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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

C is for Character Historics

Which one feels ought to be F is for Figures Historiques or H is for Historical Figures or something, they've had several names and no names, a complicated history and according toPSR one of them is a bit of a mystery. In five minutes it will hopefully be less of a mystery, but more complicated!

A bit of background would be helpful . . . these two sets were among the first of the 'new' sets to appear, heralding the current renaissance we are still enjoying, indeed, it's more of a 'new normal' these days; watching the steady stream of new issues on Dave Kean's site, some makers taking a breather, others churning out sets, smaller companies disappearing as others tentatively issue their first set, but that is now, and these which were then . . .

. . . which was about 1997/98 . . . the Internet was something only 'some people' had, or that lucky people got to play with at work, eBay was garnering headlines but no one had heard of Google, Nokia - the most popular mobile 'phones - still had monochrome screens and a character limit of 140 on text messages . . . when first rumours and then fuzzy black-&-white (I seem to recall) images, finally; examples of unknown small-scale figures started to emanate from the newly (well, newish; ten years earlier) liberated East.

If one ignores the minor-makes, the history of plastic small scale had been pretty simple, Airfix dominated for 30 years, then Esci stepped-in to cover the 1980's with Revell (working with a couple of smaller, newer names) introducing their range at the tail-end of the '80's, while Atlantic had burned brightly in the middle of Airfix's dominance.

Looking at the picture today with dozens of makers large and small, all working on esoteric sets we never thought we'd see in plastic, it's hard to picture how hobby shops had only one or two brands on the shelves - for many years.

But as HäT, Italeri and then Zvezda began to expand the market, these little chaps started appearing, their first moments of newsworthiness used to be found on the HäT site, but I looked for them in Everything Toy Soldiers (ETS) the other day and couldn't find them, so they must have been notifications on long-gone forum threads?

But, it was about 1997/98 or thereabouts. I first obtained them from Peter Bergner's PB Toys at that time, from the Plastic Warrior show at Richmond, where he was carrying them in his own packaging with his own codes, but Peter only located/packed the first three sets to appear (the Samurai and first two ancient sets), which weren't the ones I'm covering here!

This is the problem set as far as PSR is concerned, but to me they are Kervella, and are stored as such. Yves Kervella was clearly the lynch-pin with the Eastern makers, and from the marking on the hub of the runner; "FRANCE 98", we can deduce that as well as importing the early output of the - still not really fully-understood - Eastern operators (some became the more professional operators; Strelets*R, Orion/Dark Dream and the later Mars) he was also commissioning figures or at least supplying master-sculpts/instrumental in the 'ideas' process.

As proof of how easy it is to lose even recent history if you don't keep good records, I obtained these on two occasions, once as the whole runner, but previously as four figures (the four lose on the right of the left shot), but I can't remember if I only had four because there were only four, or if I split them with someone like Paul at PW, which did happen with the later pirate set, I listed them as a four, and coming before the eight, so that must be how they came-in, I just can't remember why/if it had any significance!

I can't argue with PSR's designations vis-à-vis the identities of the separate sculpts, but equally would agree with them that several are open to interpretation and - as far as war gamers are concerned - paint and context will help make them pretty much anyone you need at the front! The saluting Nazi (PSR's 'Himmler') could be any German General of medium-build and stature - for instance, while Hitler isn't that clear and could be Himmler!

As given in the above link, but from the standard bearer - clockwise;

- SA Standard-Bearer
- Churchill
- Ernst Röhm
- Himmler
- Mussolini
- Auxiliary
- Hitler
- Rommel

But . . . Kervella - France!

Although, there's no denying that PSR's set is not one I've encountered yet, physically, and HYTTY  listed them both as single figures (mixed with the figures below), and a pair briefly; 001 - Hitler and Mussolini.

The 'Mussolini' is a suitably arrogant-looking, 'who ate all the pies' fat-bass'tud!

Another of the sets that crept-out of the cyber-space/ether of the early Internet was this one, which would go on to have several incarnations, with three makers/brands including rather pointless - risible even - 'limited editions'. Its line-up also changed from time to time, but as far as I can tell, the tool/runner was never altered and the full shot is still to be found occasionally.

Again while it came from the East, the hand of Yves Kervella is all over it, not least in the fact that while the bulk of the figures conform vaguely to Airfix's HO-OO moniker, the recognisably-French characters have had so much cow-muck put in their boots as kids they have pushed themselves to the top of the 25mm spectrum!

Top left to bottom right

- Charles de Gaulle1
- Julius Caesar
- Attila the Hun
- Grant
- Lee
- Franco (PSR have him as a 'German Officer') *
- Cleopatra2
- Mystery Figure *
- Joan of Arc
- Napoleon

* - The latter asterisked figure is believed by some to be the victim of the former. With one or both being left out of several packagings of this set, it's never clear what was happening with the two sculpts or who they are.

I favour Franco for the former - he is an obvious mid-20th century character missing from these two sets which feature fascists quite heavily, while the kneeling figure was also included in latter, larger sets of the Samurais, so it may well be that was always what was intended, but that there was no room for him on the Samurai runner, which like the earlier set above, was arranged as a 'pin-wheel' layout.

1 - Looks like he might have been based on a Cofalu 30mm policeman!

2 - Based on an Atlantic Egyptian courtier?

Odemars issued the set as 102 S - Character Historics, and while the 'Franco' was supposed to be left out, you can clearly see I got one! This also illustrates the problem of spending all that time and effort on developing a mould for historical characters, how many identical Napoleons or De Gaulle's do you want, or need!

Pre-production samples were sent out (by Yves Kervella I think?) in a leery, fluorescent green polymer which is a bugger to photograph, I've shot with and without flash to try and get across the set as best I can!

HYTTY (wacky name - wacky company!) also gave us two of each, but managed to filter out the Franco sculpts a little more diligently than Odemars. Note there is nothing on the packaging to indicate a limited edition status and it's marked-up as set 1003 - Figures Historics.

Also, I would suggest the Cleopatra sculpt has - from the neck-up - far more in common with the famous bust of Nefertiti, not a Ptolemaic Pharaoh (as Cleopatra was) , but an Ancient Egyptian one, however as a whole-sculpt; would make a better Akhenaton, the excised, male, Sun King (celebrated by Philip Glass), husband of Nefertiti, and another ancient?

This might help? It's more likely to confuse! The trouble with someone else's tables is - only the author knows what he's doing! However, it's a screen-cap from a 7-page document which runs to 95 entries, listing the sets first as I encountered them in the late 1990's and then by maker which anyone who fancies a copy can have, just eMail me at:

maverickatlarge[at]hotmail[dot]com.

Several correspondents call all these early sets 'Russian', but as far as I know they are mostly or all Ukrainian in origin, with a clear French connection - but no Popeye!

Yes, if you're a Trumpundbrixit bully-boy in the Donbas militia with 'I Love Putin' tattooed on both forearms you probably call it Russia, but if you are a friend of freedom, peace, democracy or self-determination (true Russians have never been free; or known freedom) then it's Ukraine, I choose to use the PC cop-out 'the East'!

We then have this appearing on HYTTY boxed sets a few years into their short existence (HYTTY's; not the figures, they are still around), claiming it was first and limited to 500 sets? But a quick perusal of the previous screen-capcha reveals that HYTTY managed to issue L1, 001, 100 and 1001 to three sets, 001 twice, and while L1 was issued to this set, at one point and presumably meant 'Limited - 1'; it was also issued by two other brands, is still available and became the unlimited 1003! And the later Greek cavalry box was a duel HYTTY-LW branding, LW and Odemars also working closely together.

Answering a question posed earlier in the editing process (and therefore; higher up the post!); there's a similarity between the Kervella-HYTTY-Odemars Cleopatra and the figure to 'her' right in this shot, but only in passing, and only around the front of the skirts/kilt/reed-knit sporran thing/area, otherwise there is no direct copying from any of the Atlantic figures, which otherwise match-up well - as 'Ancient' Egyptians, that is BC/BCE.

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