DARK KNIGHT

Last modified: May 9, 1999

(Picture from Encyclopædia Britannica, copyright 1936)

In the month that I've spent on this medieval genre, I've done a little reading & looking-- mainly a few Osprey books, the Crescent book on "Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight" and browsed a few web sites. So I'm still pretty loose about the facts. However, one thing which I've come to realize is how far off the movie "Excalibur" is in its depiction of armor. Even though King Arthur is widely considered a mythical figure, it's generally agreed that he should be placed somewhere in the 5th or 6th century AD. At that time, chainmail was in fashion, and plate armor didn't become fashionable until much later-- the 11th or 12th century? In addition to that, the armor in the movie doesn't appear to be faithful to any particular historical samples-- though they vaguely resemble them. So-- for devotees of "pure authenticity", the movie should be viewed as pure fantasy. In a way, it's like a WWII movie with nuclear powered submarines.

Nevertheless, it's a great movie. John Boorman, like many artists do, took artistic license to bring us a vision of the legend the way we wanted to see it. Screw historical fact. The movie is much more interesting with the images of men in heavy armor bashing away at each other.


So that's the attitude I'm taking with this guy. I didn't want to recreate Mordred's gold suit from the movie, since I thought it would be more interesting to cobble together my own version. The initial scribblings had some ideas culled from historical sources, but I quickly adopted a "just wing it" attitude. I wanted to create an opponent for the King Arthur figure, which meant he should appear evil-looking. Hence the profusion of stereotypical spikey things.

One of the problems is that the King Arthur armor is taken from the scene where he's playing the dark role-- in his encounter with Sir Lancelot, he's wearing the dark armor with a dragon visor decorated with spikes. It's not easy to out-evil something which already looks evil!

Since this is a "design-on-the-fly" thing, it's far more tentative than recreating a photo. Although advance scribbling lays down the general direction, when you start putting it together in 3D, you get a better idea of what looks right. In the process, you create a lot of extra parts and make unnecessary cuts which have to be repaired as you rearrange the design to get there. As you can see, I abandoned the pigsnout idea entirely-- I made one, but I just couldn't get it to look right for this character. It ended up being very similar to King Arthur's helmet.

While designing the armor, individual pieces were held in place with a temporary wall-mount putty to see how they looked together. It was maddening, since pieces kept falling off! As I was constructing the pieces, I was also mindful of how they would attach in the end. It's preferable to have as many pieces attached together as possible, because this keeps things from shifting around independently, and reduces the amount of time it takes to put the armor on. So the armor segments for the legs and the arms are joined together by leather straps. The pauldrons were the biggest problem. I wanted them to be removable for painting, and there was no obvious way to attach them and still allow access to the buckled straps which join the front and back sections of the main armor. To get around this, I added shoulder spikes to the chestpiece and the pauldrons hang from these with straps fitted with loops on the ends.

Generic knight, Excalibur (1981) style, 1/6th scale

Guess what? He's close, but not finished yet. (Surprise!)

...next...

 


MEDIEVAL