Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hmmm... Well....

A quick update to mention that the Minions Project has moved forward a bit but I haven't yet located my other rifles. I hope to take some time before Christmas to get it all put together and post the finished photos here soon.


It looks like things might be ramping down here at RoG for quite some time. Apparently, Real Life™ has decided to pay a visit to the Geektopian Republic in a way that will likely put hobby stuff on the sidelines for an indefinite period of time. It's actually quite a good thing and not entirely unexpected but it will require a major refocus of priorities. At the very least, hobby purchases will be virtually nil, although blogging may still be possible for a while. Like I said, nothing dire, it's all quite good. Just different.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

¡Minions pt. Tres!

As promised, the next installment in the never-ending saga of my obsessive angst....

I decided to change out the uniform for a German "M45" (or is it 44?) uniform in the Leibermuster camouflage scheme. I'm not sure if this is the direction I'll ultimately go but I thought it looked interesting and it provides an obvious contrast to the previous entries. As I mentioned earlier, I also decided to try the Steyr AUG rifle and an alternate web gear configuration. This is a quick "bash" but I think I like the over-all look.

For the "gear heads", here's the breakdown of what I used.

  • Dragon- Boots and Uniform
  • 21st Century Toys- Helmet and Rifle
  • Sideshow Toys- Web gear
The Sideshow gear deserves some note as you typically find these on eBay or through online retailers for way more that it should cost, IMO. This is the web gear from their GI Joe "Stalker" figure and while it's quite adequate, it seems a bit "old school" (say, Dragon quality from the early 2000s) for something that comes from a figure retailing for well over $100. I bought a few sets when Monkey Depot had them parted out back in Summer 2011 and they were just under $8 a piece at the time. I don't think I would want to pay much more than that considering the "just OK" quality and my need for multiple sets.

 I still wouldn't mind picking up a few SMERSH rigs from the Cobra Trooper or Officer but those have become difficult to find and typically expensive. Again, the quality of the one set I own is OK but not quite up to the standards of say, Soldier Story, Playhouse, etc. Having a few SMERSH rigs would've probably led me to stick with an AK74 for my troops' primary weapon. It's cool though because this equipment set up seems to work pretty well, too. I'll live with it a few days and see if I still like it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Minions, pt. Dos

Oh yeah, some additions to my previous post. I mentioned that I had already "bashed" some prototype figures of the more Eastern Bloc/ Warsaw Pact style version of the Minions. This first guy is based on a different copy of the same figure shown in the previous post. Yeah, sad to say that there actually SIX of these Hasbro "Indiana Jones" German Officer figures who play the rank and file troopers.

I was actually pretty happy with the way this guy turned out so I'm not sure why I kept buying gear and looking at other alternatives. Just to be sure, I even bashed a senior NCO/squad leader, as seen here.

I was genuinely happy with these guys. The only real problem I had was a lack of a squad machine gunner and that is mostly due to a lack of post-WW2 Soviet or Warsaw Pact light and medium machine guns on the 1/6 scale market. Even that isn't entirely insurmountable since the RPK squad light machine gun is basically just a "hardened" AK that can handle sustained full auto fire. Externally, the main differences are a long barrel, bipod, larger buttstock and either a drum or extended length magazine.

I'm not sure why I didn't pursue this course because honestly, I like these guys a lot more than the late WW2 German soldier seen in the previous post. They would all use the same basic service uniform as seen on the previous guy (the so-called "M43" German uniform) while the camouflage seen here would serve as the field or combat uniform.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Minions, etc.

The problem with the way I write is that it's often done in small burst and then saved for later completion. When I look at my list of blog posts, I always find a few that are still in draft form and I ask myself "Where was I going with that?" For finished posts, I often discover upon review that the editing is choppy and occasionally makes no sense. I just finished an overhaul of my post "Writing Against Type, part 2" because there were some amazing verbal gaffes in it. Heck, there probably still are! Sorry about that but hopefully it flows a bit better now.

As mentioned in that post, I have been working on some antagonists that basically look like WW2 Germans. To re-hash, this was done for comedic effect and as a commentary on what we as a society are willing to accept. It's also dead easy to make up (or "bash") 1/6 scale figures this way since there's so much 1/6 WW2 German equipment on the market. My original idea for the minions had been to make them a bit more post-war, generically "Eastern Bloc" looking. For inspiration, I looked to the Cold War-era militaries of countries like Yugoslavia, Poland and especially East Germany. In the end, the figures looked somewhat like East German soldiers from the late '50s-early '70s, except for the AK 74 rifles, which would place them in a later time period (the "74" is the smaller caliber younger sibling of the AK 47/AKM family). Just for sake curiosity however, I decided to see what they would look like "bashed" as a somewhat idealized but plausible late WW2 German soldier.

The first thing that strikes me is that the helmet, although it fits, seems way too big. I'll admit I'm not an expert on WW2 German subjects (haven't watched enough History Channel "Those Darn Awesome Nazis" marathons, I guess) but WW2 era Stahlhelme (plural) seem smaller than their WW1 ancestors. This version (from 21st Century Toys) is allegedly the WW2 "M1935" but looks more like the size of the WW1 "M1916(?)". It doesn't have to be perfect and in fact, I can still think of others projects to use this helmet for, but it just looks "off" to me. I think I still prefer a more post-WW2, East German/Warsaw Pact appearance. The other issue I have with this guy is that he would reset my project in to an alternate WW2 style setting. That could be fun and I could even include some overtly Sci-Fi elements but I'm just not feeling it right now. I'm going to give this another try with the basic uniform but replacing the helmet with East German "M1956". I've "bashed" this style before and liked the look of it but this time, I might swap out the AK74, "Chi-Com" chest rig and related gear I used for something more "Western". The back story I've worked out is that, while they keep their old-style "Germanic" uniforms and helmets, they switch to NATO small arms, including perhaps the Steyr AUG (rifle) and the FN Minimi light machine gun (known in the US as the M249). Since I already have a couple of these basic dressed troopers on hand, it shouldn't be much to put together a quick test "bash" to see how that looks. Hopefully I should be able to post a follow up and a photo in the next day or two.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

From the compost pile... uh, ARCHIVES!

I may have mentioned this before but RoG is the successor blog to an earlier effort here on Blogger that I eventually divided in two. I decided to save the old blog to my desktop but I didn't save it as a file that could be readily uploaded back to Blogger. Reason being that some of the information was no longer current, some of the complaints no longer relevant and much of it just wouldn't make sense or be in context here. Still, it's interesting to visit the saved file and see what was on my mind "back when". In particular, one thing that has bothered me for a few years and still bothers me today, leads me to offer this delicious copypasta from May 17, 2010.

I've been on the internet since the late '90s and, in that time, I've participated in a number of forums covering my various hobby interests. In more recent years, I've also been a board admin and a moderator, so I understand the challenges faced by people who run message boards. I've seen both the good and bad of board administration and the behavior of board members. My complaint is that, I'm beginning to feel that two boards where I've participated for several years are becoming increasingly regimented and even a bit capricious. I get that both of these boards are big and probably need a larger degree of formality to keep them in check. However, both are beginning to feel a bit stifling in the sense of being in a small room where the heat has been set a bit too high.

In one particular case, a well-known board devoted to 1/6 scale action figures that severely limits criticism of controversial subjects. While I get that you don't want every post to have the potential to erupt in to a 20 page pissing contest, there are times when posters, especially manufacturers announcing new products, clearly don't have a clue. Without the ability to offer any criticism of a figure based on subject matter, you're left to stuff a sock in it while your hobby gets taken down a path you'd rather not see it go. I keep wondering if there's a limit beyond which even the staff of this board will say enough is enough. Beloved American Serial Killers of the 20th Century, perhaps? No, I doubt it.
At what point do I, as a member of the hobby community, finally get to say "enough"? How tasteless do 1/6 scale manufacturers get to be, and how long do they get to push "controversial" subjects in the faces of people who object to them before they finally lose the protection given them by the staff and owners of major on-line hobby forums? As of now, I really have to wonder if that point can ever be reached.

At the time I wrote this, I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with two message boards where I was an active participant. The one I discuss but didn't name in the above post is One Sixth Warriors. They've had a ban in place on current events political discussions for many years and, sometime in the couple years or so, decided to extend that rule to cover discussions of the subject matter of the figures various manufacturers release or members post. I don't feel that the year and half or so since I wrote this has seen any great change in this situation (not just about Nazis but any potentially controversial or antagonizing subject) and in that time, I have largely stopped participating at that particular forum, aside from an occasional, bland "drive by" response that I never return to once I've offered an opinion.

This also touches, tangentially, on a subject that never fails to rile me up. The concept that a fight isn't a fight until someone has been pushed into a response. That's really a subject that deserves its own post, rather than allowing this one to veer into "tl;dr" territory. So until next time, and whenever I get around to writing that post, I'll say "adios"!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Writing against type, part 2

I should've subtitled this "Does this outfit make me look Fascist?"

A few of my regular readers might recognize these two but as a refresher, they (L) Chancellor Alrich Stahl and Commissar Seraya Reichhart. Commissar Reichhart has served as a primary antagonist in my doll/action figure back story since 2006, going through several head and body combinations before finally assuming this form in 2009 after I had purchased her head (manufacturer unknown) from a Hong Kong-based seller on eBay.
 Chancellor Stahl came about as the result of a conversation I had with an online pal, Elizabeth aka the lovely Android Raptor. While I knew that there had to be some "higher up" to whom Seraya was ultimately a subordinate, I had never really considered making a figure of such a character. I had this GI Joe figure that had never really "fit" with the rest of the guys- I've heard other Joe fans/collectors refer to his head sculpt as "Boy Band Joe"- but he seemed well suited for the role of a charismatic, good-looking, smug dictator!

While I wanted these two (and possibly some other future functionaries and minions) to look sort of generic, they obviously ended up looking rather, well... Nazi. Several reason for this include the ease with which 1/6 scale WW2 German uniforms and gear can be obtained and the fact that we seem to have such an ingrained cultural response to this particular style. Yes, it's a cheap and easy ploy that has been used by all manner of people in all manner of popular entertainment for close to 3/4 of a century now. True, there was a time that various communist regimes could also be demonized but that seems to have become less popular and acceptable since the late 1960s brought about a more "tolerant" attitude towards leftism in entertainment, media and academic circles. 

Not that I'm insinuating anything about such people's personal ideologies, mind you! After all, this is just a blog about toys and models, not world social-political stuff. ;)

Anyway, in my personal life, I have a deep aversion to ANY sort of totalitarianism, no matter how benign and utopian it is promised to be. Heck, even the governments of most modern day "free" countries are way too excessive by my standards. And yeah, I've heard the stupid "you'd LOVE Somalia then" retorts until I'm ready to puke. There's a vast difference between violent lawlessness and having to name your child according to a government "approved names" list. While the latter is more benign, neither is healthy for the long term growth of humanity, IMO! But again, we're not her to discuss such things.

A big part of creating these two characters and the fictional "world" they live in is to comment on many of the absurdities of the world and popular culture as I see it. And while I want it to be enjoyable for my readers, I'm trying to be respectful of the characters' beliefs and world views. It would be easy to do ridiculous slapstick, ala The Producers... extremely easy and a constant temptation. But I'm not satirizing the historical Nazi regime, this is a commentary on TODAY'S world with some definite nods to the past. While these folks are brutal, militaristic and inhumane, they are still probably pretty benign compared to many real-world regimes. Well, so far, at least! Even so, it has proven difficult for me to create these characters with the degree empathy they deserve if they are to be anything more than cardboard maniacs. I just can't "walk a mile in their shoes" as the old admonishment goes. And if I DO manage to present them as fully formed and relatable people, I'm concerned that it opens me to attacks by the narrow-minded and those who love to play "gotcha" and search for subtext and hidden meanings that aren't there. But let's face it, a "good bay guy" isn't one who revels in how bad he is. If he even agrees that what he does is "evil",  he sees this evil as necessary and in a relativist view, ultimately a good thing. It's just those "other" people who label his actions "evil" in order to undermine his work and the ultimate utopia that will arise from it. And thus, my conundrum.... I can laugh at it, I can fear it but it's extremely difficult to feel empathy or understanding for it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Writing against type and the "Heinlein Effect".

A number of years ago, I noticed that you could almost never mention author Robert Heinlein on certain message boards without some flaming idiot uh, enlightened superior intellect flying off on a tangent about Heinlein's alleged "latent fascism". I had been aware of this debate since I was a mere young 'un back in the late '70s and knew that it had been raging for a good number of years prior to that (and prior to me, thank you! hehe). This near- knee jerk reaction is part of what I've dubbed "The Heinlein Effect" and essentially it is the (I believe dubious) contention that an author only writes what he or she knows or believes. The supposedly "logical" conclusion is that an author's writing reveals their true nature or beliefs. In the case of Heinlein, the story goes that readers in the 1960s who were enthralled by his more mature novels of the era (such as Stranger In A Strange Land) went back to read his "juvenile fiction" of the '50s and were appalled by the brutal, simplistic, anti-utopian tales they found. In particular, Starship Troopers drew their ire for it's apparently positive depiction of a harsh, militaristic and seemingly fascist future society on Earth. Never mind that Heinlein espoused and tried to live a highly individualistic and libertine life, or that many of his stated philosophies are essentially "Libertarian" in nature. Clearly, having written one book from the point of view of a heroic character who serves a militaristic world government, the reader must conclude that Heinlein is (or well, was) some sort of jackbooted Neo-Nazi.

Obviously, lacking any other solid evidence to substantiate this claim, I have taken the position that it is total crap. Norman Spinrad faced similar accusations after the publication of The Iron Dream in spite of its obvious satirical nature and Spinrad's long stated Anarcho-Syndicalist political philosophy.

My bottom line belief is that a good author can write against type. Many do use their work for a philosophical "soap box" but not necessarily everything someone writes should be taken as a window into the deep, hidden recesses of their soul. Having attempted to write against type myself a few times, I have gained a good deal of respect for those who can do it well. I tend to get bogged down in disliking protagonist characters with whom I would normally disagree or even find reprehensible. I see where cardboard villains with bumbling subordinates and cannon fodder minions come from. It's hard NOT to write such characters as silly, maniacal, violent but wretched buffoons who ultimately destroy themselves with a bit of help from "our hero".

In part two of this little diatribe (dear God, a part two? NOOOOOO!), I'll discuss my own descent into madness while attempting to create a believable and maybe even somewhat likable "good bad guy" that has consumed a fair amount of my limited spare brain power over the last year or so. Stay tuned and keep some extra strength aspirin handy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Poking my head in

Back from my extended and unintended summer break. I have some hobby-related thoughts and rants but I'm not in the mood to get in to them at the moment. I did want to let my readers (both of 'em) know that RoG is merely resting and not dead.

My first big rant is the entrenched persistence of brand loyalty and how it ultimately harms hobbies as a whole. I hope to get to that in the next few days. I've also had this idea floating around about discussing why I blog more and participate in message board and similar "social network" groups less and less. I've actually written a few drafts of that but I haven't been happy with the results. This isn't Twitter but it still pays to communicate your thoughts in as concise a manner as possible. Rambling manifestos turn readers off and have a funny way of being connected to authors who are, frankly, often nuts and possibly homicidal.

I'll try to spare you from that!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things... uh, TANKS!

So, an idea for a project has been brewing in my mind the last few days and I thought I'd put it here as a way to solidify a direction. Basically, the idea is to build a collection of model tanks based on a list of what I'd consider my top favorites. The major rule here is that each subject has to be pretty readily available in model kit form and preferably in 1/35 scale. Ideally, each model should be constructed with minimal amounts of aftermarket conversion pieces or major kitbashing. Several of these I already have in my stash and none of them are hard to obtain as of this writing. In more-or-less chronological order, they are:

French Char B1 bis
US M4A3E8 Sherman 76mm
US M41A3 Walker Bulldog
UK Centurion Mk. 5/2- Mk.6
US M48A3 (or possibly 'A5) Patton
Israeli Magach 6 (modified US M60A1 or 'A3)
German Leopard 1A5
*German Leopard 2A6- see UPDATE below.

The question is, which of the modern "big growlers" should I consider? It would basically be between some version of the US M1A2 Abrams and the German Leopard 2A6. I like both and each vehicle has its pros and cons. I might also skip the Magach 6 and build an Israeli version of the M48, modified to more-or-less 'A5 standards in the early '70s. Then there's the question of whether to go for a purely aesthetic "odd man out" choice and build something like the Japanese Type 90 or the current version of France's Leclerc.

*UPDATE- After giving it some more thought, I've decided to go with a Leopard 2A6 as my "modern big growler". The version I have coming to me is the Spanish 2E from Hobby Boss, although I understand that it's not a fully accurate 2E but based on the 2A6EX demonstrator. That's fine with me since I plan to build and paint it as a vehicle from the army of my fictional Republic or Aventine. Since Aventine uses the M240 GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun- aka MAG 58), I'll need to replace the kit's MG3.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are many more favorites and side projects to consider. (Tamiya's up-coming M4A1 76mm Sherman as an Israeli M1 is a definite buy for me.) There's also the sci fi tank project that would include kits of Miyazaki's "Bad Guy Tank #1",  Kow Yokoyama's Nutcracker hover tank, the two tanks from the obscure anime feature Technopolis 21 and a Rhino APC from Warhammer 40,000 built from the current kit but painted and marked as a Rogue Trader-era Imperial Guard version (I usually remove all Imperial insignia anyway but that'll certainly piss off the die-hard fanboys who live and breath the current rules).

You will notice, of course, an absence of many of the usual "awesome" tanks that post-war revisionist historians would insist must be included. Most notable are the Soviet T-34 series and the German Panther and Tiger series tanks. In the post-war category, the Soviet T55 and T72 are also missing. To be honest, while these are all worthy subjects, none of them fall in to my "favorites". Sorry if that bothers you,  gentle reader, but feel free to post your own list of "Awesome Panzers" on your own blog and start building your own collection. These are the vehicles that I have come to like over the years for various, often aesthetic reasons, and they are the ones I would like to build.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rambling dissertation on scale modeling.

I've been doing some research in recent days to try and decide whether I want to give model building another try. In addition to some real-world subjects I'm interesting in, I've also been considering a few "What If" (aka "Whifs")... alternate, proposed or just made up designs for tanks, aircraft, etc. With this in mind, I went to my blog archives and found something I had originally posted a couple years ago. With a bit of editing, it still feels relevant and still reflects my general views.

As I said in my introductory post, this blog is about my hobbies. Although it's my intention for now to focus on 1/6 scale action figures expect some occasional side steps in to my other areas of interest. Scale modeling being one of those....

I'll have to admit that nowadays, I'm more of a model kit buyer than an avid model builder. Of course, I intend to get around to building these kits eventually but it never seems to pan out. For me, some of the issue is that scale modeling seems to be the exclusive domain of *cue dramatic music* REAL DAMN SERIOUS MODELERS! The simple pleasure of buying a kit and doing a nice, clean out-of-the box build seems lost on today's RDSMs. You can't really be a modeler unless you are willing to create a painstakingly detailed, 100% accurate miniature replica of your desired subject. Building a kit out of the box or doing simple kitbashed conversions (taking parts from different kits to create a model) isn't enough. You must start with the latest, most accurate (and expensive) kit of your subject then pile on photo etched and machined metal, cast resin, scratch built and parts from numerous kits to make it "perfect". Then there's the finishing which requires layers of paints and art materials that must, when finished, rival the best photo realistic paintings you've ever seen. The old days of painting on the base coat, detail painting and some washes and drybrushing to weather and bring out detailing are no more. And while I'm primarily thinking of 1/35 scale armor and military vehicle modeling, no scale or subject matter is immune. Even sci-fi modeling, once a bastion of creative building, is in the grasp of this trend.

 I have a huge amount of admiration for people who are willing and able to do this kind of work and create these strikingly accurate and detailed miniatures. However, I'm a little dismayed by the attitude that some of them have that if you don't also do what they do, you are outside of the "club", so to speak. What seems odd about this is that, supposedly, people today have less time for leisure activities (something I doubt when I compare the lives of myself and my fellows to, say, my grandparents) and yet, there doesn't seem much leisurely about dumping hundreds of dollars (or whatever currency you use) and hundreds of hours in to a single model. Obviously, I'm not alone in this perception since there's a rather sizable market of pre-finished miniatures, often very reasonably priced, in a variety of scales and subject matters. It seems kind of funny to me that I can buy a reasonably accurate 1/32 scale M1A2 Abrams tank, completely finished and ready to be displayed, for less than the cost of a 1/35 model kit of the same subject. Of course, that does preclude the simple joy of build a model, which to me is the primary reason to be a modeler in the first place.

Friday, April 1, 2011

High speed, low drag or just lazy?

Today, I'm setting the Wayback Machine to 2008 and digging some photos out of my files. In this case, a couple "bashes" I did of my character, Col. J.D. Wallace, in some variations on a theme. I often tend to go a bit light on the "battle rattle" with my figures, preferring them to not be so piled down with every possible piece of gear. I've never decided if this is because of personal aesthetics or just laziness.

First up, a version I did early in the year with J.D. in desert camo, carrying an SR25 7.62mm sniper rifle.

Next, my first attempt to create a somewhat "standard" uniform for my fictional military unit, Call Sign: Wyvern.

The second version was inspired both by my local Sheriff's Dept. SWAT team and some photos I'd seen of the then-current combat between Georgian and Russian forces. Just my opinion but I feel the USMC has the most effective of the current camouflage uniforms used by US forces, so I bought a number of set of these MARPAT utilities for my guys. The other gear was chosen to distinguish them from real US Marines and suggest a somewhat "foreign" look.

Oddly, I've encountered a bit of grumpiness towards the Wyvern members in their Woodland MARPAT uniforms. I've explained that both police and foreign militaries use a commercial version of this uniform and that, along with its actual effectiveness as a camouflage, was what inspired me. Still, I'll get some grumbling at certain 1/6 scale boards to the effect that they aren't "accurate Marines". Duh! Really?

At this point, I've decided that J.D. and his team will simply wear what uniforms they find appropriate for a particular mission. They wear both MARPAT and older Woodland (BDU) camo, as well as other patterns as needed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Operation: L.A.C.K.

Sorry for the lack of updates this past month or so. I actually have a couple of posts saved as drafts and have some photos to add but I've been a bit unmotivated lately. Anyway, with that in mind, I have decided to inaugurate Operation: L.A.C.K. which stands for Lame Ass Crappy Kitbash. Basically, it's just a series of uninspired, quickly done 1/6 figure "bashes" (that's "manly-man" speak for "dressing your dolls") made from stuff I have on hand. Mostly, this will use bits and pieces that most "serious" 1/6 scale action figure enthusiasts tend to disregard and/or over-look nowadays. In other words, most of my collection!

First up is this guy, based (as is often the case) on a GI Joe Super Articulated body. He has a head from the GIJ "Joe vs Cobra/Spy Troops" line's Gung Ho. While I like the sculpt, he never struck me as being the character of Gung Ho... eh, so be it!

(Yes, the photos are totally shite.)

Most of his uniform and gear is from 21st Century's Ultimate Soldier line. It's a carded Navy SEAL set that 21C released in the late- '90s if I remember correctly. This one was still on the card until I opened up this afternoon. I added a couple of additional ammunition pouches and a butt pack (heh!) also from 21C but the rest is from the set. I decided to switch his rifle and boots for items from Dragon. The boots are Altima-style Panama sole jungle boots and the rifle is a common M4 with accessory rails and an added optical sight. I like the boots that came in the 21C set but they're a bit small and lack the insoles Dragon boots have, which I believe help the stability of the standing figure. The rifle is simply more detailed than the 21C piece and represents a later version with the Picatinny tactical rails, used for adding various accessories like the sight seen here. The sight is probably totally wrong for this figure and even now, internet experts are foaming at the mouth and bleeding from the ears over such wretched inaccuracy!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bass solo! Wooo Hooo!

In addition to being a skilled sharp shooter, ruggedly handsome and an all-around great guy, Sgt. Greg Mitchell is also an accomplished musician. (Or at least he would be if he weren't 11 inches tall and made of plastic!) Here he's taking some time to hone his chops on his Fender Jazz Bass.

Sorry that both of these photos came out a bit "wonky". Greg is a GI Joe "SA" body and his bass is from SD Toys (sold through Diamond Comics in the US).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More Ma.K. Goodness!

I'm a big fan of Kow (pronounced "Koh") Yokoyama's Maschinen Kreiger series. 2010's Nuremberg Hobby show previewed Hasegawa's new 1/35 scale Nutcracker hover tank, which is now available but which I haven't yet purchased. This year's show has revealed an equally exciting new model, the GroƟerhund! I imagine it'll be a while before we see this big doggie hit the retail market but this is one of my favorite walker designs from the series and I'm going to have to get it when it comes out.

This image is © IPMS Deutschland and is from their coverage of the event:
Please see the link here for full coverage including the image seen above:

Looks like this kit will allow you to build either the land based or lunar based version, although I guess we'll have to wait a while to know for sure. Anyway, I'm pretty darn happy to see this design finally being done as a mass-market plastic kit.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One more photo of the day.

My collection of 1/6 figures isn't just limited to gruff guys. There are women here too. One of my favorite brands/types of female figures are made by Obitsu. Stay around long enough and you'll see a fair number of both the 27 cm and 25 cm females. For those who aren't familiar with them, they are do it yourself-style dolls from Japan, similar but better engineered than the late lamented Volks Dollfie line. You pick heads, hands and body types to create your own doll. They have a limited number of heads with pre-painted faces but most of them are blank so that you can paint or decal your own face (a talent I have yet to master). The 27 cm bodies are roughly the size of Takara's Super Action Jenny fashion doll body and have somewhat "anime like" proportions.

This lovely lady is Margaret Jane Callahan, otherwise known as Meg. She plays a major role in my action figures' "back story". The character is roughly in her late- 20s to early- 30s and is about 5 ft. 6 in. tall She has a younger sister named Daphne and a sweetheart named Mike (yep, there are figures of them too).

Meg the doll is an Obitsu 27 cm SB-2 Fleshtone body with a W-01 pre-painted head. Her outfit is assembled from pieces made by Azone (another Japanese company) with her purse and (unseen) white t-shirt coming from Dragon. She's also wearing black "engineer" boots from Obitsu.

The visual realm.

I guess a blog about toys and other assorted geeky stuff is a bit weak without visuals. I tend to get "wordy" and often write without adding images or links that would liven up my blogs. One thing I want to try to do differently with RoG is to try and use as much of my own stuff as possible. I can't say that every image I post will be my own but when it isn't, I will make every effort to give proper credit and provide links back to the source.

Towards this end, I want to inaugurate a practice of posting random photos of the day. This will simply be a photo, or photos of items in my collection or things I happen to find interesting and worthy of posting. This won't happen every day nor with every post but I'll try to do it often enough to keep things interesting for me and readers alike.

A couple of my fuzzhead, kung-fu grip Advenure Team Joes. While I had both of these guys as a kid, the two you see here are replacements. In fact, they are modern reproductions that Hasbro did as store exclusives in the mid-to-late- 2000s. Some collectors of vintage Joes grumble that they aren't as good as the originals but I like 'em as much as the old ones. And it makes me feel like my original Joes from childhood are back in action again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Addendum ad nauseam.

Wow, a "two-fer" today!
It's February and as sure as the sun rises, on various hobby message boards I visit, threads have started with people grousing about prices. You can almost set your watch and mark your calendars for this to happen. It goes through just about every sub-set of collecting but I notice it especially prevalent among people who collect what I call "media property" figures and related items. A media property is, by my definition, a work of fictional popular entertainment and the characters, objects or design elements featured therein. More simply, a character in a movie, tv show, video game, comic book etc. would be a media property, as would vehicles and other original design elements and the very "back story" itself. Star Wars is a media property in all its various forms, as well the characters like Han Solo, vehicles like the X-wing fighter and even the little symbols and design elements used throughout the series (like the insignias for the Empire and the Rebellion). Obviously, the price of a media property license adds to the cost of a product and the only ways to address this are to cut corners or raise the selling price. Heck, some folks even do both!

And I get it, the price of hobby market 1/6 scale action figures has gone up extraordinarily the past five or six years. It's difficult to find them much under $100 US and the media property figures are even more. Some Hot Toys items are now creeping very close to the $200 US mark. You get a round or two or ten of threads on various message boards decrying the price increases, people declaring that they are priced out of the hobby, people angry with manufacturers and retailers over "profiteering" and "price gouging" (often backed up by wild claims of cost vs. profit margins), calls for boycotts and accusations of deceit and apologia from people who try to explain what's going on.

Here's the deal kids: It cost what it cost. If you feel that it's unfair and a rip-off for Hot Toys to charge $180 US for the latest Terminator figure, then don't buy it. If other people DO buy it, they sell out and you don't get one, that's just how life goes. These are toys, albeit expensive and sophisticated toys for adult collectors. They are not a life sustaining commodity and you aren't guaranteed nor entitled to have them. Whether it's a combination of economic and market factors that have been repeatedly explained and rejected, or it's simply "greed" and "profiteering" as the whiners usually insist, it doesn't matter. It is what it is and again, it cost what it cost. If a significant part of the customer base can no longer pay what an item cost, this will either cause the price to go down or, more likely, it will no longer be profitable to produce. Someone else may try to produce something similar but at some point they're going to be up against hard numbers of cost per unit and the need to make money and grow their company. If you make 2000 units of a highly detailed item aimed at a discriminating customer base, expect that the final retail cost will be higher than if you make 20,000 of a similar item for a mass market. That $200 figure might indeed be over-priced but it isn't likely that you'll get anything close to it for, say $50.

Many of these complaints basically come down to "I want what I want but I want to pay what I want to pay for it". I get that desire because I feel the same way. If I had the money for a Chevy Malibu but I could buy a top of the line Mercedes for the same price, which do you think I would choose. Is one car significantly superior to the other? Is one worth 2 or 3 times the price of the other? That's a judgement call for the customer to decide and it's why both cars are on the market. Same with these 1/6 scale figures.

By all means, protest, whine, cry, make accusations and above all, don't spend more than you feel you can afford. I'm an advocate for hobbies being affordable and believe that affording something is one of the keys to enjoying it. (That's a whole other article for another time.) However, be aware that you may succeed in convincing the manufacturer(s) that there's no market for their over-priced items and that your "victory" may be pyrrhic when they quit making said items. Alternately, your protest and refusal or inability to buy such items might make someone else say "great, more for me" and go right on buying as the price keeps going up. That's just life!

1/6 scale GI Joe heading back to retail (and my take on it).

Coverage at Action Figure Times and Toy News International.

February is the traditional month for the big US Toy Fair convention. Basically, toy manufacturers and retail buyers meet for a big market of what the toy folks hope to sell to the retailers. I'm a toy geek and one of my nearly life-long interests is the larger scale GI Joe. I like 1/6 scale dolls/action figures in general but as a child of the *COUGH* '70s *COUGH*, GI Joe was very much a part of my formative years. The smaller scale Real American Hero line was certainly neat and afforded the chance to sell vehicles and aircraft that were close to the scale of the figures but it wasn't MY era of GI Joe... the 1/6 scale (or 12 inch) Joe.

After being off the market since the mid- '70s, the large scale GI Joe relaunched in the 1990s, first as a series of large scale, limited articulation figures representing characters from the small-scale RAH series. In 1996, Hasbro did a serious overhaul of the line and released the initial Classic Collection Joes, a series of generic military figures somewhat reminiscent of the 1964-68 era of the original line. This series took off and arguably lead to a major renaissance and expansion of the 1/6 action figure hobby in to what it is today. I certainly bought my share and then some of those early "CC" Joes during the initial late '90s run. While there were a number of mechanical improvements and sub-types, the major change for the modern Joe line came in 2001 with the introduction of the Super Articulated body. Most of the Joes you'll see on this blog (when I get around to posting photos) will use this body type, unless they are vintage-style ('60s- '70s body). The "SA" is my preferred Joe body type, as you can probably guess.

When the 1/6 scale Joe line finally played out after about 2004-2005, I kind of stopped paying much attention to Toy Fair. Honestly, much of the stuff I buy nowadays is aimed at a collector/hobby market and not normally previewed at that event. I no longer buy many (really, ANY) boxed figures because the prices are rather high and because of the focus on licensed media properties.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Hasbro is previewing a small line of 1/6 Joes at this year's Toy Fair. The 1/18 scale- 3 3/4 inch line is still the dominant product but they seem to be dipping their toes back in the water a bit. Hasbro has tried to resurrect the 1/6 scale line several times since 2005, including a few store exclusive vintage reproduction figures, but the results have been pretty mixed, at best. The "modern" style Joe released during this time really cut corners and normally used the older, less articulated body with "features" like torsos with molded-on t-shirts or body armor. Even the large movie tie-in figures were pretty light on features and very basic/ simplistic. I was tired of buying figures to use as head donors then digging through my collection or scouring eBay to find a Joe SA body to use as a transplant donor. Oddly, the last appearance of this body style was with a couple of minor characters from the Indiana Jones line they did back ~2008(?); the Cairo Swordsman and the German Officer.

With the Joes previewed at the 2011 Toy Fair, I'm cautiously optimistic that at least some of them will use the Super Articulated body. In fact, I consider this feature a major "make or break" selling point for me. With the SA body, I'll purchase figures and support the line; without it, there's probably little other reason to spend money on it.

What I'm asking for here is not that Hasbro spend time and money to re-tool the 1/6 GI Joe line into something new and never before seen. Simply use the best of what they already have. I don't expect GI Joes that are the equal of items by Soldier Story, Hot Toys or what have you; just do what they did in the early 2000s with the Super Articulated bodies and other items they developed late in the series and I'll be happy to return to "big box" retailers and buy what they offer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ryotsu Kankichi SWAT officer.

Oh, so that "thing" I found on eBay and mentioned in my previous post is a Ryotsu Kankichi figure that Bandai produced in the late '90s. Right now, he's hanging out in my bathroom, enjoy a bit of a "spa treatment" to deal with some minor staining on his face and neck (10% Benzoyl Peroxide zit cream will fade stains on soft vinyl). The culprit appears to be his stretchy black balaclava but this is simply the nature of these materials. I don't blame the seller I bought it from since, if you display the figure as intended, it's almost guaranteed to happen. Anyway, I snapped a couple of photos the other day before sending him off for a bath and stain treatment.

I really like this little dude and he's been on my "want list" for a number of years. I'd still like to add the "winter police uniform" and "fighter pilot" versions of Ryo-san but the SWAT team guy is the one I'd really been after.
I think he'll soon be joined on some adventure or the other by a couple of GI Joes and maybe one of my Obitsu 27 cm girls. I just need to dig up some Police/SWAT type gear from my collection-o-parts and find the time to do some serious "kit bashing" of the other figures.

Speaking of kit bashing.... I do have a small fire team of GI Joes in the works. I mentioned this in passing in my last post but there will hopefully be actual photos one day soon. The squad leader is basically done and I've assembled most of the gear for the SAW gunner. Next up will be a grenadier but I'm just waiting on the pouches for his 40mm grenades to arrive. For the rifleman, I haven't yet decided if I'll just go with the standard "grunt" (with M4 rifle) or upgrade him to a designated marksman. For now, I've decided to limit my "team building" projects to smaller groups and the common US Army-USMC fire team configuration of four members (two riflemen or one rifleman and one designated marksman, a SAW gunner and a grenadier) seems to be a nice size to work with. Full squads are a cool idea in theory but they can get tedious to assemble and cumbersome to work with in 1/6 scale. They can also be enormous resource hogs in that you have buy and store enough items for a group of similarly attired and equipped figures. That can be 8-10-12 of the same pair of boots or the same uniform and similarly with body armor, helmets and load bearing gear. Weapons can vary a bit but most of your guys will need the same type of rifle with all the nifty bells and whistles (optics, etc.). In the end, you have a large group of similar looking guys on the shelf or in photos where the individuals tend to get lost in the crowd.

I'll probably delve more in to that last bit in a future post and, knowing me, I'll occasionally return to it. It's been a constant theme of mine for the last few years and a source of a frequent internal "tug of war" when planning my collecting strategy and hobby budget.

See 'ya next time!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

So, there I was....

I was all ready to write my next blog entry about how I had been dealing with a bit of hobby burn out when, fueled by a dose of Benadryl and a lot of sleep, I woke up early this morning and started perusing eBay. I found something I'd been wanting for quite a while at reasonable price with a BIN. I also made a quick visit to pick up a few items at Monkey Depot, one of my favorite on-line retailers of 1/6 scale action figures and loose accessories.

Hopefully I'll have some shiny new photos to post later in the week. Maybe I'll also have some new things to post at my other blog, Call Sign: Wyvern, since that's what the stuff from MD is supposed to be for. While the blogs are quiet, there is work going on behind the scenes. I just don't feel it's ready to post yet. My military squad project for CS: W is still lacking some pieces and I'd really like to wait for the up-coming flood of M249/Mk. 46 light machine guns hit the market to finish my SAW gunner (or gunners).

Anyway, stay tuned and hopefully things will get a little more lively around here in the near future.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The best laid plans....

OK, so I had one of those "end of the year round-up" post all planned out but it didn't happen. To be honest, 2010 was not a big year of acquisitions and "hot new items" for me. I have to admit that it's actually been a few years since I seriously tried to stay on top of what's hot in my various hobbies. In the 1/6 scale action figure hobby, I've pretty much settled in to the figures I like to use and they are rarely the most desirable "must have items". Therein lies the problem; how do you do a "year in review" when you haven't bought anything current or followed any trends?

Instead, I had planned to focus on projects I had worked on but there too, I had trouble thinking of anything much to say. Not that I didn't have anything to show for 2010 but it just wasn't interesting. Part of my decision to re-tool my blogs and open RoG is to hopefully better focus this year and in the future. We'll see how that goes, although I'll admit I'm already off to a less than amazing start.

And hey, maybe if I happen to have an "extra" $300 lying around (HA!), I'll buy one of those 3A-Ashley Wood robots this year! (HA! x2)