23 December 2012

Catwoman and 'Pod (1)

Initial assembly has begun if for no other reason that the Bat Pod must be essentially completed before any real work can begin on Selina. The Chassis (Frame) subassembly is all-but-done, and I have begun prepping pieces for the "wheel" subassemblies.

So far, so good. While all of the pitfalls found in the original 1/25th scale kit are still present to a greater or lesser degree, the larger size makes them easier to negotiate and address. On the flip side,
  • sink marks and "soft" details are much more prevalent on this kit (read: my sample), and these will annoyingly impede progress. 
  • the tires, at least in my sample, came with dimpled sink marks on one side; and on one of them, the polyvinyl was "blistered" on the defective side.
Once the rear wheel subassembly is "functional", I can begin to work on Selina. The main focus will be the boots: the stock, short "kitten"-heeled boots must be converted to the serrated stilet- to-heeled, platform "kinky boots" of the character. . .

Stay tuned. . .

21 December 2012

Holiday Greetings '12

For what has been what at times seemed like an interminable year, it sure went by quickly! But as is the wont of this time of year, nowhere near as fast as this last week+ will fly by. . .

But I'm getting ahead of myself. . .Be sure to take some time for yourselves this Holiday Season: plot out a new project; or make some inroads on an ongoing venture; or simply wrap-up that poor soul that has been desperately clamoring for completion! Make this Holiday fortnight truly memorable!!

Above all, enjoy whatever time you have with family and friends. Even though the much-bally- hooed end of the world came and went without so much as whimper (the veracity of this state- ment will vary upon location, but I think it is safe to say that in eschatological terms, this was a non-starter), I would not be celebrating even if I had put any stock in such nonsense. Especially as the world is no less scarier than it's been. . .

And with that, I would like to take this opportunity to wish the readership a joyous, restful, peace-ful--and, yes, productive!-- Holiday Season; and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

Thank you for your patronage and support.

MERRY CHRISTMAS
HAPPY HANUKKAH
FELIZ NAVIDAD
BUON NATALE
FRÖLICHE WEINACHTEN
JOYEUX NOËL
CRĂCIUN FERICIT
MERII KURISUMASU
WESOŁYCH ŚWIĄT BOŻEGO NARODZENIA
S'ROZHDESTVOM KRISTOVYM
SUNG TAN CHUK HA

Augie

20 December 2012

Notable Acquisitions December 2012

What with the port strike in LA, the Holidays, etc., I really didn't expect to have an entry for December, but I was pleasantly surprised today. . .
KITS
Moebius Models Catwoman and Bat Pod (1/18th scale, Jeff Yagher(?) and ???)

By way of a quick review, the Pod is little more than an up-scaled version--albeit moderately better detailed: a dozen or so additional pieces (e.g., separate engine)--of the original, 1/25th scale offering. It is still a relatively petite--and I imagine, delicate--model, but much easier to "work" given the larger size.

As to the figure, beautifully cast in resin; but if you expect to build it straight OOB, then think again. Don't get me wrong: the fit is near-perfect, and the castings near-flawless, BUT. . . this is not a particularly well-designed, sculpted, or detailed miniature--think Marx toys, or low-mid end polystyrene. In fact, unless you are willing to invest a considerable amount of time, research, and effort, it would be best to forget about Selina and enjoy the Pod as a stand-alone model. Me? I enjoy a challenge, and I am looking forward to spending a lot of time getting Catwoman to slinky purr-fection. The research is essentially done, and with 3-5 more viewings of the movie, I should be ready to break out the burrs and putty. . .  

18 December 2012

The Silver Samurai in the new Wolverine outing

Earlier this year, as a prelude to the launching of my Silver Samurai project, I made mention of the forthcoming second Wolverine solo movie, where his primary antagonist will be the Silver Samurai. My initial objective was to reconstruct the SS as a canonical, albeit “historically accurate”, Silver Samurai.

That was then. While my original goals have not changed, the first apparently-leaked images of the on-screen SS have made it to the web--in spite of the studio's best efforts--and I am most impressed, to say nothing about really wanting to see this movie B-A-D!!!!

Admittedly it is only a rear-view, but the shape of the kabuto and the sweep, shape, and construction of the shikoro are enthusiastically commendable!!! And the gusoku is equally satisfyingly "realistic". 

I might not be happy with the casting for Viper/Madame Hydra, but the Japanese elements in the story look spot on!!! 

Before closing, in deference to the studio's wishes, I have not posted a direct link to these images, but all you have to do is Google "silver samurai wolverine movie", click on images, and you'll see what I'm talking about. . . 

CAN'T WAIT!!!!

PS--This is this blog's 500th posting! BANZAI! BANZAI!! BANZAI!!!

09 December 2012

"Broken" - The setting #2

This weekend has been pretty much of a write-off for everything, so I decided to get a bit of unpleasantness out of the way, and get the "groundwork" primed and undercoated, and moved
to the painting bench. As I am reluctant to subject the grate to any heat stress, the primer and black lacquer undercoat should be well-cured by the time I subject the grate to the metallic lacquers, graphite, oil washes, and rust weathering. Stay tuned. . .

UPDATE - 10.12.2012. . . The  groundwork is now assembled! To test the bonding of the lacquer- based primer and undercoat to plastic, metal and wood, I began "colouring" the grate last night. Nothing extravagant or harsh, simply controlled applications of graphite, highlighted with Polly-S metallics (Oxidized Al, Graphite, and Pewter), and then toned with MIG pigments. Upon my return from work, I realized that the grate was in fact ready to attach permanently. Admittedly, this means that I would be limiting my approach to the final finishing, but why not?!

First I simulated the wet surface beneath the grate with Liquin Light. This provides a nice reflective surface that bounces the light off the grid of the grate, creating a subtle sparkle. After that was done to my satisfaction, I glued the grate in place with 5-minute epoxy. While there are still some final finishing and details to be addressed, the groundwork and the display base are essentially done!

05 December 2012

Musings from the Bench: Bane

Assuming they've maintained their QC, and invested in molds and resin as they should, this is without a doubt one of the best releases from KM! It is also one of the biggest at 80+mm to the eyes: apparently scaled to the canon height of 6'8".

There are numerous instances of "artistic license" (read: haste, indifference, or laziness). Fortunately, assuming that we, the end-user, do not follow in their footsteps, we will be able to successfully address their shortcomings without much ado. It entirely depends on how "movie-accurate" we want our rendition to be. Or is it good enough OOB and using the boxart as a painting guide?

I am enjoying this project immensely! It goes to show what a[n overall] quality product can be had from a company better known for it's over-priced abominations. I might actually buy a second one at the upcoming Show in February to convert more extensively -- IF I can find one that is as good as the one I am working on now. 

That's it for now . . . more to follow as it comes to mind.

04 December 2012

"Broken" - Pre-prime Home Stretch - UPDATE (2)

This should hardly come as any surprise--especially from this manufacturer(!), but as we draw closer to the transfer to the painting bench, more things that need to be done pop-up. . . Sound familiar?

In any event, this evening I started a list. . . it is that time of year after all. . . 
  • In order to stabilize the grating into the foreseeable future and hopefully beyond, I decided to add a brass crossbrace between the mounting rails. DONE
  • Once again, licensee--and licensor!!!--have not failed to disappoint: it appears that KM lost interest in the sculpture somewhere below the knees. The groundwork has already been discussed; but the boots have not! KM elected to leave off all the buckles on the boots. . . that's 6/4? buckles and 4/2? straps! DONE
  • The armored vest and harness have already begun to be upgraded to movie specs, but there is more work ahead! DONE
  • Fragments of cowl.
I'm sure that I will find any number of tweaks-to-be-done on the trousers and mask, and I will add to the above list as warranted.

Back to the bench!

03 December 2012

"Broken" - Graphic update

I give you the first preview of the self-contained vignette. . .


By way of comments, the left leg, a separate piece, was cast in a different resin. There were some minor issues involving the "mixed" media, but nothing really to speak of. The cowl is not quite done; and the grating is still undergoing finishing. . .

ENJOY!

02 December 2012

Dragon's Avengers - UPDATE (2)

Nick Fury, the next-to-last announced release in the initial(?) series, is now available Stateside (still waiting on Hawkeye), and while I am reluctant to read too much into this, there is now a glimmer of hope where once there was none: on the boxart, there are three other protagonists in a graduated fade: Hawkeye (already announced), Black Widow, and SHIELD Agent Maria Hill!!!

Good news indeed--if Dragon follows through! If so, that would leave but SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson to be done. . . and LOKI!!!!

As an aside, for those of you unfamiliar with the kits, all except Iron Man are primarily, if not entirely, vinyl. "Shellhead" is polystyrene.

Stay tuned!

"Broken" - Pre-prime Home Stretch - UPDATE

While clean-up is still an ongoing task, the movie-accurization has been completed, and the figure is now completely assembled. The only modification of any real concern remaining is the "footprint" of the figure: on normal groundwork this would be inconsequential; but on a hard level surface, this can be a deal-breaker. Just one of the "dividends" of hasty, premature demolding.

Back to the bench!

FOLLOW-UP. . . In a follow-up to my initial posting, I mentioned that, "The iconic accessory piece that provides the title of this self-contained vignette is about 60% done. Finishing and detailing will continue until it is ready to be attached to the groundwork (more on this in a future posting), but it looks "right". 

Well, that "piece" is now all but done, but I find myself at a crossroads: in the promotional poster, the "piece" was shattered, but most of its defining features remain intact; in the film, the "piece" is essentially broken in half lengthwise, but otherwise little the worse for wear. I have decided to exercise my artistic license and go with the promo poster version: it not only suggests a greater degree of damage, but it provides more of a "full-round" (vs. bas-relief) image.

And for those of you still wondering what the blazes I am talking about,  this is roughly what I have reproduced in miniature:

AMFS 2013 Theme

The theme for the 2013 Atlanta Show is "Lawmen and Outlaws". This prompted two of our readers to contact me to ask whether this would be limited to historical subjects/personalities (e.g., SWAT, RCMP, Wyatt Earp, etc. etc. etc.), or would "fantasy subjects/personalities" also be eligible (e.g., Batman, Joker, Steampunk themes, etc. etc. etc.).

As I have no official--or unofficial!--standing with the Show, and I will not even be participating in the Show in February, I contacted Lou Coroso, who in turn was kind enough to forward my inquiry to Pete Garrison, the Show/Club Seminar/Training Chairman. This was his response:
Gentlemen,
The theme for the 2013 show is anything [my emphasis] that can be considered to be a lawman or an outlaw (or groupings of these characters) - I would consider a "Villain" to be an outlaw; and fantasy or Comic-book Heroes, as long as they are crime fighting, would be lawmen. Remember there are no cash prizes in this category, only an award for "best of show theme".
There you have it. Admittedly, this has not come from the Show, Judging, or Awards Chairper- sons; but even if it had, I would be prepared for last-minute changes.

Before closing, I would like to thank Lou and Pete for their accessibility and quick response. And I would like to thank the two individuals who contacted me re: this matter, and hope that the above addresses their concerns to their satisfaction. If they, or anyone else, have any further questions, I would ask that you please contact the appropriate individual/officer at AMFS.

01 December 2012

Notable Acquisitions November 2012

KITS
Moebius Models Cylon Centurion (1/6 scale, ???)
Quarantine Studio The Dead Reich: Oberschütze Senfgas (1/4 scale bust, William Paquet)

27 November 2012

"Broken" - The setting

With the figure well on it's way to completion--I think the putty work has been completed--the time has come to develop the groundwork.

As I mentioned in my review of this piece, we as the end user got the short end of the stick when it comes to the groundwork: a perfunctory, nondescript, kidney-shaped plinth/base. Really? Why even bother?! The design of the figure is taken from that moment when Bane is confidently closing-in on Batman on the walkways of the cistern below Wayne Enterprises' Applied Sciences division (the "Armory"), just before every fan boy's/girl's dream comes true! As I described it earlier, "a setting-specific, iconic moment in the film".

Finding rectangular steel grating in approximately the right scale proved to be a daunting task! I was hoping to find something suitable in photo-etched brass or aluminum, but no luck there. When I was about to settle for a marginally-suitable product, I stumbled across the Tichy Train Group in NC, and their HO-scale HIPS steel roofwalk (product #3077)--one pack was all that I would need.

This is where the "fun" begins. Given that the roofwalk is considerably narrower that the grating panels depicted in the film, I will have to mate three lengths of roofwalk to create one panel of grating. . . twice! As I want the grating elevated, I will have to find a way to raise it off the surface of the display base and provide the necessary support and bracing. Finally, the figure will have to be supported entirely by its wire pegs, as the grating is too "flimsy" to bear the weight of the figure.

More to follow. . .

UPDATE - 28.11.2012. . .  The "framework" for the grating has been cut from brass angle, and reduced where necessary. The lengths of grating (a total of 7) have also been cut, and the first panel/section of grating has been completed. FOLLOW-UP. . . The grating has been completed and assembled, and is now curing. While the figure still has to be fitted to the display base, the groundwork is thankfully done!

UPDATE - 01.12.2012. . .  The mounting "rails" for the framed grating, made from MS, are now done and the grate fitted. The figure has been fitted to the groundwork and base as well. Save for painting and minor touch-ups, the setting work is now done! Back to the figure!! 

25 November 2012

"Broken" - Pre-prime Home Stretch

While I will not be competing or displaying in any future "general" shows, that is no reason to forgo what has been an annual tradition for over 35 years! And as such, after carefully considering the time factor, the degree of progress on the project, and the overall level of [my] interest, this year's Winter Project" will be the self-contained vignette, "Broken", featuring KM Bane.

There is still some work to be done in terms of clean-up, as well as detailing to film standards. Once that is completed, I can permanently attach the head, and prime the figure. I'm thinking that I will be ready to move this piece to the painting table around New Year's. . .

Back to the bench!

20 November 2012

Darth Malgus - Progress Report #1

The remaining proportion issues have been finalized; and the right pauldron and left knee-cop have been roughed-in. Additionally, the [lower] legs have been "bulked-out"; and the original mantle/cappa has been bisected at approximately waist level.

17 November 2012

Darth Malgus - KM Conversion + Kit Bash: Epilogue

Or maybe just "long term". . . I've made considerable progress over the last few days, with the linear proportions of the body corrected; and the gorget, torso, girdle + codpiece, and thighs roughed-in.

As an aside, some of you might be wondering about the "Kit Bash" portion of the project description. Probably an overstatement, this simply refers to the fact that the stock head has been replaced with the head from the KM Bane kit.

More to follow. . . 

12 November 2012

KATŌ Yoshiaki -- update

The revamping of Yoshiaki is now about 70% done. . .

As I feared, work pretty much monopolized my time over the last three weeks--and then some! Throw in a few unexpected "surprises"--courtesy of Mr. Murphy, and I'm quite surprised I'm as far along as I am!

Regardless, I am now in the finishing stages of the kawari-kabuto. A few minor touch-ups remain, but essentially I'm there. The shikoro has been reworked in its entirety: I am now finishing the extensions of the lames, and after that final fitting and lacing. Once that is done, I can then replace some of the lacings of the manju-wa, and start going through the finalization checklist.

As to its release, that will not be until next year. I spoke with Steve this morning, and I expressed to him my concerns about shipping a master sculpture during the Holiday Season. He quite agreed, so this one will be en route to him in early 2013, and it may (probably will?) join the Maeda's as an early Q2-2013 release.

I will hopefully have images up before too long. In the meantime, I leave you with images of the original sculpt as a comparative baseline--and a hopefully pleasant stroll down memory lane:

Darth Malgus - KM Conversion + Kit Bash

I've been nose to the grindstone since I got up this morning, so I thought it was time for a little mindless, albeit constructive, grind session. . .

I acquired KM Anakin Skywalker (KST002) back in September. My original intent was to use this as a base figure to convert to the Emperor Palpatine: simple, effective, unique. I shortly thereafter acquired KM seated Emperor Palpatine, and while this in and of itself did not preclude doing a walking one, I am not so great a fan of the Emperor (aka Darth Sidious), that I needed two renditions of the character in my collection.

But first the review. . . This is an all-metal figure cast in 4 pieces + base. Given the issue # (341), I dodged a major bullet: the casting is quite clean, and the detail commendably sharp throughout. In fact, the only real criticisms about this casting are both sculptural in nature: the proportions are off, and the hands were given a short shrift. 

So, what to do. . . One of my favorite characters of the SWEU is Darth Malgus, a prototypical conflation of Anakin/Darth Vader that flourished ca. 3650 BY (Great Galactic War in the era of the Old Republic). As it is unlikely that anyone will produce a miniature of this character--and I can but drool over Sideshow's masterpiece--I figured why not?

To date I have ground-out the head in the cowl, as well as removed the extraneous portions of garments on the upper legs. The legs have been tentatively glued together and pegged, and the neck opening for the head has been drilled-out.

More of an introduction than anything else, this will be a VERY L-O-N-G term project that I will work on as time and inclination allow. . .

Darth Maul 2N - Progress Report #3

I have begun to work "out" the tunic, and reworking the drapery of the torso. I have also completed all the pegging required of this kit--which suggests that the end to the pre-prime prep is nigh. However, as always, easier said than done! While the end is undeniably now in sight, there is yet much work to be done.

Seeing the rebirth of this figure is quite rewarding. It makes one wonder why KM elected the manneristic grandstanding of the original design over the iconic understated 'presence' evinced in the final duel? This, as so many things concerning this manufacturer, probably will never be sussed. . .

10 November 2012

Gobsmacked in Gotham?

A friend and colleague contacted me yesterday wanting the low-down on KM' Bane. I told him that I, least of anybody, would sugarcoat a KM review; and that, IMHO, it was one of their best offerings of late, if not ever. I also underscored the unfortunate reality of low # vs. high # releases (I received #23), and that production qc is at best an afterthought. . .

And then he dropped "the bomb": he also wanted to let me know that trying to access the figure's page on the KM site using the link I provided in my review led to this "error" message: Product is no longer available. I immediately made my way to the KM site, and sure enough, if you click on the TDKR link in the sidebar, it comes up empty! If you use my link, you receive the same "error" message he did.

So what is going on here??? Did KM "lose" their TDKR license? Did some of the other licensees raise a hue and cry over conflicts of interest? Did they "trade" it for rights to Arkham City? Or is it simply that this portion of the website is getting re-worked in anticipation of new releases?

I have a feeling answer lies somewhere with the first three. And if it does, then that means that Bane and Batman will soon join their colleagues in a galaxy far, far away. . . the galaxy of oblivion! So if you're interested in acquiring either of TDKR offerings, act quickly!

FOLLOW-UP - 25.11.2012. . .  False alarm! . . . Much ado about nothing!! TDKR page is up again as if nothing had ever happened. That still leaves the question as to why the "technical glitch" was overlooked for a fortnight, but I guess we must keep in mind whom we are talking about here. . .

06 November 2012

Darth Maul 2N - Progress Report #2

I have just finished pegging and fitting--though not permanently attaching (this may not take place for a few weeks)--the torso to the lower body. And a watershed such as this warrants a new entry in this [b]log. . . 

The finishing of the reworked lower body continues--and probably will for the foreseeable future. Everything is in place, and the structural putty-work has been completed. Now it is a question of thinning down the numerous addenda to a visually-acceptable scale, and trimming everything to size.

The boots will have to be "tweaked"; but this will be done throughout the course of the project rather than in one fell swoop. 

Back to the bench!

26 October 2012

Darth Maul 2N - Progress Report #1

As this will be a L-O-N-G term project, to be "sipped" rather than "gulped", I hope that you will overlook the rather informal approach to the chronicling of the same. . . at least in the early goings.

To date, I have done the following:
  • Cleaned and molded right leg. 
  • Cast and reanimated right leg: bisected 'leg' at knee; extended leg; repositioned foot.
  • Removed all vestiges of the Sith mantle from torso and arms.
  • Attached face and sculpted cranium.
  • Removed saberstaff w/ hands from arms at wrists.
  • Pinned, located, slightly repositioned arms (not permanently attached).
  • Repaired the defective casting of the rear section of the fauld. [NOTE: the defective area was one of the "sashes" sewn to the outer tunic. As it did not line up with the sculpted drapery of the latter, I elected to remove it altogether and replace it when the time comes.]
[27.10.12]
  • Right arm permanently attached.
  • Right thigh permanently attached.
  • Right leg permanently attached and filled.
  • Attachment "step" for displayed mantle filled. 
  • Repositioned left foot slightly. 
  • Left leg pegged, and lower body mounted on work base. 
  • Commenced reworking drapery of pants. 
[28.10.12]
  • Commenced reconstructing the sub-belt fauld. [NOTE: this is arguably the most critical step of the conversion, if only because it involves the most corrective work.] 
[03.11.12] 
  • The sub-belt fauld is now all-but-done. I anticipate having the finishing well underway by the end of the weekend, and - hopefully - [sub]assembly can begin by next weekend.
[04.11.12] 
  • The lower-half of the body is now assembled. 
  It's a start. There is a ton of work ahead of me; but I figure if I diligently put-in 1-2 hrs/day, this will be ready for sub-assembly and mounting in no time. 

25 October 2012

Darth Maul 2N

There is little that surprises me from this manufacturer anymore. Poor production quality? Check. Little--if any!--quality control? Check. Poor communication? Check. To that we can now add indifference re: customer satisfaction.

KM has acquired a well-earned reputation for not only mis-packaging kits (as in wrong box, wrong insert--which makes you wonder how many of any one kit are truly out there?); but of selling incomplete, or incorrectly packaged kits: shorted parts, duplicate parts, etc. As I mentioned in my review, this was my first experience with anything of this nature; but based on on-line reviews and comments, it is far from uncommon. I wrote KM upon receipt of the shorted kit, and their reply was frankly shocking: "The Stars Wars line is no longer part of our held licenses", and that "they regret the error". That's it! I read this as, "We sold you an unusable/ defective product. . . too bad!"

As I said, KM has lost my patronage. I can forgive--or rather, turn a blind eye to--technical and production issues. But this is beneath contempt--and fraudulent!

As before, enough of that. May they reap what they have sown threefold! I still have an incomplete kit to make whole. . .

And that I have! I was very lucky to find a local collector who was willing to part with his kit of Darth Maul for a very reasonable price. While certain pieces of the kit were deplorably cast, his kit was not only complete, but they had thrown-in an extra left leg! You can well imagine the surface damage due to incidental contact by soft metal in an over-packed tin; but as they say, beggars can't be choosy. . .  Given what I plan to do, I am now short but one right leg. I can live with that--especially as I have a decent right leg to clean-up, mold, and from which I will be able to cast as many right legs as my heart desires!

And so, I now have TWO Darth Maul projects on the stove-top: 1T is the original plan, depicting Maul in his encounter with JM Qui-Gon Jinn on Tatooine, an essentially OOB undertaking. Now for the lemonade from the remaining lemons: Project 2N will be based on the depiction of Maul in his epic, but fatal, encounter with JM Jinn and the then-Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi (bka "The Duel of the Fates") in the Theed power generator on Naboo. This will be a moderately extensive conversion as he will not be wearing the Sith hooded mantle, his [under-]clothing will have to be enhanced/corrected and detailed, and the legs will have to be reanimated to varying degrees. 

That's it for now. Before closing, I would just like to strongly urge that if you must buy any KM kit, do not do so sight unseen! Inspect the kit carefully before purchasing: if the seller is at all hesitant to let you do so, walk away. If you do agree to buy sight unseen, make sure that the conclusion of the sale is contingent solely upon your satisfaction with what you have received. If that is unacceptable. . . walk away!

15 October 2012

iHobbyExpo 2012 News!

Outside looking in, this appeared to be a bit of a "weak" iHobbyExpo. Granted, there were loads of announcements, but it appears that much of what was seen--whether just released, or imminently on the horizon--was originally announced a year ago--or in the interim.

Thus there is really nothing of note to relate. The 'banner' pieces were announced in May at WonderFest. Personally, I am jonesing BIG time for Round 2's Wicked Witch of the West; with Moebius' 1/18th scale Catwoman and Batpod running a somewhat distant second.

I have a feeling we'll be getting more news in the months to come, but for now, this will suit me quite nicely. And for those who want to check things out for yourself, I can do no better than to point you in this direction. . .

14 October 2012

Knight Models' Darth Maul (KST004)

Let's face it, my run of good luck was bound to run dry when dealing with a company like Knight Models. . . At least it was the last piece I wanted for my SW collection--and given what I have found out in the last few days, the last piece I will ever buy from this manufacturer.

Enough of that. This is a superbly designed piece that captures near-perfectly the appearance of the Sith Lord at the time of his first encounter with Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn on the desert planet of Tatooine [NOTE: Maul would ignite but one blade of his saberstaff on Tatooine, hence what is depicted in this kit in canonically incorrect.]. Sculpted by the very talented KM' regular, Jérôme Renaud, it is a multi-media kit of 11 pieces (one in resin) + a small grainy-textured plinth to serve as groundwork. I would hasten to point out that my count might be off as I was shorted by (at least?) three pieces in my kit: both legs and the groundwork, as best as I can determine. I should point out that the separately-cast face (or half-head) is pristine, which might suggest that the production is being handled by someone not used to the larger (>50mm) scales. . .

So what of what I did get? As if receiving an incomplete kit wasn't bad enough, this kit harkens back to some of the earlier Marvel-series kits I've reviewed. The castings as a whole were pitted and very grainy: a considerable amount of time will be spent surface-finishing. Fit as a rule is compromised by heavy vents and sprues. There will be some reconstruction work to be done, as substandard, incompletely-filled castings were included in the kit. All in all, given the demands of this kit, this is one of the worst cast kits I have ever seen!!!

I was hoping to have this figure done by the year-end Holidays, but much will depend on how soon--if ever--I receive the replacement pieces: remember that the series has been discontinued by KM!

Updates as warranted. . .

06 October 2012

KATŌ Yoshiaki -- a reappraisal

The Yoshiaki master sculpt is essentially fine as is: there are a few spots that need some touching-up and even fewer undercuts that could be cleaner and sharper, but otherwise good-to-go.

However, the shikoro was absent from the kit, and that precipitated a mad scramble! Would I have to resculpt a brand new shikoro? Did I have an adaptable shikoro that I could cannibalize from one of the archive kits?? Being that this shikoro was sculpted specifically for this helmet, I thought it highly unlikely, but anything to avoid having to sculpt a unique shikoro from scratch for a second time!

Well, as it turns out much ado about nothing, as Jim was gracious enough to contact me immediately and affirm that it was a simple oversight on his part: I should have the shikoro by this time next week!

BUT. . . part of the mad scramble entailed poring over the references once again, to see if any of the shikoro that I did have could be suitably modified. And it was then that I came across a few images that I did not have available at the time of original sculpt.. .

Bottom line, while the mods to the kabuto will be minimal , the re-release of KATŌ Yoshiaki will depict an accurized helmet. Even though I have already painted this piece twice, third time is the charm, and I am very much looking forward to painting what will be a near-definitive rendition of this spectacular kabuto. I say "near" because I have never seen this kabuto (or anything similar) in person, and it continues to reveal mysteries once thought solved.

I will hopefully have the reworked master en route to Steve within the fortnight.

UPDATE - 18.10.2012. . . By way of update, I have just received the erstwhile-missing shikoro. Given the proximity to month-end and the demands of work, the completion of the required work will be delayed somewhat. I am still hopeful that it might be en route by month's end, but realistically I have informed Steve that it will be on its way by the week of the 11th.

BACK TO THE BENCH!!!

05 October 2012

Notable Acquisitions September 2012

KITS
All the figures this month are/were produced by Knight Models. As most of you know, the Star Wars line was discontinued earlier this Summer. With a little leg work, most can still be found at very reasonable prices--even below msrp(!); however, I have noticed that in the last fortnight or so, the prices are beginning to creep upwards of 10-15%. If you want 'em, act now!
  • Bane (~1/27 scale, "Darko")
  • Darth Vader (1/10th scale bust, Angel Terol)
  • Emperor Palpatine (~1/27 scale, Angel Terol)
  • Emperor's Royal Guard (actual size 85mm+(!), Rhee Hyun)

Emperor's Royal Guard -- Pre-prep (III)

Hit a bit of detour this week, but it was all for the best. The one-piece erstwhile undermantle, now tunic, was bisected just below the waist in order to rework the drapery of the garment, as well as accommodate what is in effect a cummerbund. The upper portion (with cummerbund) has now been permanently attached; the lower portion will probably be permanently attached as well once the drapery has been finished. 
 
The separate left panel of the mantle has been reworked and fitted. Still a bit more to do on this before it can be set aside for priming and painting: I intend to paint the interior surface first; attach; address any visible seams; re-prime; and then paint the exterior of the garment en suite
 
This weekend, I hope to have the helmet all-but-done before I begin to work on the force pike. I also hope to have an ip pic (or two) up for your appraisal.

30 September 2012

Emperor's Royal Guard -- Pre-prep (II)

By way of update, the helmet's reworked state is now roughed-in, and final fitting issues and clean-up have begun to be addressed. All that remains to be tackled is the force pike and the right forearm. Re: the latter, I may have to extend the the forearm distally, depending on how I elect to position it.

For those that have not guessed by now,  this will be part of a vignette with the figure of the Emperor Palpatine, tentatively titled, "Imperium Sith"

PS -- If anyone has this figure and would like to replace the helmet, please contact me. If I receive sufficient requests to warrant molding, I will consider it. Please note that this will require some work on the part of the end-user to adapt the helmet to the torso, but this is well-within the skillset of the average miniaturist.

29 September 2012

Knight Models' Emperor's Royal Guard -- Summation and Pre-prep

In the concluding comments to the introductory review of this piece, I pointed out three major issues that will have to be addressed:
  • the helmet
  • the force pike
  • scale/size
For the die-hards, sartorial deviations from the canon will also be apparent:
  • absence of an opening/vent on the right side of the voluminous mantle (i.e., the mantle opens on the left, not the right)
  • the presence of a purplish undermantle mirroring the crimson outer garment

Again, I am amazed at not only how this figure was sculpted; but that it was ever approved!

Last night I began my journey with this piece: I haven't generated this much dust on a com- mercial figure in a VERY long time(!), but the overall scaling issue has been successfully dealt with.

As has the ad hoc undermantle. What was Mr. Rhee thinking? IMHO, it appears that the volu- minous drapery (and by "voluminous", think bantha shelter!) was an artifice by which to add interest and depth to what would otherwise appear as a crimson-draped helmet stand! This is unimaginative showboating at its worst!! While I am glad the subject matter was done, how it
was done is a different matter altogether.

There is still quite a bit of work to be done with the erstwhile undermantle (hereafter, tunic), and its integration with the mantle, but at least the heavy grinding is behind me. 

To echo my earlier comment, I am glad that this subject was released in miniature. And in spite of all the work done and to be done, I am enjoying it very much. When it is completed, I will effectively have a one-off of an OOP figure. . .

ip pics to follow!!

27 September 2012

Knight Models' Emperor's Royal Guard (KST018)

Anybody who knows me is well aware of my passion for Royal Guard units at least through the 18th c. It should come as no surprise then that I would eventually acquire KM's rendition of Emperor Palpatine's hand-picked, personal unit.


The "history" of this elite unit can be found in any number of places on-line, so let's get straight to the matter at hand. This figure was sculpted by Rhee Hyun, who, if you recall, also sculpted The Destroyer in KM's Marvel series. Unfortunately, Mr. Rhee's work in his first commission for KM leaves much to be desired. In fact, the real questions here are: 1) why did KM feel compelled to release this figure? And 2), why did Lucasfilm approve it??

The figure is cast in 5 pcs. + a rectangular plinth (base). It is essentially a resin figure, with 2 white metal "accessories": the helmet and the right forearm-force pike unit. The design (i.e., engineering) is very well conceived, and the resin casting, while hardly state of the art, is actually quite good. The metal casting. . . not so much.

Actually, the castings themselves are fine. What is inexplicable to me is the severe distortion in the helmet, and the design of the force pike. This figure is but a couple of years old, and there is a cornucopia of references--on-line and in-print--for this iconic weapon. Needless to say, I will be scratch-building a replacement force pike!

But back to the helmet. I would like to blame the production team for the grotesque distortion, but given the clean casting and the seamless fit of the same to the torso, some (most?) of the blame must lie with Mr. Rhee. Again. . . what references, if any, did he use? Even if we were to disregard the apparent distortion, the lines of the helmet are inexplicably wrong! Is he familiar with helmets with extended, attached bevors? Or. . . did he understand that this was an inflexible piece of equipment?? As with the force pike, this piece will be extensively reworked.

Finally, there is the question of scale. We all know that KM purports that their lines are done to 1/27th scale, or roughly 70mm. We've also seen countless examples of deviations from this--but none as severe as this: this figure is 80mm to the eyes/visor, with an overall height of close to 90mm! I have already begun to reduce the height, but am still short (tall?) of my goal.

What with the helmet, the force pike, and the scaling issues, this will be a rather involved recla- mation. Which is fine by me, as the end results should more than justify the time and effort invested!

Stay tuned!!

26 September 2012

Emperor Palpatine (III) - Final Finishing 1

The throne is now "assembled": the canopy will be permanently attached before the end of the weekend, and the pedestal has been fitted and provisionally pegged. The permanent mounting peg will be attached once the ventral side of the throne and the dorsal side of the pedestal are painted.

Once the canopy is permanently attached, I will closely examine the contours of throne and make corrections as needed. I may have to hit it with a couple of coats of Mr. Surfacer to make sure there are no flaws in the assembly seams: remember, the throne will be metallic!

So far, so good! I am certainly pleased with what is now before me, and am looking forward to the next few steps. . .

25 September 2012

Knight Models. . . Open Editions

It has been announced here that KM will be discontinuing its limited edition format: all new releases henceforth will be open editions.

This raises a boatload of questions--for starters. . .
  • Will we see a noticeable drop in the msrp?
  • Will molds be replaced with greater frequency?
  • Will the high-end packaging remain the same?

Some/all of these--more?!--may have already be broached on the Spanish Team forum, but it is regrettably down at the moment. And as we have come to expect, there is no formal announce- ment on KM's Facebook page as of yet.

I have been noticing moderate scale-backs in this manufacturer's lines since virtually Day 1. Not a bad thing per se, so long as the standards for what the consumer is purchasing are not com- promised: how a product is marketed is always negotiable; the quality of the product should never be! Having said that, with the collectibility aspect off the table, what can we expect in the future? Obviously, time will tell. . .

FOLLOW-UP - 23.01.2013. . .  Well, in regard to the third question, the answer is, not surprisingly, a resounding NO! The kits are now packaged in a cardboard box, sandwiched between high-density foam (see here). Arguably, they should have taken this approach from the outset.

The woes re: this company far outweigh the kudos. . . and it's not getting any better. As I mentioned before:
"I would just like to strongly urge that if you must buy any KM kit, do not do so sight unseen! Inspect the kit carefully before purchasing: if the seller is at all hesitant to let you do so, walk away. If you do agree to buy sight unseen, make sure that the conclusion of the sale is contingent solely upon your satisfaction with what you have received. If that is unacceptable. . . walk away!"
Vale!

23 September 2012

Emperor Palpatine (III) - Final Finishing

Let the final finishing begin!!!. . .

This will be slow, methodical pre-prime prep. . . but if done right, it should make painting a breeze! If not, prepare yourself for a galaxy's worth of aggravation, especially as the throne itself will have a metallic finish!

The first step is finalizing the fit of the canopy to the throne. This piece was not very well designed, as the poor fit attests. I have been working on it all along, making the most of what had been provided: the time has come to actually make it work.

While the left side is acceptable with a moderate amount of effort, the right side is not even close! As can be seen in the initial post, the edges simply do not--will not!--meet. This will require multiple putty sessions that will effectively re-contour the upper-right terminal end of the throne itself and allow it to flow seamlessly into the corresponding area of the canopy.

More to follow. . .

18 September 2012

Emperor Palpatine (II)

With the lion's share of the assembly work completed, this is actually more of an update than a new "step". In no particular order. . .
  • The backpad is now all-but done. There is still some finishing and tweaking to do, but close enough to deem it a fait accompli.
  •  The figure is likewise all but done. I still need to enhance the left shoulder, but otherwise it's all about finishing (more at finalizing the fit to the throne) and final clean-up.
  • The major work has revolved around the fitting of the pedestal to the throne. I can't complain much about what was provided, but it needs to be a more defined fit so that the figure rests properly in its seat. I might need to modify the feet a tad so that there is positive and uniform contact with the ground.  
Images coming soon. . .

FOLLOW-UP - 22.09.2012. . . 
  • Left shoulder and right forearm enhanced.
  • Throne partially filled with MS. This is to enhance structural stability as well as provided a broader base of adhesion for figure.
  • Figure fitted and shimmed to throne.
Once the putty is cured, final finishing can begin in earnest!

Almost there. . .

15 September 2012

Emperor Palpatine (I)

The throne--minus canopy, pedestal and backpad--is now assembled. Yes, it went together intuitively and without much guesswork. And yes, the finishing, etc. will be extensive, depending on where the perfection needle settles on your personal scale. As I said, a transitional example in the evolution of production quality [control] at KM.

I have also roughed-in a new backpad for the throne: MS over a filler/backing of clay. After having modeled the salient features, etc., I believe this is a critical addition if you are to get the most of your presentation. Not really knowing how it would turn out, this has now become a two, maybe three, step addition that I hope to have done by end of day tomorrow.

As with Doom, the throne is seat-less: the figure fits into the sides of the throne. Unlike Doom, the fit is positive and secure, and there will be significantly less putty-shimming required. To ensure that I maximized the fit, I assembled the torso of the figure to the legs, and the right arm to the torso, as well as temporarily attaching the head to the torso: the figure now not only snaps into to the sides of the throne, but the backpad as well.  

So far, so good. If you were to ask me the main difference between this piece and Doom, I would say that this piece is all about the modelling, how detail-oriented you might be/are, and much time you are willing to invest in realizing your vision of the piece. Doom, on the other hand, was a full-blown reclamation that demanded a near-complete re-engineering after the fact.

More to follow. . .

FOLLOW-UP. . . I have permanently attached the head to the torso, and completed most of the filling, etc. on the right side of the body. I would hasten to point out that this is more at area "enhancements" than any real filling: the fit is actually quite good. But I wanted a little more volume and dimensionality to the axillary and shoulder area of the mantle, as well as the area below the sash on the under-tunic.

FOLLOW-UP #2 - 16.09.2012. . .  A productive day. . . 
  • Left arm permanently attached and fitted: enhanced as per the right arm. The figure is now ready to be finished and have the fitting shims applied.
  • Backpad in finishing stages. It should be noted that the back- pad was extended into the canopy area per the original.
  • Finishing work has begun on the throne itself. There is a lot of work to be done, but it can easily be broken down into multiple 1-2 hr. sessions.

13 September 2012

Emperor Palpatine, Ep VI - RotJ (KST021)

Released last September, sculpted by Angel Terol, this is the SW' series counterpart to my old Marvel fave, Dr. Doom. While similar, the shortcomings are nowhere near as dramatic--or depressing, and the casting quality of the white metal pieces is vastly improved.

This is a mixed-media kit: the figure itself is cast in white metal (9 pieces), while the throne is cast in 7 PUR resin pieces. While the casting of the resin pieces had definitely improved, it strikes me that this was more due to the engineering of the throne, the quality of the resin, and the absence of any "medium sharing" between the two major sub-components (figure and throne), than any effort on the part of the caster. In fact, the backpad of the throne is conspicuous by being cast in the buff-coloured resin, and this is the worst piece in the kit(!): it will [have to] be resculpted.

Assembly of the throne is fairly straightforward, though I strongly suggest to break out the blu-tack and/or clay, and dry-fit thoroughly! The fit is anything but precise, but the throne's angularity is very forgiving, and filling and dressing the joins should proceed easily. The worst aspect of the throne, aside from the backpad, will be the canopy. The back of the throne will require a slight reduction for the canopy to fit: this was not even addressed in the boxart sample!


I suggest availing yourself of the readily available on-line graphic references.

I would deem this a transition figure for KM. It had not attained state-of-the-art production standards, but the improvements evinced are significant and notably obvious. I can certainly live with them... 

Knight Models: Star Wars vs. Marvel -- A Comparison

My SW mini-collection has been acquired, and I have been extremely fortunate: 2 of the three kits were in the first 100 castings respectively, and the third was in the mid 300's. 

A more detailed, kit-specific review will follow for each when the time comes; but I would like to share some initial first impressions...

I had heard through friends and colleagues, commenting on my tirades about the deplorable casting quality of the Marvel offerings, that while their experience with the Marvel pieces was similar to varying degrees, they were generally very pleased with their Star Wars pieces. And now as the owner of three of the latter, I would have to say they were spot on! Let's take the oldest piece of the lot, an all-metal casting. A Marvel piece approximately midway through the second half of the edition would have seen me apoplectic! And yet this piece, while showing some of the "scars" and degradation of a deteriorating mold, was more than acceptable and surprisingly clean! So much so that I am considering whether to do him as the original subject and take a pass on the conversion!

The remaining two pieces are mixed-media. Fortunately, the majority of both kits is cast in the earlier formulation of the grey PUR. While not as "clean" as the current formulation, it is a monu- mental improvement over the buff-coloured disasters I had experienced with the Marvel pieces to date! In fact, I had resigned myself to a considerable amount of work (alla Dr. Doom) on one of the kits, especially after reading numerous illustrated reviews and sbs's of the piece-in-question on-line, where the medium used was the buff-coloured resin. As it turns out, all that concern, at least as of this writing, was for naught. And I would also add that the metal portions of the kits are surprisingly clean and "true", some of the best I've seen from KM!

Did KM use a different caster for the respective lines? Why the seeming indifference towards the Marvel line--which ironically they kept?! Why weren't they more forthcoming/transparent with their travails and contre-temps in the early goings??? And why wasn't the fan/consumer base more demanding, taking them to task and holding them accountable???? As a brief aside, the same could--and SHOULD!!!--be said for the licensors!

Obviously, I've been burned too many times to offer a blanket endorsement to one line over the other. Having said that, if you want to indulge your space fantasy cravings while these pieces
are still affordably available, I would say, "Why not???!!!" Proceed with caution, but definitely proceed!

12 September 2012

"Loyaulte me lie"

I  rarely venture into the historical on this blog, but this is a momentous occasion of monumental historical significance. . .

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-19575558
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-19561018


Remember before God
RICHARD III, KING OF ENGLAND
and those who fell at Bosworth Field,

having kept faith,
22 August 1485
 

LOYAULTE ME LIE
 

10 September 2012

Sith. . . Order of the Dark

I am an "average" Star Wars (hereafter SW) fan: loved Eps IV and V, was conflicted about Ep VI, and could very easily have done without the prequel trilogy (Eps. I-III). Before the hue and cry is raised, let me just say that I have begun to gain a growing appreciation for Ep VI (still don't like Ewoks or the closing), and the prequel trilogy.

That being said, this, to include the Expanded Universe, is an unequivocally rich, deep, multi-layered mythology, which like the LotR, can be approached at many levels. And in the last fort- night, I have taken my first-steps into the sub-layers of the Galaxy.

And as I am wont to do, I have begun to canvas the availability and selection of SW miniatures to amplify the scope of my enjoyment. Unless I am willing to purchase one or more of the diverse selection of available [large scale] pre-paints on the market with the purpose of stripping, possi- bly modifying, and re-painting, I am pretty much limited to Knight Models' remaining 70mm offer- ings--or sculpting them myself. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. . . (No, I have no intention at this time to knead putty in this direction, but there are certain organically/"live" armoured depictions that are most enticing. . . )

As some of you might recall, KM allowed their SW' license to lapse earlier this Summer (see here): the entire line was subsequently discontinued. As I posted earlier, this means that what- ever is out there is the last we'll see of these pieces outside of eBay. That they let their license lapse was not entirely surprising, as it appeared to me--and this has been confirmed by a number of retailers--the SW line was the poorer selling of the then-2. Which is relatively good news for those trying to make up for lost time--myself included!

In the days, weeks and months to come, I will begin to develop a very limited SW collection re- volving around the sub-theme of the Sith Lords, in particular those associated with the former Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader. I hope you will join me, and that the more well-versed of the read- ership will chime in with encouragement or constructive criticism, as the situation demands.

"May the Force serve us well."

09 September 2012

From Bane to Kane. . . Solomon that is. . .

I was finally able to see this highly anticipated film (see here) last night! No, not at the cinema; but at home on PPV!!

I have never understood why this film was not released in the US! It has received both critical and popular acclaim from the UK and overseas markets, and in my most humble opinion, it is one of the best cinematic adaptations of a pulp-era S&S character I have ever seen! But perhaps Variety's review is indicative of the limited, and perhaps misplaced, perspective of the US market. . .

In step with the recent parade of three-parters, this is the first of a proposed trilogy. While I sincerely hope plans for the other two are still in the works, I am afraid all we will ever get to see is the origins prequel, if you will. This is our set-up film, with the source material, if memory serves, remaining largely untapped.

As such, it was plausible, well paced, and above all, enjoyable! In fact, my only complaints about this film were the appearance of the Union Flag on a vessel in the beginning (the movie opens in 1600; the UF would not be unfurled for another six years!) and the hasty, canned ending. Quite anti-climactic! It was as if somebody had abruptly pulled the plug on the production--or the director simply lost steam.

As I said, this movie was highly enjoyable, and if you are a fan of the genre, it is highly recommended!

08 September 2012

Knight Models Bane (KBDKR002)

Admittedly, I have had TDKR on the brain, what with working on the Pod, etc. So, after doing my due diligence, researching the feasibility of what I had in mind, I broke down and ordered Bane, my first DC offering from KM. Chuck was kind enough to have it on its way to me before leaving for the DC (the District, not the comic) Show this weekend.

The piece arrived yesterday, and all in all I am quite impressed! KM still has a ways to go in the casting dept., especially at the prices they are charging, but we are definitely long past the "do I really want to open this package/do this figure" angst that was part and parcel of the first few days after receiving their latest. But more on the casting later. . .

The figure was sculpted by "Darko". Who Darko might be is beyond me, but a talented sculptor he (she?) is. The detail work is sublime-- it's a shame that the castings don't quite make the most of it!

The kit is relatively simple: 5 pieces + a perfunctory, nondescript, kidney-shaped plinth/base. Either KM or DC really dropped the ball re: the latter, especially as the design of the figure is taken from a setting-specific, iconic moment in the film. Given the price on these pieces, we should have received the full treatment!

The pieces are cast in the medium grey resin that is the preferred PUR in the EU [nb: this is the first non-enhanced scale KM figure that I have seen cast in resin. AFAIC, it's a very good call!]. Though somewhat on the soft side, the retention of detail is superb! Unfortunately, the caster either uses unassisted (gravity) casting; or doesn't know how to lay-out a mold or how to vent it: there is an unacceptable number of air-bubbles, and a noticeable mold shift. As best I can tell, it appears that they used a split mold for the figure, where a two-piece mold would have provided much better precision and more control. I would give this casting a B/B+ rating. Insofar as fit is concerned, it would have been excellent if not for the accumulation of mold-release in critical areas.

All in all, with the aforementioned reservations in mind, I would heartily recommend this piece.

Off to the bench with more to follow. . .

FOLLOW-UP - 08.09.2012. . . It was a long and productive night. . . good times!

First of all, the arms have been permanently attached and the joins filled: despite concerns regarding casting and fit, a moderate amount of effort, along with thorough pre-assembly prep, will yield exceptional results. It truly is a great looking piece! The only downside is due to the relative softness of the resin, you will have to be extra-careful when mixing your putty AND let it cure at room temperature. Plan accordingly!

And now for the fun part! The iconic accessory piece that provides the title of this self-contained vignette is about 60% done. Finishing and detailing will continue until it is ready to be attached to the groundwork (more on this in a future posting), but it looks "right".

Stay tuned!

FOLLOW-UP #2. . . The mold shift along the inner right leg has now been addressed (filling, not filing!), and once the putty cures, the figure should be ready for final assembly.

UPDATE - 10.09.2012. . . The figure is now completely filled and assembled save for the head; and the legs have been tapped to receive their mounting "pegs". All that remains to be done is final finishing and mounting. This concludes the introductory prep phase of this project.

06 September 2012

2012 Status Report -- Pre-Fall Update

It's time for the post-Summer/pre-Fall update. . .

There are a lot of projects underway, most at a [VERY] low simmer. But the following are the one's that, as of this writing, should be neck-in-neck by year's end:

1) Divio "Mad Dog" Juckal [SP vârcolac] (Smart Max 'Smog 1888')
2) "Moondirge" (Maelstrom Games: BaneBeasts, ???)
3) "Broken" (Knight Models, 72mm)
4) "Imperial Sith" (vignette[?], Knight Models, ~1/27th scale)
 
The only good thing to be said is that I don't believe there will be a year-end crunch with a mad-dash for the 7-weeks-away deadline that is the annual Atlanta Show this year. I am done jumping through those hoops, so most of these projects will simply be mine to enjoy--every step of the way!

As always, subject--and still quite likely--to change.

Back to the bench!!

A~

05 September 2012

Notable Acquisitions August 2012

KITS
Knight Models The Incredible Hulk (3 options) (~1/27 scale, "Jeromme" [Jérôme Renaud?])
Tartar Miniatures  Zombie Knight (1/9th scale bust, Sergey Savenkov)

03 September 2012

Batpod (Moebius) - Update #2

I took advantage of the long holiday weekend to spend some quality time at the bench with no particular goal in mind: just relax and enjoy. To this end, I spent most of the afternoon reac- quainting myself with the 'Pod and moving ever-so-closer to priming. I actually thought I might be able to get it primed today, but haste makes waste.

The first thing I did was attach the CO2 cartridges to either munition cluster. Once the joins were stable, I proceeded to "backfill" the munitions clusters with MS. There is still some final finishing to be done, mostly sanding, but the clusters are effectively done.

In order to ensure as near-perfect alignment as possible, I decided to assemble the major sub- assemblies. In short, I now have a stand-alone chassis--minus the handlebars, tires, and the right munitions cluster. As most of the vehicle is black, painting an essentially assembled model is not a source of major concern: the only tricky part will be painting the left munitions cluster silver, but careful masking and judicious touch-up and weathering should make short work of this.

I can now begin to think about cabling and painting.

Stay tuned. . .

26 August 2012

HULK SMASH! -- Update #2

This project is a two-figure vignette. Whereas the main figure--the Hulk--is basically a slightly reanimated stock kit, the second figure will be an original sculpt . . .  and it is the latter that I have been working on, as time permits, over the course of the last week.

To date, I have roughed-out a mannequin (dry-assembled using 16ga. copper wire at the joins to freely allow for articulation); however, I am now at an impasse: do I stick with the canonical scale of the second figure; or do I try to go for a greater visual impact using a smaller scale?

I have all but decided to go with the smaller scale. The canonical scale would upset the balance and flow of the scene, creating two primary elements that would effectively "compete" with each other.

Back to the bench!

FOLLOW-UP - 27.08.2012. . . I believe I have reached an ideal compromise. While definitely opting for a smaller-scale mannequin, the reduction still falls within the canonical height for both the Hulk and the current object of his rage. It is decidedly larger than the depiction in the inspirational source, but I have always felt that the Hulk was oversized in that source. 

22 August 2012

Daimyō, Edo Jidai -- Research/Reference hiatus

My copy of Armures du Japon: 100 pièces sélectionnées dans la collection de la Fondation Kōzu de Kyōtō, edited by Robert Burawoy, from whence our subject's helmet was taken (no. 43, p. 74), arrived last week, and I couldn't be happier! This is a handsome book that fills in some notable lacunae in the reference library. . . as well as opening some very discreet routes of exploration. But before getting on with the matter at hand, I would be remiss if I did not praise the good people at the publisher, ToriiLinks Editions: their service and follow-up/ customer service is simply superb! Given the quality of their publications, I am fairly certain I will be soon availing myself of their services again.

As I mentioned in my initial posting, I believe the very broad-brushed dating for this figure has been based on the provenance of the kabuto. Regrettably I am unable to be precise in the dating, but I am fairly comfortable in asserting that this is an early Edo-period kabuto: say absolutely no later than 1650, and more likely ca. 1625, give or take. My reasons are, admittedly, predominantly circumstantial. 

It would appear that though the sculptor might have done his research, he failed to convey to the painter one critical aspect of the kabuto: the fish-tail crest is silver-leafed! He also did not include the maedate-tsunamoto, which will be easy enough to correct.

Admittedly, the helmet could be simply [loosely] based on this example, but it then begs the question as to why the description in the refsheet is copied from that in the "source" practically verbatim! And while certainly not the path of least resistance, wouldn't a bright, polished silver kabuto be much more appealing? To say nothing of eye-catching and a point of interest??

Obviously, I will be doing mine in silver. The question now is whether to leaf it, or simulate a leafed finish with lacquer?

19 August 2012

Chivalry is not dead! It is undead. . .

SUBJECT: Zombie Knight
MANUFACTURER: Tartar Miniatures
ITEM #: TRB200-33
SCALE: 1/9 (200mm)
CASTING MEDIUM: PUR
# of PIECES: 1
Sculptor: Sergey Savenkov
REFERENCES: N/A

KIT REVIEW: I always liked TM's European Knight, l. 14th-e. 15th c. (TRB200-22), but as you might imagine, while it was well done, it fell short of the mark for me. Nine months later, the sculptor of the historical bust has provided us with a medieval zombie (actually, a revenant) par excellence! And the brush-work of the most talented Sergey Popovichenko put this one well beyond the reach of most mortal painters!!! What can I say? I love a challenge!

As a one-piece bust, there is really not much to review. And there is no pedestal either! This is not a deal breaker for me, as I tend to rework--or resculpt!--most of the pedestals supplied with busts, but I mention this in the interest of full-disclosure to those who might take the inclusion of such a piece for granted. I have already sculpted a pedestal for our reanimated man-at-arms.

Casting quality is VG. Air bubbles are relatively numerous, but none of these are in critical areas. In fact, you might want to carefully deliberate whether or not to fill the holes on a per item basis: this is after all, a revenant!

All in all, if you want to challenge your painting skill-set, in whatever medium, I can enthusiastically recommend this release. Hopefully I will have some time at the bench in the relatively near future when I can begin to bring this piece back from its peaceful rest. . .

17 August 2012

HULK SMASH! -- Update

This kit is proving to be a delight to work on! Yes, there are a fair number of errant air bubbles, but these are well-defined and easy to remedy. KM's resin caster still has not gotten the hang of avoiding mold-shifts, but on this kit, they are but a couple of significant ones and they are easily handled. On the plus side, the resin is a pleasure to work; and save for the stepped mold shifts, the seams are virtually non-existent!

By way of update, I have separated the the groundwork from the assembled body: it was molded with the leg unit. I have pegged the head and the right fist, as these will undergo some minor re- positioning  [UPDATE: I have "opened" the right fist, allowing for a wider grip. The resin responds to heat better than just about any- thing I've ever used!]. I have also pegged both legs (though I have yet to permanently attach the pegs) and mounted the figure on its work base. Finally, the left arm is now ready to be permanently attached once I finish reworking the waist of the pants. . . but more on this later.

16 August 2012

Knight Models' The Incredible Hulk (3-Options) (KMV031)

Just received this kit (36/500) from Chuck at The Red Lancers. I've never been much of a Hulk fan until relatively recently with my introduction to Greg Pak's Planet Hulk and World War Hulk--and, of course, Mark Ruffalo's character-defining role in The Avengers.

This is KM's second Hulk release. The first one was classic Marvel, and sold out relatively quickly. I thought at the time, "Ah well. . . win some, lose some." I really wasn't too heartbroken about it, as I was less enamored of the figure than I was to have a representation of the Hulk in this manageable scale; and my conversations with people that had it were less than "glowing"--particularly about the casting quality.

I had no idea that I would get a second chance quite so quickly. This version of the Green Goliath is actually a 3-in-1: you have the option to build him as the Green, Red or Grey Hulk, depending on which head you choose; and it includes two sets of mix and match hands.

Hmmm. . . so far, so good. . . except for the price! At just under US$100.00, this is definitely--almost egregiously--overpriced! You are paying almost 50% more than a standard kit for two heads and two hands that you simply cannot use!! I will say this though: this figure is more at 90mm than the usual 65-75mm "scale" of the "normal" pieces, and it is all resin.

In any event, the pain ends there, for what you get  is pretty damn good! The sculpting is excellent; and the casting and fit are VG++ -- a solid B++/A -.

So much for the thumbnail review. I will add to this as the situation warrants; and elaborate a bit further when I post the first shots of the assembled kit: I have already joined the torso to the legs unit.

Until then. . . 

12 August 2012

Batpod (Moebius) - Update

While there still remains loads to do, all the subassemblies have been completed (or as complete as my planning will allow), save for the Handlebars Assembly (Step 4). In short, the kit is just about ready to be given the once over, cleaned, primed, re-inspected, and painted.

In spite of all the shortcomings listed to date, this has been a very fun kit to do! And the best is yet to come as they say. If nothing else, it has allowed me to recapture the joys of modelling; and as a secondary benefit, it has been a most enjoyable preview to the 1/18th scale version tbr later this year.

Stay tuned. . .

FOLLOW-UP - 13.08.2012. . . I have just dry-fitted the three major subassemblies, and I must say I'm delighted! Alignment is not--will not be--an issue, though permanent attachment will require care and patience, and most likely will benefit from repeated dry-runs. Finding a way to "lock" the wheels will also help immensely.

The worst is now over. There are multiple prepping sessions ahead of me until the kit is ready for priming, but all in good time. . .

10 August 2012

Reference: Batpod Kit Pitfalls to be Avoided

This will be an ongoing list of pitfalls inherent in the kit that frankly should have been caught in the test-shot phase, but apparently were overlooked, or - at worst - disregarded:
  • Step 1B -- The hollowed tube on the rt. frame half to which the front chassis connector tube is attached will need to be reduced in length to accommodate the latter--nowhere is this mentioned in the instructions! BUT. . . if you make the front chassis connector tube fit flush against the frame as apparently designed. . . 
  • Step 1C -- . . . the shock absorber will not fit correctly: it should be parallel to the frame. You will have to 1) pre-assemble the shock absorber and bracket; 2) remove the locating peg on the bracket; 3) glue the distal end of the shock absorber to its mounting hole on the left side frame brace; and 4) shift the bracket mount laterally towards the left of the locator hole, checking its location by dry-fitting the engine cover. You will then have to fill the exposed locator hole.
  • Step 1D -- The lower surfaces of the engine cover are angular, straight edges that begin right where the seam lines are! If you clean the seam lines, you eliminate the distinctive lines of the cover. Proceed with caution. 
  • Steps 2 & 3 -- The one-piece wheels have splines that center the tire on the same. The problem is that since the tires are a plasticky vinyl, the splines gouge into the sidewall. Apparently, one is supposed to heat the tires to avoid this (not mentioned in the instructions!); but most on-line discussions recommend removing the splines altogether. I have already done this, but also intend to warm the tires (with hair dryer) before sliding them onto the wheels (nb: 15-30 seconds under a hair dryer set on high works like a charm!).
  • Step 2 -- The munitions clusters on either side of the front wheel are hollow cast. Granted, this is relatively insignificant given the size of the tires; but at the right angle, or upon close scrutiny, all the points racked-up by your hard work will vanish in a micro-second! I strongly suggest covering with sheet plastic, or filling with your favorite epoxy putty (I will probably do the latter).
  • Step 3B -- The brake pedal. This one doesn't quite make sense--nor does it gibe with the reference photos of the actual vehicle. First of all, the brake pedal should be on the right--if it were an English "bike", OK; but not an American bike. Secondly, all the refshots suggest that this is a textured shim (adjustable?) for the ball of the foot; not an operational component. Finally, the right foot rest is shorter by design. Why? Because the toe "cup" which is the actual brake pedal makes up the balance of the rest's length. I hope that I am right about this as I have already begun the corrections. . .
Check back often as I will add to the list as warranted. . .

Notable Acquisitions July 2012

FIGURES/KITS
DC Direct Black Lantern Batman MB (1/8th[?] scale, Jean St Jean)
Hasbro Marvel Avengers Hulk (Wal-Mart exclusive "AF")
Moebius Models The Bride of Frankenstein (2 figs.; 1/8th scale, Jeff Yagher) -- SUPERB!
Moebius Models The Dark Knight Bat-pod (1/25th scale)

Batpod (Moebius)

With the then-forthcoming release of TDKR, Christopher Nolan's third installment in the Batman/Dark Knight trilogy, I finally broke-down and purchased Moebius' 1/25th scale Batpod (no. 920). Announced in 2010 (if I'm not mistaken), and released in Fall 2011, this is a petite gem of a kit!

The operative word here is "petite": this is not a kit for the ham-fisted or impatient. Comprised of 49 pieces (47 injection-molded black polystyrene + 2 vinyl tires) exquisitely cast, there is an abundance of fine detailing and assembly intricacies that will bring to the fore every modelling caveat you have ever heard (e.g., dry-fit to the nth, glue once!)! Having said that, there is no rider: Moebius has announced, but has yet to release, what at one time was a four-figure set that has now been reduced to two, one of them being Batman in a prostrate riding position. Personally, this is neither here nor there for me, as I don't think the figures will be state of the art, and will very likely detract from the model, unless one is willing to to invest a considerable amount of time effectively retro-fitting the figure to the 'pod.

The instructions are indisputably thorough and well-presented; however, successful assembly will require a moderate amount of modelling experience and intuition, to say nothing of extensive dry-fitting--at the very least the Skill Level 3 assigned by the manufacturer. Painting instructions are "light", but fortunately the Web in conjunction with the movies will provide all that you might need.

It is more than acceptably accurate--screen and otherwise. I had the opportunity to see one of the movie 'pods in person during this Summer's "Tumbler Tour", and this compares VERY favorably. Certainly as good as you could hope for the price and scale. In fact, this looks decidedly better than the TBR 1/18th scale version with Selina Kyle! I am hoping that the final production version far outshines the prototypes!!

As a final note, there is ample room for embellishment! Not structurally, but rather points of detail familiar to all vehicle modellers: cabling, wiring, etc. etc.

I am still working my way through sub-assembly 1 (Chassis assembly): I am hoping to have this completed and ready for priming by next weekend. UPDATE - 11.08.2012. . . The chassis assembly has been completed. There are still 3 pieces to be attached but this will wait until the wheel subassemblies are completed and everything can be lined up before glue is applied.

More to follow. . .

PS--While this is little more than wishful thinking at this point, I am hoping that Knight Models releases a Batpod with the consumer's choice of Batman or Selina as the rider. . . AND that they make the figure/s available separately! One can dream. . .

08 August 2012

Daimyō, Edo Jidai -- Pre-prep: Molding Interlude (II)

Rather than add yet another update/follow-up to the existing post and risk it being overlooked, a stand-alone notification that the resin arrived today and I now have a a perfect casting of the full left arm! I do so love fresh resin!!

The project can now resume in earnest. The only mod to the full arm will be the replacement/reworking of the cut-down haft of the yari with/into a saihai. This portion of the conversion is still very much on the drawing board. . .

More to follow. . .

UPDATE - 09.08.2012. . . By way of a quick update, the pour sprues and vents have been removed and finished, and the arm fits perfectly!

I am leaning toward removing the cut-down haft completely, and building a complete saihai from scratch.

03 August 2012

Holy licensing!!! -- UPDATE

On 3 March I posted the following:

Though it had been rumored for some time, this weekend's Scale Modelling Fair in Leganés (SP) was the setting of one of the most anticipated "reveals" in the biz: Knight Models has acquired the DC and the LotR licenses!

http://www.spanish-team.com/foro/viewtopic.php?t=10445&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=1218

Let's see what you do with 'em, caballeros! Hopefully, the new product lines will inspire improved production and QC values!!

PS--No word on the future status of the Marvel and/or Star Wars product lines.
 

By way of update, it appears that the quo for the DC and LOTR quid (literally and figuratively!) was the Star Wars product line: this line has been discontinued by the manufacturer.

From their FB page (posted 15 July):

There have been several questions lately regarding the future of the our Star Wars line. After a lengthy evaluation, Knight Models has decided not to renew the Star Wars license with Lucasfilm. We’ve had a long and fantastic run, but with the economic downturn, we have made the tough decision to discontinue our Star Wars lines and extend the licenses we work with new products as the LOTR , DC, BATMAN films, MARVEL and more.

The license has officially ends
[sic] ,while I know the news is disappointing, we wanted to make this announcement as soon as possible and thank you for being such great fans. It’s been a fantastic ride with the Star Wars community and working with Lucasfilm and you never know when we may circle back again!.

Knightmodels Team


If you want 'em, best get 'em while you can!

01 August 2012

Daimyō, Edo Jidai -- Pre-prep: Molding Interlude

The arm is now bedded in clay and the mold frames should be up by the end of the day. The timing is just about perfect, as I can check everything tomorrow, and maybe even pour the first half of the mold, though I have that scheduled for Friday. Regardless, the mold should be finished by the end of the weekend.

On the reference front, I am awaiting the arrival of my copy of Armures du Japon: 100 pièces sélectionnées dans la collection de la Fondation Kōzu de Kyōtō, edited by Robert Burawoy, from whence our subject's helmet was taken. I have admired this reference from afar since it was first published in 2005, and I am very much looking forward to spending some quality time with it. Even if the helmet in question is given a rather short shrift, there is the amazingly spectacular Mori gusoku gracing the cover!

UPDATE - 03.08.2012. . . Just completed pouring the second half of the mold! As my day is pretty much spoken for tomorrow, I will demold tomorrow night or Sunday. . . and if the gods are in good humor, I might have a casting for the left arm by the end of the weekend. . . ! 

FOLLOW-UP - 05.08.2012. . .Or not. . . The mold came out great! It was the first-time using a Smooth-On RTV silicone product, so I had some newbie jitters; but it was all for naught! However, my slow-set casting resins had all given-up the ghost!! The best that can be said is that the trial casting I made indicated that once I get fresh resin, I can proceed with the project with nary a worry.