The release of the Robotech cartoon series in 1984 was a turning point in my childhood. Up to that point, I had assumed that there was only a certain amount of coolness in the world. Mullets were cool. Dinobots were very cool. Could there be anything more? However, when Robotech appeared om TV that first Saturday morning, a limit that I hadn't even perceived was at once disclosed and discarded. If there were actual adult people in Japan who had dedicated themselves to breaking down the walls of imagination by animating giant robots of undreamed beauty, then... then... the world has no limts. Coolness is an infinite resource.
|The box cover for Battletech 2nd ed.|
Also released in 1984 was Battletech, "a game of armored combat" by FASA corporation. Battletech has become one of the most storied franchises in the gaming world, surviving and thriving for 30 years. But it's true genius was to be the first to make a game out of the giant robots from Robotech (and other Japanese anime like Fang of the Sun Dougram and Crusher Joe). Without these Japanese designs, it's hard to imagine Battletech's existence, let alone its great success. Indeed, the initial boxed set consisted entirely of mechs lifted from anime. FASA would quickly start to develop its own homemade mechs, but they couldn't approach the beauty, originality and verve of the original Japanese designs.
The problem, as anyone familiar with Battletech knows, is that it was not clear that FASA had purchased the rights to the iconic Japanese designs. The upshot of a long, boring and secretive legal battle was that FASA retained the rights to the names of its mechs but gave up the rights to their images. It's like George Lucas losing the rights to Darth Vader's helmet or Stormtrooper armour. The heart of the Battletech brand was gone. In an unusually poetic phrasing, these lost designs became known as the "unseen mechs".
So, for example, below we have the WHM-6R "Warhammer", which occupied the cover of the 1st (1984), 2nd (1985) and 3rd (1992) editions of Battletech. This mech was patterned off of the Macross "Destroid Tomahawk". What a strange and awkward design! Just look at the the reptilian face, the huge under-slung guns, or the search light and missile pod sprouting from its shoulders like amputated wings. On its own, each element is quite ugly -- and yet the whole comes together to create a masterpiece. That's the genius of the Macross/Robotech design team, Studio Nue.
Well, Battletech eventually adapted to the loss of the Unseen Mechs. But grognards like me have trouble moving on. And so when I decided to start painting Battletech miniatures, I found myself in familiar territory: obsessing about long out-of-production miniatures. Now most of my collection comes from Ral Partha's early Battltech range. However, in order to get proper miniatures for some rarer mechs, I had to dig deeper, finding original Super Dimension Fortress Macross plastic models in 1/320 scale from the mid-1980's. I don't believe that these plastic models had ever been released in North America.
Above and below we have two different versions of the PHX-HK2 "Phoenix Hawk" LAM ("Land Air Mech"). This mech was inspired by the most iconic of all Robotech designs, the VF-1 "Valkyrie", which was itself the product of a nearly accidental combination of a robot's legs and a fighter jet in Studio Nue.
The top Phoenix Hawk is a plastic Japanese Macross model that I converted so that it looked like it was in the middle of a rapid emergency landing. The jets of flame were created by stiffening sponge with white glue, shaping it into cones and painting them to look like fiery smoke.
The second Phoenix Hawk is a Ral Partha model made from white metal. I decided to let my freak flag fly and paint him in a non-traditional colour scheme of blue, purple and screaming orange. Tasteful, no. But hopefully memorable.
So welcome to the first in a series of posts about Battletech, Unseen Miniatures, and other goodness. I hope they can add to the world's infinite fund of coolness.
These are great!ReplyDelete
Also, dunno if you've heard, but they've got new versions of the Unseen coming out - that still retain the heart of the image, but have been altered enough for copyright's sake. As someone who couldn't *stand* the IIC variants, it's a big relief. :)
I've seen some of these. As you say, they are substantial improvements on the IIC. But I still prefer these old versions. The new versions are too sleek and badass. One of the things that makes the old Macross designs so good is that they have just the right amount of awkwardness.Delete
Oh, I remembered all the stories and cartoons about robots from childhood :)thank You, great work like always!ReplyDelete
Thanks. If I was able to resurrect any childhood memories, then mission accomplished.Delete
Lovely work again. And I know what you mean about these figures. I played Battletech in the late 80s and the coolest figures were those that were to become "unseen". The Thunderbolt was a particular favourite of mine which I've had for year (unpainted though). Managed to get a wolverine at the time too which I actually did paint. I got back into this and collected most of the unseen figures on eBay - cost me a bit though. About the only one I'm missing is the LAM version of the PH you have painted. I do have a toy version of it though that I got from Japan which sits in my display cabinet :)ReplyDelete
I hope you've got some pics of your collection, Nathan. I'd love to see them!Delete
Yet another reason that we need to meet and game in person sometime soon!! I was also a massive Battletech geek from the 80's and probably spent at least as much time on that game as I did on Warhammer...though we typically played with the paper standees as we were too poor at the time to buy the metal figures. ...And Robotech was a huge influence on my childhood...I used to get up an hour early to watch an episode before school...my parents thought I was insane to obsess about a "Japanese Soap opera"...but they didn't stop me. Along these lines I have recently become interest in the new Reaper game CAV which is a battletech derivative...while the figures don't hold a candle to the original BT mechs they are much cheaper and easier to find since they are now made out of Bones... but I digress...ReplyDelete
As usual your painting is fantastic...and I may need to steal that last color scheme to apply to one of my RT Chaos Renegades...:)
I'd love to get together sometime for a game. I see from your profile that you're based in Vermont. That's not too far from Toronto. Maybe sometime we can have a mini-convention with 24_Cigarettes, who's not too far from me.Delete
If by any chance your have a convention in Toronto or something like that, please let me know.
Great work, I sure loved me some Robotech as a kid.ReplyDelete
Can't stand it after seeing the Japanese originals though!
Any interest in the Robotech miniatures game?
I'm very interested in the Robotech game, but haven't been able to give it a try yet. But it's on the list!Delete
I thought the new figures looked great but these vintage pieces blow them out of the water!ReplyDelete
Excellent paintjobs as always Sully!
Thanks 24_C! Do you mean those new Robotech minis? I've got to check that out.Delete
Matt, well done! I echo others posts in that I was a big Battletech fan since the first boxed set. I have a few of the fabled unseen mainly the Warhammer and Marauders. I even have one if the Matchbox Zentraedi Officers Battle Pod That is action figure sized! I haven't picked up any of the Robotech Tactics figures yet to see how their scale matches up to the Battletech figures. I would assume it is close. You might have just inspired me to break out some of my old BT lead and paint it.ReplyDelete
I hope you do paint some of them. I'd be great to see them.Delete
Stay tuned for my own Marauder and (SPOILER ALERT) a Battle Pod!
God... I remember having the metal BT models back in the day... sadly my painting skills were not so great then and any attempt to complete them resulted in a lumpy mess. You're not wrong that the post-infringement BT designs leave a LOT to be desired, frankly 90% of them are utter crap.ReplyDelete
Well, that's why God created SuperClean Degreaser... so we can strip the mistakes of our youth and repaint them now that we are old, hideous and more talented.Delete
Yes, it's a pity that most of my old lead (and it was lead...) went down the memory hole after I moved away from home. I had some sweet stuff. Held onto my TMNT's and a few Bob Murch classics but that's about it.Delete
Hi there, great nostalgia post, I remember the frustration when the robotech "inspired" mechs were removed :)ReplyDelete
I've a question about the painting though. Basically, what colours did you use for the warhammer or the rifleman? I'd love to use the scheme on some infinity minis, if you don't mind. Thanks!
Brings back some great memories of RT and BT. I've still got some unseen plastics from my youth. I'm intending to strip the old paint jobs and paint them up as 3028 Kurita and Wolf's Dragoons. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.ReplyDelete