CAPTAIN AMERICA (After Kirby)

DSC02997My 3D rendition of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Captain America. This is based on Kirby’s cover for CAPTAIN AMERICA’S BICENTENNIAL BATTLES

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(He gets a little John Buscema-esque when viewed from the side.)

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DSC02991DSC02990DSC02996This piece is dedicated to my late friend James, Cap’s biggest fan.

Apparently there a new Captain America movie out. I don’t know how it could top Albert Pyun’s masterpiece.

(I’m really looking forward to it! If you enjoyed it, consider making a donation to The Hero Initiative in Jack Kirby or Joe Simon’s name. )

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JFSculpts READER MAILBAG!

At the conclusion of 12 Days of the Batman, John Vukelic left this comment:

“12 sculpts in 12 days is a very cool accomplishment. Did you learn anything new working on those 12 busts?”

(John’s site chronicles his process as he learns to become a fantasy and sci-fi artist, and it’s filled with great art resources as well.)

In answer to John’s question: I hate to say it, but I learned very little. But it did reinforce a lot of lessons I discovered with other sculpture sprints, such as Mighty Marvel May, as well as from years of trial-and-error. What I have learned:

Plan ahead:
Particularly when I don’t have a lot of time to execute, it’s much better to have a concrete idea before I start and not try things out as I’m sculpting. I’m terrible about sketching. I virtually never do it, to my detriment. On longer projects, I usually start sculpting and make adjustments as I go. I don’t have that luxury when trying to work this fast, but ten or twenty minutes sketching would probably have helped a lot. Also, making good armatures is always important.
If you get off to a bad start, start over:
If I didn’t make a good armature and started sculpting over it, I immediately regretted it. It actually saved me time to scrap what I’d done and do it over from scratch rather than fight with it.
Keep your materials handy:
Seems obvious, right? I tried to have all my tools, workspace (which was often my lap), and even the camera, light, and backdrop ready before I started. Except I ran out of the Sculpey Firm I use and tried gray Fimo instead (I use a mixture of Sculpey Firm, Super Sculpey, and black and white Sculpey III to make a grey, just-right material). Not the same thing, and it worked- kinda- but the last three or so days I was working with what felt like substandard material. I shouldn’t do that.
Form is more important than detail:
Silhouette, shape, proportion are all much more important to the overall look of a piece than any detail I’m going to tack on. Does it read from across the room? If not, keep working. A rookie mistake- when I can tell I’m choking- is to go to detail too soon. Make sure the form is right, then start finessing.
When working this fast, compromises have to be made:
Forcing myself to put the work up- ready or not- by the end of a day meant I wasn’t going to finish it to my satisfaction. I had to make choices about what was most important and what just had to go. Sometimes happy accidents occurred: I really liked how Poison Ivy’s hair came out in the limited time I had to detail it.
If you do a bad job, you’ll do better the next day:
Sometimes events on the day kept me from putting as much time in as I could, and resulted in some clunkers (I’ll let you decide for yourself which ones I’m talking about). I had to finish them, put them up, and move on, no time to look back.
There is never enough time, so do the best you can in the time you have:
The clock is always ticking. If you have an hour or a month you’ll never finish to your satisfaction, so just work with what you’ve got. You always have right now.

 

Thanks for the question, John!

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 12: THE JOKER

JOKER 006Christmas with the Joker.

Batman first battled the Joker in 1940’s BATMAN #1 in a story by Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. The Joker was poisoning wealthy men, leaving their corpses with an eerie rictus grin, and baffling the police in the process. His first fight with Batman ended with the Batman tossed into a river, excited at the prospect of an adversary who could really hit. The rematch ended with the Joker apparently accidentally stabbing himself in the heart, laughing maniacally as he died. A last-minute editorial decision saved his life, as the medics in the ambulance were shocked that the Joker was -somehow- still alive.

Over more than 70 years, the Joker remains an enigma. Different versions hinted at his life before Batman unwittingly dropped him into a vat of bleaching chemicals, but whoever he was before is unimportant. He is the Joker; deadly, anarchic, interested only in what makes him laugh, no matter who’s hurt in the process.

My take on the Joker is fairly traditional (I’ve sculpted him before). I dislike when he’s depicted as  a physical monster. He’s hideous because he chose to be,  not because he’s disfigured. I gave him a look like he’s just thought of an especially wicked joke.

And so the Joker gets the last laugh. Thanks for looking. This has been 12 Days of the Batman. 

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 11: BATGIRL

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Batman and Robin both faced the tragedy of witnessing their own parents’ murders; not surprising each of them decided to fight a war against crime. But what about Barbara Gordon, daughter of Batman’s ally, Police Commissioner Gordon? She had no great loss to define her, didn’t have the resources of a Bruce Wayne to train and equip herself, and wasn’t a physically imposing male, either.

No, Barbara Gordon was inspired by Batman to fight crime simply because it was the right thing to do. Introduced in 1967’s “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!” by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, Barbara- Babs to her friends- has been an off-and-on member of the Bat-Family ever since.

Bruce Wayne trained for years, traveling the globe and studying with the finest teachers in every field, from martial arts to forensic science. Barbara had a library card. Batman had a nearly-unlimited fortune to outfit himself with Batman’s non-lethal arsenal. Barbara had significantly less to work with.

Even Robin was raised by Batman: he had the best crimefighting teacher possible. Barbara bootstrapped herself into the role of Batgirl. Batman’s often referred to as the most “realistic” superhero (which is, itself, kind of silly), but Batgirl did even more with far fewer resources, just her brains, skill, and tenacity.

Tomorrow is the final installment of 12 Days of the Batman, a man who’s brought a lot of smiles to the world. Go to bed.

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 10: TALIA

Batman’s war on crime leaves him little room for romance. Mutual attraction to Catwoman aside, Batman seems to have forsworn love for justice. Of all the women in Bruce Wayne and Batman’s life, I believe Talia, daughter of his enemy Ra’s al Ghul,  is the one he truly loves, and the only one who’s ever tempted him away from the dark.

Created in 1971’s DETECTIVE COMICS #411 by Denny O’Neil and Bob Brown, and later refined by Neal Adams, Talia was later revealed to be the daughter of the demon, Ra’s al Ghul, criminal mastermind. Talia and Batman fell in love almost immediately, but out of loyalty to her father would not leave him side. Over the years, Ra’s and Talia both considered Batman a worthy suitor for Talia, but of course Batman wouldn’t join them. Not until Batman and Ra’s joined forces and, by the laws of Ra’s (ill-defined) forebears, Batman and Talia were instantly wed and soon conceived a child. But to keep Batman fighting their common foe, she faked a miscarriage and the marriage was annulled. This story was later ruled out-of-continuity, a Bat-Son considered too big a loose end.

Until writer Grant Morrison revisited the idea with Damian, Talia and Bruce’s son, whom she raised in secret and trained as an assassin. Renouncing his evil heritage, Damian becomes the latest and most aggressive Robin.

Morrison also refashioned Talia to be a darker character, a subtle manipulator and head of the worldwide terrorist organization Leviathan. Now a full-fledged villain in her own right, she and Batman fight over the soul of their child across the globe.

While these changes have given Talia a lot more agency as a character- she was often merely a pawn for her father’s schemes- I think it’s robbed her of what made her most interesting before: her unconditional and contradictory love for two irreconcilable forces. She couldn’t choose either, because to choose one was to betray the other. Her resolve to remain true to both was as unwavering as Batman’s own resolve to honor his parents’ memory. Maybe more so.

I tried to give Talia fuller features and a straighter nose, suggesting Ra’s North African heritage. Hair by Bruce Timm, always.

Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve and time for the next million-dollar installment of 12 Days of the Batman.

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 9: THE RIDDLER

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Edward Nashton was an unscrupulous carny who rigged games of chance to always have the upper hand.  Smarter than everyone around him, he mastered every puzzle and brain teaser Soon he became Edward Nygma- E.Nygma- and turned to crime to enrich himself as he outsmarted the police. Which, of course, lead him to the one puzzle he couldn’t solve- the Batman.

People debate whether Batman’s presence truly prevents crime or encourages bizarre criminals to commit more elaborate and outlandish crimes. In fact most of Batman’s rogue’s gallery would exist whether or not he was there to oppose them. The Riddler may be the major exception: while he might still commit crimes if Batman wasn’t there to challenge him, he could just as easily make a fortune in legitimate enterprise.

The Riddler first appeared in 1948’s DETECTIVE COMICS #140, in a story written by Bill Finger and drawn by Dick Sprang, and wasn’t a particularly popular or memorable character until the first episode of 1966 BATMAN TV show with actor/comedian Frank Gorshin in the role. Offscreen, Gorshin had an insight into the character I liked, seeing the Riddler as a genius who did whatever he wanted for kicks:  he’d play piano at a concert level; he’d perform Shakespeare in the park; he’d fight the Batman. I didn’t necessarily like Gorshin’s hysterical line readings, but I liked his thoughts on who the Riddler was.

My take on the Riddler is fairly traditional, although I incorporated the receding hairline introduced by artist Alex Ross. Suave and self-satisfied, the Riddler is one of the few criminals who rivals  Batman’s vast intellect.

Tomorrow a mother of an edition of installment of 12 Days of the Batman.