Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fear and Loathing in Unknown Kadath





We were somewhere around Celepha├»s on the Cerenerian Sea when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should steer. …” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the ship, which was sailing about 10 knots with full sails to Kadath. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Nodens! What are these goddamn animals?”
Hunter P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is Decadent and Depraved


The current state of US politics is giving me the fear. The usual explanations explain nothing. And so we must look to literature and fantasy to understand our new reality. And when it comes to the deep weirdness that lies at the heart of America, there are only two authors that really knew the score: H.P. Lovecraft and Hunter S. Thompson


Hunter S. Thompson
Although these two authors are not often mentioned in the same breath, they are startlingly similar in tone. Both used violent and overblown language to communicate a sense of moral decay that transcended the ordinary boundaries of acceptable thought. Both sought to portray how a reasonable mind twists and melts when exposed to a horrific reality. Both saw barbarism beneath a hypocritical veneer of American modernity. 

And both H.P. Lovecraft and Hunter S. Thompson were past masters at portraying altered states of consciousness. For Lovecraft, this came in his Dream Cycle stories like The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926) or The Silver Key (1926). For Thompson, it was his drug-fueled romps like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) or the under-appreciated gem, Fear and Loathing in Elko (1992). In these works, Thompson and Lovecraft drag their benighted narrators through a phantasmagorical landscape populated by monsters and madmen. Indeed, sometimes it's hard to tell the two authors apart. But maybe that's the drugs talking.

Well, in any case, listening to the audiobook of Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 has given me some solace in understanding the last American election. It's also kept me busy while painting some miniatures for The Dreamlands, the latest expansion for Eldritch Horror, the Lovecraft themed board-game.

As usual, I try to find metal miniatures from Citadel's Gothic Horror line to match the heroes from the game. Here's what I've come up with...


Darrell Simmons, the Photographer


This is my ode to Hunter S. Thompson. With his shorts, cigarette, revolver and high socks, I tried to capture Thompson's odor of violent and disreputable journalism. The miniature is not really from the Gothic Horror range -- originally, he was "Nyudo" (1985) from Citadel's Judge Dredd line. Nyudo was an almost unbelievably racist miniature in his pristine form. Apparently an Asian tourist, he featured slanted eyes and buckteeth. Well, so much for that - I cut off Nyudo's head and hand, replacing it with bits from a Citadel gangster. I think Hunter would be proud.



Amanda Sharpe, the Student



Amanda's miniature is the "Office Girl" (1987) from Citadel's Gothic Horror range.



Carolyn Fern, the psychologist



I'm close to exhausting Citadel's fund of female heroes, so this miniature is a GN7 "Gun Moll" from Copplestone Casting's Gangster line.



Gloria Goldberg, the author


I'm glad that Fantasy Flight Games has continued the long tradition of Jewish investigators in Cthuloid activities. Gloria's miniature is another Copplestone Casting, from GN11 "Swell Dolls".



Kate Winthrop, the scientist



Some days you eat the bar and some days the bar eats you. When it came to creating a miniature for the scientist Kate Winthrop, I got eaten. Jesus, this is a bad conversion. She started out as another Copplestone GN11 "Swell Doll" but after I replaced a number of her limbs, she now looks more like a goiter with big hips. At least she's wearing a lab-coat so that you know that she's a scientist. She an expert in science.



Vincent Lee, the Doctor


Although this miniature isn't a particularly good likeness of Vincent Lee, it's such a beautiful sculpt that I can't resist using him in this role. The mini is "the Doctor" from Wargames Foundry's Old West City Slickers range.



William Yorrick, the gravedigger



God gave me a gift. I shovel well. I shovel very well. And I intend to use my shoveling abilities to fight the Great Old Ones.

Whatever. Poor Yorrick's miniature is the "Man" (1987) from Citadel's CC1 Gothic Horror Range.



Luke Robinson, the Dreamer


Luke Robinson is clearly a stand-in for Lovecraft's dream-questers like Randolph Carter, Kuranes or Raoul Duke [ed: fact check, pls].

His miniature is one of the rarities from Citadel's Gothic Horror range, the Illuminati (1987). Variants of this miniature also appeared as Wu Jen in Citadel's Oriental Heroes range. This is one of my favourite miniatures, and I'm pleased with the way his bright colour scheme worked out.

Turning Pro.


There is no way to explain the terror I felt when I finally lunged up to the sentry and began babbling. All my well-rehearsed lines fell apart under that woman's stoney glare. "Hi there," I said. "My name is ... ah, Randolph Carter ... yes, on the list, that's for sure. Free lunch, final wisdom, total coverage. ... why not? I have my attorney with me and I realize of course that his name is not on my list, but we must get into Kadath, yes, this man is actually my driver. We brought this red shark all the way from Leng and now it's time for the desert, right? Yes. Just check the list and you'll see. Don't worry. What's the score, here? What's next?" 
The woman never blinked. "Your chamber's not ready yet," she said. "But there's somebody looking for you." 
"No!" I shouted. "Why? We haven't done anything yet!" My legs felt rubbery. I gripped the desk and sagged toward her as she held out Silver Key, but I refused to accept it. The woman's face was changing: swelling, pulsing ... horrible green jowls and fangs jutting out, the face of a Moray Eel! Deadly poison! I lunged backwards into my attorney, who gripped my arm as he reached out to take the Key. "I'll handle this," he said to the Moray woman. "This man has a bad heart, but I have plenty of medicine. My name is Nyarlothotep. Prepare our chamber at once. We'll be in the bar."
Hunter P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is Decadent and Depraved




Friday, March 10, 2017

Imperial Assault - Diala Passil variant miniature





Diala Passil, an aspiring Jedi from the Twi'lek race, is one of the original heroes from Star Wars Imperial Assault. She's also one of my favourite characters from the game. Like Mohammad Ali, her fighting style is all about footwork. This emphasis on agility marks her out among the other Jedi and makes her a uniquely elegant warrior.

The only problem is that I always loathed her official model (pictured below on the right). Since it's made out of the soft plastic that's used in all of the Imperial Assault miniatures, her clothing is chunky, her lightsaber droops and her face wears a bland expression. Nor does the sculpt conjure up the sense of mystery that I associate with a a Force user. With its twirling cape, it seems to owe more than the dancing Twi'lek of Jabba's Palace than to the order of Jedi Knights.




So I decided to create a new, more ass-kicking Diala Passil. However, since Jedi Twi'lek miniatures are in short supply, I had to kit-bash my own. I love the sculpting style of Kev White at Hasslefree Miniatures, and his work is in precisely the same scale as in Imperial Assault, so I started with one of his models: the HFH110 Dynamic Lenore pictured below. She's a dramatic miniature and sports a Jedi-like cloak. Her thigh high boots seem a little salacious for a warrior-monk, but that's nothing that can't be toned down through painting.



My modifications to Lenore were not painful (at least for me). I amputated both her arms and replaced them with some extra limbs from my kit box. Her right hand belongs to an old plastic Scout Trooper from Wizards of the Coast, complete with a Hold-Out Blaster. For her left hand, I fashioned a lightsaber out of greenstuff and copper wire. 

I also used greenstuff to make her head-tentacles.  I'm sure you will not be surprised to learn that there's a name for these protuberances in the expansive Star Wars Universe... they are called Lekku. (If you ever feel like ruining your day, you can try Googling "lekku porn", but don't say I didn't warn you.)




I wanted my paint job to hearken back to the clothing in the pictures of Diala, so I tried to use the same colour palate and arm-wraps. My goal was to combine the femininity of Kev White's original sculpt with the air of mystery and mastery that accompanies every hooded Jedi. 


Thanks for looking!




Thursday, March 2, 2017

Imperial Assault Conversions for Jabba's Realm





In order to spice up the miniatures for Jabba's Realm, I created some new conversions and home-brews, including Mutant Weequay Pirates and a miniature for Salacious Crumb, Jabba's court jester.


I wanted some Mutant Pirates so that Jabba's gang would have the strangeness and diversity that it deserves, Usually I do my conversions using "authentic" Star Wars races, but this time, I thought the odder the better. Thankfully I have recently discovered Ristul's Extraordinary Market (a great resource for any conversion work) and so ordered their excellent set of mutant heads. I replaced the original Weequay heads and substituted heavy blasters for the knives that the original models were carrying.





Above, we have Old One-Eye, and below is his boon companion, Many-Eyes. I guess, in my own way, they are my tribute to Fritz Leiber's timeless wizards, Ningauble of the Seven Eyes and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face.





Jabba's Realm also introduces new rules for an "Indentured Jester", a clear reference to the Hutt's evil muppet, Salacious B. Crumb. But unfortunately, Fantasy Flight Games provides no miniature to represent this cackling sycophant -- and indeed finding any kind of a 28mm miniature for Salacious is nearly impossible. So I set out to do something I've never done before... create my own miniature using greenstuff.

As it turns out, I am a terrible miniature sculptor. I realized that the raw sculpt might look passable, but that all of its faults and implausibilities reveal themselves once the painting starts. 




Apparently, Salacious is a "Kowakian monkey-lizard". 




According to Star Wars lore, Salacious B. Crumb is a sort of Scheherazade character, with a situation not unlike The Thousand and One Arabian Nights. His deal with Jabba is that he must make the crime-lord laugh at least once every day... and if he does not, Jabba will eat him.  

But there's something that no one can explain. What does his middle initial stand for? My guess is "Bread". Well, in any case, as far as I know, Salacious is one of only two Star Wars characters with a middle name. Do you know who the other character is?