I’m typing this with one finger and it’s painful. That’s how much I love Randy Bowen’s statues. Or maybe it’s more than love. Maybe it’s a fetish.
Why one finger? I tore a ligament off of my left bicep as well as part of the muscle last Sunday and went through the joys of reconstructive surgery Friday afternoon. My doctor says it’ll be at least three months before I’m doing anything as macho as Shotokan again, but by September I should be able to knock the crap out of all challengers. Bring on Groth and his goon squad.
What’s this have to do with Randy Bowen? Not much more than my promise not to break the news of his new Marvel deal until he broke it first, and while I was under the knife, he did just that. There was joy in Mudville last Thursday as the comic industry’s quintessential statue designer officially added another two years to Bowen Designs’ Marvel license. The only bad news is I’m going to need yet another curio to keep all of those exquisite new little statues in.
“We’re pretty stoked about this, Cliff,” Randy told me several weeks ago. “This gives us the opportunity to tackle some of Marvel’s more obscure characters as well as revisit some of the ones we felt could use another version beyond the versions we’ve previously released.”
Cliff: Can you reveal any of the characters yet?
Randy: I’d rather not, actually. With other Marvel statue licensees out there, we sometimes run into conflicts with our release schedule, so I’d rather hedge my bets and wait to announce that information when the time is right. Let’s just say that there will be a few surprises.
Cliff: What kind of quantities are we talking about this time?
Randy: Our runs on editions will be lower than ever. We want to further reinforce our legacy as a company that really does sell “limited collectibles”. At the same time there should be enough to cover all of our hardcore collectors.
Cliff: The last time we spoke, we talked about your working with Frank Frazetta on The Death Dealer sculpt. Who are some of the other creators you’ve worked with directly on designs?
<!img src=”images/050623/thanos.jpg” width=”150″ height=”225″ border=”1″ vspace=”4″ hspace=”4″ align=”left”>Randy: I worked with Carl Barks on the Diamond-Barkster Award, with Neil Gaiman on Sandman and Miracle Man, with Frank Miller on Marv from Sin City, with Mike Mignola on Hellboy, Mike Allred on Madman, Jeff Smith on Bone, Eric Powell on The Goon, Chris Carter on The X-Files, John Buscema on Doctor Doom? I’ve also worked with Steve Rude, Don Martin, Robert and Jesse Crumb, Ray Harryhausen, Harlan Ellison, Kelly Jones, Bruce Timm, Joe Quesada, and many others I’m probably leaving out. Many of these folks have contributed to the work I’ve personally produced as, well as in connection with projects with our other sculptors.
Cliff: Neil Gaiman and some of the others you mentioned are writers. How did they contribute to the design?
Randy: Neil put me in touch with artists like P. Craig Russell or Kelly Jones in the case of the Sandman statues. He gave me the overall “feel” that he was looking for, but he left the details up to me.
Cliff: Are there creators you’ve approached who didn’t want to work with you?
Randy: Yes. I approached some of the Image guys early on, but they were kind of distracted with the barrage of other offers coming at them at the time. Or maybe they just didn’t like my stuff?who knows? I was offered a gig by Todd McFarlane when he first started his toy company, but I was on staff with Dark Horse Comics at the time and needed to honor my commitment to them.
Cliff: We have a few friends in common so I hear about some of the personal sculpts you do. Do any of these stand out in your memory?
Randy: Harlan Ellison commissioned me to sculpt the Golden Age Green Lantern. I normally don’t take commissions, but Harlan can be pretty persuasive. I had just been in the audience where Harlan had given a speech on what comics had meant to him and Green Lantern was mentioned in his story. It was a very moving speech to say the least. A week or so later, Harlan called me and asked if I’d do it. I took the job for a couple of reasons. First, I have a soft spot in particular for the Golden Age DC characters and, as I said, Harlan can be pretty persuasive [laughs]. Anyway, only three were produced: One for Green Lantern creator Marty Nodell, one for Harlan, and one for me.
On another occasion, I was approached to create a custom walking stick for my old friend Bob Schreck (legendary comics editor for Batman and Sin City). Bob was having some problems with his hip that made walking difficult. Some mutual friends and I pooled our money for a bronze handled walking stick for Bob. He’s a Godzilla fan, so I sculpted the head of the original Godzilla as the handle. Only two were made?one for Bob and one for my archives.
<!img src=”images/050623/vision.jpg” width=”150″ height=”225″ border=”1″ vspace=”4″ hspace=”4″ align=”right”>Cliff: Besides the fellas working for you, which sculptors in the industry do you like?
Randy: There are so many talented guys out there. I’ve gotten myself in trouble for answering this?I’ll get angry emails saying, “Why didn’t I make your list?” so it would be best for me to say that I consider myself very lucky to be working at a time in comics’ statuary with so many fine talents as my contemporaries. How’s about that?
Cliff: Safe [laughing]. Tell me about the Hollywood offers.
Randy: I’ve had a few offers lately, but I’ve signed non-disclosure agreements, so I can’t really say specifically. I’ve have done some conceptual stuff in the past for a few film and animation projects. They usually call me and say, “Hey Randy?we need something on Monday for a presentation” and they’re calling me on a Friday. I can do it, but it usually means a few all-nighters in a row? Generally I like to stick with what I’m doing because of the freedom it affords me. No focus groups, and I set my own deadlines. It’s a pretty nice gig. After I retire from the comics statue gig, I may do more work in film, but it’s not something I’m pining for.
Cliff: Discounting popularity and reputation, which characters in the comics lexicon do you think have the best costume designs? For what it’s worth, my visual favorites are Kirby’s Mister Miracle, Walt Simonson’s Manhunter, and Corsair of the Starjammers by Dave Cockrum.
Randy: Cool choices. It’s so difficult to choose, but off the top of my head and in no particular order, Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, Black Widow, Thor, Captain Mar-Vell, Captain America, Doctor Doom, Hawkman, and if you can count them as costume designs Hulk and Thing.
Cliff: Well, congrats on the new contract, Randy. We’re all looking forward to the next phase.
© 2004, Clifford Meth