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!"

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. . .


Remember before God
and those who fell at Bosworth Field,

having kept faith,
22 August 1485


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!!


05 September 2012

Notable Acquisitions August 2012

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. . .