DC Direct & Adam Kubert Talk Action Figures

by Jay Cochran
February 13, 2007
DC Direct spoke to us about their Direct Action Comics Line featuring Superman and Bizarro. The new line typifies the DC Direct approach to toy development – collaborating with comic book artists to create a unique product closely connected to the books. Artist Adam Kubert raved about DC Direct sculptor Karen Palinko’s success in transforming his drawings into 3-D figures.

Asked about his experience, Kubert spoke of the interactive nature of the process. He was involved from JPEG to final paint and described his excitement at watching the artwork take shape. He cited DC Direct’s Jim Fleischer as an amazing source of knowledge about the DC Universe. Fleischer would provide information on obscure characters and DC Universe trivia. He also spent hours consulting with Cubert and Palinko to help create figures true to the artist’s vision. Palinko emailed Cubert artwork for comment and feedback. Ironically, Cubert used some of Palinko’s drawings for reference during his work.

The biggest challenge to designing figures directly form the artist’s work is separating stylistic decisions from reality. This was especially difficult with Kubert’s work since he draws realistically proportioned characters. As the artist, he finds it difficult to identify exactly what goes into his style and could not explain how he knows, but Palinko definitely captured it. Fleischer joked that Palinko used her magic sculpture wand to capture the style.

For Kubert, the most exciting character he saw come to life was Bizarro. The figure was unique in that DC Direct generally does not design figures with the mouth open. Bizarro also had extra articulation in the ribs to allow the figure to hunch over. DC Direct determines the level of articulation by balancing the need for movement against the artist’s vision of the character. With too much articulation, the line of the sculpture is interrupted.

DC Direct begins the development process with an announcement of the artists joining the team. Once the cast is in place, they try to select the most important story. Fleischer acknowledges that this process is mainly an educated guess. Unless DC Comics indicates that a particular character should be included in the line, the company goes with internal selections. The sculptors, artists, and line director work together to move from the drawn page to a wax design. The process generally takes less than a month, depending on artists’ schedules and other scheduling. The original casting from the wax sculpture goes to Hong Kong for production.

DC Direct will display prototypes of the sculpts at the International Toy Fair in New York this weekend. As for Cubert, he can’t wait until his brother’s characters are complete – so they can have the ultimate battle…
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