Fratricide, Betrayal at Isstvan IIIGames Workshop Horus Heresy-era diorama, completed July 2008
I've always enjoyed the Horus Heresy-era portion of the Warhammer 40K background, and the GW Black Library's development of that background over the last several years, with art books and novels, has only increased my enjoyment. Presuming you're not as obsessed with the fictional history of the game as I (because few are) this duel is set at a point when the first rebellious legions set out to eliminate any remaining loyalist elements in their forces. This setting let me depict two of the traitor legions in their original livery, and based on that point in the war and the antagonists, it's not clear who is the loyalist and who is the traitor. Further, I aimed to pose the duelists in such a way that it's not obvious who has the advantage. The viewer can come to his own conclusions about those points (and I have my own opinion), but it's intended to be unclear.
Given the time frame, this was also an opportunity to fabricate some of the older armor designs and kit-bash an old-style turbine jump pack, a design I've always liked and never quite got around to building. If you want armor, weapons, or accessories like this now, you can just order them from Forge World, but back in 2008 when I was working on this piece, it wasn't an option. I'm actually a little surprised it took Forge World this long to get around to making older marks of armor and weapons.
The figures in the duel are named for two fellow participants in our Primarch Project from the previous year - John Shaffer and Dave Taylor - who had created Heresy-era armies for these legions. This being a Warhammer 40K project, I had to "Latinize" their names, so Shaffer (shepherd) became "Upilius" and Taylor (tailor) became "Sartor" - pseudo-Latin versions of their respective surnames which you can see on their name-plates in the second photo.
"True-scale" Astartes were all the rage for months before I started working on this project. The gist of a "true-scale" conversion is enlarging the marine miniature to make it more appropriately super-human next to a standard miniature. The 40k background talks about Astartes being 7 to 9 feet tall, depending on who you ask. Jes Goodwin says they're 7 feet *, so that's the end of the story as far as I'm concerned. In any case, there were (and are) a wealth of "true-scale" conversions and re-sculpts floating around the interweb and I wanted to try my hand as well. I certainly didn't go as far as some, but I added a bit of length and bulk here and there, most obviously in the depth of the chest and the length of the thighs. I found it was easiest to add length to the legs around the hip joint and bulk to the torso before gluing the front and back halves together. You can see some evidence of this in the unpainted pictures of the models. If I had it to do over again, I might have gone a little further with a still bulkier torso and thicker thighs. The end result isn't entirely obvious without a standard model for comparison, but I think there's a subtle improvement to the proportions regardless.
This project also marks my first concerted effort at painted weathering. The technique I used comes from Sebastian Archer by way of Todd Swanson - Sebastian coached Todd on an earlier project and Todd coached me here. It's my intention to write up a short tutorial article on this form of painted weathering, but for now I'll tease you with the comment that the technique is effective and speedy, almost unbelievably so for me. It took me nine weeks to convert and assemble this project (fairly typical for me), but only two weeks to paint the entire thing (blazingly fast for me). It felt a bit like cheating.
The sketch in the eighth picture is intended to show just how sketchy concept art can be (especially mine) while still being fairly effective. Even this thumbnail scribbling allowed me to refine the poses of the miniatures and the balance of the composition. This is probably the fifth version I drew, so you can infer how bad the others must have been. The salient point here is that you don't need to be a trained artist or experienced illustrator to produce useful concept sketches.
In a truly Bonamont-esque moment, I managed to break the Fratricide duel into four pieces during a class at Adepticon 2009. Fortunately I was the one who broke it, so I couldn't blame anyone else or freak out [too much]. The silver lining of that cloud of clumsiness is that I was able to take a few unobstructed pictures of each figure before reassembly.
I feel it's worth mentioning the embedded hoses on the legs of both marines are cast metal guitar strings from Dragon Forge Designs. Actual guitar strings don't have a mold line to clean, but Jeff's castings are good and these can be cut and bent so much more easily. I've been incorporating these into projects for years now and they're wonderfully useful. While I'm giving credit where credit is due, the ebony display plinth was made and laser-etched by Wayne's Miniature Bases. He works in less exotic woods too, and the quality and customer service are top notch.
* In addition to literally asking him myself, the last page of The Gothic and the Eldritch shows Jes sitting in front of a life-scaled Astartes diagram, the top of whose pack is at 8'. This is initially misleading though, as the soles of the model's feet are at the 1' line; hence a 7' marine.