Another year has been and gone, and so as we all look forward to 2024, sing “Auld Lang Syne” and drink far too much. But first I’d like you to indulge me as I take a retrospective peek back at Simon's wonderful output of 2023. Yes, it’s that time again when 'Blax Kleric' throws the keys (and keyboard) to "Fantorical" over to me so I can lower the usually high standard of writing here, and he simultaneously raises the standard over on my own blog. Anyway having pawed over the past twelve months' posts, I’ve dragged my “Top Ten” favourite finished figures kicking and screaming back into the spotlight for one last hooray before they are consigned to the annuals of Fantorical history. So in no particular order (except rising from ten to one, of course) I give you my ten best figures by Simon for 2023…
Yes I admit it I did copy and paste the official name of this smashing figure off of Simon’s original post. Though we all know why they couldn’t just call him what he so obviously is for copywrite reasons, it’s a bit of a mouthful! But I digress, This is a truly iconic character and this 3D printed version has been painted to perfection in my opinion. His mainly black costume falls right into Simon’s wheelhouse as they say, as he does black so damned well it's sickening! The flesh along with all the other details have also been picked out superbly well. Top work!
It wouldn’t be a review of Simon’s stuff without at least one character of the comic book variety, and even though I think he has painted less than in previous years - Simon will now no doubt prove me wrong on this! - there was just something about this rendition of the “X-Men” baddie that made him stand out to me. He is of course very well painted and the colours are the usual perfect match for his “Savage Land” comic/cartoon source material. Perhaps therefore it’s his pose? I really don’t know. But there is something. Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on it, yet something just appeals to you at a base level, and that’s what this chap does.
Now the figure in at number eight is from one of those projects that has been around for well over a year now, though I won’t say exactly how long it’s been rumbling along for to save Simon’s blushes. Anyway, we all have them and this is one of his lovely “Sons of Horus” Space Marines. Now, he is also doing these in 15mm scale using Alternative Armies “Ion Age” miniatures and a couple of those have made my list in the past. But I think this is the first time one of the larger “official” figures has made the grade. This is not however a reflection of my lack of admiration as to the amount of work that has so obviously gone into these lovely plastic miniatures - the level of detail picked out (by a very small brush I imagine) is mind boggling, and coupled with the great teal and gold colouring of his armour, I can even forgive the “slotta” base he is mounted on (almost). This individual is simply my pick because his pose and helmet combination is reminiscent of one of my own “beaky marines” from my early days of gaming.
And now for something completely different - historicals! I have painted up a small unit of 28mm Napoleonic figures myself in the past, so am perfectly well aware of how time consuming and infuriating they can be. Resultantly, when these first started appearing on this esteemed blog I knew that if Simon stuck with it we were in for a treat. Suffice to say he did and we were! It might have taken some twenty plus years to get these miniatures painted (though we’ve all been there right!?). But the final results were worth the wait as these two (yes there are two) renditions of “Green Jacketed” Riflemen are lovely and convey all the hard bitten, no nonsense intent of these famous British chosen men perfectly.
Now before I start “waxing lyrical” about how good this figure is I would just like to clear up a couple of points. First off, I have included figures from the "Alien" franchise before in my Top Ten listings, and they are usually of the black-hued variety because anyone who has read one of my lists before will no doubt be aware of my deep appreciation of how well Simon paints black! In fact I’ve already mentioned it above!. This however, is obviously not black and is also from one of the much weaker entries in the series too - based as it is upon the Xenomorph’s featured in “Alien Covenant”. Simon actually painted two of these wonderful renditions, and even though he admitted to problems with the “3D printing” of the sculpts, it did nothing to distract me from turning my head with the truly excellent flesh and blood stained finished articles.
Renaissance gaming is not a period I’ve ever been tempted by, though I don’t in all honestly know why as the figures available for it (my usual attraction to a new period) are quite lovely. Such a case in point is this model, along with the other “Steel Fist Miniatures” that have appeared on "Fantorical" over the past few months. It’s always nice to see bloggers I follow stepping outside of their normal frames of interest, especially when the results are as good as this, as the painting of said miniatures has been of the very top order. Indeed, frankly the only thing that has kept we away from the company's web-site has been the trials and tribulations Simon has endured with the fragility of some of the other miniatures in this range. Whether this is actually a sculpt of the Marquess of Mantua, Francesco II Gonzaga or not, I don’t know (or if I’m honest even know who he is!). But issues aside the colourful paint scheme and wonderfully accurate painting has been a joy to behold.
Now I’m a big fan of anything connected to Gerry Anderson - the man was a genius and of course anyone with an interest in modeling has to be in awe of the detailed models and sets used in most of his television series. So when this lovely 3D print of one of the main protagonists from his 1963 puppet series “Stingray” appeared, it was basically a done deal that he’d end up on here. This is one of those deceptively complicated paintjobs, at first glance he looks green right. However, when you look closer you can see all the wonderful work and subtle layering that has gone into his skin. Simon does this so well, it’s like a background in a movie, if you notice all the details then it’s been done wrong, but if it’s not all there it’s also wrong - getting it right is an art, and a masterclass on how to do it right is what this is.
"Simon, you are a big fibber, sir!" Sorry for that outburst. But I felt it was justified as he wrote on my own “Top Ten Miniatures” last year and I quote - ”I tend to stick to using just one colour for their fur”. Then how exactly do you account for the exquisite blending on show on this gorgeous Orr'ugs wolf? Now this is a pretty large model, based as it is upon a 50mm base, so I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of his lead! And he’s a dead ringer for Gmork the Wolf from “The Never Ending Story” movie. So the blending from light grey to almost a dark blue grey is sublime, and add in the pin sharp detail work on his jaws and eyes and I don’t think you could find a better example anywhere! You are a dark horse, sir (actually it’s probably a Piebald!) as he went and did it again less than a week later with a second Orr'ugs Wolf.
Simon has painted lots of lovely miniatures from various film series this year, including several from the “Robocop” franchise. However, the one that really stood out to me was this figure that whilst only appearing in the second Robocop movie for a few seconds, proved so iconic that it’s been stuck in my head ever since. Resultantly, when this cracking sculpt of the failed experimental second Robocop turned up on "Fantorical" there was always going to be a damned good chance he’d make it into this year’s Top Ten. Posed with him pulling the helmet from his head to reveal the bloody screaming skull underneath, this is just such a cool miniature and one that I never in a million years thought would ever be produced. Albeit these days we live in a world where just about everything can get sourced if you know where to look. The painting is sublime of course and he looks like he’s just walked out of the screen. As I said just so damn cool!
So what’s edged out all these wonderful miniatures and has taken the top spot this year..?Well I have to admit I’ve gone back and forth over this list so many times, with both the second and third-placed figures having been at the top. However, I always leave at least one space free when I start this list as Simon keeps producing figures right up until the end of the year, so I like to have a little wiggle room in case his last figure is a contender. Luckily, it was a "Nu [Doctor] Who" model, so that wasn’t an issue this time round (sorry Simon). I did though, spot this figure of a “Zombie” version of the Hulk on my last look through, and even though he hadn’t even made my original short list, on perusing his post I was struck by just what a superb job Simon has done on him. Everything is right, the colours, the shading, the details, the gore, even the base is a joy of little details. Everything meshes so well and is done to perfection, so yes, from out of nowhere this has leapt to the top of the pile, I give you my favourite miniature of 2023.
And so that’s it! My ten favourite figures from this year’s "Fantorical" - the home of well painted miniatures and stuff you never even knew existed, let alone knew yow wanted so much! As always I’ll end by first thanking Simon for letting me run free and easy over his baby. I mean honestly will the man never learn! Secondly thanks to you dear reader, without whom there would simply be no point to blogging in the first place.
Now I could list a few of the things that didn’t quite make the cut this year. But frankly they were all good, so my advice is nip out to the kitchen, make yourself a big cup of tea (or something stronger if you’re so inclined), settle back and work your way back through all of Simon’s posts of 2023. In fact, don’t stop there keep heading back towards the sunset. I promise you a damned fine read! All the best to you all for the New Year, may your dice roll true and your paintbrush bristles never splay. I now return you to our regular program...
N.B. You can visit Roger's excellent wargaming blog and see both his excellent output, as well as my own Top Ten of his 'best in show' here: