Children really don’t know Batman, but they know LEGO Batman.

There a thing I wanted to leave as its own entry from the kids. That is comic books. Without a doubt these children do read comics, but not super hero comics. It’s all about Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck, both which have the superior local and European content. They know these Disney characters very closely and understand that every story is its own thing and that the long stories are divided into multiple parts. I love this concept so much. By having multiple shorter stories before a longer story that can take few weeks to finish is an excellent way to have any occasional reader enjoying the content while offering subscribers to enjoy these longer stories whenever the magazine arrive. When I was a wee lad myself, we had Donal Duck coming for multiple years under a subscription, and you could very well see at what point the quality of the stories went down. They were still fun, but coming from people who read Carl Barks in their childhood, and then Don Rosa later on, some of the modern stories feel a bit hollow.

That’s of course a personal opinion, and as much I absolutely love Rosa’s detailing and keeping up with Carl Barks, there are those who dislike them for the exact same reason. Romano Scarpa should be a name any comic book enthusiast knows and I personally consider my childhood’s de facto Disney illustrator. Manuel Gonzales was chosen to be Floyd Gottfredson’s follower in Mickey Mouse comics, but I have to say I was never into the Mouse all that much. Honourable mention goes to Daan Jippes, who is an excellent stylistic imitator, who still has a strong stories. Daniel Branca is a name that I tend to forget a lot when it comes to Duck comics, but dammit if the man’s work isn’t great. There are numerous other names, and the local Donald Duck has listed all the names most recognised names from the 50 plus years the magazine has been published in Finland.

Oh yeah, super hero comics. Children don’t read them.

During the last fifteen years, and more actually, when I discuss Marvel or DC characters with children, they do not recognize their current comics to any extension. This may sound weird, but the majority of them are known by their TV and movie appearances. Whenever I ask about e.g. Batman, I end up discussing about the Tim Burton Batman movie. Later the discussion has seen some hues of Nolan’s Batman, but it is the Burton Batman that is still up there in the public mind. You also have Batman: The Animated Series there, which older teenagers and older remember fondly to the extent to regard it as their favourite Batman incarnation. Can’t fault them for that.

Marvel comics see much more publicity here, mainly because X-Men and Spider-Man magazines have been running here for somewhat long time. Nevertheless, most people have never bought or touched them and much like with DC, know these characters from the screen. 20 something know the movies somewhat well and I have noticed that the Marvel movies are the first contact with some of the characters.

But nowadays you barely have DC or Marvel cartoons on TV. You have Arrow and the Flash representing the higher calibre of live-action production from the DC side, but the few good animation series seem to get cancelled after a season or two. Batman the Animated series ran for 85 episodes. The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold saw 65 episodes. Beware the Batman has 26. Often it felt that we were getting a new Batman show right after the next ended for no apparent reason. Green Lantern had a pretty damn good animation series with only 26 episodes.

Can you fault anyone knowing comic book characters from these, when the comics themselves go unread?

Josh Hadley once said that Warner Brothers treats their comic production as an idea company. They are letting DC to do whatever they want with them to a large extent, but keep the creators in a tight leash with contracts. The work these authors do, the characters and stories they write and illustrate, often than not belong to the company they work for. This is how it should be, but the editors and other people in charge just don’t seem to handle the characters properly. Sure, there has been occasional contracts that screw the original authors completely sideways, but in general you have to remember the core rule; you work for the company, they own your work. If you want to own them for yourself, you work for yourself.

Anyway, do you know where these children know Hulk, Iron Man, Batman and other characters? From LEGO sets and games. Same goes for Star Wars to a large extend, now that we’re talking about LEGO. It’s no wonder such sources are now the first touch with the children, seeing the how the comics are anything but child friendly. They’re filled with gross violence and death with characters that don’t even resemble their iconic versions anymore. Then you have the constant crossing storylines, going everywhere with everything with everybody. A friend of mine wanted to read some Marvel Ultimate comics, dropped after seeing how messed up the storylines began to go just after few issues.

It raises a question on brand recognition, when the comics themselves are the secondary products nowadays. DC’s New52 didn’t help to make any significant impact and Marvel’s upcoming reboot is already convoluted as all hell. Depending on what sort of type comic the reboot will be, Marvel has now a chance to reorganise themselves back to being a company that produces comics for the whole company and not just for the 40 years old comic readers. That is not, and has never been, very lucrative market, but somehow both DC and Marvel have been able to stay afloat with their limited target market. Then again, Disney has been raking in some seriously big money with the Marvel movies, so perhaps the comic companies are doomed to stay as idea factories. Companies producing these niche comics have to realise that the comics used to be something that as enjoyed at a very large scale, but nowadays that seems to apply only to the movies based on these comics.

I am genuinely worried where the super hero comics are going. If they are becoming more and more convoluted and pushing the general public away from- no, they already have been pushed away with comics mostly sold in comic book stores in US and UK. Both DC and Marvel need to reclaim their larger comic audience and begin to produce comics that parents could allow their children to read. There is room for comics of all kinds, for every sort of reader. However, it would take money to realize larger scale production and publication, money that the current comic trends don’t bring.

It’s only a model

Model building is an universal hobby. I can say without a doubt that in pretty much every corner of the world there are people building models of cars, plains, buildings and everything else. It’s a hobby that allows you to get your artistic skills, to get your mind off of something and gives your hands something to do. I’ve heard that an old man started building ship models out of wood in order to keep himself occupied from smoking.

What fascinates in models is rather tricky to explain. One one hand you’re creating something either from given building blocks, or from scratch. LEGOs can be thought as a model building lite in the sense that it offers somewhat cartoony representation of a police station to build and to play with. With both the most challenging phase (at first) is the building; to make the model the best you can. Not to leave a seam open, to push every nub into right place and check every corner that no excess material exists. To be precise as possible… if that’s what the modeller strives for. Building a model takes time and effort, and if one is willing to put their earnest for it, it’ll show in the end result. Taking one Revell plane and fixing it up won’t take much time for a seasoned model builder, but for a newcomer even Level 2 tank can be a challenge. It builds up certain skills, like eye-hand coordination and nerves. When you’re finished with installing 2mm gatling gun to a 3mm base successfully, you can stand in a line for few ten minutes without a hitch. To put it simply, it’s the joy of building something.

Scratch building is an interesting field of model building. It starts from having, well, nothing but the basic building blocks of the model, like few sheets of plastic and tubes. From here the modeller starts to shape buildings and trains, bends the tubes into arches for a bridge and so on. This is perhaps the most pure version of model building, where one isn’t restricted to pre-existing blocks. I take my hats off if you’re one of these modellers, as I don’t have the patience for this kind of building. However, give me steel materials and a workshop, and I’ll create a model out of them.

The second point that attracts people into models is what they can do to them. Customization in a word. It’s a whole other thing to get a ready model and be done with it. Some are perfectly content with it, as it would most likely represent the real world object 1:1. Some people wish to go over this and customize the model to their liking, to make it something their own. Creating a whole new top paint, changing the weaponry or the dashboard, adding small details like physical scratches or converting a propel plane into a jet version of itself that never left the drawing board.

I love the overall design in Shinden, but just like pretty much every plane from this era, I’d like to modernize it

This customization isn’t anything particularly special to model building, but it is the other insanely huge part of it, at least to some of the model builders out there. It’s a highly debated point if an uncustomized model is finished or not. The most basic example would be models that come with colours ready in the molding phase. With unpainted models they look plasticy, and models based on cartoons do tend to look rather toyish with their plastic look. Applying a layer of paint makes them somehow more “finished.” Personally, I leave some models unpainted and then paint some models. Depends on the model and it’s molding mostly.

The two previous points basically creates the whole modelling experience from start to finish. Depending on your tastes the other may take over the other, and both are equally just as important as the other. Some models actually only concentrate on one of the aspects, and thus the market actually has a nice variation from which you can choose from. While some modellers argue that these build-kits are child’s play when compared to some Bugatti model from the mid-90’s, I’d give them a fair treatment as these models usually also have extremely sturdy and high quality parts, as well as other functions. Those who get the reference about the Bugatti may start jugging alcohol down already.

Open that bottle and start chugging; we had the agreement

I’d like to take a look at these pre-coloured models. In Japan these robot models, or rather models that are build into toys, are called Plamo. Plastic Model. Granted, this term can be used to describe every plastic model in general, but for the sake of accuracy it should be used for these kind of models. Gunpla or Gunplamo is a subsection of Plamo that is only about Gundam plastic models. The above example is a Takemikazuchi from MuvLuv Alternative. The modeller here has chosen to prime the plastic with gray and dark brow, and then given it a nice red overpaint. While some painting is a little bit strange at places due to given shading, we can say that it’s rather nice for the modeller’s first time with an airbrush. Seams are pretty well hidden to the point that an untrained eye can’t see them at all. All of this has been done after the initial building and most likely has taken majority of the modeller’s time. However, he feels that it is something he himself wishes to do and I respect his endeavours for that. Personally I would’ve gone with a white primer in order to make the red glow lighter, but as said, everybody to their own.

Have something my own

Some models you might want to paint, but then again there are models that are transparent to a degree, so painting would defeat that purpose. The bike above screams some paint to be splashed over because one side has some serious molding errors in the green parts, but that would be rather stupid. This is the last model I’ve build for some time now, and this was more than a year ago.

She’d give one helluva run against betas like Cthulhu if she was finished

Then there’s these models that you put together in less than ten minutes. Five if you’re using some fast glue. This Iczer-One model here is all about painting. Painting is a challenge of skill, and I have to confess that my painting is skill is a bit lacking, but has been developed during the recent years. During next summer I hope that this project will come into a nice fruition, as well as one car that I’ve been holding back because creating weathered leather surface is a bitch task.

To emphasize as last, in model building everybody has their own way. Some people just build models for the sake of building and are content that you can view their work as in detail. Some want to ditch most of the building process and concentrate on the customization altogether. There’s no one way to to build a model, no matter what people may tell you. The freedom to do what you wish is one hidden attraction model building has.

Model building has rather steep learning curve, but extremely rewarding one. However, there’s an alternative for this; LEGO. I already talked about how LEGO and models share the same basic idea of building, but let’s dwell a little bit more into the common things they share.

Much like most models, LEGO sets come in many pieces that have to be out together according to the instruction booklet. However, unlike in most models the LEGO blocks can be separated and reused for multiple purposes. It’s no secret that you should be able to mix and match all of the blocks and build something completely new, a thing that models can’t compete with. However, pretty much anything you make with LEGO blocks will end up being rather cartoony. Awesome perhaps, but the blockiness will always be there. It’s both good and bad, depending what you are trying to build and achieve.

LEGO blocks are pretty good gateway to model building. I’d argue that model building leaves something more permanent to, both mentally and physically. I’ve experienced and heard multiple stories of awesome LEGO constructs that ended up being taken apart by a mother. A model on the other hand, while most likely meeting the same fate, has more value overall. I’d like to get into LEGO building again, but seeing that I can make the most with steel, plastics and wood kinda pulls me in further. I’m not limited by the blocks, no matter how much possibilities they offer.

Another rather large phenomena that comes close to model building, or rather model customization, is the My Little Pony fan community. At least they used to. I have no idea how these “bronies” work, and quite honestly, I have no intention of finding out.

Back in the day, like in the 80’s and early 90’s man, girls got their Transformers in form of ponies. I’m sidestepping everything about them and I’ll just say that at one point it became stable to fashion the pony toys to your own liking; to customize them. Locally this wasn’t as widespread as you’d think, but looking back at some archived pictured long time pony fans have been showing around, it’s pretty apparent that customization was important. Girls would make their own accessories, repaint the emblems and eyes, and so on. It’s very similar to these nearly finished models that offer more painting customization challenge, like the Iczer-One above. While LEGO customization isn’t uncommon, pony customization is as widespread as flu and almost as bad.

There’s numerous things that have a lot in common with model building, from prototype building to building building. It’s an easy hobby overall to get started with, and a hobby that might suck you with it. Or push you away like a mad bull. It could go either way. There’s also this interesting point that it seems that model building is regarded as a men’s hobby foremost, thou I know from experience that few ladies out there have enjoyed it as well. Taking that out of context works just as well, as these magic hands of mine can work on a lot of things with minimum amount of experience.

ANYWAY I didn’t really want to touch on subject of miniatures, a thing that warrants its own post at a later date. The way I wanted this post to come out was to say what are some of the points that fascinate in model building. It’s a personal hobby, and everybody finds their own thing inside it.

Personally, one driving force behind model building for me is that they exist, or have existed at some point. To paraphrase, ‘a battleship was not only a weapon, but also a place where people lived their lives. The dreams and dramas of the individuals on those ships will always be there. These battleships are build by hands of many craftsman, and many people die during the battles they have. These battleships are lost forever in the midst of war, and if one takes a model of one of these ships and builds it with an earnest mind and pure intentions, the model is a testament for those who designed it, built it, lived on it and died on it. It’s to show respect towards those who came before you, and remember them.’

With MuvLuv models, it’s to recognize it all.