Monthly Archives: August 2014

Wake Up Dead

Here we go with Part 3 of this little foray into the archives of my Space Marine collection. Something new next time I promise!
Anyway, (somewhat inspired by all the undead activity going on at the moment thanks to the return of Nagash to Warhammer) this time it’s the turn of the Legion of the Damned. I’m something of a fan of 40K’s most mysterious Space Marines (that’s right, even more than the Dark Angels). Who doesn’t love ghostly warriors returning to fight alongside their brothers once more, then vanishing like smoke when the battle is done? Of course the true nature of the Legion of the Damned is anyone’s guess (my suggestion is the ghosts of warriors from the Great Crusade/Heresy era – after all they’re not called the Chapter of the Damned now are they? Maybe even the spirits of those warriors betrayed to their deaths in the Isstvan system). Wherever they come from it got me thinking about how my Hawkmoths chapter, desperately short of allies, might find their numbers bolstered by the spirits of the battle brothers Kell and his traitors slaughtered, returning in search of vengeance.
Here’s the sergeant in charge of the squad.
space-marine-convert-or-die-14To many it seems that these ghostly warriors share a connection to Librarian Numitor, often manifesting in battles where he is present and lingering around him as they are drawn back into the shadows. Some suggest that the enigmatic librarian has found some way to tap into the psychic need of his chapter to enact revenge, and by this means has allowed his dead brothers to resume their physical form, albeit only temporarily. Yet if this is true then the tainted dead crave vengeance even more so than their living comrades and hunger restlessly in the Immaterium, begging, commanding and cajoling by turns, scratching constantly at the psychic barriers the Librarian has erected between his mind and the Warp.
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space-marine-convert-or-die-10Here’s a ‘rear view’ of the models showing the spinal forms growing through their powerarmour.
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Long term I have a pipe dream of making a whole army of undead Space Marines, complete with some kind of Vampire Lord as a Chaptermaster, ghostly Librarians projecting their spirits from the Warp, and only the Dreadnaughts “alive”, still guiding their chapter from beyond the grave (although this ambition may have to wait until I’m old, decadent and rich). Additionally, although regular readers of the blog will know I rather enjoy painting Plague Marines it was a nice change of pace to try some zombie Space Marines without the influence of Papa Nurgle.
Another idea, linked to the above, came to me when I read the piece in the Legion of the Damned Codex describing the belief held by Inquisitor Quixos that the Legion were the Emperor’s will taking form on the physical plane, in exactly the same way as the daemons of chaos are the manifest will of their patron god. The piece suggested that just as, for example, Khorne’s servants range from bloodletters through to mighty bloodthristers, so there might be larger and more powerful entities in the Emperor’s pantheon of servants waiting to be discovered. I don’t know if I’ll try it but I thought this could be a rather fun project to pursue, perhaps creating a small strike force of Grey Knights to represent these Engels Mortis.

So what do you think? Are they the Emperor’s will made manifest or should I be burned for allowing noble warriors to consort with these dark spirits? Make your feelings known in the comments box below!


War is My Shepherd

Following the Librarian in the last post here’s another Space Marine ‘from the archives’; Chaplain Germanus. This project came at roughly the peak of my sculpting endeavours. After this, perhaps emboldened by these successes, I tried increasingly adventurous projects, over-reached myself, and retreated. For a while I instead chose the somewhat cowardly get-out that I was good at kitbashing but couldn’t sculpt. Obviously this is grossly unfair – my first efforts at painting were sloppy and my early kitbashes were regularly awkward and odd looking so it was hardly surprising that my initial attempts at working with greenstuff often turned out a little rough around the edges. Anyway, I’m trying to get back into using greenstuff a little more now so this seemed like a good moment to show this model, especially as it remains one that I’m rather proud of.
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Rather than re-invent the wheel I’ll not try to explain how I made the skull helm, instead I’ll point you at the tutorial I followed over at the much missed From the Warp. For those of you not familiar with From the Warp (where have you been?!) it was an extremely useful and inspiring blog, full to bursting with helpful tutorials. Personally I most enjoyed the way in which complicated tutorials like the skull helm were presented as straightforward and achievable so that even a beginner like myself could look at them and think “I could do that”. Sadly From the Warp hasn’t been updated in some time but it’s still well worth a trawl through the archives.
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I made the long oath scrolls from paper (thick paper or card works best for this, nothing too glossy or thin). Add a dab of superglue and let the paper wick it up, once it dries the paper will become stiff. Then just glue it in place and add a blob of greenstuff to make the wax seal.
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space-marine-chaplain-convert-or-die-3Here’s a couple of work-in-progress images showing how the model developed. I don’t often show these, not because I don’t like them – I think they’re great and often really useful – but because I tend to get wired straight into painting and then realise part way through (usually before the highlights and details start to go on when the model looks unsavably awful) that I forgot to take any pictures.
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Finally here’s a few other things I’ve worked on recently for the Hawkmoths. The Watcher in the Dark may be a real Dark Angel’s staple (and given their background it’s hard to say why one would be associated with the Hawkmoths) but they’re just too cool not to paint one. Perhaps it’s something to do with Cypher
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Facing What Consumes You

I have a little bit of a backlog of miniatures I finished prior to starting this blog that I want to show off, so whilst I’m busy painting, converting and – believe it or not – handling the other matters of daily life that don’t relate directly to tiny plastic warriors, I’ll keep the ball rolling with a few from the archive. First off we have this Librarian; Numitor of the Hawkmoths.
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space-marine-librarian-convert-or-die-2Back when I built him we didn’t have the Sternguard kit, which has since proved to be a fantastic resource for creating grandiose marines. The Dark Angels veterans kit however provided a solid base model, the flowing robes and hooded head being perfect for a Librarian. The Space Wolf backpack offered a built-in servo-familiar. I imagine that the book contains records of the Chapter proving their history of loyalty and strength in the face of the Warp, a potent psychological weapon against the Beasts of Ruin who despise their own past as faithful servants of humanity. It’s also my way of including a visual suggestion that, although the Hawkmoths have lost much of what once made them such potent heroes of the Imperium, Librarian Numitor still serves as a custodian of their honour and – through his caring for their archives – provides a physical link to their valorous history. Of course, as both a psyker and a scholar Numitor probably understands Kell better than any other loyal member of the Hawkmoths and whatever ancient secret drove him to make his pact with Chaos Numitor will discover it soon enough.
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space-marine-librarian-convert-or-die-3Some of you may be throwing your hands up in horror to see a Librarian without blue armour. In my mind this is quite in keeping with the background of my chapter – although the Codex Astartes is quite strict on the matter the Hawkmoths never held rigidly to the edicts of the Codex anyway. Indeed in many ways their doctrines diverged wildly from Guilliman’s teachings, and this has only increased since the treachery of their brothers shattered their chapter.
Of course this is really just an excuse – as in my personal view a blue armoured librarian looks out of place in an army the main colour of which falls on a radically different part of the colour spectrum – such as the red of the Hawkmoths for instance. He looks like a representative of a different army, specifically a token Ultramarine. Likewise a techmarine in red armour looks jarring amongst their all blue ranks. Not so a black armoured chaplain whose muted armour blends in no matter the colours worn by his brothers. Turns out a preacher in black with a skull for a face looks bad-ass wherever he goes, which as it happens, will be the subject of my next post…


Decent Into Madness

Since writing this post about Squad Abholos, the core of my Beasts of Ruin warband, I’ve been working on more treacherous scum to join the ranks. First up we have this rogue who’d been on the ‘half-finished shelf-of-shame’ for a while. I imagine there’s a wounded Imperial Guardsman lying just beyond his base, about to be finished off a quick jab of that bony talon.
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chaos-marine-convert-or-die-29Next we have one of my favourite additions to Squad Abholos so far. He’s more understated than many of his heavily mutated squad-mates but he still carries an air of menace and murderous intent.
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chaos-marine-convert-or-die-15Although I love the tribal intensity of Chaos I’ll admit I’m also quite a fan of chaos armies with fewer mutants and more spiky, vicious marines (although it should be added that the most interesting loyalist marines are also fairly spiky and vicious – Executioners, Minotaurs and Carcharodons I’m looking at you!)
chaos-marine-convert-or-die-16However, that wasn’t the army I wanted. I remember the first time I saw the cover of Slaves To Darkness. I was amazed by the sheer variety of weird and monstrous figures (all of which, I now recognise, were just the followers of Khorne). I wanted that rebel freakshow, or at least an injection of it, arrogant, hedonistic and wild, held together only by the formidable will of its master.
Slaves to Darkness Flicking through the pages my fascination grew (always a risk when dealing with Chaos as any Grey Knight would tell you). It was like a murderous carnival; bright and gaudy and exciting. Everywhere you looked you saw something new, something stranger, ready to spin you round and say “You think this is weird? Wait until you see the next guy!” One glance and I was hooked. Here was a true army of individuals, people (and things) who had not merely taken up arms against the monolithic, impractical, stifling engines of Imperial bureaucracy but physically reacted against it. Not for them the drab life of industrial serfdom beneath the Emperor’s heel. They had slipped out from under a brutal and repressive regime and into a world of colour, of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll that went far beyond the fundamentals of reproduction (to feed the Emperor’s armies), the chemical stimulants that kept one labouring at one’s station and the lonely drumbeat that called the faithful to war. They might well die young, swallowed up by the devils to which they’d sold their souls, burned out by lives bigger, brighter and faster than should have been their lot, but surely that would be better than to be spent and expended, the detritus of a bloated state? They lived and died like rock-stars, glorying in the brief moment for which they held the approval of the gods. They did not settle for breaking the laws of the Imperium, for mooning its stern, passionless authoritarians. They broke the laws of physics, thumbed their noses at mother-nature, laughed like drunken hyenas at the mewling jobsworths who sought to define the boundaries of the possible.
All of which brings us to the opposite end of the spectrum from that last Chaos Marine. Whilst I favoured a brutal simplicity for him, this guy has clearly been too long under the whispering influence of Tzeentch.
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chaos-marine-convert-or-die-7Anyway, as usual comments/feedback/abuse is welcome in comment section. Did the twisted artwork in Slaves to Darkness stir your own corrupted soul or are you too stoic a Grey Knight to mess around with such perverse nonsense? Let the world know below!


Tyrant of Nightmares

A storm comes, like the keening of the wind in the Immaterium, rattling the windows of the Imperium, prying fingers testing around every loose door or latch. The Warp is full of ghosts, the lonely cries of the dying, helpless, unanswered calls for aid. Vox channels once deemed secure are suddenly invaded, secrets spilling like blood. Ships fall burning in the void. From sump to spire, workers in every hive riot in terror, fouling the engines of their masters with their own bodies. Contagious madness spreads like fire. None are immune. Planetary governors fire upon their own men. Servitors, suddenly cognisant, turn their once vacant minds to treachery. Primitives on feral worlds acquire devastating knowledge, arcane secrets hidden since Old Night divined by haruspices from  the guts of their goats. Cogitators stutter with gusty laughter, the machine spirits within them howling like beasts. Across the sector all astropaths together begin the chant the same refrain. “Kell, Kell, Kell is upon us. The Lord of the Coming Night is here”.
kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-1Brutal tyrant. Peerless general. Visionary. Madman. Traitor. Following on from my last post which mostly focussed on Chapter Master Calgacus here’s the other side of the coin, Kallamoon Kell – Lord of Chaos and Master of the Beasts of Ruin. Unlike Calgacus, where the design of the model fed directly into his background and inspired many of my ideas about his chapter, Kell was already well established in my imagination long before I began gathering together the components needed to build him. By that time I had already built a sizeable collection of Chaos Space Marines, and their Daemonic allies, so with Kell the challenge was creating a model that suitably lived up to the legend and would stand out as the leader without looking impractically over the top.
kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-5In building Kell I used, by my count, pieces from at least fifteen different kits. The majority of these were from the Chaos range (both 40k and Warhammer) but various loyalist and xenos bits have snuck in there as well.
Unlike many other chaos lords he has not dedicated himself to any one god, nor does he flit anxiously from one to another. Rather he courts the favour of all four, building his empire and burning world after world in their names. He knows that to attempt to play the Chaos Gods against one another is to take a terrible risk for they are unlikely to be amused by what they must perceive as a pawn trying his hand at the Great Game. For now however he remains too valuable and too successful to idly quash. So long as he continues to wreak significant havoc in their names he retains their grudging favour but should he slip they will turn on him, united in their rage.
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kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-2I don’t for a moment believe that Kell trusts the chaos powers or sees them as anything other than a way of increasing his personal empire. Part of that distrust, I suspect, comes from the degeneration of his left arm into a trashing tentacle. Originally I used the part purely because I thought it looked good. As I worked on Kell however I started to think about why the most obvious physical manifestation of the warp’s influence on him was this vestigial limb, especially when so many of his followers are wildly mutated. The tentacle, then, became part of Kell’s story; the first gift he received from the dark gods. Given his monumental ego and the scale of the destruction he has perpetrated in their name it’s safe to say Kell would regard this “gift” as something of a disappointment. Rather than chop it off however he has kept it as a permanent reminder of the danger of relying on any higher power – be it the Imperium or the Gods themselves. To him the tentacle is a way of keeping his bitterness and hate for the Gods fresh, a token by which he ensures he never falls for the whispers of temptation that each offers him.
I also can’t help but imagine the tentacle limb as possessing a sentience of its own, rebellious to the body it adjoins and jealous of the bio-mechanical talon arm Kell has had grown to replace it. Thus Kell plots against the Dark Gods, constantly playing them against each other and subverting their attempts to control him whilst his own arm remains a devoted agent of the Gods, secretly working against him. I would say that someday it will strangle him in his sleep but between the Gods he spurns, the monsters he rules, the brothers he betrayed and his own relentless desire for power I can’t imagine he ever sleeps anyway.
kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-6In terms of the concept behind the model I drew pretty heavily on Abaddon the Despoiler for inspiration. He is, after all, in many ways the arch-adversary of the 40k universe. Amongst the big players only Ghazghkull Thraka, the Tyranid Hive-Mind and Imotekh the Stormlord really come close in terms of destructive, empire-burning power and ambition, and none of them combine that with the human element, the way in which Abaddon remains, at core, just a man. It’s this that, to me, makes him most interesting as he remains something of a self-made Lucifer, every victory and scrap of power won by his own efforts. This makes him rather different to his genetic father, Horus, or the surviving deamon-primarchs, all of whom were gifted their enormous powers by the Emperor and who achieved dominion over worlds and solar systems simply through the fact that they were almost unimaginably stronger, tougher and quicker to learn than any other candidate.
In spite of having based the model on Abaddon, the background I wrote for Kell falls closer to that for Lugft Huron, the deposed Tyrant of Badab (and originator of some of the finest and most quotable lines in 40k). Particularly it was this line in the Chaos Space Marines codex that grabbed my attention, when Huron declares “The Imperium is a weak old man, ready and waiting to be broken apart by his vengeful sons”. Kell does not have his eye on the throne of the Imperium, he knows it would be an albatross around his neck, a grim anchor to drag him down. No man can command the Imperium, it is too vast, too complex, to choked with internal strife and external assault. Even the Emperor, easily the most powerful and wise individual (human is too small a word) to have ever lived, could not hold it together for long before his bickering sons turned upon him. Abaddon will discover, almost as soon as his power-armoured bum is settled upon the throne of Terra, that an empire is a very different thing to command than an army. There are worlds to be governed, taxes to be collected, laws to be enacted. Hold too much power to himself and it will be overwhelming, give too much away and those he promotes will soon begin to imagine themselves taking his place. His allies too make for powerful warlords but less than useful administrators (unless you can imagine Kharn or Tyrphus governing a sector with any degree of aptitude). The Warpsmiths may be rather sharp at making warmachines but what about the hum-drum tools of everyday living that the servants of the Imperium require to do their duties? Amongst the stinking mutants he has gathered from the death worlds of the Eye of Terror he is unlikely to find suitable replacements for the Inquisition, the Arbites, the Astra Telepathica or the Ministorum and yet if he allows those organisations to stand they will plot against him, a ruthless, restless resistance that will take generations to crush. All the while the Great Waaargh will gather pace, the Tyranids will swarm through the galactic east, the Necrons will rise from their ghastly tomb worlds and his new Imperium will burn.
Better by far to carve out an empire on the fringes, to lay claim to a few systems and plunder from the rest as it falls.
kallamoon-kell-chaos-lord-convert-or-die-7With both Kell and his adversary Calgacus poses were deliberately chosen to reflect their personalities. The line between good and evil is pretty hazy in 40k, with even the supposed heroes coming out a rather dirty shade of grey. A good summation can be found in Forge World’s Badab War series, describing the Space Marines.

“Beyond their martial trappings and the endless roll of glorious victories, doomed last stands and courage in the face of a hostile universe a Space Marine fundamentally is a superhuman engine built, bred and trained for war… a monster by any other name”
Imperial Armour Volume 10 – The Badab War Part Two (Alan Bligh)

Thus rather than a glorious champion I wanted Calgacus to appear bullish and relentless, revealing his aggressive, at times even bloodthirsty, nature as he parries and slashes with his lightning claws. Kell, on the other hand, is a leader of men, a general who takes the long view in his campaigns, whilst Calgacus is solely a warrior, albeit a valiant and inspiring one to those under his command. Kell is a tactician, a cunning and charismatic orator who has united both daemons and mortals in his cause. Doing this has required his wits and strength of character as much as raw brawn so I posed him shouting an order and urging his men forward towards an unseen target.


Last of the Free

Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion… Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace
Calgacus “the Swordsman”, describing the Roman Empire, as quoted by Tacitus in the Agricola.

So, at last – after rattling on about it for ages now – Kallamoon Kell is finished. Needless to say I’m rather excited. Not only is Kell the warlord of my chaos army but the completion of the model brings to a close a project I started long ago, and which has seen plenty of ups and downs to get this far. I’ll start by talking a bit about his rival, Chapter Master Calgacus of the Hawkmoths, and hopefully upload a post on Kell later in the week.
As I’ve mentioned before one of the key narrative elements that fuels my interest in my Space Marine and Chaos Space Marine collections is the idea of a brotherhood torn apart. It’s the cornerstone of some of the finest storytelling to emerge from the Warhammer 40k background – particularly the Horus Heresy and the Badab War. More than simply the metaphorical or spiritual brotherhood that unites all Space Marines in the Emperor’s service I went for a far more personal conflict, a single chapter divided into bitter enmity. I especially wanted to capture this in the leaders of the two factions, creating two individuals who would be the focus of this background – a pair of characters once united by common cause but now sworn to the destruction of the other. On the one hand we would have Kallamoon Kell, a rising lord of chaos who led his brother space marines into rebellion and torn his chapter apart, and on the other we have Calgacus, the Chapter Master of the surviving loyalists, dedicated to hunting him down and seeing vengeance enacted.
Starting this project approximately three years ago I built and painted the first incarnations of my two central characters. Here’s Chapter Master Calgacus (version 1).
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space-marine-convert-or-die-6And here’s the first incarnation of Kell.
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chaos-lord-convert-or-die-6Of course it’s easy, retrospectively, to pick holes in both of these models. Calgacus V.1 especially was a project which I struggled with, losing faith in it part way through. To my eye it shows in the finished miniature. Attaching the shield was a real nightmare and the tarnished gold of the armour proved to be a series of headaches that left me relieved rather than proud when I finally stuck him on the shelf.
There are some elements I’m rather proud of, for one the skeletal servitor mounted on the top of his armour which always strikes me as the epitome of decaying Imperial arrogance (and is something I’d like to replicate elsewhere – possible as a gun servitor on a tank).
Kell V.1 meanwhile is workmanlike, fit for purpose in my eyes but hardly the tyrant of nightmares I had envisioned. Also, there’s something distinctly Khornate about him (just look at his helmet) which didn’t fit with the vibe I was looking for; a lord grudgingly respected by all four gods. Thus Kell V.1 was demoted, becoming Avar the Twisted, champion of my Terminator squad The Blessed Slaughter. Meanwhile Calgacus V.1 was retired to the shelf and I started work on new versions of both.

In both cases I now had a much clearer image in mind of what I was looking for, a model in keeping with the background I imagined. In the case of Calgacus I wanted a real “working man’s” Chapter Master, not the enthroned master of worlds but a space marine first and foremost, someone unafraid to get stuck in at the speartip of the most gruelling and brutal assaults. I also decided that the Hawkmoth’s Chapter Master had been killed during Kell’s betrayal, thus leaving the field open for a new man to lead a transformed chapter. From being relatively static guardians of territory the Hawkmoths have reinvented themselves as a fast moving, fleet-based strike force, with tactics reminiscent of the Minotaurs, Carcharodons or even pre-Heresy Night Lords. The first step in that rebuilding process must have been the selection of a new Chapter Master. The field however would have been limited, with most of the prime candidates either turned traitor or slain. Thus they would have been forced to select a candidate who, although in keeping with the ruthless, vengeance hungry mood of the time might in another era have been considered less than stable. Enter the pugnacious Calgacus, a fearsome yet loyal wardog of the Imperium.
space-marine-chapter-master-convert-or-die-2To reinforce the idea that this is a man who’s fought at the forefront of numerous battles (and has the scars and cybernetic reconstruction to prove it) I gave him what must be my favourite Space Marine head of all time. With half his skull (and doubtless some of his brain) replaced by a bionic substitute he’s hardly likely to be the most calm and easy-going individual but I’d say it’s a safe bet that he’s handy in a fight. Suffice to say I’m much happier with this version.
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space-marine-chapter-master-convert-or-die-4In my efforts to imagine his background he has come to be representative of his chapter as a whole. His ruthless brutality in battle and black, blood-thirsty rages at other times have led many to believe he is unhinged, and as dangerous to the Imperium he is sworn to protect as Kell himself. As a result his is a fairly dark reputation, though whether the butchery he is responsible for is a result of calculated brutality or berserk rage remains a contested issue. Nevertheless his merciless wrath may be just what the Hawkmoth’s chapter requires for many have slipped into bleak fury since their betrayal and each time Calgacus has dispatched his Death’s Heads to hunt them down and bring back their bones. For those few amongst the Holy Ordos who have tracked the near renegade Hawkmoths into the deep void his methods may be distasteful but, with the Imperium crumbling, they accept that – for now – this baleful and secretive chapter and its rapacious master may be an ally they cannot do without.