By John Charles
Recently, I had the good fortune to once again be invited to Mezco’s headquarters in Queens, New York. There, a stone’s throw from the famous Silvercup Studios and a short ride on the 7 train from the legendary Times Square, I was greeted by Mezco’s gregarious Administrator and Director Of Special Projects; Mike Drake, or as he prefers to be called, Drake. He led me into one of Mezco’s meeting rooms and gestured towards a table upon which sat to seemingly identical busts of Hellboy. These were not busts of the animated or comic Hellboy, but of the Ron Perlman directed by Guillermo del Toro brand of Hellboy. They were magnificent. As I reached out to touch one, Drake struck my hand with a riding crop. “Not yet” whispered Drake, “first look at them carefully, tell me if you can see the difference”. He turned on an additional light and directed me towards an empty chair. I sat staring at the two seemingly identical busts. The vibrancy and life of the sculptures is uncanny, Mezco’s artists and design team seemed to have worked some form of likeness alchemy, capturing not only the technical aspect of their subject, but the elusive essence of Hellboy.
Time and time again I hear people talk of scanning as the wave of the future and the path to perfect likenesses and over and over again I see that technology fail to live up to the hype. The recent Willy Wonka figures (not by Mezco) were designed using scanning technology, and the likeness were somewhere between disinterested mannequin and ennui filled zombie. Mezco sculpts the old fashioned way, with clay and wax, using classically trained artists who rely on their tactile senses and a skill honed by what can only be years or perhaps decades of practice. After nearly twenty minutes I turned to Drake and made a feeble guess; “Are the stones on this one painted a bit more gray?” He chucked and simply replied, “Pick them up”. After nervously checking to ensure his riding crop wasn’t poised to strike, I reached for one Hellboy in each hand. The look that must have come over my face caused Drake to guffaw loudly. I was astonished. In one hand I had a Hellboy that must have weighed close to 15 pounds, in the other I had a Hellboy that was comparatively light as a feather. One Hellboy, it was explained to me, was the prototype, cast in solid resin. The other was a production sample, made of rotocast vinyl. With a simple demonstration it was proven to me that a rotocast statue could truly look as beautiful as a solid sculpture. “I want this product to speak for itself,” said Drake, “So I’m going to leave you in here alone for a bit, play with the bust and holler if you need me”.