Busted…

CR_Bust2CR_Bust4CR_Bust5CR_Bust3In great anticipation of the full reveal of the hopefully-soon-to-be-finished Superman 1:1 display I’ve been working on, lets turn the world back (at super-speed!) to the year 2007 and the fantastic creation pictured above that started it all.

Having tackled many a unique and complex project most wouldn’t dare even attempt often resulting in fabulously accurate prop reproductions (from Star Wars through Flash Gordon) – my good friend and Superfan Chris King next turned his attention to recreating the now classic Superman costume.  Arguably now the godfather of all current Super costume reproductions, Chris would refine his designs over no less than six attempts to reach his goal of the closest screen-match possible.

Along the way Chris also tinkered with display options that would include a full 1:1 clothed statue.  As the options for this at the time were limited in the extreme, Chris took the typically ambitious measure of commissioning an artist to sculpt a definitive bust with a view to grafting it to a suitable mannequin later (should one ever materialise).

To that end, Chris brief to the Nikolas Art Studio was simple;

“I’d like to commission a Christopher Reeve lifesize sculpt that has “life” to it with an expression that captured Chris Reeve’s portrayal of the character”.

While the result was irrefutable (see above and more here) and all the more astonishing for not having been completed with reference of a lifecast, (Stuart Freeborn’s master was years away from resurfacing) the euphoria would be short-lived as only a precious few casts were ever produced.

So even as this post serves as a nostalgic tribute, its also a cautionary tale to fans who may have seen this same bust offered more and more frequently on popular auction sites.  Like so many pieces of original prop art, this has also fallen victim to the crime of recasting and will have suffered inherent degradation in quality.  As with all high-end Superman props both screenused and replica I continue to lobby for the consumer to do his research before buying, and hope the provenance offered here deters yet another Superfan from purchasing anything other than the real deal…

Superheirloom…

superman7superman8superman10superman9Another fascinating exhibit featured in the recent ‘Superheroes’ display at Indianapolis Children’s Hospital is this cape pertaining to be screen-used wardrobe from Superman: The Movie.  Keen eyes will perhaps notice something strange about this particular piece in regard to the proportions and conclude that the distance between the shield and the hem is way too short.

While it would be easy, then, to dismiss this as mere replica two things lead me to believe it is not and that its history may be even more colourful.

Firstly, thanks to SuperFan James Sawyer’s clear photography it becomes apparent in higher resolution the weave in both shield applique and cape body fabric are a match to other screen-used wardrobe and secondly, according to James there were slits in either side of the cape at waist level, the purpose of which he was unsure of.

All of which leads me to speculate that this is indeed a Christopher Reeve worn ‘flying’ cape that had survived use in the original ’78-’83 trilogy only to have a quarter of its length hacked off for use in Supergirl. 

As we know, all production-made Superman capes were catagorized for use by their state of degradation.  Therefore what would start as a ‘Hero’ or ‘Walking’ cape would wind up being used as ‘Effects’ or ‘Stunt’ capes depending on their condition throughout filming.  We also know they were maintained on-set and in many instances ‘remade’ to enure their longevity.  This process was used throughout the Superman series and clearly later on in Supergirl  where surviving examples were adjusted as noted above…

Many thanks to James for use of his pics and bringing this great discovery to my attention..!

From The SUPER Collection…

superman2superman6superman5superman1SUPERMANIA extends its sincere thanks to SuperFan James Sawyer for providing the superb pictures above taken from the recent ‘Superheroes’ exhibit at the Indianapolis Childrens Hospital.  Among some of the awesome exhibits on show was this unique special effects portrait figure of Christopher Reeve as Superman not seen since its sale at auction in 2008.  Most of this fantastic creation can be attributed to the legendary Stuart Freeborn, who was responsible for the unmistakable sculpt (the mold for which and other flying figures discussed here) and also presumably Derek Meddings for the mechanical cape flapping device.  At over 30 years old its a wonder this 26″ long puppet and tribute to moviemaking genius has survived in such pristine condition for everyone to enjoy.  Check James fabulous Pop Culture blog Action Features for the full tour featuring other Super-items (the cape being covered here in the next post) and also take a moment to check out James ’89 Bat-Blog brother site to SUPERMANIA here…

Go Figure…

DSC_2021DSC_2019DSC_2022DSC_2028Now that the merchandising powerhouse behind the upcoming Man Of Steel movie is starting to fill shelves with product across the globe, SUPERMANIA once again endeavours to campaign for a typically retro alternative.

Ironically, this project was initiated by the fresh availability of the Batman 1966 TV series licence, which, encouragingly, has been embraced by the industry and is being fully exploited even as a forty plus year-old property.

Frustratingly reamining unexploited is the ‘classic’ Superman movie series, which, despite having an equally broad, vocal fanbase, has yet to spawn a modern action figure line.  Although DC Direct and Mattel continue to pump out various incarnations (of debatable quality) of the Superman character, arguably the closest embodiment of the version represented in the movies has not been seen since Kenner’s Superpowers line of 1984.  Superman fans have clamored for a figure line based on the series ever since.

In recent years Mattel had gone a great way to alleviate this by producing a totally unexpected line of 12″ adult collector figures (reviewed here, here and here) offered exclusively on mattycollector.com.  While these were a welcome surprise, in retrospect, Mattel had probably passed on a better opportunity by not optioning a 6″ line first.

Cut back to 2013 and Mattel are not only full-force behind Man Of Steel but recently unveiled their Batman ’66 line to the amazement of fans that have waited literally decades for the opportunity.  If nothing else, it proves how fickle the industry is and that all good things come to those who wait.

Meantime, inspired by the fabulous art-direction of the new Batman lineup I sought to create something I thought would be passable as a parallel addition.  A pure wish-fulfillment project I’ve considered many times before, it wasn’t until I saw that Mattel had used a cardboard figure of Batman in their prototype packaging that I believed such a thing could be replicated low-tech by hand and look credible.

Fulfilling my brief that the final model should be a 100% practical bubble on card was not going to be easy.  I have no photoshop skills but knew exactly how I wanted it to look.  I called upon my good friend Jim Bowers to provide me with some high-quality images (which I composed for the backing card using Microsoft Word, no less).  and then called upon Alexei Lambley-Steel to fashion me a printable Superman figure which I would hand-draw articulation on.  The notion of the blister was always going to be problematic as I had no vaccuforming machine.  After some thought It occurred to be laminating A3 sheets and making the shape squared off (and therefore foldable) rather than rounded would be just about undetectable.  I would then photograph it so it wouldn’t be disregarded as a mere manip.  The test for me was to look at it finished and really, really wish it were real.  I did.  Here it is above for your consideration, and I remain hopeful somebody in the industry is similarly captivated.  Its already been too long…

Care To Step Outside..?

DSC_1987DSC_1978DSC_1984DSC_1980Presenting the first of a series of posts coming to you directly from an exclusive tour of the Propstore Of London!

The editors of SUPERMANIA, A Tribute To Christopher Reeve and the No Wires Facebook page came together this past week and were given unprecedented access to the huge archive of original props and material currently on display/for sale at the UK office.  Though the facility is a fanboy paradise in its own right (with treasures from decades of movie magic too numerous to even list here) we had been granted special permission to examine one of the showcase pieces of the Propstore collection – an original and authentic Superman costume.

It was during the walkaround of one of the Propstore’s many storage areas when Sebastian Columbo noticed something familiar stood high on a wooden shelf nestled anonymously among other pieces such as the Alien Queen maquette and simply stated ‘Boots’.  I asked one of the helpful assistants to fetch the items down for us to see and once the cloud of dust had dissipated, sure enough we all stood in wonder looking at the costume pieces shown above.

Unconvinced at first due to the zips being visible on the rear, I peeked inside and instantly noticed the faded inscription inside reading ‘Stamp’, then noticed the label dangling from the left boot (second pic) and it was confirmed – we were looking at General Zod’s original boots.

As we had been given permission to photograph the Superman costume I asked if the boots could come along too, which our guide (General Manager Tim) was happy to arrange.  Later as we were snapping away Alexei paused to look at the boots and noticed something odd – ‘They’re red’ he kept saying.  Convinced Superman’s cape was reflecting on the black PVC I suggested we took them out into the daylight for a better look…

The debate regarding the Phantom Zone villain’s all-black uniforms really opened up with the release of Superman II, The Richard Donner cut where during some scenes, the shiny accoutrements of the trio’s costume indeed seemed to be metallic red.  SUPERMANIA can confirm that incredibly, in a similar fashion to the Superman’s costume’s ability to change colour with light, General Zod’s boots follow the same principle.  I have no idea how this was achieved but as the (third & fourth) pics show, Yvonne Blake’s customary alchemy is still in full effect…

Our sincere thanks go to Tim, Stephen and the Propstore crew for their kindness and generosity.  View the official listing for the boots here – as of this writing, they are still available to own…