Friday, 28 October 2016

But That's Heresy 2: A Surfeit of Skulls

It's always interesting to find out what influenced the things you like. It's telling how many science fiction films have music that sounds suspiciously similar to Mars from The Planets, and how many have plots that go straight back to 1950s movies about haunted houses and pincer-waving, damsel-abducting monsters from space. And you know what, that brings me to wargaming.

Quite a few of the painting blogs I read are heavily influenced by John Blanche's style, which is ornate, grimy and very medieval. In turn, Blanche's style probably owes a lot to the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch and Pieter Bruegel's Triumph of Death.

Lots to see and do during the end of the world.

Nowt wrong with that. There's a lot of the Blanche style in the picture above: brown earth, bits of complex detail, Renaissance-type clothing and of course hordes of the marching dead. Likewise, GW's original Chaos pictures owed a lot to Bosch's depictions of Hell, which were more than just big red dudes with horns.

A bird eats a man who farts crows, whilst wearing a chamber pot.
I assume that they cut the chamber pot from the original Tzeentch models. Similarly, you used to be able to get a Lord Of Change model which was clearly based on the statue of Pazuzu from The Exorcist, raising one hand in, er, greeting.

And of course there were others. The Imperial Guard are blatantly various sorts of historical soldiers with lasguns; the Brettonians borrow from King Arthur; the Escher gangers look somewhat like Tank Girl. That's a good thing: it's nice to be able to effectively have the people from films you like as characters in the game you're playing.

What bothers me slightly is that it's easy to run out of ideas. It's one thing to have a couple of skulls as trophies, and maybe to incorporate them into your outfit ("Are we the baddies?" as Mitchell and Webb would say) but there comes a point where it just starts to look too much.

This is the Khorgorath from the Age of Sigmar boxed set:

Among other things, why has it got skulls coming out of its kneecap? Okay, skulls are cool, I get it, but why its kneecap? Does it sweat skulls? Did it swallow a lot of heads and now they're working their way out like splinters? I think this is one of those moments where "it's a demon" just doesn't suffice. Look at the Bloodletters of Khorne. They look bloody evil. They're not even amazingly original, or detailed, or dynamic. They just look nasty: vicious and yet comparatively low-key.

Okay, this is a particularly extreme example, but I think this is what happens when you start to run out of visual cues. And that's what I wonder about 40k and quite a lot of other space models. You've got monks, knights in (powered) armour, muscley executioner types, catsuit assassin ladies, space Nazis in long coats and gasmasks, steampunk chaps in top hats and fancy armour - and sooner or later, you start to see the same themes too many times. The Dark Eldar, the Sisters of Battle, the Imperial Guard and, to an extent, the orks and Chaos all have bare-chested men with crude bionic bits and bags over their heads (and so, in the form of the Cephalix, do Warmachine). I suppose these all tap into the same sinister basic image, but isn't there something else that could be done?

That's the problem, really: because the same things that show that a model is definitely a space monk are the things that end up being overused. One person might groan at the sight of Yet More Zombie Nazis, and another might wonder how a game could call itself Weird War if they weren't there. And, as ever, they're your models, and if you want to closely follow another example, go ahead. Almost all Space Wolf armies have a very similar look, but that's not to say that there are some excellent examples of them (and that some are much better than others). Maybe there is nothing new under the sun. Perhaps the difficult thing is to do something new with what you've got.

Sometimes, as they say, less is more. So I'll shut up now.

1 comment:

Mr Papafakis said...

"Lots to see and do during the end of the world." LMAO :DDDD