Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Strange, Strange Story of Zombie Plague.

Zombie Plague has been a constant in my life for over twelve years. It has been a blast at times and a struggle during others. First created during my college years as a fun, fast board game of zombie goodness it was originally conceived as an old fashioned board game, the kind that your family kept in the top of the hall closet in a long, flat box. The closet that smelled odd because of the coats and boots stored there. It was meant to be a game that you could take down and play easily because everyone already knew the rules. While it has yet to reach this form it has become so much more.

I think the first time I started thinking about it was when Allen Thomas, co creator of Wargods of Aegyptus, was watching a game of Space Hulk at The Game Preserve. At that time I was prone to giving all night movie parties called Zombie Fests so I had zombies on the brain. Eww. Allen mentioned that this sort of game could be adapted to use zombies. And the bulbs started clicking on in my head.

I wrangled Skott Kilander into working with me on a simple rules set (that he pretty much created) and somehow Tom Sawyered the Rodman Brothers at Fortress Figures into sculpting and casting a line of miniatures for it. Ben and Jeff Rodman went to town coming up with character zombie concepts that are still funny, Matt the laying down zombie, Skip the legless zombie etc. Ben started pushing putty and soon there was a whole horde of the undead waiting to be taken out onto the board. I had one human character that I knew I wanted to use, Crissy Hot-Rod, and Jeff and Ben came up with a cheerleader with a chainsaw that we called Chelsea. Timmy came from a project I was working on in college about a kid who couldn't hit a baseball because he needed glasses. And John was the standard tough guy.
The cover to the original PDF.
Original Crissy mini sculpted by Ben Rodman and painted by Marike Reimer.
I talked some of my artist friends into doing illustrations and Skott drew a map based on his apartment. Kathy Earwood laid the whole thing out and we were in business. Or so we thought.

The biggest problem back then was that the internet that I needed to promote ZP was not fully formed enough yet. My idea was to create a free to download game that would get so popular that we would start making money on the sale of miniatures for it. Jeff put it online via the Fortress Figures site, I created a Cafe Press store and then it seemed to sink quietly into oblivion. I still had my game set and would drag it out occasionally to play at parties, explaining how someday I would have the money to really make a great version of it. But the money never came and the game sat stagnant.

Until Rob Robinson created a Yahoo Group for ZP. I somehow found or was invited to this group and realized that people still seemed to like this little punk rock game that we'd created. It was translated into several different languages. The "open license" copyright that we stuck on it allowed for creative gamers to come up with maps, cards, and new rules that in some cases put our initial version to shame. I am still amazed at how it was embraced and enjoyed by people all over the world. Rob has been very generous with his help with ZP ever since and I truly appreciate his support of the game, attention to detail, and keen ability to find rules issues.

Although I saw that there was interest in ZP I still didn't have the resources to make it into something more finished and whole. Since it's creation I had started telling myself a mental story about the kids that were featured in the game. Crissy was tough and resourceful, John was stoic yet protective of the others. Timmy was determined and Chelsea? Well when Chelsea picked up her chainsaw she was just plain crazy. I wanted to tell these kids' story but still didn't have the means to do so.
The evolution of Crissy. The name came from one of my lab managers at Lenscrafters and his need to give everyone a nickname. One of the other staff was zipping around the lab and thus became Little Chrissy Hot Rod. I kept the name in my memory and then based the character on my friend Maria. Tank Girl meets Warhammer 40K.
Original Zombie Plague comic concept by Jae Gordon.
Another version by Kurt Metz. Around 2008(?)

By Phibbz Abando. 

Then I started working with Ronda Pattison. Ronda is one of the most prolific comic book colorists in the industry and soon became my close friend and business partner. We decided to create a company to publish our own games and comics and when she asked me what ideas I had I told her about Zombie Plague. She saw ZP as being more whole and ready to work with than my other ideas so we kicked into gear to produce it.

By this time Kickstarter was becoming more useable so we decided to fund not only a comic about the four kids but also revamp the rules. Thus began one of the most stressful and rewarding years of my life as we first promoted ZP on Kickstarter and then worked to make it real. The artist Phibbz Abando came onboard and started cranking out pages to tell the story of ZP in a double sized comic that seemed to stretch in pages every time I re-wrote it. There were some speed bumps with the Kickstarter campaign but eventually these were rolled over and the project kept moving forward. Ronda's belief in me and the project was unshakeable and I'll never be able to repay her for her constant support.

Some of the promo stuff from the Kickstarter campaign:

My friend Annie makes for a very creepy-cute zombie.
Luckily the spirit of El Santo helped push the Kickstarter campaign along to victory!
El Santo has a rocket pack. I want a rocket pack.
Yes I was even willing to threaten my puppet self for a little ballyhoo.
The story that I've tried to tell with Zombie Plague is pretty simple. What happens when the world goes crazy and you have to rely on yourself and your friends to get out if it? I've wanted to do a zombie comic ever since reading Dead World back in 1987. The few issues that I managed to find back then changed my perception of comics as a medium both in art and in story telling. Main characters died man! That stuff just wasn't really common in my minimal experience. But Dead World was Dead World and I didn't feel the need to reinvent the wheel. Instead I worked with my friend Sean Bellinger on a weird horror comic called Tripe and drew my own classic comic, Nuke-O The Wonder Mutant in Quest for Beer. Both of these only published via our Publication department's photo-copier.

Dead World by Kerr and Locke.
Overall I've grown pretty tired of the most common zombie story. Zombies show up, eat some people, and everybody becomes a jerk to each other. I wanted characters who cared about each other and who would put themselves at risk to save their friends. Deciding on this point made writing the story very easy, these kids would stick together and not devolve into a soap opera squabble-fest.
From Zombie Plague: The Day From Hell
Somehow enough people reached into their hearts and Paypal accounts so that the Kickstarter campaign was successful. These folks are my heroes. And I finally got to write my zombie story. The comic came together with the help of Phibbz Abando and Ryan Howe. My adopted brother Matt Zimmerman helped with the map and everything else. You can pick up an issue here.

I reworked the rules with Rob Robinson's help and included those in the comic. I still wanted to keep some of the feel of the original ZP so I made all of the map pieces, game, cards etc available on our website for free download.

Now we are running another Kickstarter to create new miniatures for Zombie Plague. I'm able to work with one of my favorite miniature sculptors, John Winter, and I've been amazed by the response to the campaign so far. I can't wait to see what John comes up with for the other three characters, they're going to be something special.

New Crissy mini sculpted by John Winter.

Painted by Tracey Taylor.
So that's where ZP currently stands. Or shambles. Or whatever. There's still more stories to tell about the four kids from Appleton High and I'd love to see the miniature line continue to expand. And maybe someday there will be a long flat box in the top of the hall closet just waiting to be taken down and played. Hopefully it'll be fun and easy because everybody already knows the rules.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Trash Bashing a Sci-Fi Vehicle From Start to Finish: Part 3

Final Painting! After gluing a bunch of stuff together it's time for the magic to happen. When I prime a new trash bash project I often forget what it was made of in the first place. The primary colored plastic melds into one cohesive object that can then be painted without any concern for what the parts began as. Quite simply this step makes me happy. 

I tend to prime all of my terrain and vehicles black as it makes for easier painting overall. Even if I'm painting something red or yellow I prime black and then drybrush the colored areas with white. This makes shading much easier for me since I use dampbrushing to add my colors, especially on a big, clunky vehicle like this.

Once the primer was totally dry I went over the main body with dark red and built up the color by layers, finally ending with very pale red/orange. All of the metal parts were repainted black and then layered with dark metal and finally lighter silver. I added some "Chris Foss" panels to break up the surface and to add more visual interest. The windshield was painted with a gradient to imply transparency and the various lights were painted using the standard gem technique.

I used rub on transfers from the Pine Car Phantom set and a yellow racing stripe to correspond with the yellow number 6's on the sides. The transfers were varnished with Testor's matt varnish and allowed to completely dry. Then I used various Citadel washes to dirty everything up. I added some dark soot along the exhausts by drydrushing dark gray. finally I finished the tires by drybrushing them with gray. I kept the upper body separate from the wheelbase to make this step easier.

Once it's all painted and dry I used a gloss varnish and then the Testor's flat varnish, standard operating procedure for most of my stuff.

Some perps never learn.
So that's it! The Bates Industries Roadpig DX is now ready to hit the mean streets of Mega City 1. I hope you've enjoyed this article and that it inspires you to start collecting and gluing together your own fleet of vehicles. Remember that Trash Bash 2013 will be happening next year so start saving your greeblies! 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shoggoth Jack-O-Lantern

Tekeli-li, tekeli-li...
With Halloween just around the corner I decided that I needed a jack-o-lantern on my porch. I wanted to make something that looked like a shoggoth, Lovecraft's vile slave race so I knew I'd be looking for the most gnarled, warty gourd I could find. I collected several type of eyeballs from the craft store and then went pumpkin shopping.
I found a lovely specimen of Cucurbita maxima 'Brodé d'Galeux Eysines', locally known as a Peanut Pumpkin. This would be my shoggoth. I came home and quickly painted the large eyeballs which were unpainted plaster and then set about trying to carve several perfectly round holes for the eyeballs to fit into.

Inspiration flashed and I grabbed my power drill and some spade drill bits. They tore through the pumpkin with no hesitation and although messy saved me a huge amount of carving time. I placed all of the eyeballs and then drilled a mouth towards the bottom. Voila! The ugly little blighter was finished. Next year I think I'll make a beholder.

This was way too much fun,

Eyeball! Eyeball!
This has already started creeping out the neighborhood kids.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Trash Bashing a Sci -Fi Vehicle From Start to Finish: Part 2.

Now it just comes down to gluing and puttying everything into a nice solid mass. You can see here that I also used various thicknesses of styrene sheet to add panels, a door in the back, and other details. Now is when the real fun of trash bashing starts. Try to get a good overall amount of detail without leaving one area too sparse while overloading another. Although sci-fi vehicle design is often more whimsical than functional try to think about what your vehicle needs and what certain parts can represent. 

The Bates Industries Roadpig DX.
I use primarily cyanoacrylate glue but occasional epoxy glue when required. Milliput yellow-grey is used to fill gaps and sculpt details, like the seal around the cockpit bubble, that I can’t find good bits for. Milliput seems to work better for this than any other modeling putty since it sticks pretty well and can be smoothed with water before sanding once it’s cured. I’ve found that wetting the area that I’m going to apply it to helps it to stick better while trying to blend joins and transitions. 

The rear door, leading to storage and the engine compartment, is scratchbuilt out of styrene. The taillights are plastic hemispheres that I found in the craft section. They usually come with an adhesive on the back but I scraped this off to make sure that super glue would stick. They are based on circles of styrene punched out using a bunch of various sized punches that I’ve collected.

Try to add several layers of detail to heighten visual interest.
For the wheels I used soda caps with their edges sanded smooth and then glued in pairs. The axel housing is just a hunk of balsa wood covered in sheet styrene. I carved out an indentation in the top to allow the rounded container to fit snugly on it. I use balsa wood to build forms like this since it’s quicker than trying to build a whole shape out of styrene and it’s much stronger as well.

A twelve-pack of Diet Mountain Dew gave its life so that this car could roll.
The hubcaps are made using Insta-Mold from Cool Mini or Not. This is a very useful low-temp melting silicone that allows you to make simple castings. I made a master part using a washer and some of the craft hemispheres. These were then cast using various putties. This gives a more regular feel to the piece and is much easier than trying to scratchbuild each part.

This stuff is great for making multiple copies of that one really neat greebly that you only have one of.
All of the parts are glued on and puttied I usually go over it again with medium grit sandpaper before painting. Then I go over it lightly with a damp paper towel to get rid of the worst of the sanding dust. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trash Bashing a Sci -Fi Vehicle From Start to Finish.

Well here we go again. I swore I'd never make another deodorant container vehicle but I went and did it anyway. And this one gave me some ideas for another one. I'm glad summers in Indiana are hot and humid so I can build my stash of raw materials. To revisit my previous trash bash vehicle check here.

This is going to be a road car primarily for Mongoose's Judge Dredd Miniature Game and Gangs of Mega City 1. Big vehicles are great additions to a game as they can be used as terrain, targets, objectives, or combatants. They can remain stationary or be moved each round to create a dangerous traffic pattern that models must maneuver around. Plus they just add to the visual appeal of a futuristic city.

I'm going with a very 1980s style here, big and chunky. This style suits itself to this method of model building since it allows for more cartoony bits to be used. As Diego Diz showed in last year's Trash Bash contest a more finely detailed look can be achieved but he's better at this stuff than I am. 

Diego's winning entry for Trash Bash 2012.
So the first question is what kind of junk to use. Pretty much any reasonably hard plastic can be glued and painted. The softer stuff seems to be more of a problem, shampoo and dish-soap containers and the like, and ping-pong balls are usually a nightmare to cut and glue. But by trial and error combined with cussed determination you can usually find a way to make the best stuff work.
This is how hoarding starts.
The main body of my vehicle will be made from the classic form of an Old Spice Antiperspirant container. After pulling it all apart I scrubbed the parts that I wanted to use with heavy duty de-greaser and then ran them through the dish washer to remove any of the waxy deodorant. Then I scoured the whole part with medium grit sandpaper to help gluing and painting later on.

It’s at this point that I started to design the vehicle in my head. Maybe some quick sketches. Maybe just stacking other parts onto the main body to get an idea of the final shape. Unless you’re trying to replicate an existing design this style of modeling can be very organic and ever changing. Sometimes a shape just won’t work out and needs to be left off. Sometimes one addition will inspire you to add another, and then another. Often the hardest part is knowing when to quit gluing stuff to other stuff.

Some of the parts will need cut up or otherwise modified to fit correctly. I use a Dremel tool and a cutting wheel to quickly hack through the plastic but be careful! You can also use razor saws but I’d avoid hobby or utility knives for most heavier cutting. I used a fine line permanent marker to mark the piece before cutting. Once the cut was made I used sand paper to clean the cut and also to scour the surface. It’s usually easier to sand the surface of each part as you prep it rather than waiting until the whole piece is assembled.

Some parts can be simply disassembled into two equal parts. Toys and model kit parts are often great for this since they are cast in two halves. Micro screwdrivers are often useful to take apart toy parts or other bits like this candy container top.

This capsule, from a Kinder Egg-like candy, will be used to make the driver's cockpit. Here you can see the mess left by the rotary tool and the piece after being sanded and cleaned up.
Since this vehicle will be driving around the mean streets of Mega-City One I tried to make it look solid and give it the comic book design sensibility of 2000 AD stories from the late 1980s. This means big chunky tires and a ridiculous sense of “road bully” attitude.

I usually start by seeing how parts start to fit together and then adjust the overall design based on these sub-assemblies. You’ll be amazed at how well some pieces fit together, almost as if by purposeful design.

Now is when the final design starts to coalesce. You can use blue-tac to temporarily attach parts to get a better idea of what you want before gluing everything down. Train yourself to forget what these bits once were but instead what they look like scaled down. See them only as the plastic forms they are and not as yesterday’s mint container.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Warbot Battle Trooper Mk IV.

It's been a while since I've been able to revisit the Grenadier Miniatures Warbots by John Dennett but I've finally had a chance to finish the Battle Trooper Mk IV. This little fella is pure vintage sci-fi, from his globe-like head to the flared legs. For a warbot meant to fight alongside or against mecha like the Destro Walkers he seems to be lacking a bit in the size department. However the weapon load out of a laser rifle and what I imagine to be some sort of particle cannon implies that while the Battle Trooper might not be able to soak a lot of damage it can deal out plenty.

Like the other Warbots this mini was designed to be used with micro-armor scale games but it also scales up or down really well. With 6mm minis it looks like an imposing, man piloted battlemech. For 15mm and larger it starts to look more like a vintage patrol-bot, designed for use in large numbers and computer controlled. It is a simple design that can be used in a variety of systems and could easily be modified or kit-bashed.

These are currently available from Mirliton in a pack of three minis.

Troops by Rebel Minis.

Trooper conversion using a Wargames Factory Greatcoat Trooper.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Second Helping of Zombie Vixens.

A few more female zombies for Zombie Plague. Thanks to everyone who pointed out that the disc on the Zombie Vixens sprue is a serving tray. Knowing this has inspired me to do a couple of waitress figures, one with an appetizer and one with the main course. 

I can't tell who looks worse.

That's not ketchup.
I also finished the Baywatch lifeguard. I'm not sure about the pose for this one. She looks a bit like she's diving into water but on the lawn of the Zombie Plague house this action looks kind of silly.

Her nose is gone from faceplanting every time she tries to dive.
The horde is slowly growing.
I'm having fun building and painting these but I think I'm going to switch to some of the male zombies. And I'm looking forward to eventually getting some of the Studio Miniatures plastic zombies. I haven't really been knocked out by any of the plastic zombies on the market but I still prefer plastics over metal due to cost and the sheer variety of poses and heads.

Thanks for looking!