Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Mirky Dozen: Seeing the Wood for the Trees

Having decided to convert my existing Wood Elves, what, you might ask, is my problem with them exactly?

The first thing you notice about the Wood Elves is their size – they are small, smaller in fact than their metal equivalents. This isn’t unusual in itself, and in fact there are plenty of other examples in the GW range that exhibit the same disparity; but these miniatures seem smaller than their human counterparts, and indeed their orc enemies, which hardly seems fair. On top of this they seem slight – a common issue with the early days of figure sculpting was that so-called ’heroic’ proportions led to what became known in modelling circles as ‘pumpkinhead’ syndrome – disproportionately large craniums, even for the exaggerated scale of heroic. In the case of these Wood Elves it’s almost the reverse – they seem a little pin-headed, and their short size doesn’t help things. Yeah, I get it – Elves are slender folk and demand small, more naturalistic proportions, but I can’t help feeling that if they’d been scaled up a bit this wouldn’t matter so much.

The plastic is its own issue, too. Small, plastic figures with fine detail tend to be subject to all sorts of abuse – mis-moulds, damage in transit, and even just plain ham-fisted modelling. The Wood Elves are pretty okay, but their spear bearers seem lumped with some pretty flimsy, tapering weapons, and I must admit I’d have rather more thought had been put into their look, maybe carrying a leaf motif throughout the weapon and offering some variety, rather than the spears terminating at a pretty unremarkable point.

In converting these I can see I’ll have my work cut out for me, but on the other hand the style of these figures doesn’t lend to much chopping and swapping. They’re all to a man wearing heavy, pretty uninteresting cloaks, and few show any waist or leg to perform transplants with, so I’m pretty much stuck with these poses. I do think I’ll attend to the cloaks a little though – taking inspiration from the metal Wood Elf Sentinels I’ll attempt a leafy, ‘jagged’ outline in the cloaks that allow it, and may scrape some back to re-layer them with green stuff in kind. I can’t make these Elves look at all lithe or wispy like the new Mirkwood Hunters, but I can hope to break up some of those drab and uninspiring spaces. One clear advantage with plastic models is that they are dead easy to chop up and play around with, and are lightweight (and cheap!) enough to take some radical reposing without collapsing under a new weight distribution.

I dare say there’s not been a lot of thought put into the weapons, either. Weta’s new aesthetic for The Desolation of Smaug offers a lot of options for unique blades and scabbard placement, but GW clearly went for the traditional. Tolkien in The Hobbit remarks that the Elves of Mirkwood do not have work metal, not being miners, nor trade much in it, so while I remodel them I’ll also attempt to reduce the bling on these guys. For the purpose of strengthening, I’ll consider replacing the spears, which then begs the question of how to tip them; in modelling as in travel I am a poor tipper indeed. Wish me luck.

Regarding the heads these models are a mixed bag: there are some rather nice examples with fine features, well-defined ears and good hair – and then there are the poor examples. Chiefly of course there’s my complaint about size – so, taking my cue from these examples on CoolMiniOrNot, I’m going to make some green stuff hoods for them. Yeah, they might end up looking like Rangers more than Elves, but maybe I can fix that too – and these examples I’ve linked to do certainly improve things I reckon.

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