DC Comics Posts

The Ultimate Poser: DC Sculptor Tim Bruckner Captured Iconic Moments

tim bruckner wonder woman

“The Kiss” is one of Bruckner’s finished pieces currently for sale.

A few weeks ago we introduced you to Tim Bruckner, who spent about 20 years sculpting action figures and statues for DC Direct (now known as DC Entertainment). As his career there evolved, he spent more and more time on statues instead of poseable characters. A lot goes into the decisions on how to represent a figure the best way.

“The artist or art director has decided on a pose and facial expressions before I start working,” Bruckner said. Illustrations of the basic concept, such as Superman about to kiss Wonder Woman might be done specifically for the project, or they might come from actual comics panels. “Then all I have to do is recreate that in three dimensions.”

“Some of the artists like Alex Ross, with a more realistic style, require more reference,” he said. “But Ross always had so much material to work from for any character, so it was never a problem” In addition to the specific artist’s renderings, photos of people in action poses provide clues to getting muscles and angles just right. “We have to decide what ‘makes’ the character and brings it to life.”

tim bruckner alex ross

There is no shortage of Alex Ross renderings for a sculptor to work from. This prototype is for sale by Tim Bruckner.

Tim Bruckner Green Arrow

Bruckner is offering various stages of prototypes like this paint master of Green Arrow.

In a few cases, the design might not be based on any particular comic or live version of a character. “In the Superman and Lois Lane sculpture, he’s based loosely on the Christopher Reeves era of the character,” Bruckner said. “But it’s not an actual rendering of the actor, just a new way of designing him that looks familiar to collectors.”

At that early stage of the process, Bruckner would work in clay that could be bent or adjusted slightly if someone suggested a change. After those decisions are settled, the next stage is the perfectly detailed wax figure that will ultimately serve as the basis for the molding process. Several of these early prototypes are for sale in his hobbyDB Marketplace shop.

tim bruckner supergirl

Bruckner’s sculptures have a feeling of motion, often from different directions. You can get this one directly from Bruckner on hobbyDB.

tim bruckner

This playful cat is one of the hidden structural elements that hold up a pin-up statue of Catwoman.

Unlike an action figure who will be posed by the customer, a sculpture needs to capture a moment in time but still look like it’s moving. “This pose has to stand for everything about the character,” he said. You want something that says ‘this is Green Lantern,’ and it has to be convincing. Fans will let you know.” Aside from a moment when a superhero is proudly standing in triumph, they are usually seen in action. Bruckner’s statues are well known for conveying motion, action, tension, and lightness.

That last criterion is one where Bruckner has always excelled. “You want to give the illusion of weightlessness. A character running might have just the tip of their foot touching the base of the statue. Or Superman might be just landing, with the tiniest contact point to the ground.” He is particularly fond of a statue of Green Lantern fighting Sinestro at the peak of a mountain. “Sinestro is the only one touching the ground, and he looks like he is falling, about to lose contact. Green Lantern is only supported by points where he is making contact with his foe.” Often the support comes from an unexpected direction like a cat tugging on Catwoman’s dress.

tim bruckner batman

The ivy-covered gargoyle really puts Batman in context here.

Another trick for the weightlessness is that these figures are almost never mounted on a plain base. It will be something key to the environment of the scene, or an iconic prop. Such support pieces help remove the figures from being perceived as “static.”

Despite many of these characters being wildly proportioned, strange-looking, even non-human, Bruckner believes the human connection is what makes it work. “Each pose does represent a human experience,” he said. “If an artist has done that well, the collector can put himself in that experience by looking at this piece.” Bruckner insists that pop culture can be in danger of losing that human connection but doesn’t need to. “As an artist, it has to mean something to me, or it means nothing to everyone else.”

We’ll be taking one more look at Bruckner’s work in a few weeks, much of his work before and after his DC years.

 

 

Tim Bruckner, Man of DC Action Figures!

A couple weeks ago we introduced you to Tim Bruckner, who spent about 20 years sculpting DC action figures and statues for DC Direct (now known as DC Entertainment) and other companies. We barely scratched the surface of his stories, so here’s a look at some of the design processes he went through in his career.

tim bruckner dc artistHis sculpting roots go back to his childhood. “I used to take those wax bottles with the juice in them (Nik-L-Nips) and play around with the wax and create all kinds of sculptures,” Bruckner said. He showed them to a neighbor across the street who happened to own a jewelry store. “He was impressed enough that he hired me as an apprentice when I was a teenager,” he laughs. That lucky break led not only to honing his finer wax sculpting skills, but also an understanding of the molding and casting processes.

tim bruckner robin

This Robin paint master is for sale on hobbyDB right now.

For those of you who collect model cars, the original sculpting is usually a subtractive process, where the artist starts with a block of some material like acetate and carves away the bits that don’t look like a car. “Figure design is an additive process,” said Bruckner. “It starts with a blob of wax, and I shape it into the character mostly by adding material.”

For those of you who collect figures, he’s now selling some of his rarer pieces on hobbyDB as the_Sculptor. These include production pieces as well as various stages of preproduction models. It’s a chance to own a bit of DC history as well as a one-of-a kind original piece for your collection.

tim bruckner dark knight

You can get this Batman action figure directly from Tim Bruckner.

Another difference between the two types of collectibles: Model cars are often sculpted with details such as the grill and windows in place. How those are divided into separate pieces is usually determined at the factory instead of by the artist. In addition to the original wax figure, Bruckner had to determine points of articulation, and how to separate the figure into multiple parts. “For poseable figures, I create a fully-functioning prototype with the joints worked out.” If that sounds complicated, yeah, it is. “After you’ve done several of them, that part gets a lot easier,” he said.

Much of the diecast world is headed towards 3-D modeling and prototyping, which has its advantages in speed and accuracy. “Since a statue of a character is organic in design, it’s still somewhat common for sculptors to make their molds the old way. “With the advent of 3-D design, that skill set is evaporating,” he said. “Hopefully digital sculpting and hand carving can coexist.” Even for static statues, he has to figure out what parts can be molded as one and what needs to be a separate part.

tim bruckner red skull

It may look finished, but this is a hand-painted prototype available from Bruckner.

Many of his figures are interpretations of drawings, which may have varied thought put into how a particular feature would be rendered as a real-life object. Sometimes an item like a hand, which might be molded in a different color, becomes a separate piece.

After approval of the shapes, Bruckner was responsible for painting the master from which the production pieces would be colored. “These statues are hand-painted in the factory, believe it or not. My painted prototypes were usually pretty spot-on,” he said. “They have to rely on a perfect example to copy, so it needs to be very accurate.” A lot of color breaks, such as the logo on Batman’s chest, are rendered in relief or as grooves or ridges to make coloring easier. A close look at his Red Skull master shows how much intricate detail can be involved.

tim bruckner supergirl

These three stages of the development of the Supergirl statue are for sale together.

In some cases, they are only part of the model, but otherwise, it’s really hard to tell them apart from the finished production piece. He has even listed a 3 stage set of Supergirl prototypes that really show how the process takes shape.

tim bruckner dc dynamics

tim bruckner

This Joker from the DC Dynamics line is from Bruckner’s private stash.

Those color breaks and separate molds can lead to some great opportunities for design. “My favorite statues are the DC Dynamics line,” he said. For those, a character such as the Joker is seen rising from a raging swirl of green slime. The shapes themselves are lively, but he was able to use translucent material for the goo, adding to the realism. “Being able to work with clear materials for water, smoke, or flames really helped make these even more realistic.”

Speaking of lively, dynamic shapes, there is a lot that goes into deciding every nuanced detail of a character’s pose and facial expression for these figures. We’ll take a look at some of the designs and decisions that go into the final product in an upcoming article.

Meet Tim Bruckner, DC Action Figure and Statue Artist

Tim Bruckner DC artistRecently hobbyDB brought you the stories of some of the designers of Matchbox cars from the early 2000s. You all thought it was fascinating to learn of the people and processes behind some of our favorite toys and collectibles. In that spirit, we’d like to introduce you to Tim Bruckner, an incredible sculptor and designer who spent decades creating action figures and statues for various DC entities and other companies. We’ll be telling you about his long, fascinating career over the next few weeks. You can get a peek at his work at his hobbyDB Showcase, where there are a few rare pieces for sale (and more will be added soon!).

Bruckner started with DC Direct in 1999, and worked for them for most of the last two decades. “Every element of a sculpture says something,” Bruckner said. “The expressions, the pose, the way the clothes flow or bend… they all tell a story, and it’s my job to interpret it perfectly. An action figure will be posed by the collector, but a statue has to get it just right.”

Tim Bruckner SupermanPerhaps the most mind blowing aspect of his creations is his ability to interpret different artists’ visions of a single character into a 3-D model. “Look at Batman as rendered by Frank Miller versus the same character from Alex Ross,” Bruckner said. “My job is to make sure the character represents the look, but also the tone of their interpretation. The pose and even facial expressions are usually provided by an art director.”

Tim Bruckner CatwomanTo some, that might not sound like there’s a lot of room for creativity, but that’s part of the challenge. “I sculpt and show it to them, and keep doing that until the client is happy,” he said. Depending on the artist or the art director, there might be a couple of back and forths with minor revisions, or there might be several go-rounds with major changes. “The earlier we can make and agree on changes, the better,” he said.

A look at the sheer number of Superman or Joker sculpts he has done over the years is revealing. While there are several obvious differences between the live-action, comic book, and animated versions of characters, the different versions in each of those categories are astonishing.

He has a remarkable ability to create dynamic poses that make still figures look like and feel they are in motion. Another one of his talents includes making characters appear to “float,” by barely having them touch the ground, such as his Catwoman “Pinup” figure.

Bruckner has another take on serving the “client,” however. Several years ago, he attended the San Diego Comic-Con and watched as people looked over displays of his work, discussing the fine details, perhaps not even realizing who he was. “I watched a couple talk about which statues they wanted to spend their hard-earned money on. They were having a serious conversation about the merits of these things, and I realized in a way, DC wasn’t my client… these people are.”

Tim Bruckner prototypes

Even Bruckner’s preproduction originals and hand-painted masters look finished.

Tim Bruckner AquamanThe prototype processes are actually quite different from how it works in the world of diecast vehicles. In addition to the original wax figure, Bruckner had to determine points of articulation, how to separate the figure into multiple, moldable pieces, and even hand-painted the prototypes. “With the advent of 3-D design, that skill set is evaporating,” he said. “Hopefully digital sculpting and hand carving can coexist.”

As you might imagine, he has accumulated quite a few of these pieces over the years. Too many to properly display and curate, so he is selling some of his collection. His collection on hobbyDB has a few dozen items up for sale so far, and hundreds more will be added soon.

In addition to DC Direct/DC Entertainment, he has also worked for other toy companies including Kenner, Hasbro, and Toybiz. In a departure from his most famous 3-D work, he has done a lot of graphic design including album covers for Ringo Starr and others. He’s written books on his work and some pulp fiction as well.

Tim Bruckner Ringo StarrHe’s retired from working on this sort of thing professionally, but still spends hours every day in his studio creating. “It’s not all that different, except I’m not on deadline anymore,” he said. “It’s an odd adjustment, but a good one.”

In our next installment, Bruckner will show us some of his favorite figures from his DC days as well as a deeper look into the process of creating an action figure from wax to finish. 

The Joker is IT: Collecting Lovable Clowns in Pop Culture

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

pennywise jokerHey, collectors, do you know what time it is? It’s clown time! (Maniacal laugh). In all seriousness, and clowns are a serious subject, they’re kind of a big deal right now in pop culture. The second IT movie is doing big box office, as is the Clown Prince of Crime, aka Joker.

So with those two lovable jesters going at it (I haven’t seen either movie, so I assume they’re light-hearted comedies), why not look at some other clowns from pop culture. And since this is hobbyDB, we’re focusing on ones with collectibility. Also, Halloween is around the corner, and you might need a costume idea.

pennywise collectibles Stephen King’s original novel IT was actually a middling success with critics, and he even disavowed it to a degree. Pennywise seems innocent enough to the kids at first, which is the scary part. Nonetheless, it made for a scary TV movie adaptation in the early ‘90s and a downright horrifying two-part cinematic remake in the last few years. Both generations are represented in the collectible world.

Not to be outdone, the Joker has pestering Gotham City for so long he has become something of a sympathetic creature. Thanks to the fluidity of the DC timeline, the character has been interpreted numerous ways from relatively benign (Ceasar Romero) to comically psychotic (Jack Nicholson, Mark Hammill) to psychopathic (Heath Ledger) to, well, a tragic and misunderstood figure (Joaquin Phoenix). While the older versions of Joker have been well represented in collectible form, the latest one has not… yet.

joker collectiblesCould it be that the “R” rating of the new movie makes it not as useful for being turned into what are essentially toys such as Funko Pop figures? Well, consider that Ledger’s Joker was anything but kid-friendly (a lot of folks felt The Dark Knight should have come with the same rating) but is well represented in collectibles. Also, there is no shortage of Pennywise merchandise, and both IT movies were for grownups.

It might be that the passage of time was necessary for those two versions to become collectible. Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance has become so iconic that it has passed into the culture in general. And part one of IT came out two years ago, so the critical and box office success suggested collectors wanted more Pennywise.

Even Jared Leto’s much-maligned take on the character was worthy of some Pop love. But Pheonix’s performance has also come with critical acclaim (more so than the movie itself even). And early box office has been no joke. While we wait for the punchline, let’s look at some other pop culture clowns…

Seems Harmless Enough

clown krustyIf you grew up in the ’60s or ’70s in the Chicago area, you were treated to a morning of goofiness from Bozo. Other stations in other markets had weak imitations of him, but WGN Bozo was the real deal.

A younger generation grew up with Krusty the Clown as their makeup intensive morning entertainment. As a part of the Simpsons universe, we get to see him not only behind the scenes but in day-to-day life where he never removes his costume or gets out of character (aside from being a surly, bothered, chain-smoking pile of bitterness).

Even though he’s a throwaway character, The Clown With The Tearaway Face adds a bit of spooky fun to the Nightmare Before Christmas. But not too spooky.

Not to get into the politics or ethics of fast food and consumerism, but Ronald McDonald has been enticing kids into his restaurants for decades. Despite his gentle demeanor, artists and satirists have portrayed him in a scarier form, the weirdest being the heavy metal band Mac Sabbath. Seriously, check them out!

Speaking of Clowns Who Rock…

kiss insane clown posseLove’em or hate ‘em, the boys of Insane Clown Posse put on an intense show and have an even more intense following. Juggalos, their fans, are more invested in the whole circus act than the band itself.

Can we talk about KISS? As much as they wanted to be scary metal gods, their music was more of a loud, hard, pop sound and their mostly monochromatic outfits barely qualified as menacing. Don’t worry, though, we’re laughing with you, not at you.

killer klown funkoClown Schlock

No one would ever pretend Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a cinematic masterpiece. But it was a good, silly, modestly scary time at the cinema, and in the right frame of mind, buckets of fun.

Clown Time is Over

hot wheels clown carFive Nights at Freddy’s walks a weird line between entertainingly good fun and genuinely dark jump scares. In addition to the animatronic band gone awry, the cast includes Fruitpunch Clown who knows how to exploit evil lighting angles to maximum effect.

Regardless of whether clowns give you the giggles or nightmares, there are plenty more collectibles out there we just couldn’t fit in our clown car. Let us know some of your favorites in the comments!

From Marvel to Marbles to Mar-Vell to Ms.: The Crazy History of Captain Marvel

Captian Marvel

captain marvel

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The early audience reviews for the new Captain Marvel film were not very good. In fact, they pretty much trashed the movie. The problem was, those reviews came out before the film was even released. It was a case of trolling fueled by… who even knows anymore? Something to do with the character suddenly being a woman, right? We live in weird times.

Once the movie finally hit theaters, critics and fans agreed it actually was pretty darn good and lots of fun. The retro ‘90s theme was a hit with audiences (just wait til Wonder Woman’s 1984 era movie comes out!), and Brie Larson nails the performance. So in the end, she triumphed.

captain marvelBut, come to think of it, when did Captain Marvel become a woman? Wasn’t she a guy in a live action TV show back in the ‘70s? He drove around the country in a Winnebago with a kid and guy who looked like a cross between Pat Morita and Stan Lee, right? Turns out this superhero has a way more convoluted backstory than you may have remembered.

captain marvelOf course it makes sense that Captain Marvel would have been created in 1967 by Stan Lee of…. wait for it… MARVEL Comics. Except, the character was actually named “Captain Mar-Vell” because the “Captain Marvel” name was already taken by another comic book publisher. A publisher that had been defunct for a decade and a half. Oh, and Captain Marvel was a man back then, so your memory is correct. Partly anyway.

See, there was an earlier character named “Captain Marvel” who appeared in various titles from Fawcett Comics from 1940 to 1953. That early date puts him right on par with the first superheroes, such as Batman, Superman, and Captain America, who debuted in the late 1930s and early ’40s. And that was the start of his problems.

captain marvel

Nothing at all similar between these two comics, right?

Fawcett unfortunately went out of business in 1953 after a copyright infringement suit involving the character. Not from Marvel, but from National Comics. Apparently they felt this caped, flying strongman was a little too similar to their character Superman. Wait, what? Yep, DC Comics was actually known as National Comics back then and sued over a character named after another comic book company that actually had yet to be named similarly to that character, but who subsequently named their new character after themselves. Did I mention this stuff is convoluted?

captain marvel hoppyBefore the lawsuit was settled, Fawcett really hunkered down on the character, creating Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, Uncle Marvel, Grandpa Marvel, and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. (One of those characters I just made up. If you guessed Grandpa Marvel, you are correct. Yep, Hoppy actually existed. And I thought we were living in weird times today…)

Meanwhile, in 1953, issue #4 of MAD ran the story of Superduperman, featuring a nod to his lawsuit against Captain Marbles. MAD would of course eventually become part of the DC empire. (I am not making any of this up so far, aside from Grandpa Marvel. Seriously.)

captain marvelSpeaking of DC, they eventually acquired the rights to Fawcett’s Captain Marvel character and decided he had a lot of potential to expand the brand. Of course, with that name, he would be likely expanding the brand of their biggest competitor, so they gave him a new backstory and a catchy new title (but not a new name). The first issue of Shazam! was released by DC in 1973, complete with the subtitle, “The Original Captain Marvel.” So, naturally, there was another lawsuit. The producers of Gomer Pyle USMC sued over the “Shazam” catchphrase (okay, I made that up too, but honestly, at this point, it sounded believable, right?). No, of course it was Marvel Comics who sued DC over the name and the character. So the tagline was changed to “The World’s Mightiest Mortal.” And by the time it hit TV, people just kind of assumed that “Shazam” was the character’s name.

Got all that? Okay, back to Captain Marvel. The one from Marvel. The one named “Mar-Vell.” The one from the new movie. Yeah, her. Him. Let’s go back in time a bit… Captain Mar-Vell, a flying alien superhero from another planet (man, that sounds familiar), took off on his own in the late ’60s. Turns out he shared molecules with a kid named Rick Jones, and only one could exist in the world at a time, so they flip-flopped between the two identities. If that sounds familiar (it probably doesn’t but…) that was almost word for word the origin story of the original Fawcett character.

captain marvel

Ironically, while DC’s Shazam! was becoming popular with comic fans and TV viewers, readers didn’t really dig Marvel’s Marvel, so the character was killed off in the 1970s. And then revived several times since, as various male and female characters, most with the last name “Vell.” At one point he was resurrected long enough to die again in an explosion where his DNA was mixed with his cohort, USAF Officer Carol Danvers. So Danvers acquired super powers and of course became… Ms. Marvel. And then she eventually just took on the Captain Marvel name. At various times over the last couple of decades Ms./Captain Marvel has starred in her own standalone comics, made guest appearances in other stories, and has been part of the Avengers. So if you’ve been paying attention and weren’t confused by everything that happened before, all of this should make sense.

captain marvel

So yeah, now there’s a Captain Marvel movie, and the character is female, and it’s a pretty dang good movie, and you should see it despite what the trolls tried to tell you. And you’re going to love her cat Goose.

captain marvel

By the way, DC is releasing a Shazam! movie later this summer. It looks like a fun, goofy, good time at the cinema. No word on whether he’s called “Captain Marvel” anytime in the flick. Let’s hope not. That could get confusing.