Sunday, 21 February 2010

Vampifan's Zombies

These four 28mm scale zombie figures are unique. They were sculpted by me in the early 1990's, I can't remember exactly when. They were never intended for commercial use. None of them are built on metal armatures so if I did want to sell them I'd have to resculpt them. I just wanted some some zombies to use in a contemporary or near future setting. Back then, most zombie figures were designed for fantasy gamers. Some could be used in a contemporary setting but not many. Fast forward to today and I'd say that contemporary zombies far outnumber their fantasy counterparts.
I learnt how to sculpt figures in the early 1980's when I realised that no-one was going to make the figures that I wanted to use in the role-playing games or skirmish wargames that I played. The very first 25mm scale figure I made was of Judge Dredd. I made a lot of characters from the 2000AD comic, all of which I look at now with embarrassment! Still, my other gamers loved them, and at the time, so did I. George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead film had a massive influence on me. I loved it then and I still love it now. I still think it is the best zombie film ever made, with the original Day of the Dead a close second. So I made figures of the four heroes from Dawn of the Dead and about two dozen zombies from the film. They saw a lot of use in a lot of games. But as I look at them now I just see so many mistakes I made on them and I cringe. Sorry, readers, but I refuse to show them!
Four figures that I made that I do like are the four shown in the two photos above. The zombie in the black trench coat and trilby, carrying an Ingram MAC10 sub-machine gun with silencer is based on a character from the novel The Assassin by Shaun Hutson. He wrote it in 1988 and I was so taken by a review of it that I had to buy it. It is one of the most graphically violent novels I've ever read and I loved it. The undead assassin, Charles Ross, was an obvious choice for a miniature. I guess he's more a revenant than a zombie but if you play a game that uses intelligent zombies then Ross certainly fits the bill. He can speak and he moves like a normal human - it's just that he's dead. I used an old Citadel plastic skeleton as the, well, skeleton of the figure and added Milliput to it. I was glad that he used a MAC10 in the novel, as they are very easy to sculpt! The Assassin has a line of bullet holes stitched across his chest and a chunk taken out of his upper left arm.
The two kids came about as no one made zombie kids in those days. I needed them for a game, so I sculpted them. They aren't that good to be honest but they filled a niche and they hold up well compared to lots of my adult zombie sculpts. When I saw the little girl zombie that was a winner in the Frothers sculpt a zombie competition I was immediately reminded of my effort as she is in a similar pose. However, the Frothers figure is vastly superior to mine. Neither of my kids are wounded, although they both have blood-smeared fingers. I wanted them to look as normal as possible from a distance. It is only when you get up close and see their undead eyes that you ought to realise these are zombies. The boy is wearing a T-shirt with the Batman logo on it.
Finally, the zombie biker ought to be instantly recognisable to any fans of Vincent Locke's Deadworld series of comics. He is King Zombie, a pivotal and powerful character in the series. If you're wondering what the writing on his T-shirt says, it's "Helmet Law Sucks!" He's a biker with attitude and no one is going to tell him to wear a crash helmet! He too, falls into the category of intelligent zombie and he can speak. He is holding a snub-nosed revolver in his right hand and a cigarette in the other. He may be a zombie but he still likes his cigarettes! Once again, I used an old Citadel plastic skeleton for his skeleton and built up the model with successive layers of Milliput modelling putty. Back then, Milliput was the only commercially available modelling putty. I still use it today, but mainly for filling in gaps on bases.
If I was to remake these figures today, I'd do a much better job on the kids but I doubt if I'd be able to improve on the quality of the Assassin and King Zombie. Nowadays, I almost never sculpt any figures. Most figure manufacturers cover what I need so there is no reason for me to sculpt. Long may it continue as there aren't enough hours in the day for me to do everything I want to do!


  1. Wow Bryan, these are actually quite good! I'm impressed. Maybe you should have pursued this and made a job of it.
    I love the King Zombie figure. Please don't take this wrong, but he could double as a late era Michael Jackson Zombie too. The sunken cheeks and dark glasses make it.
    So where do we place our orders?

  2. That's very kind of you to say, Willy. When I look at them I just see where I went wrong and how I could make them a lot better. I guess I'm my own worst critic.
    I did think about becoming a professional sculptor. I sent a few test pieces off to Citadel and was promptly rejected. Thus ended my dreams of becoming a sculptor!
    I agree that King Zombie is far and away my best zombie sculpt and I see where you're going with the Michael Jackson angle.
    If ever I get the bug to pick up my sculpting tools again you'll be the first to know. Now, how much can I charge for commissions?

  3. I am really serious about these being cool figs. If someone is looking for a hard core historical mini, these aren't it. But if someone wants some cool minis for a fun genre that have a lot of personality, your figs are very cool. I mean the market is saturated with the same old stuff and different is fun.
    Besides, I have seen a lot of big mini manufacturers charge a lot of money for really crappy castings so don't let that citadel incident deter you. In fact, I just bought some Flames of War minis that frankly should go back to the melt pot. And those guys aren't cheap!
    I think that when the mood strikes you, you should try your hand again. I wish I could do it. I tried once but it was a disaster. Interestingly, I managed to sculpt mechanical things quite well, I just cannot do organics. Same with drawing.
    You didn't by any chance keep a master of your sculpts?

  4. Sadly, Willy, these figures ARE the masters, and as I said in my review, they were not built around a metal armature so any attempt to cast them would just destroy them. I'd also have to think about undercuts as well. For example, with the Assassin's arms posed as they are I'd have to cut one or both arms off and cast them separately. Ditto with King Zombie. Seeing as I was only sculpting for myself and never had any intention of putting them into production, I didn't bother with such subtleties. If ever I did try my hand at sculpting again, I'd send them off to Black Orc Miniatures, who accept a lot of work from amateur sculptors. My friend, Mikko, who runs the Dawn of the Lead blog-site had a couple of his zombie sculpts accepted by them.
    With age comes wisdom and I know a lot more about sculpting now than when I created these. I'm not a good sculptor by any means. I'd class my work as competent but I will admit, that can be better than some of the crap that's out there.

  5. They are really cool, Bryan. They certainly are better than a lot of sculpts you see these days.
    Remember the really old stuff from the early 70s, it was so bad you couldn't even tell what that is!

    Its great you made these Bryan. I could see why you wouldnt want to pursue more sculpting as there is so much else to do and I find people eventually get around to making them anyway.

    I actually sculpted a beholder kin and sold it to someone, it was horrid. I blobbed it over a chaos warriors head, lol. I can never get the green stuff smooth enough.

    To each his own art I guess, but Bryan you can do both and thats really cool!

  6. Once again, thank you for the compliments. I do remember the early stuff from the 1970's, Roger. The word "crude" springs to mind. As I said in my review, there just wasn't the choice back then that there is today.

    I am not saying that I won't do any more sculpting, it's just that I'd really need to be properly motivated to pursue a side of the hobby that very few are prepared to explore.