Web Comic Creators Stan Yan and Kevin Freeman on SubCulture

Way back in 2003 or 2004 I picked up The Wang from writer-artist Stan Yan at Comic-Con. It had nothing to do with gaming (at least, not that I recall). Years passed and then I had a Random Encounter with Stan Yan’s SubCulture, written by Kevin Freeman. While it is a web comic, the pair also sell printed collections of the strips. It revolves around a comic book store and the twentysomething, listless main character Jason. When not reading comic ashcans, Jason is fond of the occasional dungeon delve and playing Space Jaunt with the rest of Subculture’s characters. Space Jaunt is Subculture’s science fiction space odyssey game. While gaming references abound in Subculture, I’d say that maybe less than a third of it actually pertains to RPGs. However the whole of Subculture is good stuff, well written by Kevin Freeman and evocatively drawn by Stan Yan respectively with the end result being a pretty funny strip. As a web comic, it’s also free and worth checking out.

The Process of Making the Subculture Web Comic

Stan Yan holds the printed version of Subculture at Comic-Con in 2012 in front of a zombie posterCG: How do and Kevin know one another and what’s your process like for working on SubCulture?
SY: I responded to an ad on Digital Webbing’s message board back in 2006. He was looking for an artist for SubCulture, and I was ironically the first to respond. Kevin typically e-mails me script ideas. Kevin gives me quite a bit of creative freedom in his scripts, and he rarely objects to geeky little things I put in that are not in the script, like t-shirts on the characters and such.
KF: We are in synch almost all of the time. We are of similar age and have similar life experiences, so working together has been very easy. Plus Stan is very professional, which makes my job that much easier.

CG: How many times do you two reject a strip as not being funny enough or put it on hold and then what is your backlog like? Do you have a number of backup strips in case you run into problems during a particular week?
SY: We rarely agree to reject a strip, but we often collaborate on fine-tuning jokes. I might even add a panel for pacing purposes without consulting with him first. I have yet to have him tell me that I was wrong for adding a panel. Once with a storyline where Jason goes with Noel to buy a new car, Kevin asked me to draw Noel in some provocative clothing. I guess I went too far, and he had me change the school-girl mini-skirt to low-rise jeans. That’s one of the few times outside of typos, where Kevin has asked me to change anything. My backlog used to be one month, but over the last couple of years, I’ve been sadly working week-to-week. With, our recent guest artist, Corie Marie Parkhill, I’ve been able to build a 2 week backlog, but I’m seeing that go away quickly as I finish up with my summer camp teaching season and do a weekend-long convention this weekend. No backup strips. If something goes wrong, we’re sunk!
KF: I try to stay about six weeks ahead, just in case I get hit with a case of writer’s block.

D&D players talk about 5th edition but their GM is still focused on first edition and his Wilderness Survival Guide in web comic strip

Other Projects for Subculture’s Creators

CG: I know your Wang is pretty nice, but what else have you been working on?
SY: I’m currently working on writing and coloring a post-apocalyptic car race adventure webstrip called REVVVelations: at www.squidworks.com/revvv, I just finished writing and illustrating a comic book for the Melting Pot restaurant, I’m working on writing and partially illustrating a promotional comic book for the GalaxyFest convention, and I hope to resume work on a graphic novel about my best friend’s battle with cancer.
KF: I’m working with small-press publisher Action Lab entertainment as well, where I do a lot of editing. I’ve also got a story in the pipe with artist Des Taylor, but it probably won’t hit the shelves until sometime in 2013. I am a college professor in real life.

Specific Questions About Subculture Itself

CG: Looking back, what are your favorite story arcs so far on SubCulture?
SY: I’m still very fond of the storyline where Arthur goes to Bart to get dating advice, and they’re forced to talk in gamer code, since Travis is eavesdropping on them. I think it’s a strip that is in the second printed collection of webstrips.
KF: That’s probably mine too. I also like Babs’s cosplay party storyline, and any time we do a convention story that is a lot of fun.

CG: What does XP on the Hoof that your gaming buddy John says mean, Stan?
SY: Honestly, I don’t know where that saying originated, but basically he’s talking about how fighting certain creatures is like money in the bank. He’s typically being sarcastic about it to taunt the game master, or if he’s game mastering, he’s typically trying to goad us into a battle we can’t win. At least, that’s how I take it.
CG: If Kevin would be a Bard, what would your D&D class be?
SY: I’d also be some sort of performer — probably a jester, with absolutely no battle skills.

CG: Is Bart based on an actual comic shop owner or is he more of a stereotype?
SY: I understand that Kevin based Bart on a comic book store owner he knows or knew. Lots of things we wrote for Bart are things that actually happened, like sleeping on the back table, slathering everything in ketchup, and probably lots of other stuff I wasn’t even aware of when I was drawing it.
KF: Bart is an amalgamation of a number of people–Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, the shop owner of a store I worked at in Alabama, and Weird Pete from Knights of the Dinner Table, just to name a few.

CG: What do Bart, Babs, Arthur, Jason, Travis and the rest of the crew usually play as in SpaceJaunt?
SY: I think no matter WHAT game they’re playing, they’re always playing certain archetypical characters for them. Babs typically plays a seductress who probably flirts with Jason’s characters. Arthur normally plays a woman of some sort. Jason probably plays a character that is as bland as he is at times. I imagine he’s more of a utility player than a role-player. Skip will always play a ruthless, bloody barbarian, if not an assassin. I imagine Travis is a thief and scavenger, but I can see him trying to play a paladin before he went against his alignment in looting or pillaging along with Skip’s character and ending up as a level 1 fighter.
KF: Yep. They tend to stick to archetypes based on their personality, regardless of what they play.

In web comic strip a player loses a Warhammer 40k wargame and then immediately goes to buy a new army on the last panel

Stan’s 3.5 D&D Campaign and Kevin’s 40K Days, Background in Gaming

CG: I know your gaming group hasn’t moved beyond 3.5 to 4th Edition. What’s your campaign like and why have you guys stuck with 3.5?
SY: My theory is that John doesn’t want our spell casters getting too powerful, and on the flip-side, we probably don’t want him unleashing unbeatable spell casters upon our party either. At any rate, I think we’re happier with our ability to truly role-play our characters in 3.5, and we don’t want to risk the faster-paced 4.0 degrading that at all.
CG: What about sci-fi RPGs like Space Jaunt/Traveller, do you play in any of those?
SY: We play one space RPG — Gurps space right now.
CG: What about 40K? You have a nice 2010 Space Marine panel in a SuperCon strip.
SY: Kevin used to play, but I haven’t. I admire the game pieces, though. We will have a 40K storyline coming up. I hope I can do it justice in light of the fact that I don’t play.
KF: I was heavy into 40k for years and years until I moved to North Carolina. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to the hobby any more. But I still subscribe to White Dwarf and pick up the books and supplements. I’ve always been loyal to Imperial Guard!
CG: How did you get into gaming in the first place?
SY: My friends got me into it in 5th or 6th grade: Basic D&D. I still have the set and introductory modules!
KF: I started about that same time, back when D&D was at its peak, but started with AD&D rather than the pink box. I collect pre-1983 D&D stuff. It reminds me of my childhood.

SubCulture comic strips and cover art are copyright Stan Yan and Kevin Freeman and used with permission.

Cosplay at Combat Con 2012

While there were many armored and costumed warriors and Western martial artists at Combat Con in Las Vegas, some of the attendees were dressed up purely for their own enjoyment and not for practical reasons such as absorbing longsword blows. Indeed one of the target audiences for Combat Con besides WMA traditionalists and gamers are cosplayers, with a healthy number of vendors catering to steampunk and fantasy costume play. There were also several panels offered involving costume play at the convention; I attended “Weapons of Cosplay” and “Cosplay: Crack is Cheaper”. Whether used to improve one’s garb for LARPing or battle gaming or even to enhance a regular tabletop RPG session, the cosplay community has a lot of knowledge to offer the gaming community.

Three scantily-clad women cosplaying as barbarians in furs and leather in the Combat Con Vendors' Hall

Cosplay Panelists, Connettes, and Barbarians!: (L to R) Sami Miller, Sara Warner, and Jillian Saint

Weapons of Cosplay

Both of the cosplay panels I attended had mostly the same panelists and were somewhat sparsely attended. The “Weapons of Cosplay” panel ended up spilling out past the topic of weapons exclusively to encompass all cosplay costume considerations with prop master David Baker from Deadliest Warrior and the Hollywood Combat Center lending his considerable cinematic experience and expertise, joined by cosplayers Sara Warner, Sami Miller, and cosplay newcomer Jillian Saint who comprised the cosplay group The Connettes.

David Baker holding a metal spear with sharp edges at a 2012 Combat Con cosplay panel

Propmaster David Baker with Spear

A self-proclaimed “lover of metal”, David Baker makes real working weapons, but also a number of props or fakes. “Harbor Freight is your friend,” he advised, citing an investment at the store of $600 as a good, strong start into making your own weapons and props, including getting a scroll saw. For Baker copper and brass are easy to work with and dedicated cosplayers should learn how to solder. The bottoms can be cut out of 5 gallon plastic buckets and an $8 heat gun from Harbor Freight can be used to shape the plastic to the desired effect for armor or plastic components. Baker is fond of Bondo, an all-purpose bonding adhesive and proclaimed that, “God made Bondo. It’s proof that there is a god.”

Baker also pointed out how useful styrofoam, paper mache, foamcore, and PVC pipe can be in making prop weapons and that cosplayers shouldn’t look down their noses at these more pedestrian materials. Besides the expense of getting glue or Bondo which can end up being more expensive than the materials they are adhering to, for Baker the real expense is time. He explained that if he sells a weapon that it took him 20 hours to make for $200 that he would be back to making $10 an hour. His steampunk pistol, seen below, was entirely hand-crafted out of common, everyday parts, the crystal included.

David Baker showing a crystal-powered steampunk pistol at the 2012 Combat Con

Deadliest Warrior Prop Master and Weaponsmith David Baker Showing His Steampunk Pistol

Copyright Issues

The question of copyrights and copyright infringement came up with members of the audience contributing examples of cases they had heard prosecuted. David Baker expressed that he doesn’t make exact duplicates for clients, but instead makes weapons in the style or fashion of an existing weapon, such as Loki’s staff in the The Avengers and Thor. Though it’s not a cosplay weapon, the example of a modeler selling kits of the Doombuggies from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride was brought up; in short order Disney had sent letters and lawyers were calling the man, ending his venture.

Practical and Safety Considerations

Someone pointed out that an important consideration for conventions is lightweight weaponry, because the cosplayer will have to cart the weapon around, in which case real steel or iron would be a detriment. Cosplayers must also be prepared to stop for pictures. Smart costumes, especially for women, will have pockets or another means of storage. Utility belts are excellent if the costume allows one. More importantly, cosplayers should ask themselves “Can I take a poop in it?” J.P. Dostal from Duel at Dusk Productions brought up the recent Labyrinth of Jareth and the need to consider the footprint for any outfit (or weapon). Apparently many women in elaborate ball gowns with hoops have the annoying habit of eating up doorways, if they can even squeeze through. Many costumes, such as Duel at Dusk’s four-legged Egress which resembles a landstrider from Dark Crystal, aren’t suitable for some convention floors (such as Comic-Con’s) and crowded vendor halls.

The talk then moved to the more important topic of safety for weapons. Cosplayers should consider how they will secure their weapons because not every convention or gathering will have a weapons check. Combat Con did; for a nominal fee of $1 or $2, Combat Con attendees could leave their weapons at the weapons check in the Vendors’ Hall, much as one might check a coat at a museum or theater. For those with an Airsoft without an orange or red tip, there could still be municipal laws resulting in fines (if not being actually mistakenly shot by law enforcement). Overall cosplayers should know their own gear and ensure that they have no ammunition for missile weapons to avoid any problems. For those with melee weapons, a great suggestion was to simply use a sheath with a handle since there is typically no reason to draw a blade.

There were further admonitions on safety, particularly pointing guns in faces or even putting one’s finger on the trigger of a fake gun is a big faux pas in the world of cosplay. Safety considerations even extend to corsetry, which can deprive the wearer of oxygen and blood flow. More humorously, they can lead to heavy flatulence once removed, we were informed. Keeping on the topic of gasses, especially when gluing together a respirator or gas mask for a costume, cosplayers should allow 72 hours for any glues to set, so they aren’t breathing in dangerous fumes.

Cosplay: Crack is Cheaper

I caught the tail end of “Cosplay: Crack is Cheaper” on Sunday, finding out that Sara Warner had spent $3500 on her Jack Sparrow costume including $700 for the deerskin coat alone. However the effects of her costume and her transformation into the Pirates of the Carribean character were so convincing that Sara was repeatedly mistaken for a man when in costume. One day during a grueling convention she kicked her boots off to give her feet a break, eliciting a comment from another convention attendee, “Wow, you have beautiful toes. If you weren’t a dude, I would totally suck those toes.” While this anecdote had us all laughing, the subject of costume authorship came up. Not surprisingly taking credit for a costume that others made for you is a big no-no in the world of cosplay. At the very least the tailor or seamstress is unlikely to work with you in the future. Warner is always quick to attribute her costume to its actual maker and suggests it as a rule of ettiquette.

Three attractive female cosplayers sitting at a table at the Cosplay panel at Combat  Con

The Connettes at One of Combat Con’s Cosplay Panels

Another surprising way cosplayers can shell out the big bucks is by politely approaching Hollywood professionals for bleeding edge makeup and prosthetics. While Halloween is a busy season for professional makeup artists, many will take on commissions during their off-seasons in between movie shoots for those willing to pay for the ultimate in costuming. For those without the money, Zappos.com was pointed to as a good source for inexpensive footwear and Hollywood Wig Outfitters for those in Southern California is “always a hit” according to Sami Miller. David Baker also suggested the Rose Bowl Swap Meet, for those in Southern California. William Wilson who runs the Tattershall School of Self Defense and is a steampunk aficionado pointed out another penny saver: skimping on the brocade for waistcoats by having false backs and even false bottoms. Not only is the practice historically accurate, but according to Wilson, “a true gentleman never removes his jacket” and therefore will never expose the cost-saving deception.

The Connettes Themselves

The Connettes were led by Sara Warner. When not dressing up in her velour Star Trek uniform, Warner is an LA-based actor, works on her next costumes, and does the occasional bit of gaming. Though she’s never done a Vampire LARP, she did play some Vampire: The Masquerade in her teenage years as well as D&D. The Connettes do not have their own website or Facebook page yet, but are looking for new female members serious about costuming. Anyone interested in joining up to cosplay with the Connettes can email Sara at sara.a.warner at gmail.com. For Warner, cosplay comes naturally as she likes “to slip into the garb of someone else, assume the role, and play the part”. Hence her vocational interest in acting as well. While she does enjoy the costume-making, Warner is all about the performance as an entertainer and performer. Warner cited the relatively low cost of Combat Con as one of its main draws: “Anyone who is interested in historical Western Martial Arts, weapons training, re-enacting, Renaissance festivals, LARPing, costuming with weapons (for poses and other things of course!) and acting in any kind of action productions would be out of their mind to miss such a comparatively cheap way to kickstart and/or hone skills at this fantastic event.”

With Warner was Sami Miller who was also a veteran cosplayer and a former Dagorhir player. Along with them they had brought Jillian Saint, pointing out that “she’s very new to it.” Saint had gamely joined in the cosplaying for Combat Con with a when in Rome attitude preferring barbarian garb to jeans and a T-shirt for the convention. Saint wears many hats in everyday life working 9-5 as an accountant/administrator for a law firm and doing freelance marketing in her off time. Though Saint’s not into role-playing games or LARPing, she does enjoy a game of League of Legends from time to time. Cosplay, on the other hand, she finds addictive, but so far she has tended to wear the designs of other costumers. Saint would like to play Chell from Portal 2 if she could. She enjoyed the demonstrations and performances, panels, and social events at Combat Con the most, acknowledging that she did like the workshops, but that she was unprepared for them, as many were geared towards trained combatants.

Like the members of Duel at Dusk Productions (and myself), Sara Warner and Sami Miller are already at work on their costumes for Wasteland Weekend in the California desert in September. Warner is currently working on all-leather gladiatrix outfit for the Mad Max-themed postapocalpyptic event.

Combat Con 2012: Luke Lafontaine’s Role in Role Models

Western Martial Artist Luke Lafontaine with a Sword in Hand in Vendors' Hall at Combat Con

Luke Lafontaine at Combat Con

One person I met Friday night at Combat Con 2012 back in July was Luke Lafontaine. He had my attention when he mentioned his first on-screen performance as a martial artist in the original Karate Kid (1984), in which he was originally scripted to fight against Ralph Macchio’s Daniel. An intervention from a social worker because Lafontaine was 16 at the time delayed his involvement and resulted in his scheduled fight going to another actor. However what really caught my attention was Lafontaine’s role in 2008’s Role Models which is easily the most widely-seen example of LARPing captured on film.

Lafontaine was brought onto Role Models by its stunt coordinator Jeff Imada. The battle scenes at the end of the movie were filmed at Disney Ranch and Lafontaine worked on the film for two weeks. Working with foam weapons was a change for Lafontaine, who grew up surrounded by ancient and medieval weapons through his father’s work for the Met in New York City. As for his own role models, Lafontaine ranks the stunt work of Vic Armstrong, Bob Anderson, and Terry Leonard quite highly. Like many of the other WMA enthusiasts I spoke to before Combat Con, Lafontaine was also fond of The Duellists as far as cinematic duels, pointing to the small sword duel at the beginning of the film as his favorite onscreen duel.

Lafontaine took the time to explain some of the basics of the business side of Hollywood stuntwork to me, specifically how a stunt coordinator can subcontract out stuntwork to other coordinators who might in turn train actors or other stuntmen to choreograph a fight. Watching Deadliest Warrior after Combat Con 2012, I was pleasantly surprised to see Lafontaine appear on the French Musketeer team in the Musketeer vs. Ming Warrior episode, firing the flintlock musket and wielding the rapier and main gauche combination. Speaking about the French Musketeer Lafontaine boasts, “There’s a lot of lace, a lot of velvet, and feathers in your hats. You think rock stars get a lot of women? You have no idea the Musketeers’ reputation for pulling in the ladies and being badasses.” As Deadliest Warrior’s Property/Weapons Foreman David Baker had mentioned before Combat Con, he knows many of the specialists on the show from the world of Western Martial Arts and tries to bring on experienced and knowledgeable experts, but sometimes an “expert” is cast because he happens to be the right ethnicity. In the case of Lafontaine though, despite his French roots being spot on, he is the real deal. Lafontaine’s credits include Iron Man, Beowulf, Green Hornet, and The Adventures of Tintin.

Lafontaine heads War Studios and took the time for me to get some of his thoughts on Role Models, Karate Kid, and LARPing on camera. David Baker makes a special guest appearance at the beginning as well.

Dark Legacy: The Rising at Gen Con This Week

Bryan Tillman standing before a vinyl hanging at Comic-Con in San Diego promoting Dark Legacy

Bryan “Kaiser” Tillman at SDCC 2012

One of the products that will be available at Gen Con this week in Indianapolis is the card game Dark Legacy: The Rising from Kaiser Studio Productions. A smaller production that has been in the works for a few years now, Dark Legacy combines RPG elements with more traditional CCG/TCG ones to create a fusion game. Fusion also describes the game’s setting as it blends swords and sorcery, ninjas, technology, guns, and the elements. Spell cards have a fixed cost and are cast using spell points which are randomly determined by rolling a d20. Each turn a player may choose to roll the d20 and cast spells OR whether to attack with the player’s character and any summoned allies.

The mind behind Dark Legacy and Kaiser Studios is Bryan “Kaiser” Tillman. We spoke at Comic-Con back in July and recorded an interview with some of his thoughts on the game. We also played through the game for about 10 minutes and I got a feeling for how complex Dark Legacy can be. At such a small level, Tillman does all of the sorting of the random packs of cards himself, which are divided up into Commons, Uncommons, Rares, and Uber-Rares.

Privateer Press at SDCC 2012: Will Shick Talks Level 7, Gen Con, and More

28mm Warmachine Retribution figures in a glass case at Comic-Con 2012

Retribution of Scyrah Warmachine Miniatures at Comic-Con 2012

Privateer Press has become something of a mainstay at Comic-Con. Games Workshop has not been seen since 2004 at the latest, though Will Wheaton notably noticed GW’s presence back in 2000 or 2001 when they were promoting their Lord of the Rings miniatures game. This year at Comic-Con I couldn’t even find a WizKids booth promoting HeroClix, so Privateer Press was it in terms of any kind of miniatures company.

Human-sized statue of Ironclad Warjack from Privateer Press at Comic-Con 2012

“Big Blue” the Ironclad Defends the PP Booth

With them they brought their Cygnar Ironclad statue, which is not quite life-size, but which they refer to as “Big Blue”. Big Blue debuted in 2011, but still gets some gearheads quite steamy, but Privateer Press also delivered the goods for fans of Huge bases, showing off the company’s newish Colossal figures in the glass display cases lining the booth. Inside games of Heap and Warmachine were being demoed. One of the big advantages of visiting Privateer Press at Comic-Con is access to prerelease miniatures before the general gaming public can get them. Another is the opportunity to actually meet most of the creative forces within the Bellevue, WA-based company. Company owner and Chief Creative Officer Matt Wilson can oftentimes be found in the booth along with a handful of creative underlings, as well as another handful of Pressgangers recruited to demo games. You also don’t have to feel rushed: 99% of the Comic-Con population isn’t there for Warmachine, Hordes, or Monsterpocalypse. I imagine at Gen Con that it’s a different story.

Modular playing tiles for Privateer Press's Level 7 Escape Board Game in a glass display case at Comic-Con 2012

Survival-Horror Board Game Level 7 Escape on Display at the Privateer Press Booth

Level 7 Escape, Privateer Press’s new board game and part of its new Level 7 intellectual property, will be available at Gen Con in Indianapolis as a pre-release. The science fiction game was also on display in the glass case though I don’t think it was being demoed. The game uses cardboard standees to represent the players as they flee a facility. theco-operatives.com has a lot of great information on Level 7 from an interview they did with Will Shick, Director of Business and Brands for Privateer Press.

I also recorded an interview with Will Shick myself. He highlighted the upcoming Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy RPG, which uses a 2d6 mechanic just as Hordes and Warmachine do. He also said that at Gen Con, Privateer Press will “have plenty to see, plenty to do, and a lot of surprises.” He answers questions in the video below about his background with Privateer Press, the statues of the Ironclad and the Iron Lich, his own armies, and how Warmachine compares to Hordes in terms of popularity, as well as explaining how the armies and forces for the Warmachine Two Player Starter set were chosen.

Comic-Con 2012 Hasbro Terrain Inspiration

For a number of years Hasbro, the manufacturer of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Star Wars, and My Little Pony toys, has shown off the latest G.I. Joe and Cobra action figures in its booth at Comic-Con. Hasbro employees or contractors pose the figures in elaborate dioramas and this year I believe they had at least four separate scenarios being enacted behind the glass cases. I contacted Hasbro to find out who built the dioramas and for details about their construction, but never heard back from the huge, global toy company.

The Cobra Installation

Two vignettes really caught my attention. The first is obviously a Cobra installation with Cobra Commander and his lieutenants Storm Shadow and Destro surveying the Cobra troops. Two Decepticons have bolstered the Cobra ranks. During the 80s and 90s, there were occasional crossovers between the two toy franchises in the Marvel comic books. The modeler or modelers have created a very convincing layout with a number of flat surfaces weathered to show a little exhaust and grime. While the red translucent cases and their loading carts come from the Comic-Con exclusive release of the H.I.S.S. Tank/Shockwave, most of the building seems to be scratch-built, using pieces of cardstock or styrene to create texture.

Diorama at the 2012 Hasbro booth at Comic-Con with GI Joe action figures lined up in a huge Cobra facility

I spot Iron Grenadiers, some new B.A.T.s (Battle Android Troopers), Alley Vipers, a regular Viper, a Night Viper, the Shockwave H.I.S.S. and Starscream, I believe. I love the stenciled Cobra logo on the floor.

Red Cobra stencil on floor of detailed diorama in the Hasbro Booth at 2012 Comic-Con showing Cobra Commander and Transformers

I am a little surprised that the modeler(s) didn’t add activity on the monitors for the two Cobra members on duty at the right, simply by printing out a miniaturized scene from a cartoon or comic. They also do not appear to be Tele-Vipers, which would have been extra cool. Their searchlights though probably do swivel. Can you spot the Soundwave in the picture? Who is he ejecting?

Looking down on Starscream and Shockwave as a H.I.S.S. in a GI Joe diorama at Comic-Con

Ninja Bridge Battle

The other diorama that also looked realistic to me (and therefore inspiring for building terrain for wargaming) was this Ninja Bridge Battle which seems to come straight from the second movie, Retaliation. If you have not seen the GI Joe: Retaliation trailer, these ninjas will have an aerial battle, anchored by ropes, on a mountainside in the film, battling against Snake Eyes and his team, including the yellow and black-clad ninja, Jinx. GI Joe: Retaliation‘s release date has been pushed back to March 29, 2013. These enemy ninjas are called Red Ninjas in the comic books appropriately enough.

Red Ninja action figures from GI Joe by a building and bridge at the Hasbro Comic-Con 2012 booth

The one criticism I have of this vignette is the choice of red to fill in some of the grout in the stonework. I gather that it is supposed to be blood, but if it is, the splatter is curiously not sticking to the stone faces, but instead running into the cracks. The building at the end of the bridge appears to be a straightforward construct, but the addition of the black trimming partway up makes it more believable. The clay tiles on the roof look good and 28mm modelers can achieve the same with the Hirst Arts Clay Tile Roof Mold.

Red Ninjas lay dead or falling in a bridge attack action figure vignette from Hasbro with a grey mountain backdrop

It’s scenes like these that had me playing with GI Joes throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, but back then we were limited to catalogue pictures that were nowhere near as imaginative with their environments. Similarly wargaming scenery brimming with castles, cobblestone streets, and lush forests drew me into Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40K.