“I’ll take it.”
Yes, at a certain point, even lox will go bad, but nostalgia drives us back to strange destinations, and I became on that fateful day a collector of urbane, if sometimes expensive, superhero statuary. Not just any statuary, mind you?the field is too wide and the libraries too littered with every manner of character and characterization, heroes and villains alike. I specifically limit myself to certain types of statues, and, even more certainly, specific sculptors. My personal favorites?and if you’re in the hobby, I suspect they’re yours?are Randy Bowen and William Paquet, contemporaries of mine (give or take a few years) who I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know personally. So, while the timbre of my column is usually elders of the realm, let’s share a few moments with the current master of the field.
Cliff: How long does it take to sculpt a figure, Randy?
Randy: It depends on the figure. The quickest sculpture was probably a Hellboy bust that was completed in about 45 minutes. The Death Dealer statue took the longest of any of my sculpts. It was sculpted with Frank Frazettas’ input, meaning shipping the sculpt back and forth from Oregon [the home of Bowen Designs] to Pennsylvania [the home of Frank Frazetta] over the course of six months.
Cliff: What was Frazetta’s reaction to the sculpt? Tell me a little about working with him.
Randy: Frank is one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century, so the slightest positive comment from him spoke volumes. He was underwhelmed with the sculpt at the beginning, but said that he was happy with the final piece. Along the way, he didn’t really want to do a straight interpretation of the famous painting?he was more interested in creating a new version of it.
Cliff: What was your first sale?
Randy: It was an illustration for a postcard advertising CB radios. I’ve been doing commercial art since the age of 12. I used to do a lot of spot illustration and editorial cartooning early in my career. My first sculpting gig was for a company that produced full-sized carousels.
Randy: I had been doing something called “Garage Kits” for years (resin model kits made literally, by fans in their garages). I began doing work for DC and Dark Horse at around the same time. Many people have attempted to take credit for “discovering” me, but I mostly have a former comics retailer to thank?a guy named Lyn Pedersen from Las Vegas. He’s the guy who mentioned me to both DC and Dark Horse. Even though I had been knocking on their doors for years, it was Lyn’s suggestion that made them listen.
After I established myself with DC and Dark Horse, I began sending samples photos to Marvel. After a few years, they finally got back to me, and I stayed doing freelance work for them. For several years I was about the only sculptor doing this type of stuff (except for DC). I saved my money, and when the time came I made an offer to take over the statue licensing. I had worked with a couple of terrific folks from Marvel?Nancy Ann Volpe and Mike Thomas. We had a great working relationship.
Cliff: Who are your favorite artists?
Randy: Whew, hmmm… well, that’s always a toughy? In no particular order: Frazetta, Neil Adams, Jack Kirby, Mike Mignola, Bruce Timm, Simon Bisley, R. Crumb? and sculptors: Chiparus, Barye, Rodin. I’ll never be in their league, but I’ll always aspire to their level.
Cliff: Major artistic influences?
Randy: Frazetta, John Buscema, R. Crumb, and a hundred others.
Cliff: How long is the current contract with Marvel?
Randy: This agreement will end in December, 2005. It sounds like a long time, but it’s really just a blink of an eye. The lead-time for pre-production is about six months, so it’s even shorter than it seems.
Cliff: How many characters can you do in that time frame?
Randy: Again, a toughy… We’re trying to release at least one mini-bust per month and one full-sized statue every other month.
Cliff: Why do the variations, such as Capt Marvel and Nick Fury? Do you ever worry about market saturation?
Randy: Sure. The market is already over-saturated. Some characters warrant multiple versions, especially Captain Marvel (Mar-Vel), Nick Fury? Not so much, but I’ll tell you this: We’ve sold-out of every single variant that we’ve ever released. I guess that says something for brand loyalty.
© 2004, Clifford Meth