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Dragon: Slayed

[Before I begin, let me just point out that this Dragon took so long to get to even the ‘finished sculpting’ stage, that I had actually forgotten which year I started it in. It came as something of a shock to me to discover (upon checking the giant Dragon thread on the Forum Of Doom), here in 2015, that it was Christmas 2008 that I started it, and not Christmas 2009 like I’ve been telling everyone for the last few years. I’m shocked and horrified to realise that it took me 6 years and 8 months to get from initial armature to finishing the queue off. I am 40 at the time of writing, so that’s over 1/8th of my life this thing took. Best years of my life, etc. Not only that, but I started Heresy officially on April 6th 2002, so that means half of the business life has been spent mired in the Dragon Saga. Wow. ]

boris009_jagu-miniicon‘I fancy doing a dragon’ I said, on the internet once, in the summer of 2008. I was never happy with the dragons that were available at that point to wargamers as kits. They were too small, to puny, weird looking, boring or completely implausible. Some were just dogs or horses with wings and scales, others badly  fitting nightmares of metal.  I saw one that was just an actual elephant with wings.  I thought I could probably do better than some of the ones that seemed to still sell well for other companies, which is the basis for all independent wargames comnpanies (I assume) and the secret arrogance at the heart of any commercial sculptor.  I can do that, we think, and I’d do it better.

I posted a poll asking people what they thought a dragon should look like on the Forum Of Doom, and also posted about it on another forum I frequented. Thus it was that one of my handful of determined online detractors, a small minded little man, seemingly insecure about the perceived success of everyone else, immediately retorted that I wouldn’t be able to sculpt a decent dragon. (later on the guy who sculpted the elephant/dragon said mine was rubbish, which made me laugh uproariously)

Well, if there’s one thing that makes me determined to do something, it’s some miserable shit saying I wouldn’t be able to, thus the idea of making one became something I absolutely must attempt. The next break that I had – Christmas 2009 – I had a little play with some wire, and a lump of concrete from the garden of my first house that I had found and kept because it was interesting, and some putty. I made a vaguely dragon-like stick figure and glued it to the ‘rock’ and felt really good about what it would look like when finished.

Now, I should point out I wasn’t coming into this idea entirely without research or anything – I happened to be on good terms with the chap in charge of the resin company that made the two enormous dragons for Rackham – a French miniatures company that has since ceased trading – and knew that according to him, those two enormous dragons, which were very nice models, had sold only three dozen or so copies. Indeed, in his workshop were a hundred more, boxed up on the shelves and ready to ship abroad (he was in the Midlands in the UK and did work for various companies around the world) but unwanted. So I naturally assumed that if a Dragon model as nice as that one only sold 36 or so, mine would certainly fare no better. But that was beside the point – I just like making nice models that other people like, I wasn’t particularly looking to set a new business record for sales. So a couple of dozen, 36 or so tops, was fine with me.

dragon_1_massive dragon_2_massive dragon_4_massive dragon_6_massive

Those pics there are the earliest ones I can find on my current computer. I’m sure there were a few of the bare bones wires glued to the lump of concrete, but they’re lost to time/inefficient organisation of folders.

Anyway, being a smug, arrogant, egotistical show-off, like all sculptors, I put those pics there online on the Forum Of Doom on 19th of January 2009 and several people asked me if they could immediately put money down on it. Well, I was in a financial pickle at the time with a tax bill that was twice as much as I’d expected. So, in a move that I will regret making forever more, I decided to accept a £30 deposit. And even more foolishly, promised everyone that they would pay no more than £100 for the finished model, even if the cost ended up being more than that. I was basing this entirely arbitrary price point on the casting cost that I’d been told for the aforementioned Rackham dragons. Surely mine couldn’t cost much more to make than those. By the end of January, I’d taken 48 deposits. (I did at least make sure to put clear warnings on the site about how this thing might take ages to finish, that it might not ever be finished, and that any deposits were non-refundable. For all the good that did; wargamers, I would learn, never read the accompanying text on any picture of a model they like the look of. they just click ‘Add To Basket’ and wonder why stuff hasn’t arrived already.)

Oh, 34 year old, Andy, if could travel back in time and stamp on your face until it was mush, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now.

Anyway, with my face unmushed and a half completed dragon model to wave about the place, Salute, the annual Big Show for wargames miniatures in the UK rolled around. It takes 3 months of the year to prepare for Salute as you have to cast everything, package it, work out what your stand will look like to maximise sales, and so forth. Huge amounts of work, every year, for the small businessman. So not much really got done on the Dragon, due to lack of time. The deposits kept coming in though, and I should have stopped taking them then, but I had literally no idea that this thing was going to be a nightmare to finish, never mind manufacture. I was fully expecting to finish it a month or so after Salute for some reason.

By Salute itself, which was weirdly a month earlier than normal at the end of March that year, I think, I’d taken about 63 deposits and genuinely thought things were winding down. 63 was an easy number of figures to cast in metal, so I guess I assumed that resin wouldn’t be much more difficult, although I knew very little about the intricacies of it at that stage beyond you had to mix two things together and pour them into a mould (I’d tried some resin drop-casting as a teen and it hadn’t gone well). At Salute, I chatted to a couple of people who were contract resin casters, and agreed a price with someone that the Dragon could be manufactured in it’s then format of cuts and things without issue, for about £40 a dragon. I’m friends with this man, got nothing but love & respect for him and have no desire to accidentally diss him or his business online so I’ll call him Stan (which took ages to think of because most of the go-to pseudonyms you use like Dave, Pete, Jeff etc actually do belong to other casters), because what happened next is not really anyone’s individual fault other than mine, ultimately. I was very, very naive and wildly over-optimistic about my own ability to finish the sculpt whilst simultaneously running my business. And, as it turned out later, Stan was wildly over-optimistic about his ability to manufacture the dragon whilst running HIS own business. We were two 1-man shows with what woudl turn out to be absolutely no accurate concept of the amount of work heading our way.

Mushed face, I tells ya.

Anyway, to say that the next two years were a miserable nightmare of depression, angst and stress, would be understating it. You see, the thing about this Dragon was that I wasn’t really making it 100% according to my own gut instincts. I had run a poll on the Forum Of Doom before starting the sculpt. I gave people three choices for each of the areas that concerned me, such as what should the Dragon be perched on, what size should it be, what skin texture, and so forth. The results came through as a huge Dragon with a medium length neck,  crocodile scales, a double-row of spines along it’s back, mounted on a rock, dynamically posed with open wings.

Duly noted, I tried to meet this brief. It became obvious that the spines were going to be an issue in terms of dynamics because you have to allow for the neck to move and the spines needed to be overlapping or spaced apart far enough to allow movement of the neck if the dragon were real. I even asked at one point if anyone would be bothered if I did a single row of spines instead of double, and was assured by several people who had placed a deposit that they would be very unhappy if it didn’t have the double spines. So bollocks to your concerns, Andy, i said to myself, just get on with it. But though the spines DID prove to be a pain in the backside, especially from a casting point of view later, they were nothing compared to the labour involved in sculpting tiny squared off crocodile-esque scales on such a large beast, by hand, in a rapidly setting putty. Here was my largest oversight – those scales took forever. A single 1 inch by 1 inch area would took a couple of hours or more of careful sculpting to get a realistic enough result and still remove tool marks and things. And what I definitely had not allowed for were revisions to the anatomy that I now assume to be inevitable on all the things I make. As you work on a piece, you always change it to make it that little bit more realistic, or you have an idea that requires substantial changes to how the model is assembled that requires cunning thoughts and careful  concealment of joins where possible. Or you really want to convey the idea of flight muscles where no previous dragon miniatures seems to have done that.  But every bright idea I had, although they improved the overall look of the thing just how I expected them to, also meant that those scales had to be re-sculpted over the top of the existing ones. So a new layer, taking just as long as the first layer had to be done. And again, when the changes I’d made had to be tweaked to allow for other changes,  and again when parts were cut away to allow for casting, and again when cutting the parts revealed another flaw elsewhere. And again, when I’d been doing it for several months and was now much better at sculpting the scales than when I had started, so much so that later scales looked a different style to any remaining earlier scales. And again, when some parts were test cast in metal and didn’t fit ant perfectly anymore. And again, and again until I almost started crying one winter night sitting alone in the workshop, working on the neck for the 6th or 7th time and wondering if it would ever end. In some areas scales were redone 8 or more times. I know that because when the dragon was cut up for casting for the third time or so, I could count the various different colours of the layers like tree rings. I ended up trapped in this infinite seeming loop where I was working on the same areas of dragon over and over, like a painter on the Forth Bridge in Scotland, where up until 2011 they used to have to paint the bridge from one end to the other to battle corrosion, taking two or more years, and then go back and start again because the weather would cause the paint to flake away (they’ve got a rubberised paint now, which means the bridge doesn’t need painting so often, but growing up it was mentioned on the telly a lot, presumably to impress us kids with the notion of spending your whole life toiling endlessly for the benefit of others. Hmm. That came in handy. )

In fact come to think of it, they finished painting the Forth Rail Bridge before I finished the Dragon queue, and that about characterises the whole situation for me.

Two years.

It took two years to get the time between all the other stuff I had to do, business-wise, to finish the initial sculpting. November 2010 was the month when I sent the Dragon off to Stan to be cast at long last.

dragon_finished_1 dragon_finished_2 dragon_finished_3 dragon_finished_4 dragon_finished_5 dragon_finished_6

That’s how long it took to get the Dragon to a point where I could put it down, and say, “No more. This will have to be the point I stop at.’ I could have carried on forever and never been truly satisfied. I was utterly depressed with it all. I had been through all the stages of grief with it. I was spending far more time at the workshop, or in my tiny little sculpting room at home, than I was with my beloved wife (who has her own health issues and was struggling with clinical depression in her own right; any of you who have experienced depression yourselves or have seen it in loved ones and truly understood a fraction of what they’re going through will know how lost and alone she must have felt never seeing me all day and seeing the anguish I was going through and being unable to help – true depression leaves the victim incapable or simple things like concentrating for long periods, doing physically challenging tasks, sorting things into order etc. We had no children, no pets and yet no money. Those internet trolls refused to believe that the money from the dragons could possibly have been spent keeping the business running, they actually did think that I was rolling around in cash on my bed, laughing at the gullibility of the average wargamer. I wasn’t. I was lying there staring at the ceiling, failing to sleep.)

So, in October/November 2010, two years later, more or less, Stan suddenly found himself being held to a price he’d quoted in 2008 for a ridiculously tricky to cast dragon that was a lot bigger and more complicated than the one he’d seen in the cabinet that year, and not only that, but there weren’t 36 of them or even 63, there were, at that point 136 or something. Much like me, Stan is a man of his word, an all round good chap, and tried to keep the price per dragon down, but at some point the fact that the price he’d quoted did not include the cost of making the moulds required, came as something of a surprise to me. I had sent the money that I’d had set aside for Dragons, expecting it to cover the first 100 castings or more, only to get 30 or so dragons and a £3500 cost of making the moulds.

Having somehow overlooked the mould cost between that Salute two years previously and the first invoice, I was a bit horrified by this bill, in all honesty, (Since then, having made what has felt like an endless series of replacement moulds, I can fully understand why the bill was so high – so much silicone needed, and so much labour going into setting up each mould. In fact, £3500 was actually a bit cheap) but at least I finally had some dragons to send out (one of the first ten or so people to receive a dragon, I would discover later on, slagged me off as an imbecile on a wargames forum under the same username he’d had on the FOD and caused several people in the queue to demand their money back, which massively set back the process of clearing the queue every time it happened. This after he’d already painted his dragon and posted pics on Coolminiornot and seemed to be very happy with it. ).

The only problem was that the castings I received weren’t entirely up to my quality control standards. Of those first few dozen, only 19 full kits made the cut. putting the problem simply, some of the parts were so big that the resin Stan was using was thickening before it reached the bottom of the mould, meaning air bubbles in highly visible places like the wing arms and some of the rounded muscles and things.  The next batch had similar problems. The solution appeared to be to re-cut the dragon  to make smaller pieces, and so I had to do this. I’ve had a few people over the years applaud my bravery when it comes to cutting things up because it’s always a lot of work even on small figures – every cut you make will dislodge surrounding material or run through a detail, and even when you’ve fixed the damage (which in this case also meant taking off a lot of the surrounding scale work so that scales could be re-patterned to better run along the joins instead of having a lot of half-scales that had to be perfectly aligned by the customer) the parts can easily change size in the moulds due to various factors and ruin the fit – you end up with gaps caused by things imperceptibly shrinking or changing shape from a curve to a very slightly less curved thing. The more parts you have, the more gaps you create in the assembled model.

Now, for the sake of sanity, I’ll skip over the next time period, where I spent the whole next year thinking I had a finished dragon but somehow spending that same year chopping the bastard thing up and refitting it, again and again. Feet moved from legs to rock, then rocks were attached to the big rock. The tree was chopped off, then later reattached to the rock. A branch came and went. The neck was separate, fitting in a jigsaw pattern to the torso, but then later moved to become a single piece with that torso. Every casting seemed to reveal flaws in scale work that had to be sorted with more sculpting. Meanwhile, Stan’s own business was suffering – it took a full day of work to do all the pieces for the dragon (much of the labour involved is cleaning out moulds ready for re-use. it takes ages to get every fleck of resin flash out of a mould). Stan had given me an initial estimate of 20 dragons a month, which was the info I passed on to the customers waiting, but this slipped quickly – to ten dragons a month, then 5 a month, then 5 every other month. He was struggling to keep his head above water and spending a whole day working on a dragon for me for £40  – which is piss-poor wages for the amount of work involved, never mind materials etc – just wasn’t something he could accommodate. We had both underestimated the work involved. In the end Stan supplied me with 51 dragons that could be sent out – but with my cash gone and his cash gone it had turned into a case of me casting figures for him and him casting dragons for me, so we’d ended up both not working on our own figures, very odd indeed. The final thing was that Stan cast up 20 dragons and sent them by courier to me. They used up the last of the moulds life (silicon is very fragile and easily tears, which are the large chunk of pink or blue or clear rubber that you might get in a casting from some companies. Once detail is torn out the whole mould is dead) but incredibly, the delivery driver did not bother to deliver them. He forged a signature and threw them over a fence somewhere between Stan’s workshop and mine. 20 dragons gone for good, and me with no money for new moulds.

[By this point I had already put my house on the market, the theory being that since the housing market had gone up, we might be able to sell it for a bit more than we bought it for, and use the spare money to cover the cost of the remaining dragons as well as pay off various loans that were crippling me – I was paying out £700 a month in interest payments, and with sales dropping I really needed to lose those loans (one of them was a flexible loan that I had taken out at 6.7% apr but which jumped to 16%apr after the company was taken over by another bank) . Houses in my area had always sold within a few weeks. So we’d surely be fine. It had gone on the market end of August 2010.  It was in reasonable condition, with new bathrooms and a new boiler in 2007, but we got no takers that year despite lots of viewings because suddenly EVERYONE in Oakwood had their house on the market and buyers could basically pick and choose to their exact taste.]

I have to ahil the patience of the dragon queue again at this point. I was posting regualr updates, every time something looked to be going right I would pass gthe info on, and make deadline promises that come the date in question, simply didn’t materialise. Stan was too busy to get me dragons, or the number of dragons supplied fell below what I had expected thanks to my quality control, and so on and so forth. I ended up apologising to everyone as many times I told them I had good news. Things got pushed back. Shows like Salute would come and go, and Salute takes up the first three months of the year in prep – so every time we got past Christmas, a huge delay would happen where I had to cast up the entire range, package it nicely, and ready my stand for the industry’s big UK pay day. A hundred tiny things piled up on top of each other, and the dragons seemed to slide ever backwards, simply lacking the funding to bring them forth. I was still too busy resculpting parts in the evenings and weekends to make enough new figures; my sales were slowing down. Add to this a couple of other factors, namely the sudden Golden Age of Independent Miniatures Companies -where anyone who could push a bit of putty and had access to a digital camera and the internet could open their own small business. The market exploded, overseas figures that had never really been available in the UK before except tucked away in the corner of a scrappy looking trader’s stand at some show held in a village hall somewhere, were suddenly easily obtainable for a reasonable shipping cost direct from supplier. Extremely talented professional sculptors were being made redundant from big companies and finding that they could sell their figures direct and make much more per sculpt than if they had been working for commission. Kids who had been practising converting their Games Workshop figures for years suddenly started selling bits and pieces to like-minded people to convert their own figures with. It was now a real buyer’s market – anything you wanted, chances are someone would be making a really great version of it. Even so, I was continuing on, but with less money coming in.

The second thing that happened was that a very clever young man in the USA came up with what appeared to be a reliable way of spincasting resin at a speed comparable to metal production, without any of the airbubbles associated with the results that had been the case for the previous decade or more. He sent me a sample of a figure that was essentially a metal figure in terms of quality of sculpts, and at least equal to a traditional resin casting in terms of undercuts and detail, but had the resilience and lightness of a plastic figure. I was astounded by the quality – and so was Stan, who had also been sent a sample  – we both thought it was the future of miniatures production that we were looking at (and these days a lot of companies use that USA company to do their castings). The realisation that 90% of the dragon could potentially be spincast using this guy’s method blew me away. I have my own spincasting setup but the size of the parts exceeded the capacity of my machine. However, the chap in the USA, had machines that were far larger, and could handle wider and deeper moulds. The USA has access to a far greater range of equipment than the UK when it comes to hobbies and crafts and machines aimed the manufacturing of toy soldiers are comically easy to obtain, as well as a plethora of materials in which to cast them. My new friend in the USA had steadfastly learnt all he could about plastics at a chemical level, reading up in dozens of books to understand the process, and come up with a brilliant end result, albeit one that as I understand it he has since almost completely abandoned, in favour of a different material and process. However, at the time, it was revolutionary and everyone who saw it loved it. I asked him if he could help me with the dragon. He said he’d be happy to take a look and see what he could do. I was ecstatic. The end was surely in sight – but first, I had to prepare the dragon yet again, this time it needed to be cut up into sections that could be spincast – there’s only so deep a part can be, and only so wide, even on the bigger moulds available. With razor saws and huge DIY knives, I began to hack and slice the master sculpt of the dragon up once again in to manageable parts for spin casting.

As you may have guessed, this took a long time, hampered as I was by the need to run my business still. I’d estimate it took me six months or more of careful visualising, cutting  and fixing. It’s all blurred into one miserable fog now, looking back. I was still working stupid hours in the workshop or in my little sculpting room at home (the rest of the house was now pretty much emptied of anything messy, which had been put in tubs and was stored on the celing of my office in the workshop.  Boxes of books, miniatures, model kits, all the stuff that was my hobby was boxed away up there to try to make the house look clean and tidy) and my wife was still not well, having discovered some unpalatable stuff about her upbringing that was awful to learn. We were living hand to mouth, and frequently had to beg money from customers to meet bills with flash sales and so forth. Always there was encouragement and support from followers and friends on places like the Forum Of Doom, Facebook and twitter. It helped me get through it. I can’t thank those people enough for their positivity. Holding onto that hope that it would all somehow be OK, and soon. I should point out that by this point, Stan was every bit as busy as me, trying to save his own business and dealing with his own life, to really do much in the way of quid pro quo dragons but the occasional one. The moulds were pretty much finished in terms of usability, too.  This spincasting would work out, though, Everything was going to be great.

Eventually I had parts that would just barely fit in my own spincastable mould tins. I set about mastering the pieces in metal so that I wouldn’t be risking the loss of the dragon sculpt itself by sending it across the ocean.  But casting those massive parts in metal provided it’s own issues – namely, they were so big, and so thick in places that when cast in metal they acquired a horrible sandpapery finish, or worse yet, pitted with a thousand tiny holes. The most awful aspect of the process was distortion though – as thick as they were, those master sculpt chunks were still putty, of varying types, and under the heat and pressure of the vuclanising process they flattened and distorted, not by much, but enough that the metal  castings showed almost no signs that they had ever been intended to fit together.

I’d say that it took another 3 months to go over each casting, find the least warped or pitted ones, and very carefully fill in all the pitting with putty between the scales, file down joins with a huge file intended for metalwork  from the DIY store and build the sections back up with thin strips of putty so that the correct proportions were maintained. It was agonisingly long work, knowing that every day that I was doing this, I wasn’t doing other stuff. But there was something else I hadn’t seen coming. Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a crowd-funding website. And it would prove to be my new nemesis. I have referred to it as a sort of cash-trawler for the hobby. in aprevious post, and it still is to an extent, although in the years since it launched a number of people have become disenchanted with it due to the preposterous numbers of start-up companies with no experience, who have failed to deliver thier promised rewards to backers. I can pretty much point to the month it openened, becuase my taking s dropped by 50% on the year before. Bear in mind that I still wasn’t making much in the way of new figures, which wasn’t helping, but a lot of my regular backers were now spending their budgets on the latest cornucopia of miniatures being made available through Kickstarter from other companies, both old and new. If i didn’t have new figures then why would they give me money? But the worst bit was this – all those new companies had also seen the new spincast figures, and they wanted their own ranges to be made in the new material.

Which meant that by the time I’d finished crying and filing and swearing and roaring in frustration and had the parts ready to send, my USA guy was way, way too busy to help anymore. Dozens of companies wanted him to make their stuff, and he was simply snowed under with work and no forseeable opening.

Well, shit. I was devastated, in all honesty, as this had been the miraculous light in the tunnel that was going to solve everything and I had been telling people this for months. I had several angry customers who hadn’t been following my updates and just wanted to know why they still had no dragon. Now the spincasting was off the table, ultimately through no fault of anyone’s but mine for taking so long to fix things up ready to go, even though it was unavoidable that it took so long.

By now the house had been up for sale for three years, with an endless stream of people who would give reasons for not buying it as ‘the stairs were in the wrong place’ or ‘it didn’t have a jacuzzi bath’ but as 2013 rolled over, in February that year, one last couple came to see it and put in an offer. It was a low offer, and even after haggling it up it meant we were selling for what we bought it for  and the funds to clear the loans would rob us of any deposit for a new house. Additionally, with the recession hitting home, the freely available mortgages for self-employed people were no longer there, so with no way to prove I could afford any mortgage, taking the offer would mean jumping off the property ladder and renting.

We took the offer.

We moved just after Salute that year, handing over the keys on May 5th 2013. My buyer was a bumptious arrogant little oaf of a man, and I hated having to sell to him, but we did. We took the equity and paid off £34,000 of loans, credit cards and overdrafts. I had a small amount left over, only £5k or so. If I spent it on dragon moulds, it’d be gone almost instantly. Only one thing to do, and that was do the same thing I’d done when I bought my own metal spincasting machinery at the start of Heresy. make the dragon myself.

Guess what; more re-sculpting. This time I was simply undoing all the work I had done to make the dragon spincastable. I had to reassemble the parts to make a minimum number of RTV castable parts. Another a couple of months there – at least I didn’t ahve to cut much up, it was all gap filling and some small tweaking to make fits. Given that the parts were now in metal covered in putty (alas the original sculpts were largely destroyed when they were vulcanised, the process causing delamination of the various putty layers that I had used). By June I had reassembled the putty-altered metal castings of the dragon into what I hoped were manageable parts. This involved a lot of resculpting to reinvigorate detail and so forth. (BTW, if it were possible to make a dragon in metal I estimate it would weight around 12kgs, assuming you could find a machine capable of handling the mould needed to make a 3 inch deep rock for the base)

Slight problem: I didn’t really know much about the resin process except that you mixed two parts together and vacuumed it to get the air bubbles out. I understood the principles of positioning a part in a 3d space to get the best casting, but had no real experience of mould making and so forth. Enter Jed Norton of Antenociti’s Workshop fame. Having followed my troubles, he offered to hook me up with some pressure pots form his supplier over in Stoke (since gone bankrupt) and let me spend a day at his workshop with himself, his wife Nadine and his caster Roy, and pick their brains on the ins and outs of resin casting. It was invaluable. I left with a far better idea of the resin process than I had had previously, but in much the same way that watching someone who’s an expert doesn’t make you an expert yourself, I would still have huge gaps in my knowledge. However, I felt confident that I could remember enough of what i’d been told and shown to get cracking with the dragon parts myself. I used the remainder of my house funds to buy a vacuum chamber, vaccuum pump and a new compressor to pressurise my two big pressure pots.

Thus at the end of July 2013, I had the beginnings of a resin casting setup, and needed the dragon to cast.

(Side note: I met a man called Paul Turner at this time, and we discussed possible plastics I could make once the dragon was out of the way. I’ve had them on the back burner for the last few years, always expecting the dragon to be resolved imminently. Paul has worked with resin for 20 plus years at various companies including automobile manufacturers. He described the dragon parts I was about to attempt making as ‘an absolute bastard in casting terms’. If there’s an easy way to do anything, it seems I deftly avoid it every time.

Second side note: by this point I owed Stan a fair bit of casting in return for QPQ dragons, and we had tacitly agreed that he wasn’t going to be able to cast any more for me. We both knew things hadn’t worked out how we wanted, but thankfully we still seem to be friends. I’ve seen a lot of people rage and spit at each other in this business and it’s a tragic thing when it happens. I have nothing but respect and love for Stan and am always happy to see him in real life, usually once a year at Salute. He’s a lovely bloke. Since his involvement in the Dragon Saga he has added pressure casting to his setup and been involved in the casting of 1000s of figures for a massive Kickstarter that he successfully fulfilled, so I suppose even he’s learnt a bit of resin stuff as a result of the Dragon crapping all over him. But I’m still sorry for nearly killing your business along with mine, Stan.)

There are videos of some of my early attempts at moulding the dragon on YouTube, full of optimism and the joy of a new process. After all, I had been shown all I needed to know to get started, so after that it was surely just a matter of working through the process and learning. I envisaged myself churning out 20 dragons a month before the end of 2013, scything through the queue. At this point I still had 200+ dragons to make IIRC. If I had truly understood the amount of work ahead of me I think I might have curled up and screamed. But i was resolute that i was going to break this thing before it broke me.

That’s me attempting to open my first enormous self-made mould. Sadly, I had failed to visualise the spines properly – in the end it transpired that by trying to fit the whole torso into one giant mould, I was simply allowing the dragon to lock itself in place. It was almost impossible to open the mould and remove the casting without something being broken, be it leg or spine. Yes, I had to cut it up and resculpt it a bit. How did you guess?

This was the start of the learning curve, and as various pro resin casters had warned me, it was a massive curve indeed. if I’d had the funds, I’d have got two or three different companies to cast for me, but I didn’t have the funds. So all I could do was get on with it and overcome the problems one at a time. Starting with chopping up the big torso into separate chunks and legs:

By this point, sales had gotten so bad that my minion of several years, Craig, had left the previous year and now I was having to pack the orders and cast metal myself, so even that small amount of time was eating into my resin casting time. Add to that all the myriad problems involved in the process, such as thinking you’re being clever by mixing up a big batch of resin to do several moulds with, only for it to set in a fraction of the time listed on the datasheet and emit so much heat that you burn yourself picking up the container to boot, or the air bubbles that you just can’t get out and the mould misalignment that renders a piece unusable. Dozens of ways to fail, but only one way forward and that was to learn from your mistakes.

I quickly realised that more pots would speed things up a lot. With only two of them, I was forced to wait around between batches whilst things cured under pressure. I had been impressed by the vast collection of pots Jed had in his workshop in Stoke – over 20 of them. My two were looking somewhat token by comparison, especially when I had so many moulds for the dragon to get through. However, bear in mind that by the end of 2013 it had been 5 years since the Dragon was first sighted, and some people were getting antsy. One German customer, who had 3 dragons on order at £100 each, was asking for the fourth time where their dragons were. Disregarding the fact that when they put their money down it was on an understanding that that money could not be refunded, they had had enough of me promising things that didn’t materialise (their dragon trio was still 87 dragons away or something) and I felt obligated to return their money. Several other people also demanded their money back, usually because they had seen some forum post that had shaken their resolve, but sometimes because they had simply gotten older and were no longer in the wargaming hobby! I was acutely aware of time slipping me by at this point. I was heading towards 40 (this year, 2015, in fact. I didbn’t get any cards from friends, had no party to celebrate and had no money, nor owned my own house  or anything like that, it felt pretty crappy but I was too busy to dwell on it) and it felt like my whole life had been spent locked in a tiny workshop worrying about dragons.

Every time I got a step ahead, it was two steps back, be it money wise or sculpting wise. Each and every refund tore a hole in my finances. Just as I thought I had the funds to buy a new pot, someone would come along and demand theirs back. It was frustrating but there was nothing to be done. What I need was more pots, and more space. I needed a bigger workshop, and someone to help me by emptying the moulds and cleaning them whilst I cast.

My contract for my existing workshop, which I was renting from a very dodgy landlord based in Manchester, was coming to an end. I got a terse letter demaning more money for the same poorly maintained space if I wanted to remain. I enquired about one of the larger units and was ignored (I don’t think the landlord’s nephews were really very good at communicating with him in their role as supposed legal department for his firm, after I left the old unit I got an angry email from him asking why i hadn’t paid the rent that month and had to point out hat his own firm had basically forced me to leave through lack of response). I would have to look elsewhere if I wanted to have a proper set-up.

There was only one way that I could afford to move, and that was to run a kickstarter that would get me the funds for a new place, new equipment and the silicon and resin I’d need to bring back all the stuff I could no longer sell because of metal costs rising so much since I started back in 2002. Reluctantly (I didn’t want to add to my dragon workload, I wasn’t an idiot to that degree) I ran a small project, setting the date to end just before I was due to move.

In an unexpected move, the world decided to play along with one of my bright ideas for a change, and the Kickstarter proved massively successful. Way beyond what I had thought possible. Suddenly I had the funds to rent a bigger workshop, buy more pots, get a big load of silicon and resin and bring back the old monsters, as well as hire a new staff member. Incredible! I remember the feelign as I went for a walk about half an hour after the Kickstarter ended. I was in disbelief and spent the next two weeks afraid that something would still go wrong and the money wouldn’t turn up for some reason. happily it did, although some people demanded refunds for reasons as stultifying and brief as “I don’t like the figures any more’, never once thinking that it was an investment process not a shop. Ah, well.

I was still on my own, and this was days before my contract was due to expire on the old unit. At the last moment, literally 8 days before I would have to stay at my old place for 3 more years or leave, I found a new workshop twice as large and the paperwork was rushed though. I was able to find a van for hire, and moved workshop over the course of a week or so. (At no point did my landlord make an appearance to check the old unit, or the estate agents who were supposed to be the go-betweens. I left the keys with a neighbouring unit.) Amazingly, two people travelled to Derby to help me do this, and I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to Drew and Darren – especially Darren who stayed a whole weekend at his own cost and was an absolute marvel, needing little direction and basically disassembling the old office walls singlehandedly. I’d have hired him on the spot but he had three jobs up in his home town and wasn’t looking to move to Derby. If he hadn’t shown up, I’d have had days of single-handed work ahead of me because nobody else was volunteering to help.

I took a video of the new workshop after I moved in.

I still can’t believe I fit all the stuff into my old workshop and the first thing anyone says here in 2015 when I’ve been in there a year, is that I really need a bigger workshop. the place has been rigged out with racking and shelving that took me 8 weeks to build and organise to a point where I could resume casting dragons and then I had to spend 3 weeks catching up with the orders. I advertised for help, and out of all the people who applied, only one man passed my applicant test – basically, anyone who wanted to work for me needed to be really keen. I loathe half-heartedness. The needed to show me they wanted the job. So I ignore the first emails people send. It’s a simple test: If they want the job, they’ll ask for it a second time, chase me up, see if I got the first email or if it went astray. Dan, my minion at time of writing, was the only person to do that, the others never bothered.

Dan started in December 2014, at which point I think I still had 186 dragons to do. It was a bit of an odd time, because Christmas was coming and I close the workshop for two weeks because it’s the only time of the year when most people don’t expect you to send out orders (someone always does, and they’re usually an American, and they email you on December 27th and ask where their order they placed online on December 23rd is, as it hasn’t been shipped yet.). Immediately following Christmas, I had to start prepping for Salute again too, so the amount of Dragons being cast was not as much as I wanted. I also had to start on the Kickstarter models that had been added to my list of things to do, because some of the backers didn’t read the message about the dragon being in front of everything, and expected to see updates. The first three months were mainly Salute-oriented. Thankfully, my regular helpers, former minion Craig and show minion Andy ‘Pockets’ Starling turned up to help for the week before the show and we got it done. Dreadful show, due to a lack of new figures and so forth, but I broke even more or less and at last there was nothing between me and the dragons once it was out of the way.

So there we were in May 2015, and there was the dragon queue. I was still having to make and replace moulds. I needed half a dozen moulds of each part to stand a chance of ever finishing the task, and that’s what I made. Some moulds wore out after only a few castings, as all it took to render them useless was a tiny rip in any of the massive amount of scales, and a huge 4 kg mould was bin-fodder. The oily silicon couldn’t even be chopped up and reused! But despite the amount of money this was costing, and the amount of work making new moulds and rethinking how parts should be positioned, here at last was progress. Here at last, that queue was going down. The first milestone was when I got to 150 dragons to go.  Then 118 dragons, because that was more than halfway to the end. We were still a long way off, and having closed the dragon queue in January in an attempt make it a finite amount, by June I had to reluctantly sell 10 more to those who wanted one, just to cover the cost of a new set of moulds to clear the remaining 50 dragons.

50 Dragon felt like less dragons than 42 did. We were stuck on 42 for ages as moulds began to fail left and right, and it became clear that some dragon orders had been miscounted and people were owed two dragons not one. We were casting and moulding and that 42 was not moving. it didn’t seem to change for four weeks. It was so odd.

And then I turned to Dan and said fuck it, let’s kill this thing. I’m going to sell those 10 more dragons I was talking about, make one last set of moulds and power on through.

And here we are, now. I don’t own my own home anymore, I live in a tiny house that costs me more to rent than the one I owned. I owe thousands on my credit card again and have a business overdraft of £10k that I am maxxed out on. I have a big list of models still to make for the Kickstarter.

But I finished casting the last needed Dragon part on Saturday the 21st of August.

Half an hour after I took that last part out of the mould, thunder rolled and a storm hit. It was massively satisfying. I’ve now taken two weeks to try and make some progress on the Kickstarter models, although I seem to have spent the first week writing about dragons in the form of newlsetters, social media and this blog.

Thanks again to everyone in the dragon queue who waited years to get their dragon. Special thanks to those people who seeing the straits I have gone through, paid me some more money on top of the £100 they had been promised as the price. VERY special thanks to those who topped it up to £200 when the RRP hit that. Baffled thanks to those who didn’t pay me one penny more, even for shipping, and mocked me when I asked, but at least didn’t demand their money back. Starey eyes to the couple of people who did not pay me a penny more and immediately sold their dragon on for more than they paid me. Oh how that hurts, having gone through what I’ve gone to keep my promise to them. Meh, it’s their dragon though. I got them it in the end. Nobody, not that miserable little online shit nor the vitriolic berater from the early days can now deny that. And that’s all I really have to show for it, apart from a basic knowledge of resin casting and a shit-ton of practise.

I have kept my word, where anyone sensible, or self-centered enough, would have done the ‘proper’ business decision and walked away, declared bankruptcy and got a job selling kettles. One man who runs his own miniatures business suggested I should have sold the list of names as gullible marks to some spam caller company because they were all fools. The very notion angers me.

I have a dragon for everyone in the list that I have checked names against since January 2009 when I stupidly took that first deposit. I have been ridiculed, vilified, held up as an example of how not to run a business and belittled. I have felt lower than some of you will ever know and I have nothing to show for it, no shiney car, no ipad, no smartwatch; no laughing children to play with, no holiday albums of my wife and I enjoying our 30s in interesting locations. I took 8 separate days off in 2014 (I marked them on a calendar). Our last proper away-from-home-and-miniatures holiday was in 2007, a week spent at Monkey World. I turned 40 in February and haven’t even had time off to see my elderly parents since Christmas 2013 (my car wouldn’t have made the 500 mile round trip and I couldn’t afford the petrol at Xmas 2014 to drive up there anyway), But I was raised by my parents to keep my word, so I did that.

Now to try and keep my business. I’ve learned a lot from this. Time to put it to good use. Time to make a load of demons and a giant for the Kickstarter.

No, I’m not making a new dragon. I’m going to leave that for a bit. There are 300 or so of mine out there in the world, that will suffice for now.

Thanks for reading. It’s probably a bit long, and filled with grammatical and spelling errors, but it’s a tale I felt needed telling so that when I get asked about that Dragon that I used to sell I can point people to this link. Most people have had no idea of the heartbreak and mental war behind this model. They just assumed it was another dragon model like the ones they got form those other companies. This one cost me too much. This one was not a mass-produced toy, forgotten by the sculptor after they were paid to sculpt it for a month or two and sent if off for approval by the studio director. This one hurt. It broke me, and my life. This one was a one-off. I hope never to have such a massively successful problem again.

http://www.heresyminiatures.com/shop

If you have been impressed by this tale, and want to help out, why not visit the shop and buy something? If you use the Redemption Code THEDRAGONISDEAD you can get 25% off any metal figures before the 9th of September 2015. It would help me keep going. I have a lot more things I want to make now that the Dragon is finally out of the way, and I think you’d like them.

Much obliged

Andy Foster

Director. Sculptor. So very tired.

Face currently still unmushed.

Heresy Miniatures Ltd

August 28th, 2015

dragon_001_daemonslavedragon_LARGEdragon_0natezettle2

boris009_jagu-miniiconPS For those who said I couldn’t or wouldn’t do it:


New look!

I have installed a new, cleaner template on the site, as everyone said the old one was too cluttered. Hopefully you can find everything you want now! Excuse any odd bits whilst I tweak things. I takes hours to go through the php code and find out which bits affect what, and I haven’t a lot of time spare to do that right now – still trying to get the Kickstarters out!

 

Internet Discovers Man Who Is Always Banging On About Being Massively In Debt Is In Massive Debt.

Apparently I’m being slagged off on the internet somewhere for my official company accounts showing a £36k loss. Some Facebook group or other that I’m not a member of, but which a couple of people have mentioned to me via personal message.
Sorry about that, internet. I’m not sure why you’re surprised, though, and if you’d been paying attention, you’d already know it, what with me having mentioned it a LOT in the last couple of years to anyone who politely asked me ‘How’s it going?’ at a show, for instance…
But, Internet, I know how these days you despise people who don’t give up in the face of overwhelming debt. People who swear to keep a promise or honour a debt presumably confuse you in this day and age of instant hatred for honour, compassion, libtards etc. Usual suspects probably, there’s one guy, who almost destroyed a friends business when he worked for them with his behaviour, who only ever comments on the Heresy Facebook page to slag me off about the price of a big model, or what have you. Apparently it gives people like this great pleasure to see me struggle, for some reason. Or it makes them angry that I haven’t just given up, perhaps. Who knows? Who cares? Well that tiny fragment of pride that I have left that doesn’t like all the constant begging for sales, perhaps complains, but that’s a feeble, withered creature these days. A one-eyed, albino wretch with twisted limbs, mewling softly in the corner of the room.
But wait! Enough of the maudlin! I give thanks to those apparently defending me, too! People like you are why I haven’t given up. People like you help me hold on to the thought that I may yet turn things around.
I’m never very sure why some people think I make up the not having any money shit. Or why some people think you can spend your way out of it without money or other resources to do so. Don’t for one moment think I haven’t got a plan though.
My whole aim is to get this Kickstarter queue out of the way so that I can run several small Kickstarters in a row and gradually get out of the debt without getting mired in a huge queue of hundreds of moulds to cast. Get my weekends back, etc. I just need to do the difficult bit, which is finish off the KS queue, first. Because you aren’t supposed to run a KS before your previous one is completed, and because I won’t run one without the models for it finished first.
 
FYI, part of that huge loss last year is down to the fact that my accountant is holding back some of the Kickstarter money as Creditors until I’ve posted out enough of the Kickstarter to apply the rest of the money against the costs of the campaign. Don’t ask me why he didn’t apply the KS money to that loss last year, I’m not an accountant. (But I do understand that business losses carry forward, so that’s actually a couple of year of cumulative loss added up.) That’s why I pay him his fees. He knows what he’s doing.
I’m not quite £36k in debt, more like £25k if you add up all the credit cards, paypal loan remaining, overdrafts etc. But as long as I get the sales in to cover the outgoings, I could be a gazillion pounds in debt and still carry on. Just need those minimums met each week, week after week. (rent, workshop rent, council tax, food, bills, fuel and car repairs, interest repayments for cards and overdrafts.) That’s why i get to throw myself at your feet all the time and try to tear your attention away from all the shiny new things on Kickstarter from other companies. This whole independent miniatures business thing is all about being on Kickstarter nowadays. Very few people still order regularly form the little guys if they aren’t doing so via Kickstarter. I know of other companies who now do 90% of their business on Kickstarter, instead of the regular mail orders.
I’ve been recovering from the Dragon Saga since 2010, when I thought it was finished and all the money went to the caster, and I got almost no usable casts out of it and years of reworking the sculpt to try and fix the problems the caster was having. In 2013 I had to take the plunge and start casting the big lizardy bastard myself, which meant not only buying the kit to do it, but learning how to resin cast from scratch. No easy learning curve. meanwhile I had no time to make new figures, which is the real dagger in the heart of the current situation. No new figures then means no new sales then and still now; people like shiny new things. In Autumn 2014 I ran a Kickstarter which gave me the money to get enough pressure pots and some help to cast up the dragon and the Kickstartered models. But long story short, and skipping over some of the blame game, the money ran out before the models for the KS were all sorted out, so I’m still not quite recovered yet. I’m almost there. It takes a whole working day to run all of the moulds for the resin models and empty them ready for a second run. I worked out that if I could take 3 weeks off I could cast up all of the models that were needed to fill the last 90 pledges or so, (most need 25 or less copies, the majority only need less than 10 copies) save for the ones that aren’t sculpted yet (the Giant, Netherlord II, Light VS Dark diorama, Angel and Demon, and a couple of Deathball monsters, all of which are in the last 25% of being finished except the diorama). So there’s light at the end of this particular tunnel, but it’s doing that thing where the Director zooms in whilst moving the camera back, so it keeps getting further away even whilst it seems to be getting closer. If I had a spare £2000, i could take three weeks off – sadly, the big Salute show was a below average takings one; all the money from it went on a minimal amount of metal, plastic bases and cardboard mailing boxes. So no 3 weeks of funds there. So i carry on as I have for the last few years, hand to mouth, posting out Kickstarter pledges whenever I have a few quid extra to cover the postage, slowly whittling the queue down and planning out what I’ll do first when it’s gone (sculpting, of course)
It’s therefore all about cash flow these days, has been for a couple of years, hence all the constant reminding/begging you to buy things. I saw one of the millionaires on Dragon’s Den on TV a couple of years back slag off one of the other millionaires because his company was in debt. The 2nd millionaire shrugged and declared that it was all about cash flow – as long as he took £1 more than he lost in any given month, his business was doing well. Which is a bit not right, but something to hang onto – as long as I can keep paying the bills, no matter how much I have to beg to get it done, I’m not out of the game yet.
If you want to help until I’m clear of the last campaign and then can get back on Kickstarter to run a new one, pop on over to the shop:
www.heresyminiatures.com/shop
(you can buy gift vouchers to use against future cool models if you don’t see anything you want right now or if you want to save up to get one of the big ones)
Or buy me a coffee:
www.ko-fi.com/A600M6J
Or you can back me on Patreon for as little as $1 a month and that gets you access to any work-in-progress stuff that I haven’t officially put on pre-order somewhere yet. If I can get 2000 people backing me on there for $1 a month, I could be assured that my rent is paid at home and in the workshop, which would take so much  of the stress off me that I’m certain I’d get more sculpted due to getting more sleep instead of lying there staring into the suffocating darkness worrying if I’ll be able to pay the landlord in two days time etc.
www.patreon.com/AndyFoster
And yes, internet, I know this post will make you despise me more, if that’s your thing – but it’s YOUR thing. it says more about you and how you treat the world, than it does about me. I’m just going to keep carrying on as best I can until the job is done, one box of monsters at a time.

Logan – Film Review

Go see Logan. I went last night, using up the points on my loyalty card with Odeon. (And by the way, fuck you too, Odeon, for taking all my points away for not using them and changing the terms of the agreement for your Premiere Club members) 
Logan
Jackman finally gets to look old as Wolverine aka Logan aka James Howlett
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have been very firm in interviews that this film was their last time playing these characters. And wow, do they do it justice. Such chemistry, and such energy. And Steven Merchant is really good too, losing his trademark leering idiot schtick for a quiet nuanced performance as Caliban, an albino mutant tracker who is allergic to daylight, and has thrown in his lot with Wolverine and Xavier as a sort of live-in nurse, not that he’s happy with that position.
Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23 also does an amazing job, and she deserves more films (although the inevitable horror of the standard Hollywood child actor’s life trajectory makes me wish she doesn’t do them). Although Dafne can’t watch the film, she’s responsible for some of it’s goriest action, flying through the air all claws and roaring, an adorable berserker, rolling severed heads towards her foes and facing off against Wolverine in a dominance fight over a backpack and not losing out at all. I don’t know how many actresses they tried out for the role, but they really got the best one. Compare her to Jake lloyd as young Anakin Skywalker in the Phantom Menace, it’s a completely different league and different ballgame too. She spends most of the film saying nothing but glaring and sllcing and stabbing people, but she can carry her own lines later too. One to watch for the future.
There is no extra scene after the credits on this movie. For good reason. This is not setting up a franchise (although it easily does, because of who’s left alive at the end of the film)
Also, they use a Johnny Cash song over the end credits, but it’s not his version of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ as per the trailers, it’s ‘The Man Comes Around’. They really should have used ‘Hurt’. ‘Hurt’ describes perfectly the position that Logan, aka Wolverine, aka James Howlett is in when we meet him at the start of this film, Hugh Jackman’s final outing as everyone’s favourite X-Man. 
If you want to go in completely fresh and unspoiled, stop reading here. Maybe a paragraph ago, actually. Sorry. Just know that it’s a long film and with lots of swearing and violence it’s not one you’d want your little children to see even if you could smuggle them into the theatre.
This movie is rated 15. This because nobody says the word cunt, which would be instant 18/R but the opening scene is filled with more fucks than a world record gangbang porno. Everybody swears, even Professor X, who is now a fraction of the man he was, in his 90s and suffering form that greatest of indignities: old age. Logan is particularly benevolent with dealing out fuckage. But the swearing doesn’t rankle – it’s honest, and refreshing to hear superheroes talking like regular people talk to each other. If anything they swear a lot less than normal people do. How long have you waited to hear Professor X tell Wolverine he’s full of shit? If you got stabbed in the chest, wouldn’t you call the stabber a motherfucker and cut his arm off for his troubles? Yeah, you would. So it’s fuck this, fuck that and motherfuck the other. The only one who doesn’t swear is Laura, the eleven year old MacGuffin of the movie, thrust upon old man Logan out of nowhere when he’s hired to pick some people up in his slightly bullet-nibbled limousine, trying to make enough money to get himself and Charles out of the hole they’re hiding in. She doesn’t swear, but by god does she up the body count. You know how we’ve never seen the Wolverine on screen that has existed in the comics? The raging berserker, the restrained animal? You get to see that in spades in this movie, but only some of it from Wolverine himself. Well sort of him as well. Can’t explain that comment but you’ll know what I mean later. You find yourself wishing they could go back in time and re-jig the X-Men movies for adult audiences instead of PG, because the sight of people having their faces skewered is just how it should be. Even when those people are frozen by a telepathic blast and being murdered slowly, one by one, it feels like something that that character would do.
As much as Jackman inhabits the limping, scarred, dying slowly Wolverine, heavy and slow, not really healing anymore but still tough enough to survive shotgun blasts and kebabings (my one niggle with Wolverine on film is people keep seeming to get through his adamantium ribcage, chest and spine with no problems), he is matched scene for scene by Patrick Stewart.
Stewart revels in his role as cantankerous and childish Charles Xavier, often befuddled with alzheimer’s, still trying to reach that inner core of kindness in logan, yet suffering from the pain of not knowing something as much as his inability to fend for himself. There is a scene in the movie, without spoiling too much, where Wolverine passes off Xavier as his father, and that is very much the relationship. The dutiful son, resentful of how his life has gone, bickering ceaselessly with his father yet filled love and respect for him and the urge to protect him from the world – and in this case, the world from him, as you will see. It’s really quite a powerful on-screen relationship and masterfully written, directed and acted. Stewart’s magnificent voice is faded and hoarse now, and it’s perfect for him, playing older than he is as a 90-odd year old Xavier.
You’ll never find a better example of the struggles of caring for the elderly in a superhero film, either!
The plot of the film is fairly simple. they pull direct comparisons to classic Western ‘Shane’, even including it in the film itself. Wolverine is a done man; his body is rejecting the adamantium at last, and he is waiting to die. Reluctantly drawn into protecting and transporting Laura to a supposed ‘Eden’ where mutants are welcome, he has one last lesson to learn about being a hero before he can buy himself the boat of his dreams. This is a road journey movie, with the bad guys in hot pursuit but never much more than a means to an end. They could have used a bit more of Richard E Grant’s evil scientist, who has created Laura as part of a project to build a new-mutant army for sale to the highest bidder. We never really get to know him in the few scenes he’s in, and he is rather overshadowed by one of his other mutant creations. Donald Pierce, played by Boyd Holbrook, starts out as the main threat seemingly a skilled assassin, but fizzles out by the end of the film into what I would call ‘Bennett’ level villainry, if you seen the 80’s tosh classic Commando you’ll know what i mean. All mouth and no trousers. But the real enemy of the film is in fact Death, and rage, and pain and all that living a life filled with it brings. Someone offers the advice ‘Don’t be what they made you’. But here on screen is Wolverine how he should be, how he was made in the comics, at last; more or less, anyway. Maybe he could be shorter and uglier and so forth, but this is the version we’d hoped to see from the very first X-Men film. What a shame that it’s also the last we’ll see of Hugh Jackman’s version of him.
But maybe we’ll see more of Dafne Keen’s Laura.
 
Last thing: if you can’t make it to the cinema, then this film should transition to the small screen easily enough. There’s no 3d to worry about, the camera is usually tight and personal as opposed to WOW LOOK AT THE VISUALS THEY”RE HUGE AREN’T WE GOOD AT VFX, This is a story about characters, some of whom happen to be able to kill you with their mind or claws. Unlike Doctor Strange, which was all visuals and no feeling, Logan is all about the people and will be excellent to watch curled up on the sofa under a quilt at home with no loss in quality.

Aberratas

This was a bit of colour text from the NetherHells rules that I still haven’t finished due to lack of time/money, written in 2003. If I had the money to live without worry for a year I would write, write, write. And maybe paint. And sculpt.

~Andy

 

Aberratas

 

Samuel glanced around the chamber. The last of the ferals had been despatched and lay dying on the stone floor, its legs quivering feebly as the last of its life flowed from its wounds. He wiped the blade of his father’s sword clean on the rags of the feral he too had just killed, then stood and nodded to Ramirez. Ramirez responded in kind then took a deep breath and readied himself for the next stage of their quest – the Dark Lord himself, Abberatas.

Samuel almost laughed just to ease the tension he was feeling. He had trained for seven years to reach this day. He had mastered eight different styles of sword fighting and proven himself the finest blade in the whole of the Kingdom of Mercia. He would avenge his father’s betrayal this night.

Aberratas, the Scourge of Baracusa would die by Samuel’s father’s sword, just as Samuel’s father had died by the blade of Aberratas.

Ramirez signalled the henchmen to move on ahead, through the huge double doors that consumed the far wall, their blackened oak frames silent and watchful, a thousand years old and harder than steel. Captain Akanat led the way, the other twelve men treading cautiously behind him, weapons held ready, breathing quickly, eyes darting for signs of further ambush.

Just as they reached those forbidding doors, there was a thump. Ramirez and Samuel darted forward as their mercenaries huddled together for better defence. Sweat beaded each man’s face. Yet nothing now sounded in that gloomy chamber. Nothing at all.

Ramirez relaxed visibly and laughed. It sounded too loud even to Samuel.

“Fools!” He cried. “’Twas nothing save the dark lord himself fainting at our approach!” There were a couple of half-hearted chuckles in response but the men did seem less tense. Samuel smiled to himself. Good old Ramirez. His young friend had studied under him for the last two years, and was probably the second finest swordsman in Mercia after himself. He turned to the doors again, and held his torch aloft to try and see a means of opening them.

At once, there was a ponderous grinding of wood on wood from behind those slabs of evil oak, a sound that seemed to carry for miles through the labyrinthine tunnels the party had already passed through. The mercenaries, Ramirez and even Samuel took an involuntary step back.

Groaning as a banshee might, the door slid inwards on massive hinges, a stench of bodies billowing out as though the air had been belched forth from the Netherhells themselves.

A figure stood before them, robed from head to foot in black, its head hidden within the depths of its hood. A gentle hissing could be heard as it breathed, and steam issued from the shadowed depths surrounding its face.

Samuel stepped forward, his rapier held firmly in attack. “I am Samuel Pedro Villamaro, son of Estevez Camuto Villamaro. I am the finest blade in the kingdom of Mercia and I have killed a hundred of your beasts, Aberratas, that I might find you tonight and slay you for your crimes. You shall not escape me!” he shouted and lunged forth, thrusting with his favourite attack, the one that his father had shown him the night before his death and with which he had slain the ogre that had eaten his younger brother, the ghoul king that had eaten his mother and the troll that had eaten his dog. The move was lightning fast, elegant in its efficency and inescapable –

The Dark Lord simply caught the blade in its hand, as though Samuel had thrown a stick.

In the infinite pause that followed, the Dark Lord pulled back its hood. A tattooed brow encrusted with tiny horns framed eyes whose yellow stare bored into Samuel’s own with what looked to be, incomprehensibly, confusion.

I’m not Aberratas” the Dark Lord said. Then he smiled helpfully, and obliterated the whole group with a blast of sorcerous energy that shook stalagtites from the ceiling of the chamber. Echoes rang around the chamber as body parts landed like rain. The smoking hilt of Samuel’s father’s sword bounced twice, and rolled into a darkened corner.

I’m his apprentice. But I shall tell him you called…” the Dark Lord added, as the tomb doors swung silently shut once more.

 

A Matter of Fact

Another piece of very short fiction that I wrote back when I had more time. This is from 2004 and hasn’t been touched since.

~ Andy

 

A Matter of Fact

 

Elâddine rubbed his silk-gloved hands together beneath his fur trimmed travelling cloak in an effort to get the circulation going again. By the stars of Meylalliore, it was cold this far north. The elf took a deep breath of the slightly fishy air and tried to work out a crick in his neck that had plagued him for the last two nights. He had been gone from the luxurious rooms of his father’s hall for only a year (a speck of time to an elf), but how sorely he missed his silken pillows and sheets he could not say. He felt their loss at this moment like the death of some close friend.

Elâddine stopped himself mid thought and glanced at his travelling companions. With a mental grimace he clarified this thought to the death of an Elven friend. After all, one could hardly label these humans and (suppressing a shudder) the dwarf as true friends. More like…well, people he travelled with for mutual benefit. Although he failed to see the benefit of standing here in the street – if indeed street it could be called, more like some dung-filled gap between hovels – freezing his delicately pointed ears when he could spy a roaring fire in a tavern a mere hundred metres away.

“Alright, buggerlugs? Cold enough for you?” said a too-cheery voice by his waist. Elâddine stared resolutely ahead and pursed his lips in agitation. The dwarf was speaking to him again. For some reason, whenever Elâddine felt most regretful of his argument with his father and vow to learn all he could of the lesser races, when he was chilled to the bone or sore from battle, when he had lost hope or (on one occasion) even his possessions, the dwarf would insist on talking to him. Could the stunted creature not tell it served only to irritate him further?

There was a rasping noise as the dwarf struck one of his wooden tindersticks against the side of its container. The smell of woodsmoke, spiced with whatever foul preparations the dwarves smeared these fire-sticks in, assailed Elâddine ‘s nostrils and caused another of his curling expressions of disgust to flit across his porcelain features, much to the amusement of his shorter companion.

“You know what these little human towns could do with, of course? Bit of elementary plumbing, that’s what!” continued the dwarf. His name was Connor McSvensonsen. He came from some gods-awful mine in the valleys of Mireton and that was all Elâddine cared to know about him. “Yer bigger cities, now, some of them ain’t too bad, like Knotshame – they had some built by dwarves about fifty years ago. What a difference! ‘Course,” the dwarf paused and puffed at his pipe, causing a billowing cloud of tobacco smoke that made Elâddine’s eyes sting and stomach turn, “you only really notice when you’re usually waist high in shit…” A reflective moment of silence followed. Elâddine relented a little, and spoke to the dwarf, noting how visible his breath was in this winter air.

“Shut up, you repellent little animal! Can’t you see that your very presence irritates me?” he snapped, turning and bending to face the engineer.

McSvensonsen’s face, partially hidden beneath his woollen hat and huge white beard, split into a huge grin. “Nah, you’re just tetchy cos of the cold, aren’t you?” He blew a big cloud of smoke into the elf’s glaring eyes as he spoke. The elf stoically tried not to blink but could not hold back a tear at the sheer pain, nor a small cough at the fumes.”Anyway, Aladdin-“

“El. Ya. Deen,” growled the Elf. How many times? How many times more?

“Anyway, Deeno,” continued McSvensonsen, puffing away on his noxious pipe, “I only mention the plumbing cos of you standing out here, you see. (puff,puff)Now I know you refuse to go in these human brothels,” a nod over the shoulder indicated the building which the elf was refusing to even face, “although if you ask me (puff)it depends a lot on your height as to the views on offer and I reckon I’m about perfectly placed if you follow me (puff, waggle of eyebrows, wink)… and I know you don’t like taking advice from folk as mean you good…but (puff)you really don’t want to stand just there, in that particular area, is what I refer to, my pointy-eared pal.”

Elâddine bridled. That was it! How dare this dwarf dog deign to give him instructions! Why, he was Elâddine Lithfandellariel, son of the King’s most influential councillor in his homeland, an ambassador in waiting! He would not be told what to do or not by a low-born dwarf…a, a mere tinkerer, a digger of rock!

The elf threw back his cloak despite the cold, in an extravagant flourish of his princely silks.“I will stand wherever I want, you hair-faced, earth-mining, sloth!” He yelled, pointing a finger melodramatically at the dwarf. McSvenson took his pipe from his mouth in one hand, glanced over Elâddine’s shoulder, shrugged and took a careful step backwards. The elf continued with his spectacle, drawing a small crowd of passing seamen and townsfolk as they moved to and from the dock at the bottom of the street. “Of what business of yours is it? None whatsoever! And that applies to you inbred humans living in your squalor, too!” he spat, whirling to face his audience “What did your race achieve in the last thousand years that was not taught it by Elven hands? Where would you be without elven wisdom to teach you?” Unheard by the elf, the slow creak of a window sang from the upper floor of the house behind him as he abused his onlookers. Nor did he hear the cry of “Look out below!” from the room behind the pane.

“I’ll tell you where you’d be, you backwards primates! Lying in your caves, still covered in your own dung!”

And that, mused McSvensonsen later that night over another pipe of tobacco and a flagon of ale in The Burnt Stump tavern, was probably the funniest thing he had ever seen in two hundred and thirty eight years, as the contents of the chamberpot from the brothel window fell towards the street, but landed squarely on the elf’s wiser head…

 

Dear Dave

Dear Dave

 

Why do I have to do the hard shit?
Cried the shame-faced, foolish Dave.
Because you didn’t do the hard shit
When the nation could have been saved .
 
You should have sorted out the country
Not just cosied up with banks
But you blamed it all on immigrants
And pandered to the cranks.
 
You suckled Rupert Murdoch
And helped out all your chums
You made sure you and your mates
Could access off shore funds.
 
You encouraged the division
To keep the people mad
With swarms of brown faced scroungers

That we never really had

You waved the flag at Brussels
But you had it upside down.
We should have been their leader

But now we’re just their clown.

And then you tried to bluff it
To face off BoJo’s clout
You ran a Referendum
but the country voted Out.
 
You could have, would have, should have.
But didn’t, didn’t, didn’t.
You shat your silken bedsheet
And now we all lie in it.

A Quiet Drink

[I wrote this in 2003 and just stumbled on it on my hard drive. I haven’t gone over it or edited it since 2003, when I guess I would have been more of a Pratchett-wannabe than I hope I am now.]


A Quiet Drink

 

“So that’s three ales, a bottle of wine for Celistophel,” muttered Diego, counting on his fingers, “and a fizzy drink for the halfling?”

There was a sharp hiss as Butterbuns the Destroyer, formerly known as Bomble Butterbuns until daring tales of adventure had reached his impressionable ears and dragged him out into the rest of the world, slammed the hilt of his odd, little, halfling-sized, two-handed sword into the table top. He glared at Diego from the precarious position he occupied atop his inflating leather cushion that allowed him to see over the bowl of nuts on the wooden surface in front of him. Diego rolled his eyes and relented. “Very well, another ale for Butterbuns too. Don’t blame me if you’re sick again, Bomble.”

Bomble beamed with satisfaction and lifted a salted nut from the bowl in front of him. He tilted his head back, opened his mouth and threw the snack into the air, where it was whisked away in a blur. Celistophel studied the offending nut with extreme suspicion, holding the nut between his slender finger and thumb, sniffing it cautiously and apparently trying to see if it contained any hidden devices.

“How do we know that’s not poisoned?” snapped the elf. “We all know the merchant has agents everywhere!”

“Boris has had three bowls of them already, Celistophel,” Erasmus sighed, rubbing his eyes with exhaustion. He’d been awake for the last three days engaged in intense study. He was almost on the verge of translating and memorising a new spell that would allow him to conjure a wall of flame so fierce that it could burn through metal in moments. After the party’s narrow escape from the house of Harod the merchant, he had decided to try and bolster his defensive magics but the strain was more than he had expected. Diego had spent forty minutes haranguing him into accompanying the others into the Badgers Nadgers for a drink and to plan their next quest. “If they were poisoned he’d have probably let us know by now.”

“I doubt it,” retorted Celistophel, flicking the nut with extreme precision into a half-empty glass four tables away, “I’ve seen him eat the wooden bowls before now. He has the stomach of a troll, I’d swear he does.”

McGrimm, the dwarf, let out a long blue cloud of smoke and turned his head this way and that, scanning the room. “Where is the big feller, anyway?” he asked, before sucking at the end of his pipe again.

Diego gestured over his shoulder. “Gone to use the cesspit. Said something about having to find a stick first.”

Celistophel grimaced and Erasmus winced. Boris was from the northern lands, and had little or no time for etiquette. In fact, when Celistophel had questioned him about etiquette and whether he had ever had any dealings with it, the enormous barbarian had pondered for some time before replying,” Da, but I think… it is maybe better to eat more bigger animals, eh?”

Diego snapped his fingers. “Better get Boris something to drink too. What was that stuff he normally has?”

“The cheapest, biggest barrel of what’s there,” answered Erasmus, swinging his spindly legs over the bench and getting to his feet. He smoothed the worst creases from his wizardly robe and motioned Diego to the bar. “I’ll give you a hand carrying them…”

 

Rongo the barman slapped one of his meaty, filthy hands on top of Diego’s as it moved toward the nearest flagon. “I don’t believe you,” he snarled.

Diego coughed and tried to be nonchalant. “You don’t..?”

“No, I don’t, mister. One, we don’t have no ‘ealth inspectors in this city. Two, my beer ain’t diluted with nothing from no rats and no-one who drinks here would dare say so. Three, I ‘ad someone try the exact same thing larst year. Come to think of it…’E looked a lot like you!”

Diego winced internally. He knew he’d been here before.

“Now then, friend,” spat Rongo, “I reckon you owes me for all of this ‘ere beer as well as the stuff you had larst time.”

Erasmus stepped forward suddenly. He raised his hand and waved it in front of Rongo’s face, muttering in some unknown tongue. The temperature around his arm dropped several degrees. He spoke quietly to Rongo, “You have never seen him before. He has paid you for the drinks. You are enjoying his company. Now you must attend other customers.” The spell fizzed and faded. Erasmus was aware of a sudden lull in conversation. Rongo smiled a plaque-ridden grin and slowly pointed to a small black sphere sitting on a shelf behind the bar. “Orb of Negation, pal” Erasmus’ face dropped. Rongo gap-toothed grin became even wider. “No spellcasting, yer wand-botherer! Oi, Killer! Gerrout ‘ere!” he yelled.

There was a rumbling roar from the back room and something heavy clanged against a wall. From behind an alcove, several pots bounced into view, kicked out of the way as a huge shape muscled its way into the bar. Covered in grease and entrails from the kitchen, an array of enormous rusted knives and cleavers hanging from its belt, an ogre stomped towards Diego and Erasmus. The creature was enormous, it’s shoulders fully as long as a man was tall. Its ragged clothing was stretched to tearing over its many bulging muscles, and each of its hands could easily have fit two men’s heads within their scruffy palms.

This…” continued the smug Rongo, “…is Killer. ‘E deals with customers what can’t pay up. Killer, sort these two and their pals out will yer?”

There was a general scraping of chairs as people moved as far from Erasmus and Diego as possible whilst not having to physically abandon their own drinks. Celistophel and the others, reaching for the few weapons they had brought to the bar, suddenly found themselves having several crossbows pointed at them from nearby tables. Nobody wanted to spoil Killer’s fun, it seemed. But then no-one wanted to give the victims a fair chance either.

As Killer eyed up the two isolated adventurers, Diego drew his rapier and in a flash drove it deep into the ogre’s body before it could react. What should have been a lethal blow didn’t have quite the devastating effect he’d hoped for. Killer narrowed his yellowed eyes and clamped his meaty fist over the protruding hilt, shoving Diego away with the other hand. The rogue cannoned into Erasmus, knocking them both to the ground. The ogre pulled the rapier out, tested the point on his finger and made an elaborate show of picking out something black and stringy from behind his right tusk with it. Then he threw it casually over his shoulder, impaling one of Rongo’s oldest (and tallest) customers and scoring quite highly on the dartboard it nailed him to.

Right! Is that it?” bellowed Killer, grinning insanely.

“Er, your turn?” muttered Diego to Erasmus, who was armed only with his wooden staff and a small fruit knife.

Killer roared, grabbed an ancient, thick oak table and throwing food and customers aside, raised it ready to smash upon the two friends. His roar cut off in mid sentence as it became apparent that the table was not moving now. He struggled to turn his head to see what the problem was.

Boris, muscles bulging and veins popping, was holding onto the far edge of the table with one of his own powerful hands. The shaven-headed barbarian gave the ogre and also his two friends his best grin.

“Ah, now we play der traditional bar-games, ja?” Moving far faster than the surrounding clientele had expected, Boris shifted his stance so that he had both hands on the table and had pulled the ogre off-balance. He waggled his eyebrows at the ogre, who was now leaning backwards so far that the only thing keeping it and the table up was, in fact, Boris. “How about billiards?” asked the barbarian. With a surge of strength he tore the table from the ogre’s grasp and manage to throw it five feet into the crossbow wielders guarding the rest of his friends, causing great distress and injury amongst the unfortunate scum. The crossbows that clattered to the floor even managed to injure two more people across the room with their unguided bolts. Meanwhile, Killer tumbled backwards into another oak bench and came to his feet bellowing madly, frothing yellow saliva gushing from his mouth. At this point, all hell broke loose inside the confined tavern. Surly looks and snippy comments that had been made through the afternoon were now repaid in full as the various groups of customers launched into one another, or tried to leave hurriedly or just get out of the way.

Celistophel was instantly on his feet, his slender longsword humming through the air, slicing into the nearest attacker. McGrimm leapt on top of the table and started kicking at random into whichever face presented itself. He smashed a few skulls with the butts of his pistols but saved his bullets for now. Butterbuns disappeared into the legs of the meleeing clientele, his sword waving wildly as he did so. For a moment Diego managed to track him through the fighting by the way people started hopping in pain but was soon involved in a ferocious fistfight with a drunken man armed with one of the wooden cues from a rack on the wall. Erasmus had clambered over the bar and was trying to wrestle the black Orb of Negation from the flabby Rongo.

Killer had by now flung himself into Boris and smashed the barbarian backwards through the wooden dividing wall into the cessroom. Both emerged a moment later whirling through the smaller combatants around them as they each flung blows at the other that could have smashed rocks. The resounding smack of flesh upon flesh reverberated around the room as the ogre’s boulder-sized fists smashed into Boris. The barbarian was giving as good as he was getting, lashing out with his head feet and hands but it seemed to have little effect on the enraged ogre, except to anger it even further.

Celistophel glanced across, having dispatched the few attackers he had faced. He frowned. Where was Boris’ axe? He turned back to the table they had occupied – there it was, leaning against the far bench seat. Leaping over a woman whom McGrimm had just knocked out with a bottle, celistophel nimbly alighted upon the table top, took a step and jumped down to the floor at the far end. He sheathed his sword, put two hands upon the shaft of Boris’ double-headed axe and heaved it upwards to the table top. Breathing hard from the enormous effort – the thing weighed a ton!- Celistophel turned back to where the barbarian had been battling Killer.

“Boris!” he yelled, as the ogre landed a thunderous blow to the barbarian’s chin, “Here’s your axe!” But instead of cheerily acknowledging this, Boris sailed through the air and crashed onto the tabletop beside the elf, crushing the glass bottles that had been there. He was already bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth, and one eye was swollen.

“Oh,” said Celistophel. “I see you’ve come to get it yourself.”

The ogre was livid now – Celistophel had seen Boris in his bererker trages and that was bad enough, but to see the ogre was ten times more terrible. Every vein in his body seemed engorged with blood as Killer screamed in triumph. The ogre ripped a door from the shattered wall beside it, and snapped it over its own head. “COME ON!!! WHO WANTS SOME??” he roared, repeating the question several times for effect. By now, only the adventurers and it were left. McGrimm spat some blood from his mouth.

“I’m out of bullets, lads. That’s why I haven’t used any.” The dwarf adjusted his glasses and backed carefully towards Diego.

“My bow is hidden in the lodgings,” muttered Celistophel, as the ogre advanced slowly.

“I’m knackered,” gasped Butterbuns the destroyer, keeling over from exhaustion.

The ogre loomed over them, casually ripped the wooden top of the bar from its mountings and prepared to swing.

There was a glassy tinkle, such as might be made if you cracked a jar. And a roaring inferno opened beneath the ogre’s feet, causing the adventurers to scuttle backwards reflexively. It was as though a dragon had suddenly attacked them from the cellar below, but the heat was centred entirely on the Ogre, Now Killer screamed, but it wasn’t anger, it was pain, pain and fear like it had never suffered.

It didn’t suffer long. Within a second or two, the flesh of the ogre was burnt away, then the skeleton was a charred and blackened mess that stood upright only a moment longer before collapsing into a pile of ash.

Erasmus rolled his sleeve back down over his wiry arm. “Fortunately,” he beamed, throwing the shattered and cracked remnants of the Orb of Negation onto the unconscious body of Rongo behind the bar, “a wizard is always fully loaded!”

“Yes,” said Diego. “But let’s leave quickly, eh?”

“Ah, yes! Before the city watch arrive you mean, and pursue us across rooftops in a daring chase?” hoped Butterbuns, waving from the floor in a fit of exhausted giggles.

“No,” groaned Boris, appearing at the back of the group, his axe strapped onto his back. He picked up the Halfling and tucked him under his arm. “Erasmus has chust set fire to a bar full of der alcohols.” He waved a bruised arm at the inferno which had spread to the wooden barrels that had been a bar. The alcohol soaked straw and sawdust of the floor was going up a treat too.

“Yeah, half the city will be ablaze in the next hour,” agreed Diego, leaping over a patch of flame and coughing from the smoke as he retrieved his rapier from the dartboard corpse. “We’ve got to get our stuff from the lodgings and get out of here. Unless you know any spells to stop fires, Erasmus?”

The wizard, somewhat crestfallen, picked his staff from the floor whilst the others limped out of the main door onto the street. “No…” he sighed, “I didn’t get the chance to read that chapter. Someone wanted to have a nice quiet drink…”

 

 

 

 

 

Non-Spoiler Review – Captain America: Civil War

 

“No, YOU”RE wrong.”

This review does not contain any specific spoilers, certainly nothing you won’t have seen in the trailer or posters or innumerable online articles.

Captain America: Civil War – it’s a good, solid film; another reliable hit from the Marvel studio. It’s pretty long at 147 minutes but doesn’t feel it (I think we’ve all mastered the art of shifting our weight to one buttock or another during cinema trips to see blockbusters), There’s lots of action and fighting some of which might be better on the small screen as it goes so fast; there’s lots of good jokes without it being a comedy (DC, take note, for God’s sakes, take note), Tom Holland’s Spider-man and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther are both superb, very much capturing what you want to see in those characters. Spidey is nervy and excitable as a teen hero should be his gushing enthusiasm upon meeting his heroes is pitch perfect; Boseman’s T’Challa is convincing as a new King and manages to sell what Jeremey Renner et al have gleefully described as ‘the worst costume yet’ (for reasons of actor discomfort) as being a functioning piece of tech with a brilliant athlete inside (although he runs a bit fast in one tunnel scene even given the levels of skill he holds. Even Cap decides to nick someone’s car to keep up.)

Regualr marvel film viewers should be aware that there is both a mid-credits sequence AND a post-credits sequence, not that you’d know from the way Derby Odeon turned the lights on full and started sweeping up until they realised they hadn’t managed to chase us out with the rest of the 7 people watching. There are about 3 or 4 uses of ‘shit’, no uses of ‘fuck’ to worry about for parents (one motivating death is a bit shockingly brutal given how the other violence is handled, the other is too but is done out of shot) .

All in all another decent Marvel entry, maybe not quite as intriguing and novel as Captain America: Winter Soldier was (IMO, anyway, I really liked CA:WS) but the themes and issues raised are all believable – everyone has a motivation for doing things the way they do and there are some fantastic nods to comic histories (esp the very end credits sequence I mentioned) given a modern twist. I went in thinking I was team Iron Man but Cap kinda won me over, because, well, he’s Captain America (the gushing fanboy reactions of two of the characters on meeting him are sublime, and there’s a scene in a bedroom which will pretty much fulfill all your fanboy hopes and dreams of what that scene would be like between the two characters concerned. It did mine.).

In summary – plenty of punching for fans of punching, plenty of frowning for fans of frowning, plenty more punching and crazy acrobatic wrestling moves, shield- and web-slinging  galore, the airport fight is a LOT better than you might have thought given that shot of the five of them running along the empty tarmac in the trailer, a Spider-man that is endearingly earnest and nervy and fun and note-perfect, a Black Panther who sells the whole royalty and silly suit thing and great roles for every Avenger except the ones that are pointed out during the film. And even they are given motivations for not being there! I can’t talk about much because I don’t want to give anything away, but the big ending is deliberately not so big. After dropping a city on Sokovia in Age Of Ultron (which is the powering Mcguffin for the plot) they’ve sensibly brought it back a notch and made it more of a personal fight between friends and those they’ve inadvertently caused harm, which by the end includes a fair few friends on either side.

It’s Cap’s film, he does a great job of bringing things back on track, Tony gets a lot of stuff to work with though. A splendid job by writers and directors to make all the disparate heroes work.

4/5 stars seems about fair. We watched the 3d version because we were too late for the 2d version, but you won’t miss anything much except for one bit where someone throws something at someone and gets it thrown right back in their face. (I mean there are some great aerial fights and acrobatics, too but that was the real stand out moment).

I’m off to make something involving paprika, but I’ll probably use the smoked stuff cos regular paprika is always lacking in flavour. Better dig out my best knitted sweater.

Still here! (Just)

Just a quick note to say that I haven’t forgotten about this blog! But I’ve been working every day frantically trying to get the remaining Kickstarter models up and running so that I can get them into production and onto the site for general release.  This has been ten to twelve hours a day and has left very little time for anything else, including blogs, updating order statuses and so forth. Meanwhile, the worst Christmas period of sales (December to Feb) since 2006 has left me hanging on by a thread (I owe Dan £800 of wages right now, haven’t paid myself since November and am pretty frigging stresssed) so I really, really have got to get these models done. I’ll be back soon with a proper blog! 🙂

Countdown

I was supposed to write a follow-up to the sausage blog, and I will, but I was sidelined by this thought this morning. Bit too long for a quick joke on Facebook so I’ve posted it here instead, where it became much longer and more detailed and less funny.
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When I was a kid the first sign of Christmas was the Christmas Window Display in the Fenwick department store (a department store in Newcastle that changed it’s name to Fenwick’s because everyone called it that anyway and wrote it on all the cheques they used). It was THE big thing to go and see. I have a vivid memory of being eight and suddenly feeling like I was looking out through my own body from much later in my life (this has happened several times to me over my life, it’s like deja vu but not). I even mentioned to my mother that I thought the window that year was not as good as as when I was a kid. She told me i was still a kid, and I replied that I used to be, but now I was much older. Now if that hits a resonant note with those of you reading this whose own children have said something similar recently and nearly made you cry at the thought of them growing up, congratulations! Because you’re the emotionally vulnerable target audience for the very subject that I’m about to wang on about.
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Back then, Fenwick’s window used animatronic puppets, endlessly repeating their 3 second cycle of not quite hitting a nail into the sort of shoe you’d see on Frankenstein’s monster, and perhaps a rosy cheeked Santa turning his head and soundlessly laughing, or reaching into his sack for a toy but looking more like he was backhanding the child  that seemingly grew organically out of his left leg like some fusion nightmare out of John Carpenter’s The Thing. An elf would endlessly and helplessly wave from behind a window that slammed open and shut as if manipulated by a demonic force, it’s frozen glassy smile pleading for the merciful release of death. Maybe a tiny mole in a hat would endlessly poke his head out of a snow covered hole in the foreground, sort of festive but subconsciously reminding all small children that they now really needed a poo and thus forcing a parental trip to the choking, urine-drenched miasma of blackened concrete, maroon tiles, and hairy-cock-and-balls-graffiti-covered cracked formica with odd holes in the cubicle walls that were Men’s public toilets in the centre of Newcastle in the 70s and 80s (I have vague memories of being taken into the ladies to go for a wee as a very young boy by my mam, and wondering why it was all so brightly lit and clean and not like a toilet should be at all). Let’s pause a moment while you shudder at the thought of the special frictionless toilet paper all public toilets use, which was originally developed at NASA as an idea to try to stop space shuttles from burning up on reentry to the earth’s atmosphere and is glass smooth whilst simultaneously razor sharp. Fenwick’s Window used to be IT.
Nowadays it’s the John Lewis TV ad. Grown adults weep tears of joy or bile and get paid to write actual newspaper columns about it for actual money. Last year it dominated the news for weeks and inspired countless parodies.
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Give it another ten years and perhaps it’ll be the McDonald’s Xmas McHologram, flickering in grainy not quite as good as real life 3d on the grease-coated wifi-connected kitchen worktop, projected from the LED fitting in the ceiling that also doubles as hotspot, smoke alarm and nuisance electronic pet repellant to try and stop next door’s robocat from simulating the process of a real cat taking a shit in your flowerbed for five hours every day. You gave them that cat two years ago and still haven’t paid off the credit card cost of it.
In twenty years it’ll be the Google Festive Brainshot, beamed directly into your cortex via a floating sentient kite which is powered by the paranoia it induces in it’s subscribers. But that will be considered second rate after Amazon’s Primary Gifting Window Incentiviser, which forces a full-body orgasm and loss of bowel control, such is the emotional force of it’s neuron-targeted ultra-def schmalzfest, in which a teddy bear battles ice goblins to make sure a little girl, boy or anthropomorphised bodily function (depending on the analysis of your purchasing habits) gets to unwrap a mass-produced item chosen from the list of items other people purchased having bought things that you looked at online, and should therefore have bought for yourself and everyone on your contacts list by now.
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*puts Christmas tree up*

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PS I was going to try and sculpt a Christmas figure this year, but looks like I might be too busy sculpting a self centered, greedy, fat, slug-bottomed, demon queen. Wait, she IS the Spirit of Christmas now! Hurray! It’s all worked out.

PPS Don’t forget about the Last Posting Dates for Christmas, either:

lastpostdates2015PPPS If you have enjoed this post and wish me to conute writing such things alongside explorations of my creative processes and so forth, please visit the shop and buy something. Buy something. Consume. CONSUME. CONSUME.

DO NOT QUESTION ANDY. BUY SOMETHING.boris009_jagu-miniicon