Thursday, April 29, 2021

Death Star Chic: The Imperial Navy in 28mm

The first rule of good fiction is to make the audience identify with the villain. When it comes to Star Wars, George Lucas couldn't allow us identify with the morality or outlook of the Imperials -- they are, after all, genocidal space Nazis. So he cunningly got us to sympathize with the Imperials on another level: aesthetically. 

Every girl crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man. At least this girl is. And I'm especially fond of the sailors... that is to say, the uniformed members of the Imperial Navy. Sure you have your glistening Stormtroopers, and we all owe Her Maj Darth Vader a debt of gratitude for marrying cybernetics with high-camp drag (that wide belt! that cape!). But I'd trade them all away in a heartbeat for the choke-collars, double-breasted woolens and saucy kepi caps of the Imperial Officer corps. 

The strong sense of fashion filters down from the officers to the Imperial Navy's rank-and-file, who look just stunning in their flared helmets and high "fuck-me" boots. So let's commence a brief tour of Death Star chic, using some re-painted Wizard of the Coast plastics:

First up are some standard issue Imperial Navy Troopers. I've always thought that such troopers are sadly under-represented in Star Wars wargaming. The elite nature of the Stormtroopers is lost if they appear willy-nilly in every battle. Note the hesitant aiming, clenched fist and chin-straps. Doesn't it all just cry out, "I'm a big boy now!"

Next comes the Death Star Troopers. These are the elite that Grand Moff Tarkin hand-picked to man his planet-destroying battle station. I wonder if he was the one who chose the butch black uniform:

Lapdogs are strictly forbidden aboard the capital ships of the Imperial Navy, so the officer class occupy themselves by coddling the MSE-6 Mouse Droids:

Here is a RA-7 Protocol Droid, also known as the Death Star Droid. I said a few weeks ago that the twins Aleksin and Pavol are the first openly gay figures in the Star Wars canon. That may be true, but protocol droids have long been recognized as LGBTQ+ icons. Writing in Mel Magazine, Jospeh Longo described C-3PO as "science fiction's first great queer character" and "a wiry, aging twink droid in love with an old queen, R2-D2." 

The Death Star droid certainly fits that pattern. With his dignified mince and belly-exposing crop-top, this darling is practically begging for a night at the Rail.

And finally, I present Grand Moff Tarkin, who is absolutely rocking the angry daddy vibe. Princess Leia probably said it best: "Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash."

"...The Empire Strikes Back is heavily indebted to girls, to gays, to drag, to dance, to European traditions of camp and opera and being too much, with its excesses manifesting in spectacular effects, in the availability of male bodies for desire and consumption..." 
Rebecca Harrison, "Queer Empire", LA Review of Books, May 21, 2020

Stay safe, my friends!


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Miniatures for the Mos Eisley Cantina


Garindan and Mos Eisley Cantina miniatures

Luke Skywalker's entry into the cantina on Mos Eisley is the defining moment of the first Star Wars movie. The scene introduced a universe without definitions. It promised us that everything to come was an open-ended journey, in which every face in every crowd has a history if only you're lucky enough to hear what it is, or imaginative enough to invent it on your own. As the writer Patrick Cavanaugh said, "Even though we knew nothing of these ancillary characters, their appearances conjured all sorts of backstories in our minds, allowing us to flesh out countless adventures within this world in just a matter of moments."

So iconic was the Cantina scene that it created its own trope. Almost every other movie in the Star Wars franchise (and many other sci-fi films) has a scene echoing Mos Eisley. Although it's tempting to dismiss this as crass imitation, I see it in terms of epic poetry. An epic is defined by certain conventions: for example, there must be a scene in which the heroes partake in a counsel of war, and there must be a long, boring recitation of the order of battle (like Homer's "catalogue of ships" or Tolkien's description of the knights entering Minas Tirith). The cantina helped define the sci-fi genre by creating a new (and deeply satisfying) convention: the bar full of aliens.

Haven't we met before?

Here are my renditions of some of the more famous faces in Chalmun's Cantina, all of which are repainted versions of plastic WOTC miniatures...

First comes Ponda Baba, the club bore whose arm gets cut off. I will always have a soft-spot for this Aqualish alien, because one of the first Kenner Star Wars figures I owned as a child was "Walrus Man."

Ponda Baba 28mm painted miniature

Dr. Cornelius Evazan is Ponda Baba's companion. Evazan appeared in both A New Hope and in Rogue One after taking time off from his regular gig in the belltower of Notre Dame.

Dr. Evazan 28mm painted miniature

BoShek is the smuggler who introduced Obiwan to Chewbacca when the old Jedi was looking for a ride off of Tatooine. That black flight suit looks quite natty, if you ask me.

BoShek 28mm painted miniature

Takeel (also known as Snaggletooth) is a Snivvian mercenary and drug addict. He's another inmate of the Cantina who owes his fame less to the movie and more to his afterlife as a Kenner action figure. I hope you appreciate the disco-vibe of his leisure suit.

Snaggletooth Takeel 28mm painted miniature

Can you imagine going through life with a name like "Muftak the Talz"?

I can't.

Muftak the Talz 28mm painted miniature

And finally, we have my favourite: Garindan. He's the one who spotted the fugitive droids Threepio and Artoo outside the Cantina. He may be an Imperial spy and general cheese-eating tattletale, but he looks so good.

Garindan 28mm painted miniature

I hope no one is ratting on your droids, my friends. Be well!

Mos Eisley Miniatures 28mm

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Miniatures for Star Wars: Lando

The comic Star Wars: Lando is the greatest Star Wars movie that's never been made. It's a perfect script for a tight, 90-minute adventure film: To clear an old debt, Lando assembles a crew for one last heist. It all goes according to plan until they realize they've accidentally stolen the luxury yacht of the Emperor himself.

I've always been a little cagey about the comics, cartoons and novels set in the Star Wars universe. All this peripheral literature has a way of providing too many answers.

When I was a child, the magic of Star Wars was that every re-watching left me asking new questions. My friends and I ruminated endlessly on matters great and small, from how Palpatine became Emperor to what lay under Boba Fett's mask. (Among the other sins of the prequel trilogy was that it systematically went about answering all these questions.) I think one of the reasons I love Lando so much is that it throws new light on a much-loved character, but it never stoops to be an origin story.

The small but vivid cast of characters in Lando is another reason I love the comic. And so I set out to find appropriate miniatures for each of them. The seed of the collection comes from Imperial Assault. However, Imperial Assault's coverage is patchy so I had to fill the gaps with repaints and homebrews made from the old WOTC Star Wars miniatures. 

Without futher ado, I give you...

Lando Calrissian (miniature from FFG's Imperial Assault range):

Lando Calrissian painted miniature FFG

Lobot (miniature from WOTC's Star Wars Imperial Entanglements range):

Lobot painted 28mm miniature - Star Wars

Chanath Cha, bounty hunter and erstwhile lover of Lobot. (Let that one sink in.)

(Her miniature started life as some generic WOTC miniature that I butchered with greenstuff. Fortunately, a fresh paint job hides many sins):

Chanath Cha painted 28mm miniature - Star Wars

Sava Korin Pers, the unscrupulous ugnaught scholar (another WOTC miniature modified with a dollop of greenstuff):

Sava Korin Pers painted 28mm miniature - Star Wars

And last but not least, we have the genetically identical alien clone warriors Pavol and Aleksin. As far as I can tell, they are the first openly queer characters in Star Wars. They are also fantastic creations: deadly brothers/lovers who look like panthers and only speak to each other. I had to homebrew their miniatures from WOTC Sith Warriors who died horrible deaths under my X-Acto Knife.

Pavol painted 28mm miniature - Star Wars

Aleksin painted 28mm miniature - Star Wars

Thanks for stopping by!
I hope you are all doing okay... or at least better than Pavol and Aleksin.