Monday, November 29, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - A Few Remarks

I finally made it to see the new Harry Potter movie today (blame it on the holidays) and thought I'd share a few comments. I won't go through the whole plot, but it was the first one where they were not in school. Harry, Ron and Hermione are more or less on their own this time out, with some help and support, but certainly not enough, from their friends. Generally I liked it but will say that it suffered from not having the school dynamic, sports games, big meals and those sorts of things. There was a lot of sitting around in a tent trying to figure out what they should be doing. Every now and then they would have a flash of inspiration and off they'd go to try to chip away at Lord Voldemort's power base, with mixed results. At one point Ron comments that they can't leave Hermione behind and it's really true because she seems to be the one who has most of the flashes of brilliance. It all seemed a little aimless this time out. The second part of this is coming next summer and I wonder if there's going to be more wall-to-wall action in that one. Anyway, I liked it and will purchase the DVD when it comes out. I really like the series and it's been fun watching them grow up. If you haven't seen it and like that sort of picture I'd still highly recommend it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blackhawks Battle the Hex Master

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not a little masochistic when tackling some of these custom figure projects. The character I'm featuring today is from Blackhawk comics #176, September 1962, when the Blackhawks stumble across a supposed sorcerer who is holding a tribe of natives on a Pacific island hostage. He's demanding all the islander's treasure in exchange for not casting hexes on them, like making huts collapse in on themselves and causing bridges to fly away (another flying bridge like the one the Crimson Vultures had-see previous post). The natives think he's a native sorcerer from a tribe they wrested control of the island away from some years before. Turns out he's a white scientist who is using various tricks and devices to fool the natives into parting with their treasure. The Blackhawks end up stopping him in the end - of course - and reveal his real identity. The reason this was a rather difficult project is because the character's costume is covered in all these "hex" signs. I ended up painting most of the figure yellow and then marking out the hex signs with a black paint pen, including the designs. Then I filled in the black all around the designs. It was a very tedious paint job. The figure is a Marvel Secret Wars Daredevil figure made by Mattel back in the early 1980s.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blackhawk Villains - Crimson Vultures

I was looking for something that would coincide with Thanksgiving, but frankly I'm not aware of any turkey-based heroes or villains. No Captain Turkey, or the Turkey Vulture, or Turkeyman (or woman). Somehow turkeys have never seemed particularly heroic or villainous. So I figured the closest I could come would be the Crimson Vultures from the pages of Blackhawk #112, May 1957. This is a team of bad guys organized man-to-man to defeat the Blackhawks. For example the Blackhawk Hendrickson is noted for his sharp shooting abilities so the Crimson Vulture called H is the sharp shooter of their group. They don't have names, just letter designators, such as B for Blackhawk, C for Chuck, S for Stanislaus... well, you get the idea. They seemed to have two C's - one for Chuck and one for Chop-Chop. They also had a pet vulture named Crimson as their mascot, similar to the Blackhawk's own Blackie the hawk, who I don't think I've shown yet. Anyway, the Crimson Vultures go on a crime spree on their flying bridge (remember readers I don't make this stuff up) and defeat the Blackhawks several times in succession. Finally Blackhawk outwits them and they plunge to their deaths from the bridge, having not copied the one piece of Blackhawk hardware that would have really come in handy - their secret jacket parachutes. In the third to last panel of the story there's a "typo" where Black proclaims, "Their own leader brought about their doom with their INFORMAL machine, Andre," where the capitalized word should probably have been infernal. Just goes to show, letterers didn't have spell checker back in 1957. The figures themselves were all the Star Wars Bespin Luke with a variety of heads attached - I even used an Asian head for the C that stood for Chop-Chop guy. Then I used felt pieces to make the little top-knot things on their heads. The hardest part was painting the vultures on their chests to make them as similar as possible. Hope you enjoy my "turkey replacement" and that all my readers have a happy Thanksgiving.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Blackhawks & the Tigresses

In the story "The Mystery of Tigress Island" (Blackhawk #110, March 1957) we are introduced to a team of female Blackhawk wannabes called the Tigresses. In the story the Blackhawks had been searching for a bad guy named Kurt Ostrec from their secret island base (some secret - it was about as busy as Gilligan's Island with visitors) when a lone jet lands and a woman in uniform climbs out. She says her name is Joan and that she leads a team of females who have patterned themselves after the Blackhawks and that they know how to find Kurt Ostrec. Blackhawk shows his male chauvinist side by chastising Joan and telling her that the idea of some group of girls fighting crime was just plain silly. At any rate, in order to capture Ostrec, the Blackhawks follow Joan to her own secret base, called Tigress Island, where he meets the other five members of her team. Altogether they are Joan, an American, Norwegian Ilse, British Edith, Spanish Rita, Italian Tina and French Yvette. The (rather pompous) Blackhawks are captured by the girls and offered up to Ostrec as a prize. Ostrec comes to the island but it is all a big trap. In reality the girls all lost their husbands to Ostrec and were gunning for him all along using the Blackhawks as bait. The two teams end up banding together and capture Ostrec, who will be held for trial rather than killed as the girls wanted. To my knowledge this was the only appearance of the Tigresses but I rather enjoyed the group. The action figures all used the Star Wars Juno Eclipse figure for their bodies and caps. The heads were from a variety of sources, including another Star Wars figure for Joan, a Pirates of the Caribbean Elizabeth Swann head for Yvette, Juno Eclipse's head for Ilsa, Elizabeth Swann's head from her pirate outfit for Edith, Princess Leia from her prisoner outfit for Tina and the head from a Susan figure from Chronicles of Narnia-Prince Caspian for Rita.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Rainbow Blackhawks

Another set of figures from my Blackhawks collection, this one from the pages of Blackhawk #131, December 1958. This time the baddie is a guy named Mr. Beam, who has a device that can effect colored objects and people. So when the Blackhawks in their blue uniforms try to apprehend him in the commission of a crime, he uses his colorama gun to repel them and escape with a valuable crown he's after. Figuring that Mr. Beam's gun is focused on the color blue, the Blackhawks change to green costumes, but Mr. Beam just switches the gun to green and repels them again. Finally Blackhawk, who in addition his other crime-fighting skills seems to be a master at dying costumes, outfits each of his men with a different colored uniform. But Mr. Beam has changed his colorama gun to dial all the colors of the rainbow so Blackhawk leaps into a conveniently placed vat of black paint (black being the absence of color) and brings an end to Mr. Beam's criminal career. For the Blackhawk figures I used the same figures and heads I listed in my first Blackhawk post, painting Blackhawk red, Chuck yellow, Andre green, leaving Olaf blue, painting Stanislaus orange and Hendrickson purple, with Chop-Chop retaining his multi-colored outfit. Mr. Beam was created using a GI Joe Dr. Mindbender figure and the head from a GI Joe Salvo figure. The gun was something I had on hand that had multiple apertures.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Blackhawk Don Quixote

For my next episode in the Blackhawk series I present the story where the Blackhawks Hendrickson and Andre assume the identities of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, respectively. The Blackhawks have arrived in an unnamed city where they are to be the guests of honor for a pageant. Hendrickson is asked by the city fathers to assume the role of the elder knight Don Quixote for the pageant, with Andre filling in as his squire. Then while in costume the Blackhawks encounter a robbery in progress, which they thwart. However, Hendrickson gets bonked on the head (I'm not sure why the helmet didn't protect him) and ends up believing he really is Don Quixote. He goes off to battle bad guys and things with Andre and the other Blackhawks watching his back. He even jousts a windmill in the story just like Don Quixote did. Sure enough he gets captured but also bonked on the head again and remembers who he is, managing to signal the rest of the Blackhawks to come rescue him. Then Don Quixote and Sancho Panza finish the story by riding in the big parade. Many of the individual Blackhawks were featured in stories over the years, with Hendrickson seeming to be highlighted in more than his share. This was one I particularly liked from Blackhawk #152, September 1960. I found a lead/pewter knight produced by Superior Models/Perth Pewter that looked very similar and, after some cleaning up, it filled the bill quite nicely. The figure even had a raised visor and a mustache. I added the cape from cloth with two brass nails to hold it in place. The Sancho Panza figure was made from a Disney prince figure (don't remember which one) and the head from a CHIPS Ponch for Andre's head. I then had to sculpt the Prince Valiant hair cut from Scuply. This is a good example of how different types of figures can be used to capture a character I'm trying to bring to life.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The League of Anti-Blackhawks

This group was featured in Blackhawk #165 in October 1961. This was an unusual tale because in most Blackhawk comics of the period there were three separate stories, but this time around the tale was too big and spanned two story-lengths. I always liked this group, who were, from left to right, Buzzard, Eel, Chameleon and on the right the Owl. The first three are summoned by the Owl in order to try to defeat the Blackhawks. As it turns out, what no one knows is that the Owl is really an alien named Bocar who tried to conquer his own world and, failing that, decided he would set up shop on earth. Blackhawk captures Buzzard and infiltrates the gang disguised as Buzzard to flush out the alien, which of course he does. Then in a final clash the alien tries to destroy the Blackhawks with some alien creatures he's devised but ends up getting vaporized by one of his own creatures. This is actually the first and last appearance of the League that I'm aware of. The figures were a bit of a challenge, especially the Buzzard and the Owl, which required a lot of sculpting. The Owl was the hardest - he's a Hasbro Rankor Trainer figure that I basically covered in Sculpy and then shaped the Owl's head, eyes and beak. For the other three I used parts from various GI Joes, sculpting the Buzzard's head in particular. I actually had fun painting all the various designs on the Chameleon. All in all they were a lot of fun to make.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 15, 2010

Silver Age Blackhawk Villain - Vakoma

I'm on a roll with the Blackhawks so to continue I thought I'd focus on one of their villains that I used a model statue to represent. The bad guy is a character named Vakoma (from Blackhawk #173, June 1962) rebellious citizen of a democratic country trying to build up its infrastructure. Vakoma doesn't like the new technology so he's using magic to keep the hands of time turned back. The Blackhawks stumble upon the situation (they did that a lot) and vow to help the people build up their technology. As it turns out Vakoma is using some form of magic clay that - once he makes a clay model of an object - allows him to manipulate (i.e., destroy) anything he likes. Blackhawk tricks Vakoma into thinking that he has captured some of the magic clay and leads Vakoma into a trap. Vakoma is foiled of course and technology will march on in his country, thanks to the Blackhawks. The figure is a metal (lead/pewter) statue originally made by Superior Models/Perth Pewter named the Magic Master. I thought the look of the figure really captured the appearance of Vakoma and painted him accordingly. I figured the crystal ball he's holding could easily represent his magic clay.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Silver Age Heroine - Lady Blackhawk

The other day I featured my favorite paramilitary group of comic book characters, the Blackhawks. I thought I would continue along with a few related postings since I've done a lot of their supporting cast as well as many of their villains. First up is Lady Blackhawk, the longest running Blackhawk love interest. Her real name was Zinda Blake (never knew a Zinda but always thought it was a neat name), and she made her first appearance in the pages of Blackhawk with issue number 133 in February 1959. Typical of the comics representation of females during the period she bravely helps save the Blackhawk's butts but then gives them away when she goes "Eeeek" over the appearance of a mouse. Of course she really has "a thing" for Blackhawk and in issue #155 in December 1960 there is a cover story called "The Wedding of Lady Blackhawk" wherein she gets her wish and marries Mister numero uno himself. Of course it all turns out to have been a dream - which is a road Lois Lane tread all too often over Superman down through the years - but she does keep making appearances. Later on Zinda was even brainwashed by one of the Blackhawk's few arch villains, Killer Shark, and became Queen Killer Shark for a while fighting with the bad guys. Of course she always came back to the light side. The figure was made using a Hasbro Juno Eclipse figure with the head from a Pirates of the Caribbean Elizabeth Swann and a cap from a German army officer.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Paramilitary Heroes - The Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are probably my overall all-time favorite comic book heroes. I grew up during the Silver Age of comics (Golden Age was 1938-55 and Silver Age was 1956-69) and along with Superman and Batman, I always tried to pick up the latest Blackhawk comic with my meager allowance. I liked them because the art really showed distinct characters. I liked the jets they flew and the villains they fought and the various war machines they both used and battled. I also liked that they were distinct personalities and most of them spoke with a distinctive accent. The Blackhawks originally appeared in Military Comics #1 in August 1941 published by Quality Comics. However, by 1956 Quality was folding its tent and as a result DC Comics got a number of their properties, including the Blackhawks, who they continued to publish for some years afterwards. Later there would be a change of uniforms, then a "superhero" phase, and still later they would be reinvented in a couple of different guises. But these are the ones I liked. At top I've shown the original group with the guy on the right as he first appeared as a rather racist caricature of an Asian, and below the later version where he has become a little more PC, although still dressed differently then the rest of the group. As for the figures, from left to right we have Blackhawk himself, the only one with the emblem on his chest, variously reported as an American or Polish freedom fighter; next is Chuck, the American, then Andre the Frenchman, followed by Olaf the Swede, then Stanislaus from Poland, and Hendrickson, who was either a German freedom fighter or Dutch and finally Chop Chop from Nationalist China. As for the figures, the uniformed figures were from Hasbro's Star Wars Imperial Commander, while the heads were as follows: Blackhawk was Kirk from Star Trek the Motion Picture, Chuck was Decker from the same movie, Andre was Ponch from the CHIPS TV show, Olaf was Jon from the same show, Stanislaus was Charles Pizer from the movie Black Hole and Hendrickson was Harry Booth from the same movie. Chop Chop's body was made from various GI Joe and other military figures parts and the head was from a GI Joe Airborne figure. The military caps were either from the Love Boat crew or a GI Joe figure.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mysterious Superheroes - Nemesis & Magicman

There have been a lot of comic publishers over the decades with some rather strange properties. One of those small comic publishers was the American Comics Group or ACG. The editor, a man named Richard E. Hughes, had cut his teeth on Golden Age strips like the Woman in Red and Fighting Yank, but by the 1960s he was turning out mostly horror comics - however, since this was the era of the feel-good comics code these were mostly horror-light fare. Hughes thought most of the originality had been wrung out of the superhero genre - maybe it's age because I'm mostly thinking that now - but bowing to reader demands by 1965 he included such heroes in his titles Forbidden World, where Magicman started with issue #125, and Adventures into the Unknown, where Nemesis began appearing with issue #154. Magicman, the one with the turban, uses various magical powers to fight crime, including telekinesis, the ability to induce nightmares, superstrength, shape-shifting into animals and he can even summon tornadoes - but he needs to gesture with his hands to do all this so if you bind him he's got problems. Nemesis - the guy with the hourglass on his chest - actually died but it was a little crowded getting into the Unknown (afterlife) so the Grim Reaper allows him to go back to earth and settle the score with the crime boss who killed him. Nemesis has superstrength, the ability to fly, turn invisible, telepathy, grow to giant size, appear and disappear at will and even travel through time. So basically they were both paranormal types of superheroes. Magicman got his start in Vietnam before that whole thing was better left out of the comic book pages, which is rather unique. I found these to be rather unique and interesting characters so I made action figures for them. Magicman was made using the body and arms of a Toy Biz Captain America figure, with the legs from a Robin Hood Little John and a Superman head. The turban I made from Sculpy and I included a small crystal to dress him up a little. Nemesis was made using the body of a Captain America and the head from a JLA Green Arrow - the later version.
Posted by Picasa