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.)


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.


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.)



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.


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:


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.


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.




Proposed Sequels to “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

  1. Mohandas Gandhi: Werewolf Destroyer
  2. Martin Luther King, Jr: Witch Slayer
  3. John Lennon: Demon Butcher
  4. Mother Theresa vs. Godzilla
  5. Nelson Mandela: Giant Spider Exterminator
  6. Walt Whitman: Zombie Decapitator
  7. Will Rogers:  Subterranean Mutant Assassin
  8. Norman Rockwell:  Mummy Executioner
  9. Carl Sagan: Alien Disemboweler
  10. Rosa Parks: Blade Runner

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…

Breaking Out the Brushes Again…and a Heritage Goldmine on eBay

Howdy y’all. I’m back from a restful summer to begin my fifth year teaching in Singapore. Hard to believe my kids have been expats for most of their lives…

Anyway, I’ve not updated this here blog as much as I’ve meant to, so one of my goals this year is to keep it fresh.

So this summer saw some key eBay wins for me. First, I cannot recommend highly enough Lazlo Jakusovsky’s How To Paint A Better Miniature DVDs. I’ve not even finished the first disc and I’m learning a bunch of tricks that have gotten me excited about painting again. Second, I got a big box of Reaper’s Masters Series Paints, after watching my suitcase full of Vallejo paints turn into gloppy chunks of solidified pigment over the last two years. It was worth the money.

And last, I got a killer eBay auction of 40+ serious antique minis, mostly from Heritage’s Dungeon Dwellers line. I got all four elementals, a beholder, an otyugh, lizard men, bugbears, hobgoblins, ogres, and best of all, four hellborn warriors that I’ve never seen before. I remember reading about them in the rules to Swordbearer when I was a kid, and could only imagine what the minis would look like. Turns out they’re the typical “primitive” style of Heritage’s 80s sculpts, but I’m jazzed, because I’ve been thinking for years about applying some skilled paint jobs to these ancient minis.

I’ll be posting lots of pics in the upcoming days.