The master sculptor on amazing new statues and his return to action figures...
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For over a decade, Clayburn Moore has transformed countless heroes, heroines and villains into remarkable action figures, busts and statues. From Michael Turner's alluring Fathom to Brian Pulido's sword-swinging Lady Death, Moore's award-winning work helped pioneer a new class of collectibles in the late '90s, those aimed at the serious adult collector. Clayburn Moore taught the world that comic books - and the collectibles they inspired - were so much more than a nerdy pastime. This was ART.
Today Clayburn Moore continues his passion for sculpting the fantastic with his work at CS Moore Studios. While statues have been his primary focus in recent years, Moore has just announced plans to return to the amazing realm of action figures. Read on to learn more about this exciting project and to discover more about this industry legend: his studio, memorable collaborations and just why does he sculpt those sexy comic book women...
FIGURES.COM: Please tell us a little about your sculpting studio, CS Moore. Are you solely responsible for all the sculpting work or do you have others help out or apprentice?
CLAYBURN MOORE: For some time now, I've been sculpting all the figures, although I have help on some of the bases. I design them and then Josh Sutton or David Wilson will sculpt them off my designs. That is going to change in the coming year, however. We have some things coming up that will require working with other sculptors.
FIGS: A lot of your work appears quite complex, such as the powerful and precarious pose of Conan the Conqueror and the delicate free flowing design of Fathom. Size is surely a factor, but approximately how long does it take you to finish a piece, taking your currently available Angelus Statue with massive outstretched wings as an example?
FIGS: Who are some other sculptors you really admire or like and why?
CM: It really depends on the costume. A figure takes about 180 hours, but if the costume is complex it can double that amount of time. The wings on Angelus took an inordinate amount of time. They were a nightmare, actually, and each wing side took over three days.
CM: There are many sculptors who's work I admire and I have many, many influences. The great sculptors of the 19th century were astoundingly talented. Sculptors like Picault, Fremiet, Barye and Gerome were massive talents. Anna Hyatt Huntington was another and Dalou was amazing. All of them, while having their strengths, could sculpt anything; men, women, animals, clothing, you name it and they could sculpt it with exquisite beauty and consummate skill.
If you mean in the field today, I'd say the Shiflett Brothers have a lot of ability and a real gift for breathing life into their pieces. I like them because they're true gentlemen and they embody what is best about Texas in big-hearted friendliness and charm. I admire them because they are very easy going and relaxed and they’re also extremely generous.
The Mathews sculptors who did some of the women for DC Direct are very good. Ray Villafane is terrific and incredibly fast. That is a quality I admire as I am not fast when it comes to finishing out the detail.
FIGS: You've worked with some pretty amazing talent over the years: Joseph Michael Linsner, Erik Larsen, Brian Pulido... the list reads like a "Who's Who" in the comic book world. What are some of the most memorable collaborations you've worked on and why?
CM: Well, I wouldn't be dissing anyone to say that Frank Frazetta is naturally at the head of that list. There are a lot of stories about Frank that are memorable and I count myself as incredibly lucky to have known and worked with him.
I've had the good fortune to work with some of the best and I'm honored to say I can count some of them as my friends. Mark Schultz is one of the best I've ever seen as is Marc Silvestri. Comparisons with Marc and other people break down when you note his terrific grasp of anatomy. He doesn't fake it and he doesn't cut corners.
One thing I've always enjoyed is working directly with the creators themselves. With corporations it's about the money, but the creators have a love of the characters and the enthusiasm they bring to a project is a big part of why I enjoy it so much. For Joe Linsner, getting Dawn's look just right was so important just as getting the Savage Dragon right for Erik Larsen was equally important to him. These projects are real collaborations and that's key to the success of every one of them.
We're starting a variant cover comic company and the first cover was rendered by Eric Basaldua, but he drew it from a sculpted thumbnail I did of the character (Tinker Belle from Zenescope). So he did the drawing from my figure, but I'll then do the sculpture from his finished drawing. This is a true collaboration and I'd like to guide things so this becomes more of a boilerplate for future projects.
FIGS: You've often been called a master at sculpting the female form, praise well-deserved. Aside from their obvious beauty, what fascinates you about women as a predominate theme in your work?
CM: Often I get as confused sculpting the female form as I've been confused by females over the years... It's interesting to me, though, that we have a lot of female collectors and I'm very proud of that. I have six older sisters and all are intelligent, independent and capable people. Those qualities come from within and I think it is natural to my approach to think of these sculptures as reflecting those same qualities.
As a sculptural study, the female as Subject is MUCH more difficult to capture than that of the male. There is a subtle elegance that must be a recurring characteristic of the sculpture and capturing this this can be an elusive goal. The surface flow of the anatomy and how the most minor adjustment in pose can change the look must be kept control of throughout the sculpting process. Every so often the figure will get away from me and it can take some doing to get it back. I've never been a believer in "artists block" going on and on and I think you just need to keep working through it. Taking a walk or going for a run can help as a short break, but just keeping at it is the main thing. Sometimes just going to a movie and getting away for a short time can help.
FIGS: What are the three sculpts you are most proud of?
CM: Conan the Conqueror was one of the great pieces I've done in my career. Working with Frazetta was amazing. My abilities had been honed and I was ready for it. Another one that was a tour de force was the Angelus... I had a lot of freedom with that piece. Most of the ideas came from Marc Silvestri's work. We had great success in directing the factory to come out with what we wanted. Antoher piece that I'm very happy with was Snow White. It was a pinup pose, a J. Scott Campbell kind of pose. Gil Elvgren was a 50's pinup artist, did beautiful figures. I had his work in mind when I did this. We responded to a lot of intelligent, well-spoken, eloquent collectors to the direction we were taking. Some of our biggest critics ended up ordering the piece. A difficult experience turned into one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
FIGS: Given the opportunity, what particular female character(s) would you like to sculpt next?
CM: These days it's more that I have a pose in mind I want to do and I think of what character would go best with that pose. Other characters have great visual appeal like Lady Death and Vampirella. Flying women are always inspiring subjects, so that's why I'm looking forward to working on Tinker Belle.
FIGS: You demonstrate a classically trained background in your work, but new sculpting technologies have emerged that are becoming more widely practiced in the industry. Do you find modern modeling programs such as ZBrush and Freeform replacing traditional sculpting methods? Is there a happy medium?
CM: I'm glad you called them "modeling programs" because it certainly isn't sculpting. They can enable a person to do a 3-D design that the modeler couldn't possibly actually sculpt manually. It's a double-edged sword and I can see huge benefits to programs like this. However, it's pretty obvious these technologies cost jobs, though, and in a country of a rapidly increasing population, this can cause serious problems. CGI put a lot of animators out of work and I suppose someday we'll have programs that write books in the style of Hemingway or R.R. Martin or whoever.
As long as my hands and health hold up, I'll sculpt traditionally. I think there will be a place for those who stay with traditional methods in their fields. There is a certain satisfaction to working this way and I hope collectors recognize the work that goes into each piece.
FIGS: We've heard the exciting news that you have partnered with Zenescope to produce new action figures based on their Wonderland comic series. What prompted you to return to sculpting action figures after years away from the format?
FIGS: How do you feel about getting back into action figures?
CM: I really didn't think I'd ever do action figures again, but I think there may be a place again for them. Zenescope has a look to their characters that could do well in that format. This came over several months of discussions, actually. It's always smart to try out new things even if they're the old things. Action figures are a whole different animal with a different set of production problems. We'll see how it goes.
CM: The approach is the same. The idea is to do true and beautiful characters that look like what the collectors are expecting. With this go round in action figures, there is no pressure. Hopefully it will be a beautiful figure that collectors will want to own. Zenescope is a real good company to do this with, and this is kind of a natural, doing a character that is well known.
FIGS: Tell us a little bit more about your first Wonderland release, Alice Liddle. What kind of articulation are you looking to add? Accessories she'll include? Display base?
FIGS: Will fans be seeing any color variations or exclusives in the Grimm Fairy Tales Originals action figure line?
CM: Articulation will be fairly simple. Five point, at least, maybe seven. She needs to have some good articulation but I don't want to sacrifice the look of the figure. The base will be sculpted, not just a plastic holder. At this point, we haven't finalized the accessories or exact look of the base as we’re still deciding on the pose, but this will be a beautiful figure.
FIGS: Does your new Grimm Fairy Tales Originals action figure line mark the full return of MAC? Will collectors see other properties transformed into figures by Clayburn Moore in the future?
CM: We'll do exclusives for certain shows or with some retailers when it makes sense without overproducing. I think exclusives and variant in action figures can make the whole enterprise more fun and interesting for the collector while insuring the overall projects is profitable for the manufacturer, but you don't want to flood the market and damage the collectibility of the figures.
CM: I don't see why not. We did some nice figures in the past and I'd like to do some even better ones. Our current plan is to do them one at a time, not as full lines. We'll build slowly and assess as we go. If people like them, we'll keep doing them along with the full 1/8th-1/6th scale statues. If the numbers work, we’ll add characters from Top Cow and lots of others.
FIGS: It sounds like you are keeping quite busy at CS Moore. In addition to the new Grimm Fairy Tales Originals action figures, what are a few product highlights fans have to look forward to in the near future?
CM: We have a lot of things coming up. I mentioned the new Moore Editions comics line, which will be tied into doing sculptures on some of them. The first will be Tinker Belle, as I also mentioned earlier. I'm almost finished with a new Magdalena, so be on the lookout for that. We also have a new Lady Death coming up and the variant Dawn Statue as well as more statues from Top Cow and Zenescope and our other licensors. We'll be working up some original designs for an in house line, so when the first is ready, we'll show your readers what we've come up with.
We're also branching out into the cartoon/pin-up arena with our first project with Doug Sneyd, the Playboy cartoonist. He's a gem to work with: very interested and helpful. Our first piece together is a mermaid figure and we're doing it as a cartoon with the viewer as engaged with the figure. I've really enjoyed the collaboration and I hope we do more of these.
Yes, we've got a lot of exciting new projects in the works, so stay tuned. I think you'll like what we have in store.
A special "Thank You" to Clayburn Moore for taking the time to do this interview. To admire and purchase Moore's incredible work, visit his website at CSMooreStudio.com.
Interview by Jeff Saylor
Images Courtesy of CS Moore Studio