Incredibly it’s that time of year again when Blaxkleric loses all sense of editorial standards and lets me loose on his most excellent blog to share with you, his dear readers, what, in my humble opinion are my ten favourite figures (a loose term as you will see later) that he has been kind enough to share with his blogging audience from this year’s Fantorical posts.
Now this job, a joy as it is to perform, becomes harder each year with the standard of Simon’s brushwork (and it would appear his output!) ever increasing. It is however, also a pleasure looking back over the postings and figures that Simon has produced over the year and indeed this year’s number one figures (yes there are two, and no as you’ll hopefully see, I don’t think that’s cheating) were in fact a couple of chaps I had completely forgotten Simon had painted. But I’m getting ahead of myself, anyway here in ascending order are the results of the North West jury….
|"Even after death, however, its presence lingered, as crops grew sickly and many fields had to be torched..."|
Though I have to say that I am not the biggest fan of either "Games Workshop" or their Chaos ranges, there was something about this impressive twisting horror that made him stand head and shoulders above his disgusting brethren in my books, and pushed him up to the number ten spot in my list. Simon's superb painting of all of his Nurgle force was suitably “pustulous” (good word that, I should copyright that!) but this is the best figure from his Chaos output for me.
|"...By the Sixth Century AD they were already popularly depicted as guardian figures."|
Okay, this isn’t exactly a wargames figure as such, but I just had to include these wonderfully painted pieces of scenery in my top ten. There has been a bit of an oriental theme running through several blogs this year ("Carrion Crow's Buffet" and "Da Gobbo’s Grotto" immediately spring to mind) and there has been some stunning stuff on show. Simon's contribution is no less worthy of praise. The colours, finishes and tarnishing on these “Foo Dogs” is superb and just so… right. There’s no other way to put it. These would make a great addition to any oriental battlefield (or Chinese restaurant for that matter).
|"Risk is our business. That's what this starship is all about. That's why we're aboard her."|
I’m a fan of "Irregular Miniatures". I think for the prices they can’t be beaten. To be honest though, some of the ranges are better than others, and these newer spaceships are some of the very best. I own quite a few of the ships myself, but not any of the “Federation” inspired ones that Simon spent a couple of months churning out beautiful examples of. Once again he managed to produce utterly faithful representations of iconic heroes from my youth (albeit this time a starship). Every ship in his collection could make this list, but the very fact that the ship he chose to be his U.S.S. Enterprise was not “line for line” an exact clone of the TV ship, yet he still made instantly identifiable as such, is what made it my stand out of the bunch.
|"...Lamenting deeds of which the flowery ground is conscious."|
Have you ever seen the film “From hell It Came”? No? Then you should as it is about a malevolent tree stump that kills people, and it’s terrible (but in a good way). The second I saw this miniature I was immediately reminded of that film, though Simon's “stump” is way more impressive than the one in the film. Basing it on a 40mm figure base was an inspired choice and the amount of detail and shading he’s put into the finished product is first rate. If only he’d finished it in matt varnish it would have been perfect (sorry Simon, had to get one dig in about this).
|"The red mist that flooded the creature's vision dissipated, along with the murderous rage."|
I rather think Simon would kill me if I didn’t include at least one of his “Guild Ball” players in my list. Especially considering the enormous amounts of trouble they appeared to cause him when it came to putting the figures together. It is fortunate then that this muscle bound hulk of a brute impressed me so much once he was finally finished. Looking like an escapee from a Mad Max movie, the subtle shading on his flesh is what impressed me most about this chap.
|"Besides it looks like the bones were bent straight out."|
Now does this count as an actual playing piece or a piece of scenery? I’m not sure, but I do know that either way this is one impressive little xenomorph. Simon has impressed me with his “Alien” figures on numerous occasions now, with his 15mm versions making it up to Number Seven in my 2014 choices. Simon is the master of “black” figures, getting the shading just about perfect in my books. Add into this his use of gloss varnish and you have a rather gory recipe for success.
|"Don't they know how many corpses there are in the world?"|
One of the highlights of the year has of course been “Zomtober”, and as always seems to be the case Simon put his distinctive spin on it once again, taking inspiration from the “Judge Dredd” story “Judgement Day“. All of his Mega City One zombies were worthy of note, but it was this little lady that stuck out in my mind as the star of the show. Brimming with understated menace Simon’s brushwork as is excellent as always and the details and colour choices brought her wonderfully to (un)life.
|"Nurtured. You don't mean to say you've been feeding him?"|
Following on from the Zomtober entry above this figure was part of Simon’s project for the same from 2015, “The Seeds of Doom”; this was of course the classic Tom Baker adventure and this figure of Arnold Keeler perfectly portrays the character's descent from infected human into what is effectively a big slimy compost heap. I was very impressed with the way Simon blended in the “Krynoid” parts with the human underneath, not easy to do convincingly but carried out with great aplomb.
|"Enchanters are hands-on wizards who work their magic by investing it in objects or people."|
Well last year Simon's excellent "Frostgrave" Witch made it into the top ten, and it appears he’s done it again this year with this equally spectacular Enchanter. Once again the level of detail he’s added to the figure is awe-inspiring and his colour choices are as always spot on. If anything I think I like him better than the witch!
|"Don't blame me. I'm an interpreter. I'm not supposed to know a power socket from a computer terminal."|
As I mentioned at the start of this piece, I had completely forgotten about these two wonderful figures. Indeed, when I was re-working my way through Simon's posts for the year I had initially added one of his (also excellent) Stormtroopers to my short list. But then I came across these chaps and I immediately thought I’d discovered my potential “top spotters”. The colours are perfect, the details are absolutely spot on and the character in the figures is top notch too. They look as if they had just walked off of the film set. I covet these figures greatly and I think anyone would be justly proud to have them in their collection and that’s why for me they had to be my top choice from Simon's 2016 output.
|"The City's central computer told you? R2-D2, you know better than to trust a strange computer."|
This is of course just the merest glimpse of Simon’s awesome output for the year, and I’m sure many of you (including Simon) will disagree with many of my choices. There were simply so many excellent figures to choose from I could easily have filled out a top twenty, but special mentions must go to his "Frostgrave" (Witch) Apprentice, The OMAC, Vampire By Night, Captain America, and Manphibian; who would have been a shoe in I’m sure if he’d only finished him! The list could go on and on, but I’m happy with my list as it stands, so it only remains for me to thank Simon, for once again letting me loose with his baby, and to wish you all the very best of 2017’s.
I can’t wait to see what he presents us with then, Cheers Roger.