Originally posted on https://johnwombat.wordpress.com/ in 2020.
Co-owned by father and son Steve and Joe Saleh, founded in 2018, Lucid Eye Publications are a UK model soldiers company that produce a wide and varied range of superbly detailed 28mm scale fantasy and science fiction models. Incredibly prolific and centred around the sculpting talented of Steve Saleh, Lucid Eye have a large selection of figures available for collectors, painters, hobbyists and wargamers. The Lucid Eye model catalogue includes the following collections: Savage Core, Ziggurat, Ghost Plastic Miniatures, Blades and Souls, Toon Realms, Toon Terrors, Toon Supers, The Plot Device, The Beast of Birchwood, Julien Delval, Treasures From The Cosmic Vault, and The Red Book Of The Elf King. Further to this, Lucid Eye also have license agreements with Jim Fitzpatrick and Frank Frazetta, which sees the Nottingham-based company produce yet more fabulous miniatures. Based on my communications with Steve and Joe, along with Rick Priestley, Trish Carden (Morrison) and Jim Fitzpatrick, who kindly spared me some of the time, this is a blog feature on Lucid Eye Publications.
Steve Saleh is a prolific sculptor whose interest in models goes back to his childhood in the North East of England, a time he remembers as a mixture of Action Men, Airfix model kits, American comic books and psychedelic pop goodness. His entry into the world of Dungeons & Dragons and RPG’s, such as MAR Barker’s wonderful fantasy/ science-fiction fused Empire of the Petal Throne, was inevitable.
Steve Saleh: I was born in the North East, between Newcastle and the coast in the post war dreamscape of bombed buildings, populated by Action Men dressed in French Resistance gear, the sounds of psych pop emanating from housewives’ open windows and the sharp taste of lemon sherbet from a paper bag.
My father brought gifts from far distant lands. A tank that shot hanging plates off walls and a piece of artillery which did the same but was less accurate because of its firing arc. The previously mentioned Action Men were kept in an actual ammunition case. The weekend trips to the model shop at the edge of the known world to buy Airfix HO scale WWI French, German, Brits. Then WWII, then Indians and French Foreign Legion. Not sure why there were so much French around. We pored over the backs of American comic books which advertised the whole of D Day in a box, which was impossible to possess. At the same time, model kits, Spitfires and Stukas, Subbuteo, Aurora Monster Kits, the Black Prince, Henry V, more choice than pocket change could cover… Later, it was Avalon Hill via specialist mail order, Panzerblitz, Stalingrad and SPI. Then onto D&D, Empire of the Petal Throne, Runequest, Rolemaster.
With each of his models oozing character and detail, sometimes dark and menacing, sometimes humorous and littered with comic elements, I was interested to discover some of Steve’s early literary and creative influences.
Steve Saleh: Marvel Kirby and Stan Lee described the world how it should have been. I went for the more obscure, Doc Strange, Inhumans. My father read sci-fi books that I picked up after he was done. They reinforced a spectacular reality in my head. Written large on screen in 2001 Space Odyssey. Rendezvous With Rama, Stranger In A Strange Land, Dune. I discovered fantasy literature by myself by accident via Conan The Tower of the Elephant. Eerie, Creepy, Warren Publishing. Some Lovecraft, Metal Hurlant, Moebius, Druillet, all the French stuff (again!). And on to Moorcock, though at the time Elric was out of print so I started with Hawkmoon (Dorian Hawkmoon lived in French Camargue, of course). Though I don’t speak a lot of French, I read French books in translation to this day, Jean Lorrain, and more.
Lucid Eye produce hundreds of different models, from Savage Core Apes and Monkeys to Pig Faced Orcs, Bug Eyed Goblins and Rabbit Fighters in their Blades and Souls range, with a lot in between. Wonderfully versatile and stylistically unique, Lucid Eye models can be used in a wide range of wargames and RPG’s. I asked Steve about his favourite genre of games, and how he then entered into a career around them
Steve Saleh: When I’m handling miniatures, I’m making them rather than painting, gluing, or playing with them. I’m a board wargamer, still with SPI games. I flit. Anything from Biblical to Korea and all points in between. Fantasy/ sci-fi of course also.
(When did a career begin?) I’m not sure it ever did. I’m one of those 60’s kids, born in a slum, unfairly exposed to tales of utopian futurism from an early age. It was a more literary time, the pace slower. We read, and we had the patience to listen to Captain Beefheart until we rang some worth from it. We didn’t rapidly consume our influences, we lived with them until they became fully absorbed. After art college, I had some means of expressing all of this. I began with ancients, worked at Foundry then onto Games Workshop and Warlord with a few points in between, though I tend to not enjoy looking back, these times are an unimportant and distant memory to me. With Lucid Eye, I’m working with my son who has the gift of sharp insight and the energy to see things through. He translates my flights of fancy into viable projects and has more than a few of his own. When you consider this to be a career, it ceases to be fun and my aim is the same as ever, to enjoy and to improve. We work on the assumption that maybe people will get the enjoyment from Lucid Eye products that we invested in them. Onward flies the bird!
Famous for his iconic Che Guevara portrait and numerous Thin Lizzy pieces, Jim Fitzpatrick is a prolific Irish artist whose skills have also been called on by the likes of Sinead O’Connor, The Darkness, Darkthrone, and Louise Patricia Crane. His Rory Gallagher artwork is worthy of a special mention too. Along with landscapes and portraits, his work is often infused with Celtic elements. Jim’s The Book of Conquests and The Silver Arm (released in 1978 and 1981, respectively) focus on Irish mythology and the story of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the characters of these books have been embraced by Lucid Eye.
Jim offered an insight into the ongoing collaboration between himself and Lucid Eye, as well as describing his thoughts around the official range of Jim Fitzpatrick miniatures which the company produces.
Jim Fitzpatrick: It was a simple phone call from Joe. He asked me if I would be interested and sent me some samples of models that his father Steve had sculpted. Joe then came over to see me and it was clear that he’s very committed to what he’s doing. I really like him and just like where he’s at. The figures Steve makes are stunningly beautiful, and the nice thing about it is that they let me have input. For example, with Balor of the Evil Eye, I could say things like I want him to look a bit more menacing. With Nuada, I was able to say that I wanted his legs to be a bit longer. I could say this kind of stuff, which makes a difference. They’re good like that, they listen. I am conscious of the fact that this takes up someone’s time though, the smallest alteration can take a lot of work, but the end results are always just superb. The details that Steve gets into the figurines is just baffling, they’re absolutely gorgeous. I love seeing different takes on my work, be it through sculptures or figures; 3D representations of my work, I love that.
My favourite one is Eriu, the Goddess of Ireland. I would love to see that on a much bigger scale, say the size of an Oscar, that would be fantastic. Aside from Eriu, my other favourite is Nuada, the pose he is in has always been one of my favourites. I would have loved to have been a kid and have stuff like this, stuff of such quality. Forget it’s my work, just look at the quality. When I was young, I had toy soldiers and they were very beautiful, but nothing compared to these. I just look in admiration, people send me photos of them painted and they just look fantastic.
- Official Jim Fitzpatrick website HERE.
- Official Jim Fitzpatrick Facebook page HERE.
- Lucid Eye’s Official Jim Fitzpatrick collectible miniatures HERE.
Though only two years old, Lucid Eye has produced hundreds of products and secured some high-profile licenses with the Jim Fitzpatrick and Frank Frazetta agreements. I asked Joe to tell me more about Lucid Eye, how the company started, and the sculptors and writers involved.
Joe Saleh: In terms of the company – it started I believe just over two years ago at this point. So still fairly fresh. I was at university and to be honest I wish I’d have left to start earlier. But basically, I started writing up the original Savage Core game rules set whilst I was there in order to release it as soon as I had finished my final year. We got the book to the point of having a mocked-up manuscript and finished version of the game. Originally Warlord were going to publish this for us, as at this point there was only a Savage Core range of figures from Lucid Eye which Warlord were selling. However, they sat on the release. I thought we may as well do it ourselves, set up the site and got moving. From then on out we started making the products we wanted to make. We’ve worked and still maintain working relationships with Rick Priestley, Trish Carden, Felix from Avatars of War, Jim FitzPatrick, and recently the Frazetta Estate.
I had always wanted to do the Frazetta stuff, and I just knew, though not in an ego-centric way, that we would eventually work with them. I knew that we’d reach a point where the stuff we were putting out was good enough for them to trust us, working with them was inevitable, to be honest. We really love working with the Frazetta estate, they’re fantastic people. My dad has always had a big interest in Frazetta’s work, along with Fitzpatrick’s as well. With our Jim Fitzpatrick models, we’re just about to sign off with a company which is going to produce them all in game sets as well, so there will be a boardgame released, including a collector’s edition set.
- Frank Frazetta was an American fantasy and science fiction artist and illustrator whose long creative career encompassed movie posters, record covers, comic book features and book covers. Painted in 1973, Death Dealer is one of Frazetta’s most iconic pieces and over the decades since its completion the painting has inspired novels, comic books and RPG adventures. Lucid Eye Publications recently secured a license to produce the official range of Frazetta Death Dealer miniatures, available HERE.
A joyous selection of cartoon themed fantasy miniatures, along with Steve Saleh, sculpting legend Trish Carden (Morrison) has created some wonderfully characterful and unique models for Lucid Eye’s Toon Realm range, I asked Joe to tell me a little more about these figures.
Joe Saleh: So in terms of Toom Realms, we wanted to achieve an aesthetic, that was fun, and easily accessible, e.g.: painting/ purchasing, 90%+ of the range is in one piece, so no assembly is required or very little! In terms of the design, the way I looked at it at the time was that there were ‘Chibi-esque’ designs on the market, or stylistically cartoony designs, but no dedicated animation themed designs. In terms of a pure cartoon aesthetic which harked back to your 80’s/ 90’s cartoon animation series. We changed up all of the proportions, scale etc, shapes and made a dedicated range which hit this niche! It’s personally one of my favourite ranges that we do. The range is like marmite to be honest, the guys and gals that love it, love it. And those that aren’t into it, aren’t into it.
Trish Carden (Morrison): I first met Steve when we were both working as miniatures designers in the Citadel Design Studio. This was way back in the days before digital became the norm. Steve approached me when I went freelance back at the end of 2018 wondering if I would be interested in doing some Toon Realms figures. They looked like fun and were different to my usual style so I was keen to do a few!
Steve’s style is very clean and graphic and paints up really well. He’s got a great eye for posing figures and imbuing them with a lot of character. I love his range based on Jim Fitzpatrick’s paintings as he’s always been one of my favourite artists and Steve has captured his style perfectly. I also like the Savage Core miniatures, full of lots of cool stuff that reminds me of old movies I’ve watched over the years.
- Official Trish Carden Miniatures and Design Facebook page HERE.
Thus it was that the tragic Wyrd of Elvenkind, set at the World’s Beginning, came to pass. The Spheres of the Fates turn slow but fully and none may stand against them, not even the Great Lords. Not even The Unspoken, whose consuming rivalry against His kin blinded Him to reason and forced His hand to play it’s part in the Unfolding, Great Lord and lowly worm the same. Blinded He was, yet He may see one final thing; the Fall of His own Domain. For did He put into motion, by His own Words, the Fall of All. From the mighty Words of The Unspoken, to The Helson, next to Elf, and to Witch, thence to Troll and on to all living things was this Wyrd told.The Red Book of the Elf King
Joe Saleh: It was his (Steve Saleh’s) idea to write the Elf King Book, but we wrote it together. It’s almost like psychedelic fantasy, it’s quite ‘Moorcockian’, there’s quite a few Teutonic references in there, it’s very European fantasy, we then mixed in some of the North elements as well. There is a lot in there, it has a Romanesque, kind of Baroque style too, which we got Julien Delval, who we work with closely, to pick at. So, there’s a lot of different themes that go in to it, but we wanted to make it quite alien. It’s different from the standard, or ‘classic’, fantasy world, it’s a bit more high-fantasy, or dark fantasy, more visceral really. We really liked the idea of an Elf civil war, and we just built upwards from there.
It was one of the first projects Lucid Eye worked on; I wrote the manuscript and then we sat down with Rick (Priestley) and explained the flavour of the world, the lore, and explained what we wanted to do. We’ve actually just released, as a free download, Elf King Red, which was our initial thoughts and vision for the game before Rick came onboard; it’s more of a Savage Core format. When Rick came onboard the game developed into a bigger game, more units involved, certainly bigger than a Savage Core style game. Rick took the core elements of what we had worked on and brought in new aspects of his own. Since the release of The Red Book Of The Elf King, the second book, Troll Wars, brought in new circles and additions, and we’re now working on the third book, Hell Saga.
With a games design and writing career that dates back to the late-1970’s, Rick Priestley is a name synonymous with wargaming. Following the release of his first published ruleset, Reaper (co-written with Richard Halliwell, initially released by Nottingham Toy Soldier Shop), in 1978, Rick went on to enjoy a three decade career with Games Workshop, during which time he worked on Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, Necromunda, The Lord Of The Rings Strategy Battle Game, Warmaster, Warhammer Ancient Battles and Warmaster Ancients, among other game systems and publications. Since moving on from Games Workshop in the late 2000’s, Rick has worked on a slew of other games, including Black Powder, Hail Caesar, Bolt Action, Beyond the Gates of Antares and Warlords of Erehwon, all for Warlord Games. In addition, he also worked on Lucid Eye’s The Red Book Of The Elf King. Detailing links to Warlords of Erehwon, Rick described how he became involved with The Red Book of the Elf King and what it was that drew him in.
Rick Priestley: I’d written the Erehwon game and offered it to Warlord who had initially said they weren’t interested, so I was asking around to see if anyone else wanted it. In the end Warlord changed their mind, but meanwhile a few folks approached me and offered to take it on. Steve at Lucid Eye heard I was looking for a publisher and asked me if the game would make a suitable engine for a project he had in mind: The Red Book of the Elf King. We got together and Steve explained what he wanted from the game engine and I showed him how Erewhon worked. It was obvious from the start that Steve’s concept was a smaller scale game, but I thought I could adapt the mechanic and incorporate some ideas that had been rumbling along in my head but which hadn’t yet found a suitable outlet. I thought Steve’s concept was really interesting and the fact that we share a lot of common interests in Irish and Norse mythology – as well as 60’s and 70’s counter culture and especially music – made the whole thing great fun. So, creatively, we just got on quite well, combining Steve’s imaginative vision with my structural game design.
Having worked alongside Steve Saleh in one way or another for many years, Rick and Steve share many common interests. I asked Rick when it was that he first met Steve and how he would describe him as a sculptor and wargames enthusiast.
Rick Priestley: Steve used to work for Games Workshop and at Wargames Foundry, North Star, and Warlord Games. Steve designed many of the models for the Antares game. So, we’ve worked alongside each other in some capacity or other for a good while and I’ve always admired his sculpting. I suppose we must have met at Games Workshop but I don’t honestly remember exactly when that would be. Steve is mostly interested in role-playing games and board games, but also tabletop games and especially skirmish style games with a significant narrative element.
Rick described how he approached the rules writing for The Red Book of the Elf King, detailing in greater depth the elements of Warlords of Erehwon that he factored into the game.
Rick Priestley: I started off with the Erehwon engine, which I’d already modified slightly to take out the ‘Warlord’ specific elements like the Action dice. That was because I imagined someone else would publish the rules or I would do so myself. So, I’d already worked out a chit-draw alternative and slightly modified some of the actions to work round that. However, once we started to play it became obvious Steve and Joe wanted a game that was scaled down somewhat from Erehwon. In many ways that wasn’t a problem because it’s always easy to cut stuff out! Once I had a clearer idea of what Steve and Joe had in mind I was able to work out the rules for the new elements fairly easily. The key change is the way that the number of chits are randomised each turn, with units allowed to perform multiple actions, which gives you a completely different base to work from. On top of that it was a question of adding character and special rules that made each faction play differently – and Steve had a clear idea of what sort of thing he wanted.
Set out to be a trilogy of books, I believe Troll Wars was already planned during the initial writing of The Red Book of the Elf King, I asked Rick if this was the case. I also wondered what the third book, Hell Saga, may contain.
Rick Priestley: Yes that’s right – the plan was always to have three books that would collectively tell a story – the saga of the Elf Kingdoms – Troll Wars being the second of those stories. We didn’t really explore the whole saga to start with but just let it evolve. The saga was more a directional concept than something all worked out from the start, and we chopped and changed the details quite a bit as we went along. A lot of the detail sprang from the models Steve wanted to make and that affected the way the rules developed.
We had intended that Hell Saga would be our project for this year – but that was without realising what a funny year it was going to be with the Covid-19 lock-down and all. I think that’s changed a lot of plans, but we’re hoping to get back to it next year. It would be nice to finish the story, although even I have to admit I don’t know how it’s going to end! Maybe Steve has a notion – I suspect he’s nurturing several possible outcomes and until we start in earnest the project won’t take any definite shape. When we talked about what we might do earlier in the year Steve enthused about Micheal Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time series… so there you have it!
Joe Saleh describes The Red Book of the Elf King as something of a step away from ‘classic’ fantasy and is more ‘dark fantasy’ in style, bringing in elements of psychedelia and Michael Moorcock. I wondered if this was something Rick also found, and if he felt that this is partly what sets the game apart from other fantasy wargames currently available.
Rick Priestley: I’d say that the default ‘fantasy’ game these days is inspired by the concepts first crystallised by Dungeons and Dragons and pretty much copied by everyone ever since – and behind that you have The Lord of the Rings as well as some classic fantasy. The Red Book is more closely inspired by Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword and its interpretation of the fae – itself inspired by Norse mythology and folklore. A lot of Moorcock’s fantasy has similar roots – especially in Irish and Celtic legend – and I think that’s the tradition that the Red Book taps into. To be honest it’s not what most fantasy gamers would expect – it’s a different take on Elves and magic – and that’s both a strength and a weakness commercially speaking. However, what I like about it is that’s it’s something quite original and not a mere re-hash of familiar ideas wrapped around a novel game mechanic. So, yes I would say it’s what makes The Red Book of The Elf King distinct – although I was very pleased with the way the game-play worked out too! It’s a very ‘tight’ piece of design and well balanced for a game that’s so strongly narrative. Steve and Joe helped out with the critical play testing and came up with some great observations and suggestions. Joe especially has a good head for the mechanical side of what makes a game work as well as a sense of feel and character. Steve is great at thinking outside the box and coming up with crazy ideas that push the games design and really make you think. I enjoyed working with them very much.
- Follow Rick Priestley on Facebook HERE.
- Rick’s resource for the Warlords of Erehwon fantasy wargame, This Gaming Life HERE.
Steve Saleh’s time is largely dedicated to working on expanding the range of Lucid Eye miniatures, an endeavour which leaves little time for his own personal indulgence in modelling and wargaming. I wondered where Joe stood with regards to his recreational wargaming, modelling, painting, and collecting.
Joe Saleh: For me personally I have an avid interest in everything, but only at a distance. I could not do this and be objective in my outlook if I were too close to it. I have enough of an intrigue, to play, to chat about it, to engage with it, to write. But for me – what brings me the utmost pleasure and sense of accomplishment is bringing out products through Lucid Eye which sell well, people love, and people engage with. When we have done something, I want to move on to the next thing and in turn do it bigger and better than before! There is nothing that grants us more joy at Lucid Eye than putting our own spin on things.
Concluding my conversation with Joe, and perhaps an unfair question to ask, I wondered where where he feels Lucid Eye currently sits in the models and wargaming hobby/ industry.
Joe Saleh: I do not like to speak for, or about others, so I’ll say this. Lucid Eye will not be replicated, and we will continue to create unique products with flare unapologetically. I have a great deal of love for our customers and those that work with us, including our retailers. We will continue to grow and expand and we’re thankful to everyone who is a part of our journey! Initially our aspiration was to hit 250+ products about a year or so ago I believe. However, I now see Lucid Eye as having a big place in the industry carved out for it. To quote one of the greats, Excelsior!
Lucid Eye Publications official website HERE.
Official Lucid Eye Publications Facebook page HERE.
See also The Wargaming Wizard! A Talk With Rick Priestley… HERE.
See also Trish Carden Miniatures And Designs… HERE.