Monthly Archives: June 2018

Forgotten Heroes 2018 Bonus: Vigilante!

Perhaps it’s a bit self-aggrandizing (sorry, couldn’t help it), but I managed to complete yet another submission for Forgotten Heroes this month. It just came together on its own, as I had no plans to do another conversion.

Vigilante is a DC character who has undergone several incarnations, and is not to be confused with the Justice League cowboy version. This Vigilante is from the mid-80’s, when America’s fascination with action films was arguably at its peak, and Stallone and Schwarzenegger were in their heyday. Seems like every big movie of the time was about some badass taking the law into his own hands or getting revenge by killing lots of people, usually by shooting them a lot.

Enter Vigilante, a product of the 1980’s if ever there was one. Judge Adrian Chase got fed up with having to release career criminals on technicalities or mistrials, so he donned a black ski suit and strapped on a hand cannon. Then he went after them and shot them. That’s pretty much the plot of the Vigilante series, which ran for 50 issues and wasn’t great. Basically, it’s 50 issues chronicling Adrian Chase’s spiral into madness before he ultimately eats his own gun. For a while, he stops being Vigilante and some other guy whose name I don’t care enough about to look up takes over.

It wasn’t ALL bad, though. My personal favorite issue is this one, Vigilante #19, which is basically just one long fight scene as Vigilante tries to bring in a gang member who is a kung-fu expert. It’s penciled by one of my favorite comic artists of all time, Denys Cowan. In my opinion, no one draws fight scenes like Cowan, a talent he would prove time and time again when he took over penciling The Question. I used to dream of the day when Denys Cowan would draw Shang-Chi or Iron Fist, but to my knowledge, that never happened.

Anyway, why did I convert Vigilante at the 11th hour? Because I could. Remember that Intergang Medic I used when I made my Plant Man conversion? Well, it was just sitting there staring at me from the side of my workspace. Perhaps staring is the wrong word, considering it’s difficult to stare without eyes or a head to stare with. I thought his pose, while nothing exciting, certainly had potential.

First, he needed a head, since I used his for Plant Man. I glued a head from a Crossover Miniature (they thoughtfully provide you with head options on most of their miniatures) and sculpted the visor from green stuff. I removed the Intergang backpack and filled the resulting gap with more green stuff. Then I glued him to a Micro Arts Studio urban base.

The gun was a small issue. The one that the medic was holding looked like some kind of laser blaster (I’m not familiar with Intergang, so I don’t know what they use for guns). That simply wouldn’t do, as Vigilante uses a .357 Magnum. So I clipped one from a Heroclix Henchman and made the swap. (I know he’s holding an automatic in the picture above, but just trust me. It was usually a .357 revolver.)

Vigilante also uses a pair of nunchaku for when he gets up close and personal with scumbags who need to be put down hard. I just used some brass rod, cut to size.

Technically, Adrian Chase was a lefty, so his holster should be on the other side, but I can live with this relatively minor inaccuracy without hurling the miniature across the room.

And that officially brings me to the end of Forgotten Heroes this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else does!

Forgotten Heroes 2018 Submission 3: The Aquarian!

As Ringo would say, “Peace and Love, Peace and Love…”

As Forgotten Heroes draws to an end this year, I have saved the truly worst for last. I present to you: The Aquarian!

Sigh. Where to begin?

The Aquarian’s name is Wundarr, and he was born on planet Dakkam. When he was an infant, his father put him in a rocket and launched Wundarr into space because—wait for it—he thought Dakkam was about to blow up. Turns out he was wrong. Oops.

Wundarr drifted through space in suspended animation until he arrived at Earth, where he was bombarded by cosmic rays in the outer atmosphere and got superpowers. (This somewhat plagiaristic origin story may sound familiar to you. Perhaps he should have been named “Suparr” instead. I have to assume it was meant as a parody; either that or DC found the Aquarian so ridiculous they didn’t want to draw attention to the similarities and forever associate their own character with this ball-bag.)

Wundarr grew to maturity in the spaceship, but he still had the mind of an infant when he crashed on Earth. The Thing took him under his wing for a while, then Namorita kind of adopted him before Project: Pegasus grabbed him up and used him to study the Cosmic Cube. Nothing good ever really comes of that, but Wundarr got wicked smart (I’m from Massachusetts) and his powers were increased. He called himself the Aquarian and made it his mission to bring peace and enlightenment to the world. When not doing these things, he tours the country playing the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar.

OK, I made that last part up. (Or did I?)

The Aquarian missed out on being faster than a speeding bullet, but the cosmic rays made him more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. This is because he absorbs all kinds of energy and converts it to kinetic force, which he must discharge periodically by doing something physical, lest he explode. This won’t harm him, but the same can’t be said for anyone around him when he goes boom, so he jumps around a lot. He also has a force field that nullifies most superpowers and makes him pretty much invulnerable to anything kinetically powered, like a bullet or a punch. Presumably, you can still give him a hug. He would probably like that.

I first discovered the Aquarian in the unreadable Captain America Annual #7. I have tried to get through this particular issue about ten times in my life, and I don’t think I’ve made it very far. It’s torture.

To make this conversion, I used two miniatures, the head of an old Aquaman miniature and the headless body of the Weather Wizard I used making Water Wizard earlier this month.

I needed to do a fair bit of sculpting to make the Aquarian’s ridiculous sleeves. As anyone who visits this blog regularly knows, green stuff is not my friend. I decided to try this Magic Sculpt, which is similar in function in that it is a two-part sculpting medium, but it behaves quite differently than green stuff. It’s not as sticky, and it takes a little longer to cure completely. When wet, it gets really soft, which makes holding its shape difficult. It’s also a hell of a lot cheaper. This 1 lb. set cost me less than $20. An 8″ ribbon of green stuff costs $15!

I think my concept was solid, and the miniatures used were pretty good choices, but…

the actual execution is somewhat lacking. Here is the finished model. I’m not thrilled with how he came out. I would have liked to add more texture to the cloth sleeves, but I got annoyed with the Magic Sculpt and decided the hell with it. Hopefully by the time Forgotten Heroes rolls around next year I will be more adept at sculpting.

Nevertheless, I now have a perfectly serviceable Aquarian miniature for supers gaming, should I ever want to use him in a game, which I can’t imagine I would. Ever.

Wait…now I have to, don’t I?

 

A Brief Interlude…

A slight break from Forgotten Heroes to vent a bit.

I drop by Carrion Crow’s Buffet every couple of days to see what Jeremy is up to, which is usually something I find interesting. Today I discovered a post that irked me, and I was partway through leaving a comment when I realized my comment was long enough for a blog post. Not wanting to hijack his post (DO NOT hijack the Crow!), I decided to air my discontent here.

A few regular contributors to Jeremy’s blog have decided to retire from the blogging community entirely. As posted on the Buffet:

The reason for this is their utter dismay in the trend for a large majority of supposed ‘gamers’ to use their blogs as organs for their own self-aggrandisement, this desperate need to seek praise or have the most followers or likes or comments on their blogs, rather than actually playing games which, after all, is the purpose of buying these little men in the first place.

Ouch. Like many others, when I first read this, I felt personally targeted. Then I realized I’m not that important and I calmed down.

I don’t know these folks, other than reading the comments they have posted over at Carrion Crow’s blog, so I have no reason to believe that any decision they made was in any way related to my blog or anything I have ever done. (In fact, to think so would be somewhat paranoid and narcissistic of me, as for all I know they’ve never even been to Dead Dick’s Tavern. If they have, they’ve never left a comment, which, if the site traffic can be believed, can be said about many visitors here.) But I guess I’m guilty of the “self-aggrandizement” mentioned in that most of my posts nowadays are about stuff I’ve painted.

I don’t do this because I think I’m a painting virtuoso. I do it because I don’t get to play games very often at all, and this is my way of continuing to participate in my hobby. However limited gaming opportunities may be for me, I still have a massive lead pile that I can work on to relieve my stress and have fun. After 30+ years of painting and gaming, I still hope to improve; and I take much of my inspiration from blogs and forums where I can see and appreciate the efforts and ideas of others, give and receive encouragement and ask advice. I don’t know if anything I have ever posted here has ever inspired anyone, but if so then I am over-the-moon happy.

Why don’t I play more often? The simple truth is that I guess I’m just not motivated to anymore.

I’ll be as brief as possible: Most of my miniatures gaming was done in the mid-90’s to around 2003 or so, and it was based at my (then) Friendly Local Game Store. All of my wargaming was either Warhammer 40K or Warhammer Fantasy Battle. I knew of nothing else, and the store did not promote any other miniatures gaming. That place is gone, and my wargaming “buddies” have long since moved on. I have no idea where they are now.

I have a group of longtime close friends who I have played tabletop RPGs with over the years, but none of them are wargamers. We can’t even commit to a regular schedule to play RPGs anymore; it just became way too much effort to wrangle everyone’s schedule so that we could all meet and do something we supposedly enjoy.  Finding a date to play, even once a month, turned into a chore. Put simply, it shouldn’t be that hard for 5 adult men with similar work schedules, 3 of whom do not have any children, to get together and play a fucking game every once in a while without it being a huge dog and pony show every time. (My friends read this blog, and from time to time they may even leave a comment. They know this to be the truth, no matter how hard it is to read.)

A few years ago I bought a home. I am extremely fortunate in that in this home, I have a dedicated hobby space in my basement. With the help of my brother, who does not play any games at all, we built a gaming table. (Actually, he built it for me; I just bought the beer.) I thought for sure I would be gaming up a storm with my friends in no time. Sure, they came by a few times. But, not being wargamers, it fell to me to provide the miniatures, terrain, scenarios and rules. I did this, but there’s only so much time in the day. If I was in a wargaming group, for example, everyone would (presumably) have their own armies, and perhaps we could share terrain. When everything becomes one person’s responsibility, it gets expensive and feels more like an obligation than a hobby. If you’re the only one excited about a gaming project, then your excitement sours quickly.

I thought of skirmish gaming, or games where cash investment was relatively small, like War Rocket or Dreadball. Neither one really took root among my friends. Not being wargamers, they didn’t really want to spend the money on miniatures. The latest idea I’ve had is Gaslands, and I hope to be able to play that with some friends soon, although once again, the cars, terrain and table will be my responsibility.

Our last game we tried to play as a group was Imperial Assault. I bought the game and painted the miniatures. We had a great space to play. I figured even if we all couldn’t make it on a specific night, we could still manage to play a scenario or two and keep a campaign going. It fell apart 3 nights in, when it just became clear that it was too much hassle to get together. (To be fair, two of my friends live over an hour away from the rest of us. I can’t blame them if they didn’t feel it was worth the drive, especially if there was a noticeable lack of commitment among the group.)

I have posted After Action Reports on this blog, and will continue to do so. However, the sad truth is that I rarely game with others nowadays, so my AARs are solo games. I still have fun, but not as much as I would if my friends shared my wargaming interests. And I guess you may ask, why not find another FLGS? I could. But all of them around me are solely devoted in 40K or Age of Sigmar, neither of which I have the slightest interest in playing.

OK, I guess it wasn’t all that brief. Whatever.

Back to Dead Dick’s Tavern and Temporary Lodging: the name of my blog comes from one of the aforementioned RPGs that my group used to play. It was coined by one of the aforementioned friends, who graciously allowed me to use it when I decided to start a blog based on my miniatures hobby. I’m not promoting any product for my own profit or benefit on this blog, such as a rule set or line of miniatures (although I will certainly trumpet praises for anything I like). I do not participate in social media, either as The Angry Piper or as the real me. I do not have a “desperate need to seek praise,” either online or in the real world, whether for my hobby efforts or for anything else. I’m not trying to get likes or clicks, and most of the comments I receive about this blog are posted by people on other forums. I guess you could still make the argument that by posting pictures of my work on this blog I’m promoting myself, but I’m really trying to promote the hobby and interact with others who share my interests. It’s kind of like if I was hanging out at a pub and talking about football with the other guys at the bar, if only I gave a shit at all about football.

Like I said, I don’t know any of these folks that are bailing on all the miniatures blogs. But I’m saddened that they feel this way, as I enjoyed their comments (even if they were made elsewhere), and I feel like any loss of contributing voices in our hobby is a bad thing. This blog, and the blogs and forums I frequent, has introduced me to many gamers, painters and collectors from all over the world.

It’s hard for me to see that as a bad thing.

Forgotten Heroes 2018 Submission 2: The Plant Man!

I’m trying to get three submissions in for the Forgotten Heroes challenge this month, and here is number two. If you found Water Wizard to be a bit of a tool, well, congratulations. You’re a great judge of character. But Water Wizard lives life like a boss compared to this guy:

Behold! The Plant Man!

Samuel Smithers was a gardener who wanted to invent a way to talk to plants, so naturally he built himself a ray gun. It didn’t work until one day it was struck by lightning, which somehow charged it with the ability to control and animate plants (I’m not making this up). His boss fired him for working on his ray gun instead of pruning the bushes (which was his job), so Smithers put on a costume, called himself the Plant Man, and vowed revenge. Unfortunately, he met the Human Torch, who quickly put an end to Plant Man’s scheme and destroyed his ray gun.

Months later, he built a better ray gun, which was also presumably struck by lightning and imbued with (better) plant-controlling power. He tried to kill the Human Torch, but failed and went to the slammer, where he was recruited by Count Nefaria; along with the Porcupine, the Eel, and the Scarecrow. (This Scarecrow is not to be confused with the cool Batman villain with the fear gas, and certainly not to be confused with the coolest crow of them all… Carrion Crow.  This is Marvel’s Scarecrow. A significantly less-cool crow.)

Any one of these jokers would be prime fodder for Forgotten Heroes, as they’re all remarkably bad at their chosen criminal profession. But I digress.

Plant Man eventually ran afoul of the Avengers and SHIELD, after he took over a SHIELD base with a 100′ tall plant monster and a bunch of plant copies of himself. That’s about where I lost track of him.

To make this conversion, I used two Heroclix figures: Jack O’Lantern and an Intergang Medic. I needed the Medic’s head on Jack’s body. I also removed Jack from his hover disk and rebased him on some plain old MDF.

Then I set about adding the green stuff. I said it before and I’ll admit it again, sculpting is not my strong suit. Many thanks to Roger, a.k.a. Dick Garrison, for taking the time to give me some advice on how to work with this hellish substance.

Lucky for me, all I really needed to do was sculpt Plant Man’s ridiculous headdress and some plant fringes around his collar, shoulders and legs. (I forgot his gloves, but whatever.) Since Plant Man’s powers all come from his ray gun, I attached a Rogue Trader-era bolt pistol (minus clip) to his thigh.

I posed him next to some killer plants, last seen in my Poison Ivy post.

Tremble in fear, for the Plant Man cometh!

I must confess I have an ulterior motive for converting Plant Man. He actually appears as a villain in an old TSR Marvel Super Heroes module, The Last Resort, which I plan on tinkering with for Super Mission Force. Originally, I was just going to replace him with another sucky bad guy, but Forgotten Heroes has given me the excuse to put some effort into making an actual Plant Man miniature!

Hopefully I can get my third submission in by the end of the month, but it will require more precise sculpting with the dreaded green stuff. I’ll do my best!

Forgotten Heroes 2018, Submission 1: The Water Wizard!

It’s June, which means it’s time for Forgotten Heroes!

Last year my fellow miniatures enthusiast Carrion Crow invited me to take part in the Forgotten Heroes challenge. I played hard to get at first, but then when I saw how much fun it was going to be, I begged him to let me take part. He graciously agreed. I converted and/or repainted the entire Liberty Legion, along with special guests Spirit of ’76, Patriot, Union Jack and Bucky! This year, I’m hoping to submit three Forgotten Heroes, not a whole team. So, without further ado, here’s the first:

 

The Water Wizard is a really lame Marvel villain with water powers. In fact, it turns out he can control almost any liquid, not just water. You would think this would make him pretty powerful, but Water Wizard is an idiot. In 1977, he made his debut in the Ghost Rider comic book and promptly got his clock cleaned by Ghost Rider, both in his initial appearance and pretty much every time they met after that.

He actually fought some other Marvel good guys, like Captain America, with predictable results (he lost). He was recruited by criminal financier and Hugh Hefner lookalike, Justin Hammer, but ran away when he had to fight Iron Man.

After a while, Water Wizard changed his name to Aqueduct, which is an even dumber name than Water Wizard, and tried to continue his criminal ambitions. Instead he joined the Thunderbolts and that’s about when I lost track of him.

To make this conversion, I used three figures. Because I never throw anything out, I had a headless Quicksilver left over from when I made Jack Frost in my first Forgotten Heroes challenge last year. . He’s been grotesquely hanging around in a corner of my hobby space since then. I thought that the head of the Weather Wizard (similar name, different publisher, equally lame bad guy) would look pretty good on the body. His  hair is already blowing around, so it would match pretty well with the running pose. For added effect, I thought I would use this water spume on the Aquaman figure for something…

An idea took shape. I re-headed and rebased the miniature, and sculpted his fashionable hip waders out of green stuff. (A side note: I suck at sculpting anything. This is problematic, as my next Forgotten Heroes submissions will require much more sculpting. Thus I have sought the aid and advice of a sculptor extraordinaire to guide my efforts henceforth…)

I removed the cumbersome Aquaman model from the water spout and attached it to a base of green stuff sculpted to look like water (I can handle that much). Now it looks like the water is moving with him. Then I painted the model to resemble Water Wizard.

Hi running pose actually looks pretty accurate. I only have to face him away from any hero model since Water Wizard often flees. I don’t have a Daredevil-like sense of touch, so I couldn’t tell if the diagonal slash on Quicksilver’s costume was raised or if it was just a painted on until I painted over it. Turns out it’s actually part of the sculpt, which is unfortunate, as you can still barely see it through my paint. Also, I now have a headless Weather Wizard where my headless Quicksilver used to be.

Forgotten Heroes 2018 submission 1: complete!

 

 

Monster Month Holdouts: Displacer Beasts and Classic Balrog

There’s always a someone who’s late for the train. My orc warlord on wyvern took a bit longer than I anticipated, so these miniatures weren’t done in time to make it into Monster Month.

First up, some iconic AD&D monsters: Displacer Beasts!

(Every time I speak the name of this monster out loud, I say it as Sylvester the Cat would. It makes it much more fun. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.)

 

A Displacer Beast resembles a six-legged, emaciated puma with two toothy tentacles sprouting from its back. They are stealthy carnivores that often hunt in pairs, which is why I bought two. Displacer Beasts are surrounded by a light-bending camouflage effect, which makes it difficult to determine the monster’s exact location at any given time (like when you’re about to get eaten).  These Displacer Beasts are from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, and although they’re technically the same miniature, it’s easy to get some variation in the tentacles and tail simply by doing the old “hot water bath/reposition/cold water bath” method. (I’m not sure what’s up with the lighting in these pictures, but the focus is a tad blurry. Same thing happened last time. I need to investigate this further.)

In the video game Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II, you get attacked by a ton of Displacer Beasts in an ice cave. I guess that’s why I based these on snowy bases. I used Citadel’s Mourn Mountain Snow, a texture paint kind of like Stirland Mud. I like Stirland Mud a lot, because it looks like mud. Unfortunately, Mourn Mountain Snow doesn’t look like snow, it looks like white mud; so I also added some snowy flock and tundra tufts to the bases.

The other latecomer is a classic Grenadier Balrog. This miniature came out in the late 1970’s. I once painted him with the dreaded Testor’s gloss enamel, but I stripped the miniature years ago to repaint him. I finally did! There have been several variations of this figure over the years; one has a wavy sword rather than the flaming sword mine has. I think this miniature holds up quite well, considering its age.

It does seem a bit small for a Balrog, as you can see from the picture above.  If you say the word “Balrog” most fantasy fans have an image in their heads that roughly corresponds to this one, i.e. the Balrog of Moria, “Durin’s Bane”. But Tolkien is often vague, even contradictory at times when describing what a Balrog actually looks like. At times he describes them as gigantic; other times he says they are twice the size of a man. Whether they have actual wings or not is apparently up for debate among Tolkien-philes. Whatever the case, looking at the mniature now, it’s a bit too red. I probably should have painted either his body or wings black for some variation. The hair on the Balrog’s body was drybrushed with a Vallejo Cavalry Brown, but it looks close enough to red so that the effect is somewhat lost.

It looks a hell of a lot better than it did when coated in Testor’s gloss enamel, and it can certainly do a fair job of representing a greater demon, nonetheless. I made the lava base out of pieces of irregular craft foam scraps I had from my Gaslands projects a few months back. I’m somewhat ambivalent about how it came out and I’ve since found a much better method for making lava bases that I’m keen to try soon.

That’s REALLY it for Monster Month. Up next: a return to Forgotten Heroes!

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 10

Miniatures Purchased: 0

Total: +10