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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jean Hoefler - Figures

Jean Hoefler is a German firm started in Furth, Germany in 1923. It was founded by three brothers, George, Leonard, and Johann Höfler - it is not clear to me where the name Jean comes from. The firm had its origins in the manufacturing of sheet metal products, and while the other two brothers broke away to produce other consumer goods and tools, Johann focused on making tin toys. In the 50's, Johann's son Ernst took over and shortly after moved away from tin into plastic. The range of toys that they produced was large, and it's possible that they are better known for their cars, than their toy soldiers, particularly the red, ride-on 'bobby' car. In terms of toy soldiers, they covered a good range of periods, such as medievals -including some nice siege machines-, cowboys and indians, US Cavalry, Napoleonics, Astronauts, and of course, some WWII figures. They seem to have been popular during the 80's when they were one of the few firms making these figures. In terms of WWII figures in particular, I am only aware of their US GIs. Let's take a look at them.

Jean Hoefler US Infantry
These are five out of the eight poses made by Jean Hoefler. I have also seen them in dark green plastic. The missing guys are a bazooka man, a heavy machine gunner, and an officer leading on his men. The sculpting is fairly good, both in terms of the level of detail and the movement in the poses - aside from the guy who is just standing around. I don't know if the figures came factory-painted or if a prior owner painted them. Overall a nice set. It would have been nice if they had made some Germans to go against them. Being a German firm, it's likely that they decided to side-step that land mine. 

Soviet Cargo Trucks

Logistics is key for every army, but for the Soviets, with its huge territorial expanses, this was a crucial element during WWII, as it was bitterly discvered by the Germans. During the course of the war, the Soviet High Command needed to move huge amounts of men and materiel to replace its losses which were several times higher than those of the Germans throughout the course of the campaign, and in the later phases of the war, to overwhelm their enemy and roll them back all the way back Germany. While much of it was done by rail, trucks played a key role in getting the cargo to and from the railway endpoints, or covering areas where the railway infrastructure was inadequate. In terms of toy soldier trucks, we don't have much, but I recently found one which is a good start. Let's take a look. 

Ural Soviet Truck
This truck was actually introduced in 1976 and saw action in Afghanistan. Its name comes from the fact that it was manufactured at the Ural Automotive Plant. It is a very versatile vehicle, which has been adapted to many uses both within the military and in the civilian world. It is capable of traveling very rugged terrain and has a reputation for being easy to maintain and repair, Given the scarcity of WWII Soviet cargo trucks in the toy soldier world -outside of model kits, I find this to be a very viable alternative to give my WWII Soviet troops some logistical support. As you can see, the canvas has some Cyrillic writing, which makes it distinctively Soviet.

Click here to take a look at German Cargo Trucks
Click here to take a look at US Cargo Trucks

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Elastolin - Figures

Elastolin is a brand of toy soldiers produced by the German firm O&M Hausser. The firm began producing composition figures in 1904. Their main line of figures was manufactured in 70mm, although they also made some 40mm, 65mm, and 105mm figures. Production of plastic figures began in 1955 and it included a wide range of eras and themes. From Vikings & Normans, Romans & Huns, to Medievals, Indians & Cowboys, and of course, WWII. Their WWII figures include a wide range of action poses as well as parading figures. German soldiers are particularly well represented across their multiple service branches -Army, Navy, Air Force, Mountain Troops, SS, etc. Soldiers from other countries such as Britain, US, France, Italy, Japan, as well as other minor participants such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary, Romania, Indian colonial troops, and China were also manufactured. Their figures came factory painted most of the time, although some came as plain plastic. In the later years they even made a series of plastic swoppet figures. The good sculpting, level of detail, and attractive color schems, made these figures quite appealing, even to this day. Unfortunately, the company went out of business in 1983. The surviving molds were purchased by Preiser.

Elastolin 70mm German Infantry
The three figures in this picture came from three separate batches. Note that the tone of the colors changed across releases. The officer on the left is actually the conductor of the marching band.

Elastolin 70mm German Marching Band - Part I
The percusionists.

Elastolin 70mm German Marching Band - Part II
The man on the left is also playing an percusion instrument. It just happens to be ornamented quite a bit that makes it resemble the standard on the right, which happens to be quite elaborate.

Elastolin 70mm German Marching Band - Part III
The horns section. 

Elastolin 70mm German Marching Band - Part IV
The wood winds section. 

Elastolin 70mm German SS on Parade
Officer and enlisted man.

Elastolin 70mm German Infantry on Parade
Two German Army infantrymen. Note that the man with the backpack is the same as the SS man, in the previous picture. He is just painted in a different color scheme.

Elastolin 70mm German Mounted Officer

Elastolin 70mm German Army on Parade - Part I
These are the same figures shown in the previous pictures assembled in a parade scene.

Elastolin 70mm German Army on Parade - Part II

Elastolin 70mm German Army on Parade - Part III

Elastolin 70mm German Army on Parade - Part IV

Elastolin 70mm German Army on Parade - Part V

Elastolin 70mm German Infantry - Part I
These are some combat/action poses. Note how even though they are supposed to be action poses, many of them tend to be standing fairly straight. 

Elastolin 70mm German Infantry - Part II
The two guys in the middle are the ones displaying the most movement. Other than the straight bodies, the figures are fairly nice. The fact that they come factory painted/molded in colors is a nice plus. I certainly hope I can get my hands on a few more. 

Elastolin 70mm German Infantry - Part III
BTW, you can tell that they were sulpted by a different hand than the parade poses as they are a bit thinner. I tried placing the marching guys from this picture next to the parade figures and you can certainly tell the difference. 

Elastolin 70mm German Infantry - Part IV
The spotter will make a good complement to either the machine gunner or the sniper, as the sniper does not have a scope on his rifle. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Expeditionary Force - Figures

Expeditionary Force is a firm based out of Singapore. They seem to have been making figures for the last 4 or 5 years. They manufarcture figures in a wide range of historic periods, from ancients like Greeks and Persians, to American Civil War and most recently World War II, GIs and Germans. They figures are very well detailed, and their manufacturing method involves making bodies and arms separately, so that you can attach different arms to the same body and create a very different figure. They also manufacture the head gear separately, so for instance, the WWII GIs can be given regular GI helmets, or they can also wear Adrian helmets so that you can make Free French out of them. Similarly, the Germans can wear steel helmets or soft caps. All this does require quite a bit of gluing, but it also allows you to create variations of the figures if you don't want the poses exactly as they present them in their pictures. Their figures are very well detailed and the poses show a nice degree of action. They are meant to be 54mm, but at least the recent WW figures, were more along the lines of 60 mm. I know that some folks, like my good friend the Plastic General, have found this problematic. In my case, I find the number of poses released to be sufficient that I don't have to mix them with other figures if I don't want to. For instance, the recent WWII GIs, come in 5 sets, with most poses being unique. OK, so let's take a look at them.

Expeditionary Force Free French - Assault Section - Part I
I intentionally placed similar poses next to each other for ease of comparison. Subtle diferences in the positioning of the legs and arms, and the weapons they carry. Note how the first and fourth men from the left, are based off the same body, and the arms make all the difference. The helmets also make a big difference from how they look as GIs, particularly the officer who is wearing a kepi in this case. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - Assault Section - Part II
Three out of the four bodies are repeats, just with different arms. The new body is the one holding the bar, and smoking a cigar. Again, the arms make a substantial difference. Overall, they have managed to create a good range of figures using this interchangeable system of bodies and arms, without sacrificing much in terms of movement or creating awkward poses. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - HQ Company - Part I
This set has the most diverse poses. They call it the HQ Company, but it also has a few heavy weapons. Note how the officer is holding a set of binoculars. You will see that this is a theme that repeats itself quite a bit. Perhaps a bit too much. The bazooka team turned out pretty good. The sniper seems a little too exposed in my opinion. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - HQ Company - Part II
Out of these guys, I really like the flame thrower and the radio man. The rest are good role players to fill the ranks. The bar man is a repeat of the earlier set. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - Defense Section - Part I
This set has a few more kneeling guys with the same base body. I also put them next to each other for ease of comparison. The arms are some of the ones that we have already seen on the standing figures. The officer is similar to one of the earlier ones, but they have given him a pistol this time. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - Defense Section - Part II
And we got a third bar man in this set. I could have used a few more sub MGs and fewer men walking with the rifle across their chest. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - MG Section - Part I
A nice set of figures. The arms of the machine gun team attach in such a way that you can only put them in one position, which helps to make evertyhing line up well. Other poses allow you to rotate the arms as much as you want. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - MG Section - Part II
These are very similar to the previous ones, except for the officer and the rifleman.
The man standing with the rifle across his chest was supposed to be kneeling. The standing man was supposed to be another officer, but I swapped them so I could have a kneeling officer, as seen in the next picture. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - MG Section - Part III
The only thing I don't like about the kneeling officer is that he seems to be pointing his binoculars downwards. So I guess I need to put him on high ground to make it look adequate.

Expeditionary Force Free French - Mortar Section - Part I
These three mortar teams are almost all the same. the only thing that varies is the officer. 

Expeditionary Force Free French - Mortar Section - Part II
This one has a kepi and is holding a sub MG.

Expeditionary Force Free French - Mortar Section - Part III
This one is similar to the first one, but I raised the left arm to give it some variety.

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Assault Section - Part I
This assault section contains a good number of automatic weapons. Particularly well suited for the task is the man firing the Sturmgewehr 44. It's also an interesting touch to have a man firing an MG 42 off the hip. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Assault Section - Part II
The rest of the section is armed with rifles with fixed bayonets in case the assault runs into close quarter combat. The bayonets are a bit tricky to glue as there's not much contact surface to work with, but with a stong glue, they stay in place just fine. There's an extra bayonet for the man firing, but I chose to leave that one off. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Defense Section - Part I
As you might agree, the most interesting pose in this section is the standing machine gunner, particularly because of the tripod. Note also that instead of having the ammo fed by a belt, it has a drum attached to it. A really nice pose. The officer is a variation of the officer in the assult section, with diferent arms. The man on the left with the assault rifle is also nicely done. The ammo carrier is OK. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Defense Section - Part II
As you would expect with a defcense section, there are also some guys crouching. Based off the same base body, they have managed to create four poses. The man on the left is actually a sniper. the man on the right has a grenade launcher attached to its rifle. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - HQ Section - Part I
The HQ section has a few additional heavy weapons. The panzerschreck team is another well done couple poses. There's also a phone operator, which is based on the same body as the man with the panzerschreck. The man with the assault rifle is a repeat of the one in the defense section.

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - HQ Section - Part II
The rest of the section gives us another standing machine gunner (yes!), a panzerpfaust, another sniper, another ammo carrier, and yet another officer, with the same arms as the one from the defense section, which I've posed differently to create some variety.

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - MG Section - Part I
This section features another superb couple poses operating the machine gun, and the MG itself. You get two of these in the set. You also get two of the crouching poses on the left. Rounding up the set are three men leading the teams. One is the officer shown here. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - MG Section - Part II
Then there are also two other officers (NCOs?) wearing helmets and also holding binoculars. 
I posed one with the binoculars at eye level. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - MG Section - Part III
The other one Iposed with lowered arms. He could be tapping the shoulder of one of the machine gunners or simply signaling to cease fire. 

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Mortar Section - Part I
The mortar section is also very well done. One thing to point out about the mortar teams as well as the machine gunners is that their arms are manufactured very precisely so that they can only be attached in a specific position, which is very helpful so that they line up just the right way, as the left and right arms need to meet in just the right place. Many of the other guys allow you to rotate the arms and pose them at any angle that you wish.

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Mortar Section - Part II
This set also comes with three different officers/NCOs and just as I did with the MG section, I've posed them slightly differently yo create some variety,

Expeditionary Force German Infantry - Mortar Section - Part III
A frontal view of the mortar, as well as the last officer with binoculars at eye level. 


Monday, August 24, 2015

Pech Hermanos - Figures

Pech Hermanos was a Spanish firm based out of Barcelona. Started by the Pech brothers, Jose and Manuel in 1945, they started out by recasting and cloning metal soldiers in 50mm. Towards the mid-50's they began casting figures in rubber and later on in plastic. This is also when they began to sculpt their own figures. These plastic sets are bigger in scale, in the 60mm range. They cover a wide variety or periods and nationalities, as well. In terms of WWII figures, they produced sets for most of the participating nations, each with about a dozen poses. And then they also produced complementary artilly sets and heavy weapons sets. They seem to have had a great, and very productive run while it lasted. The following linksshow more of their sets:
Pech Hermanos Collection Page 1
Pech Hermanos Collection Page 2
Pech Hermanos Collection Page 3
Pech Hermanos Collection Page 4
In the sixties, the business was dissolved, allegedly due to family difficulties, and some of the molds got sold to the firm Oliver, known today for their reproduction of the Pech Japanese. Other molds apparently ended up in the hands of BUM who still manufactures several of their WWII heavy weapons sets of the GIs, and some Spanish soldiers in parade poses. Today, the original Pech figures are a much sought after collector's item in Spain, fetching top Euro for a complete set. Unfortunately I only have one Pech Hermanos figure to show, along with several recasts from Oliver. Let's take a look.

Pech Hermanos Japanese Infantry
This guy is part of an artillery crew -the officer in charge-, but it is basically sculpted in the same style as the rest of their Japanese infantry figures. He is also 60mm in scale. Note also the size and shape of the base and compare it to the bases of the Oliver guys below. As you can see, their soldeirs came factory painted.

Oliver Japanese Infantry (Pech Recasts) - Part I 
The first half of the set. Note how they have much larger bases and Oliver did a poor job embedding the smaller base within the larger one. On some cases, like the man on the right holding the binoculars, the inner base sticks out higher than the outer one. Overall, the figures show quite a bit of dynamism and action. I bet the originals were even nicer. Another thing to note is that Oliver apparently replaced the grenade thrown by the man on the left for some type of pole or stick. 

Oliver Japanese Infantry (Pech Recasts) - Part II
The rest of the set. Again, a good set of action poses. I also like the fact that even though the figures are large in size, they are not bulky. They have nice thin lines. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Publius - Figures

Publius is a Russian manufacturer based out of St. Petersburg. They are not very known in the west, but apparently they have a good range of metal figures in 40mm, which they have been producing since 2009 or so. These figures cover sets like Vikings, Saracens, Normans, Saxons, Tatars, Germanic, Pirates, Knights, etc. And of course, they also have some WWII Soviet troops. At least two of these WWII sets have also been released as 1/32 plastic sets. The sculpting for these figures is among the best in the industry. Unfortunately, they have only made a limited number of sets. What I heard as the reason for this is that the molds deteriorate and only support a limited number of casts. Therefore it is very hard to find these figures in 1/32 plastic and they have become very pricey. But if you can get your hands on some, they are well worth it. Let's take a look at the two sets which I have managed to locate.

Publius Soviet Naval Infantry - Part I
These guys are a great complement to the Pegasus figures and add much needed variety to this service branch of the Soviet Army. As I mentioned, they are really hard to find. I got these guys courtesy of my friend and fellow collector, The Plastic General. He discovered them and managed to obtain some from a contact in Russia. The level of detail and fluidity of movement in the sculpting is among the best I've seen. They are so well done that leave you longing for more poses. 

Publius Soviet Naval Infantry - Part II
I also like the fact that every pose is an action pose, as opposed to having some marching or standing guys, which tend to have a more limited use. And as you can see, there is a nice variety in the weaponry and outfits of the figures. I also like the fact that the bases have some detail and texture, but they are not bulky as has been the trend recently in the hobby. 

Publius Brest Fortress Soviet Infantry - Part I
Again, these are some of the best figures I have seen. I love the action-packed poses, how the movement and intensity of the fight is captured, and the great level of detail. For instance, look at the figure on the left, standing on a German helmet. I also like the man on the right firing the MG with the circular ammo drum from the hip. 

Publius Brest Fortress Soviet Infantry - Part II
Great sculpting. The attitude of the man in the middle is totally consistent with the the weapons he carries. Throwing himself into a close quarter combat situation. The woman on the right reflects the important role that women played in the Soviet army, not just as nurses, but in many combat functions. The only things not to like about these figures are that there are only six poses and that they are really hard to find. 

Publius Stalingrad Soviet Infantry - Part I
Publius' third WWII set is just as good as its predecesors. The uniforms emphasize the winter season of the campaign. The poses are loaded with action and movement. When you look at the man in the middle you can feel the tension in the situation that he might find himself in. 

Publius Stalingrad Soviet Infantry - Part II
The only pose that seems a bit stiff, compared to the rest is the sniper woman, but even she is well sculpted. The man on the right is an interesting pose. If you look at him closely, you will notice that he is wearing body armor. I've seen some pictures in which you can actually see the dents left by bullet impacts, so it seems that they were reasonably effective.