Lego Blog: Illustrating Flash Pulp episode FP006

So Far Behind

I’m finally up to episode 6, of a mere 446 podcast episodes (excluding special episodes and a bunch of other cool things), which is slightly daunting. I built this one before Christmas, but I’ve been so busy doing, um, nothing that it’s taken me this long to sort the pictures out. Plus Flickr was twatting me about for a couple of weeks. Not my fault… Anyway, this was a fun little illustration – small but packed with unnecessary details.

Read and Listen To The Story

You have to do this now:

Here’s the full story: Mulligan Smith in The Trunk

Background Details

It’s a neat little episode, in which Mulligan Smith gets brained in some folks’ kitchen and is then locked in the boot of a car. I’ve only done the first half of the episode – I still need to think of a good way to do the end where Mulligan shoots a guy through the boot.
I was quite taken with the idea of doing a kitchen. I’d left insufficient space in FP004 to do a proper kitchen, and in any case it was tightly bound by walls and you couldn’t see it. I can do better! For the first time I built the stuff I wanted in the space first and then made a base and walls to contain them. This works much much better.
I spent a very happy afternoon building sets of drawers, sink, an oven and hob, fridge. They’re all quite neat and compact which was very satisfying.

The television set took an unreasonable amount of time to build, so that the screen is set back inside the box. The chairs and table are also fairly neat and spartan in bricks. I like making all the jars and bits and pieces, to give it the proper ‘mom and pop’ feel to the kitchen, hinted at by Jrd likening the old fella to Lloyd Bridges (well, that’s how it spun out in my imagination anyway). It also seemed a perfect time to use a load of the gorgeous lavender and purple bricks I’ve been hoarding.

Illustrating The Story

The actual bit of the story I was going for is this bit:

“I edge into the kitchen, hands out, figuring I’ll play it like the ambassador of peace. Instantly the noise vapourises and everyone is staring at me like its breakfast and I’m a leprechaun that’s just burst out of their box of Lucky Charms.
“The three of them were standing around a shiny kitchen table – Mom, the lead actor from Sea Hunt, and a shaggy bushman who looks like he’s spent the last six months in the wilds of Alaska wrestling fresh salmon from the maws of grizzlies.
“I must have looked pretty surprised as well, the guy was holding a cleaver that looked like something out of a mid-’80s slasher movie. Long and hefty – the kind of thing they probably used in abattoirs around the turn of the century.
“Anyhow, the larger problem was that I’d found myself right beside the guy – from the hall it’d sounded like he was on the far side of the room but when I entered he was close enough that I could smell his beef jerky breath and see the grease in his ratty beard.”

I think I’ve got enough surprise in the old folks, and a decent amount of menace at poor Mulligan.

Minifigging the Characters

I knew I had the perfect body and head for the bad guy, and how could I refrain from giving him an Uruk Hai sword? He looks as if he smells… I’ve also swapped Mulligan’s usual noggin for the sweat beaded one.
There’s a real lack of grey hair styles in Lego – I’ve only got the lady’s hair because we acquired the Lego Thanksgiving Feast for Christmas. Equally I don’t have any subtly lined lady faces. It is our constant endeavour at the Lego Shop to find more female faces and hair.

I think the guy is a reasonable Lloyd Bridges…

There are some more pictures of the details here, on Flickr including a thrilling video fly by:

Lego Blog: Witch Doctor's Hut

Nice House, I’d Like To Build It

I have been admiring, envying and been generally desirous of many of the Lego AFOL community’s cool building skills. In particular I love the insanely crumbly buildings, their twisty and off-centre lines and organic scrappy feel. These guys Derfel Cadarn and Captain Flint do lovely things:

Derfel Cadarn

Captain Flint

I’ve had a few attempts myself but never achieved anything near to what I wanted. This time I started differently, with the aim of simply making a building which had slanting walls. I’m not a good planner, so I tend to continue what I begin no matter the hideous fragility and complexity I get into. This was no exception.

Houses Built On Straw

I built the base and frame for the walls first (I did briefly consider the roof, but like a fool, promptly forgot about it and promised myself I’d sort it later. I never learn.) using the 1×4 bricks with snap hinge connectors at either end to sketch out the angled shape I was after. That gave me outward facing studs to build on as well as the base itself. In many respects I was surprised and pleased by how neatly Lego bricks and plates do fit under each other at each angle the frame is bent at. I know the specifications are high and enable a tonne of insane building arrangements which were never specifically intended, but it’s great to experience the benefits of that rigorous system first hand.
The walls are still quite fragile – I expended a number of lifetimes holding the blocks with the windows in place (I love the old latticed window/fence bricks) while clipping the bar that runs underneath in place. It is another exploding build. The flat plates that run across both sides of the house used the outward facing studs I’d set up to begin with. It seemed only sensible to continue building the roof using the same system – and it works! It actually works. I’ve never known such Legoey satisfaction (except for Pick A Brick). I’ve kept most of the building fairly tidy in colour, using plates and tiles to vary the texture, and extended that to the roof with a bit more vigour. I must admit I normally like all of my bricks clutching tightly together, but I realise these are psychological limitations – not those of Lego. I fight them. The roof tiles are looser than I would normally dare – that it hasn’t fallen apart reassures me. The front and back of the house more or less built themselves, fitting neatly into the space formed by the walls and roofing. It all looks nicely haphazard.

Planning Is A Really Useful Skill

The house looked lovely on its square green base plate. But it looked lonely… I’d had fun with spiral staircases and was looking for practical applications for what I’d learned. I conceived the charming idea of the house on top of a rocky outcropping and figured  a series of steps might give me some prettily fucked up lines and jumble. Next time I will build from the base rather than bulding the staircase and having to fit it onto the ground later. The off-grid nature of steps makes pinning them to the base tricky.  There must be a better way, but for now I’m relying on a handful of jumper plates for the steps. The steps vary a bit in height and how much crap I’ve jammed into them. The aim was to break up any and all lines wherever I could.

I then had to remove the house from its base plate so I could fit it onto the final shelf without a glaring change of colour. There were several house explosions in the process. Once that lot was staying together I could get into further disguising the steps and exploiting the off-grid shapes it forces onto the terrain around it. The result is something which looks even more like it’s about to fall over. Pleasing. As my five year old niece gravely told me: “I think it’s the best one you’ve made Uncle Nick.” What more praise is there?

There are a few more pictures here, on Flickr:

The Desert Crystals – Part 42: It's A Long Way Up

Desert Crystals Part 42 – It’s A Long Way Up

desert crystals2
Previous episode, for these characters.

With a strangled bellow, Tosser finally laid a sweating hand on the solid deck of the Viper. Her other hand snatched the looped rope from Guldwych’s outstretched arms and tied them off on the Viper’s railing. She let her trembling fingers tap out their exhausted rhythm on the rough steel while she recovered enough of her strength for the next step of actually achieving the deck. Her legs dangled over a thousand feet of air. Between them hung the rather scrawnier legs of Guldwych Ryme, still firmly clasped around his waist by Tosser’s thighs.
Ryme clung to the rope will all his inconsiderable strength. It did at least make him feel like he was contributing a little to Tosser’s staggering feat of hauling them both up hundreds of feet of rope. His weak, office-bound physique had done him no good that night. Hanging onto the rope was the limit of his ability, and in all honesty his quivering arms would not even allow that little effort. Instead Tosser had taken on both their weights (something Ryme could certainly contribute to) by the relatively simple expedient of looping their lines together and gripping him about the waist with her legs. Their rather intimate connection had long since ceased to offer any hint of embarrassing excitement. That had transformed into a crippling ache which felt like Tosser had crushed his pelvis. The idea of standing on his own two feet felt like an outlandish childhood dream.
“Ready? Last one Guldwych,” Tosser gasped.
She took his mute nod for enthusiastic assent. She wrapped both fists around a rail and took a deep breath. Bracing her feet against the hull, in a single violent thrust forwards and up she surged up and onto the rail. Ryme was pinned with his back to the rail, bent over almost double.  Tosser shifted the balance of their combined weight far enough and Ryme fell backwards onto the deck only to be flattened by Tosser landing on top of him. She rolled away, allowing the professor to refill his lungs. They both lay there gasping for a while.
They were bathed in the yellow glow of lanterns hung by the main cabin door and around the edge of the deck. The night was quiet.
“Where are the crew Tosser?” asked Ryme as he regained his breath and managed to sit up. There was no one on deck, and no tell tale bang or clangs from inside the wingship. “I thought they would be up here.”
Tosser opened her eyes. “So did I. If they’re aren’t busy they should have been hard at work winching us back in.”
The life ring held only their tethers tangled together. The deck was a mess of broken crates and splinters of tooth. Of Chall himself there was no sign, and nor was there any of the rest of the crew. A patch of drying blood was the only evidence that Captain Flame had been struck by one of Chall exploding tooth fragments. The rest of the crates that Flame had stolen from the other vessel were gone, and with them all the poisons and deadly substances stored in the Meriodonal University’s deepest hoards.
“It must be Chem,” declared Ryme, “he took the first crate, and then he came back for the rest.”
“And the crew?” asked Tosser. Ryme had no answer for her.
Tosser cautiously opened the cabin door and made her way into the still-lighted ship. Doors were smashed in, and the walls themselves had hunks torn out or indented.
“Looks like they fought their way inside,” she murmured. Ryme nervously followed.
The main storage area below the deck appeared to be untouched, except for a bright slash of blood extending from within to halfway down the hall.
“A fatal blow. For someone.”
“The cargo seems untouched,” remarked Ryme, “they did come for the poisons then. But why take the crew?”
“Who’s to say they took them at all?” Tosser rounded on the man, “Why not just fling them overboard?” she demanded, and then stalked off down the ship, opening cabin doors until reaching the cockpit.
Ryme was as yet unused to the prospect of brutality in the lives of the pirates. Though he’d seen another captain killed in cold blood and their ship emptied of goods, that still felt a world away from it happening to the ship he was on. Unfortunately his former faith in Eslie Chem, long time associate and fixer had been eroded throughout their journey. The other man’s contempt for him had undermined the relationship that Ryme had thought they had. Ryme was no longer confident that Chem acted in his interests, or even that he could guess at Chem’s own interests. The shocking revelation that Chem was not even the man that Ryme thought he was had barely registered on the professor yet. In fairness he had been either unconscious, spinning in terror or being squeezed to death as they ascended.
They reached the cockpit and found that it too was empty. It was as if Captain Flame had just stepped out for a moment. Their course was still fixed, travelling toward the Razor Ridge at a leisurely pace. Tosser halted their drift, bringing them to a full stop.
“If they’ve gone overboard-” she began, “if they’re over the side we won’t see them this high.”
“Tosser,” tried Ryme gently, “if they went over the side there will be no saving them. We’re too high.”
Tosser ground frustrated tears out of her eyes.
“They’re my friends Guldwych. How can I not seek them out?”
“That spray of blood from the hold. Can we know to whom it belonged?”
Tosser shook her head.
“But it would have been a fatal wound. Why throw the dead overboard too and then just abandon the wingship?”
“Ryme, you’re a genius!” cried Tosser, grabbing him by the shoulders, “that means they’ve all been taken. Which means some of them must still be alive.”
“But taken where?”
“If they could fly the wingship they would have taken it, not just left it to drift away. There’s no airship to seek – they must be travelling on the ground.” Tosser beamed with hope.
“It’ll be dawn soon. I suggest we get some rest and pursue them in day light,” Ryme said.
Tosser nodded wearily, the toll of the climb finally showing on her face. She staggered off to their cabin and crashed out. Ryme, to his surprise felt very sore but not yet tired. He walked back out onto the deck, clipping himself back onto the life line as he went. He felt oddly stimulated, his mind filled with whirling thoughts. Uppermost in them was the desire to regain his crew mates, a group to whom he owed little, but who had also been betrayed by his old associate Eslie Chem. Ryme wanted to know why, and in particular why a Chiverly Hermit Beetle had been masquerading as his aide for years only to reveal himself while stealing the university’s most lethal substances. The world, it appeared, was not how it had seemed to be from his old office.
Coming Soon: Part 43 – Screaming Trees

Lego Blog: Illustrating Flash Pulp episode FP007-12

Making Progress

I’ve finally reached a new thread in the massive Flash Pulp universe! And he’s one of my favourites too – Thomas Blackhall: frontiersman, occult magician, all round mid-nineteenth century bad-ass. He comes in to the universe with a six-parter – no mean debut. There’s some pretty awesome magic and witchery later on in the story, but this introduction features Blackhall facing off with one of the great Bear Lords of the forest, referred to only politely as ‘Master Bear’.

Read and Listen To The Story

You have to do this now:

Here’s the full story: Redmouth’s Legacy – A Thomas Blackhall Tale – Part 1 of 6 

Illustrating The Story

Thankfully the six episodes take place in the same spot – on the top of Talbot’s Plateau, where Blackhall has scrambled trying to escape from the Bear Lord after putting down his son, the eponymous Red Mouth. It’s a tense stand off which Blackhall drags out while he cons the bear into providing his means of further escape. That means I can lazily jam six episodes into just one build…
 The plateau was appealing enough – I’ve been enjoying rock work and hinges for construction. The base of the plateau is a series of plates with slopes built up and around them to give me some more fun choices about what direction I build in. I’ve included the route Thomas uses to clamber up as a series of steps on the left. Obviously it needed a tiny waterfall on the other side.
The plateau itself clips straight on top. The plate widths foxed me for a while, but a few weird length Technics pins and 1×1 plates made it surprisingly neat. It does threaten to flip back and smash everywhere of course. The plateau is supposed to be fairly barren which called for a colour shift (to me) which I think came out nicely. 
The backdrop is entirely separate. I needed some way to give the impression of a forest behind the plateau. I’d seen someone use the flower elements upside down before on Flickr and it had stuck in my head. They’re just sitting upside down on some Technics 1×1 bricks. I like that I can move them round. Maybe I should have done more.
I made some beautiful trees to go on the plateau before re-reading the story and discovering they were not required. All that lives on there is a white pine, which turned out to be quite hard to make. I concluded that I couldn’t do the sloping triangular shape required, but figured I could do a tall wind-smashed battered tree.

Minifigging the Characters

Master Bear was fairly straightforward – I just needed to acquire a polar bear. I’ve wanted one for ages anyway, and he looks nice with my brown bear. Blackhall was an entirely different proposition. I’ve actually been worrying about Thomas Blackhall since I started this project. He’s not given much physical description in the early stories but there’s a story card for him with a hat… He’s usually clean shaven but he doesn’t sound like that to me. Since he’s supposed to be quite ragged in this one I’ve stretched the limits.
The body is one of the many gorgeous The Hobbit minifigures. This is the body of Bard the Bowman. I’m going classic yellow heads for Flash Pulp, but this one had me veering into pink. I’m not sure where I got this noggin from, but the hat and hair combined is from The Lone Ranger‘s Butch Cavendish, whose costume was also one of my options. He gets a sabre (required) and I couldn’t help but give him some kind of a compass box thing, as well as his bundle of reeds. I’ll probably have to find a new face and possibly hair/hat combo for the next one. Unless I meet with authorial approval to be lazy of course!

That’s a big bear.

There are some more pictures of the details here, on Flickr: