Saturday, October 29, 2011


This is what happens when I watch a western on TV, specifically Tombstone, the one with Kurt Russell, Michael Biehn, and Val Kilmer - I root around in my closet and find a bunch of Western figures.

A Bad Guy's view of the Andreas 54mm Wyatt Earp.

'Tother Wyatt Earp out on the street in front of the saloon, with a couple of locals hanging out on the porch watching him shoot. The guy in the chair is supposed to be the marshal (he's wearing a badge, anyway) but he seems remarkably casual about the whole thing. Never mind the enormous thumbnail on the left. We can edit that out in post-production. His hat, being composed entirely of super glue, is harder than titanium.

The marshal and his deputy hanging around in front of the saloon. The marshal is a 54mm Andreas figure, while the deputy is a 54mm Streets of Laredo figure. They're both excellent figures too, but the chair was a bitch to assemble, and I never did get all the leg spreaders installed. The deputy (he's really the "No Mercy" gunfighter figure) was the motivation for the scratchbuilt building facade; he's sculpted leaning against a wall, and thus I had to build him a wall to lean against. I intentionally built the building facade a little out of square and a little non-uniform, and was deliberately messy with the painting. This is Jericho we're talking about, dag nabbit, not New York City.

I find it immensely amusing that I painted the marshal's shirt with RAF dark green, and his pants with RAF light earth.

Shootout at the Schizophrenic Stable

Two men in a gunfight both claim to be Wyatt Earp. At least one of them is lying. Worse, they're both wearing the same hat!

Here we have two 54mm takes on Wyatt Earp. The one on the left (double-wielding) is white metal from Miniaturas Andreas; the one on the right is resin from Warriors. They're both excellent figures with nice dynamic poses and big, easy-to-paint mustaches. I lost the right-hand Wyatt's hat somewhere along the line and made a replacement using the old modeling clay and super glue plunge mold method using the left-hand Wyatt's hat as a master. Perhaps the business of having to share one hat made them cranky and led to the showdown; who knows?

They're posed in front of an Old West photo backdrop I made out of random scraps of wood. I still haven't gotten around to making a knob for the door. Doh.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Long Johns

Fig 1: Long John of the genus Monogrammus Nostalgicus Ressiue

Fig 2: Another view of the Long John

Fig 3: A Long John of the genus Pastrius Yummius Chocolatum

Dragster kits don't get much simpler than the Monogram reissue of the vintage Long John slingshot. It's all quite basic - the entire kit has fewer parts than just the blower on most modern Top Fuel dragsters. But it's still fun, and recalls those heady days of the late 1960s when models could sometimes be assembled with a hammer and nails. The main point of interest, probably, is the inclusion of really nice resin tires with press-in white sidewalls. They fit perfectly on the kit wheels and are much easier to sand flat than vinyl tires. A little Bare Metal Foil on the hub cabs (or are they "wheel covers" these days") is all they need.

As for the other Long John... I'm on a diet and can only gaze upon it longingly.

Stop The Panthers

Everyone has a favorite modeling genre, I'm sure. I have many; I've never developed any kind of modeling discipline and tend to build pretty much everything, meaning that I never get really good at anything. And I'm sure that everyone has a specific subject that they've always wanted to see in kit form, or maybe in the form of a new kit. I would, for example, pay heavily for a 1/25th scale kit of a Euclid 1LLD mining dump truck, or a 1/72nd scale M42 Duster, or a large-scale motocross motorcycle, preferably a works Suzuki as ridden by Roger DeCoster or a works Husqvarna as ridden by Heikki Mikkola, or even just a plain old Yamaha YZ-360B.

I'm also sure that everyone has at least one subject in mind that they think is wildly over-produced, to the point that they say "I need another hole in my head more than I need another kit of X." It's our least favorite subject, the one that causes us to groan with disbelief every time some new Chinese company announces another new kit of it.

There are a lot of candidates. Spitfires are dangerously close to that point for me, but I can still understand their appeal. Early Spitfires are graceful and aesthetically pleasing, and later Spitfires seem to exude a kind of barely-controlled power. And it's hard to argue with the Spitfire's role in history. The same is true of P-51 Mustangs. I could build a new driveway out of all the P-51s that are on the market right now, and I just really don't need any more, thanks, even though I recognize the importance of the Mustang (to say nothing of the fact that there are people alive today whose fathers took P-51s all the day downtown to the heart of the Third Reich, and I do respect such men).

I grow very weary of the Bismarck. Actually, I don't have strong feelings about Bismarck models one way or the other; I just get tired of all that gooey "It was the most powerful battleship ever made" palaver. It wasn't. I'm not even sure that it was all that much better than the much earlier British Queen Elizabeth class. Faster, maybe, but with a goofy three-screw design that gave it a weak stern, and I wouldn't fancy the Bismarck's chances against a ship like the USS Washington, to say nothing at all of the New Jersey or Yamato. Considering that the Bismarck was for all practical purposes sunk by a single fabric-covered biplane Swordfish torpedo bomber, I'm not sure the "most powerful" label really applies. And for that matter, I think there are plenty of New Jerseys in kit form already; why not do something wild and make, say, a Brooklyn-class light cruiser, or HMS Onslow, or a German disguised raider like the Atlantis?

Bf 109s! Can I not have more Bf 109s? Surely we've made more models of Bf 109s than there were real Bf 109s, and the prospect of a new 109 just doesn't thrill me.

And I can't go into a hobby shop without having great piles of F-16s and F-18s fall on me. Okay, I can sort of understand that. They're still in use, they are used by many different countries, and they exist in many forms, and they play into a sense of post-9/11 patriotism. But gee whiz. The only F-16 I could imagine myself building for the foreseeable future is a Tiger Meet version, and that just for the wild paint job.

But the one that I think is wildly overdone is the Panther. How many Panthers do we need? How many Panther variants do we need? I don't need any, frankly, and reading about a new Panther kit fills me with a sense of regret for what might have been. We could have had something new and interesting. Some weird, obscure early cold war iron like a Conqueror, or an M103, or a T-10M. But no. Another Panther. We could have had some interesting World War Two subject - a Matilda I, a decent Crusader, an A10, an armored Cat D8, a T-26S - but no, it's another damned Panther. We could have had some interesting interwar thing, like a Medium Mark II or a Medium-D or even one of those weird Soviet things like the "Tank Grote", but no, it's another Panther, and more Zimmerit, and God save us all, a retooled Notek light. It's enough to make a man weep.

How about a reasonably inexpensive injected plastic Discovery from 2001? A VentureStar from Avatar? A decent plastic Federation dreadnought so we don't have to keep carving up our Enterprise kits? A Klingon C8 battlecruiser? A decent Shuttlecraft? A redone Enterprise bridge?

How about a Bomarc? Or a Navajo cruise missile? Or two-stage Black Brant rocket, or a four-stage Scout?

NO! You'll take your new Panther and you'll like it!

Okay. I'll take it. But I don't have to like it.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Pegasus 1/144th scale War of the Worlds diorama. It comes complete with two manta-style war machines, two M4A3E8 Shermans, and a blobby clear plastic piece for the Martian heat ray. The green portions of the war machines are also clear plastic, but I painted them - they're too thick to do the old paint-the-inside-of-them business, but Testors old-school "Sublime Green" goes on nice and smooth even with a brush.

This was actually a lot of fun to build, though it takes only a few minutes to build and you spent most of your time painting. It's made of ABS plastic, I believe, rather that styrene, but the ABS parts for the war machines are commendably smooth and polished. They're so smooth, in fact, that the war machines are difficult to hold on to; they kept shooting out of my fingers like watermelon seeds. I handed one to my wife, and she couldn't hold on to it either. Unfortunately, my first choice of paint, Krylon metallic copper, crazed the plastic considerably, and though I wet-sanded and polished it all smooth, I never got it as smooth as it was when it came out of the box. I ended up painting about six coats of Future floor wax on the completed war machines to try to make them look smooth and alien.

At first, the heat ray seems entirely unconvincing, but I kind of like it now. It has a seam that is impossible to remove, but after I painted it Testors "Mango" (a model car paint) and feathered in some Krylon fluorescent yellow and red, I came to rather like it.

The Shermans aren't half-bad for models that contain exactly four parts each. They could probably benefit from extra details, especially .50-caliber machine guns, but I find that I'm fresh out of 1/144th scale armor accessories. I added some white stars that I found in my decal box, but they turned out to be too small (they're white "kill markings" scavenged from old decals for, I believe, a Soviet La-5FN fighter).

The base is a one-piece ABS casting. The instructions say to paint the three supine guys on the base "white", and that puzzled me for a while. What, since when do Imperial Stormtroopers appear in War of the Worlds? Then I realized they're supposed to be victims of the heat ray, so it seemed logical that they should be surrounded by a charred spot. The script on the nameplate is very slightly raised. I painted the whole area Testors "Sublime Green" and then overcoated it with fragile craft store black flat acrylic, then rubbed the black off the high spots with a damp paper towel. It worked better than I had any right to expect.

Good fun all the way around! Ullah!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Romans and Romulans, Oh My

54mm Aquilifer (eagle-bearer). I think the figure is by Soldiers, but I threw away the box ages ago, so I can't really verify that. I actually started painting this figure several years ago but found the pteruges too demanding. I set it aside pending better ideas, and eventually got back around to it. You can't really tell from this angle, but the face kind of resembles Tony Curtis. Don't let my ham-fisted painting dissuade you; this is an excellent figure. (Just for fun, I painted the vast majority of this figure using old-school Testors paints in the square glass bottles. Vallejo acrylics are apparently the choice of masters these days, and I guess the fact that I didn't choose them means that I'm not a master. I may also be a tightwad, since I happen to have lots of old-school Testors paints on hand and tend to adhere to the "use what I have" school of thought.)

AMT Romulan warbird, seen from the angle of greatest interest. It's an easy kit to build (I built most of it while watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and it's even easier to paint. The decals aren't bad, considering their size. Mine cracked in a few places and I patched them with orange paint that doesn't quite match the decal, but that's life.

I'm greatly heartened that Round 2 is re-releasing many old (and not so old) Star Trek kits. I think the next one will be the Klingon bird of prey.