Category Archives: Creatures

Fee Fi Fo Fum

…I smell the blood of a LEGO microfigure!

The fairytale of Jack and the Beanstalk makes a great subject for a LEGO model, but the story itself always bothered me. I mean, Jack’s obviously the hero, and Englishman-eating giants are obviously bad news (though possibly not if you’re French). But Jack is stupid.

I can forgive him being lazy and not liking to work. Who does? I can overlook his ecological vandalism and thievery. I can overlook the fact that the giant (and Jack) are walking around in a house built up in the clouds. But if you think that five pretty-coloured beans offered by a random stranger equal the value of one solid and milk-producing cow, you probably respond to all those Nigerian email scams.

Jack and his mother’s cottage

Of course, this is a typical fairytale trope. The useless-looking magic beans or battered old lamp or what have you are actually the most valuable of things and the key to great wealth – if you have the wit to avail yourself of it. In the real world it seldom works out that way. The mega jackpot winner could be you, but the chances are that you’ve just spent your money for nothing.

One giant-sized minifig

Still, the beanstalk makes a nice subject for a model, and I’ve actually got enough of those bamboo segments that I can build something like this without even using all of them. I broke out the Minotaurus microfigures again for Jack, trying all four available colours. Blue seemed like the best colour at first, tying into nursery rhymes like Little Boy Blue and so on. But it’s not all that visible against the green of the beanstalk. Red is nice and bright, but bean flowers are red, and I’ve got those on the beanstalk as well. Yellow is distinctive, but so many LEGO minifigures have yellow skin that he looks kind of naked. And yellow just isn’t a very Jack the Giant-Killer colour. So I tried white, but he’s just close enough to the overhead cloud that it looks weird. Blue it is, then.

Blue just seems like the right colour for Jack the Giant-Killer

I may do a whole series of fairytale builds, if I can think of enough that haven’t been turned into Disney films. And that’s not as easy as you might think.

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But Still They Come

Ul-Gzan Martian War Tripod

Now, now, Lieutenant!” Miss Francine Oberon said primly, readying her custom-designed heat-ray carbine. “The proper term for the cephalopoid natives is ‘Ul-Gzan’, not ‘Cuttlemonkeys’.”

Yes, Miss,” Lieutenant Ent Prescott grunted. Cuttlemonkeys they were and Cuttlemonkeys they would remain to anyone who had fought against the vicious, implacably hostile alien monstrosities. He wished he had a thermophoric cannon instead of this old-style six-pounder artillery piece; the Ul-Gzan were reputed to have one of their tripods operating in the area, and despite its importance to the Empire, Professor Oberon’s tiny independent scientific outpost was simply too remote to get much in the way of physical defences.

Ent Prescott (short for “Enterprise”) looked around at his decidedly inadequate defences. One antique six-pounder cannon, not even having the decency to be a proper modern heat-ray weapon, presided over by one slightly over-aged Royal Artillery Lieutenant. One sword-wielding Asiatic mercenary, even more useless against a tripod than a single six-pounder. One Professor Oberon’s daughter, fancying herself an adventuress, armed with a rather nice-looking heat-ray rifle and decanted into trousers rather than the natural dresses of her sex. Oh, and a pair of Stiltmen.

Enterprise had known that the Stiltmen of the region were allied to the Empire, and the battery’s commanding officer Captain Holcombe had rated them as fine fighters, but he was rather dubious. For all their gigantic height, Stiltmen were built like twigs and looked incredibly fragile, and these two didn’t even seem to have any weapons. What could they possibly do against a tripod – throw rocks at it?

What he wouldn’t give for a company of clockwork power-suited ticktockmen, or a half-squadron of mechs, or even a Mkai sepoy regiment!

Suddenly, a great sinkhole opened right in front of Professor Oberon’s outpost, and the dreaded three-legged fighting machine of the subterranean Ul-Gzan rose up higher than a house, higher than the dome of St. Nathaniel’s Cathedral in New Surrey. Powered by some kind of unfathomable crystal technology that some of the six Martian native species used but which none of them seemed to remotely understand or be able to duplicate, the War Tripod of the Ul-Gzan was the only native fighting machine that could rival the steam technology of Man. And here they were without most of that technology.

Manning his gun and thankful for its clockwork autoloading mechanism, Lieutenant Prescott opened fire on the tripod, as Miss Oberon stood guard with her heat-ray rifle and the Asiatic mercenary Shang-Yao Ping drew his longsword. A lucky shot at one of the leg joints might disable the war machine, bring it down, but the joints were notoriously difficult to hit. A narrow funnel rose from the roof of the tripod, unfolding as it did so, and Ent paled. It looked to be only a heavy rifle-calibre weapon, but what imbecilic, never-sufficiently-to-be-cursed traitor had sold the Cuttlemonkeys a heat-ray?

Over to one side, the Stiltmen were advancing on the tripod, palms outward like massively elongated policemen trying to order the rogue machine to halt. Lt. Prescott couldn’t see what that would accomplish, but the Cuttlemonkeys’ machine checked its advance, stabilised itself on all three legs and swivelled to face the new threat rather than dealing with the already-firing Human cannon. A flash of light erupted from the Stiltmen’s hands (he supposed he should call them Ojads. Professor Oberon’s daughter would probably like it) in a blinding ray that leaped toward the body of the tripod, and Ent Prescott understood. The Stiltmen didn’t carry weapons because Providence had equipped them with natural weapons as good as any Human-built thermophoric.

Filled with the energy of a sudden upsurge of new hope, the Lieutenant fired again…

~~~

Last time I played around with a steampunk Mars (in a story on the old LEGO Message Boards), it was the humans that used the tripods, and they were steam-driven.

This time around I decided to restore them to the Martians. They are a very unearthly form of locomotion; nothing in this world travels about on three legs. It seemed to make more sense than giving them to Mankind.

With six native species – as I blithely announced in the backstory to Major Galbraith’s Sapping Machine – I have a lot of decisions to make as to what they are like and how they all live. And what the humans call them; the age recalled and perfected in the steampunk genre was one of racial epithets and colonialism. “Cuttlemonkeys” seemed like a good nickname for a race of implacably hostile land-dwelling squids, while the Stiltmen basically named themselves.

Anyway, the “Martian War Machine versus Human Artillery” should strike a chord for those familiar with the War of the Worlds, but this time around the humans have alien sepoy reinforcements!

Ice Dragon 2002

Not my first combination of dragons and space, but definitely my most draconic, this is obviously a dragon of the old Ice Planet 2002 theme.

Ninjago has given us plenty of “elemental dragons” of all sorts of elements including ice, and in the past I’ve personally built “elemental dragons” of Steampunk (on the defunct LEGO Galleries, alas) and Classic Space. I had some ideas about building a Blacktron space dragon (which served as a partial inspiration for the Dragon-class Blacktron battlecruiser) but I’d never considered an Ice Planet elemental dragon before.

Until now.

The Elemental Dragon of Krysto is much more definitely a dragon than the fusional Classic Space variety, with a rider rather than a cockpit and those moulded dragon feet elements on its four legs. Still, Ice Planet 2002 did have a lot of open-cockpit vehicles, so I felt less need to enclose the crewman.

Sized about like the Jay’s Lightning Dragon or the first Zane’s Ice Dragon, about the only concessions to space vehiclehood here are the shoulder-mounted rocket engines and the bits of ice saw and skis at the end of the tail.

Still, you couldn’t mistake it for anything but an Ice Planet dragon with its colours and Celestial Christmas Pudding logos.

I’m fairly pleased with how this turned out, even with the CCBS elements on the neck and tail rather than being exclusively built. That shouldn’t really feel like a cheat, but somehow it does a bit.

Mynock

As a trained biologist, few of the various Star Wars creatures give me as much pause as the space creature in which the Millennium Falcon hides from the Imperial fleet.

While I suppose a vacuum-dwelling organic creature is theoretically possible, it raises all sorts of questions, particularly given what we see of the thing. Obviously it doesn’t need to breathe, but what does it eat? How does it attract its prey? How does it travel through space? Find a mate? Reproduce? Poop?

I could totally see a solar-powered space-dwelling creature, but this one lives in an asteroid belt at what looks like a considerable distance from its star. How does it get its energy? Organic fusion reactors?

By comparison, the mynocks that inhabit its innards are positively practical. Some sort of parasitic winged lamprey equivalent, drinking power from the space creature and any passing spaceships.

There’s evidently enough atmosphere within the space creature to sustain Han, Chewie and Leia with only a breather unit, so wings actually make sense as a form of locomotion. And maybe they’re not exclusively native to space creature gullets.

I could see them as being some kind of planetary creature that drinks electrical power, probably parasitic on some kind of large lifeform that makes use of bioelectricity. Even on Earth there are several creatures that make use of electricity: the electric eel, the platypus…

All well and good so far, but we also need the proto-mynock to be able to survive for some time in a vacuum. It’s not a vacuum-dweller by design: it has wings. But if it can at least survive vacuum on the outside of a starship for a few days then they could have spread all over the place, “chewing on the power cables”, as Han says. The mynocks inside the space creature would have been presumably brought on a previous spacecraft meal, and now subsist as parasites on the creature itself.

That’s my theory, anyway. Wookiepedia probably has a different one, but Wookiepedia’s xenobiological descriptions offend every scientific plausibility bone in my body, so I’m reluctant to give them much weight.

Anyway, apparently continuing with my reimaginings of Star Wars creatures, I built a large mynock model.

This one’s mostly black, rather than the pinkish shade of the ones from The Empire Strikes Back, so it’s either a related species (like there’s not only a single species of deer or a single species of vulture) or just a reimagining.

Black would make it harder to see in the cavelike environment within the space creature, but if you live in a completely dark cave who cares about vision? Most Terrestrial cave creatures are pure white. Mynocks do have eyes, though, which is an indication that they live in environments other than the dark inside of a space beast. Maybe they’re naturally black, and the ones in the belly of the beast have lost pigmentation in the darkness.

I got the idea to build a mynock from that Bionicle/CCBS tail element. I acquired it at the beginning of the year thinking I might use it on a Blacktron variant of my Classic Space Elemental Dragon or something. Apparently it’s “or something”. Here’s my black mynock, and a few musings about its potential xenobiology.

O For A Muse Of Fire…

My son wanted to rebuild his prized Green NRG Dragon set, and he made the request that I build a similar-sized dragon for Kai, the Red Ninja of fire.

Kai’s Elemental Fire Dragon

It’s been a while since I built a dragon, and Kai’s my favourite of the Ninja (unless it’s his sister Nya), so I thought I’d have a go.

The Green NRG Dragon has a rather nice scaly belly look on the lower frontal section, and part of my thinking was to see if I could make an extended version of that which would cover basically the entire underbelly. That’s where this model started, and I built it up from there.

Note the scaly belly. Try to ignore the unfinished-looking underwings.

The head is large and impressive, but quite heavy for those poor balljoints and tends to sag if not posed very carefully. Clickstop universal joints would have alleviated this tendency, but they make for a longer and less flexible joint that would have detracted from the look of the build and made posing more of a challenge anyway. I posed its head very carefully.

I liked the “unusualness factor” of the wyvern bodyplan on the Green NRG Dragon, but I prefer my dragons to have four legs, so that’s how I built this one. The front feet look less than fully stellar when he’s posed rearing up on his back legs to expose that snakelike belly, but maybe I could build a set of alternate front feet that are more handlike, and swap them out like the extra stud shooter hand of the Clayface Splat Attack set (replacing that hammer hand).

The head has ended up with rather a Smauglike look, which wasn’t planned but I liked the way it was shaping up so I went with it. A bit nasty-looking for our heroic Ninja, perhaps, but it does work well for a big red dragon.

The last time Kai had an official dragon he had to share it with his sister, so it’s been a while since he’s had his own dragon. And I don’t think Nya’s had a full-on Elemental Dragon of Water of her very own (unshared with her pyrotechnic brother, I mean) yet. We don’t have a lot of Nya’s lighter blue, though, so building her a dragon on this scale would be challenging.

Old Man Willow

If January is anything to go by, this year seems to be the year in which I develop my weakest building areas.

I’ve built a couple of minifig-scale building interiors, and I consider that an area of weakness. Last week at the Grand Opening of the Rogue Brick building lounge I built a piece of architecture for the adults competition, and I’ve historically considered that a relatively weak area even though previous architectural microbuilds have been well-received. (I didn’t win, even though I may have invented a new technique to make the columns around the dome. Oh well).

And now, trees.

Old Man Willow

I’ve been getting more confident at trees, but I still don’t feel like I’m really good at it. But I was re-reading The Lord of the Rings the other day for the umpteenth time and I had an idea that I should attempt an Old Man Willow build.

Old Man Willow is, obviously, part of the Tom Bombadil sequence; one of the first challenges the hobbits face on their journey to Rivendell, and one they face with the aid of neither Gandalf nor Strider. A black-hearted tree spirit dwelling on the banks of the Withywindle and holding large swaths of the Old Forest under his grim sway, he proves a greater challenge than the hobbits’ meager strength, and they have to be rescued from his clutches by the mysterious and fan-beloved Tom Bombadil.

As the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring completely skipped over the whole of the Tom Bombadil sequence, I’m free to do pretty much whatever I like without fear of anyone complaining that it doesn’t look like it did in the movie.

When done well, film adaptations of well-loved books are great. You finally get the excitement of seeing what before could only exist in your mind’s eye.

But even the best film adaptations conform to someone else’s vision, and I have to say I think we often tend to forget that.

I personally think the film got the look and feel of Rivendell wrong, but such is the power of visual media that if I were to build my imagination’s Rivendell I’d undoubtedly get comments about it being “inaccurate”.

Maybe I’m not trying to build Peter Jackson’s version of the Last Homely House, nitwit! Did you think of that, eh?

Anyway, I don’t have to be concerned with that in an Old Man Willow build, because none of that whole sequence made it into the films. Though if I’d tried to include any of the hobbits I’d undoubtedly get told off for getting them “wrong”. Don’t have any official LotR minifigs yet.

I borrowed the pendulous willow branch technique from this build by Cyndi Bourne, who has a lot more leaf elements than I do and can really do it justice. Yet another thing to add to the endless Bricklink wishlist…

Still, I have enough to at least give a decent impression of the look of a willow tree.

I would have liked to make more of a face in the trunk, but that made the trunk so tall that you lost the effect of overhanging branches. Thus, a pair of eyes only.

I initially went for green eyes as most appropriate to a vegetative spirit, but they didn’t look quite right t so I swapped them out for orange, which is subtler but looks much better.

And then I had to try and make Tom Bombadil.

“Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow”, we’re told, but while we can do a bright blue jacket courtesy of either Jay or my Classic blue astronaut or my son’s Minecraft Steve, yellow boots are beyond my current inventory’s capability.

Anyway, there it is. I think my first Lord of the Rings-related build, and it’s a tree.

How To Train Your LEGO

As either the last build of 2017 or the first of 2018 (built in one year but posted in the other) I decided to have a go at another dragon.

And a specific dragon, for a change: the winged reptile that makes jet-black look cute – Toothless the Night Fury, from the How To Train Your Dragon films.

Toothless soaring over Berk, my version

Toothless’ wide, flat head and big green eyes are pretty distinctive, and I’ve done what I can to reproduce them at something close to minifigure scale. Close enough that I decided to incorporate a saddle and make a minifigure Hiccup using young Luke Skywalker’s head with real-Kai’s hair.

Then, remembering the lessons learned in last year’s Ninja and Dragon build and struck with an idea of how to make a halfway decent tiled roof for a Berk townhouse, I decided to go to town on the scenery.

The little hut I built is really too small to be an actual house and too open in front to be much of anything, but it does its job of making an interesting scenery counterpoint to my aerial Toothless, complete with a Viking maiden with an axe and a shield, possibly Astrid. If I had more 1×2 curve slopes I’d have made the roof slope longer and at a steeper angle like the houses in Hiccup’s village, but nevertheless I’m quite pleased with the technique.

Berk townhouse

Toothless is fully poseable, except that the wings don’t fold up. But the only fully-foldable LEGO dragon wings of my direct experience are on the Green NRG Dragon, and green-and-gold just wouldn’t be right on Toothless. Besides, they are too big for a model at this scale.

I think my favourite part of the dragon bit of this build is the way I did Toothless’ large-pupilled eyes, but I do wish I could have figured out a way to give him an opening jaw that looked remotely right. I tried a couple of things but nothing was working; Toothless’ thin lower jaw is very hard to get right at this scale. In the end I decided to make him Mouthless. He does spend an awfully huge amount of time with his mouth closed.

A bright red 2×4 wing element would have looked better as Toothless’ missing tail fin, but I only have 2x3s in bright red and they looked wrong, so we have dark red. It’s the only piece of significant wrong colour, though, so I’m happy. I only wish they made 1×2 balljoint holders in black.

Top-down view