Despite a lifelong fascination with archaeology and ancient history — and even a trip through Sinai, Cairo, and Karnak at age 19 — I must admit that Egyptology has never been particularly interesting to me, obsessed as its public portrayal is with glittering treasures and kingship. Nevertheless, I’m reading the excellent The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson right now, in which I find the chaotic Intermediate periods especially fascinating. Koen Zwanenburg is also fascinated with ancient history, and has built this amazing life-sized version of the boy king Tutankhamun’s mask from 16,000 LEGO bricks.
It’s no secret that most LEGO is made from dinosaurs and carboniferous forests. But you have to drill hundreds or even thousands of meters beneath the surface of the earth to pump out that crude pre-LEGO material, often from platforms way out at sea. General Tensai takes bricks back to their source with this incredibly detailed, colorful oil rig that uses countless LEGO pieces in surprising ways. The overall effect is one of large-scale industrial activity full of pipes and conduits, a helipad with brick-built lettering, numerous towers, cranes, and gantries — and even a multi-colored oil slick on the ocean’s surface. But clicking through to the builder’s full-size photo rewards careful examination, from the Technic pump behind the red and white crane to the single minifig leg and yellow parrot projecting below the helipad.
The annual BioCup competition is producing a wonderful range of LEGO Bionicle creations in many themes, but my favorite so far is Latin American mythology, with fantastical gods like the Aztec god of death Mictlantecuhtli by Tino Poutiainen. But my favorite so far is the Aztec rain god Tlāloc by Vlad Lisin. Tlāloc has characteristic round eyes and fangs, and wears a verdant crown with clouds encircling his waist. I love how Vlad uses click-joints for Tlāloc’s necklace, and the Bionicle mask at the top of the water flowing from the barrel is a brilliant use of parts.
Way back in 2006, I built the Aztec pantheon as minifigures — strange enough to go mildly viral through the “blogosphere” in the era before social media — but these latest figures show the power of large-scale builds using organic pieces from Bionicle and Hero Factory.
Although I admit to watching “Japan Rail Journal” on NHK World (doesn’t everyone want to learn about the last sleeper car rolling stock on the Sunrise Izumo line?), I’m not really much of a train aficionado, except as a convenient mode of transport that the United States lags far behind the rest of the world in. So, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a crocodile locomotive was until LEGO recently announced the upcoming set 10277 Crocodile Locomotive. This newfound knowledge allows me to appreciate the hilarity this crocodile-themed crocodile locomotive driven by a crocodilian engineer, built by Stuart Crawshaw. Stuart’s locomotive features teeth on its forward and rear sections, while the train as a whole sports reptilian livery in shades of green. The presentation is completed by the locomotive displayed on a rail line through a swamp.
With Hollywood shut down and most movie theaters closed worldwide due to COVID-19, new entertainment has been a little harder to come by lately. I’m not sure our current global pandemic was the inspiration behind Eli Willsea‘s scene, but we find the protagonist (played here by the Lucas minifig from the LEGO Stranger Things set) fishing for DVDs from what is apparently the very last Redbox to have survived an apocalypse that turned the water a toxic green.
Eli’s build features a slew of wonderful details, such as the rebar or conduits sticking out of the elevated roadway and electrical bits on the power pole built from pieces like a rollerskate (the new universal greeble piece). Eli makes good use of printed pieces on the Redbox machine, including old-school LEGO Space 1×1 button panels and window panes from the TARDIS in the LEGO Ideas Doctor Who set.
My wife and I played and replayed Final Fantasy VII on the original PlayStation, grinding character levels and farming materia so we could survive the insane boss battles like the Ruby Weapon. It’s incredibly disappointing that Square isn’t releasing Final Fantasy VII Remake on any platform but the PS4 any time soon. Nostalgia and minor rant aside, I love this chocobo and carriage by Kevin Waner (Brick Ninja), depicting the scene in which Cloud rescues Tifa Lockhart from Don Corneo, the mafioso of Wall Market. The detailed chocobo and colorful carriage take center stage in the scene, with Cloud and Aeris simply providing a bit of narrative context on the side — Cloud is of course instantly recognizable from his enormous Buster Sword.
Where most minifigure-scale LEGO builds lack the space to have functionality, many larger-scale LEGO Technic models emphasize visible functionality over aesthetics. It’s a rare LEGO creation that combines a high degree of functionality with a visually stunning look. With his Kobelco SK210HLC excavator, Polish builder Maciej Szymański manages to achieve this feat, in gorgeous dark turquoise, no less!
Maciej says that he spent more than a year and a half building this model, which integrates ten motors, eight pumps, LED lights, and pneumatic cylinders that he custom-built himself. The resulting excavator is fully operational, remote controlled with pneumatic actuators.
Due to the tragic murders of George Floyd, Manuel Ellis, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and far too many other African-Americans, racial injustices that Black people experience every day have come to the forefront of white consciousness once again. We’ve been examining how this very real-world issue affects the hobby we participate in, not just for a moment in time but on an ongoing basis. Earlier this week, we sat down with Canadian artist Ekow Nimako, whose LEGO work we’ve featured several times, including his stunning Flower Girl sculpture and wonderful Beasts from Bricks book.
Our conversation with Ekow covered his experience growing up playing with LEGO, interactions with the LEGO hobbyist community, the Afrocentric and Afrofuturist themes of his artwork, and how LEGO communities such as The Brothers Brick can operate more inclusively.
We ask you to watch the full video before reacting with comments. While the reaction from some quarters to recent statements we’ve made that Black Lives Matter has been dismissed as “political” and some reactions have been outright hateful, by and large the response from the LEGO hobbyist community has been empathetic and supportive. Nevertheless, there is much more to be done. A number of our readers have rightly pointed out The Brothers Brick’s own contributor list as one area where we can improve, asking us to work harder to recruit a more diverse team while highlighting more non-white builders and highlighting the LEGO creations of people of color. As I committed to during the video conversation with Ekow, one of our next steps will be to kick off a new round of contributor recruiting to improve our own diversity and better represent the community we are a part of.
Here at The Brothers Brick, we’ve taken “political” stands on matters of peace and justice for as long as the LEGO building community has created LEGO art that communicates an important message, whether that message was in support of marriage equality way back in 2006 or freedom of discourse in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015. Dave Kaleta joins a chorus of people around the world who choose not to remain silent in these excruciating, infuriating times.
From a LEGO build perspective, Dave uses largely disconnected white slopes, tiles, and plates to surround solidly attached black bricks. Dave also leverages the new range of small curved tiles to create the lettering along the bottom of the mosaic. But the build and its techniques are hardly what grab my attention.
Last month LEGO revealed the next set in the Ultimate Collector Series would be 75275 A-wing Starfighter, making it available May 1 just in time for May the Fourth celebrations. Due to the current global pandemic, LEGO’s shipping department wasn’t able to get us an early copy, but we’ve finally got our hands on the set to bring you an in-depth review. The new Rebel fighter has 1,673 pieces and is available now for US $199.99 | CAN $259.99 | UK £179.99.
Of the two similar structures in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra in southern Jordan, Al Khazneh and El Deir, the iconic “Treasury” featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is much more famous than the larger (and arguably more spectacular) “Monastery” deeper in the Nabatean archaeological site. So it’s no surprise that we’ve seen Al Khazneh depicted in LEGO many times over the years, with nary a Monastery in sight (or brick). Nevertheless, I appreciate each new LEGO Petra, like this one by Inthert built only from tan pieces.
What’s especially notable about this build is less its monochrome color scheme than the variety of interesting “illegal” techniques Inthert uses to achieve shapes and angles at this scale. LEGO’s internal design team follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure that official LEGO sets are study in the hands of grubby little hands, while adult builders and other LEGO fans have no such restrictions (so it’s rather amusing when commenters decry the use of such techniques in fan-built models — stop it). Specifically, many plates and tiles are half-attached to studs or wedged in with friction, while a number of the Technic pins used as columns are connected using the gaps that allow the pins to flex for clipping into place. But my favorite detail is the Technic gear atop the “roof” of the central section.
Be sure to click through to the full-size photo and expand it to take in all the interesting details and techniques.
It’s been many many years since we’ve seen any LEGO creations in the fan-created “Tech West” theme. The theme mashes up LEGO space and western, with a dash of steampunk, with a heavy dose of Serenity and Wild Wild West. Although builder captainsmog may label this “Colonial Futurist” but I’m personally transported back to 2004 rather than an alternate 1874. What I love most about the stagecoach is how the detailed robotic legs move just like horse legs. This is no horseless carriage — the horse is just mechanical. Similarly, notice how the front of the speeder bikes ridden by the marauding bandits are shaped like horses’ heads.