Sunday, August 3, 2014

Android Files

So much for returning to regular posting here, huh? At least I can claim that this is because I've been busy with LEGO. As noted in the last couple posts, I've been working on a new LEGO comic, made in a style similar to Grandfather's Tale, but with (an initial) focus on Town instead of Castle.

So far, I have posted five chapters, one each of the past five Saturdays, and another seven are in production for the coming seven Saturdays, bringing Season 1 to completion in late September. I have plans for the next season, but as I have yet to fully outline it or photograph it, I will hold off from announcing a release date, as that may prove premature. (If anyone is paying really close attention, they will notice that the above image does not exist in any of the five chapters released yet. It is a pre-text-added image from Chapter VI, coming this Saturday.)

"Cactus Canyon, Part I" starts here.
"Cactus Canyon, Part II" starts here.
"Launch Evac 1" starts here.
"Slick Racer" starts here.
"Gator Landing, Part 1" starts here.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the next episode will be "Gator Landing, Part II."

Gator Landing, Cactus Canyon, Launch Evac 1, and Slick Racer are all Town LEGO sets from the 1990s, and using the names of sets that feature in each comic as the title of the chapters is a convention that I intend to follow--at least for the rest of the season. It looks probable that I'll continue with that in Season 2, but I may change my mind, or at least play with it a little. Three of the four sets mentioned so far have, in fact, been reviewed on this blog: Cactus Canyon (my most recent post, and a teaser for the comic), Slick Racer, and Gator Landing. Launch Evac 1 may well get a review someday, since like these others, it has deep roots in my childhood, but it has not been
done yet.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

1720 Cactus Canyon

I've alluded in the past (not that I expect anyone to have any readers left, let alone any who remember the particulars of three-year-old posts) that my first true Town set was 1720 Cactus Canyon. It wasn't my first set (it was my seventh), nor was it the first one I would use in the Town world (that would be a Basic set, 525 or a Fabuland set), but it was and remains one of my favourite Town sets. It was also, on a note of trivia, the first set I ever received the same year that it was released, since I got this Christmas 1994.

For those keeping score at home, 1720 Cactus Canyon was released in 1994 and was an amalgam of three other sets: 1740, 1741, and 1742, which were also released in 1994. In that respect, it was much like some of the other sets of the decade, which were released in some countries as polybags under one set number and in others as boxed sets under another. Cactus Canyon has a single instruction book for the three subsets and, growing up, I never really thought of the set as anything other than a complete unit, though I was sort of vaguely aware that it wasn't QUITE a normal set--at the very least, unlike most of my sets, its picture never appeared in the catalogues of the era, a fact it shared with the polybags.

Each unit of the set has a minifigure and a vehicle. Starting with the smallest, we have a kayak (though the paddle is not a kayaker's paddle)--a very simple build indeed, with a grand total of seven elements required.

A little bit larger, certainly in the piece-count department, is the dune-buggy. This subset also includes two natural elements: a grey falcon/hawk piece and a bush--the titular cactus, I always assumed. Growing up in Canada, "dune buggies" weren't exactly a regular part of my lexicon, so this vehicle was generally just referred to as a car or possibly thought of as a four-wheeler or ATV.

Speaking of things with four wheels, the largest of the three subsets has the real highlight of the set, the truck. A fairly standard mid-1990s LEGO truck, this has always been one of my favourite vehicles in my LEGO city. It's looks a bit chunky compared to some more contemporary vehicles--and quite a bit smaller, since it hails from the 4-stud-wide standard era, but it's still pretty vroomable (the driven equivalent of swooshable).

In most sets I'd consider it a fairly minor point to bring up the minifigure accessories, especially in a theme where these are unlikely to be weapons--because who really needs to army-build guys holding walkie-talkies? In this case, however, because of how early Cactus Canyon falls in the timeline of my collection, almost all of the items pictured above were significant. With the exception of the oar (I had two in a Pirate set), each of these were the very first of their kind in my collection. The pickaxes and shovel would remain the only ones until the Adventurers theme in 1998--and it is worth noting as a sidebar that before the Adventurers were released, I did use this set to supply my town with its very first archaeologists or paleontologists, because, clearly, that's why they had picks and shovel, right?

And, of course, there were the minifigs. At this point I'll note that my choice of reviewing this set isn't pure nostalgia; it's nostalgia that's been awakened by the recent drafting of these three minifigs as the main characters in my new webcomic series (coming soon to the Internet near you). The exact characterisation of these three changed over the years, but as the first Town figs in my collection--figs who were, helpfully, not limited by a job-specific uniform, they filled many roles in many games.

From the left we have Carson Smith (who drove a car--note too the facial resemblance to the Smiths of Gator Landing and Speed Trackers), Nick Townson, and Larry, aka "Boaty" Townson. I'll only say this about the "inventiveness" of the names: yes, one guy from a Town set has a boat and was named Boaty Townson. Notably, he and the other Townson here have the same head: it was a convention in my Legoverse and my brothers that Town figs with the same head belonged to the same family. For the longest time, these were my only figs with that head, which a point of some soreness to me, because I thought the head was really cool... and my brother had five of them.

The roles they'll be playing in my upcoming series won't be 100% identical to what they would have been in my youthful LEGO games, which is probably just as well because what appeals to a 12-year-old boy is rarely universally appealling, but it is based on them to an extent. Anyone paying attention will note that nostalgia is a key element in why I create webcomics and why I run this blog. So there was really no competition for main characters when I decided to make a new comic.

In case anyone is wondering, the working title for the series is "Android Files."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


It's June now and I last posted in January, so I think it's fair to say that I've had a bit of an unscheduled hiatus. In this respect, the job situation has continued to be killer (though the continued possession of a regular income has been very nice indeed), and I don't foresee a change to that. Nonetheless, especially with summer here--and the opportunities it brings to take pictures of LEGO at later hours--I find myself wanting to get back into the blogging habit.

That said, I'm not planning to bring AqBN back as a weekly feature. I've had enough experience over the past few years to say that I don't have the requisite interest AND free time to guarantee that I could manage that, and going to a less frequent schedule would just make it easier to forget and easier to put off.

I'm not planning to end AqBN forever, but I think it will go to an "Advent-only" schedule. That was part of the problem when this hiatus rolled around: I'd been cruising so hard to make sure AqBN went up daily in December that I crashed when it was finally done--but, by the same token, while the Advent Calendar was actually still running, I had the enough momentum of interest and passion to keep at it day after day. I know I can't manage it year-round, but maybe I can do it every Advent. Here's hoping, anyway.

If I do succeed in putting things up here more regularly, it will have to be the irregular stuff: Grandfather's Tale, set reviews, and things of that nature. Maybe a Crossed Bricks or two, but for the most part I think that was an experiment that ran its course. I *do* have an idea for a new webcomic, which is a large part of why I'm here dusting things off the old blog, but I'm trepidatious of promising anything when my track record is largely built of hiatus of late.

Assuming I *do* go ahead with this comic, the idea is probably that it will be closer in format and scheduling to Grandfather's Tale than to AqBN--meaning that it would be released in chapters or episodes, rather than weekly strips, and it would have more of a prescripted arc. It would also move away from breaking the Fourth Wall. That was fun, now and again, in AqBN, but as the series progressed, I found that it was a dragging factor on keeping the series going. My natural instincts as a storyteller are not meta at all and tend to dislike mixing the consistency of an internal world with the world of the viewer. It worked here and there and will likely persist in AqBN as it continues, but I know it's not something I would want to hang onto in developing a new project.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Aquazone Breakfast News: 186

I tried posting yesterday, but Brickshelf was down (and, yes, I am an AFOL dinosaur, still using Brickshelf...).