Classic Close Wars and Comic Book Soldiers – back to the forest

Work in progress … Minutemen from the 1960s 1970s Lucky Products USA

My thoughts recently have been about redcoats and simple Featherstone rules like Close Wars, about painting what I own that I have bought in the past and put away for future occasions (though who would have envisaged our Lockdown situations?)

My scratch / scrap Napoleonics and Tricorne figures in 15mm had no Forest Indian opponents and I had no great wish to buy even more 15mm figures during the Lockdown. Instead I looked through my hoard for some odd-looking plastic flat Indian and Redcoat figures that I had bought for Close Wars and put away unpainted for a rainy day.

US comic book artist Russ Heath’s illustration c. 1961 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russ_Heath

On the painting table this week but not finished are a box of Revolutionary War Lucky Products Comic Book Soldiers from the USA in the 1960s/70s. I was intrigued by these crude 30mm plastic flat figures in their rare appearance on U.K. eBay, so bought them quite cheaply. I have not seen any ‘this side of the Pond’ recently.

Eventually I tracked down what they were, thanks to Doug Shand’s website.

http://dougssoldiers.blogspot.com/2015/09/lucky-toys-204-revolutionary-war-set.html

Doug sets out pictures and comments on each of the flat figures, as well as the later smaller rounded figures, along with some superb old adverts which tell you how many figures there should be and what the poses are meant to be.

Lucky Toys comic book ad from Doug Shand’s website

This Boy and Girl are very happy with their $1.98 toys! 99 cents each?

http://dougssoldiers.blogspot.com/2015/09/lucky-toys-204-revolutionary-war-set.html

Many children were apparently disappointed with what 2D flat figures they eventually received. https://web.archive.org/web/20061225135945/http://home.att.net/~1.elliott/comicbooktoysoldiersintro.html

This website interview with comic book artist the late Russ Heath claimed “Surprisingly, Russ never actually saw any of the Toy Soldiers themselves! However, he knew they were Flats and he certainly heard about them. He says “No, I never saw them [the Toy Soldiers.] You know it’s funny, I got letters too that they forwarded to me from the company and everybody was bitching, they said ‘they’re not three dimensional, they’re only in relief [2D Flats] and it was really a rotten thing to do to the kids’. (laughs) Perhaps in his own humorous defense, Russ says “I tried to make, especially with the Revolutionary Soldiers Ad, I tried to make them look somewhat stiff and like the soldiers [Flats] would look.”

What I liked about these plastic flat figures was their curious cartoon or 18th Century print appearance, rather like these Revolutionary War ones in 1775. To both Doug and myself, the look as if these were satirical prints designed by Rowlandson or Gillray. The figures also really do look curiously like these American prints by Amos Doolittle.

Prints on Wikipedia or you can buy your own copy at https://fineartamerica.com/shop/prints/amos+doolittle

These plastic flats capture these figures well – was this intentional?

So this Pinterest haul and web search, along with several Ladybird classics such as Soldiers and The Last of The Mohicans, gave me an idea a little of how I want these figures to look.

These Redcoats, unfinished in red and white, have a curious football Subbuteo team look.
Minutemen in their everyday hunting clothes – an early form of mufti camouflage?
Ladybird Children’s Classics Last of the Mohicans, 1983 – illustrations by Frank Humphris
Mohawks – brown with a touch of copper or bronze paint mixed in as fairly generic forest Indians

These redcoats are not specific but generic redcoats like my 15mm Coastguard Excisemen of previous posts. The rigorous uniform research I have done these include Ladybird book of Soldiers here:

Two interesting pages showing the bling of Redcoat recruiting and the homespun American troops

Grenadiers and white coated French – Ladybird book of Soldiers 1975, illustrations by Frank Humphris

I did look in Preben Kannik’s Military Unicorns of The World (sorry, Uniforms) and other Blandford books but wanted to keep these Redcoat / Tricorne era figures loose and generic.

I don’t expect to find any Lucky ‘Flat’ Revolutionary War figures easily and cheaply anytime soon in the UK. So I will make use of what I have and in time paint a small detachment of these figures as white coated French Infantry, along with some gun crews and the few Hesseans or redcoat Grenadiers. The cavalry are a little bit on the small side.

There are too many of some poses. Spare officers could make some gun crew. There are probably enough spare drummers and fifers to make up a small military band for some fun.

This gives me a range of small skirmish units for Close Wars in the forest.

I also liked these generic Redcoat / tricorne soldiers endpapers by Peter Spier in his Crash Bang Boom! Picture book (c.1973)

Not sure how much detail of lace or buttons etc I will manage with these 30mm flat figures or how to get that 18th Century Print look. They certainly won’t be the exquisitely painted flats I see online as these plastic flats will be roughing and tumbling on the games table and hopefully out in the garden. They arrived playworn, with engrained mud on some bases so I am glad they have already had a previous play life.

Close Wars usually requires a cluttered forest terrain. Throw in some stylised or stylish trees like the interesting card ones from Bold Frontiers of Australia or the ones on the painting table which are simple paint your own Made of Wood ones, a present bought for me from a local craft shop at Christmas.

Undercoated wooden craft shop forest trees WIP

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/close-little-wars-featherstones-simplest-rules/

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 9 / 10 May 2020

11 thoughts on “Classic Close Wars and Comic Book Soldiers – back to the forest”

  1. I am enjoying your delves into your equivalent of Mary Poppins Bag. I no more expected these than the Spanish Inquisition! I think the figures have a charm all of their own and it was a fortunate purchase this side of the Atlantic indeed. They will paint up well ( I like the played with way they arrived) and give great service in the close wars. Your background material is fascinating too. I had literally one or two American comics as a boy and was fascinated by the figure adverts and also the ones for what were called sea monkeys. Looking forward to seeing this project move forward. Reading about other’s projects is an enjoyable distraction and diversion currently.

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    1. There is some sort of link to all the items in my “Mary Poppins bag” back through the 15mm scrap redcoats, cheap sources of discarded or overlooked figures, not taking it all too seriously and small solo skirmish, Close Wars and Featherstone rules runs through it all.
      I do have some more bashed respectable grown up drab khaki and grey very small metal flats of WW1 troops stored away for another time and some small semi-flat Prussians but I thought these Lucky Comic Book figures were the absurdly closest to current Pound Store penny or tuppeny a figure tubs.
      There are some great websites about these comic book ad (scams) – buyer beware – and I believe a there is also a book of these dubious but colourful ads. I remember some as cheap cardboard giveaways on 70s comics like X ray specs (put em on, hold your hand up to a light of sun and you can see your own bones – complete rubbish etc)
      Great sea monkeys ad here that you mentioned
      https://dangerousminds.net/comments/vintage_comic_book_ads_that_were_too_good_to_be_true

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  2. Oh, wow! I’ve never seen that Peter Spier book! Must look for it. I owned his classic “The Star-Spangled Banner” when I was growing up – it has incredibly accurate, yet colorful, characterful and cheerful images of US soldiers and British Marines. I was just thinking of it this morning and planning to use Peter Dennis’s Peninsular War book to recreate the Battle of North Point, with Portuguese troops standing in for Americans. Will try it for 4th of July… or 12 September, if we aren’t open in summer.

    This week, I’m working on pages of AWI skirmish figures with the intent to experiment with Close Wars again. I’m stuck working at a VERY small library with no public right now, so just the right time (and space, and lighting) for some solo experimentation. One page of frontier rifles, one of British/Hessian light infantry, one of Natives. Will base them singly and run the rules. There’s 40-some figures there, though four became casualties when I cut their heads or feet off! But not a problem with disposable paper, right?

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    1. It is a lovely and eccentric picture and typography book much in the Richard Scarry style. I shall post the Guards Bands pages / cover on another day.
      I’m glad that the Paper soldiers, minus the odd head or foot, are working well for you. Close Wars is a simple simple joy as are the Featherstone Gerard de Gre ‘parry and lunge’ duelling rules and jousting from Solo Wargaming. A small library without people sounds like a good time to experiment on getting more library games prepared.

      I have yet to do anything with my Little Wars 54mm Paper Soldiers book as I have no access to a colour photocopier or scanner at present until the Lockdown is over. Tempted to buy several books and cut up the originals but I have enough unfinished figures to paint to keep me busy.

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    2. By the way these Guards pages and the end papers that I showed with Tricorne figures are the only military figures shown, the rest is about domestic, civilian and transport things that make sounds. Oddly – It never struck me till now that the book or illustrator might not be British or European.

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      1. Peter Spier was Dutch, but lived in the US.

        Have you a computer printer? There are plenty of downloadable Paperboys. I picked up the German Little Wars figures and scanned the AWI book so that I can print them easily from work. Heavier paper is recommended, but for the 28mm figures regular works fine.

        One British children’s picture book series I also had and loved is the Church Mouse series by Graham Oakley. One book, The Church Mice Adrift, features toy soldiers. They inspire the mice to raise an army to fight rats that have driven them from their home – it doesn’t last long. They are incredibly detailed, all sorts of humorous asides to spot in the pictures.

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      2. I have no printer at the moment but thanks for the Paper / printing / making tips.

        I shall keep an eye out in second hand bookshops post Lockdown for these Church Mice Adrift Graham Oakley illustrations if they have toy soldiers in. I have some small stylised silicon moulds of Nutcracker soldiers (designed for cake decorations) to one day raise a FIMO polymer clay Army to defeat Nutcracker rats (may have to source suitable scale mice and rats such as Skaven). Again a rich cultural but non historical / non- military scenario for gaming …

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    1. Thanks Pete. It is amazing how familiar many of these illustrations are when looking at old Ladybird books. They transport you straight back to childhood, especially when you studied very them closely for uniform painting or modelmaking. There were so few affordable colour children’s books of this quality around in the late 60s and 1970s.

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