Thursday, 19 March 2015

Kaustic Plastik - Fantasy Warrior / Conan The Barbarian.


KNOW, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars—Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen- eyed,sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.
- The Nemedian Chronicles.

Hykarnia warlord: We won again! But what is best in life?
Hykarnia warrior: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.
Hykarnia warlord: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?
Conan: Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.
Hykarnia warlord: That is good! That is good.

The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one - no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts. This you can trust (point to the sword).
- Conan's father.

Suffer no guilt, ye who wield this in the name of Crom.
- Cimmerian writing on Conan's sword.

For us, there is no spring. Just the wind that smells fresh before the storm.
- Conan.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
- Friedrich Nietzsche.

A (mis) interpretation:

The Hyborian Age. Conan was a Cimmerian, a race of northern barbaric tribes whose ancestry could be traced back to the Atlantean survivors from the Great Cataclysm. The Cimmerians are primarily hunter-gatherers, with knowledge of iron-workings. There are no centralised government, and different clans or tribes often fought each other as well as races from their neighbouring, equally inhospitable regions of Vanaheim and Asgard. Conan was conceived after a night of drunken stupor between his father, Corin, a master blacksmith of the tribe and Greshan, one of the daughters of the tribe leader. During a fight by the tribe against a Vanirs warband incursion, Greshan went into labour and Conan was born on the battlefield.
Conan grew up in Cimmeria rugged wilderness, heavily forested with mountains and hills, the weather cold with bleak overcasting grey clouds. Like all Cimmerians, Conan was thus forged by the very harsh conditions of the land. From a pre-teen age, Conan had great martial prowess, as well as many other impressive skills. He could easily climb seemingly unscalable cliffs, track humans and animals with ease, and stalking them without a sound. Despite the Cimmerians primitive state of living, they pride themselves as warriors with a straightforward sense of justice, noble savages contrary to the general corruption of the civilised nations and races. Conan worshipped only to Crom, thought to be a merciless, unforgiving god whom valued only strength and bravery.
Conan matured quickly to youth, and by the age of fifteen, he was already a respected warrior whom participated in the raiding and subsequent destruction of the Aquilonian outpost, Venarium at the border of the region by the Cimmerians. Aquilonia, one of the most powerful kingdoms of the Hyborian Age, retaliated for the massacre of its officials and citizens at Venarium by sending a massive army deep into Cimmeria, destroying many tribes and clans before being repulsed back to the border. Amongst the casualties were Conan's father and mother.
Shortly after, Conan, struck by wanderlust, left Cimmeria and began to explore the lands beyond his birthplace. He roamed throughout the Hyborian Age nations as a thief, outlaw, mercenary, and pirate. During his adventures, Conan encountered skulking monsters, evil wizards, tavern wenches, and beautiful princesses. His journey often result in him performing heroic feats, though his motivation for doing so is largely to protect his own survival or for personal gain. As he grew older, he began commanding larger units of men and escalating his ambitions. In his forties, he seized the crown of the tyrannical king of Aquilonia, King Numedides by strangling him on the steps to the throne. During his reign as the king of Aquilonia, Conan survived numerous coup attempts against him. He married Zenobia, a former Nemedian king concubine whom Conan was indebted to and eventually fell in love with, and made her the Queen of Aquilonia. She bore Conan a son, Conn or Prince Conan the Second. Through Conn, a dynasty was established which lasted five hundred years.
As a king, Conan initially adopted defensive stance against assaults from Aquilonia's neighbouring kingdoms of Nemedia, Ophir and Argos. He also established an uneasy truce with his former kinsmen from north. The Bossonian mercenaries army, whom swore loyalty to Conan and the kingdom of Aquilonia, kept the savage Picts in check from crossing the western border. Eventually Conan was forced to engage the attacking forces by raising a massive army and led them into a war to expand the kingdom's empire, successfully annexed Zingara, Argos, Ophir, and western Shem, and forced other kingdoms to pay tribute. Nemedia, which had resisted its powerful neighbour for centuries, drew Brythunia, Zamora and Koth into an alliance against Aquilonia. Conan's Aquilonia army succeed in defeating the alliance, breaking the back of the Nemedian forces. Concurrently, the mighty riders of  the Turan empire from the east, led by the great King Yezdigerd, and reinforced by their Hykarnian kinsmen, swept to meet the Aquilonians on the plains of Brythunia. For the next few decades, these two empires would fought repetitiously with no clear victory for either forces. At the age of seventy, Conan, still robust and active, led the Aquilonian army against the Turan empire, where both Conan and Yezdigerd died in a personal duel against each other, on the battlefield just as Conan was born on it. After Conan's death, Conn ascended to become the new king of Aquilonia and continued his father's legacy.
Conan is a physically imposing individual, heavily muscular, broad and tall with tanned, bronze skin covered with scars from numerous battles and combats. He possesses immense strength, endurance and stamina as well as highly dexterous, with agility and reflexes akin to a panther. Conan could travel several days without sleeping, and had fought armed men greater in numbers until he was overwhelmed and captured. He was once crucified under the order of the mighty Stygian priest, Thoth-Amon, deprived of water and food for a day and night, yet possesses enough strength to free himself by pulling out the nails.
Despite his brutish appearance, Conan is highly intelligent, has a heightened degree of cunningness and deceptive to a certain level, an opportunist with excellent escapism skills. He always have a keen sense to  continuously improved himself with curiosity to seek out the unknown and adventurer. The Cimmerian was an incredibly formidable combatant with both armed and unarmed skills, and some of his hardest victories had come from fighting single opponents of inhuman strength, such as Thak the Ape Man or Baal-Pteor the Strangler. His travels have also given him vast experience in other trades, as well as a survivor. Conan was a talented commander, tactician, and strategist, as well as a born leader. Conan also spoke many languages, a fine orator in his later years, and this include his advanced reading and writing abilities. To the astonishment of some scholars, he was able to recognize, or even decipher, certain ancient or secret signs and writings. He possesses a sense of humour but often grim and ironic. Conan is far from untouchable and had been defeated and captured numerous times. He is a loyal friend to those true to him, with a barbaric code of conduct that often marks him as more honorable than the more sophisticated people he meets in his travels.


Billed as The Fantasy Warrior, this is Kaustic Plastik, which is awesome for its museum like quality Roman era stuffs and accuracy, "interpretation" of the most famous fictional barbarian warrior out there, Conan the Barbarian (or the Cimmerian). Created by Robert E. Howard way back in 1932 through a series of fantasy, sword and sorcery stories published in the pulp magazine, Weird Tales, Conan has since been adapted to books, comics, films and various other media. When the '82 movie directed by John Millius came out, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his breakthrough role, and with the "Anvil of Crom" primary musical theme, composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris, it has a big impact for me. Then coupled with Marvels' reprint of the Savage Sword of Conan under the title Conan Saga, I am hooked. The stories are written by Roy Thomas but personally it is the art that played the primary role, of which are by John Buscema. And co-incidentally that was also the time when I discovered Frank Frazetta and his awesome works. All these took place in Penang, at the bookstore, Times. After moving out from Penang, my interest in Conan stories and arts waned, but the barbarian continues to lurk within the sub-consciousness. When I started 1/6th or any other scale figures collection, I found myself always on the look out for a Conan figure. Having purchased The Complete Chronicles of Conan collection of stories by Robert E. Howard and Roy Thomas's encyclopedia, I realised there is no way to put these stories chronologically. 
I am pretty happy when Kaustic Plastik announced The Fantasy Warrior even though it is sold as carded separate components and I would need to purchase the Heroik Muscle Body KP02XXL-A. I bought the set but later, Kaustic Plastik announced the expansion set, based on Conan the Destroyer, the '84 sequel. Now, the sequel and the 2011 version are not so memorable, but personally from aesthetic point, it captures the closest look of a "barbarian", so I bought it. But that made the first set kind of redundant, except for the headsculpt. The body is great, tanned to match the headsculpt skin tone but I feel it could be improved with slightly greater height, musculature, and bulk. Something like Kids Logic's Akuma body details i.e. veins etc but obviously not to the extent of being a caricature or cartoonish. Or something like those bodies used by Storm Collectibles. Perhaps it is because I grew up on Frank Frazetta's artwork and my mind's eye would always be on the details of the body. I reckon that if there's no costume for a figure, then the details would have to be focused on the body itself.  The muscular body is alright but not impressive. Though the tight muscle is better compare to say, a Hot Toys Advanced Muscle Body, for a character of this nature, the chest muscles could be redefined better. For lack of better wordings, it looks like man boobs, kinda saggy. The headsculpt is so-so. But hopefully Modern Life would execute and push through their version with rooted hair but I have a feeling it is not coming as words around the campfire that Modern Life is in some sort of "trouble". So I got meself a recast headsculpt from Ebay, which looks smallish comparatively but since it is a...uh..."custom" headsculpt, I don't have high expectation of its quality. The edges of the hair chipped off the moment I tried to swivel the head around for posing. Sigh. Glue time. As for the Kaustic Plastik head sculpt, I curiously couldn't slot it onto the neck post, so would just sit on top, giving it a giraffe like neck. I decided to stick with the recast headsculpt because the Kaustic Plastik one is a tad too "modern" looking personally. Also, the recast one gives a better proportion to the overall size of the figure. The overall quality is nice but watch out for the leg pegs of which Kaustic Plastik included a pair of extras due to possibility of breakage which is very good of them to pre-empt customers. Also, the left arm kind of loose and pop out at one point but could be popped back. The torso tightness and knee joints are also a bit loose but not floppy. it seems that these two areas to affect not only ThreeA but other brands as well...or it is just a case of random bad luck? The accessories are nice, particular the metal sword. So until the next one, if any at all, this is the one which represents the barbarian of all barbarians.

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