Friday 13 November 2015

100 Model Challenge #2: I Told You Not To Trust Me

#2 of 100: Empire Battle Wizard Lord using the Lore of Shadows

Photography still sucks but sucks a little less with the addition of some directional lighting.

This is Thelius Umbra, a very longstanding character of mine from the earliest days of my hobby. Originally he was a 40k character, the Arch-Heretic of my Lost And The Damned army. These days, and it is a very long story, he is the Patriarch of the Empire's Grey College.

He's a good guy now. In a different universe. He's still the same guy. We'll get to it. Someday.

This was a fun model for me to make: a simple little conversion taking the body of the Wizard from the Empire Luminark / Hurricanum, giving him a head from the Empire Handgunners sprue that makes him look a little like John Hurt (though I imagine him more as a pensionable Roger Delgado) and a staff top from the High Elf Mage set.

He'll be my General (at least for the Altdorf game) but, honestly, I just made this because our group has been playing with the idea of Umbra as this Machiavellian spymaster for over a year now and I just wanted to make a model for him. His first model, really, as 19 year old me just picked up a random Chaos Space Marine Sorcerer and painted it grey to represent him. He's a really fun character for me to write and getting to use him in a game every now and again will be a little bit of a treat. 

Thursday 12 November 2015

Positive Things: Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work

You've got to love the work of a craftsman. I know some people like to maintain a distance between what they love and how those things are made but I grew up a Doctor Who fan in the '90s and so I grew up reading episode guides and Doctor Who Magazine interviews with classic cast and crew.

So when I see something like this it makes me re-evaluate the way I read comics since this set of panels is quite famous nowadays. I wish it were more famous, frankly, since as Wood says there are too many writers who treat their scripts like radio scripts, as if they don't have images to help tell the story.

(I'm not just talking about Chris Claremont, but he is sort of the ur-example here.) 

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Bear Grylls, pornography and Chyna's Hall Of Fame ring

(I was on a certain amount of medication when I wrote this last night but I think there's the ghost of a point here.)

It seems that Bear Grylls has announced his first gay porn role...
Now, personally, I don't believe we should think less of him for this. He's a knowledgeable and talented man, informative and articulate. There are people in this world alive because of his (non-sex industry work). However, there's this terrible and totalising stigma attached to “oh, this person did porn once” or “they posed nude once” or “they're a former sex worker” and it is utterly mad.

Think about it: there are basically two options here concerning sex work. Either the person did it by their own free choice, in which case you and I have no right to judge that. Their body, their choice, that's a really central tenet of how modern society works (or should be). Option two is that the person was in some way exploited, in which case attaching stigma to it is morally revolting victim blaming.

Yeah, she's done some porn. You know what she also did? First (of only two) women to take part in the Royal Rumble; first and only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship; first female bodyguard character in the WWE (WWF as it was then); she was a bodybuilder in the Women's Division during an era when fake tits and blonde hair were basically the uniform, making her just as much a breath of fresh air as Daniel Bryan or Mick Foley; she was part of one of the Attitude Era's best stables in D-Generation X.

And she's not in the Hall Of Fame because she had sex on camera?

Now, I like Mean Gene Okerlund as much as the next man but if an announcer gets into the Hall Of Fame then one of the most transformative figures in women's wrestling deserves her place? 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Positive Things: How to be a spin-off with Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield

(Spoilers for Bernice Summerfield 5.1: The Grel Escape)

Funny thing about the Bernice Summerfield range: for a Doctor Who spin-off it is terrible at being part of the Doctor Who universe. There was this period about the third and fourth seasons of the Benny audios when Big Finish did a lot of stories with her meeting classic Doctor Who monsters: the Ice Warriors, the Rutans, Draconians, Sea Devils, the Daleks...

(As an aside, no attempt to “do it again, but better” has ever been more pleasing to me than giving Benny a second shot at the Daleks in The Lights Of Skaro after blowing it in Death And The Daleks.)

It put me off, I don't mind admitting. I basically dropped the range until the Epoch box set promised me (not entirely honestly) a fresh jumping on point.

Now, this isn't me saying Benny doesn't work in the context of Doctor Who. That's flat out absurd: a Doctor Who companion doesn't get eighteen years and counting of solo adventures if they didn't work in Doctor Who to start with. She even continues to work in Doctor Who with the novel adaptations and The New Adventures Of Bernice Summerfield box sets returning to her old role as companion.

But in her own range it never seemed to work. Certainly the sales exercise aspect of it was part of what put me off but, ultimately, I think that Benny is a strong enough character that cutting and pasting her into a Doctor Who plot will never be as fun as seeing her in a Bernice Summerfield plot. She's just too distinct an individual.

Which brings us to Jacqueline Rayner's The Grel Escape, Benny's fifth season opener, a story that has a very different approach to Benny's status as a Doctor Who spin-off.

The Grel Escape is, top to bottom, a parody of the Doctor Who story The Chase. It features the fact-obsessed Grel, Benny's first solo adventure villains from way back in Oh No It Isn't, who have invented a time machine and are trying to abduct her infant son Peter. They might not be her definitive enemies like the Daleks are to the Doctor but they are her first so that works.

Rayner also pilfers and twists several of The Chase's set pieces: the time travelling group (Benny, ex-husband Jason, Peter and Peter's Grel godmother) interrupt a football match, they end up on top of the Eiffel Tower and the ending is very familiar but in a way that just serves to highlight how different Benny and Jason's fractious relationship is to Ian and Barbara's.

Part of this just continues themes from the days of Benny's creation. The Grel Escape is both funnier and more serious than The Chase, which was one of Terry Nation's lazier scripts. Themes of motherhood, both in Benny and another character who'll go unnamed, crop up and are dealt with seriously. Benny, by her nature, is just a little bit smarter than Doctor Who. She always has been, in many ways that's what she was created to be: a new sort of companion (or, alternatively, a very old sort of companion updated) who could act as a protagonist in her own right and stand up to the Doctor.

So, yes, I picked up the fifth and sixth seasons cheap at a charity shop and I'm glad to see they got smarter after I gave them up (and that I didn't waste £20 here). It also proves something everybody should have learned about the time Frasier became a hit: spin-offs are better using the unique traits of what people are demanding being spun-off rather than just trying to give them a second series of the original show. It worked for Frasier, which is very different from Cheers and outlived the original show by years.

At this point I have to, sadly, admit that the solo Benny series is dead but at least now I have seven seasons worth catching up on. 

Monday 9 November 2015

Army Project: Lamenters

To answer yesterday's burning question (What the hell am I going to do with thirty-eight Horus Heresy Space Marines?), here is my answer: I'm going to start a Lamenters army.
Why Lamenters? First of all, I like the idea of them. They're a Cursed Founding chapter who suffer from horrendous bad luck. On the surface they have an enviable record of service but looking at the bigger picture at their history their heroic actions tend to be spoiled by unintended consequences. In typical double-edged 40k fashion this might be mere coincidence or the result of mutation on the chapter's high psychic potential.

As a result of all this, they have a dour and melancholy character which is a nice change from the usual and rather limited psychology of Space Marine characters.

They're yellow and I've recently started to enjoy painting yellow now there's a white spray that does its bloody job. True, the chapter icon is going to be nightmare but I want to improve my freehand so that's an odd bonus.

Finally, they offer a little extra variety. According to their Index Astartes article in Imperial Armour volume 9 their armour and armament cleaves a lot closer to the standard Space Marine patterns than other Blood Angels successors. They have all the usual Sanguinary bells and whistles but not as profusely as their peers. The way I figure it I can buy a single Blood Angels Tactical Squad and split the parts amongst the models so everything has something Blood Angels-y about them.

Between the box set and the Blood Angels Tactical Squad I have forty Marines in power armour. Between what I have and some old spare parts I think that can form the basis of two Tactical Squads, a Command or Sternguard Squad, two Assault Squads and a Devastator Squad. Frankly, that should be all the standard power armour I'll need for the army aside from the inevitable Death Company Squad.

Voila, instant Space Marine army! 

Sunday 8 November 2015

Countdown to Heresy

I will be perfectly honest. Horus Heresy as a game? Couldn't care less, I really couldn't. It's Space Marines fighting Space Marines forever and ever, amen. I was there for the fourth edition, thank you very much, had enough of that.

But aren't I being positive this month? Yeah, about that: I do like Space Marines and the Space Marines I like best are ones in Mark IV Maximus armour. I love the scorpion-esque helms, they're so delightfully inhuman that they make the armour a weapon of terror in and of itself. So you can imagine my glee at the idea of a box set with thirty sets of Mark IV in it. That's practically enough for an entire army.
Add to that the best Chaplain model ever, a decent enough Terminator Captain, a Contemptor-pattern Dreadnought and... well, I said I was keeping things positive so let's just count the five Cataphractii Terminators and be done with it.

Ah, but what to do with it? As I say, Horus Heresy itself doesn't appeal (and no one I know plays it, either) so this'll be the basis for a 40k army. Given the amount of ancient armour on display it'll either have to be a chapter from one of the earlier foundings or one that has a decent excuse to be so well supplied like the Exorcists or Minotaurs.

Plus there's the issue of boredom. Space Marines have many, many fine qualities but... good grief they're so samey. It's a coin toss between finding a colour scheme I can do quickly and power through the whole lot (like, of, Flesh Tearers or almost any other Sanguinary chapter) or one that will challenge me and look amazing in the end (Novamarines spring to mind).

Something to mull as I spent a rare idle week getting my Empire army in order... 

Saturday 7 November 2015

Positive Things: The Utter Shamelessness of Mantic Games

This is not a Chaos Dwarf Sorcerer-Prophet. It is not mounted on a Lammasu. It is, in fact, an Abyssal Dwarf Iron-Caster on a Great Winged Halfbreed.

Yeah, it's a Chaos Dwarf on a Lammasu. The model comes from Mantic Games and will be released on the 25th of this month, just slightly too late for me to ask for it for my birthday. I discovered this range on a recent trip up to London and a charming gaming store called Dark Sphere in Lambeth.
On the one hand the models, the plastics in particular, are not up to Games Workshop's standards. On the plus side, there are plastics in this range, the character models look amazing and they aren't at ridiculous Forge World prices. I have wanted a Chaos Dwarf army for years, ever since the Hellcannon was released and I found out there was such a thing.
I love how they work as a concept: how the positive aspects of the Dwarf race have been twisted into something sinister and malicious. I like the practically heretical notion of Dwarfs and Greenskins fighting side by side. I like the bizarre war machines. I like the sheer bizarre touch of half-Dwarf half horse centaurs and I really don't want to think about how that happened.

Chaos Dwarfs are a wonderful idea that GW never really supported. The original incarnation of the army had terrible models and a flimsy White Dwarf Presents army book. The Forge World version is prohibitively expensive and prone to all the flaws of Forge World resin. I'm glad that someone saw enough mileage in the concept to create a proper plastic range, albeit one with some serious flaws.

Recently I've been working on Empire, Lizardmen and various Elves, it has been too long since I've had a project based on good, old-fashioned villainy. I do so like being the bad guy. 

Friday 6 November 2015

100 Model Challenge #1: Stop! Hammer Time!

 #1 of 100: Empire Warrior Priest with two hand weapons
Photography woes continue as my phone camera, whilst superior to my camera camera in every way, makes the reds a bit too bright. That said, it makes the skin tones look a hundred times better than they do in real life, so I'll take the trade.

Regardless, the first of my hundred models: an Empire Warrior Priest. Definitely my favourite of the many Warrior Priest models that have come out over the years. A lovely little model to paint, being made mostly out of big blocks of armour and cloth. A nice, easy start both to the challenge itself and my little Empire army.

He's a character, of course, so he needs a name: Father Heinrich Kruger of the Cult of Sigmar, regimental chaplain to the Reikland Silver Blades, my state troop regiment. He'll probably deploy with the Halberdiers. 

Thursday 5 November 2015

Positive Things: Early Christmas Food

I am the first person to bemoan the way that Christmas seems to come around earlier every year, about the way shops have their Christmas stuff out before we've even passed Hallowe'en. It genuinely irritates me when I see huge displays of mince pies with sell by dates saying late November.

Oh, but it also means I can get sandwiches with cranberry sauce in them for lunch every day.

I bloody love cranberry sauce. I love turkey and stuffing. I love these little wraps they've started doing with all Christmas dinner sort of leftovers food. I love the Christmas pasties at Gregg's The Baker.

This is literally delicious hypocrisy on my part but I maintain there is nothing inherently Christmassy about cranberry sauce so I don't feel too bad about it, mainly from being too full to care. 

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Altdorf minus 17 Days

The date is set. On Saturday 21st November my gaming group will be having our annual mega game. 6,000 points a side, 3,000 per player: Matt and Iain holding the city with an alliance of Chaos Warriors, Daemons and Beastmen with Tom and myself laying siege as The Empire.

Which means I have some work to do. Matt is, as ever, fine with half-painted models going down on the table and there's no way I'll finish everything I want to before the 21st. However, it would be nice to get a few things done. Matt wants me to use all my wizard characters as a block with some homebrewed special rules of his own devising to spice things up so they're an absolute priority.

I also want to paint my Demigryph Knights because... well, Demigryph Knights look awesome. Aside from that we'll just see what I can get done between now and then. The rest of my army will be made of models loaned from Matt's impressive Nordland Empire collection.

The Warhammer World lives. It's time for the Emperor to take back his throne...

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Positive Things: Really Good Fan Fiction

Image supplied by the Scottish Tourist Board.
Don't you just love it when a fan author does something fantastically unexpected with a character you love? Not unexpected because it's out of character (though that can be fun) but because you yourself had never really considered it.

Last night I read The Festival Of The Moon by Kathkin on Archive Of Our Own. It's a Second Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie story where the four accidentally gatecrash an alien marriage ceremony and have to get married to each other or die. After that minor moment of jeopardy the story becomes a brilliant little character piece for Polly as she and Jamie they wander the festival bound together at the wrist.

What I like about this story are two things. First, that Kathkin eschews the more traditional romantic pairings (Two/Jamie and Ben/Polly) to concentrate on Polly and Jamie as friends. She's a Swinging Sixties secretary! He's a Jacobite rebel! Together they fight crime!

(No, not really.)

But it is sweet. Doctor Who in Season Four didn't really do character pieces, in fact it's probably the nadir of the series' engagement with writing character. As seen on TV the four leads are a set of tropes in a blue box largely saved by good acting (great acting in Troughton's case). As Polly and Jamie wander the festival and Polly introduces him to concepts like kites and 20 Questions, as they both realise they have no idea how two men can have sex (this being a matrimonial festival of the liberal future) and as they discuss whether they really want to go home one day, it becomes clear what could have been done with these characters with better writing.

And this is genuinely one of the best Doctor Who short stories I have ever read and I would never have seen it if not for the miracle of the internet and how it has opened up the world of self-publishing. Yes, this means there's a lot of drivel out there but there are some genuinely fantastic creative voices to enjoy. 

Monday 2 November 2015

Positive Things: Big Dick Johnson

The Back” is one of the strangest concepts in the already seriously strange wrestling industry. You see, even through the WWE tours and every person has to have been flown in for the event at company expense there are always random and seemingly unexpected people be hanging around backstage. Sometimes the camera will follow someone out of the arena and into the back where they will encounter, amongst other oddities, retired wrestlers trying to sell things, aliens, marauding managers, chicken deliverymen, and...
Big Dick Johnson. Big Dick Johnson was, for several years, World Wrestling Entertainment's on-call male stripper as well as being one of the writers (under his real name of Christopher deJoseph). Whenever they needed a male stripper (and it happened more often than you'd think) out came Big Dick Johnson and a bottle of baby oil. Because of course they needed a slightly overweight male stripper about the place and of course he had his own entrance music, it made perfect sense.

Well, perfect sense for the wrestling industry, anyway.

As you can imagine, we wrestling fans are ridiculously fond of the guy. As evidence, please note this video where Big Dick Johnson (in “costume”) was invited to a wrestling industry event to present an award. His speech is... particularly memorable.

Professional wrestling is it's own particular brand of insane and I love it for that. 

Sunday 1 November 2015

A little less negativity

This month I am determined to stay positive.

It's too easy to be negative on the internet. There are whole forums and communities basically dedicated to bitching and moaning, which is fine and therapeutic in its place but it's also exhausting. It's not like I don't have my reasons for being grouchy recently: my landlord is selling my flat; my favourite game system recently died and took my favourite fantasy world with it; the comicbook and wrestling industries are as bizarrely inconsistently managed as ever; and we still have a Conservative government seemingly dedicated to disposing of the surplus population.

And I'm just tired of being annoyed. It's my birthday this month and I want to spend some time celebrating the things I love, the things that bring me joy.

I love comics, as ill-managed as the industry often is it's going in a direction I largely like. Warhammer may be officially dead but my friends and I are cobbling together our own continuation in The Age Of Rebuilding, which is proving absurdly fun to write. I may not agree with all (or even many) of the WWE's booking decision but they're finally promoting their women's division with some dedication.

If nothing else, a month of writing about what I love instead of what annoys me would be great self-therapy.

So, for the next thirty days I will only say only (well, mostly) positive things on this blog.