Category Archives: Dragons

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.

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The Dragon of the Spaceways

Dragon-class Battlecruiser of the Blacktron Alliance

Ever since I built my Elemental Dragon of Classic Space back in January of 2017, I’ve been contemplating a Blacktron counterpart, but so far I haven’t produced. I’ve made a couple of abortive false starts, but nothing that’s actually any good.

This past week, however, it occurred to me that the hypothetical Elemental Dragon of Blacktron wasn’t the only way to combine Blacktronian spacecraft design with the idea of dragons.

Borrowing some of the more ornamented design ethos of the Sunhawk-class (but with a vastly different actual design), this Blacktron battlecruiser was designed around that decorative dragon’s head form of the upper frontal hull and then took in the bat-wing vanes toward the rear. I was initially half thinking about a raised dragon’s tail at the rear as well, but then I built the ship’s engine section a little differently to what I had thought after those rather Y-Wing styled engines took shape, but then I realised that I could still add the tail so I did.

But it didn’t look as good as I had first hoped so I removed it again.

At 32 1/2 inches long (which this handy LEGO stud calculator calls 103 studs), the Blacktron Dragon-class battlecruiser turns out to actually be a SHIP. I was slightly surprised at this because I’d got hold of the idea from somewhere that 100 studs was 37 1/2 inches, not 31 1/2, so some of my previous SHIPs and near-SHIPs get their stud length estimates revised upwards. The horribly designed Liberator is still 101 studs long (I measured that in studs to begin with), and Dark Pegasus clocks in at 126 studs.

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The Blacktron Alliance’s smaller absolute size compared to its sprawling Federation adversary has made it far more aggressive in its interstellar dealings due to its perception of the size disparity as a disadvantage.

When it comes to large combat ships, however, the size disparity tends to go the other way and pile it on: Blacktron spacedoing dreadnoughts and battlecruisers are often more powerful on a class-by-class basis than their putative Federation Space Fleet counterparts, and almost always proportionally larger to make up for the smaller number of hulls that the Alliance is able to field.

Federation officers going toe to toe with Blacktron dreadnoughts often report the ship size disparity to be somewhat intimidating, and it is perhaps due to awareness of this fact that later Blacktron vessels have the designs that they do, a prime exemplar being the latest generation of Blacktron battlecruisers of the Dragon class.

It should be said, however, that the Blacktron Alliance has always had a more flamboyant design ethos than the stark functionality favoured by the Federation (compare the Federation’s Galaxy Explorer class with the similarly-sized Blacktron Renegade), and many observers see the more ornamental design of the Dragon-class as merely a continuation of that flamboyant attitude.

The class is recogniseable not only for the characteristic dragon’s head design of its upper forward hull, but more importantly for its massive spinal graser weapon system. For more conventional weapons, the Dragons are armed with 2 dreadnought-calibre antimatter accelerators and 12 battlecruiser-calibre laser cannons in dual-mounted turrets, backing these up with smaller secondary weaponry serving as antifighter and antimissile defences.

The initial production run of the Dragon-class currently stands at twelve vessels: Jormundgand, Ouroboros, Tiamat, Smaug, Weng Chiang, Mnementh, Gojira, Quetzalcoatl, Night Fury, Leviathan, Kongyong and Strabo.

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.

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

The Manticore

It’s been a while since I built something that wasn’t space-related. But between my large starships and my Neoclassic Space Vic Vipers and my Blacktron space trucks I’m pretty well spaced out right now, in a manner of speaking.

Mythological creatures are another favourite thing of mine to build, as evidenced by my several dragons (like this one, this one, this one and this one). So I thought I’d have a go at a manticore.

The manticore comes to us from late Greek mythology. It was believed to inhabit Persia and India, and is described as lionlike with a tail full of sharp spikes or quills that it shoots arrowlike at its enemies.

Greek legends don’t really feature the manticore in any tales; it’s one of the few beasts Hercules didn’t encounter. In that, it’s similar to the gryphons that the Greeks believed to inhabit the Scythian steppes.

Dungeons and Dragons and its ilk have interpreted the manticore as a lion with bat wings and a scorpionlike tail, and that’s the pattern I’ve followed. Sometimes the manticore is depicted with a human head or face, but I didn’t think I could manage that without it becoming cartoony.

Hybrid creatures like this are more difficult to pull off than dragons or sea serpents. Dragons can more or less look like anything and no-one can tell you you’re wrong, unless you’re building a specific dragon like Smaug or Saphira. Also, they’re usually scaly and armoured, which is simpler in bricks than shaggy or hairy.

But hybrid creatures use the body parts of specific creatures. If you’re building a creature with a horse’s body, it had better not look like a buffalo, because everyone knows what a horse looks like and how it differs from a buffalo or a gerbil or an Apatosaurus. You have to be really on your game to pull some of this off and make it look the part.

I want to say that lions are especially tricky because of the mane. Shaggy is one of the hardest effects to achieve in LEGO bricks, and trying to get any meaningful articulation around all that bulk of hair is quite a challenge.

My manticore’s head isn’t the shaggiest lion head with the biggest, most impressive mane, but it is recogniseably a lion. It was undoubtedly the toughest part of this model to put together, and I made several adjustments and alterations until I was satisfied. Bat wings and scorpion tails are easy, even if you don’t use preformed elements for your bat wings like I did. Articulated lions that look like lions – those are hard.

The bulldog stance with those wide shoulders is slightly unpleasing, but I really do need that extra bulk to account for the mane. And if you pose the creature right, you can hide that part fairly well.

I’m sure you could build a manticore in whatever colour you liked. It is, after all, a mythical creature. But while black would certainly look good and brown would be possible, somehow red seems the only reasonable colour for it to be. I just can’t see it in blue, really.

This is another creation that needed a base to stand on. Not only does it make posing the manticore to hide that slight bulldogness about the shoulders easier, but it also just seems to complete the model. I’ve gone out of my way to not define a scale for this beastie, so there are no shrines or temples or minifigures to give you an idea of how big he is. Also I don’t know how to make a temple look recogniseably Persian. There’s a suggestion of broken Greek columns underfoot, but those could be almost any size.

Anyway, here’s my manticore. Until next time, keep calm and brick on!

The Ninja and the Dragon

We have my six-year-old son to thank for the fact that this is a whole diorama and not just a model dragon.

You see, as I was in the process of building it, he asked what I was making. Having just assembled that red and gold curve that forms the sinuous belly of the beast, and not having built the Ninjago Ninja of Fire his own dragon in a while, I replied “a fire dragon”.

However, as I built I found myself radically altering the orientation of that curved section from what I had expected, so that the dragon was to be posed standing upright. Upright is not a good orientation for a dragon that’s expected to support a rider, so I of course didn’t build it to seat one.

I finished the dragon model and showed it to my son. “I meed to change it a little,” he says, takes it out of my hands and removes a small piece of the back so that Kai can sit on it.

Not what I had in mind, son. Great thinking, but I don’t think this dragon’s supposed to have a rider.

After he went off to do something else I undid his well-meaning modification and thought about it. “Well, maybe it can’t seat a rider, but there’s no reason I can’t include Kai in the scene,” I mused, and posed the Fire Ninja on a rocklike element facing the dragon.

The composition, almost accidental as it was, struck me as a good one with great potential. “I can work with this,” I thought.

Now, normally any background scenery I build is something of an afterthought. Just enough to give the impression of some surroundings against the underside of a chessboard that I use as a photography backdrop. I’ve only really tumbled to the potential of scenery to add dimension and emphasis to a model fairly recently, and I rarely think initially in terms of a whole scene. In that sense I still build like a kid or a TFOL, I suppose. AFOL techniques, but all the focus is on the vehicle or creature. The household’s LEGO brick collection is such that it’s difficult to put together a really good SNOTwork base in a reasonable colour palette without rainbow inclusions, so my instinct is normally to go with the limited background option.

But in this case, I knew I had to do better. This had too much potential to skimp on.

Tan is both a good colour that works as landscape and a colour we have a halfway decent selection of 1xwhatever bricks in. It also goes well with a variety of other colours like dark tan, grey and brown to add just enough visual interest to be engaging without detracting from the diorama’s main focus, the encounter between the ninja and the dragon.

Add a small temple or shrine, because Eastern dragons guard temples the way Western ones guard treasure, and some foliage because my skills need work, and there it is.

What struck me most and triggered the whole diorama idea was the ambiguity of the composition. Is the dragon an adversary barring the ninja’s way to the temple, or a wise counsel instructing the ninja, or something else entirely? Is that even Kai, or is it just a generic ninja who likes to trim his mask with red? All of this is possible.

There’s a story here, and for once I’m deliberately not telling it. It would ruin the diorama to tie down its meaning.

If Only Construction Equipment Was Like This…

I’m not sure where the inspiration for this came from. Kind of a conceptual hybrid between LEGO’s City Construction subtheme and my own Classic Space elemental dragon, it’s effectively part bulldozer and part mythological creature.

With a wyvern bodyplan like the Green NRG Dragon set, this thing uses the feet from that one and builds up from there.

Yellow is quite an unusual colour for dragons, but for a constructodragon there’s really no other choice as a primary colour. The black lower parts also echo a lot of real and LEGO construction equipment, so that works too.

The thin neck seems to work surprisingly well on this model. Normally I’d be grousing about wanting it to be more muscular, but somehow the scrawny, almost cockatrice-like look seems apt, especially with the support-strut wings and the relatively small head.

The grabber-claw tail isn’t as fully articulated as I’d normally accept in a dragon tail, but for a constructodragon it really seemed like the only acceptable solution.

The caterpillar treads around the wing mounts were an afterthought, but I think a good one. It makes the whole thing much more constructiony and in keeping with the theme. They necessitated a fairly extensive rebuild of the upper body to make them work, and the body is now much higher and bulkier, but that also works as a constructodragon. And remarkably, it doesn’t make the neck look unreasonable.

Is this the start of a whole series of weird-themed dragons? Perhaps. Policedragon? Pirate dragon? Race car dragon? Underwater exploration dragon? Only time can tell…