so now he is. Apparently, Eternia did once have Orcs, but as my web-fu deserted me, I was unable to find any images, so I picked a colour I hadn’t already used, which is why he’s orange. Currently this character doesn’t have a name, as MOTU naming conventions suggest that sorcerers have similar sounding names and the only one that I could come up with was Wankor, which, whilst it seems to fit the figure, is a little…immature. However, Masters of the Universe does have a character named Fisto – those were innocent times, after all…

Anyway, all of these are Works in Progress, but I do have a finished “alter-native” of Eternia:

Rhinox

The figure was originally a Bloodcut Behemoth, from Wizards of the Coast’s not entirely successful Dreamblade CMG. When I saw this in the singles bin at my FLGS, I knew I had to have it, especially as it was ridiculously cheap in comparison to its size. This figure is massive, standing 65mm tall, and towers over most of my other miniatures. After re-basing and repainting, we now have a particularly beastly denizen of Eternia – Beware Rhinox, for he is angry and carries a big club!

And now, we move onto actual representations of recognisable characters from MOTU…

First, this is where I am with my Skeletor:

Skeletor 2

I’ve had major issues with Skeletor’s face, as what I thought would be a simple case of applying a black wash to his yellow skull, didn’t work and an attempt to rescue this using black ink also failed. Currently, as he’s had several layers of paint applied to his skull, he looks more like ‘Planet of the Apes’ Skeletor, which Mattel understandably didn’t release as a variant. Looks like I’ll be getting the nail polish remover and cotton buds out, to attempt a rescue… Other than that, he has turned out pretty much how I’d hoped. A littel bit of tidying up and a facial, and he should be done.

Next, He-Man – his front:

He-Man Front

And his back:

He-Man Back

As you’ll remember, I was having a few issues with his harness and wrist guards, but I feel that everything has now come together rather nicely. I think that this one only needs some facial detailing, as He-Man has surprisingly dark eyebrows for someone’s whose supposed to be a blonde…

As previously promised/threatened, I have been working on my interpretation of Man-at-Arms, which led to a discussion about whether he should have a moustache, like the cartoon, or be clean-shaven, like the action figure. Long story short – he’s got a moustache:

Man-at-Arms

So, base figure is a GW Man-at-arms, which came as part of a boxed set/game whose name escapes me. This particular figure was armed with a spear, which was snipped off and replaced with the handle from a Mega Bloks knight’s weapon, the additional armour plates on his arm and left leg being sourced from GW Skeleton Horde sprues. A lick of paint and voila! my interpretation of Man-at-Arms. It may not be entirely accurate, but I think it looks the part and I’m really happy with how he turned out.

Finally, we have something that just started as an experiment, namely taking Teela’s colour scheme, adding a touch of She-Ra and then applying these to Raelin the Kyrie Warrior from the Heroscape base set;

Teela

However, I was pleasantly surprised how well this turned out and how good the figure looks. It kind of reminds me of the Neil Gaiman character Angela, who made her debut in Spawn and has since migrated into the Marvel Universe. Not quite finished, but going in the right direction.

So, bar any unforeseen incidents, I should be able to complete all the above characters by the end of the month, bearing in mind I’m actually away for the last week…

Comments, suggestions and feedback appreciated, as always.

Meanwhile, Back on Eternia…

As regular followers and visitors will be aware, July is “He-Month” in which myself and Roger Webb will be attempting to complete some 28mm representations of characters from the Masters of the Universe franchise.

As I had already stolen a march on Roger, having suitable conversion fodder culled from the HeroQuest boardgame, I was pleased to note that Roger had posted his first update on this project over on his blog – Rantings from Under the Wargames Table. Curious about which figures he was planning on using, I opened the blog to be confronted by a dozen or so naked dollies he’d purchased from Bronze Age Miniatures. Rather than converting existing figures like myself, he was going to use his superior sculpting skills to add the necessary details to these muscular templates. A further post from Roger yesterday showed his progress, so far, with his sculpting.

After some gnashing of teeth, I realised that in order to match his output, my figures needed a little more ‘oomph’. Repeating the mantra “it’s not a competition…”, I first turned to my Skeletor figure. Whilst the general look of the figure would, with a suitable paint job, be recognisably Skeletor, the pose of the miniature had been bothering me for a while. Rather than saying “Cower before my might, puny Eternians!”, his pose seemed to suggest he should be saying “Vote Skeletor!” or “I’m open!” Alternatively, he could be performing in an Eternian Village People tribute band…

Reviewing the source material, I realised what was missing – his distinctive skull-topped staff. Therefore, I needed to find a suitable spear or staff wielding hand-donor, to which I could add a suitably scaled ram skull to.

As all wargamers know, over our hobby life, we accrue a large number of figures. These may be part of a boxed game, purchased for a planned-but-now-stalled project or just bought because they were cool. These then languish in a box somewhere, until a use is found for them, such as becoming a hand-donor for an Eternian sorcerer.

However, after an exhaustive search through my collection, I discovered that I had nothing suitable and was almost resigned to leaving him as is. That is until I remembered a failed experiment involving a GW plastic skeleton, some clingfilm and my wife’s hairdryer…

Having previously noted that certain plastics shrivel when exposed to heat, the idea was that the clingfilm would shrivel around the skeleton, creating shreds of flesh. What I’d failed to remember was that clingfilm (called Saran wrap in the U.S.) is designed to be resistant to heat and therefore has a higher tolerance than the plastic used to manufacture wargaming figures. The result was hot clingfilm and a slumped, slightly deformed skeleton. Not being one to waste a perfectly serviceable figure, it was partially flocked and then painted to resemble a partially decomposed corpse rising from its swampy grave, as shown below:

Swampie

Applying the same principle, if a small amount of directed heat was applied to Skeletor’s right hand, it should soften the plastic enough to enable me to bend the fingers and thumb into the approximation of a fist, to which I could add the staff. Luckily, as I had already applied a couple of coats of paint to the limb in question, this worked exactly how I intended. A later experiment indicates that naked flame applied directly to unprotected or unpainted plastic wargames figures results in them catching alight and melting into a charred lump, similar to every attempt I’ve made to use a barbecue. Ladies, if a man can’t cook, he won’t suddenly turn into Gordon Ramsay just because you’ve stuck him outside with some raw meat and tray of charcoal…

Creating a suitable channel for the staff with a push-pin and, incidentally, stabbing myself in the thumb in the process, I then ventured into the Aladdin’s cave of crap known as my loft, as I was certain that lurking in one of the boxes up there were plastic farm animals that may yield a suitably scaled sheep head. No luck on this front, so I turned to my ‘box of bits’ for inspiration.

The staff was then constructed from; a piece of stiff wire from a straightened paper clip, a small bead appropriated from a jewellery making set, two plastic skeletal horse tails and a plastic human skull filed down into the approximate shape of a ram’s skull, the last two both sourced from the venerable Skeleton Horde boxed set from Games Workshop, which I still have multiple sprues from.

I then glued the staff into place and slapped some paint onto the figure, just to ensure that it all worked as a whole. This is where we currently are with Skeletor:

Skeletor

I’m pretty happy with him so far, and feel that he just needs the detail painting to finish him off.

On to He-Man, who I was having a few issues with, as noted in my previous post. Having sculpted the harness onto the figure using Milliput, a review of the miniature revealed that I had been a little generous in my application of the putty and, rather than a harness, it looked like a life-jacket. Luckily, as Milliput sets rocks-hard, the application of needle file and craft knife soon reduced this to a more suitable thickness. The next problem was his wrist-guards. Whilst I could have just painted them on, this felt like cheating, so having dismissed Milliput as an option, I was contemplating the flexible properties of baking foil when something in my ‘box of bits’ caught my eye. This provided a solution that was both simple and elegant…

The item in question was a thin transparent plastic tube, removed from an exhausted ballpoint pen and previously used to add a drain pipe to one of my model buildings. I theorised that if I cut a suitable length of said tube, slit it lengthways and opened it up, this could then be ‘clipped’ onto the figure’s arm, instantly providing a wrist-guard without too much faffing about. And whilst there was some adjustment needed, this worked exactly as I had hoped. So, a bit of paint and this is where we stand with He-Man so far;

He-Man

Feel free to bow down and worship the genius that is Carrion Crow…

Now, whilst the above two are the most iconic characters from the Masters of the Universe franchise, neither are my favourite. My favourite, and the one I owned the action figure of, was Man-at-Arms. Not the cartoon version with the moustache, but the action figure version, with his funky partial armour and angry clean-shaven face.

So, as I am currently enjoying “He-Month”, it seemed inevitable that I would attempt a version of Man-at-Arms. However, you’ll have to wait until the next instalment to see him and he won’t be exactly how you remember him…

View from the Crow’s Nest – July

Whilst my previous posts have concentrated on Superhero skirmish gaming, I am not just a one-trick pony.

However, as most of you will know, sometimes it’s difficult to find both the time and the motivation to actually sit down and paint some miniatures, so in an effort to increase my productivity in this area, I have decided to start a series of posts, which will be entitled ‘View from the Crow’s Nest’. These will appear around the beginning of each month, and will be a kind of statement of intent, in so far that I will state what I intend to complete during the upcoming month. However, note the italics, as real life has a way of impacting on hobby time, so whilst the intention may be there…

So, before I make promises I intend to keep, a brief word about my work area. Unlike some, I do not have a dedicated area in which to set up and leave my paints and Works in Progress and as my wife is not as supportive as some, my work area is usually my dining table, so all my hobby bits need to be portable. As a wargamer, when viewing everyday objects, I sometimes get that speculative gleam in my eye, which means “How can I use this for my hobby?” Such was what happened when I appropriated an in-tray from my previous place of work, as can be seen below:

Workstation

On a balmy July evening, what can be better than sitting next to an open window, with miniatures to paint and a nice cold alcoholic beverage to sup?

Anyway, onto to the first item on the agenda. Due to an online conversation with Roger Webb, of Dick Garrison and Wargames Supply Dump fame, July is officially He-Man Month. During the month of July, both myself and Roger will be attempting to complete at least two 28mm miniatures to represent characters from the Masters of the Universe franchise. Unfortunately, unlike Movember or Zomtober, July does not lend itself to punny names. If we’d started last month, we could have called it Masters of the June-iverse, but sometimes fate conspires against you. The works in progress and results of our efforts will be posted here and on Roger’s blog Rantings from Under the Wargames Table. Roger’s chosen figures, which have just arrived today, he is being rather cagey about, so I’m not entirely sure what I’m up against. Which makes it sound like a competition, which it’s not…

For myself, I have decided to convert the Barbarian and Chaos Sorcerer figures from the HeroQuest boardgame, as I’ve already got these and they’re almost there already:

MOTU

Progress so far is to remove the ridiculous horns from the Chaos Sorcerer, trim the square plastic base, superglue to a 2p piece and Milliput the base. He just needs to be painted now. The Barbarian, however, is proving a little more tricky. Whilst the sword, boots and loincloth are all correct, He-Man has a chest harness and wristlets, which this figure doesn’t have, so I am attempting to sculpt these on using Milliput. Unfortunately, the Barbarian’s pose means I have limited access to his chest area, so I’m having to try and suggest that the harness is there, by putting the straps on, which is quite fiddly. As I was called away halfway through this, when I returned, the Milliput had started to harden, meaning that after several frustrated attempts to get the wristlets on, I gave up. So, whilst based and the partial harness is completed, I still need to add the wristlets and tidy up the harness before my He-Man proxy sees any paint.

I also have a few miniatures that I’ve picked up over the years that do not currently have a home, but do fit into the whole “Laser Barbarian” milieu represented by He-Man and Thundercats, so we may see a few of these turning up as well.

Should anyone else want to join in our madness, feel free to link to our sites and we’ll do the same for you.

The other project for July is a Buntai for Ronin. I’ve had the rules for a while now, but not played them yet, as whilst I had suitable figures for the more monstrous denizens of Mythic Japan, I had no Samurai or Ashigaru. However, a friend came to the rescue, as he had some Heroscape figures gathering dust, which he kindly donated to this project. As a thank you, I decided to paint up a Buntai for him to field, using one of the Izumi Samurai from the base set and two each of the Ashigaru with Yari and Ashigaru with Harquebus from one of the expansion sets. Currently, they are undercoated, as shown below:

Buntai

As my friend is fond of awful puns, this Buntai will be from Clan Chouda and the clan colours will be black and fluorescent green. For the green I will be using GW Bogey Green and the black will be…well, black. But with black ink over the top, to suggest lacquered armour. That’s the intention, anyway, so we’ll see how that works out…

So, a little bit of a break from Supers for July, but as they are close to my heart, we may have a few super-powered visitors popping in.

Comments and feedback appreciated, as always.