Fantasy Toy Soldiers…who knew?

If you’re an aging Gen-X geek with a few hours to kill, head on over to Fantasy Toy Soldiers right now and indulge in one man’s obsessive quest to document off-brand (and often wacky) toys along the lines of plastic army men or dinosaurs.  I can’t count how many of these things (or ones like them) I lost at the beach, in the back yard, or under the bed…

I love this blog!  I came to it after finding some ebay sales on old Arco The Other World figures, which I had as a kid…I especially liked the phoenix with antennae and the two-headed dragon.  Check out the zany box art!

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Enough digging around on FTS will turn up all kinds of craziness. I love how this set (also from Arco, it seems) rips off classic D&D lead sculpts from Grenadier, Heritage, AND Ral Partha, all in one go!

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I wish I could get my hands on some of these things, given my latest obsession with all things plastic.  I’ve been painting the recently canceled Handful of Heroes figures again, and have approximately 1,000,000 Reaper Bones minis awaiting paint…

In the meantime, check out Fantasy Toy Soldiers.

 

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Grendel-icious

But that shadow slithered below, a jealous adversary,

hellborn Grendel, whose every heartbeat sounded

wet hate like a bloodsoaked wardrum.  He seethed

in bogs unnamed and lorded over by black leeches and rot,

having crept from the caves that housed his race,

once drowned, flooded, damned by God.

Big doin’s here at the Vistas. I know it’s been a thousand years since I’ve last posted anything, but it’s the end of the academic year at the school where I teach English, and it’s been a grind.

Next year, I’m going to be teaching a class on Myths and Monsters.  I know, living the dream, right?  I did design the course myself, and now that this past school year is put to bed, I’m thinking about this new course a lot.

One of my central texts is going to be Beowulf, along with John Gardner’s Grendel.  (I’m also working on a translation of the poem myself, which is my own audacious and never-ending hero’s quest.  The lines that open this post are my own.  More on this to come.)

As the main theme of the class is Monsters, I keep returning to my conception (and perception) of Beowulf’s main baddie, Grendel.  For those of you who saw Robert Zemeckis and Neil Gaiman’s cut-scene desecration a few years ago, let me take you back to my own childhood, where Grendel wasn’t some half-aborted Crispin Glover with an ear infection.

No, my Grendel came from one of my treasured childhood books, the 1980 edition of Brenda Ralph Lewis’ Timeless Myths, illustrated by Rob McCaig.  (There was a subsequent edition with different stories and a different illustrator which is startlingly inferior.)

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This is the wicked awesome, clash-of-the-titansy cover of Lewis’ Timeless Myths.

In these pages, I first encountered Polyphemus, a quadrupedal Medusa, a chimera and many more.  I got this book right before my best friend’s brother got a copy of blue-book Basic D&D, which fueled my monster madness to its present-day vastness. But this book was instrumental in making real the things I had only previously read and heard stories about.

Now, there’s not any precise description of Grendel in the poem Beowulf. Translators have described him as a monster, a giant, a demon, a shadow-stalker…but there are very few descriptions of his appearance in the text itself.  Rob McCaig’s awesome paintings made it clear just how much of a mead-hall-thrashing badass Grendel was.

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Grendel towering, menacing, brandishing, growling, etc. etc.

One of Grendel’s best tricks in the poem is eating one of Beowulf’s followers.  McCaig’s illustration is PG-rated, but for years I thought that he had shown Grendel actually wolfing the poor Geat down. (Actually, that’s the aforementioned Polyphemus, of which you will find out more later.)

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My second-favorite Grendel comes from the cover of Gardner’s novel. This illustration is discussed in detail on John Coultart’s blog on various Grendel renditions.

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Lurker in darkness.

Rounding out the top three, we have a 3-D 25mm scale version in lead, from Ral Partha’s old school miniatures:

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You put your left claw in, you put your left claw out…

A few inferior Grendels include Partha’s later incarnation, which is kind of Grendelicus genericus.

And just for scuzzes, here’s Zemeckis’ annoying piece of shit.

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Perhaps the less said of him, the better.

The Grenadier Beholder Project Part III

Here at last is the finished Beholder. I added a base using the GW base finishing kit.  I like the results, though I found that this particular cast of the mini had some flash between the eye stalks that I couldn’t get out.  Other versions I have, for whatever reason, don’t have this flash at all.

On to my next project…the Shambling Mound from the Swamp Denizens box set.

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The Grenadier Beholder Project

So I remember studying the many images of that beloved original D&D monster, the beholder, from the first edition Monster Manual, various modules, and especially this one from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album (lovingly described by Blizack on Dungeonskull Mountain a few years back):

I also remember never being able to quite figure out what color the damn things were.  I somehow got it in my head that they were covered in olive green (the description uses the word “chitinous,” I think) plates with bright purple flesh between.

Then I got my obligatory box of Grenadier Solid Gold Line minis–the Dwellers Below–and there was the goofiest damn beholder anyone’s ever seen.

It’s Letter H.

So my mission, now that I have 30 years of painting under my belt, is to make this damn thing look like I always thought it should.  No cutting or filing, just with paint.  Here are some pics of the work in progress.

Some Reaper Master Series Olive Green and Pale Violet Red. That’s what I’m talking about.

Eyestalks blocked in, along with some shadow on those chitinous plates.

More updates as events warrant.  I’m totally excited about this one…