Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Grizzled Veterans: Part 1 - The Beauty of the Beak

I make no secret of the fact that I love the old school minis that GW produced back in the days before the coming of the GrimDark, when shorties rode their bikes and Jokearo forged their bizarre devices for their bizarre purposes. For all the heroic stature and shiny new sculpts that are the mainstay in the here and now, something still makes these often illogical and sometimes even seemingly deformed marines special. It's almost as though they were the guys who got mangled in the gears of progress and gave up their own vigour and beauty along the way in order for the new generation to stand so tall and proud.

Apart from the inconsistencies and retrospectively baffling choices of war gear, perhaps the most iconic feature of marines from the RT era is the pointed front grille of the helmets that was the norm. Now well and truly ret-conned as a feature of Mark VI, or "Corvus" power armour, back then it was simply the shape that most marine helmets happened to be. No one called it anything like "Corvus" armour though; some oddly chose to term the wearers "Badger Marines", but more common was the name "Beaky" based on the obvious resemblence to an avian's gob parts.

You have to think that there's a real affection for the things as well, even in the rarified confines of the GW headquaters when you consider the fact that along with the studded shoulderpad, it's one of the few features of the original style or marine power armour to survive into the modern era as part of the most basic plasctic kit in the range. So for this first look at the marines that make up the veterans of my chapter, I thought I'd start out with the best of the beakies.

While this is by no means the oldest marine from the RT era, I wanted to start with him because as well as being one of the best sculpts of the time (some might say that there's little competition for that end of the spectrum as opposed to the other) he seems to me to have been based very closely on the marines that graced the cover of the first edition of the 40K rulebook. Take a look at the proportions of the helmet and the eye sockets in particular and see if you agree with me.

It's possible that the same idea was intended for this guy as was the first example; the lines of the helmet seem almost like a first attempt. But this mini suffers from the all too common issues that charaterised the marine range back in the day. Stunted, lacking in detail below the waist and looking as though he's struggling to hold his bolter, this chap must have been though the mill to end up looking like this. He even needed a mound of greenstuff under his left foot to stand properly on the base.

The strange lack of coherance in the range shows up here when we seem to have a marine hefting a heavy bolter as easily as the last one was carrying a standard bolter. Is this marine super strong or is the previous marine some kind of weakling? It amuses me to think that heavy weapons began in the marine range being side slung like this, then changed when the RTB01 plastics were released only to go back again in the modern era. Make your mind up, please.

Compensating for something? Some of the best minis from this period are the ones that bear Terminator Honours on the shoulderpads, a feature which apparently gave the sculptors the motivation to add more detail and quality to the marine overall. Get that stuck in someone and you'll have a hell of a time getting it out again.

Proof positive that before the arrival of Hive Fleet Retcon there was no concept of heresy attached to the use of xenos tech or weaponry. If it worked and it killed the enemy that was all there was to it. Like the rare minis that GW produced of female mercenaries in powered armour at the time (often mistaken for female space marines), this is one of those little quirky artefacts of the past that it's simply fun to own as it sticks two fingers up at the idea of Imperial conformity.

Much as I love the marines from this period, there is one thing that's truly my own personal Kryptonite: the power swords. This was the owner of what was in my opinion the worst of the lot, so in the end the entire arm went, replaced by one from the RTB01. Almost as an afterthought I also got rid of the bolter and have never been anything but happy with the results.

Apart from the god awful power swords (come to think of it, the chain swords were pretty shit as well), the shoulder mounted heavy weapons that came along later were hard for me to love. I warmed to them some and still have a few waiting to be painted, but there's nothing better for my money than the much later heavy bolter. Perhaps the chunkiest and most satisfying of all heavy weapons.

I like the occasional marine that's doing something more diagnostic than screaming, posing with a bolter or screaming whilst posing with a bolter. The idea that someone might pause to use an auspex rather than charge onto a minefield seems logical. But I accept the other side of the argument: a marine paying attention to his gadget on the battlefield might be as foolish as someone in the modern world walking under a bus while reading his texts.

I can never remember if this marine was part of the first blister pack that I ever got my hands on or included in a set of minis intended for the Timescape expansion for Talisman. I always wondered if he was advancing into a very strong wind.

This was without doubt part of the first blister pack I owned and in the case of this one I always thought he looked somewhat sly. Maybe he's just learned something interesting on his little scanning device like all Blood Angels wear women's knickers under their power armour? Again I added a newer bolter because the original was rubbish.

This is another of those old school marines that I was very keen to own, for some reason the idea of two power fists was well good back in my misguided youth. But then you start to think that the guy might have clowned himself if he's more than a few metres from someone with a gun. I suppose he probably has a pistol of somekind as backup, but how would you do anything but crush it trying to fire it with a power fist?

Back in the RT era anything goes was the motto when it came to equipment lists. You'd never see a marine with an autogun these days, mainly because they're crap, but the point still has to be made. In fact, does anyone use an autogun in 40K anymore?

Want to know why I didn't remove this crappy power sword, don't you? Because the devious bugger who sculpted it made sure that it was actually attached to the leg for its entire length. Happy now? Anyway, Brother Pedantious here has something interesting and enlightening to tell you based on his scans of the pile of dead orcs in the corner: he thinks there might be orks involved in this battle.

I may have mentioned earlier that I don't have much love for the RT era shoulder mounted heavy weapons, but then the multi melter is the exception to the rule. I love it for the simple reason that it just looks as though whatever's on the recieving end is going to get seriously f*cked I mean messed up.

Join me next time for the marines from the RT era who were just too tough to wear a helmet in an article that I call: "Please Shoot Me in the Face!"


sonsoftaurus said...


Anonymous said...

What a treaure trove you have there. I agree some of them are a bit hit and miss with the poses, choice of sculpt - the marine with oil can comes to mind - but they are still cool minis in their own right. Bet you get some looks if you roll these out at a club.

Carmine said...

Thanks for the comments.

Luckily I collect more than I play, so I'm saved from the indignity of having to deal with the latter day arrivals who seem to think that the game just popped into existance to amuse them when they turned thirteen and hate everything from that strange land known as the past.

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