Superman 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.

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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.

 

 

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. 

Justice League Was Potentially Spoiled by a Funko POP!

Curious to know how the upcoming Justice League movie ends? We might actually have the answer to that question. If not, we implore you to stop reading!

justice-league-funko popIt’s no secret that Funko has been giving lots of love to DC to hype Justice League. However, over on superherostuff.com, the description for the Justice League Superman Funko vinyl has turned a few heads to say the least. Their description reads as follows:

The Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Flash figures are barely holding their own against invading Parademons and an axe-wielding Steppenwolf. If only Superman — in Funko figure form — was here…

LOOK! UP IN THE SKY! Is that…is that Superman?? IT IS! It’s the Superman Justice League Movie Funko Pop Vinyl Figure and it resurrected itself moments before Steppenwolf skewered Wonder Woman with a hefty chunk of Venezuela!

Measuring 4″ high, this soft-vinyl, ridiculously cute and crouching Superman caricature is based on his appearance in DC’s cinematic superhero opus, Justice League.”

superman popOn one hand, this is possibly a fun bit of fan fiction to help sell this particular POP! figure. They clearly specify their scene is taking place among the figures and not with the actual characters, after all. On the other hand, it’s an oddly specific bit of narration if that’s the case. Besides, Superman returning to save the day at the last minute sounds pretty convincing. I think I’d be more surprised if that didn’t wind up happening.

Overall, should we be labeling this as legit Justice League information? Eh. It’d be one thing if this was official copy from Funko themselves, but this blurb comes to us via superherostuff.com themselves. That is to say, we’re a few degrees separated from an official source here. Beyond that, your guess is as good as ours.

Having said that, can we talk about the fact that Steppenwolf is apparently throwing Venezuela at Wonder Woman? I want this to be true just for that detail alone.

Batman Vs. Superman: Whose Collectibles Are Rarer?

batman superman wonder woman

Detective_Comics 27It’s about time DC Comics fans finally receive closure to pop culture’s most burning question: if Batman and Superman got in a fight, who would win? Would Superman prevail over Batman with his superhuman strength, or would Batman be resourceful enough to exploit Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite? Many authoritative figures have chimed in on the subject, including an actual writer of Batman Vs. Superman, but we may never receive a definitive answer that pleases everyone. After all, what’s the fun in a debate that has a single right answer?

More importantly, how do they stack up in the world of collecting?

Round 1: Batman Collectibles

For collectors of rare Batman items, there’s great diversity in the collectibles you could look for, with over 2,000 collectibles in the hobbyDB database.

If you’re into novelty toys, Batman’s got you covered. From the Justice League’s Attack Armor Batman that faced a limited production run, to the 1966 Ideal Batman Utility Belt which is virtually impossible to find sealed and intact, you could spend days figuring out how many thousands of dollars can be spent on Batman toys.

mego elastic batmanPerhaps the most infamous of all Batman toys, however, is the Mego Elastic Batman. For those who don’t know, the toy company Mego produced a series of toys throughout 1979 called the “Mego Elastic Heroes,” which were functionally similar to the popular “Stretch Armstrong” toyline, but instead featured Superheroes. They were so similar to Stretch Armstrong, in fact, that Kenner filed a lawsuit against Mego for ripping off their product. By July of 1980, Mego ceased production of the Elastic Heroes, and the stage was officially set for these toys to become extremely sought after collectibles more than 30 years later.

As the rarest and most valuable item in the series, the Mego Elastic Batman has sold for as much as $15,100. Even a loose and worn Mego Elastic Batman can be worth approximately $300.

But wait: Batman collectibles get even crazier. If you ever thought of owning the very first Batman comic book, you might be looking at spending in the area of $1,380,000! If that is not rich enough for you, then we advise you to look into the original Batmobile used in the famous 1960s Batman TV series. Designed by famed auto customizer George Barris, this vintage car sold for $4.6 million at auction, trumping even older vintage cars being sold at the same venue. Regrettably, the Funko Pop Batmobile is not quite as valuable.

action comics 1Round 2: Superman Collectibles

On the surface, Superman collectibles don’t hold quite the same clout as Batman collectibles do (just over 500 items in the hobbyDB database). However, don’t take this to mean there aren’t some valuable gems to be discovered.

For instance, those who were part of the “Supermen of America” club during the 1940s had a chance of receiving an exclusive member’s ring that is considered one of the first superhero collectibles ever made. Though one of these rings was infamously turned down for sale on an episode of Pawn Stars, this same collectible has also sold for as much as $40,000 online.

And yes, there is a Mego Elastic Superman, too.

However, much like a malicious supervillain with a trick up his sleeve, the world of Superman collectibles has a secret weapon: The original Superman comic. The inaugural issue of Action Comics is a holy grail among comic book collectors, and a mint condition print of the notorious comic more than doubles the value of Batman’s Detective Comics debut. In fact, it has sold for as much as $3.2 million! Some may say that this number is still well below the vintage Batmobile described above, but remember that this issue of Action Comics sold for a mere 10 cents once upon a time. If we were to calculate an increase in value by percentage, nothing would come close to Action Comics #1. Even if you owned many of the rarest Batman toys ever made, it would still take a lot to amass a collection that is worth as much as this single comic.

superman-batman-squirt-gunsThe Verdict

In terms of which hero has the single most valuable collectible in his arsenal, it’s hard to argue with Superman’s comic book debut. Excluding one-of-a-kind movie memorabilia, nothing even comes close.

However, if we are to judge the overall spread of valuable collectibles across comics, toys, and even original sketches, Batman reigns supreme. Fact of the matter is, Batman is a more relevant superhero to modern pop culture than Superman is, and the Bat’s spread of portrayals from Adam West to Christian Bale has made the character as much of a meme machine as he is a dramatic hero. The comic book industry owes a lot to Superman for setting the foundation for the Superhero genre today, yet while we do love the Man of Steel, we can’t argue with the data: Batman is the king of collectibles.

Consider this, though… Batman has the Batmobile, the Batboat, the Batcycle, the Batcave… Superman had some sort of flying car with fists that was slower and weaker than he already was. Batman has a much larger cast of cohorts and villains, so it’s not a fair fight. There are almost as many models of various Batmobiles on hobbyDB as Superman items total.

But hey, we’re not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. Whether you’re a fan of Superman or Batman, you should enjoy everything each legend has to offer regardless of who has the more expensive collectibles. Just remember to hold off fighting fans who disagree and leave the battling to the heroes.