Wednesday, March 30, 2011

6879 Blizzard Baron

I believe that I've mentioned before that 6879 Blizzard Baron is tied with 6835 Saucer Scout for my oldest Space set. I acquired both of them for Christmas, back in 1995, and while the two figs are more or less equal in my nostalgic heart, Blizzard Baron has long reigned as favourite among the Space sets in my possession--probably because of a collection that didn't top 6 sets until the Bricklink era, it was the largest. However, I think that although it's not a huge set or even necessarily an impressively inventive set, that it's still a nice set.

As can be seen in the picture, this ship, which I have designated the Baron-class, I.P.S. Blizzard (I.P.S. standing for Iceplanet Ship), is an elegant little spaceship. It's larger than the average "flitter"-sized fighter that comes with a number of Space sets, having an "enclosed" cockpit (one must not be too fussy about what constitutes an enclosed cockpit on a LEGO ship, especially one from an official set), and enough leg-room for the pilot that you can squeeze two minifigs aboard if so desired.

Despite the Blizzard's swooshability, however--and it *is* a swooshable little ship, the Blizzard Baron, as a set, has historically been one of the most solidly planet-side sets in my Space collection. The back end of the ship detaches to form a long-range communications station planetside. In addition, the inclusion of a mighty chainsaw and pair of stylish trans-neon-orange skis practically begs you to land the ship and do some exploration.

What's more, the detachable satellite or communications outpost gives the Blizzard a hint of modularity. It's quite easy to come up with something else to fit onto that Technic-peg at the back of the ship, as the following picture shows:

This picture, it should be noted, does not give a particularly clear image of what the added component is, but that's intentional. As a piece of LEGO construction, it is not especially original or interesting. Instead, the important thing I want to note here is how organically this extra component fits onto the ship. My idea is that the Blizzard is not normally capable of Faster-Than-Light travel, and that this is an optional component that makes it so.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Favourite Sets: 1491 Dual Defender

Rounding out the Black Knight theme that has occupied my thoughts around here of late, is a "favourite" set, 1491 Dual Defender, which was also the fourth LEGO set in my collection, and since it was a Christmas present, it rounds out my first year of LEGO, which began the year before, at Christmas 1992.

Dual Defender is a catapult set, one of MANY the LEGO company has made over the years. I'm not at all sure how realistic it would be considered, but it's more aesthetically pleasing than my most of the catapults that were released in the decade of the 2000s, and because it was my very first catapult, I'm more fond of it than of pretty much any other.

A reader familiar with the set will note from this picture that the minifigs have been slightly modified. That is, instead of having blue legs with black hips, they now have white legs with black hips. This is a post-Great-Take-Apart decision. In light of their honoured status in my LEGO collection as the first two Black Knights--indeed, for close to a decade, they were my *only* Black Knights, and the soldier on the left who does not have a re-glued sword was the first Black Knight king in my collection. The white legs is an honour, because it ties them into the colour-scheme of the knight from 6086 that I've designated the king of the Black Knights.

The set also differs from its original form in that the extra pieces it came with are long, long since gone. It's a pity, too, since those extra pieces were another sword and a light grey clip, like the ones holding the spears to the back of the catapult. However, I suppose I shouldn't complain; presumably the extra pieces served their purpose: that's why I still have two clips and two swords with the set, because I had an extra one of each to lose.

Back around the turn of the millennium, this set would have looked significantly more cluttered, as other elements were added to my Black Knight collection, mostly from 5135 Castle Accessories, including the crown, the dragon plumes, the red flag on short flagpole, and the oval Black Knight shield. They also eventually picked up a black horse and red saddle from 5394, the horse and saddles accessory set. Add to that a homemade cape not unlike the one currently worn by the current Black Knight king, and this set was as suped-up as I could make it, and these two swordsmen were as prepared for battle as any ten-man army I had.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Favourite Minifigs: 6086 White Knight

Keeping with the theme of my last post about the Ones That Got Away, today's offering of a favourite minifig is a Black Knight--even though I've titled this post "white knight." He's one of the four knights who come with 6086 Dungeon Master's Castle, and I've called him the "white" knight, because he has a white pennant and dragon plumes. Possessed of a barding and a full set of "euro armour," he's a fine, full-armoured knight. The picture below shows him as he came in Dungeon Master's Castle:

As the elusive white-tinged Black Knight, I've long considered this fellow to be the king of the Black Knights, and in his role as such in my collection, he's been slightly modified to fit this new role, as seen below.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Aquazone Breakfast News: 009

Presenting the first of my second batch of comics--and thus the first one that was edited/made on my "new" computer, with different programs. Any deficiency in quality of humour should be blamed on that.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ones That Got Away-Part Four

Back well over a month ago now, when I started writing posts about the "Ones That Got Away," I made it through three of the four "classic" themes of LEGO: Castle, Pirates, Town, and Space. Well, it's my list of classic themes, because in my formative years, "classic" LEGO was 1992-1994. Aquazone was an honorary fifth, but an assiduous reader of my Aquazone Breakfast News comic will note that it's never had quite the same love from me as the big four. Nonetheless, I am aware that even older fans may not see Pirates as a "classic" LEGO theme on par with the others, given its younger age.

In any case, although I talked about my "Ones That Got Away" with regards to the Pirates, Town, and Space themes, I have yet to address Castle, which is a case of saving the best for last, since Castle is my favourite branch of LEGO System.

Black Knights were the first LEGO theme I ever spent hours looking at in catalogues, and the first set I ever saved up for was 6086 Dungeon Master's Castle. Also known as "Black Knight's Castle," this set is still my all-time favourite LEGO set, if you rate things on a purely nostalgic scale. The main reason, in addition to being one of the most aesthetically pleasing castles LEGO has ever produced, is because, although I saved up for it, I never got it as a child. Nope. Instead, my parents picked up 6081 King's Mountain Fortress when they went shopping with my money while I was in school. At the time, I was just happy I had a LEGO Castle--and my third set, to boot--but I knew it wasn't the one I wanted, and as the years passed, I would wonder what it would have been like if I'd managed to get it instead.

Well, for one thing, my Lions would have been more badly outnumbered in those early years than my Black Knights were. A couple months after getting King's Mountain Fortress, I got my fourth LEGO set, 1491 Dual Defender. Those two guys would be the entirety of my Black Knight army until 2002 or so, when a partial knight in a bag of garage sale LEGO would be fleshed out with an accessory pack to bring their total up to three. As a result, the Black Knights became fearsome warriors, the best-trained soldiers in all the LEGO kingdoms. After all, how else were they to win any battles?

Unlike the other "Ones That Got Away" stories, this one has a fairly happy ending. I would eventually get Dungeon Master's Castle in 2006, thanks to Bricklink, making my Black Knights not only an iconic faction, but a true powerhouse in my LEGO universe. However, because I was out of high school and about to leave home by then, I still consider the theme as a whole, and that set in particular, to be one that got away from me... though I did catch it in the end.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Aquazone Breakfast News: 008

The screen-capture, I suppose, is the intellectual property of Lugnet, but I'm assuming they won't mind me using it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

6244 Armada Sentry

If the Armada line had included a second run, or even a larger first run, then my collection of Armada sets, which consists only of 6244 Armada Sentry would be slender enough to have merited the theme a spot on the list of "Ones That Got Away." As things stand, however, LEGO only ever released two sets in the Imperial Armada line, with three distinct figs, and a total of four figs overall. Less than half a dozen other Armada figs would appear in contemporary (1996 and 1997) Pirate sets.

Despite this very limited run, the Imperial Armada was a beautiful line, as LEGO's only foray into the era of the Renaissance--albeit in the Americas, under the auspices of the conquistadors. The minifig heads and torsos are excellent additions to Castle or Pirate collections (and useful elsewhere), and were never used in any other theme.

I got Armada Sentry for Christmas in 1996 from my grandparents, and I would remain the entirety of my Imperial Armada collection until the Bricklink era, when I eventually put together a second fig. In the meantime, I acquired enough of the helms to arm the Jayko Armada figs seen in this post. All told, though, my Armada faction is all of five-men strong, and remains based at the little fortified dock of Armada Sentry.

It's a lovely set, if a little one. For it's size, it contains a wonderful variety of pieces, nearly all of which (if not, in fact, all) are generally useful, including the green doors, which are exclusive to the set, and the 8x16 blue baseplate. Perhaps the least useful pieces one would find in acquiring multiples of the set are the 1x5x5 wall/window pieces, which tend not to be popular with advanced builders, but even those are far from "useless," merely "fewer uses."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Minifigs: The Elf

When the Elf minifig was discovered to be included in the 3rd series of collectible minifigs, Castle LEGO fans rejoiced. It probably comes as no surprise, given my previous posts about The Lord of the Rings that I, too, was excited about the Elf's appearance. However, ever when I acquired him (as documented in this post), my inner Tolkien fan would not allow him to enter my collection unchanged. This post examines where his disparate parts ended up.

The problem with the Elf was his hairpiece. If I were to cast him as an Elf from Tolkien's canon, I would say from his possession of armour, long-bow, and colour-scheme that he is a probably a Sindarin Elf (Grey-elf), Nandorin Elf (Green-elf), or Sylvan Elf (Wood-elf). However, all those aforementioned Elves are members of the broader category of Telerin Elves... and as a general rule, Teleri have dark hair or silver hair. Golden hair is generally an indication of having Vanyarin blood... and the High Elves of the Vanyar never came back to Middle-earth and mingled with the Sindarin Elves et al (though some mixed Vanya-Noldorin Elves did bring back the golden-haired gene, and the King of the Elves of Mirkwood in The Hobbit is proof that gold hair is not exclusive to the Vanyar). In any case, movie-Legolas aside, my Elf wasn't likely to be permitted blond hair in my collection.

Besides, I subscribe to the "normal ears" party in the "what do Elven ears look like?" debate, and the Elf minifig has highly-prominent ears.

So what became of the Elf?

Well, if we consider a minifig's head to "be" the minifig (and the rest of the minifig to be his/her accoutrements), then my Elf became the warrior in the picture above. In so doing, he replaced a Han Solo lookalike as my golden-armoured Elf-prince. As you can see, he also acquired the steed from the Prince of Persia set I acquired the same time as the Elf.

Not that his armour went unused in my Elven army. Indeed, most of the Elf turned up as a part of my Elven fighting force.

This picture shows the three Elves who acquired pieces of "the Elf." You will recognise the already-portrayed Elf Prince, and notice that the armour and shield were inherited by the warrior with the Little Armory sword to his right, while his longbow (and Bricklink-bought quiver) arm the soldier to his left. One will note my prevalent preference for dragon-helms in equipping Elves.

Meanwhile, what happened to that blond-hairpiece-with-elf-ears, you ask? Did it end up in the minifig parts pile, never to be used with those extra top hats, blue caps, and Islander horns? Not so!

The hairpiece actually ended up on this custom version of the Brickster by chance. I wasn't intending him to be "finished" as such. I was actually planning on reconstructing him using his black tuque ("beanie" to non-Canadians), grey pants, and single blue glove. The spare Jayko pants and jestingly-grabbed elf-hair were mere placeholders, but I have become quite fond of the combination, and think that the elf-ears complement the impish facial expressions. How exactly a Puck of a Brickster ended up in my LEGO universe, I'm not sure yet... but he's definitely there.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lord of the Rings and LEGO - Part Two

If you dig deeply enough in my Brickshelf folder, you will eventually come up with a old subfolder entitled "Tolkien," which has not been updated since it was first established back in 2004 or so. It contains pretty much all the remaining visual evidence of an attempt back in high school of my brother and myself to make a LEGO home-video adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

It was an ambitious project, the last in a fairly long line of rather badly made LEGO movies, that prior to delving into Tolkien plots, had been original stories. It should be emphasised that these were not stop-motion movies, but video-camera filmed scenes with no/limited movement and lots of talking. Dreadful as the end products were, however, they were a lot of fun to make, and probably taught us a fair bit about the craft of cinematography. It was also, apart from my Silmarillion project, the only serious attempt I made at portraying Middle-earth in LEGO (the battles and games mentioned in the previous post notwithstanding).

In the end, we finished 3 of a projected 7 installments--one for The Hobbit and each of the six "Books" of The Lord of the Rings. The picture above comes from The Return of the Shadow (as Book 1 of the published Fellowship of the Ring got titled. The astute observer will notice that the hobbit-hole is not lined with LEGO bricks, but is non-LEGO, and the dark "floor" is my smooth desktop. Nonetheless, considering my abysmal track record in those days of photographing LEGO, it's still a decent image, and catches the "feel" of Gandalf and Frodo discussing the Ring in Bag-End.

This picture is from Part II, which got to keep the book's title of The Fellowship of the Ring, and shows the Gates of Moria. Personally, I've always felt that this was one of the better sets created for those movies (hence why a picture was taken), though the biggest reason for its success is not that I was a talented builder, but that I successfully stickered the Gates to look like the image in the Book, which defines the scene.

Unfortunately, all footage of this last film was lost (and possibly its predecessor?), which so discouraged my brother and I (having put a few weeks of hard labour into it) that we never attempted the remaining four parts. Mind you, we were both getting older and less interested in such things... but never mind that. It's a far better story to say that, the footage being lost, the morale of the crew was broken and the project never finished.

Maybe someday...