PIX! PIX! PIX! And a MIGHTY Q&A with legendary sculptor Clayburn Moore!
Yvonne Craig just celebrated her birthday, but we figured we’d give readers a present — 18 work-in-progress pix of Clayburn Moore‘s 12-inch Batgirl statue (due out this summer from Diamond Select Toys, $199.99 SRP), as well as a behind-the-scenes interview with the sculptor himself:
Dan Greenfield: So let’s take it from the top. How did you get involved in the project?
Clayburn Moore: Well, I had known the guys at DST for quite a while… My wife Shelley—previously Shelley Myers—used to be with Diamond for 17 years. So I knew them from the business and I knew them personally and when I lived out in Baltimore we got to know each other all pretty well.
Of course, I had my licensing business and I started to move a way from licensing a little bit and Shelley’s brother works for DST and he sort of let them know that I was available to work with them, so they had asked me if I wanted to be involved with the Batman TV show project.
I’m known for sculpting women and I’ve done a lot of portraits—a fair amount of portraits—in my career so it was kind of a natural. They wanted somebody who was comfortable doing women — and they’ve got some good sculptors as well. But it was a natural fit and I knew them real well so it was kind of an easy relationship to restart and to get back into professionally.
Now, were you into the show at all? Was this something that you were particularly interested in doing or was it just something, like, “OK. Oh, yeah. Here’s a gig.” From what aspect do you come to it?
I used to watch the show when I was a kid and even at the time—and I was a little kid—I wished it was a little more serious. The campy part of it, it wasn’t my favorite thing, but I liked it. I liked the costumes, I liked the acting, I knew who a lot of the actors were.
And then through these shows, being in the business, I’ve gotten to see some of the actors and I met Lee Meriwether, I think at San Diego. She was very nice, very gracious. She only had (one) role on the regular show but of course she played Catwoman in the movie version of the TV show.
So I’ve known who a lot of these characters are and I’ve always liked the show. There were so many great cameos and so many great actors on it that I got a real kick out of it. So, yeah, I had a real close familiarity with it. A lot of my familiarity with it came later after I was older and would see reruns and would go, “Oh, yeah. Look! There’s Vincent Price, there’s Otto Preminger, there’s so-and-so.”
I kind of got a kick out of it that way, so yeah, I was pretty well versed and knowledgeable about the show when they contacted me.
How did you come up with that particular pose? It’s familiar to me from one of the old publicity stills. How did you come up with the decision to pose her that way?
Well, that’s interesting because we had that specific conversation … and a lot of times you’re deciding between a well-known studio shot that people are going to recognize but maybe that’s been done to death. So what you might want to do is an original pose that’s evocative of the character. …
I saw a lot of things that had the image of her holding her Batcape out. So I wanted to stay away from that but I kind of wanted to do a heroic pose that people would remember and we sort of took the path of doing a very well-known studio shot, but that hadn’t been done to death.
And so doing the fists on her hips, looking very heroic and having her cape blowing back a little was the way that we decided to go on that one. … We wanted to do something heroic that was evocative of the well-known studio shots.
When it came to the colors, were you also involved in the paint process and choosing the color of the paint, the purple spangle and all of that? How much of that is you and how much of that is another team?
Well, DST is very generous and open-minded about my working as sculptor/art director on my projects, and they recognize that I’ve been involved at that level for years with, you know, 20th Century Fox and some other top companies, working on and art directing my own projects and other sculptors’ as well.
So they have been very open-minded about that. So when I said I’d like to use the painter that I’ve worked with for 15 years, James Rowell out of Fort Worth, they said great, let’s do that. And Jim is absolutely fantastic. He’s a terrific art director himself.
So I oversee Jim and art direct Jim but at the same time, Jim is already most of the way there almost every time. In some of my most well-known projects over the years, the paint masters were painted by Jim Rowell.
So we were able to work with him, so Jim is painting all of my prototypes and, like I said, DST was very agreeable to Jim continuing to paint my prototypes. Jim and I just have a terrific relationship.
What kind of research did you do to get the painting, the shading, just right? Fans of shows like this are such sticklers that they say, ‘Oh, they didn’t get it just that right shade of purple,” “…didn’t get that exact shade of red,” or blue or whatever it is, depending on the character. Was there a lot of research that you did?
Well, Warner Brothers is extremely closely involved. They realize they have an obligation to the fans of all ages that love this show and so they were extremely helpful and very, very closely involved. They run a very tight ship over there when it comes to art direction and approval.
One thing about Warner Brothers. You really feel comfortable there once you nail it—they give it approval and you’ve pretty much nailed it—and that the fans are going to be pretty happy with it, extremely happy with it. That being said, (laughs) experience will tell you that you’re not going to please all the people all the time. There is just no way.
But one of the things that we did have a bit of a glitch with…that sort of purplish black at the front of her cowl? We went back over that a few times because really what that boiled down to was more the way the photographs were being shot and the fact that her forehead was looking darker but Warner Brothers also provides a Pantone color guide and so when you start with that, you know you’re going to be pretty close.
And then with Jim’s experience in paint, there are ideas that he had…and also some things that we’ve worked out together over the years, but the general idea, there are very few challenges that he’ll come across that he’s never encountered before.
Got it. Now, are you in for the long haul for all of the different characters whose licenses are out there or is it piece by piece? How much more are we gonna see of your work here?
Well, there are some things that DST and I have talked about doing … and I may have to move over to that. But at the same time I wouldn’t mind staying with Batman.
I’ll be honest with you. Portraits of live-action actors are not my favorite subject but the show is one of my favorites so doing the show (laughs) — my brother and I, like I said, used to watch this growing up and we’d watched probably every single episode … and since then, I’ve probably watched every episode at least three times. …
You know, another great Yvonne Craig (performance) is the green dancing girl from Star Trek.
That was just a fantastic look. She was such a great dancer and so fit that I think that showing more of her would be just great.