Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bandai releases new Star Wars Model Kits for 2015!

Bandai, that company that simplifies the process of modeling with easy to build but superb, highly detailed molds of science fiction kits, has decided to release a ton of classic Star Wars items for 2015! But even better, a few of these will be available in November and December of 2014! Click the link to visit their Star Wars page, which is mostly in Japanese but has an english menu.

The X-Wing Fighter, due out this November, features two pilot figures, one standing and one in a seated position. It also includes an R2-D2 figure as well as R5-D4, so you can customize the vehicle to the one of your liking (i.e., Red 3, Red 5). Click the link to see all of the features.

Darth Vader's T.I.E. Advanced Fighter includes a 1/72 scale standing Vader figure as well as a seated one for the cockpit. Also included are optional laser blasts. Follow the link to see the pics. Both this kit and the X-Wing are scheduled for November of this year.

Also out this November is their highly posable 1/12 scale Darth Vader (link). And the Stormtrooper, which is the one I really want, will be out in December of this year.

But they have many more planned for 2015, click here to see pictures from their Hobby Show that features images of the Snowspeeder and AT-ST prototypes and others, as well as a few new Yamato 2199 kits.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

HT-AT: A Custom Lego Creation Inspired by Star Wars; 7 Years in the Making!

Long ago in 2007 when I was still crazy-inspired to crank out Lego originals based on popular science fiction movie design sensibilities, I really felt I needed a walker vehicle of my own. Enter the heavily armored HT-AT.

This led to the birth of my HT-AT. A Clone-Wars-Era walker made to fit right in with the AT-TE and other vehicles used by the Galactic Republic, like the LAAT dropship.

About 3 months ago, I revisited my MOC (Model of Choice) because I felt I needed to update some of the construction and finer details. I reduced the amount of visible studs, streamlining it just a tad.

It's technically still under construction, as I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Plus, I need to add some moveable support mechanism to the underside. I designed it to attach to my custom LAAT Dropship, but the weight of the much larger model does put some stress on the legs of the smaller walker. 


Clone Wars Era
Galactic Republic

The HT-AT is a multi-role walker made especially for extremely rugged terrain. it is an extremely versatile machine that provides ground support as well as transport capabilities. Much smaller than an AT-TE, HT-AT's can be used in a number of tight spaces such as caves or man-made structures. Its legs are designed to scale a variety of challenging surfaces. It can climb a vertical cliff and has even been deployed in zero gravity environments, attaching itself to large craft, such as cruisers and space stations. After the much smaller AT-RT, it is the 2nd fastest walker used by the republic, though it has a limited range. 

This design is not "cannon" or an official Star Wars design. I created the model myself about 5 years ago out of a love for similar vehicles.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dia de los Muertos / Day of the Dead Altar in Lego

I have soooo many plans for Lego builds or MOCs (Model of Choice), probably too many to ever realize in my lifetime. But I was looking at some Day of the Dead artworks and felt quite inspired and decided, "That's it! I'm finally making my little shrine I've been meaning to assemble for almost four years now!"

I knew I wanted a bride (Catrina?) and groom in some sort of chapel. That was clear from the beginning. I also knew I would use the Lego scorpion, spider and bats. Bats were iconic symbols used not just by the ancient Mayans but by the Aztecs as well!

The little werewolf at the top of my altar is the one part I suddenly stumbled on last minute. And it's my favorite little detail, though he's already pre-made and an official Lego figure. He's tiny!

I could have gone the easy, very modern route and used a simple red-black-white color scheme. Those colors are striking and can be elegant at times. But traditional Dia de los Muertos art uses many vibrant colors, which I find can be almost creepier in some cases.

The bride's torso and skirt are from the Hollywood Starlet figure from Collectible Minifigures series #9. The groom's torso is from a much older minifigure.

The werewolf. My favorite!

Flowers and skulls. Life and death.

The hole in the middle of the backside makes it easy to hang. I actually have the "shrine" hanging in my living room.

I've made many Lego MOC's not available in any store, usually a spaceship or sci fi environment. This was a fun departure from my usual.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hasbro Star Wars COMMAND Hand-Painted Customs. Why not?

I was at a store a few weeks ago and saw these. In recent years I've been trying to stick to model kits and forced myself to not buy toys anymore (Really? Who am I trying to fool? The animated Star Wars Rebels will be out soon!). But when I saw these stark, unpainted figures I felt that tremor in the force again. 

Unpainted Star Wars miniatures? Sold!

At just 2 to 2 and a half inches, they make great gaming pieces and great miniature display figures. Warning: I'm not a great photographer and the digital camera makes the fine details look harsher. A LOT!

First, you have to prime them. This is absolutely necessary as the material they are made from has a certain residue that makes the paint slide across the surface. I washed the figures in liquid detergent, then let them dry thoroughly. 

Next, I sprayed them with Tamiya "Fine" White surface primer.

And last I painted them with different acrylic paints like Floquil's Polly Scale and cheap craft acrylic. Believe it or not, you can work wonders with some of those little 50 cent bottles!

The Endor set includes 4 Ewoks and I painted three of them as different characters based on my Hasbro figures from Power of the Force or the Saga series.

Obviously, they're all copies of Wicket. But they look real cute to the naked eye in 3-D. Who wants an army of just Wicket clones?

Next from the Endor set are the two vehicles, molded in a semi-soft, almost rubbery plastic.

After priming they can be painted real easy. I used Tamiya's panel line accent color again and I really need to get the grey and mix it with the black, I think. The pure black lines are great on darker colors. but they might me a wee bit too dark on the X-Wing fighter. It looks good in person, though.

Because of the molding of the three lines on the s-foils (wings), I recognized this as Red-3, the X-Wing piloted by Biggs Darklighter. So I referenced an old magazine I still have with a few great pictures of ILM's filming models to get the right color scheme. Bear in mind, this thing is about 2 inches long, so getting the details right on the little astromech droid wasn't easy. He's a little sketchy!

I still need a few colors here and there to get this one 100% done. This really inspires me to get a an actual X-Wing model kit like the 1/72 Fine Molds or even other versions. 
I love X-Wings.

The AT-ST Chicken Walker was A LOT easier to finish. Basically, grey spray paint and panel lines.

Will I use these in some game? Probably not. I've never actually done Star Wars RPG. That doesn't mean I'm not at least curious. But I want more of these. The "Rebels" one with the new characters looks really cool. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bandai 1/700 宇宙戦艦ヤマト Space Battleship Yamato aka Argo and Intrepido. A vintage model from 1978!

I would like to share a model I made back in the winter of 2010. The Space Battleship Yamato, called Argo and Intrepido in some countries, is one of my favorite spaceships ever. It is the main vehicle seen in 1974's 宇宙戦艦ヤマト (Space Battleship Yamato), called "Star Blazers" when it was released in English, later in 1979. Other language versions were "Astronave Intrepido" in Spanish-speaking countries, and "Patrulha Estelar" in Brazil and Portugal.

The news of the live-action film with Takuya Kimura and Meisa Kuroki, along with the trailers for the film, sparked some nostalgic force in me. So in 2010, I purchased the model and a few "mini-kits" (called Mecha Colle in Japan) from the original anime series. This model is in 1/700 scale. The miniature Mecha Colle kits are non-scale. I'll post some of those later. 

This particular casting was re-released in 2009. But the original molding was done as a "Mechanical Model" version back in 1978! It's basically the same model without the interior parts like the engine and the Wave-Motion gun. 

When I made the kit in 2010, it was my first model in nearly 7 years. So I was extremely excited to get my hands on this project.

I want to mention again that I'm not a professional model-builder so many of my remedies to details and such are experimental.

My first concern was the color. I blended a medium-to-light gray with a touch of blue and a few drops of purple. In some episodes it has this color. At other times, the color is more blue-green-gray. As the series progressed through the 1980's with sequels and seasons two and three, the ship's gray livery gets darker and darker. 

Windows, portholes, and other lights change from greens to yellows, even soft blues, throughout the many incarnations of Yamato. I chose the green lights. I wanted my Yamato a lighter color because this is the way it appears in the very beginning of the show as it rips out of the ground. My pictures make it look darker than the actual thing.

When I got the model, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of detail in some areas. Because Yamato is such a classic, there are many model kit releases available. The newer ones kept improving on the surface detailing, so I had to add some of my own. These subtle additions were mostly panels and hatches that I painted on the surface to bring my model up-to-date. 

I experimented with brushes and tried making some weathering on the hull. But I didn't want it to look too battle damaged.

I did some old fashioned "lighting" tricks, like using very light colors for glowing areas.

For a model from 1978, the halves of the fuselage fit together very nicely. I did have to do quite a bit of sanding but very little puttying was needed. 

I definitely want to get the 2199 version. Bandai makes it in 1/1000 and 1/500. But for right now, I really like my simple old-fashioned model kit.

There's something very expressive and very alive about these older kits. They really do capture the spirit of these classic animes from the 70's and 80's. And along with Kodai, Mori, Sanada and all the rest, the Yamato itself feels like one of the main characters as well.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Kripitera Class Destroyer (クリピテラ級航宙駆逐艦)

An animation cell showing a fleet of Clipitera accompanying Emperor Desler's blue command Ship. Emperor Desler was renamed Desslok in the American dubbing by Voyager back in 1979. Image is courtesy of Cosmo DNA. As I mentioned earlier, Cosmo DNA is an excellent site for English-speaking fans.

In this screen capture from Yamato 2199, you can see two Kripiteras side by side on the Floating Continent in episode 3. Bandai's Garmillas Set 2 includes 2 of these sleek destroyers. It makes perfect sense. These are the most common warcraft used by the Gamiras. And they are often seen traveling in close proximity, evoking the sense of ambush predators hunting in a pack.

They are among my favorite of the Yamato 2199 designs, which is the reason I got this kit first.

Although I wanted to make two identical green destroyers, I finally decided and made one in the Royal Guard blue. My camera is very sensitive to blue and this is not the actual color of the finished model. The actual finish is a lot more toned-down. A LOT.

The engine exhaust on the green Gamiras/Gamilon ships in the anime appear fuschia or magenta. The "eyes' glow a soft lime and then change to bright yellow and orange when the ships are charging for battle. The blue ships of the Elite Guard have slightly different light effects. The "eyes" and engines glow a bright yellow-white that changes to hot pink in areas.

That's still not the actual blue. Why does my camera do that?!?!?

Bandai created a standard display system that allows most of the models from the same series to be interchanged on the different stands so you can mix and match your favorite ships. For this reason I haven't added the decals yet. The labels for the models look very cool in Katakana and Kanji. But I might switch the combinations of spacecraft from other sets. So I'll wait a bit before adding names to them.

The design of this is sleek and squid-like. I feel like the creators of these machines were seeing submarines in space, as well as surface vessels. 

This picture above captures the color of the blue a little bit better. I forgot to clean the models before photographing! Excuse my dust!

Here are the destroyers next to Colonel Schultz's larger Gaiderol battleship. I love these things!

A photo showing them next to some familiar objects for size reference.