Over the last few weeks I have been spending a bit of Christmas money on eBay, picking up the kind of cheap plastic figures you don’t normally see in UK toy stores. A few pounds here and there.
Being either new-ish secondhand or sometimes a whole chocolate tin of mixed figures, the scrapings of someone else’s toy box with some tantalising glimpses of unusual figures, they all need a good wash before painting. It should remove any grime and mould release chemicals.
With so many figures, the sink wasn’t an option so the bath tub stood in this time.
Here was the washing up bowl ‘spa treatment’ I did last time, back in June 2016:
I like the dramatic illustrations on this packaging. Figures are somewhere between 42 and 54mm high depending on their pose and twistedness.
I was reminded of this Harryhausen Skeleton scene when I luckily spotted two £1 bags of plastic skeleton warriors on a rummage stall at a local steam fair.
The lady stall holder had bought at auction years before for £2 a big plastic storage box containing bags and bags of cheap green plastic toy soldiers.
Most of the ruptured bags contained the worst flattened, deformed and attenuated tall, brittle plastic China clone types of toy soldier beyond even my (low standards for) repair or conversion needs, not even for a £1 a bag …
Hidden amongst the box and elsewhere on the stall were two bags of skeleton warriors.
£2 later and my day was already made, before ten o’clock.
No one had bought these in years, until me, the lady said. The kids of today …
I mentioned to the lady that “Buying these in from the States online” would have daft shipping charges. Sadly she had no more bags tucked away – at any price.
A couple of useful screen shots from the YouTube various Harryhausen video clips on Masters of FX and stop motion Animation.
Pewtering paint option laziness
How best to paint skeletons? Full of bony nooks and crannies.
After glue-gunning them to tuppenny (2p) pieces for stability, I noticed that the basic plastic colour of ivory / bone / off-white was probably good enough for the finished figure.
But how to bring out the detail?
I have used the pewtering (lazy paint) method before, mostly on metal figures, but not much on plastic.
Black gloss Revell Acrylic Aquacolor was quickly painted on and then let dry for as long as it took to cover a second figure.
Wipe the bulk of the paint off the first figure with kitchen towel and you find it stays behind in nooks and crannies like eye sockets, skeletal rib cages and between bone joints.
Then paint a third figure whilst the second dries before being wiped … and so on.
I tried various shades of earth brown but black worked best.
Conversions and chopping about
One problem was that after years squashed into their packaging, whilst their flexible plastic had protected usually breakable parts like swords and spears, they were often bent, as were the skeletons themselves. The old trick of soaking them in hot water to straighten them did not work.
On the positive side, oddly contorted skeletons took away the ‘too many of the same pose’ problem. Various stiffening with extra wire spears (inserted into shield hands and base drilled holes) helped slightly right some but not all figures.
Extra wire spears were added to drilled empty hands with spear points of scrap plastic base trimming or Fimo polymer clay.
Some arms were super glued (not very easy with springy plastic) or cut and repinned with wire stubs to change arm and sword angles.
Other figures like the over-duplicated trumpet player (who needs four?) were thus converted to new uses.
Extra shields were added with suitable buttons wired on and painted.
Weapons and shields were painted in copper and bronze Revell Acrylic after pewtering.
Wooden spear shafts and axe handles seem to have survived perfectly preserved whilst the flesh has vanished – curious!
I was almost tempted to add some scraps of clothing using tissue paper but resisted to keep the figures more flexible in period.
One figure had an almost Breugel Triumph of Death or Hieronymus Bosch painting typocalyptic pose with skeleton ‘blood angel’ winged rib cage was given away to another family member as just far too weird – for now!
Finishing off the Skeleton Warriors
Sand brown (Revell Afrikabraun Matt Acrylic) bases were painted for that desert / earth / Ray Harryhausen look, then sprayed with Gloss Acrylic varnish spray. I have heard that metallic colours can run during varnishing, so I only sprayed the bases.
A lot of (admittedly lazy) paint and conversion work for £2 worth of figures but the result looks like they are much more expensive figures.
That is pretty much the whole ethos of the Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog. Cheap Joy!
I might need some slight tweaks for how to kill or defeat the already dead in order to put skeleton warriors into my simple Featherstone based rules for melee and small Close Wars.
Remember – Don’t shoot till you see the darks of their eye sockets!
Several other scenarios crop up – the renowned Colonel Fazackerly saves the day!
Other Fantastic Skeletal Scenarios?
If England Were Invaded …
After reading a spot of invasion literature like William Le Queux, mixed with a dash of the Angels of Mons, I thought afresh that these skeleton warriors with shield, axes, swords and spears could well be the legendary Arthur and his Ancient Britons arising from their slumbers and returning to save the day If England Were Invaded:
In 1914 … an unlucky Prussian sentry fails to notice that he is being followed.
Or in 1940 …
An unlucky Nazi sentry fails to notice that he is being followed down an English country lane … “Gott In Himmel!”
Featherstone’s Fantasy War Games
Now that is a Featherstone title that never happened in the original 1960s Featherstone trilogy and beyond. War Games, Naval War Games, Air War Games, even Advanced War Games … but Fantasy War Games?
I wonder how the knowledgeable, enthusiastic and avuncular Featherstone style would have adapted to orcs, gremlins, wizard magic and skeletons?
Not that far off his Ancients rules and suggested Imaginations and Hyborian campaigns with Tony Bath?
Many of Don’s fantasy figures would no doubt be based on conversions of the versatile Airfix Romans, Ancient Britons, Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham figures and Castle sets.
Blogposted by Mark, Skeletal Man of TIN, 8th / 9th September 2018