A Long Weekend Zombie Apocalypse!

April 27, 2015 by crew

I recently “unearthed” a box of Mantic Zombies from the impulse-buy stacks cluttering up my desk, and thought, “Why not?” I usually scramble to get miniatures and terrain ready for our monthly AD&D campaign, and what I end up painting is, most often, not what I want to be painting. I didn’t need the zombies for our next game, but these figures suddenly called out to me from beyond the grave. So, I pushed aside a player’s gaudy, cobbled-together fighter/mage, and cracked open the crypt… er… box.

Cover Photo

On the day I ordered them I vacillated between buying one or two kits and then realized there were thirty in a pack (they currently sell in boxes of forty for £24.99). For most post-apocalyptic zombie applications that may seem woefully inadequate, but it was more than I had ever stocked a dungeon with, so I only ordered one kit. Warning: your needs or willpower may vary.

Day One

This wasn’t my first Mantic purchase but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when I took an inventory of what was inside: ten identical sprues and a dearth of spare parts. Two of the three extra arms were clutching a hand or a head respectively meaning they had to be incorporated into the models. There were only three types of legs plus three variations of the torso, one of which had both arms extended, reminiscent of Vampira stalking a victim…or of the French army in 1940.

My first thought was “WTF? How am I going to make thirty original/different figures with such a paltry selection?” As it turned out, that wasn’t a problem (Author’s note: I should mention here that I had just finished putting together sixty-plus GW wood elves, and given the volume of extra bitz I had just shoehorned into my cabinet, my expectations were likely too high).

Zombies #1

The models were easy to individualize, despite the lack of bitz options.

The first thing I did was dry-fit and play around with all the components to see how many variations I could come up with. What saved the day was the torso/legs “socket,” which allowed for varied angles on the body, and the numerous characterful heads — my favourite being the one that looks like Steve McQueen…on one side anyway.

Zombies #2

Any zombie horde, left unsupervised, will eventually form a Conga line. Steve McQueen is second from the left.

Murphy’s Law of Flash: you will only find it when you’re drybrushing. There wasn’t a lot, but it showed up in the worst possible places in the latter stages of painting — on the inside of the arms and legs. Vigilance required. After naively thinking I had got rid of it all, I set about gluing them together. As I mentioned, coming up with individualized poses wasn’t an issue; a lot of thought seems to have gone into the kit design.

As for the hands carrying heads, I decided to go with the head being a projectile, rather than something the zombie was trying to perch on its vacant neck. I even managed a few good “baseball” poses. My only complaint would be that the torso/legs socket wasn’t completely round, so there were some restrictions. I should have puttied the arm/shoulder joints; I didn’t. Even without paint they looked fabulous. Day One done.

Zombies #3

Baseball pose (center on dais). Catcher to pitcher: “Let’s get our signals straight: one finger for a curve, two for a fastball, and three for an eyeball.”

Day Two

Now, to the business of painting. I’m only human, unlike @elromanozo and the other fabulous artists who post tutorials on here, so what follows will not be a how-to guide, but rather an answer to the question, “Why on earth did you paint them like that?”

Let me see if I can pre-empt a few comments. If you think they look like they’ve been stomping out a batch of Chianti Classico in a shed in Tuscany, you’d be right; or, if you feel they look like someone who’s inadvertently dropped their smartphone in the toilet on the New York/LA Redeye, you’d also be correct. There was a method to my madness however as I’ll explain below. For the squeamish among you it may be time to move on.

Zombies #4

That tragic moment when you realize the men’s room is ten steps too far.

When a corpse has been lying around for a day or so blood pools in the lower part of the body (any that hasn’t leaked out, that is), creating an effect that looks like bruising. Where does the blood go when a victim is animated immediately after death? For the answer to this hypothetical question I went to the closest subject-matter expert I could find: my brother. He is a former army medic, paramedic, and now a helicopter paramedic. Given what I already knew I asked him if blood might pool in the extremities of a recently deceased zombie. I got a long-winded answer that involved terms like “dependent lividity,” and other medical jargon that went far beyond my pay grade. The short answer was “Yes”.

He also eagerly suggested I model bloody vomit due to some upper GI tract bleeding (in retrospect, he got into the spirit of the thing more than he needed to). I didn’t, but I did brush in other appropriate stains. Since the bowel and bladder are no longer concerned with their owner’s dignity following death, I embellished their loincloths to reflect that.

Zombies #5

The “skid marks” showed up better on the grey loincloths… but not so good on the photo. Damn you, point-and-click camera.

For all of you “die-hards” still following along I should probably finish up with a few lines on painting. I started with a light flesh tone, and blended it with purple/grey on the arms and legs. I gave the whole model a wash of GW’s Agrax Earthshade. The next step was to drybrushthe original flesh tone over the top, and then go into the low areas with a fine brush and a black or blue wash. There’s also a sepia wash on the edges of the purple, to give those transitional areas that lovely days-old-bruise look. The dried blood was a mixture of black and red (I use Deco Art acrylics), and there’s some red wash applied to the creases as well. Finally, I gave the body a white highlight. Day Two done.

Zombies #6

Mantic zombies and ghouls…

Day Three

The colours on the loincloths and bases are neutral, to better show off my putrid palette, and I went with dark colours on what little hair they had, to contrast it with the pale skin. The colour on the bases is a mix of the grey and tan used in the loincloths (my leftover paint, actually), with the flock being a mix of gravel from my driveway, silica sand from a nearby quarry, and ground up florist’s moss. I steered clear of putting anything “living” on the base. The bases themselves were standard two-part Mantic: a square base with a round inset that fits the circular base attached to the legs. I used Milliput to integrate them.

Zombies #7

…and the ‘80s zombies and ghouls they’re replacing. What was I thinking? I can, however, say with all honesty that I had no part in choosing the edge colour on the bases. Safe to say these Ral Partha antiques will be “laid to rest.”

These models were a three-day project and a pleasant diversion from my otherwise time-constrained hobbying. I ended up with some truly disturbing models, and a small handful of extra bitz which I can use to make other bad characters worse. The only real casualties in all this were, not one, but two, GW drybrush brushes. If anyone can recommend a more robust alternative (in North America, or something I can get through mail order), I’m all ears.

Oh, and thanks for a great long weekend Ronnie!

Craig Pauls

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"As for the hands carrying heads, I decided to go with the head being a projectile, rather than something the zombie was trying to perch on its vacant neck"

"The only real casualties in all this were, not one, but two, GW drybrush brushes..."