(with awesome Space Marine drawings by Dark Mechanic)
Tom Middenmurk and False Patrick and I were talking about the design of Space Marine miniatures...
I think the key thing about space marines is not simply masculine signifiers (which all kinds of different designs could be said to have in different ways) but the idea of movement as masculinized and, much more importantly Adultified. The emphasis is not on muscles and how muscles move but on the transition between (often muscled) shapes met at joints.
Compare, for example, a Warhammer troll to The Hulk…
The troll has far more distension at the limbs, because the idea is we have to imagine, with this tiny miniature, how one muscle would move against the next. Imagine strapping pencils to your fingertips--suddenly each movement of your hand is more dramatic. The marine has the same principle: compare the marine to the storm trooper--the shoulder pads don't just make the guys big they theatricalize every arm movement--those pads would move when the guy did anything: reach for a grenade, open a pack, even walk.
The pre-eminent real-life example here would be the silverback gorilla. Hulking, hunched, utilitarian but also a display of utilitarianness. The gorilla squats like a parked truck. Potential energy. Mass waiting for something to be massive at.
Look at all the parts that are less important in the marine than in a normal figure: the neck, the chest, the crotch, the thighs. These areas are the transition areas--socket areas. They aren't the parts that do things out in the world.
And the medieval aesthetic is an important component of this: medieval european armor does not (unlike the samurai's skirted armor and ballooning pants) hide movement, it dramatizes it, it is, in many senses an exo--skeleton--the strangeness of the skeleton re-iterated inside out--to emphasize each gorillaish gesture.
I find it, in general, helpful to try to think of the opposite of what I'm thinking of. What's the opposite of the Marine's movement? Hello Kitty's movement. Her head is huge, her limbs are underdetailed and basically afterthoughts.
What is her aspect? Not just feminine, (and barely feminine) but, more importantly, babyish and neonate. Tom no doubt knows (see "A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse") that "cuteness" is basically about helplessness not femininity per se . So the Marine is less hypermasculine as hyperadult hyper utilitarian hyper self-reliant hyper- moving hyper verb (and hyper male adult only secondarily) . What would hyperfemale adult look like? ...
These extremes do not go unnoticed and, as usual, the idea of reconciling them is too delicious, aesthetically, for some to resist:
|Notice how it instantly stops having the aspect we associate with either anatomy? It's just some lumpen third thing.|