Stop, Collaborate & Listen (Blog or Die! Entry #1)

Accepted entry for the “Article” category.

Author: Primus (Cameron)

Word Count: 1,522

Stop, Collaborate & Listen

 

At this very moment you may be thinking to yourself things like “Wow, they really will let anyone write for the Manifesto,” “I have no clue who this guy is,” and “I’m probably not going to care for what he’s writing about.” And, constant reader, you may very well be right, as I’m going to talk about something near and dear to my heart: Bionicle™ Collaborative Builds. Yes, you read that right, BIONICLE™ Collaborative Builds.

Basically, this past year a bunch of prominent Bionicle™ builders (or, as prominent as you can get for a Bionicle™ builder) have been posting creations based on a common theme.  You may have heard about these builds (unlikely) or you may have seen these as they flooded your Flickr stream (more likely, but still unlikely). At the very least, you may have read the Brothers Brick article about one of the collaborations, which (given the fact that you’ve stumbled onto this article) I think is a safe bet. I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in a few of these collaborations; therefore, I am a leading authority on them. At least, more of an authority than most people. Either way, let’s move on to the interesting stuff.

As far as I can tell, the first of these collaborations (or collabs as the cool kids call them) revolved around reimagining the Lego™ Bionicle™ Vahki™ sets in the styles of different Bionicle™ builders. Since that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, I’ll clarify slightly. The Vahki™ were a line of Bionicle™ sets (basically evil robot police) and apparently all prominent Bionicle™ builders have a style (bit of an assumption). As I’m sure you all know, there were 6 Vahki™ sets released in 2004. Thus, 6 builders were contacted by an anonymous person, given the prompt for the collaboration and a date when to post the MOCs. And that’s it. Pretty clandestine. Seriously. I don’t actually know who reached out to us. I thought it was pretty weird at first, but also a pretty interesting proposal, so I decided to partake in the experience.

The builders contacted were Djokson, Red, Cezium, Lord Oblivion, Felix the Cat, and myself (Primus). Definitely an eclectic assortment of Bionicle builders (all of whom I’m certain you’ve heard of).

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Even with this rather open-ended theme, the builders all managed to build MOCs that, once put side-by-side in an easier to understand picture, were all somewhat recognizable as reinventions of the original sets. My personal favorite of this collaboration was Red’s Bordahk (the blue one). If it makes you feel better, I had to Google that name, and I actually build with Bionicle parts.

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I think that he did an excellent job of recreating the shape of the original set while also making a very dynamic and menacing-looking MOC. It exudes power and looks like it could take on a tank. I sure wouldn’t want to be caught in an alleyway with that staring me down! To top it off, his parts usage was outstanding and he really demonstrated a mastery of color. Truly an impressive MOC from an impressive builder. All-in-all, I would deem this collaboration a success, as 6 builders were contacted and 6 people built something, and usually when something like this happens at least 1 person can’t make it.

The next collaboration had a similar theme. This time, as far as I can tell, the builders were tasked with reimagining the Bionicle Rahkshi sets (spooky robot suits for evil slugs). More builders were contacted (by the same person, I’d bet) and, given that they all posted on the same day, I assume a deadline was set.  For this build, Djokson, Cezium, and Red were contacted again, as well as The Chosen One, Sparkytron, Rhymes Shelter, and Gamma-Raay. To my knowledge, this is everyone that posted. From the looks of it, the direction given was a little clearer than last time as they even had a common naming scheme, “The Sons of Makuta.”

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Again, I feel that the builders really knocked this one out, showcasing a wide range of styles and techniques in the builds. I also think that these were a bit more cohesive visually than the previous build, as these are all pretty recognizable as Rahkshi, even before I put them side-by-side. Of these builds, Gamma-Raay’s Panrahk was my favorite (the brown one).

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In this build, he managed to recreate the look of the Rahkshi from the official Bionicle Mask of Light movie (another thing I’m certain you’re familiar with). However, what really made this build the standout to me was the construction of the spine and System integration in the torso. Really excellent shaping in those areas. His posing and photography isn’t too shabby, either, and added an air of menace to the creation. This collaboration was enough of a “success” that The Brothers Brick blogged about (most of) it, which I guess means something. Don’t really know many metrics for success when it comes to collaborative builds.

Assuming that you’re still with me at this point, constant reader, I’ll move onto the next collaboration. This is another one that I participated in and the theme was to build robot saints.  Well, Orthodox robot saints, to be specific. A bit of a departure from the last two collaborations. This time around, the directions were a bit more detailed. The builders were instructed that the saints should be obviously robotic, that there should be a brick-built background that incorporates a nimbus, and finally that the saints should be wearing robes (as saints tend to do). The date, time to post, and naming scheme were also provided and the builders were left to their own devices. The builders chosen this time were Red, Sparkytron, Cezium, myself, and The Chosen One. Red must have really liked this theme, as he ended up building a second saint.

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I found this to be a very peculiar theme to build for, and a pretty challenging one at that, as I had only ever worked with Lego cloth elements once before. However, it looks like some of the other guys had used them before, as they really did a great job with them. Of the builds, my favorite one was from The Chosen One (the one on the far right).

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The subtle texture of the background, the shape of the head, and the inclusion of the “wiring” in the neck area were all great details that made this my favorite of the builds. I also liked how he was able to give the build more volume through the use of the second cape. I thought his execution was very clean and that it was a very well thought out concept. Really, this theme was a very thought out concept, if a bit odd.

To my knowledge, there’s only been one more collaboration this year, so we are nearing the end of this diatribe, constant reader, and I commend you for making it this far. Moving on, this most recent collaborative build, as far as I can tell, revolved around using older Bionicle/Technic parts to make up the bulk of the MOC. Given how they were posted, I would assume the directions were the same (whoever is organizing these is at least very consistent). There were fewer builders in this collab, though I assume that’s because higher education is a thing and there are a lot of final projects and exams occurring around this time. Unless I’ve missed someone, the builders contacted for this build were Djokson, The Secret Walrus, The Chosen One, Red, and Optimus Convoy (who has recently returned to the community from a dark age).

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I really liked the different directions the builders took with this theme. I especially liked how Djokson used the Technic blasters in the legs of his model and how Red used the Toa feet to create the neck for his lizard knight, but my favorite out of all of them had to be Optimus Convoy’s robot.

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For an old-school collaborative build, Optimus Convoy really hammered it home in my eyes. He built a robot that not only used old parts but also old techniques and styling. The teal/grey/trans-neon-green color scheme was very reflective of the time period, and the integration of Throwbot parts was a smart choice. This build might have been a little bit rougher around the edges, but I think that adds even more to its old school charm. Another interesting theme with some pretty intriguing results.

We have finally reached the end of this post, constant reader. I’m glad you’ve stuck with me this far and I hope you now know significantly more about the recent spate of BIONICLE™ Collaborative Builds than you did at the start of the article. Maybe you’ve even found a new builder or two to follow. Maybe you think you’ve wasted your time. Maybe you have questions like “Who is this anonymous person that organizes all of these builds” and “Why haven’t they asked me to partake” and “Why does Primus use so many questions?” But, perhaps most importantly, maybe you’ve really enjoyed reading about Bionicle MOCs for a change.

-Cam

Omnibus: “There is no spoon.”

That low rumble you can feel in your chest cavity can only mean one thing constant reader, the Omnibus is pulling back into Manifesto station to take you on another guided exploration of a single building theme.  In the past you’ve enjoyed tours devoted to board games, Captain America, Owls and an exhaustive (some say torturous) look at float-planes and the men who love them.  In this latest edition we’ll be gawking appreciatively at models inspired by the 1999 ground breaking sci-fi extravaganza, The Matrix and it’s two unfortunate sequels, “Reloaded” and Revolutions“.  It’s the movie that brought us bullet-time, a soundtrack for the ages and Laurence Fishburne in tiny legless sunglasses.  So call for an operator, it’s time to see what the Matrix has to offer.

Just like the opening scenes of the film, I’d like to get things started with a bang.  Let’s begin our examination of Neo’s Lego journey with my favorite offering in this rogues gallery of great Matrix models.  “…See your enemy…” is the single most impactful mosaic I’ve encountered to date and that includes a slew of more technically complex lenticular examples that are out there.  As with most great Lego creations, seeing the mosaic in person adds a whole new level of appreciation, the trans orange has the power to draw spectators from across a convention floor.  Simply put the mosaic is stunning and I’d be willing to wager that builder Brandon Griffith has been offered some serious cash for the piece since it’s posting in 2009.  On more than one occasion I’ve been tempted to copy it for my Legoratory wall, since my multiple efforts to abscond with it have not gone as planned.3219830255_a57d13e37f_o.jpg

Perhaps the most obvious and popular choice for the Lego treatment is the tunnel-running hover-ships that populate all three movies.  Although it is my assertion that we have not yet seen the definitive Lego-built Nebuchadnezzar, some might argue that Adrian Drake got the closest way back in 2002.  While his version was certainly very popular at the time of release and featured a full interior, it hasn’t aged well, the available photos are tiny and The Drake such an overbearing lurch in person that I don’t want to promote his stuff beyond a link for historical value.

The Nebuchadnezzar-inspired hover-ship on the left is called “Novalis”, and it was designed by the criminally underrated Paul Meissner along with the “Cerberus” on the right.  For my money “Novalis” is the best model in this very specific hover-ship sub-category.  The angles are just right, the hover-pads are plentiful and it looks ready to fight off  a swarm of robotic Sentinels.  I even dig the blunt nose, it looks both mean purposeful.  The “Cerberus” is a strong effort as well, but I don’t particularly care for the trans-yellow bits and the lines feel more choppy and almost pixellated to me.  I’m also not a fan of the tiled-over dorsal section, I think there was a missed opportunity for more shaping or texture.  Both vehicles are fine examples though and it would be interesting to see Paul revisit the form.

 

Chris White took a shot at the Nebuchadnezzar and while I don’t particularly like the undersized hover-pads, I do like the decision to go with trans blue and I think he nailed the challenging shape of the fuselage better than most.  If imitation is a form of success, Chris was successfully selling reproductions for several years, at a time when such an endeavor wasn’t as common as it is today with everyone and their mother pitching designs for Lego Ideas and selling models on Bricklink or Ebay.1308088562m_DISPLAY.jpg

Friend of the blog and long time crony Andrew Lee also had the Matrix fever back in the day and his “Ganesha” definitely makes the cut for the Omnibus.  I like how he changed up the color scheme and the nose holds up quite well in the intervening 9 years.  It’s also got a bitchin’ ramp right under the cockpit and a detailed (if sort of stunted) interior.  As with everything Lee builds, it somehow looks infused with heavy metal, booze and a hard to quantify “fuck it” attitude.  3017071476_880a7157bb_o.jpg

The once and future “Porn King of Utah”, Ryan Wood tried his hand at a hover-ship with pretty good results considering it is 13 years old.  Ryan pioneered this particularly effective style of hover-pad which elicited more than a few exclamations of “NPU!” back in the day.  It’s kind of a chibi-version of the Nebuchadnezzar called “The Nacon“, with distorted proportions, but it is important because it inspired quite a few builders to take a shot at their own hovership and that minifig visor technique was widely copied in a number of sci-fi applications.  Unfortunately we’ve pretty much lost Ryan Wood the builder to the Merlin entertainment group, where he presides over the construction of massive projects for the many Lego theme parks around the world and that’s a shame because I miss his creativity and boundless enthusiasm for the action.  He’s is one more example of how that job basically kills a person’s desire to build for fun.

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Unfortunately only a tiny photo remains of the “Logos” hover-ship from former wunderkind Bruce Lowell but you can still make out the enticing curves and unique shape.  I’m pretty sure this a microscale creation but I can’t tell for certain.

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This 2012 microscale version of the Neb is easy on the eyes, and greatly enhanced by the minimalist background diorama and typically impeccable photography.  It was constructed 5 years ago by the always reliable SPARKART! and it almost seems to float with a View-Master quality to the image.  It’s no mean trick to make a dark gray model pop against a dark gray background but the builder manages the task in style.

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Staying small for the moment, enjoy this 2009 microscale Neb from Frankus!.  The proportions might be a little wonky and the tail section seems a little thick, but some people like big butst, and they cannot lie.  It’s too bad Frankus! (I love any screen name with an exclamation mark) stopped building after a short but promising run, he was just hitting his stride when he wandered off.

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Continue reading “Omnibus: “There is no spoon.””

Omnibus: The Floatplane Notebook

The powerful engine you hear in the distance means that the Omnibus has returned to your town.  We’ll be going down to the shore so we can watch the seabirds land and maybe get a crappy tattoo on the boardwalk to commemorate the event.  Seaplanes, floatplanes, flying boats, whatever term you prefer just get up to the tower and ring the bell already, because we’re in for a very long drive and our bus driver is all jacked up on No-Doze and coffee.  Without further delay, let’s explore the wonderful world of floatplanes.  It should be noted that this robust posing could easily be twice as long if I included all the mundane attempts, so as usual, we’ll focus on the best stuff.  If you notice a glaring omission from this extensive list, please give me a link in the comments and if it’s any good, I’ll update the post. Now ring the bell already!

To my great shock I was not able to locate a Fantasy Island inspired Lego model, so I went with the floatplane that inspired this latest edition of the Omnibus.   Norweasel brings you a super-clean rendition of the “Piper Super Cub“, which features the only use of minfig swords in this diverse group of planes.  I also dig the two-toned rubber spikes on the back-end of the pontoons and the use of dark orange, a color that too often gets a bad rap.

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Just as clean and just as cool is this floatplane by Russian builder Сергей Антохин.  Unlike many of the models featured on this list, I think this untitled masterpiece would make a perfect official set, it’s too bad it didn’t catch on with LEGO Ideas.  The presentation is really enhanced by the in-flight camera angle.  I’d pay 30 bucks for this one.

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Unfortunately, Klaus “Eastpole77” Dobisch, the creator of this magnificent “Dornier Flying Boat” hasn’t posted anything in the last four years and even worse, he’s deleted much of his work from the internet entirely.  It’s a real shame because the guy was ahead of his time in terms of technique and always selected really interesting subject matter.   When you consider the fact that the Dornier was built eight years ago, before many of the parts and colors we take for granted, it seems even more impressive.

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Continue reading “Omnibus: The Floatplane Notebook”

Omnibus: “Not a bird, not a plane, I’m just a mean old night owl”

The always plush Omnibus is leaving the station, constant reader and you’ve got a window seat for all the action.  There is a snow owl airbrushed on the side of the bus, refreshments have been provided and “Fly By Night” is blasting from the speakers.  So grab the last empty seat next to Rutherford and we’ll take a short tour of Owl country.  We will discover together what our warm and embracing community can do with the beloved nocturnal bird of prey, in its many inspiring forms.

Our first stop is in Canada, to view the rarely seen owl in flight.  One look at the the photo and you can tell you’re not in the company of the average paste-eating mankinder.  This is the work of renown Montreal LEGO artist Ekow Nimako.  You can read a pretty informative  interview with Ekow here, which profiles not only this “Silent Knight” commission from 2015 but also his earlier work and background. I dove into his catalogue of pictures and didn’t come out of the trance for about 20  minutes.  You can expect an article on more of Mr. Nimako’s work somewhere down the line, for there is indeed much to explore.  For now enjoy two of Ekow’s investigations of the common barn owl, which are anything but common, including a construction video of Silent Knight.

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Let’s stay off the perch and in flight with good friend of the Manifesto, Jordan Schwartz and his “Owlet” from 2010.  At the time of posting, the use of non ABS LEGO products like cloth capes and Ewok glider-wings was very unorthodox and drew many exclamations of N.P.U. from  appreciative viewers.  The eyes and banana-beak are very striking and somehow the build still looks fresh 6 years and 10,000 hits later.

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Now let’s switch gears entirely and examine some mechano-owls like this eye-catching “Cyber Owl” from the ever reliable and always original, Mihai Marius Mihu.  I love the builder but I hate the name, it’s just too difficult to say and impossible to type from memory.  In my head I call him “Miti Mata Mulu”, which isn’t too cool.  The build is very cool though, the trans-clear plates on the chest were a brilliant choice.

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Continue reading “Omnibus: “Not a bird, not a plane, I’m just a mean old night owl””

Omnibus: The Game is Afoot!

Today’s guest lecturer at Manifesto University is Dan Harris, who is here to introduce his latest model and teach us a little bit about the ancient board game of Ard Ri.  I’m a sucker for table-top gaming so when a builder manages to combine it with LEGO and history I’m all in. You may remember Dan’s work  and impeccable photography from such fine dioramas as Hadrian’s Wall and Siege of Alesia.  He is a member of Brick to the Past, a crew of British Lego nerds who build historically themed models on an epic scale. Let’s hear it from Mr. Harris himself without my blather to distract the class.

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From Dan’s Flickr page:

Ard Ri is a variant of the game Hnefatafl, or simply Tafl, which is one of the oldest games in the world – traced in various versions to the Vikings, Welsh, Saxons, and Irish. It is rare in that it is one of the few games that comprises of two unequal sides. Ard Ri is played on a smaller board and with fewer pieces than standard Hnefatafl and it is one of the most challenging forms of the game. In Ard Ri the defending side comprises eight soldiers and a king, who start the game in the centre of the board. Their objective is for the king to escape by reaching any of the four corner squares. The attackers comprise sixteen soldiers positioned in four groups of four around the perimeter of the board. Their objective is to take the King. All pieces move like the Rook in chess and pieces are taken by “sandwiching” i.e. moving your piece so that an opponent’s piece is trapped horizontally or vertically between two of yours. Unlike other versions of Hnefatafl, in Ard Ri the defending side starts first.  Ard Ri is associated with the Scottish Highlands with Ard Ri meaning ‘High King‘ in Irish Gaelic. ‘Irish Gaelic’ you may ask? Well Scot’s Gaelic is part of the same linguistic family and in fact comes from Ireland. There’s a really good description of the game and outline of its rules over at: Boardgamegeek.

Hnefatafl sets often contained intricately carved pieces and beautifully decorated boards and this is what we’ve tried to create here, taking inspiration from traditional designs and the iconic Uig Chessmen. I say we, because the board was actually created by my girlfriend Dot, who as it turns out has a bit of a talent for cheese-slope mosaics. All I contributed was the structure and pieces.

With such a relatively obscure game you might think this is the first time a builder has tackled Ard Ri, but back in 2010 Elroy Davis took a crack at it with his “Hnefatafl Starting positions” model.

Since we’re on the topic of board games, let’s take a walk down memory lane with some great builders covering a variety of table-top classics.  First up is Canadian KeithLUG member Adam Dodge with his take on Battleship, a game that was first produced in it’s familiar form in 1967 but whose history stretches back to the pad-and-pencil games of the 1930’s.  I have to admit that the ship designs are a little bland, but at least they are functional and iconic.  There is a travel version out there by Kristi , which is worth a look if you’re a Battleship fan.

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Next up is Clue, the classic who-done-it from 1949 built by Ian Spacek for round 4 of the 2014 MocOlympics contest.  I love the economy of parts here, every single element matters and is well selected.  I also appreciate both the variety and choice of colors, the board is just striking and immediately identifiable.  There are no garish primary colors here, everything is muted without being drab.  The murder weapons and characters are spot-on and the logo in the center is clever.  The game looks just simple and playable as Battleship, but with a few more advanced building techniques on display. I would love to sit down for this game of Clue with the family.

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Marcos Bessa brings something fresh to the party with his take on a modern Portuguese table-top game called Trench.  After perusing the website I’m still not completely sure what’s going on here, but the model of the game board has an amazing texture and I find the whole thing to be strangely hypnotic.  It’s worth noting that Marcos works for LEGO as a Product Designer and lives in Billund by way of Paredes Portugal, so if he’s impressed with the game, I’m impressed.

12584241373_0fecebee7c_o.jpgThe Settlers of Catan hit the shelves in 1995 to immediate acclaim, designed by German Klaus Teuber.  American builder eldeeem gave it the LEGO treatment in 2012 earning over 200 favorites and 34k views and apparently an offer or two to purchase the model.  In my research for this post I came across several versions of Catan but the quality level varied widely.  I’m not sure if eldeem was the first builder to come up with the idea, but in my opinion his version is the best and looks like it would be very easy to customize to a player’s preference.  I’ve found a way to customize all of my favorite games over time so I put a premium on that feature.

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Let’s escape the realm of mass-produced games entirely and check out the new-age singing sensation and Iron Builders Siercon and Coral and their home-brewed Sci-Fi miniatures game Star Clash.  While some of the game pieces seem a little underwhelming, the rest of the production is pretty slick and like Catan it seems easily customized.  Seeing the game makes me want to build my own nano-fleet.  Although I don’t know much about the game mechanics (they had no rules posted), it has a familiar look and I’d certainly love to take a crack at it with a beer and a friend or two.

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I’m going to end this brief collection of board games with a model that isn’t a board game at all, but absolutely should be.  “Take the City!” not only has a great title, but it looks like a 3D map from a computer strategy game come to life.  Chris Madison is the responsible party, he’s a super talented old school builder who I was glad to see return to the scene after a lengthy absence.  Chris has been known to take a commission from time to time, so maybe I ought to close my mouth and open my wallet.  The flag markers, roads, nano-castle, mountains and coastline are outstanding…I love everything about this model.  The only thing missing is a tray full of extra game pieces and a pair o’ dice.

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I was planning on including chess in this post, but there are far too many versions floating round in the digital aether to add to this already bloated omnibus.   Interested parties should look for an article devoted entirely to the venerable game sometime in the near future.  As always, thank you for tuning in, constant reader.

Omnibus: Captain ‘Murica

The 4th of July is in the rear-view mirror but I still hear jack-wagons (read great Americans) in my neighborhood setting off fireworks every night.  You just can’t celebrate the defeat of the British empire enough, there is no wrong time to do it.  With that in mind, let’s explore the many models inspired by the most jingoistic hero of all, Captain America.  These models should be all the more inspiring because none were built by actual ‘Muricans.

We begin our star-spangled celebration with one of Chris McVeigh’s masterful, and now famous series of Brick Sketches.  This entry expertly captures the good Captain’s lantern jaw and determined eyes with a bare minimum of pieces.  This style is deceptively difficult, I once tried my hand at a brick sketch and the results were less than blog-worthy.  It is very challenging to capture the essence of a character in 50 parts or less.  I can’t recommend the process enough though, it is not only a fun experiment but it can tweak the way you look at building.

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For our second entry, we turn to Canadian builder Ken Robichaud, who built Cap’s iconic shield in 2012.  LEGO does a reasonable job standing in for Vibranium and you should check out the builder’s photo-stream if cosplay is your thing.  I would love to see someone throw the shield across a convention room for dramatic effect, or I’d be willing to do it in a pinch.  I’ve seen a LEGO star destroyer dropped from a staircase, to the delight of the crowd, but it is an awkward, unbalanced thing to throw.  I have the feeling that Cap’s shield would make for a much better projectile and certainly more colorful.  Sure, it’s easy to say that about another builder’s time and effort, but you can’t really argue that such a thing would be cool.

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I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more natural mash-up than Captain America and monster trucks.  The only mistakes builder Peter Blackert made were in his choice of brands.  Steve is driving a jacked-up Toyota Tacoma when it should be a Ford or at the very least a Chevy.  Likewise, the truck should be crushing a Volkswagen Beetle for maximum impact, since Hitler himself contracted Ferdinand Porsche in 1934 to design and build the commuter car. Nitpicks aside, this image is just so very… ‘Murica!8641690786_b71c240c86_o

 

We close out our celebration of national pride and comic book heroes with the famous “Captain America” chopper from the classic 1969 film Easy Rider.  The movie explores the societal landscape and tensions in the United States during the 1960s and it also included one of the most bad ass motorcycles to ever grace the silver screen.  Fred Ottens did a spectacular job of recreating the chrome-heavy Harley Davidson panhead, ridden by actor Peter Fonda.

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At the beginning of this omnibus posting I said there would be four takes on Captain America but I find that I cannot allow one of my favorite builders (or artists for that matter), Fredoichi, to be left out of the mix.  You just don’t see enough busty action in the hobby and Fredo’s interpretation of Cap makes me yearn for more: minifig hands just make everything better.

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A late edition comes from Rod Gilles , a piece of political commentary on the election of our idiot in chief, Donal Drumpf.  The image speaks for itself.30756737366_bfe5e5c67e_o.jpg

Go ‘Murica!