Stocking Chillers

Whilst the Christmas period is more commonly associated with festive cheer, overindulgence on comestibles both solid and liquid and the time-honoured tradition of acknowledging distant friends and relatives who you haven’t talked to or thought about for the previous twelve months, for me, Christmas is also about…the Ghost Story.

Of course, I am not alone in this, as the earliest and most well-known Christmas story (after that one about the homeless couple giving birth in a shed, that is) is the tale penned in 1843 by a certain Mr Charles Dickens, namely “A Christmas Carol”.

Or to give it its full title “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas”.

And the ‘tradition’ has continued down through the years. Montague Rhodes James was best known for his ghost stories, many of which were written as Christmas Eve entertainments read aloud to friends whilst he was at King’s College, Cambridge.

A similar tradition was upheld by the Canadian author Robertson Davies, whose collection High Spirits (1982), was made up of eighteen ghost stories he himself wrote and told at the annual Christmas party at Massey College, Toronto. If you like your ghost stories to have a little bit of tongue in their cheek, this collection is for you.

However, whilst there have been many unsettling supernatural tales written over the years, not many of them were actually about Christmas. Yes, they may have been set amongst snowy climes, such as August Derleth’s wonderful 1939 tale “The Drifting Snow”, but that was merely the set dressing.

As a connoisseur of things both Christmassy and macabre, I set out to find tales that fell solidly into both camps. A tale that you can read online, which I believe has never been published, is “Anti-Claus” by Graham Masterton, who is better known for his Dream Warriors trilogy. This explains the real story of Santa Claus – and he’s definitely more naughty than nice. Additionally, in Neil Gaiman’s 1999 short story collection Smoke and Mirrors, you will find “Nicholas Was…”, a short tale and unsettling explanation of Father Christmas and in Terry Pratchett’s 2012 A Blink of the Screen you will find “Twenty Pence, With Envelope and Seasonal Greeting”, which explains why you should justly fear Christmas cards…

Which actually brings me on to the ‘meat’ of this post. When I was younger, one of the banes of my existence was the annual writing of Christmas cards, as my mother insisted that each of us children should write and send a card to our various relatives. The usual fracas would happen as we each tried to secure the ‘best’ cards out of the bargain box of fifty and, although I was the oldest and biggest, I always seemed to end up with the crap ones. You know the ones – the ghastly festive candle, the Victorian carol singers or the pastel-shaded Nativity scenes.

Being of a mischievous and inventive nature, I decided to…improve…these cards, by adding captions and speech bubbles, to make them less crap. Whilst this didn’t last with my relatives (apparently some of the more strongly religious felt I was putting my immortal soul in jeopardy by “mocking the celebration of the birth of Our Lord”), I continued this with friends until I left school.

As I was preparing to send out cards this year to some of my blogging colleagues, I had a bit of brainwave. As I dabble in short stories, would it be possible to write a short story in the limited space available on the inside cover of a Christmas card, inspired by the terrible cards of my youth, that was both Christmassy and slightly unsettling? I set myself this challenge, with the images of Christmas Cards Past to guide me, and succeeded. The problem, I discovered, was that whilst the stories I had written fit nicely within the assigned space, they don’t make those sort of cards anymore…

So, the cards (and tales) were dispatched, but without the correct images. So, to rectify this flaw in my otherwise extremely cunning plan (and to share them with a wider audience) I present my three (very) short tales, but now with the relevant images.

I hope that you enjoy them, as I spread a little festive cheer fear.

Image result for Father Christmas cards

Once he’d been Grim – Now he was ‘Jolly’. Once he’d been showered with gifts – now he gave gifts to others. Once he’d had a steed with eight legs – now he had ‘eight tiny reindeer‘. Once he’d been worshipped, yet feared, by an entire nation – now he was believed in and loved by every child in the World…

Upon reflection, it wasn’t all bad.

And at least they’d let him keep the beard… 

Image result for candle Christmas cards

“As long as you eat by the light of this candle, you will never grow fat.” She held it out. “But only when you eat, understand?” He grunted and took the ugly thing, willing to try anything. However, it worked – he could consume as much as he desired by the light of the candle, never gaining any additional weight. In fact, he discovered, if the candle was left to burn for a few moments after he had finished eating, he actually lost weight! Which gave him an idea…

When the Police broke in, they found the smoking remnants of a candle and a corpse which appeared to have too much skin, yet not an ounce of fat…

Image result for coach Christmas cards

The coachman was the first. Concerned for the horses, he had stepped into the night and rather than the moonlight bleaching colour from him, it seemed to intensify it, making him look almost…artificial. As he approached the coach, his movements slowed, as though wading through treacle, until they faltered completely, next to the now un-moving horses.

One by one, each passenger rose silently and left the inn, flaring brightly under that terrible moonlight, then locking into place.

I am the only one left…but I feel it calling me. How long before I too join that frozen tableaux, like an insect trapped in amber for all Eternity?

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Fright Night!

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You Look Like You Need a Doctor…

This week, I’ve been mostly drawing snowmen…

Due to agreeing to help with the ‘best decorated Christmas area’ competition at work this week, I found my ‘spare’ time being consumed by drawing cartoon snowmen to populate a frieze (or should that be ‘freeze’) for the wall. This, of course, meant that whilst I was being arty and creative, it wasn’t hobby-focused, so no further progress has been made on the figures I showed you last week.

But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to show you, as I’ve been venturing once more into the wilds of the Internet and have discovered a few choice items, all related to my current focus – Doctor Who.

Now, we all know that Warlord Games have managed to secure the official licence to make Doctor Who figures and that certain manufacturers have received ‘Cease & Desist’ letters regarding miniatures they produce that were inspired by or resemble characters or creatures from the series. We also know that the Warlord Games Who figures are not 28mm, which means that they won’t fit in with majority of the figures I own.

However, all is not lost for the 28mm Who gamer, as I will now show you.

Okay, first up is obviously Black Tree Design, who produce the original Harlequin range of Doctor Who figures, which run from William Hartnell’s incarnation right up to Paul McGann’s – so 1st through 8th Doctor. Their licence to produce these figures appears to still be in place and they have a wide selection of characters and monsters, including the Peter Cushing movie Doctor and companions. The sculpting varies in accuracy and quality, with some being less convincing than others. However, they do provide at least one additional version of each Doctor from the 1st to the 7th, with the exception of Colin Baker’s incarnation, which only gets the one. The other bonus with Black Tree is that they run weekly sales, in which at least one or two of each Doctor’s sub-ranges has a discount, so if you’re after characters from a specific era of Classic Who, it might be worth waiting until that particular range is on offer.

In the previous post, Back to the Future, I featured the Retro Sci-Fi range from Miniature Figurines, which has a rather nice version of Peter Cushing’s movie Doctor and the spin-off character Abslom Daak, so follow the link for fuller details on that.

And waaaay back in December of last year, during the Ghostbusters Project, I flagged up this miniature from Ironclad Miniatures:

This is Dr How, from their 28m Victorian Sci-fi range, retailing at £3.00.  Whilst to me he looks more like Parker from ‘Thunderbirds’ than the 1st Doctor, it does give you another option.

Of course, everything I’ve shown you so far is from the ‘Classic’ era of who, so if you want characters and creatures from Nu-Who, where do you go?

The 2005 9th Doctor two-parter Aliens of London/World War Three introduced the Slitheen to the Whoniverse – large, bug-eyed, clawed hunting aliens, who could disguise themselves as humans by compressing themselves into ‘skin-suits’. A creation of then-showrunner Russell T Davies, they were used and re-used in both the first series of Nu-Who and also in Sarah Jane Adventures, although these were yellow ones called Blathereen. Not one of my favourite Nu-Who inventions, but the 28mm Who gamer might want some, so should pay a visit to C P Models, who have five variations of their big-eyed alien at £1.65 each, or £6.00 for four.

They even do a ‘youngling’ at £1.00.

In series three, a Paul Cornell 7th Doctor novel called Human Nature, was adapted for the 10th Doctor, in which the Doctor was hiding out at an Edwardian boys boarding school, having placed the majority of his memories and Timelord-ness into a pocket watch via a device called a ‘chameleon arch’, making him, for all intents and purposes, human. The reason for this was that he was being tracked by The Family of Blood, a group of aliens who wanted to steal his Timelord essence for themselves. These aliens possessed various local humans in an effort to locate the Doctor and animated scarecrows to act as minions.

If you want to replicate this 2007 two-parter, which featured a battle between armed Edwardian schoolboys and the aforementioned scarecrows AND have the entire supporting cast, pop along to Gripping Beast, who under the Woodbine Design Company Specials range, have four sets of figures, each containing 4 figures, at £6.00 each.

TWDCSP07 Squire and family (4)

TWDCSP08 Schoolmaster set (4)

They even do the scarecrows…

TWDCSP10 Scary Scarecrows (4)

Plus if you need some armed or unarmed Morris Men for the 1971 Jon Pertwee serial The Daemons (or for any other reason, for that matter), they do them too.

Finally, we move on the 11th incarnation of the Doctor and some of his foes. During the 2011 two-parter The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People, we were introduced to the “Gangers” – doppelgänger made from ‘programmable matter’ controlled by their progenitor and used for hazardous work. Of course, something went wrong and they became independent and attempted to kill and replace their ‘originals’.  As they became more fanatical, their matter deformed, turning them into monsters.

To populate your tabletop with some Gangers, we need to turn to Attica Games, who within their ‘Shiver’ range, have the Plastic Population;

Attica Games: - The Plastic Population - jpeg image

£3.50 each or £6.00 for a pack of two, although some of the bigger figures are a little more expensive.

Matt Smith’s Doctor also had to contend with the Silence during 2011, who first appeared in the Series 6 opener The Impossible Astronaut. Whilst Warlord Games do a pack of three Silence for £11.99, they are not the most dynamic of poses, not really conveying the creepiness of this race. However, Attica Games also have the ESPchers:

Attica Games: - The ESPchers - jpeg image

£4.00 each, £10.00 for a pack of three or £17.00 for all six. So a similar price to the Warlord Games ones, but certainly more creepy.

As far as I am aware, all of these figures have so far managed to stay off the BBC’s radar, but that may not last, so if you want them I’d order sooner rather than later.

Hopefully my next post will show some progress on the figures I featured last week, but as Christmas is creeping ever closer, I’m not entirely sure when that will be.

So Merry Christmas to All, and to All A Good Night!

It’s About Time…

Knowing that I had a second evening to myself this week, I contemplated the many possibilities that such a ‘gift’ could be utilised for. Do I finish watching Jessica Jones on Netflix, as I’m woefully behind on my Marvel tv? Watch the last episode of the rather good Doctor Who spin-off – Class? Or possibly add some more pigment to some of my miniatures?

As the rest of the weekend was going to be a washout, hobby-wise, I thought the best use of my time would be to update my loyal readers on what I’m currently doing and what I have planned over the coming weeks.

So, having made a few purchases at Warfare at the end of November, I got around to basing them and giving them an undercoat and a touch of colour. Here are the first three in the painting queue;

So, starting from the left, we have a Heroclix Jackal from the Web of Spider-Man subset. As this is a particularly bestial version of the character and reminds me of the vampires from Penny Dreadful, he will become some form of undead predator – perhaps a ghoul or feral vampire.

Next up we have Mad Jim Jones from the Black Scorpion Pirates range, who is currently on his way to becoming Bastian Stone, a rogue, scoundrel and implacable foe on the undead, who will, once finished, be winging his way across to Ireland to feature in a Ravenloft campaign run by the estimable owners of The Game Cupboard blog.

On the far right, we have a Butler from Moonraker Miniatures’ Investigators range, who will become the first character for my Carry on Screaming! project, namely Sockett the butler, played by Bernard Bresslaw.

Now, I’ve always wanted a ‘headless horseman’ figure, and whilst several companies do them, Rapier Miniatures one is only £3.00, so I snaffled him up. Here he is:

Maybe not the most dynamic figure, but it’s a good solid and nicely detailed figure. And unlike some of the other offerings, he’s actually carrying his own head, as can be seen below:

Looks pretty pissed off, doesn’t he? And yes, the horse is currently blue…but won’t stay that way. Did I mention it’s only £3.00?

As regular readers will know, I like double use titles, and the second use of this title relates to the next batch of figures in my painting queue, namely some Timelords…

So, at either end we have the 3rd and 12th incarnation of the Doctor, from the sadly retired Crooked Dice range, with Heresy Miniatures Steve Buddle sculpt of the 11th Doctor in the centre, also out of production.

As far as I’m concerned, these are the definitive versions of these characters in 28mm, as they look like the actors concerned. And whilst they may not be ‘officially licenced’, at least they match the scale of the rest of my figures, unlike Warlord Games’ offerings.

And if you have Timelords, you need baddies, so here are those that have made it into the painting queue so far:

Could those be a couple of the original plastic Games Workshop Cybermen, released waaaaay back in 1987? I do believe they are! I have a handful more of these, which I’m planning on slightly converting, as the figures only came in the one pose and are all carrying the same…weapon? truncheon? something bought at Ann Summers? I will have to do a little bit of research on this, as I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to be.

The figure in the centre is a Heroclix Cardinal Raker from the Galactic Guardians subset. I removed his silly two-pronged sword and replaced it with a ‘chronostaff’ made from a length of paperclip and a small bead. He will end up as a renegade Timelord, in the vein of Omega, as his outfit does resemble the ornate ceremonial robes of the Timelords, but without the peripheral vision blocking big collars.

So, expect to see these progress over the coming weeks, accompanied by some more retro-sci-fi goodness, including both blobby and non-blobby aliens and hopefully some suitable terrain, which definitely won’t be a quarry…

Back to the Future – Part II

Should you own a copy of 7TV (or indeed 7TV2e) or just have a hankering to recreate the adventures of your favourite spy-fi or science fiction shows of the 1970’s, your first port of call in respect of suitable miniatures would be Crooked Dice. With their range of figures, you can adventure in the fictional worlds of Blake’s 7, Space: 1999, Planet of the Apes, Captain Scarlet, Life on Mars, James Bond, Austin Powers or Danger 5.

Sadly, you can no longer populate your tabletop with figures resembling characters from Doctor Who. For that, you’ll have to go to Warlord Games and their ‘officially licenced’ range…

If the spy-fi aspect of this genre appeals to more than the science fiction part, you also have the option of the ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ ranges, produced by both Artisan Designs and Copplestone Castings respectively.

However, if the Science Fiction aspect appeals more, whilst Crooked Dice’s range is quite comprehensive, there are a few characters missing. It’s all very well giving us Cylons, but we can’t recreate Battlestar Galactica without some Colonials as well.

Luckily for you, my unending search for the ‘right’ figure on the Internet has turned up some more hidden gems. So, buckle your seat-belt and accelerate to 88mph, as we travel Back to the Future once more. However, be warned, this post may have you reaching for your wallet…

As regular followers will know, I’m a big fan of the original Ghostbusters movie and it’s sequel, and found that the recent 2016 ‘reboot’ failed to crap all over my childhood, so the fact that Crooked Dice produces a variety of Ghostbusters of both sexes makes me happy. However, 9 years before the release of Ghostbusters, in 1975, the children of America were exposed to the exploits of ‘The Ghost Busters’, a trio of bumbling paranormal investigators who used their ‘ghost dematerializers’ to defeat supernatural threats to their city. The trio was made up of Kong, Spencer and Tracy, who was a gorilla. Yes, you read that right.

The series was quite popular and ran for 15 episodes, but wasn’t quite popular enough to be renewed for a second season. Whilst I was aware of the series, due to the fact the Columbia had to pay its producers for the right to use the name Ghostbusters for their movie, I’ve never actually seen the show. However, I do know what the main characters look like.

Whilst hunting for Teen Angels, I paid a visit to Nexus Miniatures website, who you may be familiar with due to their Super Dinosaur Zombie Apocalypse range of figures, which includes Battlestar Galactica Colonials, the visitors from V and Mulder and Scully from The X-Files. It would appear that since my last visit, they’ve been rather busy and I was delighted to find these on their site:

The Real Ghost-Facers

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, it is our intrepid and original Ghost Busters. Currently, they are priced at £11.45 for the three, as part of a pre-order deal, with the price going up to £13.50 once they are on general release, which appears to be in the second quarter of next year.

Impressed with the sculpting, I perused the remainder of the catalogue and found some more familiar faces…

The New Defenders (Major John Colt, Mike Chicane, and Patti Pretty)

Whilst these are listed as the ‘New Defenders’, I think we can all recognise that these might actually be Avengers rather than Defenders. £12.50 at the moment, rising to £13.50 when on general release.

And whilst Crooked Dice may have one Tomorrow Person, Nexus Miniatures have a full set…

The Morrow Men

Currently £16.50 for the four, rising to £18.00 when on general release.

Finally, the set that almost made me reach for my own wallet, which is very unlike me.

Future Force

Could it be the bird-costumed defenders of the Earth known as G-Force? I think it could! Currently £20.00 for the five, rising to £22.50 once on general release. And you can’t have G-Force without their enemy, Zoltar.

Sub-Finem & Imperatorem - Machine Empire Commanders

Or the ubiquitous masked goons.

Equitum Troopers of the Machine Empire

Now, all these miniatures were sculpted by the very talented Carl Stoelzel, of Stoelzel’s Structures fame. Looks like card models are not his only forte. From what I can gather, the pre-order prices apply to the figures they currently have in stock, prior to the general release of these next year, so if you want them at these prices, I suggest you get ’em quick. Think of it an early Christmas present to yourself.

The Nexus Miniatures site is well worth a look, as they also have Varian from The Fantastic Journey (him with the ‘tuning fork’ weapon), all the ‘interdimensional operatives’ from Sapphire & Steel and, oddly, the cast of Gilligan’s Island.

So, now that the retro sci-fi bug has bitten me, expect some Doctors, aliens and scenery over the coming weeks here at the Buffet, along with a few leftovers from The Long Halloween…

Edit: Apparently, according to WordPress, this is my 100th post. Go me!