With my HG Gouf Custom built and tucked into the toy display on my desk, I returned to my first MG kit, the lovely Astray Red Frame Kai my wife got me last Christmas.
Nestled inside its chest is its tiny pilot.
The undergated parts make this kit a dream to get off its runners. Most parts have their nub protruding from an internal surface, almost like it’s been slid up alongside it, rather than attached to it or on an external area. Just nip, trim, and move on — it’s awesome.
After 90 minutes of work on my second night (first since late December 2019), I had a finished torso. So. Many. Parts!
The Google Translate app makes assembling Gundam kits a lot easier — and sometimes it adds a dash of humor, too.
I love the use of a reflective foil sticker underneath the clear plastic element on the head. It really pops, and it’s such a clever approach.
By the time I got to the legs, I was back in the groove and moving more quickly. But between the weapons and the rest of Astray’s body I’ve still got several hours of building to do.
I grew up in NYC, and when I was a little kid most of my comics came from bargain bins, the school fair, or the hole-in-the-wall newspaper shop/convenience store nearest our apartment. What I read was a grab bag largely determined by circumstance — and, in the case of the little shop, actual grab bags: They would bag three comics, with the outer two covers visible and the inner one a surprise, and charge less than the cost of all three for the bundle.
So while it’s possible — maybe even likely — that I read a superhero comic before this one, the first one I actually remember reading as a little kid was Marvel Tales #139, published in 1982. That’d put me around age five or six, which tracks.
When I started getting into collecting CGC-slabbed books a few years back, I thought it’d be fun to slab this one — but I also wondered if it would hold up as an adult, or if I just remembered it fondly because I loved it as a kid.
So I dug it out and reread it.
I opened it up and saw that 1) it was a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #2 (I didn’t know at the time that Marvel Tales was a reprint line), and 2) it was a Steve Ditko/Stan Lee joint. No fucking wonder I remembered loving it!
So yeah, absolutely still a great comic as an adult. And just look at that Ditko cover! Iconic.
One of its stories, which features the Vulture dropping Spidey — who has run out of web fluid — into a New York water tower is the reason I can’t look at a water tower and not immediately think of Spider-Man. (And, more broadly, see or be in NYC and not think of Spidey.) We had one on the roof of our apartment building, which my best friend and I regularly snuck up and climbed — and it sort of terrified me.
It was locked, or our dumb asses might have considered going inside.
Anyhoo, I didn’t want to frame The Actual Issue because that felt sort of sad. Why lock it away? It’s fun to read, to hold an actual connection to my childhood that has so many connections to my adult life. So I set about finding a copy in good condition — which, given that it’s essentially worthless, was a challenge!
But I eventually found one and sent it off to CGC. It came back at a 9.6, and damn is it gorgeous.
Slabbed books are a real challenge to photograph well, but someday I should try and get a few good shots of the ones I have up. I love them all, but so few people get to see them!
I haven’t built any Gunpla kits since I started on the — rather intimidating! — MG Astray Red Frame my wife got me for Christmas, mostly because miniatures swallowed my hobby time whole (in a good way). But on Sunday night, unable to sleep, I was in the mood for Gundam.
The Astray is my first MG and I was feeling a bit rusty, so I jumped into one of the other two kits I currently have on hand instead — an HG Gouf Custom. HG kits are super-relaxing to work on, simple but rewarding, and this was just what the doctor ordered. I popped on Community in the background and tucked into it.
I’m still a Gunpla newbie; the Gouf is my fourth kit, all HGs (Leo, Barbatos, and Astaroth Origin are the other three). After working on plastic miniatures, I have to switch grooves a bit — double-nipping, multi-stage sanding and polishing, no glue, no painting, etc. It’s a fun mental shift.
I started making mistakes around 1:00 am Monday, so I went to bed and picked up the Gouf again at a more reasonable hour.
After finishing the kit, I grabbed my trusty black Gundam marker, pulled off the arms, shoulders, head, and gun, and set to panel lining. Come Monday night, I had a finished Gouf.
I figured I’d stretch the capacity of my little lightbox and get a shot of him in there, too.
This was a fun kit to build, and now I feel like I’m back in the groove. Time to start working on the Astray!
On Saturday, I wanted to work on another character. As chance would have it I was just about to paint the black elements on my Sternguard, so I fired up my Chaplain, Arrius, and figured I’d paint everything but black — his dominant color — so he’d be in sync with the veterans.
I love this mini, and while I found resin to be a pain in the ass my guess during the assembly process was correct: That pain faded once I started painting him. It’s such a great sculpt!
I was feeling a bit down, and also a bit out of it, on Saturday — so much so that I completely forgot I always paint bases first. Nothing on his legs would make it risky to drybrush around them, so I wrapped up his non-black colors and switched gears.
As I gain confidence as a painter, I’m also going off-book more often. I love his studio paint scheme, but that’s not a Blood Angel. (I mean, intentionally so; he’s a “generic Chaplain” by design.) I gave him a Blood Angels backpack, but he needed a bit more to tie him into the chapter; I figured a red knee pad with a chapter symbol would do the trick. He also has black armor, which means black suit gaskets aren’t going to read well — not to mention a mix of red elements that need definition and separation.
Which means it’s color guide time!
Chaplain color guide
Black: Abaddon Black > Eshin Grey > Dawnstone
Bone and parchment: Rakarth Flesh > Agrax Earthshade > Pallid Wych Flesh > White Scar
Metal and piping: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Stormhost Silver
Armor gaskets: Mechanicus Standard Grey > Nuln Oil > Dawnstone
Leather and piping: Screamer Pink > Carroburg Crimson (skipped on gems) > Pink Horror > Emperor’s Children
Eyes and tubing: Moot Green > Agrax Earthshade > Moot Green
Book cover: Khorne Red > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red > 50/50 blend of Wazdakka Red/Kislev Flesh
Knee pad, gems, purity seal wax: Mephiston Red > Agrax Earthshade > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Fire Dragon Bright
Other hobby work swirling about
I also looked at my painting queue for May and decided I wanted to make my stretch goal the Sanguinary Guard — as planned — but that doing Dante and the Sanguinary Ancient (with his massive banner) might be too much of a stretch. Still, having primed Dante, I figured I’d take him through basing.
…And get the Guard and Abaoz through basing as well, so I’d be covered no matter what.
I put in less hobby time than I thought I would this weekend, doing more other stuff instead, but kept my hobby streak up — Monday was day 93! — and laid the groundwork for what comes after my Sternguard.
Wrapping up the Chaplain and Squad Amedeo should definitely be doable before the end of May, and really going beyond that — 1x Rhino, 11x Marines — was a stretch anyway. But I won’t discount the possibility that a couple of banner painting nights sneak in, say, all of Squad Remiel by May 31, either. It happened last month, after all!
With Squad Dolos finally painted, it’s time to get my Sternguard, Squad Amedeo (1st Company, 3rd Squad), up on the painting handles! As always, I’ve completed their bases already (except for varnish and tufts, of course), and I’ve dabbed a bit of paint on them whenever I had extra on my palette.
One of the things I love about Blood Angels heraldry is that they use helmet color to indicate battlefield role — yellow for fast attack, blue for heavy support, gold for veterans, etc. — which looks great, provides variety, and is just sort of neat. (I also love that, in addition to regarding the Codex Astartes as a set of loose guidelines, they also break their own rules — like having Terminators eschew gold helmets for plain old red.) So when I built my initial army list I tried to squeeze in all of the special colors.
The battle-brothers of Squad Amedeo are my first foray into colorful hats. I love painting gold! And they’re going to drip with so much gold.
So, so much gold.
Although one thing I learned from painting Squad Ultio was that it’s also fun to lean away from gold, even when it’s my first instinct. Mix in some white, some silver, and some black where I might otherwise have put gold — and give each model a loose little theme based on those color choices. So while Squad Amedeo is going to get its fashion sense from the imperious, bling-loving Sergeant Amedeo, there will be some other colors in the mix as well.
I’m also diverging a bit more than usual from the studio paint scheme, as I’m not sure how to do the gold fabric (nor whether I’d like it), white on red doesn’t feel right for them, and I’ve probably used rather a bit more gold overall.
This was one of my favorite squads to assemble, and so far they’re an absolute joy to paint. They’re detailed without being fussy, with nice separations between their elements, and I just love them. I made great progress last night, laying down base coats in every color except Mephiston Red, Abaddon Black, and whatever I go with for their incidental wires and whatnot.
I love working on miniature bases, creating little landscapes to complement and set off the actual figure, so for my second Dreadnought I picked up some plain 60mm GW bases on Ebay to give me a blank canvas to work with. I gather that a lot of folks don’t love basing, so I figured I’d talk a bit about my process — not because I’m an expert (I’m not!), but because maybe some of that joy will be passed along.
I start by looking at the figure and thinking about their role in the battle on the plains of Armageddon — that’s where all my Blood Angels are fighting, base-wise. Then I dig out my bits box and pick fun stuff that seems like it might work.
I test out my ideas on the base, moving stuff around until I can picture a cool finished product in my mind. Then I literally test out some elements — like making sure this upright grate/hatch thingie won’t get in the way of Turiel’s body. I also think about whether I want to add tufts, and how many, so I can leave room for a couple.
I also make sure to leave some clearance around the figure itself, to give myself room to, you know, actually paint it. I’ve bumped stuff up too close to models on past bases and made things more difficult for myself. Ditto on avoiding the edges, since I like to have room to put texture paint around everything.
My first Dread, Narses, has prominent vertical elements on the front and back sides of his base. I thought it’d be fun to give Turiel a mostly flat front, but couldn’t resist playing with height in the back.
After I’ve got stuff pretty much how I like it, I trim the nubs, get rid of the mold lines, and glue it all down (plastic glue for plastic, superglue for rocks).
After Turiel’s glue cures overnight, it’s on to painting the debris and then surrounding it all with texture paint!
It took me longer than I’d like to take Squad Dolos from this state, where they languished for a few days:
To this one, starring the worst base-coating work I’ve done this year:
And then to the “starting to not look like shit” stage:
And finally through the undocumented and quite frustrating stage where I discovered that the ~20-year-old knee pad decals I’d planned to use were — at least as far as I could tell, still being pretty new to using decals — too old to soften properly despite repeated applications of Micro Sol. I was hoping to avoid freehanding their squad markings; in the end, that’s what I had to do.
…But I finally got there!
I have to say that these weren’t my favorite models to paint. Their highlighting was fun, but they’re kind of basic — excellent sculpts and detail, but with so few ways to personalize or pose them that the end product was not all that exciting. I didn’t cut corners on them, but it always felt like a bit of a struggle; I suspect that’s why it took me so long. Ah well.
Thus far I’ve painted more troops than anything else, so my current point total of painted figures (730/2,000) is low relative to the number of models I’ve completed. I’m one figure shy of the 50% mark now, and it’s all characters, elites, and fast attack — plus one massive tank — from here on in.
It doesn’t look like I’m going to match April’s record month, but you never know. Next up I’m going to paint my Sternguard squad and my Chaplain, and fitting in one more squad of five after that — which feels like a stretch right now! — would match April’s tally.
With my final squad assembled, I now have 100% of my first army list — exactly 2,000 points of Blood Angels with WYSIWYG wargear — assembled, primed, or painted. Which means it’s photo time!
I haven’t quite worked out how best to take this sort of photo, but it is my first go so that makes a bit of sense. Hopefully future shots will turn out a bit clearer. Still, I love seeing them all in one place for like this!
Judgment, 1st Company, designated transport for Squad Barakiel — Land Raider Crusader
Here are all the kits I used:
One of my original goals was to use 100% of the minis I bought for my initial army in my initial army, so if a kit was 10 Space Marines, I’d include all 10 in my force. But I realized a few weeks into assembling it all that I’d have more fun with 5 Infiltrators instead of 10, so I swapped in 5 Sternguard and juggled the wargear on a few units at the same time. So I came pretty close!
And it’s not like those 5 Infiltrators will go to waste: They’ve just joined my backlog, and will be part of my larger army — available to swap in as needed.
I’ve wanted to have a 40k army since I was around 10 years old, and I’ve spent the better part of the past 30-plus years being alternately frustrated with, disinterested in, or occasionally enjoying painting miniatures. It’s been a joy to rediscover — and, at the same time, discover — the side of myself that enjoys painting minis, and a new hobby that I love. Painting my Blood Angels has been a blast, and I’m still going!
After wrapping up assembly on Judgment, I had just one squad left in my current (and first) Blood Angels army list: Squad Barakiel, my close combat Terminators — for whom Judgment will be the designated transport.
I started with the sergeant, of course, and then made little piles for each Terminator based on whatever felt right (“skull-covered legs, must love skulls; he gets the skull hammer”) — but this kit has some pretty specific suggestions about leg + hammer pairings.
They are just suggestions, of course, but every time I tried other variations and then the suggested one, I could see why they were paired the way they are: The studio poses look awesome.
The thing is, I’ve got two more boxes of these guys (plus a box of generic close combat Termies). One will be an all-Lightning Claws squad and the other will be 3x Thunder Hammers/2x Lightning Claws, so that I can mix and match. (For example, swelling the ranks of Squad Barakiel with three more hammer boys fills a Land Raider Crusader to capacity.) So to avoid duplicates I’m going to have to go off-book at some point, no matter how cool the studio poses are.
Partway through, I realized that this kit was even more specific about its poses than I first thought: each torso/head piece is matched to a particular body/leg piece. I was building the banner guy when I noticed that the guide had his head turned, which made no sense because 4/5 of the heads are pre-molded…until I figured out that it meant he needed Torso X to match his legs and pose.
I went with “Barakiel” because the random website I often use for angel names said that was the angel of lightning — which is a perfect name for the sergeant of the forthcoming all-Lightning Claws squad. But the one I’ve just built are all armed with Thunder Hammers and bearing Storm Shields. What do you get when there’s a storm and thunder? Lightning, of course!
Plus I wanted a “B” name and it sounded cool.
In the end, I mostly went with the studio poses and leg/torso/hammer pairings, mixed it up on the shields, picked tilting plates and other bling to match, and tweaked a couple of the poses just a hair (far right’s hammer is much higher; the sergeant is in more of a “come at me, bro!” stance; etc.). Second from the right is my favorite: hammer at ease, but ready. What at badass pose.
With Squad Ultio wrapped up, I can now do a comparison I thought might be interesting: Terminators I painted in February/March of this year versus Terminators I painted in April — same figures (more or less), same chapter, same color scheme. Which means it’s lightbox time!
Let’s start with the closest apples-to-apples pairings, the ones with similar sculpts and wargear.
How about three direct comparisons of aspects of each model?
And here’s my favorite paint job from each group, the Librarian from Space Hulk and one of the Chain Fist brothers from 40k:
As I was packing them all up again, I realized it might be good to toss in one more photo — five vs. five, but just a casual picture in natural light.
A bit of context
With my Space Hulk Termies, I was working with years-old primer, over-sprayed, and thick base coats of red. I made the conscious choice to stick with the techniques I’d used a decade ago on my Genestealers, so my whole set would look alike; that meant sticking to one post-shading step, drybrushing (with occasional bits of edge highlighting). My April Termies got two layers after shading, and no drybrushing save for the bases.
I also switched over entirely to Citadel paints, rather than my previous mix of Citadel and Privateer, and started using GW’s parade-ready guides for my color choices. The difference between starting with Mephiston Red, a dark red/crimson, and starting with P3 Khador Red, a scarlet, is pretty striking. The scarlet base coat doesn’t leave much room to go “up” in shades.
Overall, I can see that my painting has improved since I started up again. The more recent paint jobs are objectively better, even though they contain plenty of flaws and could absolutely be improved in a myriad of ways.
I tend to be quite hard on myself, especially about things I’ve done which aren’t perfect where I can clearly see that they’re not perfect. (As I type this, I’m literally thinking, “Crap, these felt like they were so much better but the difference just isn’t that dramatic.) I know I’m not alone in this because I see lots of other miniature painters online who are hard on themselves; after hours of working on a model, it can be tough to see anything but its flaws.
It’s good to be able to see some improvement. The hours I’ve put in are paying off — and I have so much more to learn!