Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Father and The Boy from Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'

As per tradition, I make sure to open and close each year’s Painting Challenge with my own entries. As rearguard this year I decided to post a small vignette based on one of my favourite books, Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’. 

In McCarthy’s book an unnamed father and his young son journey across a grim post-apocalyptic landscape, several years after an unexplained apocalypse has destroyed civilization and most life on Earth.  While the story is framed in this horrific setting it is, at its core, a tender love story between a father and his son.

Much of the book is written in an abbreviated third person style, with references to "the father" and "the son" or to "the man" and "the boy."

Realizing that they cannot survive the oncoming winter, the father takes his boy south, along desolate roads, always towards the sea, carrying their meager possessions in their knapsacks. 

They have a pistol, but only two bullets. In a chilling passage in the book, the boy is reminded that he is to use the gun on himself, if necessary, to avoid falling into the hands of other survivors, as most have turned to cannibalism. 

The father struggles to protect his son from the constant threats of attack, exposure, and starvation. In the face of these obstacles, the man repeatedly reassures the boy that they are "the good guys" who are "carrying the fire". On their journey, the pair scrounge for food, evade roving bands, and contend with many horrors.  An old man they discover on the road acts as seer for them and says that the boy has a glow about him – inferring that he is blessed. As the story moves forward the father feels he has to do things that are insensitive if not inhumane in order to keep his son safe.  This progresses to the point where the reader is left with the impression that The Father is perhaps no longer ‘carrying the fire’. But one can only sympathize with his situation and we are forced to ask ourselves, ‘If the world ran down, and chaos reigned, how far would we go to keep the ones we love safe?’ 

The book is very powerful and I believe it ends the way it should (I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil it for those who’ve not read it). If you haven’t picked it up it I heartily recommend you do so.

The figures of 'The Father' and 'The Boy' are from Lead Adventure and are modeled closely to the actors in the film. Beautiful castings. I did them in greyscale with only The Boy’s face being in colour, ‘carrying the fire’, as it were. I diverted somewhat from the original colour tones in the stills from the film, instead playing with the contrasting greys of their clothes to bring attention to both their faces and The Father's hands. I created the base to depict one of the many roads that they traveled on. The centerline is broken to foreshadow events in their journey.

Thanks for dropping in for a visit! Administrating the Challenge is both an honour and a pleasure, but I must say it's nice to be back to the old blog - its like putting on a much-loved, if worn and scuffed, pair of shoes.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

'Johnny Turquoise' - Little Havana Hitman

It seems I'm on a bit of a Pulp Adventure kick lately.  No idea why.  I'm just going to settle in and roll with it.

This is 'Johnny Turquoise', a Cuban-born hitman from Florida. Johnny fancies himself quite a snappy dresser and an even better shot. Even though he's seen here with a Thompson he actually prefers to work with a .45 pistol. He'll do pretty much any job given him as he's saving money to get his family into the States and setup in Little Havana. 

Lately he's been doing a bit of wetwork for a group out in the Everglades. They call themselves 'The Esoteric Order of Dagon'.  Johnny's a hard, hard man but these people are really starting to give him the creeps...  

28mm Figure by Copplestone Castings.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Yet more Whacky Pulp Adventurers and Ship Mat from Deep Cut Studios

I ran a Strange Aeons scenario for some of the Conscript lads last week. I based the game on a seemingly derelict whaling ship. The title of the adventure was: 

'The Mysterious Occurrences & Strange Events on the Whaling Ship Pequodrangle'

The fellas really got into the spirit of the game which goes a loooong way in scenarios like this and so we all had a great time. 

To make things a bit simpler, and to  get the game off the ground in short order, I decided to make up characters for each of the guys beforehand, playing to their personalities, backgrounds and sense of humour. For example, Manus 'Mug' MaEoghan, who I profiled last week, was created for Dallas who I suspected would enjoy 'Mug's' psychic abilities and his quirky IRA background. 

For Greg I decided to give him a manic guns 'n bombs team as I knew he'd appreciate the mayhem they could cause on the table. Here is short rundown on his group.

First up is the leader of the team, Major Sir Humphrey Birch aka 'Bark', Scots Guards, DSC and Bar, MC, ret. Sir Humphrey has been seconded to the League of Nations League to represent His Majesties' desire to have the United Kingdom play a leading role in the secret war against the Cthonic threat. 'Bark' has a long history of leading men in combat and is no shrinking violet when it comes to horrific missions. He is armed with his trusty Lewis Gun, 'Der Kaiser', which is always at his side and with which he is frighteningly proficient. Figure from Artizan Designs.

Sir Bark's batman is Fagan McBride aka 'McBoom' who is the team's demolitions 'expert'. 'McBoom' lost most of his face in a botched bomb disposal attempt and so often wears a gasmask to hide his horrific visage. We see him here hauling a jury-rigged fuel bomb to help 'confound and demolish' the enemy. 'Don't trip McBoom!' Figure from Musketeer's (now Footsore Miniatures) Inter-War range.

The third member of Sir Humphrey's team is James 'Jock' Campbell. A past member of the Scots Guards 'Jock' is a large, very dim-witted fellow (yes, it takes one to know one) but has one redeeming quality: he is quite proficient at using a wide variety of very large weapons, his current favourite being a Boys anti-tank rifle, which, as as a testament to his great strength, he can fire from the hip. Indeed, nothing ruins a Mi-Go's day like a wee .55 caliber anti-tank round through the brain-case. Casting from Pulp Figures.

The last figure is actually not from the game but a recent addition to the League. This is Christopher 'Crash' Higgins, big game hunter and private detective. We'll have to flesh the poor lad out before the next adventure. Miniature from Pulp Figures. 

Here are a few shots of the same scenario I ran previously for the guys at home. Please excuse the crap iPhone photos, but you can get an idea of the wonderful ship mats from Deep Cut Studios. Great stuff. 

The teams come aboard and go into overwatch (denoted by the yellow markers)

A team opens the door to the Captain's cabin and finds... a Formless Spawn. Note the red 'Oh Sh*t' exclamation mark...

Here you can see two of the decks on the table. There are three in total.
Zombies attempt to overwhelm and feed on one of the the adventurers. Nom, nom, nom...
Action in the middle deck. Blood spatters mark where previous action has occurred. The yellow 'WTF?' question mark denotes 'a place of mystery'. Very, very scary...

Friday, March 13, 2015

28mm Pulp Adventurers for 'Strange Aeons'

These four figures are to bolster our 'Strange Aeons' and pulp adventure games.  I thought it would be good to get some more 'common men' done up to help to flesh-out the ranks. Three of these are from Footsore Miniatures' Irish War of Independence range, while I can't for the life of me recall where I sourced the smoking fellow (any ideas?). I believe all of them are Paul Hicks sculpts. 

I think I was channeling 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley' when I was working on these. Lots of muted earth tones with just a little punch of bright colour to liven things up.

The guy in the green jacket below has a .38 revolver and is about to toss a hand grenade. Let's hope he doesn't roll a 1 for the scatter...

I like the animation of this fellow in the blue sports coat and grey trousers. He looks as though he's dashing for cover, hoping that the opposition doesn't get a bead on him first.

I thought I'd give this chap a natty red vest as he looked to be a stylish cove. I've always liked the look of the old 'broomhandle' Mauser (even before it became ubiquitous as Han Solo's blaster).  I know it's supposed to weigh a ton, is as ungainly as all hell, but it just looks so darn cool and seems perfect for pulp adventure settings.

This last guy, taking a drag on his cigarette, was just intended to be a low level thug or an innocent bystander, but as I was working on him I began to imagine him as something much more. The fact that he doesn't have any weapons made him somehow more menacing and strangely interesting. He's since become quite the hard-ass character in our imaginary Pulp world. His name is Manus 'Mug'  McEoghan, ex-IRA hitman and powerful psychic. He now works for the 'League of Nations League' investigating and defending humanity from Cthonic activity.

His primary 'weapons' are his psychic abilities (telekinesis and clairvoyance), with his only physical attack being a deft (and understandably short range) 'cigarette flick'. A nasty, nasty little man. In our last scenario he was teamed up with the 'Limerick Twins' and as a trio they were an absolute terror. Great fun.

With a bit of luck I should have another group of pulpy silliness ready in a few days. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Three Shermans, Three Rivers & Three Brothers

Since I'm slowly (oh, sooo slowly) collecting the forces that fought at the battle of Ortona I thought it best to include some of the Canadian Shermans who were tasked to support their fellow infantry in their assault on the town.  These were A and C Squadron's tanks from The Three Rivers Regiment (a regiment that originated from Trois-Rivieres a town between Montreal an Quebec City). One of extraordinary things I discovered while researching the battle was that there were three brothers who all served in A Squadron: Joe, Gord and Bill Turnbull (much of the following was taken from Zuehlke's excellent 'Ortona')

Gord and Joe both served as tank commanders, while Bill, the youngest, was a crewman in another Sherman.

At just eighteen, Bill had been to first to enlist in October 1940. Gord and Joe followed a few weeks later.  Joe, the eldest at twenty-five, had served in the Spanish Civil war in the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.  He had first tried to join the Royal Canadian Air Force but when the recruiters discovered about his past service in Spain, which was seen as an illegal act at best and smacked of Communism at worst, they had rejected him out of hand.  So a few weeks later he tried again, this time with the Army and conveniently neglected to bring up his fighting in Spain and as such was welcomed into the fold.

The three brothers were very devoted to one another and Joe in particular felt a great weight of responsibility to get his two younger brothers through the war alive.  This was quite a tall order especially with all of them serving in the same active tank squadron. In August 19143, in Sicily, eighty-four men in the regiment were killed or wounded and in one battle alone, with ten of the thirty tanks of their squadron being knocked out by enemy fire. 

After Sicily, the three Turnbull brothers participated in the heavy fighting along the Moro River and then were tasked to enter the vicious urban combat of Ortona.

A Three Rivers Sherman at a crossroads in Ortona. Note the commander spotting for the gunner and the ejector port open for the spent shell casings.
Joe wrote to his new wife, Peg, just before entering Ortona, explaining why he had become somewhat distant in his correspondence over the previous few months. ‘We are not fighting Italians now but the Germans, and they are in every sense equal to the toughest and finest soldiers in the world. They will not retire. They have to be killed. And there is only one way we can beat them, Peg, we have to be just a little bit tougher and that means we have to be put aside finer human feelings.’ 

Early in the battle Bill was wounded in the leg and evacuated. A few days later Joe had his tank knocked out in the tight confines of the town’s center.  After helping his crew to bail out of their Sherman Joe became separated from them and was forced to take refuge in a nearby cellar from raking machinegun fire. 

Ortona mural by Gerald Trottier
Joe’s brother, Gord, saw his older sibling’s tank get knocked out and then observed the escaping crew come under heavy fire. He quickly brought his main gun to bear on the machine gun position and silenced it.  Nonetheless, the resulting dust and debris obscured Gord’s vision so he could not spot his brother afterwards. 

It was not until the end of the battle, when Gord was searching the ruined town for his brother that he came upon him sitting in a shellhole, looking off into the distance, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to himself (it was indeed his birthday).  Joe looked up and saw Gord, stopped singing, and the two brothers sat together for awhile in quiet companionship.

In the end, after serving through the rest of the Italian Campaign and then through North West Europe, the Three Rivers Regiment along with the three Turnbull brothers all returned safely home to Canada.

These three 1/72 scale plastic Shermans are from PSC.  Though I'm a bit of a muppet when it comes to doing-up vehicles, I found they were great little kits to work on. I built one as a ‘Firefly’ with its signature 17 pounder gun.  This in fact is a bit of cheat as ‘Fireflys’ were not issued in the Italian theatre until quite late in the war, but I've always liked the look of them and I thought I would indulge myself.

I like vehicles that look like they've been lived in, with lots of supplies, parts, etc. So I sourced the extra stowage bits (mostly resin with some white metal) from Milicast Models.  Fairly pricy but well worth it I think.   

When researching the Three Rivers Regiment I came across a great picture of one of their Shermans with a BSA bicycle strapped to the back of the tank.

I assume the crew thought it handy for scooting around when they were halted. I thought this quite neat and so sourced a bicycle from SHQ’s 20mm Volksturm range, trimmed off the base, added some new handlebars and positioned it atop the rear deck of one of the Shermans along with its other stowage.

I painted the trio in a basic British bronze khaki without the black 'Micky Mouse' camo pattern often seen in the Italian theatre. It is argued that the Regiment didn't use it at this time and in fact the vehicles may have been holdovers from the North African campaign.  I then heavily drybrushed and dappled them in dust tones as many of the pictures of Shermans at Ortona shows them as being completely filthy and begrimed from the rubble and clouds of dust.

The decals, as discrete as they are, are correct to the Regiment and are from Milicast as well.

So there you have it folks.  Three Shermans, from the Three Rivers, for three Brothers.

Thanks for visiting!