Friday, November 29, 2013

Brokentooth's Guide to Goblin Greatness: Cruise On Your Wyvern

You knows, as much as we like to talk about war... fightin' and killin' isn't the only good thing in life, sure it's one of the best things I'd never say it twernt, but there is more to life, and when you're the king o' the tribe it's good to enjoy all the perks of the crown!  And one o' the best perks is impressing the ladies! 

Some of the goblin youth started snickering and cackling at this...

Oh fine, you laugh now, but when you have your eye on a sharp toothed lass and she fergets all about you because she sees a goblin ride by on a fierce black wolf, then yell regret laughing at me! 

Some of them perked up at this and shut their yaps.

Uh-huh, that's what I thought.  Already happened to some a you hasn't it?  You sloggin through the muckengunk, splattered and foul and some fancy gob is gettin all the attention accounta his wolf or thundering chariot.  Well just imagine how much the pretty red eyes will widen up if you swooped down on a green beauty like Spitter!  A wyvern is a dangerous monster of war, but don't forget all the other advantages a sweet ride can bring ya!  Why once I buzzed low over an elven village and damned if I didn't hear a whole mess of elf ladies shriek and squeel! Yeah that's right, I'm sure their hearts fluttered wondering what dashing young goblin could be in the saddle.  So don't you forget it...

Brokentooth's speech drifted off at this point, his eyes focused on a memory hovering about a foot before his face.  He didn't even notice that one of the young goblins made off with his lunch.


Brokentooth the Goblin King on his Wyvern, Spitter is finished.

This is one very big mini, and try as I might, I couldn't find a way to photo it without take a whole lot of photos, so hope you won't mind the pixel flood gates being opened... 

Click on any for a close up

Here we go:


So the first mini for the Brokentooth Tribe Goblin Army is finished.

Still to go: 300+ goblins & others ;)

More Mayhem to Follow...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Late Cretateous Mega Vozhik Wishes You a Happy Dinovember Thanksgiving

If you are anything like the Greater Vozhik, the largest mammalian predator of the late Cretaceous period, a distant ancestor of the hedgehog which reached a height and length of nearly 10 meters, you should have no problem enjoying the bounty of the land and settling in for a nice Thanksgiving Feast.

Happy Dinovember Thanksgiving from the Greater Vohzik!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankful for the Very Big Bird

Gandalf was very thankful for a very big bird, but not a turkey, the great eagle Gwaihir... although I wouldn't put it past Bombur to try to eat him, and luckily I don't think The Shire celebrated Thanksgiving.

I saved my favorite of the recent Mithril Miniatures, Lord of the Rings large minis & scenes for last:

Gandalf & Gwaihir:

I really enjoyed painting this one. 
Mithril has such graceful lines to their sculpts, and this one is just beautiful.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mithril Miniatures: Sanctuary at the Bombadil Residence

Another of the more rare Mithril Miniatures scenes:

Frodo & Sam introduced to Goldberry by Tom Bombadil in his home.

I went for a classic Tomb Bombadil, for colors (though decided when he labels his own boots 'yellow' that he more than likely means a yellowish leather.. I can't imagine yellow felt being very practical in undomesticated forest even for an anthropomorphic personification spirit), and decided that the colors of the home should reflect Goldberry's preference for water lilies.

Hey! Come derry dol! Hop along, my hearties!
Hobbits! Ponies all! We are fond of parties.
Now let the fun begin! Let us sing together!

Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather,
Light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather,

Wind on the open hill, bells on the heather,
Reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water:
Old Tom Bombadil and the River-daughter!

O slender as a willow-wand! O clearer than clear water!
O reed by the living pool! Fair River-daughter!
O spring-time and summer-time, and spring again after!
O wind on the waterfall, and the leaves' laughter!

Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow;
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Most Dangerous in Middle Earth: Mithril Miniatures' Sauron & Balrog

Yesterday I showed Denethor and Boromir in funeral boat.

Today, two more large miniatures from Mithril Miniatures:  Sauron and the Balrog.
It'd be hard to find anyone more dangerous than these two in Middle Earth.

The Balrog

Smaller than the GW Balrog of course, but quite a nice sculpt.  
I have a larger Balrog from Mithril I picked up many years ago, made a converted barbed whip, someday I'll have to paint him up!


I really like the elegance of this sculpt.  The more often seen GW sculpt is nice too, and replicates Sauron as seen in the movies, meaning: all spiky armored like The Shrike. But Sauron considers himself the nearly-undisputed master of Middle Earth.  What need does he have for armor?  Better to relax in his robe, get comfy on the throne.  

Still a couple more to show.. stay tuned.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Denethor's Despair : Mithril Miniatures Lord of the Rings

I had the pleasure recently of painting some large & some limited Mithril Miniatures, some individuals, some scenes.  I do love the atmosphere that Mithril captures for Lord of the Rings.

These two seem related, so I'll post both in this update:

First: Denethor in the throne room of Gondor.
The grey marble throne he would never sit in... which I think he was fine with until he found out someone else was intending to sit in it soon!

Second: His greatest point of despair, the death of Boromir, his eldest son: 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Top 10 Evil Magic Users of the Movies

Hot on the heels of the Good Magic Users, are a pack of Evil Magic Users, as it should be.

Here I present my pick for the 10 best Evil Magic Users of the Movies.

Like the list for the Good, to be considered, the magic slinger has to have been in a movie, not just TV show, they have to wield actual power of a metaphysical nature: not science, not sawing a woman in two in a box, and I have to have seen the movie: maybe there are others worthy of the list, but if I haven't seen them, I can't judge it.

What makes a 'good' evil magic user? Not only the amount of raw power they control, despite what many of these power-hungry folks might believe.  I'm evaluating the entire character: their power, nature of their power, how it affects them, how they use it, and the nature of their character.  An evil character's role is to be the villain. That's a tough role since writers refuse to let them win in the end, so their success is based on how well they fill their role, how believable they are and how interesting they are both in the challenge they present to the hero and as an individual.

Disclaimer before I begin:
This was tough.  There are a lot more worthy candidates for Evil magic user than Good.

On we go (insert maniacal laughter here)!

#10: Nancy Downs

The Craft was one of the better movies in the Satan/Vampire/Evil Curse walks-the-high school-halls genre. And the witch who stole the show from the hero was Fairuza Balk.  Take some power from a dark god, crank it up on speed and set her loose. Of all the girls who get the power she's the one who really seems to enjoy it and embrace it the most... a little too much. Every villain needs a fatal flaw but hers was too compelling, I found myself rooting for her, maybe because of her flaw.  She's a villain who should have been an anti-hero, and that keeps her from rising too high on the list.  But she had to be here: cool character, just gorgeous (though even more so as a cat-girl in Island of Dr. Moreau) though the aforementioned chaotic overdrive causes her to look disturbingly a bit too much like Danny Elfman at times:
But still. 

#9: Tia Dalma

The Queen of the Voodoo Queens.  If Pirates was at risk of getting predictable, and I'm not sure it was, she'd be an easy cure.  There is just something entrancing about Voodoo and she does Voodoo well. 
You know a character is a good one if you find yourself thinking 'no, go back to that character' when the movie moves on.  She carves out a respectable power base given the limits and prejudices of the century she's in.  Even today... I saw Colbert interview Rick Santorum this week, and Santorum made a comment about lighting a miracle candle and praying and the wish coming true but said 'but it's not like Voodoo' .. oh man, no.. no similarities at all. In fact, if it wasn't for the prevalence of such ideas Tia might have made it to the Good Magic Users list, but as long as Western Society makes such distinctions she's going to have to work from the brush she's painted with.  But she's doing a great job of blurring that line, a mark of an interesting character. 

#8: Morgana

The nemesis of Merlin, Morgana is an impressive Magic User.  Far younger and less experienced with magic than Merlin, she manages to get the best of him and win.  Granted, she doesn't get everything she wants, and she does lose a lot in the process, but she helps bring Camelot to ruins, and what more could a villain ask for?  Freud would spill a lot of ink with her on the couch, but those issues just add to the complexity and interest of her character.  I think the only thing holding her from raising higher is her inability to think beyond the expectations of her time.  Just like Merlin, she's stuck in the idea that she can only be the power behind the throne, and keeps trying to promote her inept son to power.  If she'd only have made a try for it for herself, she might have made it, and certainly would have made it higher on the list.  

#7: White Witch

Talk about being adept at propaganda.  'White Witch' has got to be good.. right?
Unlike Morgana, the White Witch has no qualms about taking power for herself.  She sets about to take and rule Narnia and will lie, manipulate, lead armies and crush all in uncompromising winter to do it.  She is also the first to really make use of style.  OK, I do like the swampy vibe Tia has, but this Magic User remakes Narnia in her image: cool and icy that says "Winter has already come darling".  This just adds to the perception of power: everything is under her control, everything is a reflection of her.  That isn't strictly true, but then, propaganda isn't about truth, it's about impression.  She can also turn anyone to stone, and it's hard to argue with that kind of power.

#6: Grand High Witch

Angelica Huston.  She played someone using magic?  Then she's on the list.  And you know it was going to be the Evil list. With the mask or without, she was the commanding presence. I'm not sure how a powerful she-troll like this could be afraid of mice, but every villain needs a weakness as we've said.  She just oozes creepy.  And the idea of a secret society with this kind of power under our noses is tempting to believe.

#5: Queen Ravenna

If there is a limit to the character of Queen Ravenna, it is that it is very hard to imagine Snow White offering any danger to her, even if she had her sparkly vamp boytoy, which she didn't.  Two things made Snow White and the Huntsman worth watching: the special effects and Charlize Theron's Queen Ravenna.  She doesn't have the degree of control that the White Witch enjoys in Narnia, but she is more interesting because of it.  We get to see her rise to power, what she sacrifices to get there, how it affects her and her process to be just at the point of having it all, before she loses it all.  That's quite a journey.  She's limited by the nature of her story however. The tale of Snow White at it's essence is trapped in the notion that what matters more to women is their physical appearance.  If she could have got past that she'd have succeeded.  A male wouldn't likely let that get in his way.  Attractiveness is nice, but it isn't central.  As Inka says, the saying in Belarus is "Men need to be a bit more attractive than a monkey." Lucky for us men.  Granted, she's a villain, so she needs a weakness, but as weaknesses go, that isn't a very interesting one.

#4: Darth Vader

Only coming in at #4?  I'm sure he'd find my lack of faith in him disturbing.
Vader is awesome though, don't get me wrong... assuming we start with Episode 4, which I am.  This is for Darth Vader, not Anakin. Darth Vader may be second to the Emperor, but he's the top villain in the empire without a doubt.  He is the face and the raspy voice of the ever-present evil. He's got style for days, with all the troops in white and he's in "yeah, that's right, I'm right here" black. Poster child for Lawful Evil, Darth Vader is simply iconic. He has plans for an orderly galaxy and he plans on achieving it if he has to force-choke it out of it. And how many villains get to be the bad guy for the whole series only to deathbed recant and be a good guy at the end?  That's having your cake and eating it too. Brilliant!

#3: Wicked Witch of the West

When the villain not only has it out for you, but for your little dog too, you know you're dealing with a bad customer.  Opting for the long & pointy classic black outfit, she's got style too, and that's before you're introduced to the flying monkeys: anyone who employs flying monkeys is worth noting!  This introduces a villain who has a motivation that you can readily relate to.  In the original Wizard of Oz, Dorothy invades her country and kills her sister before taking her first step! Dorothy is lucky she landed in Oz instead of Texas or it could have been far worse.  The newest film though adds to the character.  I might have thought it would be hard to improve on the character, but they did, by a long margin.  Mila Kunis' Wicked Witch is an improvement on the original.  Yeah, I said it; release your flying monkeys to get me if you must.  In Oz the Great and Powerful the witch has an in-depth and believable back-story, so much so that she vies for the title of Main Character.   In the original, the West Witch is already an evil witch, her focus is turned to Dorothy because of revenge, but it isn't like she'd be any different if Dorothy never arrived, but in the new film she begins as a sweet woman who is mistreated and spurned and so becomes the villain.  The 'hero' creates his nemesis because of his own faults, which is high classic storycraft. This makes the West Witch a sympathetic character, even when she is evil, which propels her high up the list.

#2: Saruman

Saruman of Many Colors.  Being an immortal being, watching Middle Earth decay and degenerate through the ages from brilliance to dingy... the glory of the elves replaced by the quality of the dwarves replaced by the ever-less inspiring weak efforts by men...he saw the writing on the wall, he knew the direction this was headed: cut to the chase and bring on the orcs! And if it's going to happen better he is in control of it than sitting in his tower watching his property values go down. Hard to fault his logic, even if it's not the most noble choice.  Saruman is a very interesting villain.  He is not simply evil.  He is disillusioned.  He's the wounded idealist that has become a cynic.  He may be a second-rate power compared to Sauron, but Sauron is a faceless force, he is the fear of the dark, where Saruman is a villain we can understand, who we can fear more, because we can recognize the threat of becoming like Saruman ourselves.

#1: Magneto

Magneto is the ideal blend of Villain and Anti-Hero.  He's the real deal.  A fully fleshed out back story: who could not sympathize with a child who survived the Holocaust? He finds himself having great power but because of it, facing a new holocaust in a world where mutants will be labeled non-human, second class citizens, hunted, rounded up, experimented on and even exterminated.  Not again. And who could blame him? He is a villain because his methods are labeled villainous. But Magneto provides an excellent challenge to the justification of that label.  Are not oppressed people justified in fighting back or must they abstain and hope to change the minds of their oppressors?  This is the age old  debate you find through the history of such struggles.  Malcom X,  Marek Edelman, Du Boise, Geronimo, Sparticus.  Not everyone has believed that equality will be granted to the oppressed out of the kindness of the changed hearts of the oppressors.  Magneto champions this position in a fantastical fictional setting, but the proposition is very real. The fact that this character is painted as a villain likely says more about our society than the character himself, which is interesting.  Magneto holds up a mirror to our society and forces us to ask some uncomfortable questions.
There is probably no greater victory for a villain than that.

It should also be noted that Ian McKellen got top spot in both lists: Good & Evil, and in my opinion, well deserved.  Very impressive to excel so well on both sides of the coin.


So that is my list of Top 10 Evil Magic Users. 
Do you agree, disagree, have others in mind? I'd love to know.

Before I sign off, I also thought it worth pointing out something significant about the lists.  Did you notice it? 
I find it glaring.  

The Good magic users have but 2 women while the Evil magic users dominated with 7.  
Almost exact opposite statistics:

Good Women Magic Users: 2/10
Evil Women Magic Users: 7/10

Are women just inherently more evil than men?  
Jokes of mothers-in-law aside, it can't be so.  So what if anything does it say about our society?
Because I think it does indeed say something about our society and shared culture. 

There just are not many characters of female good magic users. There are a few more than I thought worthy of making the top 10... but they're either uninteresting or unimportant.  Glenda the good witch? What was her power besides being the patron saint of Lawrence Welk? It would appear that people are reluctant to see women having power, but if they do have power, then chances are the are evil. There seem to have been more female evil power wielders to chose from than men, and most of them were better at it than most of the male choices. And the top spot, a male, is so good at being bad he's nearly gone full circle to being labeled 'good' so take that for more to mentally chew on.  

It would seem that our society is still very scared of women with power and has an underlying assumption that if a woman does have or seeks power, she's most likely a threat.  

I'd guess we have to work on that.  

If you read all this, thanks for slogging through it!

Edit: Looks like next year will have a new contender for the list: 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Top 10 Good Magic Users of the Movies

Returning to the "Top 10" themes I was doing a couple months ago, I was thinking about the slingers of magic. Luckily for those of us who enjoy such things there are a lot of movies that highlight the wizards, witches, sorcerers and other such people who have magic, more or less, under their control.

When trying to list my top magic users I found there was actually too many!  So I've divided the list into the two camps: Good & Evil.  Like the other lists I'll quickly set up my parameters: The user of 'magic' has to have powers that are magical or like magic: something paranormal, not science and not card tricks.  I also have to have seen the movie, so there could be worthy magic users out there I haven't seen, if so I'd be interested to know, but they can't make my list if I haven't seen them.  For ranking, I'm not only considering degree of power, but the whole package: their nature, character, personality, how they use their magic.

Alright, on to the Good users of Magic!

#10: Akiro

Side-kick of Conan.  Pretty cool character actually.  Unfortunately we don't get a lot of insight into him.  But then, it's pretty dark under the shadow of Conan.  He's burdened with that "mystery of the East" trope, but he's got a scoundrel turned martyr aspect that helps him rise above what such characters typically get.
I always thought a  prequel movie about this character could have been fun.

#9: Miracle Max

"To blave." Awesome.  How often do you get a vocabulary lesson in a movie and enjoy it?
This is one of my favorite Billy Crystal characters, and he didn't really have much screen time.  But Miracle Max, the washed up has-been had one more miracle in him, and while he is far from being the main character, his role was vital to the hero's journey, which is one of the most important and revealing qualities of the archetype of the Good Magic User.
By this definition he's a success, even if he uses a bellows instead of a staff.

#8: Avatar

No, not the big blue aliens.  Long before them, Avatar was a ... dwarf? deadhead hobbit? I don't know, but he was a wizard, one of those who bears the title of the movie, Wizards.  Avatar is a wizard that might remind you of your crude uncle.  Or perhaps yourself, if you've grown up to be your family's crude uncle.  He gripes and moans, and would rather be off enjoying snuggletime with his vampy faerie girlfriend, but in true underdog fashion he heads out with a few heroes to save the world from the evil Nazi Wizard.

#7: Tim the Enchanter

A very minor character when you think about it, but the fact that you can think about it, and likely often have, as many have, shows what an impressionable character this is.  Tim portrays the daunting, over-powered, so-out-of-your-league, mysterious magic user, that he has become a cultural phenomenon in his own right.  Yet he's humble, going simply by the name Tim. Tim doesn't really get involved in the story, serving only to remind the heroes just how outclassed they are, and to give fair warning of an even greater danger.  And after seeing this pyromaniac slinging field nukes around with the flick of his fingers you'd think Arthur and his Knights would pay heed to his warning, but do they listen?  Noooo. No wonder Tim doesn't spare much care for these questors.

#6: Carrie

For everyone who ever got picked on or bullied growing up, Carrie should be the patron magic user for their cause.  Bitchy girls giving you problems?  Rain down blood and fire on them.  Fundy mother making your life a not-mythological hell? Shut her up quick with a cutlery cyclone.  Even the Greatest American Hero better watch his back if he sets you up to look stupid.  Imagine how different school years would be if suffering bullies unlocked these kinds of powers.
Carrie sure suffered some idiots, but nothing a night of fire couldn't fix.

#5: Severus Snape

Probably the most interesting of the magic using characters from the Harry Potter movies, Snape kept them guessing about his true motivations, sympathies and plans.  Well, spoiler alert, he's here on the Good list, so hope I didn't give anything away.  Snape also has that awesome voice (see movie at the bottom).  Alan Rickman is just cool.  I'll admit I'm not the biggest 'Harry Potter' fan.  I find the movies uninspiring.  They feel more like extended episodes of a TV series, rather than solid movies in their own right.  It takes a long time for characters to develop and most stay disappointingly two dimensional. For interest and depth of character, Snape is about as good as it gets in these movies.

#4: Willow

Willow. No, not the hot redhead witch. The hobbit wizard.  Oops!  I mean Puck? No, wait.. Peck.  I think they were called Pecks. I think.  Well, no matter, we all know they were hobbits. What better underdog than a hobbit?  I mean, Peck? Usually the wizard is the one who helps the hero in their journey, but in this case, the hero and wizard was rolled up into one overwhelmed wizard's apprentice.

#3: Merlin

At first glance you'd have to be forgiven if you thought Excalibur's Nicol Williamson was an Evil Magic User, given that he's rockin' the Ming metal skullcap. But that's just one visual clue-in that this isn't your standard white wizard.  Merlin may be playing for the Good team, but he's not so good he's wearing the white hat.  This is one complicated, scheming, manipulating Magic User.  He may be 'good', but in that Machiavellian sense of good, where the good end, such as establishing a peaceful realm, justifies the decidedly not-good means of obtaining it, such as orchestrating rape. He is also not immune from his own fleshly temptations.  But then, if I was holding the balance of a peaceful Britain on one hand, and Helen Mirren on the other.. well, prepare for some dark days ahead Brits.

Merlin is an interesting character: some noble aspirations, but wrestling with his own character flaws while at the same time condemning Arthur for his, but he keeps trying for all that.  In exceedingly dark days, this character shines and gives a hint at what could be possible while being a neon sign as to why it just isn't going to happen.

#2: Galadriel

It has been pointed out that Tolkien did not have many female characters.  Alright, that's an understatement.
But one of the ones he did have, Galadriel, was one of the most powerful beings in Middle Earth.  If judging Magic Users by their power, Galadriel would certainly be on the list.  She's the bearer of Nenya, one of the three great rings of power given to the Elves.  She also has her mirror, which can see far into the past, future or distance. Her power isn't flashy, but it is substantial.  She's been able to keep her realm free not only from the overwhelming powers of evil that border Lothlorien, namely Moria and Isenguard, but she's managed to keep time itself out of her realm.  The time of the elves is passing from Middle Earth, the ages march on, but not within Lothlorien where it is essentially the same as it was when the elves first arrived, and only because of her power.

She rules with her husband, but no one is foolish enough to confuse things: everyone knows the real power is her, not her husband.

How tempting would it be, for someone who is immortal, has watched the world around her slowly wither and corrupt, and then be offered the power to destroy the evil that threatens to destroy the sanctuary she has spent all her energy creating and defending?  She's given the chance to do just that, but she has the power to not only look into the hearts of others, but in her own as well, and she resists, knowing her limitations and weaknesses. A sign of great power: knowing where the limits of your abilities are and not having the hubris to try for more.

#1: Gandalf

There was never a doubt was there?

And in case you were wondering, no, Dumbledore didn't make the list.  Why? Because Gandalf is everything Dumbledore hopes and tries to be, but is a pale comparison at best. Harry didn't make the list either.  I'm sure there will be some avid Harry Potter fans that feel slighted, but the HP characters just don't capture my imagination.

Back to Gandalf.

As impressive as Galadriel is, as much as the character of Gandalf owes to Merlin, the ultimate good wizard is Gandalf.  Gandalf serves the position of the 'Magic User who makes the hero's journey possible' but he is more than that: much more.  Gandalf knows when to play a supporting role and when to step up and lead.

That is an important distinction for a character and shows great depth.  Most often in movies it is clear who the hero is and who the support staff are.  But not here.  Like Merlin, Gandalf pulls the strings: runs all over Middle Earth, yanking hobbits from their second-breakfasts, enabling dwarves to regain kingdoms and swaying councils and kings to his way of thinking.  But he also challenges rogue wizards, balrogs, nazgul and reconstituting dark lords as well as leads armies. His resume is pretty impressive.

He also has the interesting aspects of the martyr and resurrected hero archetypes.  Like Beowulf, he faces death, saving the lives of others.  Like Jesus in the 'Harrowing of Hell' story, Gandalf falls, vanquishes evil, and is reborn to come back and finish what he started.  Gandalf's sacrifice is all the more impressive and interesting however since it is not clear at all that Gandalf knew he would come back as Gandalf the White.

Another thing I like about Gandalf is that he values everyone for who they are, not what they are.  He sees the nobility of spirit and potential for strength and helps the person recognize it and use it.  But he remains someone you can relate to, even if he is an immortal being of great power, he's not above threatening to toss a foolish hobbit down a bottomless Moria pit or entertaining the rubes with fireworks. It must have been a very sad day when Gandalf left Middle Earth.

Of all the movie Magic Users, Gandalf is the most interesting and impressive and the one I'd most likely enjoy meeting.


So that is my Top 10 Good Magic Users.  Agree, disagree, have others in mind? 

I will be covering my Top 10 Evil Magic Users in the near future. 
You can look through past Top 10's by the topic tag. 

And as promised above, an Ode to Alan Rickman: 

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