A new interview series! We talk with top-flight sculptor Jean St. Jean about his Batman ’66 busts from Diamond Select Toys.
We’ve decided to go in a bit of a different direction for our latest interview series. Typically, we delve deep with an influential comics creator like Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, Paul Levitz or, more recently, Kelley Jones.
But for BUILDING BATMAN ’66, it’s Jean St. Jean and Barry Bradfield, the sculptor and artist, respectively, tasked with creating Diamond Select‘s popular line of busts and banks based on the classic TV series.
Here, we talk with Jean about the joys and challenges of working on the line — and to hear what Barry has to say, check out the Art Asylum website, where Diamond has posted an interview with the artist.
Then, over the next few months, Jean and Barry will discuss a specific piece every week here at 13th Dimension, complete with EXCLUSIVE concept and progress art. First up? Well, you gotta start with the Caped Crusader, right? Look for that next week, same Bat-Channel.
In the meantime, here’s Jean …
Dan Greenfield: What is it about Batman ’66 that makes it endure?
Jean St. Jean: I think the spirit of the show is very close to that era of the comics, some of the Dick Sprang feel, almost. The costume fabrication and colors are so vibrant that they still have an energy all these years later. They are still the only attempt to make the Batman characters even remotely resemble their comic-book depiction. Since Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, Batman’s been lost in black.
Did you ever go through that phase where you disavowed it?
In the ’70s, I got to know the Neal Adams and Jim Aparo version of Batman, where he was a serious detective character, ripped with muscle and fighting very dark villains. This became my ideal of Batman. But the old show was always my original touchstone that brought me back to my first introduction to Batman and the awe I felt watching him on TV.
What do you see differently now than when you were a kid?
I saw the show when it first came on TV, I was 1 or 2 years old. I remember taking it very seriously, while my dad chuckled on the couch next to me. Now, of course, I get the jokes and campy aspect and appreciate it on a whole different level.
What’s been the best part about doing these busts?
Trying to emulate the wonderful fabricated weapons and belts and create the feel of the different weights and textures of the fabrics. The classic look of the costumes is so much fun to recreate.
What’s been the toughest challenge?
The toughest challenge is really digging into a property I think I know so well and really studying the portraits to capture the likenesses to my satisfaction and that of the licensor.
Take us through the steps of how these get made.
Diamond Select creates concept art for each character, which is submitted to the licensor for approval. Once they sign off on it, I begin building the base and proportioning out the figure sculpt gradually, adding the costume elements and accessories. I have to decide how best to break down the sculpt for resin mass production and then the final sculpt is submitted for approval to the licensor.
After any required adjustments it goes into silicone molds, urethane casting and my studio provides a painted copy for submission to the licensor. Once this is approved, an unpainted copy and painted copy go to the factory for tooling (production rubber molds) and a paint master, respectively.
(UPDATED) NEXT WEEK:
Batman swings into action! It’s EGGHEAD!