Friday, 11 September 2009

Female Archaeologists: The Croissant Sisters

Left to Right: Veracité, Veronique, Varsité, Virginie and Velocité (all Copplestone except far right Artizan)

A long time ago, during a very drunken dinner with my friend Bill, we created the concept of a group of female archaeologists called, for reasons we are completely unable to recall, the Croissant sisters. They were brought to life to inhabit an erotic story set in Egypt in 1921 which would involve diggings, paddle boats up the Nile, chases in the souk, kidnappings, shoot-outs, desert tribesmen and lots and lots of kinky sex. Having then mentioned it to some of my other (largely female and foreign) friends thay have all encouraged me to actually write this epic. So far we have written an amazing 210 pages and in the most recent episode Veronique was blasting away at murderous tribesmen with a Sharps Buffalo rifle from the back of their Thorneycroft J lorry whilst Veracité got up to highly dubious and dangerous things in the front of the vehicle with male archaeologist Idaho (so named because when he was born he looked like a potato) Brown.
When I first started writing this deathless epic I stuck a picture of the Copplestone female archaeologists set at the top to give me an idea of their characters. When the plot required a fifth sister I used one of the Artizan Designs Thrilling Tales figures. I have just finished painting Varsité (in the natty blue and cream ensemble) which completes the sisterhood.

Left to right we have:

Although she is the youngest of the sisters she raises the money for the girl's digs (usually from impressionable older men), obtains firmans (permissions to dig) and generally runs things. She has lived and excavated in America and enjoys driving sports cars (usually in fast get aways from shocked wives who have discovered her with their husbands).

The second youngest sister and the only one to have been married. Her Belgian husband was murdered by renegade Schutztruppen in German East Africa and she led a group of her own Askaris to wreak revenge on the Germans during the Great War. A crack shot she favours a Sharps rifle for sniping and a Holland and Holland Nitro Express for close up work. Borderline psychotic.

The second oldest sister and the team's artist and cataloguer. A keen cyclist and rather distant with the others as she was sent abroad to school in disgrace when she was fifteen after being found in bed with her older friend Coralie during the summer holidays in the family house near Lyon. Collects erotica. Likes girls. A lot.

The oldest and most serious of the sisters. She is the historian and writer of the team and despairs of the romantic escapades of her younger siblings. She writes long and appalled letters home to dear maman in Lyon reporting her sisters' shocking behaviour. Completely unaware that her dear maman was a bar girl (and she didn't just serve drinks) in Shanghai in 1885 when she was bought for a week by her father who eventually brought her back to France.

Has no interest in history or archaeology but is a daredevil pilot. Likes the tango and seaplanes.

Up until now I have not really had any thought about what to do with their 28mm avatars but this week Askari Miniatures have released their brilliant Egyptian diggers and things are coming together in my mind! The Croissant sisters, Idaho Brown, renegade Turks, dangerous tribesmen. All very loosely based on one of the Caspasian novels by Anthony Conway, The Colonel's Renegade. So I should also be able to cram in some Ghurkas, the French Foreign legion and some Germans as well!

Pulp Adventuress

This is an Artizan Thrilling Tales figure. She will make a great addition to my Copplestone female archaeologists.

She could do service in Africa, Egypt, Central Asia or the Amazon. She is not armed so might make a good object for a rescue scenario. I painted her this afternoon and am quite plesed with the way she has come out.

Agent Lake

This is the Artizan Agent Lake figure (and what a very nice figure it is). The problem I have with these Pulp figures is how to base them. Is grass appropriate for a girl in high heeled red shoes? More likely it should be something representing a night club floor but, there we go. A very nice figure to paint and demonstrates why I cannot join the chorus of approval for Bob Murch's Pulp Miniatures range: his women are ugly! Look at that cute little retroussé nose!

Pulp Films: The Rocketeer vs The Shadow

I watched the film The Shadow this weekend, starring Alec Baldwin an actor who at that time had almost no charisma whatsoever but has now matured into a fine comic actor (see 30 Rock). It also stars Penelope Ann Miller, more of whom later. It was based on an old radio show rather than a comic strip as compared to The Rocketeer, which I also watched recently which was a modern but retro looking comic.

I have never understood the American (and French and Japanese) fascination with comic books. Surely the definition of growing up is that you can read books with no pictures in them? Admittedly, some of the graphic work on the covers is often eyecatching (like these by Michael Kaluta) but they are usually disappointing inside and..they are comics! When I was little I used to read Look & Learn magazine which featured a comic strip called The Trigan Empire with art by Don Lawrence. This was serious painting and I haven't really seen anything to match it since (apart, perhaps, from his own Storm series).

Hollywood seems constantly surprised by the regular failure of films based on comics, not seeming to realise that just as Hollywood has to dumb down a book for the screen it has to dumb down a comic book; except you are starting form a much lower level of dumb to start with. The only film that made an impact with me recently was Spiderman 2, which sensibly employed double Oscar winning screenwriter Alvin Sergeant to give the sort of polish to the script so sadly lacking in The Shadow and The Rocketeer.

Both films look rather good, set as they are in the late thirties, but, as someone once said, you don't come out of a movie whistling the sets. On balance I would give the nod to The Rocketeer for catching the look of late thirties Hollywood so well. The nightclub set is a wonder to behold and so is the clever pastiche of the set of The Adventures of Robin Hood. Interestingly, The Phantom also has a nightclub scene (it is set in new York rather than Los Angeles) but the design is not so memorable, although some of the other sets are quite striking. Three years extra development in the world of digital effects is apparent in The Phantom as well; some of The Rocketeer effects are a bit ropey now.  Musically, although The Phantom has a score by Jerry Goldsmith, it is very much one of his by the numbers jobs and doesn't hold a candle to one of James Horner's best early (aren't all his early scores his best ones?) scores for The Rocketeer.

Given a wet Sunday afternoon I would probably choose The Rocketeer over The Shadow as mindless entertainment but that is perhaps more to do with the rather lighter tone of the piece.

Sky Pirate Girl

I just finished my second Artizan Sky Pirate. Here she is about to see off the evil Nachtjaeger with her Broomhandle Mauser (ironically).

I took the second picture outside but the light was bad yesterday afternoon so I had to push the exposure which makes her look a little washed out.

Sea Plane

The whole point about Sky Pirates is that they have to have some aerial capabilities! I was thinking about a plane to use for some of the scenarios and having recently watched The Phantom on DVD realised that we had to be talking about float planes of some sort. A quick search on eBay for 1/48 scale sea planes came up with this from a Japanese Anime film called Porco Rosso. Now, I am not particularly interested in Japanese Anime but this one does sound rather intriguing so I may have to pick up the DVD.

I just thought this was a superb model of a pulp seaplane. It's even red! So I bought it on eBay and it arrived today. It looks completely splendid and I can't wait to build it. It even has a female pilot figure who looks very much like the female Sky Pirate! Key things for wargaming are that the hull is flat enough that I won't have to make it a waterline model and, indeed, it comes with a little cart to hold it when on the shore.

The box claims that it is based on the Savoia S21, a Schneider Trophy plane from the twenties. However it doesn't look much like one (see above for the S21, which is a pusher for a start).

A bit of further research showed that the man who drew it for the cartoon based it on his recollection of a plane which he thought was the S21. In fact, he had been thinking about the Macchi M33 from 1925.

First Sky Pirate

I have finished my first Artizan Sky Pirate and, I have to say that he was a complete delight to paint. I decided to follow the colour scheme of the ones on the website pretty much. There is no reason to do this as they are fantasy figures and I toyed with a more tan leather look but decided in the end that red was the quintessential pulp colour.

I even kept the lightning bolt symbol although, again, I thought about using the "Z" symbol of the Zombites from the Thunderbirds episode The Uninvited. This was, however, too much of a baddies symbol (at least for me) and I want the Sky Pirates to be goodies.

I have now undercoated and based all of the 12 Artizan figures I bought last month but now they have just come up with a great set of Russian type characters and I can see that I am going to have to get these too.
I will probably take the rest away with me when I go on holiday as I will want a change of pace from more Beja and indeed the British Rifle Brigade I am planning to get started.

I am still thinking about scenarios and am looking forward to the imminent (I hope) arrival of The Virtual Archair General's Astounding Adventures scenarios. I have been very pleased with everything that I have bought from TVAG lately (Sudan flags and sourcebooks) and have no reason to believe that this is any different. Anyway, it has such a great cover who could resist!

I might try and finish my first Nacht Jaeger this week..

Sky pirates and Nachtjaeger

Sky Pirate

Well, it's taken them some time to arrive but my Artizan Sky Pirates and Nachtjaeger have arrived. I'm still not quite sure why I ordered them or what I am going to do with them but they are very nice sculpts and should be easy to paint. I suspect it's something to do with having watched The Rocketeer and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow too close together.


I have based and undercoated one of each figure tonight and will see if I can finish them at the weekend. This may be difficult as I am going away for a few days at the end of the week and may be out the next two evenings as well.

I have downloaded the .45 Adventure rules which only seem to need a few figures each. I have got five of each type of figure so will see what I can mock up with them.

Ultimately, I see the Nachtjaeger as evil Germans and the Sky Pirates (despite their name) as good guys. But equally they could both be bad guys and have to fight it out with armed archaeologists or what have you. Certainly the figures call for some sort of airship scenario and I have downloaded an airship interior.

Pulp Heroines

Copplestone's female figures are just simply prettier than any other manufacturer's. I painted these some time ago and I suspect I need to revist the paint jobs as I did them pre-reading glasses! Nevertheless they are great figures despite my painting!

Max Kalba

Here is the first Pulp type figure I painted; from Mark Copplestone's High Adventure series.

Just the sort of dodgy chap you would expect to turn up in some nefarious dealings in Cairo or Constantinople.