Saturday, October 16, 2021

Terrain Finished: Road Signs

Mighty Ape, an Australian online retailer that stocks a fair bit of gaming stuff, was having a "Boxing Day Sale" and I grabbed a few things for my Kill Team table. I also saw these Multiverse Traffic Light/Road signs set, which I snapped up, thinking that they were finally a solution to my 28mm Traffic light problem. More fool me. Turned out that they're made for 10mm miniatures, specifically Dropzone Commander, which I have been long interested in trying, but never had the opportunity. Not a major setback, I assembled them anyway, they'll do nicely for Kaiju. 

I wasn't happy with the traffic lights, so I used the road signs, even if they're a bit too "Sci-Fi" for my needs. 

Micro Armour T-34 for an idea of scale, I had to add the Rendara bases for stability. 

With no painted Kaiju to hand as of yet, I pulled out my Frost Giant to see how they look next to something "big". 

 The Frost Giant makes a pretty good Kaiju on his own, may have to introduce him when I get around to it. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Superhero Media: Neon Genesis Evangelion

Oh boy is there a lot to talk about with Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE), and some of it doesn't really relate to the progamme all that directly. I'm somewhat glad that I don't get all that many readers here, as it means I don't get too many trolls in the comments when I say something that goes against conventional fan wisdom. There was one time for one of my Dragonball Z articles where I was harsh on Vegeta, but I deleted it pretty quick. You see, I was there. I was the right age and the right amount of nerdy to be super into Anime when it hit big in the West for the first time. Sure, we'd had stuff like Samurai Pizza Cats and Sailor Moon, but the triple-punch of Dragonball Z, Pokemon and NGE changed nerd culture almost overnight. And yes, I thought NGE was deep, and complex and adult, because I was barely a teenager and a little bit of boob and blood was enough to win me over. Now that I'm more than twice as old as I was then, have a film degree sitting in the corner of my study and philosophy books on my shelves and NGE is a hell of a lot less impressive. 

Now, that's not to say that NGE isn't "good", it is, it really tries to elevate the Giant Mecha subgenre and gets there for the most part, but it isn't the transcendent masterpiece of postmodernist psychology that some would have you believe it is. Firstly, the Christian symbolism is essentially set-dressing and Hideaki Anno wasn't really making any major criticisms of the faith, Bible or Western culture in general, at least no more so than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were being critical of Norse myth in The Mighty Thor. That said, the idea of alien Kiaju being angels sent from God to punish humanity and kick-start the apocalypse whilst looking and acting how they look and act in NGE is one worth exploring and thinking about even if it isn't really intended to be there in the first place. Personally, I also doubt that the cloning plot is intended to provide any commentary, especially as there's really no comeuppance for Gendo once Misato and Shinji find out what Rei really is and where she comes from. 

A word that comes up often in discussing NGE is "unique", which fits, not only in terms of the overall presentation, but also in design. There are no mecha that really look like the Evangelion, even those trying to be derivative of them; there is something in the way they move that is shockingly human and utterly animal at the same time. The episode in which Unit 1 eats part of an Angel manages to be genuinely creepy, even if it only turns out to have happened because Shinji's mother's soul is in the Eva and Gendo planned all of this to happen. It gets explained better in the films, but the secret behind the Evangelions, other than their being human/angel hybrid clones, is that the functional units are inhabited by the souls of dead mothers. Does this mean there is a great metaphor of motherhood or maternal relations to be had? Not really. The greater themes of the piece are social isolation and developing empathy, the mother thing is like the Christianity thing, interesting, but not overly relevant. 

Shinji is thirteen at the start of the story, having not seen his father since the untimely death of his mother, a decade earlier. Shinji has lived mostly alone for his entire life and relates to other people by being as deferential as possible, never wanting to make waves or any real connections. As Nerv and humanity struggle against the external horror of the Angels, Shinji struggles to overcome himself and form a meaningful connection with the people around him; this is why I actually really enjoy the last two episodes, as they serve as visual representation of Shinji's internal battle against his own depression and anxiety. If you decide to start watching NGE as inspiration for Mecha vs Kaiju games, you'll likely be disappointed with what you get, however, if you're willing to give the quiet sections a chance and to look for the metaphorical meaning in scenes, there is a lot there to enjoy. I'd personally advise against getting too into the online community for the programme, as it can be a bit "out there". Also be warned that NGE features quite a bit of nudity of characters presented as being underage and also several instances of sexual assault. As I said, I like it, but I have some issues there.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Miniatures Finished: Anachronaut Squad 2

This one took a while longer than expected, though more to trying to finds suitable miniatures than getting the painting done. I'll admit that some of the historics are a bit daunting, especially the Napoleonic era, but trying out something else every now and then helps flex my skills a little. As a project, I'd love to do a bit more on this, but hunting for individual plastic miniatures can be a little tough. 

The second team of Anachronauts is ready for action! Suitable minions for Kang, Immortus, Chronus or even a Doctor Who "The War Games" scenario. 

Samurai, Gaul Warrior, Union Scout, Imperial Guard Sergeant and Mercenary Billman. 

 Cobra Viper, English Civil War Handgunner, Republican Roman Legion, Medieval Archer and Pirate. 

With the Viper and the Guardsman, I was mostly using some old miniatures and kind of pushing the "Greatest Soldiers from Human History" element out a bit. After all, in Avengers Forever there are Sci-Fi Anachronauts, so why not an Imperial Guardsman from the year 40,000, or a Stormtrooper from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (see Squad 1). Eventually I'd like to so an 'elite' squad of Anachronauts, with characters like Beowulf, Guan Yu and Jack Churchill, but miniatures are, again, the sticking point. Maybe a cavalry unit? Maybe a T-34, Sopwith Camel or Bradley? Maybe I should just bite the bullet and start using metal miniatures? Only time will tell. (pun intended) 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Superhero Media: Hulk

It's becoming the done thing among internet film critics to praise Ang Lee's Hulk as an underappreciated classic, so please forgive me for not bucking the trend. I distinctly remember seeing this film in the theatre with my father and step-brother when it came out, the audience got a real thrill out of it right up to the finale, so I was shocked when most people I spoke to regarded the film in a negative light. I'll agree that Hulk versus an odd take on Absorbing Man, but also Bruce's dad, was a bit of a let-down as an ending, but I never let it ruin my enjoyment of the rest of the film. As popular a character as Hulk has always been, his comics are not widely read, and the content often confuses people that come to them, looking for something close to the film and television representations. For much of the Silver Age, the Hulk fought other monsters and traveled to far off lands, having adventures. It really wasn't until the 1990s that "Hulk Vs the Army" became a recurrent theme for the comics. At the same time however, Hulk comics got really introspective. 

Flipping open some 2000s Hulk can be a real trip, with old Jade Jaws throwing around helicopters for a couple of pages before Bruce contemplates his navel for the rest of the book. This kind of comic was everywhere at the time and is exactly what Ang Lee's Hulk reminds me of when I watch it. As one would expect with Ang Lee's pedigree as a director, the action scenes in Hulk are impressive, even accounting for the age of the CGI, but going back to it after a Film degree, I found I got a lot out of the interesting transitions and cross-cutting. Hulk is certainly artsy, but I don't feel that's necessarily a mark against it, rather it's an interesting addition to what could have been a straightforward action romp. Other superhero films, like Sin City and Thor Ragnarok have gone for more diverse styles and come up trumps, even Brightburn and New Mutants look to different genres for influence, why not do it with the Hulk? 

And can I just talk about how damn good the cast is in this film? Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, and probably the only film where anyone walked away saying "gee, Nick Nolte gave a compelling and subtle performance". Even the facial capture on Hulk is excellent, you can tell, at any moment, what Jade Jaws is feeling, even when it's something like ambivalence or ennui.  Marvel Studios didn't even get that down until Thor Ragnarok. If you've never seen Hulk because of what you heard about it, give it a go, the film can be found on Netflix and it's at least an interesting watch and, as always, I encourage you to form your own opinions. The action is solid, the cast is great and the cinematography is a joy to watch, even in the slower sections. Now that the MCU is such a cultural juggernaut, these older Marvel entries are being forgotten, but there are some that are worth remembering and going back to now and then.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Miniatures Finished: Vampire Soldiers

Having needed some henchmen for the MI-13 Campaign, I picked up some of these Malifaux "Witchling Stalkers", which where about the closest match for the Vampires in sun-proof suits from Captain Britain and MI-13 I could find in miniature.

I also took another pass at some crates I had to make them a bit more worn and dirty. 

The Vampire soldiers are the baseline henchmen of Dracula's forces, being tough for henchmen, but still weaker than an average hero. 

Name: Vampire Soldiers
BP: 85
Affiliation: Dracula
AP: 6
Strike: 5
Strength: 5
Dodge: 5
Sense: 6 (1)
Toughness: 6 (1)
Mind: 2
Resolve: 2
Damage: 6/6 
Drain 3 (Limited) - 2AP after a successful Strike Attack, reduce opponent’s physical characteristics up to 3
Density Decrease – 3AP, Immune to Damage rolled against Toughness, Cannot make melee attacks, may move through terrain, immune to fall damage, Cannot be Knocked Down
Combat Reflexes – May break from Combat with an Opposed Dodge Test and Charge again
Super-Toughness 1, Super Sense 1
Henchmen Team – 6 Members

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Superhero Media: One Punch Man - Season 2

I don't spend too much time browsing fan videos online, but I have seen enough titles and thumbnails to understand that many find the second season of One Punch Man to be lackluster, if not outright terrible. Personally, I enjoyed the series and felt that it did some good world-building and introduced some interesting characters. Remember that many Anime, including One Punch Man, are adapted from weekly manga, which are highly episodic and don't necessarily fit well with a television schedule. That's why the second season ends on such an odd note, with Garou being not really defeated and the monster society still poised to wipe out humanity, because it's the better breaking-point from the manga, rather than being an ideal season close. It's annoying, but that's the way Anime works sometimes, just look at where the season breaks in Dragon Ball Z are, they make even less sense half the time. The story picks up after the cities have been repaired in the aftermath of the alien attack, Saitama and Genos are keeping busy fighting monsters, when Saitama happens across one of the strongest heroes on the planet, King. 

King it turns out, has no powers, but has been at the sites of several of Saitama's victories and, through a misunderstanding, has received credit for them. King and Saitama strike up a friendship, mostly around playing video games, because they're the one thing that Saitama actually loses at. Meanwhile, a renegade martial artist known as Garou is hunting down heroes whilst claiming that he is a monster and wanting to take on any Class S hero he can get his hands on. The "Hero Hunter" is worrying the Hero Association, having defeated several prominent heroes, but they're more focused on the massive wave of monsters that are suddenly attacking the city. Also, Saitama participates in a Martial Arts tournament to learn about fighting. If there is a complaint I have about the narrative of this season, it would be that a lot of things are happening simultaneously, with focus jumping around a lot. As I was watching the programme episodically, rather than binging it out quickly, I found I lost track sometime, only realising later that I had forgotten about a plot thread here and there. 

As he spends most of the series involved in a tournament, Saitama does a lot less killing monsters in a single punch than the first season. I can understand that some fans felt let down about this, but I appreciate that the story changes in this regard, because it stops the "One Punch" from becoming a tedious "Team Rocket is blasting off again" moment every episode. The Hero Association gets some more screen time, and a bit more exposition, for example, it is revealed that many of the executives are dynastic and so heavily paid that they are utterly disconnected from day-to-day living; I'm hoping there's a pay-off for that at some point. The little of the Monster Society that is seen promises an interesting antagonist, but the threat is quickly undercut with Saitama killing swathes of monsters off-screen. This season of One Punch Man has a "bridging" quality to it, like many a part-two film, which I am more willing to forgive than most, but I understand that it is frustrating to many. Still, I put off My Hero Academia to watch this, so I know which I'd rather spend my time on.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Thinking Out Loud: Nintendo Movies

Whilst this isn't strictly superhero related, I have some thoughts I wanted to share and this is about the only forum I have for such a thing, other than ranting at people at parties. I'm not so much going to pitch ideas for films based on Nintendo properties, but rather, I want to discuss the lack of any existing films along those lines. Yes there is the infamous Super Mario Bros, but how did that get one company so gun-shy that there aren't even any terrible straight to video films kicking around? Well, there is Donkey Kong, the 1997 animated series with a "movie" that is regarded as dire and unwatchable, but why just that one? Given the huge amount of profitable IP that Nintendo is sitting on, I find it shocking that there aren't more cheap cash-ins out there. A a general rule, Video Game movies get a bad rap, I feel that's undeserved, as a couple are passable in my reckoning, but I wonder if it's simply a matter of quantity rather than quality? Look at superhero films, before the MCU, there were, what, three or four genuinely good Superhero films? Adapting a different medium and/or genre well takes time, we're still seeing the Fantasy genre butchered on television and celluloid. 

Really, putting together a film based on The Legend of Zelda or Metroid isn't all that hard. Both Legend and Kubo and the Two Strings are pretty close to a Zelda narrative to begin with, just slap Link, Zelda and Ganon into a basic fantasy quest narrative and it should turn out fine with a decent cast and crew. There doesn't need to be all of the dungeons, medals, items and magic stones, because only the hardcore fans are going to get that reference anyway. Think about the classic Ant-Man helmet in Avengers: Endgame, it's a fun moment for me, but the film doesn't need to explain what it is. Having a little fairy tell Link to go get a sword and some Triforce pieces is kind of enough. See also: Metroid, it's kind of just an Aliens riff with a woman in power armour, throw in Ridley or Kraid and it should be a tight ninety minutes with a post-credits sting. The concept/insistence that getting into the minutiae of the source material is puzzling to me, as that's exactly the kind of thing that drags adaptation down; look at the two film versions of The Shining if you need further proof. The MCU stuff works so well because the films are solid before they add in all the Easter Eggs, not because of said eggs. 

Don't expect to see any of my "The Pitch" articles about this kind of thing anytime soon, but I do have some ideas. Like, a Kirby film seems pretty obvious to me, in the vein of a younger-pitched Pixar or Dreamworks joint. Kirby crashes to Pop Star and teams up with, I don't know, Gooey and Adele to save all of the food from King Dedede is a pretty straightforward script to work from and could likely turn a reasonable profit; Kirby is naturally pretty marketable and toyetic. Donkey Kong Country is a buddy road adventure with two monkeys, tell me you can't get Jordan Peele and Josh Gad to voice-over that one, really overusing "It's on like Donkey Kong" as a catch-phrase. So there could be a bad run of cheap cash-ins on Nintendo IPs, big deal, is that really a worse state of affairs than download fan-subs of Japanese TV specials or watching the cutscenes from The Shadow Emissary on YouTube for the twenty third time? Well, that's about all I had in me on this one, more superhero stuff next week.