Ultimate 1:1 Project…Completed..!

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Blog3Blog4SUPERMANIA is overjoyed to present the culmination of over five years of trial and tribulation in an attempt to produce the most accurate life-size (and lifelike) tribute to the late Christopher Reeve in his most famous role.

Custom-made from a combination of painted resin and fibreglass with glass eyes and outfitted in a painstakingly-tailored state-of-the-art costume by Action Costumes of Argentina, this heavily modified stock mannequin stands a full 6’5″ on a discreet glass base.

To see the exhaustive history of this most personal of creations from the beginning, please click on the Superman 1:1 Project link in the Memory Crystal Selection on the right hand side of this page where over a series of posts the figure evolves from chunks of unrefined plastic to what you see above.

While ‘ultimate’ is a conceit best left to something of Madame Tussuads standard and fashioned from silicone with punched hair and finished with a budget of thousands, my ambition was to evoke the spirit of Reeve’s screen persona using the best likeness available and specific attention to realistic details (including flaws) for a fraction of the cost. Itself inspired by the long-gone Superman display in London’s Tussauds I was so captivated by on a visit as a teen, the dream to create my own version would never fade no matter how unpractical or unachievable it seemed.

Indeed, only within the last decade or so have the Planets aligned to facilitate the components of this kit thanks mainly to friend and Superfan Chris King, whose burning desire to create the best replica Superman costume lead to researching methods of displaying one.  Commissioning what is still arguably the most evocative of Reeve sculpts with the intention of grafting it onto an imported 6’6″ mannequin, Chris’ later abandonment of the project paved the way for me to see it through.  Coinciding with this was the evolution of the aforementioned Action Costumes growing as a company and gaining access to real suits for reference, something the authenticity of this build demanded.

While the whole process was sometimes painful (and painfully slow) people like the talented Rich Martin would not only come to my rescue but provide the impetus to finish the job.  Be as awed as I was by his paintjob in the pics above that turned flat resin into living, breathing skin and his flawless glass eye placement’s effect on conveying expression in the sculpt.

Now that he’s finished I hope you can appreciate what it took to achieve it and, just for the moment, share the feeling I had when I stood open mouthed with the rest of the Tussads visitors that day as they pointed and said “Look!! Its SupermanChristopher Reeve…”

My sincere thanks to everybody who has assisted me with this project – for a full extensive gallery of the finished figure click HERE.

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…

Ultimate 1:1 Figure Progress…

With the fine details on the bust portion of the mannequin complete, further modifications had to be made to the 6’6″ mannequin to transform its generic proportions to better match those of Christopher Reeve in his prime.  The first issue was the height, where, with the addition of the bust the figure towered over 6’7″!  Having gone to considerable efforts to make this piece as realistic as possible only to be undone by it being too tall I once again enlisted the help of FX Supremo Rich Martin.

As Reeve’s torso was short and legs long I was confident we could remove a 2″ plus section of the mannequin’s midsection, solving the height and proportion problem in one with a ‘cut & shut’.  The addition of a cricket box as a codpiece 2″ lower would then compensate for the deficit.   I produced some illustrations and sent them to Rich who at first was unconvinced, fearing the mod would make it unbalanced.  As the weeks went by I became frustrated and was on the verge of doing the work myself when I tried Rich once more – to my delight this time he gave in.

With the mod completed and the base resealed with fibreglass, the mannequin now stood at approx 6’5″!  Satisfied with this I began the considerable task of remodelling the torso using air-drying clay.  Besides filling the ‘shelf’ between the top and base left by the mod to make it seamless (third pic down), I took the opportunity to fill the gaps on the top of the wrists to bring the hands closer to the hips, (first pic featuring Rich’s amazing paintjob on the hands!) give better volume to the Lat muscles (second & third pics) and finally add the characteristically protruding rib bones. (this took a few attempts to get just the right shape!).  After much sculpting and even more sanding, I was overjoyed with the results and though I could have left it at that, I had been supplied with a few bottles of the original touch-up paint so finished it accordingly.

My final task was the stand, which had been a pain since I’d received the kit insofar as it failed to hold the figure up straight or securely.  After trying a number of different methods to alleviate this (using tape/screws to wedge it, etc.) I finally just bent the solid steel rod down a further inch and the figure locked on straight & true.  The rod assembly was then taken apart and sanded back to its original state (it was painted an awful flesh colour) and the glass base cleaned (bottom pic).

Only when all these amendments were complete and to my standard were the measurements taken and order placed for the Bronze Edition suit from Action Costumes, which, at the time of this writing, is only days away from completion.  The next post will hopefully be the completed model, check back for the update…!!

Ultimate 1:1 Progress…

SUPERMANIA is proud to finally present the finished bust portion of the 1:1 Christopher Reeve as Superman statue as painted by celebrated special effects makeup artist Richard Martin.  Having had considerable experience with various Superman figures among many others,  Rich was the natural choice for taking this reinforced resin cast and finishing it to his usual top-class standard.  In contrast to Seb Columbo’s/Action Costumes recent masterwork, my brief to Rich was not to make this a refined, idealized version of Superman but an accurate, weathered, warts & all likeness to the actor in the role.  This accounts for Rich’s application of layers of skintone shades, stubble shadow and even shaving rash to achieve the desired effect.  With false eyelashes topping the exquisitely fitted prosthetic eyes my greatest concern about the figure having ‘warmth’ in his expression and life in his eyes was addressed perfectly.   Upon delivery I used the Stuart Freeborn made lifecast to add further touches personally such as the ‘split’ right eyebrow, the mole cluster down the left cheek, the brown dye stain on the hairline and a ‘Makeup’ version of the chin cleft.  With the head now applied seamlessly to the mannequin torso I was free to further modify the 6’6″ mannequin to further emulate Reeve’s unique proportions – pictures to follow…!

*UPDATE* The original sculptor of this piece has been identified as ‘Nikolas’ of the Nikolas Art Studio.  Check out the sculpt as a work in progress here

The Bronze Edition…

Another stunning new creation fresh from the workshop of Action Costumes presented by pioneering artisan’s Sebastian’s Columbo and Molchasky.   The pictures above represent more than just the most screen-accurate replica of the Superman costume to date –  they chronicle a neverending pursuit of perfection.

Though Action have been producing the finest-quality Superhero apparel for some years, their dedication to narrowing the distinction between replica and real has been tireless.  Through continued support from the fanbase (contributing vital research) and the appointment of SuperFan Columbo as artistic director, this current version boasts specs taken from nothing less than a genuine costume (exhibited last year at the WB 75th anniversary exhibition in the Mostra de Valencia) where measurements and notes were taken to ensure a level of detail never before attempted (among them seam placement, logo width/shape, stitching and cape pleats) and replicated in perfectly colour-matched fabrics.  In a market flooded with replica’s of varying quality (some even claiming to be screenused) one should rest assured that the Bronze Edition is the next best thing to the real thing…

As a footnote, SUPERMANIA is pleased to report one of these outstanding replicas will soon be adorning my Ultimate 1:1 Superman display with updates and pictures of the finished project to follow…