Read a Q&A with CEO Stephan Lokotsch about the new offerings!
Sometimes, you just really need to have Iron Man hanging out at your house. Alas, most of us cannot call upon the Golden Avenger to do a drop-in. For us, then, Section 9 has the solution: life-sized Iron Man statues!
With an impressive track record already proved by past efforts tied into Marvel’s ‘Iron Man 3’’s release, the company expands its offerings with not one but three new statues, including one bearing a most handsome visage: a Robert Downey Jr. likeness.
As we anticipate these exciting new statues, we spoke to Stephan Lokotsch, CEO of Section 9 Entertainment, US distributor of the life-size Iron Man to find out more about the process and where the company might look to go next.
Marvel.com: How do you go about choosing this round of life sized statues? What drew you and your team to Battle Damaged Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” armor and the two versions of the Mark 43 from Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron?’ What excited you all from an artistic and challenge perspective?
Stephan Lokotsch: The battle-damaged Mark 42 from ‘Iron Man 3’ was actually something that had already been on the radar and discussed with Matthias Muckle at the time we prototyped the “clean” version—just like inclusion of Robert Downey Jr.’s head was—but we were facing a number of challenges at the time from a scheduling perspective when we realized after changing the pose from the original “T-pose” to a more dynamic one – that the data we had was not 100% complete. Luckily, the amazing artist who had modeled the suit for the film, Josh Herman, is a friend of ours and he was able to shed some light as to the “missing” data having not been created in-house at Marvel, but at the Visual FX Studio, Digital Domain. Once we collected those additional files, we were able to complete the prototype, but had run out of time to do more than just one version as it was paramount to get the statues out in time for the global promotion of the film at various international premieres. On ‘Iron Man 2,’ both the clean and battle-damaged versions were about equally successful, so it was a logical conclusion to eventually follow suit on an alternate ‘Iron Man 3’ version as well. This variant made its debut at Stan Lee’s Comikaze to a lot of compliments from visiting fans.
With ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ one of the challenges, as always with a new film release, was to avoid being repetitive in regard to previously chosen poses. The kneeling pose with one arm stretched out is not only a classic one, but also allows collectors with limited height space to accommodate a life-size Iron Man. This also made it extremely popular with small kids for photo-ops, as we witnessed at the Samsung pop-up booth in Los Angeles, during their cross-promotional multi-media Galaxy/Avengers event at The Grove, a popular local outdoors mall.
The hovering version is something that had actually already been discussed during the planning stages of the ‘Iron Man 3’ / MK 42 statue and with now room for two versions, it seemed like the right time to go for it on the Avengers sequel. After all, Iron Man is known for being in the air half of the time, so to replicate that flying look at least once felt like a no-brainer. What also makes this version very fun are the three different options to create the flying illusion, from hovering over a base to being mounted to a wall–via a speed rail in the back—to a wire solution that allows for hanging him from the ceiling.
All 3 of these variants are available here.
Marvel.com: Back when you created the non-battle damaged Iron Man, the idea of a Robert Downey Jr. likeness under the mask did come up and at the time it did not exist. Now, however, it does! How did you bring that to fruition and why did you decide to tackle that task?
Stephan Lokotsch: Again, the idea was in place even at the time but actually doing it, let alone getting it right, was a logistical challeng, given the extremely tight schedule we were working with then. Knowing that eventually we would revisit the suit for the battle-damaged version anyway, the idea was tabled, to make sure time pressure would not result in poor execution.
When the decision was ultimately made to tackle this challenge, we hired a brilliant artist, Frank Tzeng, who had impressed us with his phenomenal character likenesses in the past and he was up for the challenge and delivered a mind-blowing result that was then 3D printed, molded and cast. Taking it even a step further past his delivery of the 3D head model of Robert Downey Jr.’s, and illustrating the immense level of detail—as well as the sheer talent on display—you can see in the colorized images the photo realism that can be accomplished with these virtual likenesses; in addition to Frank’s 3D Z-Brush model, Yibing Jiang added texturing, shading, lighting and rendering.
Marvel.com: Why, creatively speaking, was it important to you to present both a kneeling and flying version of the Mark 43?
Stephan Lokotsch: Both poses are representing the iconography of the Iron Man character and, given the much more lenient time-table this time around, it allowed for accomplishing both rather than having to be limited to just one.
Marvel.com: From concept to realization, how long is the process to bring these statues to fruition?
Stephan Lokotsch: It’s really case by case and depends on a variety of factors, such as parallel projects in the pipeline, unforeseen technical challenges, complexity of the project, approval processes, etc., which results in a span of somewhere between three – six months – give or take.
Marvel.com: Do the challenges to bringing these statues to life change project to project? If so, what were some of the unique challenges of these projects?
Stephan Lokotsch: They certainly do and, in the case of these latest Iron Man statues, the learning curve was actually for once reduced, as knowledge gained from utilizing rapid prototyping/3D printing on the previous ‘Iron Man 3’ prototype ended up saving time on creating the prototypes for the ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ prototypes. This is one of the reasons why it was possible to offer two pose variants, instead of one, in time for the film’s theatrical release. The Robert Downey Jr. head however presented its own challenge—not so much in the form of creating the digital model, which was beautifully handled by Frank, as described above, but more so in identifying the ideal 3D printer that would assure the least amount of loss in the details upon output, such as skin pores, etc. This aspect was handled by Matthias Muckle to great results.
Marvel.com: You’ve spoken in the past about other armors–such as the Heartbreaker armor–you’d love to bring to statue life. Do you still have those hopes? Where does the project go from here?
Stephan Lokotsch: With a roster of new films in the works featuring more and more pivotal characters being represented in each of them, the manufacturing pipeline is becoming increasingly challenging, given the due dates for the statues, which means that the likelihood at this stage has honestly decreased rather drastically to land on these particular characters again. However, the passion for doing so has not, so, as the old saying goes: “Never say never…”.
For all collectors interested in further developments and products, please visit www.ironmanstatue.com, where you can also sign up for updates on future versions and/or accessories. On that site, currently in preview-mode, you can “Open J.A.R.V.I.S.,” which allows you to sign up for updates.