Originally published Aug. 10, 2006, at GJSentinel.com
“KINGDOM COME SUPERMAN BUST”
First in a series of busts inspired by the artwork of Alex Ross.
Produced by MikeTek.
1/4 scale, resin, one piece.
Price: $50, including shipping inside the United States.
Ten years ago, comic books were pretty much over for me. Not entirely over, I’d pick up a title every now and then, but for the most part the writers were putting out stories I’d read before, the artists drawing the same muscle-popping heroes. I stopped in at Comics Odyssey on North Avenue (like most comics shops I know of, it folded years ago) and browsed once a month or so, but only when I was bored.
During one of those stops, I happened to see a promo poster for the upcoming four-part series “Kingdom Come” by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, neither of whom I’d heard of. I wasn’t interested. But then the shop’s owner pointed it out and said it would be good, so I figured I had little to lose and bought the first issue when it was available.
Like “Watchmen” and “Dark Knight,” “Kingdom Come” is set in the future, when the children of the original superheroes are wreaking chaos around the world. They’ve grown up in a society that values revenge over justice; their leader is a ruthless superhuman vigilante called Magog, whose popularity so disgusted Superman years before that he retired to his arctic Fortress of Solitude.
The young superhumans’ carelessness climaxes in a battle with a villain called the Parasite. In a desperate moment, the Parasite manages to split open the nuclear-powered Captain Atom, which causes a blast large enough to kill a million people and destroy the farmlands of Kansas.
Seeing how much things have deteriorated during his years of isolation, Superman comes out of retirement, wearing an “S” shield with a black background that I presume was inspired by the 1940s Fleischer cartoons. The Man of Steel reforms the Justice League, and…
Well, stop by a bookstore and pick up the graphic novel collection of all four issues if you want to know the rest. Believe me, if it sounds stupid, it’s probably because I simply can’t properly explain it. Mark Waid is generally a good writer and this is probably his best; more importantly, Alex Ross’ artwork is nothing short of amazing. He paints the familiar characters – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Captain Marvel and more – in a way that maintains their “mythological” feel while also making them look like real human beings. It’s wonderful stuff.
The garage-kit fan behind MikeTek is Mike Blankenship, 32, of Olathe, Kan. Mike works as a network engineer for CIO Inc., which means he does information technology consulting and installs and troubleshoots IT infrastructure such as servers, switches and routers. Mike’s been married for 11 years, no kids; aside from models, his hobbies include customizing 12-inch action figures and woodworking. He’s putting together a Web site which he hopes to have ready in a few months.
Q&A WITH MIKE BLANKENSHIP
Resin the Barbarian: You and I met briefly at WonderFest 2005, in the hotel’s restaurant, and you told me you were taking some steps toward becoming a garage-kit producer. Now you’re apparently getting well into the swing of it. How do you like it so far?
Mike: I love it! I really enjoy contributing to the hobby. I’m on pins and needles waiting to see some paint-ups of the piece.
RtB: Can you give me an idea of how much self-education was involved in becoming a kit producer, and what equipment you had to buy? Did buying the equipment put a serious dent in your kit-buying budget?
Mike: I used several tutorials from the Web and relied on some sound advice from others in the hobby.
I got my start in resin producing 1/6 custom heads for the 12-inch action figure hobby. I had commissioned a custom head sculpt and it arrived and I pretty much jumped right in, made a mold and started producing copies.Through a little trial and error, I soon had clean casts and started to offer them for sale.
I had started without any equipment at all and was frustrated with bubbles and voids. I almost immediately purchased a pressure tank and air compressor. I since have added a vacuum pump also to help with eliminating the RTV bubbles. While the equipment is somewhat pricey for a person only doing one or two casts once in a while, I’ve found that if you want to produce casts for sale, it is absolutely necessary to have some good tools.
RtB: What drew you to producing this Superman bust?
Mike: I have always been a huge fan of Ross’s work as well as a huge Superman fanatic. I have always liked the Kingdom Come “S” shield style and color scheme.
RtB: Does it represent a specific panel in the “Kingdom Come” series? If so, what’s happening at the moment Superman is depicted?
Mike: It’s based more on some of the supporting artwork than from a specific panel. The composition of the bust was chosen by the sculptor. I couldn’t be happier with it; I feel it’s a very powerful pose that suits this type of bust well.
RtB: Will all the busts in this series be inspired by “Kingdom Come” in particular or just Alex Ross in general?
Mike: They are not limited to the “Kingdome Come” storyline. The next few in the series are Batman, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. These are based mostly on the current “Justice” comic series as well as the line of posters that Ross did for DC. Also in the works are Hawkman and the Joker.
RtB: Have you ever met the sculptor face to face?
Mike: Yes I have. It’s great to meet someone that you work so closely with face to face. I was attending a convention for a different hobby that put me within visiting distance of the sculptor so we planned a meet-up. He is truly an extremely talented person, and it was great to see him in his element surrounded by works in progress.
Mike: Yes, while the Superman kit is my first big step in selling kits to the hobby, I have several commissions that are still sitting on my shelf waiting to be offered for sale. Some are waiting for my skill level in casting to increase so that I can do them justice and some are waiting for bases and final touch type of things.
A couple of pieces that are awaiting the kit treatment are a 1/6 Wolverine and a 1/8 original sci-fi type character that was actually named by someone at the Clubhouse as “Thud” (pictured above). It’s really a great piece that I would love to get kitted up soon.
I also have at least six more commissions on sculptors’ workbenches right now.
Follow-up note from summer 2009: Mike seemingly dropped out of the garage-kit community not long after this was written. My brief attempts to find out what happened with him have been unsuccessful.