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September 2012

Archive for September 12th, 2012

Polar Lights Model kits: Wolverine model kit development

posted by JamieH 9:00 AM
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I’ve said many times before I’m a lifelong comic book collector. As a young kid, I was into the standard Superman, Batman and Spider-Man fare. I loved team books like the Justice League of America and the Avengers. If I already had the current issue of my favorite solo characters, I’d buy the book that had the most costumed heroes in it. As I grew older, I started actually READING the books instead of just looking at the pretty pictures. One day I stumbled across a comic I hadn’t eve noticed before and picked up X-men #136. My fellow readers can probably tell you that this was at the point where the X-men were growing in popularity among readers due to the classic work of writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne whose run on the title was building to a crescendo. No one outside of comics really knew about the X-men. They could point out Superman or the Hulk, but they wouldn’t be able to tell you who Colossus was. This issue hooked me and I loved every character in the book. A few years later Wolverine was got the spotlight treatment in his own mini-series and the story presented him as a deep, but savage and ruthless character. Over time, the X-men and especially Wolverine continued to grow in popularity until the rest of the world caught on. I still read Wolverine and X-men comics and they are all in incredibly different places now, but some of my fondest comic book memories are of the guy that claimed, “I’m the best there is at what I do… but what I do isn’t very nice…”

So it was with those fond memories in mind that I began our Polar Lights Wolverine model kit development. I wanted to keep him in his 70’s/80’s era look and landed on the yellow version of the suit mainly because that’s the one he started gaining popularity in. I also figured that anyone wanting to see a later version costume could omit the shoulder cuffs and with a little putty filling and sanding could make the brown suit version or with further mods create a more contemporary look. My goal was to make a great looking kit in his classic costume and keep it in reach to make any other version a modeler might want.

For the base, I originally considered making it out of a mass of dead Hellfire Club goons or ninjas. I felt ninjas would, by design, cause too many trapping problems on the tool. After thinking about how much more it would probably costs to sculpt several figures lying in a pile, I abandoned the Hellfire Club goons pretty quickly. Besides as villains, they weren’t terribly recognizable by anyone but longtime X-men fans. I landed on doing a Sentinel head. Even though they aren’t considered Wolverine’s arch foe, they were the villains in the classic “Days of Future Past” storyline in the Claremont/Byrne run in which Wolverine played a key roll. They would return to battle the X-men on several occasions. Besides, robots are cool and anyone who isn’t a die-hard would accept it as a normal occurrence for Wolverine to have taken down a big one.

So here I show my original control drawing of the model. I wanted to capture a pose with plenty of movement for plenty of great views in the round. It was important for m to have the Sentinel look like he had lost a fight and supply plenty of room for additional detail in the eyes, mouth and other wounds. (I can’t wait to see someone add some fiber optic spark effects) We’ll be including the unmasked head, but the second set of claws has gone by the wayside.

We hired Erick Sosa to sculpt the kit for us. If you are familiar with the many licensed resin statue products on the market, you may know his work. He has sculpted some great ones including iconic Punisher and Deadpool figures. Erick sculpts digitally in Zbrush and works on the look of the figure before posing it. This shows his initial sculpt which I deemed to be too contemporary for what I intended for this kit. The look of the character was too close to how we see him in comics today rather than his “bronze age” appearance. I wanted to stylize him slightly to make him look more like a character from a comic book rather than a real guy in a suit. We had to weigh the realism we can achieve today with the flavor of an Aurora-style figure. I think we ended up striking the perfect balance.

Here is a look at the Sentinel head before getting battle damaged. Figuring out the “waterline” was no easy task. As with all comics, the drawing allows any number of cheats, but translating it into real life gets tricky. I had designed it with an exact angle in mind that would result in a clean pull from the steel tooling. Conceptually, besides the rectangular shapes around his head and the structural damage protruding from the eye socket, it could be made as one piece. Whether or not this will be the case remains to be seen.

A look at the sculpt and images of the factory’s digital mockup next time…