Sunday 30 January 2011

Hasslefree Survivor Females 02

Without further ado here is part two of my review of Hasslefree's 28mm scale female survivors from their Adventurers range. This time, they are all armed with firearms.
At the far left is HFA001 Eve, who looks remarkably like Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame. I had already painted up a Copplestone Castings not-Lara as my own Tomb Raider, and didn't want to paint this version up in the same colour scheme. I compromised by giving her a Union Jack T-shirt, which wasn't easy to paint! Kev's version of not-Lara is a much more animated sculpture than the Copplestone figure. The way she is holding her pistols is excellent. Note that her arms are separate castings. I thought that I'd have some difficulty in gluing her arms on but I didn't. I used epoxy resin to glue them and they were an excellent fit. My only criticism of the figure is that she is lacking holsters for her pistols. Actually, looking at the five figures in the photos above I see that none of the ladies are fitted with holsters. An oversight, perhaps?
Next up is HFA015 Dionne, who was based, once again, on Selene from the Underworld films. Remember Kat from last time was also based on Selene. I've made a few changes to this figure to convert her into Violet Song jat Shariff (played by Milla Jovovich) from the film Ultraviolet. I lengthened her hair and gave her a short jacket. I liked the Ultraviolet film, despite what the critics had to say about it, so I'm very happy to have a figure of Violet in my collection. As conversions go, this was very easy to do. Technically speaking, she should go in a post on vampires, but first of all, Hasslefree don't make vampires, and secondly, Violet is not a traditional, supernatural vampire but a product of a test-tube.
As a companion piece to Kat and Dionne is this figure, HFA021 Dionne (b). Yep, this is a conversion of the previous figure, in which Kev has added a long leather coat. Now the figure looks far more like Selene when she sets out to hunt down Lycans. It's a lovely figure but for me it's not the definitive Selene figure. That accolade goes to Copplestone's female werewolf hunter, who is in a superb action pose with both guns blazing and her leather coat sweeping around her. I will do a review of her soon. I've painted my figure as a Dionne rather than Selene and gave her a red leather costume underneath her coat. I will point out just how popular this figure is amongst us ATZ bloggers as Willy uses her as LTL Mom in his campaign and Oliver used her as Mrs. Whiteface in his campaign before she ended up being infected. My fellow bloggers clearly know a good figure when they see one!
Fourth in line is HFA031 Kendra. I like how this figure is posed. She has a two-handed grip on her pistol and as she is walking, she's checking all around her for possible threats. She looks like she knows what she's doing. Kendra is an unusual name and the only other time I've heard it being used was in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series when Kendra the Vampire Slayer popped up in a few episodes before being killed by Drusilla. This figure is most definitely not Kendra the Vampire Slayer.
Finally, in this batch of figures is another female armed with two pistols, HFA043 Kitty. I wonder if she's called Kitty because she has a Hello Kitty rucksack on her back? Her jeans look like they have been sprayed on her; they are just so tight. Some of my followers will be pleased to note that she's wearing a thong - you can see the sides of it riding high on her hips. Like the figure of Eve, she comes with separate arms and again I had no problem gluing them in place. Her pose, where she is checking who or what is behind her, is full of movement and animation and perfectly shows just how good Kevin White is at sculpting females. She is an exquisite mini!
Next, are four females armed with heavier weaponry. At far left is HFA014 Suzi. This is the original Suzi that HF produced. The Suzi holding a katana that I showed in my last post was a conversion done by Kev. Here, Japanese schoolgirl Suzi is armed with a MAC10 sub-machine gun. The naughty girl is still flashing her panties! Has she no shame? LOL!
The next figure in line is HFA020 Sadie (b), a conversion of HFA019 Sadie shown last post. This version of Sadie comes with a choice of three sets of arms and weapons. There is the Remington 870 shotgun version, which you can see in the two photos above. Alternatively, you could arm her with a katana or you could go more high-tech and give her an Aliens style assault rifle. After bemoaning about the lack of holsters for the five figures shown at the start of this post, it's nice to see this figure with a holstered pistol. With so many options on offer it might pay you to buy more than one of this figure. I'll be buying a second one soon to arm with the katana.
Proving that Kev must really like this figure, here is HFA063 Sadie (c). Yep, it's a fifth version of Sadie! This time, it's back to a one-piece casting and she holds a MAC10 SMG with silencer in her right hand, whilst in her left hand she is shining a torch at something. It is a very clever conversion and I like her a lot. Again she has a pistol holstered at her right hip and she totes a small backpack, which could hold any number of smallish items, like spare ammo, medical supplies, food, drink or make-up. Hey, there's no reason why a girl can't look her best just because there's a zombie apocalypse!
Finally, is HFA022 Madge, nicely posed reloading a double-barrelled shotgun. As you can see, Madge is a more mature lady, and full marks to Kev for not being ageist. Madge looks like she's a country type, like the lady of a manor or a wealthy farmer's wife. There is oodles of character in this figure and she'd make a great "mother" figure to a group of younger adventurers.
There were a couple of female adventurers whom I almost included in this post (HFA005 Maria and HFA035 Morgan) but they are quite small so I've included them with the kids, and I'll post a review of them next time. When it comes to picking or adding female survivors for your party you really are spoilt for choice with Hasslefree. 
Prices for this batch of figures are as follows: Dionne, Dionne (b), Suzi, Madge and Kendra are £3.50 each. Eve, Kitty, Sadie (b) and Sadie (c) are all £4.00 each. Worth every penny in my opinion!

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Hasslefree Survivor Females 01

Following directly on from my last post here is part one of a review of my Hasslefree Miniatures 28mm scale female survivors from their extensive range of adventurers. This post will concentrate on some of the females armed with melee weapons. My next post will concentrate on females with firearms. There are far more females to choose from than males, which is why I've split this review into two.
At the far left is one of the very few Hasslefree adventurers to be given a first and second name in their catalogue - HFA006 Ashlee Campbell. With her baggy combat pants, heavy boots, tight short T-shirt and headband Ashlee is probably a mercenary or some kind of special forces soldier. She is armed with a pair of pistols kept in shoulder holsters (nice touch!) and a chainsaw, which I have bloodied around the business end. It should be noted that Hasslefree make a zombified version of Ashlee, so I guess her chainsaw ran out of petrol at a crucial moment. I wish there were more figures available in "before and after" modes. It is rare to see a female toting a chainsaw so kudos to Kev for sculpting her with one.
Next to her is HFA002 Jess, a character who is ideally suited to hunting down zombies. Her most obvious weapon is her hockey stick. But look closer and you'll see she has a pistol in a holster on her right hip, a sheathed knife on her left hip and a sawn-off shotgun strapped to her back. If you want a female star for your zombie apocalypse game you'd do well to consider Jess. She is such a beautifully sculpted figure.
In the centre of this group is Hasslefree's not Buffy Summers aka HFA019 Sadie. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I am a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which case it should come as no surprise that I love this figure. The only thing I don't like about her is her name - Sadie. What an awful name for such a fine figure! She is armed with a wooden stake and has a crossbow slung across her back, perfect for killing vampires but just as good for killing zombies. If there were enough figures to represent the Scooby Gang from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I'd certainly use them in a scenario or two. Kevin White, HF's sculptor is a Buffy fan and I'm grateful for the non-Buffy figures he's made so far (Buffy, Willow and Spike) but I want more (especially Angel, Giles and Xander). Kev clearly likes this figure as there are another four variants of her. Check out my next post to see some of them.
Fourth in line is HFA025 Suzi (b). The (b) denotes that it is a variant of another figure (HFA014 Suzi). Here, Suzi's SMG has been replaced with a katana. This figure is clearly based on a Japanese schoolgirl from an anime film. The unfeasibly short microskirt that shows her bum and panties is, if you'll pardon the pun, a cheeky touch! If you want cute and deadly with a huge dollop of sex appeal, Suzi is your girl. Suffice to say, I'll be reviewing the other Suzi figure next time.
Finally, is HFA004 Kat, a very animated swordswoman. She has something of the look of Selene (Kate Beckinsale) from the Underworld films about her, although I haven't painted her as such, despite the fact that Selene is probably my favourite vampire character in films. (Speaking of which, I just read earlier this week that Kate is going to star in Underworld 4, and that hubby, Len Wiseman, is going to direct again. Fang-freaking-tastic!) This figure is full of dramatic movement and Kev really is an expert at sculpting the female form. I saw this figure painted in this colour scheme on the Forum of Doom a few years ago and really liked it, as it was such a contrast to painting her in black leathers, which must surely be the default choice for painting her.
So, here are five very worthy females to join, or in some cases, lead, a party of survivors in a zombie apocalypse. I can't recommend them too highly to you. Prices are as follows: all except Kat are £3.50 each. Kat is slightly dearer at £4.00 but bear in mind, she is a three piece casting - the arms are separate from the body. Join me next time for a look at Hasslefree's females with firearms.

Sunday 23 January 2011

Hasslefree Survivor Males 01

I was asked if I could review more survivor figures to use in zombie apocalypse games and it is something I am happy to do. One company in particular has a reputation for making some of the finest adventurers on the market and that company is Hasslefree Miniatures. Over the next few weeks I'm going to take a close look at their 28mm scale Adventurers range. I'll start by reviewing some of their male characters.
 These five figures in the two photos above are all armed with melee weapons. Although, the figure at the far left, HFA007 Ray, totes a double barrelled sawn-off shotgun as well. Okay, is there anyone who doesn't know that Ray is based on Simon Pegg's eponymous hero from the film, Shaun of the Dead? I thought not. He is a very good likeness for Shaun and so I have painted him up as such, complete with the "bit of red" on his shirt. In the film, it's red ink, by the way. I've bloodied the cricket bat to show it has been used to bash in the skulls of any zombies who got too close. If you ignore his movie origins, this would make a great figure for a survivor hero or follower.
The next figure, HFA052 Dynamic Ray, is Ray in a, well, more dynamic pose.This figure is extremely well animated and beautifully sculpted by Kevin White, who sculpts most of the Hasslefree figures. The sense of movement and action here is just superb. I did not want him to look too similar to the original Ray figure, so I opted for a very different paint scheme. I set my ATZ campaign in America and I have no idea how easy it is to get hold of cricket bats over there. Perhaps one of my American followers could let me know if cricket bats are easy to buy in sports shops? Anyway, he is a fantastic figure.
Moving on, but staying with the Shaun of the Dead film, is HFA026 Tony, aka Ed as played by Nick Frost, Shaun's best friend. Once again, the likeness is just spot on. In the film, Ed wore a T-shirt with the slogan "I Got Wood," so I've replicated that on my figure even though it is partially obscured by his left hand texting on his mobile phone. Tony/Ed is armed with a golf club, which may be what the T-shirt slogan is refering to. However, I rather suspect it might have a more sexual meaning! Tony is a good figure for a sidekick.
Fourth in line is HFA045 Joe, a punk with a baseball bat. Originally, this was going to be a 1960's version of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series prior to him killing Nikki the Vampire Slayer and stealing her leather coat, which he wears all the time now. Lose the Mohican haircut and he still could be Spike but Kev has just sculpted the definitive Spike figure in the afore-mentioned leather coat. When I came to painting this figure I was going to give him a multi-coloured Mohican but I've done that on so many other figures. So, I thought painting it white would not only be something different but quite striking in its own right. This figure would work well for a Survivor or a Ganger.
Last in line, is HFA051 Zombie Hunter Kev, which is based on Kevin White himself. The figure comes with a choice of three weapons - a fire axe (shown here), a katana or a pistol (see below). The figure does appear to be smaller than others in the range, but bear in mind, Kev is forever being mocked for his lack of height on a few forums so this is just a case of Kevin accurately portraying himself and well done, I say, for not making him heroic scale.
This next batch of figures are all armed with pistols and/or sub-machine guns. First in line is HFA003 Grant, who does look a bit like hardman Grant Mitchell from TV soap opera, Eastenders. No, I do not watch it as I can't stand any soap operas! Grant is well armed with an SMG and four pistols in holsters. I see Grant as ex-special forces, so I've painted him in olive green combat pants and a black T-shirt. This guy has hero written all over him.
A while ago, I reviewed Studio Miniatures' figure of Hawk aka a not-Snake Plisken figure. I mentioned at the time that Hasslefree also made a not-Snake Plisken figure and here he is, HFA050 Cobra. He is instantly recognisable as Kurt Russell's heroic character from Escape From New York and Escape From L.A. Of course, for copyright reasons, neither company could call their figures Snake Plisken but that doesn't matter because we know who they are meant to be. Of the two figures I think Kev's version is the better sculpted figure. His pose is much more dynamic and not as flat as the Studio version. He makes a great partner for Grant.
Third in line, is HFA058 Tony (b), which tells you this a variant of the Tony figure shown above. This version sees Tony sporting a pair of SMGs and he is festooned with ammo clips, ten of which are strapped to his chest. I often wear a baseball cap, but I have never worn it with the peak pointing backwards. Whilst it is not something I'd do, it works well for Tony. I painted THW just above the peak of his cap as a nod to Two Hours Wargaming, producers of All Things Zombie. If I didn't already have such a good figure for Vampifan this would be an excellent second choice for me. So, this figure gets a big thumbs up from me.
And finally, I come to another version of HFA051 Zombie Hunter Kev. I bought two of this figure so that I could use two of the weapon options with him. I may get a third figure sometime and give him the katana. For this figure I gave him the pistol option. In order to make him look as different as possible as the fire axe armed version I painted this figure up as an African-American. He looks like he could belong to a group of gangstas to me. Once again, he could be used as a Survivor or a Ganger. You decide.
These are all excellent figures but I should point out that they are not the only male adventurers available from this range. The cop types will get their own post, as will the military types. Others, like for example, Oakley, are stuck in my lead mountain, waiting to get painted. So, I will revisit this topic in the future. I might even have bought and painted the katana wielding version of Zombie Hunter Kev by then.
Finally, let's have a look at prices. At present, Ray, Tony, Joe and Grant cost £3.50 each. Tony (b) costs £4.00. Cobra and Zombie Hunter Kev cost £4.50 apiece. There are those who say that Hasslefree's figures are too expensive. I disagree and I'd say that what you're paying for is quality! Next time, I'll review the female survivors.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Vampifan's Illustrations 03

This is my third and final post about my illustrations that I drew for the Vampire:the Masquerade role-playing game and I've kept the best till last in my very biased opinion. The common denominator in all of these illustrations is my Toreador vampire player character, Pamela Andrews. I am sure that many of you have been wondering, "what does Vampifan look like in real life?" The 28mm scale figure that I use for Vampifan in my ATZ campaign is a fairly accurate representation of me but this picture is much closer to reality, even if it was drawn in 1994. I still look pretty much the same today, still far too fat, but I have a lot less hair nowadays. This illustration was my answer to the question I'm sure many role-players have thought about - "what if my player character was real?" I saw myself as being a thrall to the all powerful Pamela, one of her minions who look out for her during the hours of daylight. She wouldn't have to use vampiric charm to make me fall in love with her because if she was real I'd be besotted as soon as I saw her. My NASA baseball cap came from when I first visited Cape Canaveral in Florida in 1990. I still own the V:tM T-shirt I'm pictured in and because I rarely wear it, it's still in excellent condition. This picture is very personal to me. A wish fulfilment? Absolutley!
Next up, is this three-quarter length portrait of Pamela and this was the first portrait that I drew of her. It is based on photo of Page Three model Linda Lusardi from the neck down. For those not familiar with the term "Page Three model" it refers to a young lady who poses topless in English tabloid newspapers like The Sun or Daily Star. They almost always appear on page three of the newspaper, hence the name. In the Linda Lusardi picture that I liked, Linda was wearing a white leather jacket, and her cleavage was not as pronounced as Pamela's. Both changes were easy enough to do (well they were for me!) but I did give myself a lot more work to do by making the leather jacket black.
From the neck up it is my imagination at play.
So, who is Pamela? Pamela was sired in 1970, so she is a very young vampire. She is extremely self-confident, happy-go-lucky and seemingly carefree. She has an unshakeable estimation of her own worth and she revels in her vampiric abilities. When she does fail in some task, she is quick to find someone or something to blame other than herself. She tolerates the Camarilla, but only because it suits her. She is very loyal to Clan Toreador but because she has a bit of a rebellious streak, she has a certain amount of sympathy for the Anarchs. She has no desire to be a leader but neither will she be a subservient follower of others.
This illustration shows Pamela wearing a costume that is so brazenly sexy and revealing that I'm sure she'd turn the head of almost any red-blooded male with a pulse. Once again, my inspiration for this illustration came from Linda Lusardi. Yes, it is true that I had a huge crush on Linda during the 1980's until she retired from the glamour scene. I have a photo of her wearing this very costume but not in this pose. My pose for Pamela is far more in-your-face than Linda's... and far more revealing! Pamela is a very extroverted person and she enjoys dancing, particularly disco dancing. This is just the sort of costume she would wear to visit a night club. It is not the kind of outfit to wear if you want to blend into the background and not be the centre of attraction. Pamela, however, has fantastic Presence. I spell Presence with a capital "P" as it is one of the three vampiric clan disciplines available to all Toreador vampires. Pamela is extremely well-versed in this powerful discipline.What makes this discipline so powerful is that it can affect many people at once. She became very adept at affecting people's emotions. It is fair to say that she has a great affect on my emotions - lust being the primary one!
I'll sum up this illustration in three words - Pamela does demure. Doesn't she look so cute and innocent here? This is not the look of a monstrous killer who could rip your throat out in the blink of an eye. However, you should remember the word "Masquerade" in the title of the role-playing game. The most important rule of any vampire's life (or should that be unlife?) is to hide the fact that vampires exist from humans. So the fact that Pamela looks as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth is all part of the Masquerade and perfectly acceptable vampire behaviour.
This illustration was not inspired by the lovely Linda. I can't remember exactly where I first saw the photo my drawing was based on. It could have been in the fashion section of my daily newspaper. I have no idea who the model was but I liked her pose and as soon as I saw her I thought of Pamela. The model in question was much more flat chested, as a lot of fashion models are, so I have enlarged her breasts so that they are Pamela sized. A 38D I believe! The face is all my own work and I love her expression in this picture.
I mentioned the Camarilla fan club last time and I showed you four of my illustrations that appeared on the front cover of the fan club's newsletter, Nightlife. I also mentioned that each clan produced their own newsletter for their particular members. When I first joined the fan club, the Toreador newsletter was expertly produced by another graphic designer, Debra, whom I became very friendly with. She lived in Norwich but resigned after a fallout with a bunch of London-based players. So I was eventually put in charge of the newsletter. After just one issue I learnt what a thankless task it was. For a clan noted for its artists, writers and poets I got very little feedback or contributions. I don't know how Debra put up with it for so long. After three issues I, too, resigned, utterly fed up with the apathy displayed by so many people.
This picture represents a scene from my first V:tM campaign. You may remember last time when I was talking about the gamer in my group who played a Tremere vampire. He called her Arian and he was the worst kind of power gamer imaginable. The term Min/Max was so apt for him as he tried to gain every advantage possible. Once he learnt that vampires could gain power by draining the blood of a lower generation vampire he was on the rocky road to Hell. In V:tM such an act of depravity is called Diablerie and it is severely frowned upon by all clans of the Camarilla. When I began my campaign every player chose to begin with an 8th Generation vampire, the best that was available to starting characters. After quite a while of gaming (this was a long campaign) Arian had reached 6th Generation through Diablerie and was looking round for a 5th Generation vampire to drain. I was getting fed up with his lust for power so set a trap for his player character. Pamela contacted the Toreador Justicar Madame Guil about Arian and they set a trap for her. Not surprisingly, he fell for it hook, line and sinker. Arian and Pamela travelled to the highlands of Scotland where a dormant 5th Generation vampire was supposedly buried. Arian skillfully overcame all of the traps placed in the underground tomb and found what she thought was a vampire Elder. She drained him of blood and calmly walked out of the tomb. Pamela wisely held back as Madame Guil had brought along a group of human special forces soldiers. Arian went down in a hail of gunfire. Being a powerful vampire, the bullets didn't kill her but they immobilised her long enough for Madame Guil to stake her. My illustration shows Pamela with Madame Guil drinking a glass of Arian's blood as she hangs above them, staked through the heart. Suffice to say, that incident ended that particular campaign.
By now, you're probably wondering if all of my illustrations are black and white? Clearly not, as this picture shows. I began a new V:tM campaign when Steve Jackson Games brought out a GURPS version of V:tM. GURPS has always been my favourite role-playing game, so when White Wolf allowed SJG to produce a version of their best selling RPG I was delighted. Here was a chance to start afresh and learn from the mistakes of the past. I still kept Pamela as my PC but now she started play as a 7th Generation vampire. White Wolf had brought out the Elder's Handbook so starting with a more powerful vampire was an option. The GURPS campaign did not last as long as the White Wolf campaign. Converting characters over to the GURPS system took far longer than creating a character with the White Wolf system. But at least it ended on a happier note with no in-fighting.
This illustration was done to use as a portrait on my GURPS character record sheet. It is not based on a photo but comes entirely from my imagination and I am immensely proud of it. The original illustration was drawn in pencil, than coloured in with coloured pencils. Finally, I went over the drawing in pen and ink. When I became more competent with desk top publishing I was able to scan it into my computer and add airbrush effects with a program like Paintshop or Photoshop. The portrait also served a second purpose. It gave me a pose to work on for when I sculpted my own 28mm scale figure of Pamela to use in my GURPS campaign. The result of my sculpting can be seen in the photo below. I've sculpted a lot of figures in my time. Some are good, some are dire, but this sculpt of Pamela ranks as one of my best ever. If I was to be brutally honest, I'd have to admit that the head is just a tad too big for the body, but hey, I'm only an amateur sculptor. Sculpting Pamela was as much a labour of love for me as drawing her was.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Hasslefree Psycho Killers 01

This is the first of many reviews of Hasslefree Miniatures' excellent range of 28mm scale adventurers that I have planned. I'm starting of with their psycho killers, simply because it ties in with my last figure review of Foundry's The Family.
Starting at the left of the two photos is HFA013 Mad Dog, armed with a fireman's axe and dressed in fireman's helmet, short cape, stout boots and a pair of Y-fronts. The HF website describes him as a "suave and sophisticated zombie hunter who unfortunately got caught 'with his trousers down'." I doubt if I'd agree with that statement. I think he's more likely someone who's escaped from a lunatic asylum. Anyway, you can have fun making up your own back story for who he is. He is, as always, beautifully sculpted by Kevin White. Just check out the expression on his face.
Next in line is HFW103 Bob. There is no doubt at all that Bob is a psycho killer. That's an evil grin he has if ever I saw one! Please note that this figure was sculpted by Michael Brand and not Kev, who sculpts the vast majority of Hasslefree figures. By a strange coincidence, Michael has decided to dress him in Y-fronts as well. He is armed with a large butcher's knife, which won't help him at all if he goes up against anyone armed with a firearm. Still, I expect he prefers sneaking up on his victims and catching them unawares.
Moving on, here is the first of the two female psycho killers and this one is HFA028 Bunny Boiler Alice. She really doesn't like bunnies! The toy bunny she's carrying has been shot between the eyes and its stuffing is spilling out of the huge exit wound in the back of its head. I certainly wouldn't want to mess with a crazy lady armed with a .44 Magnum! When I came to painting her dress, I wanted to paint it so that it appeared transparent, as if the dress had been soaked in water. Having seen a similar paintjob on the Forum of Doom, I'm happy with the result. Note that there is a second version of this figure available - HFA029 FU-UK Alice. The only difference between them is that the second version is wearing Doc Marten boots. I preferred the more feminine footwear worn by the figure shown above.
The last figure of this particular group is HFA027 Problem Child Alice. Given that she is also called Alice, I think it's a fair bet that this a younger version of Bunny Boiler Alice. Again, my paint scheme for her was inspired by a version I saw on the Forum of Doom. I wanted her to look as different as possible to Bunny Boiler Alice as I'd like to use both figures together in a game, so I didn't want them to appear to be related. This Alice is a sulky, young teenager holding a bloody kitchen knife. Her apron is spattered with blood, although I'm not too happy with how it's come out. She is very similar in looks to HFA030 Alyx, probably because both figures are based on the same armature.
The prices for these figures are £3.50 each for Mad Dog, Bunny Boiler Alice (and FU-UK Alice) and Problem Child Alice. Bob costs just £2.50. These are all very nicely sculpted figures, who'd fit in well as Gangers or Survivors in ATZ. As psycho killers, they are nowhere near as scary looking as the evil quintet of Foundry's Viscera Family. Nevertheless, if any one of them approached your party in a post apocalypse game, how far would you trust them?

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Vampifan's Illustrations 02

Here is more of my vampire artwork that I did in the mid-1990's. At that time I was a member of a fan club for the Vampire: the Masquerade role-playing game, which was devoted to the seven "good" clans of the Camarilla. In alphabetical order, they were Brujah, Gangrel, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Toreador, Tremere and Ventrue.
The fan club offered two newsletters, one covering all seven clans and another, which concentrated solely on matters relating to whatever clan you belonged to.
Anyone who knows anything about the clans of V:tM will not be surprised to learn that my clan of choice was Clan Toreador. They had the greatest appreciation of the arts and many of their vampires were artists, dancers, musicians, poets and writers. As a graphic designer and art lover myself it was a no-brainer that I opted for Clan Toreador.
This hulking brute shown here belongs to Clan Brujah, the rebels and anarchs, although they also embrace philosophers and great thinkers. The logo on this vampire's T-shirt reads "Nightlife," which was the name of the Camarilla fan club newsletter. If I remember rightly it was published once a quarter.
Next up is a member of Clan Gangrel. The Gangrel are the most animalistic clan, with many of their kin possessing disturbing animal features and behaviour. They are a nomadic clan but because of the threat posed by the werewolves, most of them are forced to remain in urban areas where vampires proliferate.
This portrait would work equally well for a Brujah but the Brujah vampire that I drew could only be a member of that clan.
Note the ankh necklace he wears. The ankh symbol is a common motif found in the World of Darkness, as the setting for all of White Wolf's rpg's was known.
This illustration, the previous one and the next two, were used on the front cover of successive issues of "Nightlife" fanzine. I'm quite sure that it was precisely because of the work that I did for the Camarilla fanclub that I was offered the job to illustrate Valentina Nightingale's book, Darkling, I Listen. I did not get paid for any of the work that I did for the Camarilla; I did it purely for the pleasure. I don't think anyone who works for a fanzine does it for the money.

This Gothic-looking vampire is a member of Clan Malkavian. Every one of their members suffers from some sort of madness or lunacy. The previous two illustrations and the next one are based on photographs with a few modifications of my own so that they aren't direct copies. For this one, however, I had an actual model. Suzi Brooks was her name and we were very good friends at that time. She used to work in the same architects' office as my brother and it was he who introduced us. Suzi was unlike any Goth I had known as she was so full of life and was a great joker. We had such a lot in common and I was proud to call her a friend. When she learnt that I was an artist she was only too happy to pose for me. She did play V:tM, as well as numerous other rpg's. Call of the Cthulhu was her personal favourite. So, Suzi became my choice for a Malkavian vampire. We lost touch when she left the architect's firm that my brother worked for, but we did meet up again, quite by accident, when I attended the centenary celebrations of Bram Stoker's Dracula in Whitby in late 1997. She was engaged to a guy with the biggest mohican haircut I have ever seen. I often wonder what she's up to now? A lovely lass!
Finally, we come to my interpretation of a Clan Tremere vampire. The Tremere are the only clan to practice magic, or more specifically, blood magic. All of the vampire clans are secretive, but the Tremere are more secretive than others. Indeed, there are those who say the Tremere are not vampires at all, but human mages strifing for immortality.
In the UK, there is an insurance company called Scottish Widows and they have used a woman dressed in the hooded cape I've drawn for many years now to represent their company. I thought if she was a vampire she'd belong to Clan Tremere. I should stress that the person I've drawn never appeared in any advert or material to do with Scottish Widows but the idea most certainly is.
I've shown four of the seven clans, so what about the other three? Well, I have lots of illustrations for Clan Toreador and I'll show them in a separate post. Actually, all of my Clan Toreador illustrations feature one person in all of them - my player character, Pamela Andrews.
As for Clans Nosferatu and Ventrue, I never got round to drawing them. I did have plans for a Ventrue vampire. Clan Ventrue are the nominal leaders of the Camarilla, known as the blue bloods because they tend to embrace those from the ranks of the aristocracy or business leaders.
As for Clan Nosferatu, they were always going to be my last choice to illustrate. Every member of their clan is hideously disformed in some way. They are literally monsters. However, they are excellent spies and information brokers, so they have their uses. I admire beauty more than I admire ugliness so I deliberately put off coming up with a suitable illustration for a Nosferatu. It is a shame that I didn't get to illustrate all seven clans, but I eventually became very disillusioned with the way the fan club was being run and I never renewed my subscription.
This illustration was used as a poster to celebrate a vampire event being held in York. I can't remember what the event was called or who attended. I did not get to attend. I was given a brief of what to draw, which I followed to the letter.
I called this illustration "Helena Attacks." Helena is a Toreador of immense power, possibly the most powerful Toreador on the planet. She resided in Chicago, masquerading as a fledgling vampire. My client wanted a beautiful long-haired vampire for the illustration so for me, that meant Helena. Her male victim stands absolutely no chance of survival.
I've signed and dated this in 1995 and I'm pretty sure I drew it after my work for Darkling, I Listen. The other four illustrations that I've shown here were all drawn in 1994.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Foundry Figures' Viscera Family

I have had to come up with a new label for this set of figures I'll be reviewing here - Psycho Killers. In ATZ terms they could be Survivors although I think Gangers describes them better. What is beyond doubt is that these are amongst the scariest figures on the market. They are Wargames Foundry 28mm scale set SV025 The Family.
These five scary-looking reprobates are the Viscera family. At far left is Ma Viscera, who, to me, is far scarier than a psycho with a power tool! A baby-doll nightie, nipple tassels, tight black panties, stockings and suspender belt ought to be a sexy combo, but when they are worn by a wizened old hag like Ma Viscera it is downright creepy and just plain wrong! With her blue rinse hair-do and Dame Edna Everage glasses she probably thinks she is a beautiful woman. Uh-huh! No way, Jose! What makes her worse (if that is possible!) is the fact she is armed with a taser. This means she doesn't want to kill her victims - she wants to stun them first. It's probably the only way she'll ever attract a man dressed as she is. Being caught by Ma must be the very definition of the phrase, "a fate worse than death!"
The big brute standing next to Ma is amusingly called Junior. He is built like the proverbial brick shit-house! That he wears a muzzle hints at cannibalistic tendencies. I love the fact that the sculptor has given him a power drill as his primary weapon. That is so cool! He backs that up with a blood-stained meat-cleaver and a selection of tools and implements stashed away in his apron. A set of pliers, a screwdriver and a pair of handcuffs are visible. Of all of the family, he is the most muscular. He just oozes menace.
Coming a close second in the muscle stakes is the first of the twins. Foundry didn't give him a name but I have called him "Big Ben" Viscera. The psycho killer wearing a hockey mask and wielding a chainsaw may be something of a cliche but Foundry have done something clever here - they've given him a twin brother!
The fourth figure in line is his diminutive twin brother. Echoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito from the comedy film Twins, I reckon. I named the little guy "Lil Bill" Viscera. Hence, Bill and Ben the Chainsaw Killers. Coming soon to CeeBeebies, LOL! Like Junior, the twins are bare-chested to better show off their muscles. They wear matching leather trousers, boots and a leather harness (not sure what the harnesses are for).
Last, but by no means least, is Cletus Viscera, who has a penchant for gimp clothing. Well, given what the rest of his family is like, you could hardly expect him to wear sensible clothing! He wears a zippered leather gimp mask, studded leather underpants and thigh-high leather boots. What makes him potentially the most dangerous of all is the fact that he is the only one armed with a ranged weapon - and a downright nasty one at that - a flamethrower.
I must admit to liking these figures enormously. Ever since I bought All Things Zombie, I have wanted to run a scenario with them in. I think they would positively thrive in such an environment with the collapse of law and order. Imagine a group of survivors arriving at their isolated farmhouse being pursued by a horde of Ragers. Caught between a rock and a hard place! Would I want Team Vampifan to meet the Viscera Family? No way! I like my heroes too much and at present I just couldn't see them surviving an encounter with this bunch of psycopaths. Give me zombies any day!
Wargames Foundry have a reputation for being expensive, too expensive in many buyers' minds. This set, from their Street Violence range, costs £10.00 (when I checked this morning), which works out at £2.00 per figure. That's not bad in my book. If you like your horror films, (and if you don't, what are you doing reading this blog?) you really should consider adding this set to your collection. Typing this review has but me in the mood for some gratuitous violence so I'm off to watch a few Texas Chainsaw Massacre DVDs! Rev it up, Leatherface!

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Vampifan's Illustrations 01

In my Christmas editorial I promised that I'd showcase some of my undead-related artwork on my blog. In 1995 I was contacted by Valentina Nightingale to illustrate a short anthology of vampire stories she had wrote. This was a dream come true for me as I was heavily into vampires at the time. This was the period that my Vampire: the Masquerade rpg campaign was at its height and I was actively involved in the Camarilla fan club for the game. Valentina sent me the five stories that would appear in the book and gave me free reign to illustrate them as I saw fit, with the brief being one full page illustration per story. So I present to you the five illustrations in the order that they appear in the book, which was called Darkling, I Listen.
"The city at night is a wonderful place to be when one is looking for something to warm the soul..."
Andreas loves the night-life of Phidean's Drift - what vampire wouldn't? When he meets an old friend, he learns the story of the Kite-Flyer, an enigmatic young man, who is ridiculed for his beliefs and desires. Desires that only Andreas can help fulfil...
In my illustration, Andreas is the guy in the leather jacket. The dude in the cape is the Kite-Flyer, a young Goth who wants to be a vampire but most of all, wants to fly. His attempts at becoming a vampire end in failure and his attempt to fly ends when gravity teaches him a harsh lesson after he jumps off a tall building. A bunch of rubbish bags break his fall but he still smashes all his limbs and his mind becomes that of a 10-year old boy. I chose to show Andreas granting the Kite-Flyer his ultimate wish - to fly. This is my least favourite illustration for the book, not because I think it's bad - simply because I think the others are better!
 "It was the first on November, in the year nineteen hundred and sixty-seven when Nathan Lee Wallace first saw her..."
A white haired lady haunts the graveyard where Nathan's father is buried; though she is not strictly human, she knows more about the virtues of human love than any mortal. Only Nathan knows who the true vampire in his life is - and it's not the woman who waits patiently by his father's grave...
This was the illustration that I most enjoyed drawing for the book. Less than a mile from where I live is High Usworth Church. I spent some time during the summer of 1995 sitting in the church's graveyard sketching the scenery to ensure it looked right. The weather was perfect and I was on an emotional high throughout that summer as I worked on the illustrations. Ah, happy memories! I'm also very pleased with how the little boy, Nathan, and the white-haired lady have come out. I'm immensely proud of this illustration and it is without doubt, my favourite in the book.
"Lights: like little flames swimming in a pool of darkness..."
In a deserted church on Angel Street, a hundred candles burn. It's Hallowe'en and the city is alive with lights; at a costume ball, no-one knows the real nature of those whose identities are hidden by masks. Loneliness, madness, and love; angels and devils... there is more than one person out tonight who has something to hide...
This beautiful woman is Oriana, whose name means "the girl with the white skin." She is the heroine of the story and she attends the Masquerade ball dressed as Salome in her seven veils. More than anything else, I love drawing beautiful women, so this was a project that was right up my street. I'd love to say that I had a live model pose for me for this illustration but Oriana is a combination of photographic reference and imagination. I'd nominate this as my second favourite illustration for the book.
"Lisle is a vampire. She lives in a flat above a bookshop and plays games with dice and human lives. Lisle dresses in dead girls' clothes, and dances all alone..."
When the pain of living becomes too much to bear, death can sometimes seem like a blessed relief from mortal memories, but Lisle knows this isn't always true. Lisle knows that fate is as unpredictable as the throw of a dice...
Here we have a vampire who choses her victims purely randomly by throwing a ten-sided die to generate a phone number. If the victim answers her call and gives their name, she looks it up in a telephone directory and pays them a visit later that night. I suppose if anything was to date this illustration (other than me dating it by my signature) is the cover of the British Telecom phone directories. They look a lot different then to what they do now. The walls of her apartment are covered in pages from her favourite vampire novels and in a bit of continuity with The Kite-Flyer, she also lives in Phidian's Drift.
"Picture this: the year is 850 AD, it is night..."
Jake Ingrams is a Paranormal Investigator: he makes a living from solving mysteries, but even he has never come across anything like the Moon-Calf before. A house full of secrets, and the dark memory of sacrifice; a plea for help from a stranger and a fearful memory from his own past... all these things Jake will have to face, if he is to succeed at putting the stranger's mind - and his own - at rest...
This is the longest story in the book and I chose a scene from chapter two to illustrate, where young Jake is taken by his parents on a visit to Raincliffe Hall. There he sees a mysterious face in a window but when his mother notes that the weather is taking a turn for the worse, Jake looks away for just a second. When he looks back at the window the face has gone but he is left with a feeling of dread. My brother is an architect and I have a keen interest in the subject myself, so it was an easy task to come up with a design for Raincliffe Hall. This is my third favourite illustration for the book.

This is the illustration that I drew for the front cover of the book, but it wasn't used. It did not bother me that it got turned down as I wasn't 100% happy with how it turned out. It's not as good as any of the interior illustrations, in my mind.
For each illustration, I worked out the design in pencil. This usually took a few attempts to get right. I have a home-made lightbox that I use, so that I can place a drawing on top of it and cover that with a blank sheet of paper. The light shines through the paper, allowing me to trace it onto a fresh sheet. Once I have the preliminary sketch done to my satisfaction I go to work on it with pen and ink.
All illustrations were A4 sized but are A5 sized in the printed book. I used a variety of Rotring technical drawing pens for all of the fine detail work in the illustrations. For large areas of black, I used a brush and black ink.
From start until finish, each illustration took roughly two weeks to complete.

Here is the front cover of the actual book and you can see that Valentina has decided to use a photograph instead. I met the girl she used on the cover when I attended the wedding of the publisher, Jon D Inman. She is a Goth girl called Oona Leppington and she used to live in the city of Durham, not far from where I live.
It would be nice to end by saying the book was a bestseller, but sadly, it wasn't. I don't think many copies were sold. I do remember it received a very favourable review by noted spoon-bender, Uri Gellar, in a magazine devoted to paranormal mysteries. He had some very kind words to say about my illustrations, which pleased me no end.
Anyway, this is my one and only claim to fame; illustating a book of vampire stories. I can happily live with that! I'll post some more of my illustrations soon, including the work I did for the Camarilla fan club.

Sunday 2 January 2011

RAFM Survivors 01

A very happy new year to you all. I hope you had a great time over the holiday period and that Santa was kind to you. He was to me, although I didn't get much gaming related stuff. My dad bought me a beautiful card model of the Tower Bridge, London, but sadly it's too small in scale to use in my batreps. I ordered 16 Recreational Conflict 28mm scale zombies from the states a couple of weeks before Christmas, hoping I'd receive them before the 25th but I'm still waiting for them. A couple of days ago I stocked up on Citadel paints to beat the VAT increase, which comes into play on Tuesday. A curse on our government! I foresee troubled times ahead for this country as Dodgy Dave's and his fag, Nick the Liar's austerity package kicks in.
Anyway, I don't want to get on my soapbox about politics so I'll resume normal service. I was asked if I could do more reviews of survivors so I'm going to kick the new year off with just such a review. I plan on doing lots of reviews of figures that may be useful for survivor types, as well as more reviews of cops, gangers and the military. But first, here's a look at four very usable survivor figures from Canadian company, RAFM.
These are part of RAFM's range of 28mm scale USX Modern Day Heroes. At the far left of the photo is RAF02816 Harold Smith, white collar survivalist. This figure is clearly based on Michael Douglas's character William "D-Fens" Foster from the film Falling Down. But to us followers of zombie blogs, he's Mr. Whiteface, alter ego of Oliver/Whiteface who runs the wonderful Obviously Zed blog. I can see the attraction in wanting to choose this particular figure as a hero player character. The pump-action shotgun is a nice weapon to have but the way the figure is holding it makes it very easy to replace with something different. Best of all, the figure is carrying a big sports bag, which could contain any amount of weapons and/or equipment. If you wear glasses, as I do, this a great figure to use, as very few figures wear glasses. If you don't wear glasses ( I believe Oliver said he doesn't) then paint them as sunglasses for that added cool factor. I'd say this is possibly the best figure on the market to use as a player character.
Next up is RAF02803 Hanna the survivor. What I particularly like about this female is that she's left handed, which is something you rarely see on weapon carrying figures. Her weapon of choice appears to be a .44 Magnum, which I'd class as a BA Pistol in ATZ. She kind of reminds me of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) from The Terminator films. She looks like she could take care of herself in a fight and I do like her choice of pistol. Dirty Harry meets Dirty Hanna!
Third in line is RAF02802 Desiree Dark the mercenary. She's dressed to thrill in a leather basque showing an impressive cleavage, skintight leather pants, long leather boots and a leather duster. Yep, she's a real heartbreaker! She's armed with twin pistols, but it is the big combat knife slung across her lower back that I particularly like. She is a beautiful figure whom I see in the LTL Mom mode, i.e. do not mess with her!
Lastly, is RAF02804 Briggs the rogue cop. He certainly looks like a rogue, with his crewcut hair, designer shades (well, they'd have to be. He wouldn't wear cheap tat!) and chomping on a cigar. Moreover, he's armed for maximum overkill with a minigun! The closest equivalent in ATZ is the Squad Automatic Weapon or SAW. This is another figure with oodles of star quality who'd make an ideal group leader for any party of survivors.
Harold, Desiree and Briggs would be more suited as Stars in ATZ, whereas Hanna seems more appropriate as a Grunt. Each figure costs $4.95 from RAFM's website. When I ordered these in 2009, they were only part of my order. When the package arrived in the UK our Customs and Excise chaps slapped on a £16 fee! Unbelievable! I paid up but I was not a happy bunny. I've ordered figures from abroad many times but this order to Canada was the only time our Customs Office intervened. In hindsight, I should have sent two small orders instead of one big order. So I'd caution you if you're thinking of ordering direct from RAFM. I have since found a few companies in the UK who sell their figures but sadly none of them have the complete range. I will order from RAFM again, I'm sure, but it won't be a big order like last time. I've learnt my lesson.