Sunday, January 30, 2011

Escoda Brushes & Silicoil Cleaning System

Got some more painting in Friday! Stopped by the local art store to pick up some new brushes because my Imex #00 was shot. They're having a 50% off sale. I was going to get a Windsor Newton Number 7 brush, which would have been $11 on sale. Instead, I went with a #00 and #1 Kolinsky-Tamjyr brushes from Escoda. They are half the price of the WN brushes, about $6.50 on sale. I remembered hearing good things online about these, and the art store's staff said they were excellent. (Having a real art store staffed by artists and art majors is so nice compared to the big box craft stores!) Before I bought them, I tried them out with water on paper and was pleased. Hopefully with care they will last.

Put To The Test
As soon as I got home, I put the brushes to work in paint. They are excellent! I've been using Imex's red sable brushes for years, but these brushes blow them out of the water. I can get such a fine line with the #00 it's amazing. Made painting the straps on 15mm pirates so much easier, as well as doing fine touchups. I also used the brushes to paint the flesh on one of my Black Tree Design WWII Soviets, testing a new technique to paint eyes. I followed a modified version of painting eyes from this post on the Vallejo blog. Basically, I used the article for inspiration and then went my own direction.

Jeremy compared the new Soviet face to one of my old cowboy faces and was amazed at how much better I've gotten. He liked the eyes. He says they look real. Two years ago, I painted all the faces on my primed cowboys in one large batch. I feared doing eyes, not wanting the deer-in-headlights look so many gamers accidentally do. The cowboy eyes are just black holes, more or less. They look ok from a distance. Until we compared them to the Soviet eyes and face

I still have some slight tweaking I want to do to the technique I used on the Soviet's eyes and face, but the Escoda brushes made it possible. Using Tamiya Deck Tan for the whites of the eyes and using proper coloring around the eyes also helped. Hey, if I can do it, anyone can! It was easier than I thought! Photos coming as soon as I can snap them. Note: We will not talk about how I spilled my new bottle of Tamiya Flat Black paint all over my work area...

Silicoil Brush Cleaning System
Since I bought good brushes, I also picked up the Silicoil brush cleaning system: a tank with coil and a bottle of cleaning fluid. Though not on sale, I do get a 20% faculty discount on everything in the store. Again, I had heard good things about this system. I needed more Pink Soap anyway, so I decided to give this a whirl instead. The tank retails for about $5.50 and the fluid a bit more. The fluid lasts forever. Since the paint settles to the bottom of the far, all you must do is descant the fluid to a new jar, dump out the settled paint, and then put the liquid back in the Silicoil jar.

I like the system. It works better than using Pink Soap in the palm of my hand to clean my new brushes. The fluid has a paint thinner smell to it, which bothered me at first. Once the lid is closed, the smell goes away. The instructions say using plain water for acrylics works fine, but I prefer using a soap or the Silicoil fluid to properly clean and treat the bristles. Note: I still use the Pink Soap to clean my cheap bushes for painting large splotches of paint like Gesso or black--I don't need that stuff messing up the Silicoil fluid.

Note: We went to Hobby Lobby later that afternoon and saw the Silicoil system there as well. The price was much higher and a total ripoff. This seems to be the pattern for art supplies at HL. Maybe I am wrong, but so far I have not been impressed with Hobby Lobby, which just came to Orlando a few months ago.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

There's Something About Jack Kirby

Well, I seem to be on a Jack Kirby kick this week! Since I am still learning about Kirby and his work, I thought I'd mention some great Kirby websites and a Kirby freebie all centered around the same fellow, Jon B. Cooke. From his bio on his website: "Jon B. Cooke is the former associate editor of The Jack Kirby Collector and editor/creator of the five-time Eisner Award-winning Comic Book Artist magazine (for "Best Comics-Related Periodical")."

A Freebie!
The Jack Kirby Collector is a monthly print and pdf magazine put out by the same company who publishes one of my favorite comic magazines, Back Issue, which mainly covers older comics from 1970s, 80s, and 90s. If you click on the magazine's cover below, you go to the publisher's website, where you can download the issue below for free plus free sample issues of their other magazines, including Back Issue.

Virtual Museum
If you would like to learn more about Jack Kirby, his comics, and scans of his comics, you really must check Jon B. Cooke's  Kirby Museum & Research Center, which is the repository of all things Kirby.

Fourth World Blog
Cooke is also doing a daily blog about Kirby's Fourth World comics, featuring Mister Miracle, New Gods, and Forever People. I'm also trying to get these comics as well as Mister Miracle. Jeremy, my son, just told me that he has some Forever People issues and is giving them to me. Why am I just learning this tonight:? Holding out on his old man again, eh? And considering that I gave him my entire Superman collection and Batman Adventures collection.... Hmmmmm..... I wonder what else he has that I don't know about!?! LOL. Anyway, click on the pic below to go to the blog.

Until next time, always remember that there is no trap from which Mister Miracle cannot escape...even marriage! No wait, that didn't come out right....

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sneak Peek of Mister Miracle #1 (1971)

Since some folks were interested in Mister Miracle, I thought I'd post a bit of a teaser from the first issue in 1971 along with an article on Jack Kirby from the same issue. I'll post a teaser from the first issue of the 1989 series a bit later this week. Does this make this a teaser for the teaser???

I love how Kirby draws the gangster in this issue, but I really love how he draws the Inter-Gang henchmen in rather "dorky" attire. Seriously, would anyone be threatened by a gang of thugs dressed like this? I've always felt that in gaming we need more henchmen figures like those Kirby draws. Sure, Superfigs makes some henchmen. Pulp Figures have some hooded henchmen. But I'd love to see more flat-top hooded guys like these or like classic AIM henchmen.(When I used to buy Heroclix singles off of gamers, I would snatch up all the henchmen figures I could for a dime a fig. No one wanted them, until Wizkids eventually stopped making them. I guess I have a soft spot for hero-fodder weenies.)

I hope you enjoy a quick look at Mister Miracle #1 from 1971, which now proudly sits on the shelf in its high-quality E Gerber Mylites bag--which I bummed off my son, of course. :-)


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mister Miracle: My Main Man

Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle 1971

My big excitement came at the end of last week. I finally picked up Mister Miracle #1 from April 1971 in great condition without having to pay a fortune! Whoot! I also picked up some other missing issues from the series, all in near mint condition. I love all the Mister Miracle comics and am a bit of a Mister Miracle fanboy (see his Wikipedia entry). To me, the covers are some of the most exciting DC did during the 1970s because they usually feature Mister Miracle in a death-trap situation that looks hopeless. But we know better!

There were three series. In the first series starting in 1971 and lasting 25 issues, Jack Kirby did the stories and art through issue 18. I love Kirby's writing and art style. To me, Kirby is Mister Miracle for this series. I'm working on completing this set. It can get pricey.

The second series is a 28 issue run starting in 1989. This series features Mr. Miracle and Big Barda having married and trying to live a normal life in suburbia. The take is more humorous than the first series, reflecting the humor of the concurrently running Justice League series, during which the character Mr. Miracle is revitalized and then given his own title again. The writing is crisp and fun, but for me Ian Gibson's artwork really makes the humor in the stories pop for the first five issues.

Ian Gibson's Mister Miracle 1989
 I first saw Gibson's art when reading Judge Dredd comics in early 1980s. I always thought he had a devilish style. Just look at his page from Mister Miracle to the left. I have the entire run of the second series. It's great fun and worth reading. I just wish Gibson had stayed with it more than the first five issues!

The third series is a 7-issue run from 1996. I have this but haven't read it yet, so no comments.

Well, I didn't expect to write this much on Mister Miracle or stay up this late. But I just wanted to share a little bit about a comic series folks might not know too much about. Like I mentioned, collecting the first series can be pricey, so patience is a must. The second series usually can be had very reasonably. Same for the third series.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Clever Models: PDF Model Train Kits For Gaming

This evening, I came across Clever Models. They sell craftsman card stock model railroad kits that you can download and print. They offer a wide variety of models in O (1:48), S (1:64), HO (1:87), and N (1:160) scale all done with photo-realism. The variety surprised me. They have buildings usable for Western gaming (I love the small train station!), pulp gaming, WWII gaming, and more. Nice industrial buildings as well. Prices are very inexpensive IMO.

Though made in model railroad scales, shrinking them to gaming scales should be no problem. The owner even mentions doing this at one point. I'd get the O scale kits for 25mm gaming. You can shrink them as you see fit or use them as is for a slightly larger building. Same goes for 1:72 gaming. The HO buildings will work fine as-is with the new Blue Moon 15mm (aka 18mm) figures, or shrink them a bit for regular 15mm. You get the point.

Below are just a few buildings I like:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Bugbear Changed My Life

I'm not sure if  mentioned this before on the blog, but my roots in gaming are more RPG than board and miniature wargames. I played my first roleplaying session during Christmas holiday way back in 1978. It was a game of AD&D, a year after it was published. I was in high school at the time and had never heard of AD&D or roleplaying games. My buddy's brother, a  late-era-hippy English major in college, was home from Christmas break. He had been playing AD&D that semester and brought home all his books. I was spending the weekend next door at a mutual friend's house. Late that evening, I found myself in my buddy's rec room next door, the lights turned low. There the four of us sat on the floor--myself, my two buddies, and the college kid Dungeon Master.

Then the explanations began: Dungeon Master? There was an odd term I had never heard of! Oh, like a referee whose also writing a novel. And we're characters in this novel. Ok, and our motive is what? Killing everything in sight and stealing as much loot as possible while getting out alive. Ok. Sounds logical. Oh, and the dungeon is full of bizarre monsters and crazy traps. Kind of like a death trap. It will be a blast! Ok....

Having finished his (really sketchy) explanation of what roleplaying is and what his role is, the DM instructed us to roll up our characters. I never remembered actually picking the Magic User as my character class, but for some reason I wound up with one. I don't even remember his name. All I remember is rolling a '4' for his Hit Points, whatever those were. And that I had no weapons other than my awesome good looks (I think I rolled really high on my Charisma) and one useful spell that I could cast once--the famous Magic Missile. Wow. Needless to say, I spent the entire evening in the back of the party saying things like "Don't let the (fill in the blank monster) kill me!" I found this to be a rather useful tactic.

Though I cowered in fear most of the evening as goblins, spiders, kobolds, and waves of giant rats sprang from dungeon chambers, I had a blast. I really had no idea what was going on! We could have had the worst DM in history for all I knew, but I was having fun imagining all the happenings. It was like I was in one of those radio dramas that I used to love listening to on the local AM radio station at night. (A passion that I still enjoy today.)

My evening of roleplaying ecstasy came to a bloody end sometime after midnight after the parents upstairs had gone to bed. I have no idea how large the dungeon was that we were looting--I mean exploring. I didn't bother paying attention to the scribblings my other two friends were making on the blue-lined graph paper. I was too busy hiding behind the Fighter and Thief, making sure my hair looked its best for someone with such a high Charisma while trying to stay alive. Then it happened. We barged into one too many a dungeon room. It was our "A Door Too Far" moment. Years later, I would come to learn than a group of three Level 1 characters does not stand a chance against an entire room full of bugbears and that only a DM who wants to go to sleep after playing way too late into the night would spring such a trap.

Needless to say, his tactic worked. We rushed into action--a thief, fighter, and a handsome magic user against the odds. One last desperate stand. For the treasure! In all the chaos and angst of a party knowing it's going to die, all I remember is finally getting off my one magic missile. It there ever was a time to launch that (not very) powerful bolt of magic something-or-other at a hideous beast it was now! I announced my attack then waited my turn in the initiative order. Not being very quick--but rather dashing nonetheless--I stood and watched as the bugbears smashed to death the fighter and then the thief, morningstars splitting leather armor like it was some sort of weak clothing instead of armor. Then is was my turn to attack! Let loose the magic missile! I rolled my die. What did I need to roll? A what? Oh whatever, here it goes. The die rolled across the indoor-outdoor carpeting, past the half-full soda cans, coming to rest along side the empty chip bags. Did I hit it? Did I? I waited for what seemed like hours to hear the results of the one amazing attack that I had made all night. So did I hit and kill the bug-bear-thing? The DM looked up at me. missed...and the bugbear kills you. Well, thanks for coming over! It's been fun! I'm going to bed....

Wha? I missed? And was killed by a bugbear? Awesome!!!

Though I did little playing that evening other than hanging in the rear while sending out encouraging waves to my fellow dungeon crawlers, I had one of the best times of my life. The evening was emblazoned on my memory, as the cliche goes.

A few years later, I found a copy of a boxed out of print D&D set at a local toy outlet. It cost me $4 and was the first boxed Basic set, with all the blue books. Though I hadn't played an RPG session since that fateful evening when a bugbear split my magic user's skull, I grabbed the box and took it home. It was Christmas 1981. I had graduated high school but had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, going to work in my father's clothing store. Years later, I would learn that D&D saved my life. But that is another story for another time.

Happy New Year Everyone!