Friday, June 24, 2022

Where Did Oldenhammer in Toronto Go?

Attentive readers will have noticed that there was (another) gap of a year during which Oldenhammer-in-Toronto went silent. That's because I am incapable of chewing gum and walking at the same time. To be precise, I am incapable of working on two pieces of writing at the same time. And in the last year, I've had some urgent writing projects that got in the way of my beloved blog.

The good news is that these projects are (1) finished and (2) went pretty well.

My first book was published last November: The Garden of Flowers and Weeds: A New Translation and Commentary on the Blue Cliff Record. This is a book about Zen and meditation. It's based on one of the great works of medieval Buddhist literature, called "The Blue Cliff Record". It might sound dry, but the Record is actually a pretty funny book. There's a lot of absurdist humor (and even a couple fart jokes). Translating the book and adding my own commentary was one of the most delightful tasks of my life. 

I have no idea how sales are going, but I suspect they're pretty modest. On the upside, the book has been received well by critics. In the past few months, The Garden of Flowers and Weeds won a Gold Nautilus Award, a top prize from Bookfest's International Book Awards, a Bronze Independent Book Publishers Award, and a Silver Benjamin Franklin Prize. Honestly, that's more praise then I could have ever wished for or expected.

If you want to support a brother, please consider buying the book!

I only have one regret. Before I had found a publisher, I asked Zhu Bajiee, the fabulous illustrator and grandee of the Oldhammer movement, if I could commission him to create some illustrations from the stories of the Blue Cliff Record.

Zhu produced a series of superb pen and ink drawings. I think they might have been his best work, and that is saying something. I had really hoped that my publisher would use the illustrations in the published text, but it was not to be. This was a crying shame. However, at least I got to share Zhu's work on my website.

As the book was going to press, another writing project got in the way of this blog. My friend Nathan is a filmmaker, and he asked me to write a full-length script for a Cthulhu-adjacent movie. Our previous collaboration was a short animated film called The Ikon (2019) that premiered at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. I've never written a full-length script, so it took me many months to complete. The movie is party about non-Euclidean horror and partly about the more common horror of caring for an aging parent. Stay tuned for more information about a movie tentatively called The House on Clareview.

Still from The Ikon (2019) © Nathan Saliwonchyk

And then, of course, there was Covid. I don't think anyone had a good pandemic, although some were much, much worse than others. I experienced what I think a lot of you did: a grinding sense of anxiety and stasis as the pandemic stretched into indefinitude. I will add that during the past two years, I sustained some grievous personal losses, although (thankfully) none of them were directly related to the virus. As the dust settles, I'm grateful that I and Mrs. Oldenhammer-in-Toronto have made it out in one piece. And we now have a beautiful puppy:

I hope you're in one piece too. Thanks for reading and letting me update you on what's been going on while the blog has been quiet. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The First Rogue Trader Miniatures: Part 3

This is the third post dedicated to Citadel's first Warhammer 40K miniatures. I, of course, am not the first Oldhammer fan to take up the challenge of painting the rare miniatures in the RT1 range, and I'd like to pay some tribute to those who inspired me.

There are at least three others who have painted the full set of 14 miniatures:

  • In 2018, Jason Fulford at Rogue Heresy completed the range and presented his superb work. I love his imaginative colour choices and the way he paints faces. My particular favourite is his rendition of the "Ground Combat Trooper" (aka Abbadon). The blue-glass faceplate is a masterstroke.
  • Goblin Lee finished his set in 2015. His work nails the authentic feeling of Rogue Trader. Highlights for me include his "Dark Elf Space Trooper" and the "Imperial Bodyguard" (get a load of those pants!).
  • Giuseppe Chiafele's work on this range is archived at the Stuff of Legends. If you haven't seen it before, take a long look! Giuseppe is a professional and it really shows. I very much like the way he painted all the Imperial Troopers with the same colour scheme -- it's a nice change from the mercenary mishmash that I (and most other painters) employ when tackling the range. I wish I knew whether Giuseppe did these minis on commission or whether it's from his personal collection.
  • Then, there's Axion's work at Magpie and Old Lead. I don't think he's done the complete range, but some of his work on individual models is not-to-be-missed. Check out his exquisite work on the "Piscean Warrior" or the "Space Goblin".
  • Finally, check out Dave Stone's version of the "Piscean Warrior" - a strange, deep-sea paintjob that I just love.
Now to my own work. Here are the last five miniatures from the RT1 range...

First is the "Pirate". As I've mentioned before, this is a reworking of "Cedric", a fantasy C01 Fighter from 1986. Both were sculpted by Bob Naismith. Personally, I'm sad there weren't more adaptations from the fantasy line to Rogue Trader - it adds a Buck Rogers-esque flavour to things. I really love this miniature for the dynamic pose and quirky details.

Space Pirate RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

And now the original Space Elf: the "Dark Elf Space Trooper". This miniature is like a piece of concept art showing the first rough ideas for the Eldar. With the small head, huge backpack, and narrow legs, he (or she?) resembles a hornet. I took the trouble of creating a triple view of this miniature because it's hard to capture the strange dimensions of the sculpt by Bob Naismith. Although it is flawed, I wish there had been other miniatures made in this line so that the ideas could have been developed more fully. In the event, responsibility for the Space Elves was taken from the veteran Naismith and given to fledgling sculptor Jes Goodwin because the management at Games Workshop thought that Space Elves wouldn't sell.

Dark Elf Space Trooper RT1 1987 Citadel First Eldar miniature

The "Imperial Heavy Trooper" would later become "Faststar John" in the RT7 range of Mercenaries. He's another sculpt by Bob Naismith. I've got a deep personal attachment to this miniature because it was one of the first painted Rogue Trader miniatures I ever owned as a kid. My older brother painted him. He gave him to me after I agreed to go out and buy him some fried chicken.

Imperial Heavy Trooper RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

The hits keep on coming! We've already had the first Space Elf, and now we get the first Space Ork miniature -- known in this range as "Space Orc with Blaster". At this early stage of the game, not only were Orks simply called Orcs, but Bolters were called Blasters. Space Orks wouldn't deviate too far from this original mold -- the mishmash of gear, the spikey helmet, the heavy boots and the metal shoulder-pads all started here. (I'm giving you a triple view so you can catch all the orky details).

Space Orc with Blaster RT1 1987 Citadel First Space Ork miniature

And finally, the last miniature in the range: the "Imperial Heavy Infantry", also known as "Space-Dout Sam" in the RT7 Mercenary range. I'm lukewarm on both this miniature and my paintjob. In another sign that this was very early days in the world of Warhammer 40K, he appears to be carrying an M16.

Imperial Heavy Infantry RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

If you know of anyone else who has tackled some of these miniatures, please post about it in the comments. I'd love to see some other versions. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The First Rogue Trader Miniatures: Part 2

I have a bad habit when it comes to collecting miniatures. Maybe two bad habits, if you consider collecting miniatures itself to be a bad habit.

Let’s say I decide to pursue a certain range of vintage Citadel miniatures (like the Terror of the Lichemaster). Accruing such a collection takes patience, and I have none. So I grow antsy and begin to despair when, after a few months, the miniatures I need don't appear on the market. A sane person would just wait it out, because all miniatures will eventually present themselves for sale in the ripeness of time. But do I just wait? No. 

Instead, I adopt a manic logic. I decide the only way to distract myself from the anxiety of completing my range is to start collecting an entirely different range. I tell myself that completing the second range will be a consolation prize if I am never able to finish the first range. In my mind, it makes sense. In reality, am doubling my trouble. Soon I will be anxious about completing two sets not one. Plus, the second set is inevitably even rarer than the original range (damn you, Osrim Chardz). It is a bad habit.

But, it’s an ill-wind that bloweth no good. My bad habit results increased fretting and the expenditure of much treasure. But it also means that I almost accidentally accrue some great sets. That’s what happened with the RT1 range consisting of the first Warhammer 40K sculps. My original purpose was to collect the RT06 range of Rogue Trader Adventurers. But when that project hit a wall (damn you, Imperial Assassin), I decided to pursue RT1 since it seemed in easy reach. It wasn't, of course (damn you, Pirate). But at last it's complete!

Last week, we looked at the first four miniatures of the range. Now I give you five more…

*    *    *    *    *

First is the “Imperial Garrison Trooper”, later renamed “Kylla Condotti” for the RT7 Mercenaries range (Nov. 1987). This is another sculp by Bob Naismith. I’ve always loved this miniature because of the simplicity of the design and the apprehension on his face. He’s a conscript, and he knows it.

Imperial Garrison Trooper Kylla Condotti RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

Second is the “Space Goblin”, later renamed “Bogbag” in the 4404 Gretchen range (1988). I want my Space Goblins nasty, cross-eyed and leering, and this fellow hits the mark. Note that this early miniature represents a kind of false start for goblindom. He's well-armoured and carries some technological geegaws on his belt. Later gretchen are generally feral fellows with primitive muskets.

Space Goblin original Gretchen RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

Next we have the “Imperial Light Trooper”, aka “No-Face Fargo” in the RT7 Mercenaries range (Nov. 1987). He’s an unambitious variant of the Garrison Trooper, and was also sculpted by Bob Naismith.

Imperial Light Trooper No-face Fargo RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

And now the glorious "Imperial Bodyguard", aka "Adeptus Custodes". Drawings of this miniature appear in some striking illustrations from the Rogue Trader rulebook. It's a sculpt marked by a fine sense of design and intriguing details. I've always been attracted to the Eldar-like dimensions of his helmet. It puts me in mind of elite regiments in history (like the Zouaves) who adopt elements of the (outlandish) dress belonging to feared or respected opponents.

Imperial Bodyguard Adeptus Custodes RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

An illustration from the
Rogue Trader rulebook (1987)

Lastly, the "Imperial Psycher", aka "Imperial Psyker" or (in the RT06 range) "Astropath Yerl". Like the Adeptus Custodes, we can see him portrayed in several iconic illustrations. This is a large sculpt that stands strangely out of proportion with its fellows. But the tallness of the miniature at least accentuates the thinness of the face and hands, which is fitting for an Astropath.

Imperial Psyker aka Astropath Yerl RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

Next week, I'll give you my versions of the final minis from this range and review some of the other painters who have tackled them.

Bonus picture: Oldenhammer in Toronto just hired a new copyeditor.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The First Rogue Trader Miniatures

Warhammer 40K may be the most popular tabletop wargame in the world, but it started with a whimper not a bang -- at least in terms of the miniatures. The first murmur came in August 1986, in the Citadel Miniatures Mail Order Sheet. Amid offerings of models for Doctor Who, AD&D, and Thrudd the Barbarian, there appeared an unassuming advert for eight "Imperial Marines". I will have more to say about these lovely but undersized miniatures in a coming post. For now, we can just note that there was no mention of a new game or a new sci-fi universe, Rogue Trader or 40K. Then quiet reigned for almost a year.

In March 1987, the Citadel Miniature's Mail Order Flyer advertised 14 new miniatures under the official label Warhammer 40,000 (Rogue Trader). It was not clear who these miniatures were, what you'd use them for, or what "Rogue Trader" even meant (although attentive readers might have remembered that as early as 1983, Rick Priestly had been teasing rules for an intersellar ship/trading game called "Rogue Trader"). In any case, things didn't get any clearer in August 1987, when White Dwarf #92 featured a mysterious full-page teaser consisting of an empty star-scape emblazoned at the top with the insignia of the new game. Finally, the Rogue Trader rulebook was published in September 1987. In the same month, White Dwarf #94 featured a long profile of the game. From that moment on, the stream of 40K miniatures has never ceased.

Let's return to the first 14 official Rogue Trader miniatures from March 1987 -- the range that would later become known as RT1

Looking at them now, what surprises me is how half-baked they are. The names are redundant (i.e. "Imperial Heavy Trooper" versus "Imperial Heavy Infantry"). The intriguing nomenclature that would become a hallmark of 40K is entirely absent: we have an "Imperial Bodyguard" rather than an "Adeptus Custodes", or an "Imperial Psycher" rather than an "Astropath." The miniatures do highlight the great innovation of 40K, which is the shameless combination of sci-fi tropes with Tolkien-esque fantasy races. However, they highlight this new approach in a ham-handed way: the new Orc is a "Space Orc", the goblin is a "Space Goblin", and the dwarf is a "Space Dwarf". This is Space Hamsters with a vengeance.

The sculps themselves are a mixed bag. There is an awful lot of duplication for such a small range of miniatures. The "Light Trooper" and "Garrison Trooper" are siblings based closely on the same prototype; so also with the "Heavy Trooper" and "Heavy Infantry". The "Pirate" is ripped from "Cedric", a fantasy C01 Fighter sculpted by Bob Naismith in 1986.

Some of the figures are awkward to the point of ugliness. The design of the "Piscean Warrior" is so flat that it almost appears two-dimensional. Similarly, the Dark Elf Trooper looks like he is trying to squeeze between two parked cars before shooting you with his ridiculously flared weapon. (When I mounted both minis on bases, I had to spread their limbs and twist their torsos in order to add a sense of depth.)

Finally, almost all these miniatures are strangely divorced from the world of 40K that was about to unfold in the Rogue Trader rulebook: The "Piscean Warrior" is an orphan without past or future; the Squats of 40K look nothing like the "Space Dwarf"; the Eldar of 40K look nothing like the "Dark Elf Space Trooper"; and the Imperial Guard look nothing like the various troopers marching through the range. RT1 became outdated the moment the Rogue Trader rulebook appeared. Indeed, to the extent that these figures survived at all, it was only by being rebranded for other ranges. Several of them wound up in my beloved range of RT07 Mercenaries. Others snuck into the RT06 Adventurers. The rest perished in obscurity.

I love these miniatures so dearly precisely because they are awkward and unpolished. They are a fossil from a time when the world of Warhammer 40K was still forming -- a prehistoric era before names were invented, shapes settled, or identities solidified. 

And so, without further ado, here are the first four miniatures of the RT1 range of Rogue Trader miniatures...

*    *    *    *    *

First we have "The Telepath". With his tonsure of neural implants and blank expression, he bears a striking resemblance to Lobot from The Empire Strikes Back. I don't love this miniature because it's so static. He would go to reappear in the RT06 Adventurers range as "Tech Priest Zon".

Telepath aka Tech-Priest Zon RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

Second comes the "Ground Combat Trooper". Loyal readers will know that I've already featured this miniature as the RT07 mercenary Abaddon. He's got a beautiful design. With the tubes, baggy envirosuit, and face-window, he's always reminded me of the Sardaukar Troopers from David Lynch's Dune (1984). Although it's hard to pin down the sculptor for some of the miniatures in the range, thanks to the work of Axion at Magpie and Old Lead, we know that Bob Naismith carved this one.

Ground Combat Trooper Abaddon RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

Sardaukar (1984)

Behold the "Piscean Warrior". There's some wonderful detail on this slimy alien, including a host of flesh-tubes and a inlaid scabbard that seems to come right out of R'lyeh. But, as noted above, this large figure is marred by a flat and linear design that perfectly encapsulates the worst of slotta-base-sculpting.

Piscean Warrior RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

And finally, here's one of my favourite Rogue Trader miniatures: "Space Dwarf", better known to his friends in the RT7 Mercenaries range as "Irn Bonce the Squat". This is a figure sculpted with great style: a simple, harmonious and balanced design. Plus a grenade launcher.

Space Dwarf Original Squat RT1 1987 Citadel First Rogue Trader painted miniature

Thanks for stopping by! It's nice to be sharing things with you again!

Here is the post for the next 4 minis in the RT1 range...