Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Start as you mean to go on

Start as you mean to go on. Wise words. Great words. Maybe even words to live by. But certainly words that I'm about to completely ignore. See, this is the inaugural post on Torva Tenebris, and I really wanted this blog to be about miniatures and conversions from the darkly gothic universe of Warhammer 40,000. I wanted to use the blog to explore and share my clumsy fumblings with the hobby side of WH40K. I was going to try to cover product reviews, tools, techniques, ideas, conversions and anything else of marginally justifiable significance that may happen to cross my deranged and deluded mind.

But instead of starting with some pictures of tiny plastic soldiers, I'm going straight off-topic and talking about the galaxy's greatest comic, 2000AD. Specifically the lawman of the future, Judge Dredd. Even more specifically, the Dredd of the Karl Urban, Pete Travis and Alex Garland film.

Generally Dredd was a good film. But I didn't fall in love with it the way many other fans seemed to. I don't want to go into it now, so perhaps I'll try to explore this in another post at some point in the future, and maybe, while I'm at it, also talk briefly about the film's predecessor, Danny Cannon's Judge Dredd starring Sly Stallone. 

What I do want to say right now, is that just like every other 2000AD fanboy, I was very upset that Dredd didn't make enough money to get the sequel we were hoping for. And that brings me to why I'm starting this 40K blog with a post about 2000AD. Although the film never got it's sequel - or at least hasn't got its sequel at the time of writing (I live in hope) -  the story has managed to continue in a couple of spin-off comic book sequels. Sequels which have now been collected together in the hardback graphic novel Dredd: Urban Warfare.

The sequel comics are set in what seems to be a slightly lower-tech Mega-City One than the original strip, with a more brutal, realistic edge. This is clearly following the lead set by the film  - where the decision to make the city less extravagant came about partly to keep costs down, and partly to trickle feed new audiences into Joe Dredd's crazy world through more familiar surroundings. The idea being, as I understood it, that as the movie sequels moved outside the Peach Trees habitation block they would have introduced the more outlandish elements of life in the future metropolis (and beyond).

The graphic novel contains 3 stories. The short prequel On Top Of The World, Ma-Ma, written by Matt Smith and illustrated by Henry Flint and Chris Blythe; the first sequel Underbelly, written by Arthur Wyatt and again illustrated by Henry Flint and Chris Blythe; and the second sequel Uprise, written by Arthur Wyatt, but this time illustrated by Paul Davidson and Chris Blythe. They all look great, but special mention has to go to Henry Flint. The man can do no wrong. He somehow seems to reference the styles of all the best 2000AD artists (or art droids) to have ever graced a page with their ink since the comic's first appearance in the 70s, yet still manage to make his work look both fresh and unique.

And one of the things he does particularly well is the Judges' uniforms. 

The Dredd movie took the uniforms from the comic and applied a bit of Batman Begins thought process to the whole ensemble, actually going back to the comic's roots in the process.

Early Dredd was based on a cross between a bike cop and an executioner

Gone were the giant shoulder pads of latter-day Dredd (Alex Garland said the huge, metallic eagle would have kept catching on curtains - with trails of fabric following Judges around wherever they went), and in came tighter pads - looking like a cross between biker gear and body armour. The holster was moved up the thigh to make the lawgiver easier to reach, and the skin-tight onesie was turned to leather - again like a biker - with more body armour liberally added to finish the whole thing off. In my opinion the finished look was the best incarnation of a Judge we've ever had. Lots of fans complained the helmets looked a little too big, but in Henry Flint's graphic interpretation there is definitely no such issue.

Where that's left me, after the last few days spent reading this comic, is with a burning desire to start a new hobby project.

When 40K was still in its infancy it took ideas from existing sci-fi and incorporated them into its own grim, dark mythology. Like a Tyranid hive fleet consuming everything in its path, Warhammer 40,000 subsumed the giant robots of Battletech and Japanese Manga and spat them back out as Titans. It looked at Dune, and came up with the God Emperor, and the sprawling Imperium, it took the power-armoured armies of classic military science fiction (like Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers), combined them with the silhouette of Games Workshop's own fantasy Chaos Warriors and the Space Marines were born. And it clearly saw the Judges of Mega-City One as inspiration for the Adeptus Arbites. Anyone can see that arbites is pretty much arbiter, which is just another word for judge.

So all of that preamble is a long-winded, round-about way of saying that my first project on this blog will be to try to build some Adeptus Arbites Enforcers, based on the excellent, new-look judges of Alex Garland, Pete Travis, Henry Flint and the rest. Watch this space.

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