|Another Primarch, as impressive as the last!|
By now it is probably not a surprise to anyone that I am a huge fan of Forge World's primarch models (http://betweenthebolterandme.blogspot.com/search/label/Primarch). I have written about them at length on numerous occasions, and eagerly await each new release. Despite my inherent urge to collect all of them just for the sake of having a complete collection, it is not very practical. For single models, they are very costly, and often require a significant time investment to assemble and fix their casting issues. Furthermore, inherent in their nature, they are all from different Legions. And no matter how fanatical about the models, I simply cannot collect a small army for every Legion such that each Primarch has a place. To get around this to some capacity, I considered trying to use some of the models for conversions, but their cyclopean scale made me hesitant and I shelved the idea, waiting for some inspiration to push me past those initial musings. That inspiration came when Migsula of Legion of Plastic, unveiled his newest project, the Vlka Fenryka. Taking what he learned from his Legion project (creating a true-scale Alpha Legion army), he set his sights on the Sons of Russ, and set out to create a band of warrior-gods from the 13th company. Unlike his Legion project, which he restricted to only plastic, he has fully embraced Forge World and has begun to create warriors using some of the Primarch models. And while a talented modeler like Migsula dabbling with some of the finest miniatures in the world is exciting by itself, it was the stream of posts that followed (along with the accompanying discussions in the comments section) talking about his artistic vision, that set my imagination racing and rekindled my desire to use some of the Primarch figures as a basis for conversions.
What truly excited me about Migsula’s new project was that he was not simply trying create true-scale Space Marines at a technical level, instead he was reaching for something far grander in scope, but also inherently more nebulous at the same time; he was trying to capture the essence of what makes a Space Marine. The mythical warrior-god status of a Space Marine is something that we all have in the back of our minds; it is something that most of us have nurtured through artwork and stories since we began this hobby, yet it is surprisingly diluted by the sea of Space Marine armies and rules that depict them as average foot soldiers (which everything is measured against). I feel most of the current Space Marine models, while excellent, serve to maintain a status quo of being pedestrian and ordinary. They rarely strike the primal vein that runs through some of Kopinski’s illustrations or Abnett’s writing, where their disparities with humankind are emphasized, strengthening the reverent mystery that surrounds them. Seeing Migsula’s first conversions got Adam and I talking passionately about these ideas, and we realized that we needed to distil these concepts into a figure of our own. We decided that we wanted to convert a Space Marine from the enigmatic Alpha Legion. He should to easily fit alongside our Inq28 models, as well as the small Horus Heresy Alpha Legion force we are working on. Importantly, the project would allow us to explore the Legion’s inherent mystery and moral ambiguity. When discussing the different Primarch figures available that might serve as a base for the conversion, Vulkan the Promethean Fire, quickly became the focal point of our ideas. Of all the current Primarch models, Vulkan most clearly adheres to the classic tenets of the Space Marine, notably he wears broad, bulky power armor (rather than the lithe form-fitting plate that Angron or Fulgrim wear), all run by a power pack. It did not take long before we ordered the Primarch, and after about a week he arrived stateside. I thought before we got too deep into any conversions, we could unbox the model and show its components and use it as an opportunity to talk about our thoughts on the model and conversion ideas.
|Karl Kopinski's vision of space marines is probably one of the closest to my own, emphasizing their mythical status, but still grounding them in reality.|
Like all the other Primarchs and models in Forge World’s character series, Vulkan came in a sharp looking black cardboard box, containing two plastic trays with all of the components. The only difference this time, however, is that they finally started to include pieces of foam to hold down the smaller more delicate pieces. This is a huge step forward for Forge World’s packaging, one that should dramatically minimize broken parts during shipping, which was an aspect that I came to expect with each Primarch that I purchased (Angron, Fulgrim, and Ferrus Manus all needed pieces replaced). I am pleased to report that Vulkan came in excellent condition, with no broken parts. Admittedly, Vulkan does not have as many tiny pieces as some of the other Primarchs (looking at you Ferrus Manus…), so there was less that could be easily damaged, but I think it went a long way towards ensuring the model’s safely during shipping. The model’s casting is very good, without any catastrophic mold shifts. There are some minor bubbles, flashing, and moldlines, but that is to be expected with resin as a material.
When first opening the box, the one thing that stands out over the rest is Vulkan’s armour, the Draken Scales. His entire torso and legs are cast in a single magnificent piece of resin. The armour is broad and bulky, exactly like one imagines a Space Marine’s power armour. The front facing portions are large single plates, that gives way to a layered segments on the back, reminiscent to MK III Iron armour. Each plate is etched with scrollwork or has bas-relief designs of flames, hammers, and lightening bolts. All of this is done very delicately, as not to detract from the sense of movement in the model, and does not appear tacked on or gaudy. His breastplate is covered in broad wings, but rather than an eagle head in the center, it is a grim reptilian skull, that has a wreath of stylized flame coming from its nostrils. On top rests a low collar, which, impressively, hides the rubberized locking mechanism in which Vulkan’s helmet would fasen. It is the first model (in power armour) that I am aware of that has this sculpted, and is just one more little detail that makes the model stand apart from others in it execution and thoughtfulness. Additionally, behind the model’s head sits an iron halo that is ablaze with fire fueled from tanks on his powerpack.
|Vulkan's armour is the most striking element of the model, and possibly the best looking power armour I have ever seen.|
Both of Vulkan’s arms are separate pieces but, as I am sure you can guess, both are thick and substantial, fitting with the rest of his armour. Both have the hands removed, one to add his hammer Dawnbringer, the other to add an outstretched palm. The splayed fingers on his left hand are fitting because he has a compact flamethrower recessed into his wrist that looks to be bursting forth in a sheet of flame. From this snake two small segmented cables supplying promethium to burn. Dawnbringer is an impressively brutal looking hammer, its head a titanic slab of adamantium on top of a short haft. These two elements come together to make a warhammer that would look ridiculous in anyone else's hands, but looks right at home with Vulkan. His shoulder pads are not the traditional domed ones, but rather a layered variety that closely resembles those of Cataphracti terminators. Only one of them is visible, however, as the other is completely covered in the bestial reptilian skull of the Firedrake Kesare, whom Vulkan slew. His cape also comes from this beast, and was fashioned from its scaly hide. It is truly an impressive piece, each scale painstakingly sculpted. Interestingly, almost as if they knew the model would be a great starting point for conversions, the cloak slots into the lower portion of his back, behind his powerpack (which is the only traditional looking powerpacks to come with a Primarch, aside from perhaps for Lorgar), making it very easy to leave it off if it does not fit the theme of the model you are trying to create.
|Like the rest of his armour, Vulkan's arms are impressively thick and imposing.|
|Furnace Heart and Dawnbringer, respectively. Two frightening weapons.|
The last major element of the model is Vulkan’s face, and after hearing all the praise I have heaped upon the model thus far, you might be thinking it would be difficult for it to hold a candle to the rest of the model. Amazingly, it is just the opposite; his face is perhaps the strongest part of the model. Again Simon Egan rises to the occasion and sculpts one of the most impressive faces that I have ever seen, and one that completely encapsulates the Primarch. With Vulkan, Egan crafted a dignified, noble soul that has been pushed to his breaking point. He grits his teeth, stifling a bestial cry borne from the anguish of betrayal from his brothers in arms. But behind this passion, behind the rage, is an infinite sadness, and a weariness that was likely alien to his countenance until the very instance of the treachery. The power of the faces that Egan sculpts is that with even just a quick glance, you can glean so much of their character.
|Egan seems to get better with each face he sculpts, imbuing so much life into each.|
So, I have talked at length about the components in the Vulkan kit, but where does that leave us in terms of a conversion, and why this model in the first place? It all lies with his armour; I feel I continue to bring it up, but I simply cannot stress how massive Vulkan’s armour is, and it is not just the shin guards or the breastplate, every aspect of the armour is massive, while still maintaining the proper proportions throughout. Ultimately, this aspect of the model was what drew me to using it as the base for a conversion to convey the essence of a Space Marine. Afterall, power armour is almost synonymous with Space Marines; therefore I believe getting the armour correct is the single most critical element to tackle when representing an Astarte. Vulkan’s armour maintains the traditional power armour aesthetic, even containing a recognizable powerpack. All of these elements are important, considering no other space marine components are available at the same scale. Case in point, there are no space marine helmets that are large enough to fit his armour (to my knowledge). If using an unhelmeted head, it is not as much of a problem, but simply using a plastic space marine helmet would look awkward and undersized. This is one of the primary hurdles that needs to surmounted with the conversion, because the armoured helmet is a critical feature of any space marine, its glowing armour-glass and grim rebreather grill are as iconic as any aspect of the marine. One idea that occurred to me was using that head of a Contemptor dreadnought as the foundation of a helmet. They are much larger than a plastic space marine helmet, and also in the same styling. One glaring problem with this, however, is that the bottom half of them are cut off, allowing them to attach to the Contemptor’s torso This would necessitate sculpting the entire lower half from scratch, which is not a trivial endeavor.
As important as an Astarte’s armour is, it is not the only thing that defines them. Their wargear is equally important. First and foremost, he will need a Boltgun. You really cannot talk about Space Marines without mentioning their favored assault rifle. The bolter is a very interesting weapon, one that I am not entirely sure Games Workshop ever decided what they wanted it to be. It is designed like a sub-machinegun, without proper optics or a stock, and therefore is fired from the hip. Unlike a sub-machinegun. it fires caseless (this is rarely adhered to) mass-reactive rockets. I plan to convert a bolter for him that has a stock, and possibly an offset/angled scope. The size of the gun may be an issue, however, due to how massive the Vulkan model is. I find that GW tends to makes most of their weapons comically oversized (the bolter is not a terrible offender though), so I many not have to do as much work as I anticipate; a stock will likely help.
I have always found it odd that most space marine models seem to go to war with only a bolter in hand. Where are their ammunition pouches, grenades, knives, and secondary weapons? When a space marine goes on an operation, they should be equipped for just about anything, and should not need to resupply an hour later. Therefore, accompanying his bolter, he will also need a sidearm, which will come in the form of a bolt pistol and its holster.
I believe all of these elements (armour and wargear) will go a long way towards creating a rank and file Astarte that captures the crux of a space marine. Ironically, and a driving factor behind initiating the conversion in the first place, a space marine like I described would be extremely suitable for representing the Primarch of the Alpha Legion, Alpharius. A very secretive legion, each member styles himself after their Primarch, to mislead and confuse all outsiders (friend and foe). They go to great lengths to maintain this, mimicking his appearance, mannerisms, and even all use his name, Alpharius. This uniformity that runs through the Alpha Legion, makes a conversion to represent one of its members uniquely suited to represent anyone from the legion, including their Primarch (and/or Omegon?!).
The first thing Adam began doing for the conversion was cleaning off mold lines and removing the Salamanders iconography. With the majority of Salamander detail removed from the model’s body, he smoothed out any of the defects or blemishes with greenstuff. To achieve smooth transitions, the use of color shapers was essential, as well as adding a little more yellow putty than blue to the greenstuff mix (this makes it a little softer and easier to spread). Next he modified the collar of Vulkan’s armour removing the Iron Halo wreathed in flames, making the armour more in line with a traditional marine. Now that most of the Salamanders iconography is removed, decisions need to be made on what other external armour details should be added. One thing that comes to mind is including some Alpha Legion iconography. The etched brass produced by Forge World would work perfect for this however they currently have not released any for the Alpha Legion. It might be possible to get away with using roman numerals and other Greek characters (alpha, omega, etc) that are available in some of Forge World’s offerings and from other companies like Secret Weapon miniatures.
|Removing the Salamander iconography has been challenging, requiring a fair amount of greenstuff work.|
As mentioned earlier Vulkan actually has a reasonably normal powerpack. For this the only critical modification needed was the removal of the promethium tanks. These were relatively easy to remove and only required a little greenstuff work to fix some of the rough edges. Some additional venting from a marine backpack was added to fill out the areas hidden by the promethium cables.
|The marine's powerpack is well underway now that the promethium tanks were removed.|
Work on the marine’s bolt pistol is also well underway. The body of the pistol was created from one of the Forge World Phobos pattern bolters. The main modifications were simply shortening the front of the weapon and the magazine. He also added iron sights to the pistol and replaced the pistols grip with the grip form Vulkan’s laser weapon Furnace Heart. At this point the pistol could find its way on his thigh in a holster or maybe in one of his hands, both I feel would be fitting. .
|A Phobos pattern bolter modified into a pistol, complete with iron sights!|
Although the conversion is progressing nicely, it is still in its early stages, and a lot of decisions need to be made. For example, we are not sure what should be done with his shoulder pads, and if we should retain his layered pads, or try to create some that mimic the domed ones of most of the other power armour variants. Similarly, his helmet is still giving us pause; whether we want to try to repurpose a contemptor helmet or look elsewhere is still up in the air. Therefore, any suggestions, or ideas would be greatly appreciated! Hopefully within the next few weeks, a space marine that taps into the evocative imagery and mythology that has been cultivated over the last two decades will arise!