April 13, 2024

The One From Japan

I’ve never been to Japan. I would like to but I suspect I may never be able to. Sigh.

This hasn’t prevented me to admire the sense of aestethics in the Japanese culture. Or what I see of it through the narrow window of literature, comics and movies. This picture is probably more distorted than I realise but it is what I got.

The Japanese toy manufacturer Bandai offers incredible quality when it comes to plastic injection model kits. It is unlike anything else out there. I’ve built some Bandai Star Wars models but I wanted to try something different. The Japanese Gundam things look great, mecha suits, not robots, as I found out. I wanted one.

I knew nothing about the various versions within the Gundam lore, never watched any of the tv-shows, also blissfully uninformed of the variations in the Bandai product line. There were many different scales and difficulty levels available, as I found out. After some serious googling I ended up buying the Bandai Perfect Grade Gundam RX-78-2 mecha suit in 1:60 scale.

I’ve not built anything of this sort before and for a newbie the kit offered some surprises. Biggest surprise I guess were the sprues with parts that had molded in ball joints. I hadn’t seen anything like that before. It was rather exotic for such an old kit, or any kit for that matter, this model was originally released in 1998. How much more complex the latest version that goes by the ”Unleashed” brand can even be? It looks insanely more detailed in photographs. I’m glad I didn’t buy that one. It would have been too overwhelming.

Painting this was very different to what I am used to, all the exterior parts had to be painted before assembly. Due to the precision of the parts, no paint must go on the internal structures, connecting pins and such. If you paint them the parts don’t fit anymore, the layer of paint ruins it. It’s THAT precise! This meant lots of tape masks. Organising all this part by part was not the most pleasant thing about this build.

I wanted this to look different than the stock red/yellow/white so I painted it in white with two shades of blue. Cold, wintery colours, I suppose. The decals that came with the kit were stickers. I didn’t like them very much. So, I bought some waterslide decals online only to realise afterwards that they were for the Unleashed version, not this. I used them regardless and they are all over the place. The colours were wrong anyway so whatever. Wrong colours and details must be somewhat irritating thing to look at for those who know this stuff. Ignorance is bliss in this case.

I have made a few photocompositions with the Gundam model to see how the model is to work with. The following two were made with photographs I took on one beautiful foggy day in 2023.

Like with most of the models I’ve built there is an idea or two for a photograph when building them. Sometimes even before building. This one was no exception. But the photograph I had in mind with this one hasn’t really emerged yet. I’ve tried it but it has proven to be a bit of a challenge for me. Meanwhile I have continued experimenting with it, like the one with the church below.

The white Helsinki Cathedral is a popular subject of photography, a tourist attraction. I didn’t quite get what I had in mind with the blizzard and light but it’s close. I’ll probably try again next winter.

February 4, 2024

Inspirations Part.1

One of the earliest spaceship memories for me are the Apollo missions. Still love them. But on fiction it’s the Tintin Destination Moon and Explorers on Moon comics albums by Hergé. The iconic red and white checkered rocket is one helluva spaceship! It was first seen in Belgium’s Tintin magazine in 1950, that is 74 years ago, 19 years before Apollo 11.

The realism, the depictions of mass, inertia, low gravity and weightlessness in these Tintin stories is astonishing. Even though everything isn’t 100% correct Hergé shows thorough understanding of these things. Today it seems pretty basic but back then it was anything but basic. Stanley Kubrick gets a lot of praise for his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie I love to bits, but Hergé was there tackling these concepts almost two decades earlier. Film and comics are obviously not straightforwardly comparable but maybe it shows how much thought Hergé put in this story. I mean, you see movies and tv-shows getting it wrong even today (excluding space operas, they take liberties), it’s really not that easy.

One wild scene in the comics was when Tintin stepped out the rocket in a spacesuit to save drunken and delusional Captain Haddock from drifting into space. The moment the rocket engine goes back online and how the acceleration yanks Tintin and Haddock hanging from safety rope is amazing. You can feel there is a mighty force at play.

For me the rocket was always there but my perception of it changed on my trip to Angoulême comics fair, France, in 2000. There was a buzz about the city planning to build a 50 meter tall model of the rocket next to The Museum of Comics located by a river that runs through the city. The city boasts several comics landmarks, there are murals and statues, including the statue of Corto Maltese, one of my favourites. The statue of Hergé himself near the center of the city is remarkable. Angoulême is a lovely little place that lives and breathes comics.

Sadly, the rocket was never built. They say the area reserved for the construction was unstable, it wouldn’t have sustained the weight of the rocket. Or maybe they got cold feet.

The image of a 50 meter rocket towering over a city stayed with me however. It was an exciting idea I thought, an incredibly visual one. I made a promise to myself that if I ever got my hands on a Tintin Moon rocket model I’d make something out of it. On my most recent trip to Angoulême in 2019, just before the pandemic, I took some photographs with this in mind. I had a small point-and-shooter with me only, so the quality wasn’t ideal but it captures the feels just fine.

I finally got myself a Tintin Moon rocket collectible a couple of weeks ago, it’s 30 centimeters tall and bloody expensive. It’s quite lovely though, I like it a lot. But it got me thinking whether a more “real” model was better. I wouldn’t alter the one I got, it’s a collectible after all, it’d have to be something else, maybe a 3D-printed one.

The first question was how tall is the rocket supposed to be in the comics. After a quick survey on Instagram and Mastodon it seems there is a consensus at around 55 to 63 meters. Now, let’s round it to 60 meters. If that is the height, my collectible is in a quite small 1:200 scale. If I wanted a 1:72 scale rocket, a common modeling scale in which there is lots of accessories available, it would be approximately 83 centimeters tall. That’s pretty big!

Weathering and detailing a 83 centimeter tall Tintin rocket would be interesting. Engine exhaust marks, atmospheric friction streaks, dust, things like that would make it come alive. Would it look something like this 3D render from Greg Broadmore? If I’m not mistaken Broadmore worked on The Adventures of Tintin (2011) movie and made this as concept art. It seems they at least considered adapting the Tintin Moon mission to a film. Or maybe this was just a promo for what could be. Whatever it is, I always liked this image.

Image ©Greg Broadmore / Weta. Source.
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