Last year, I first got the opportunity to ask Sideshow Collectibles sculptor, Matt Black, some questions about himself and his work. More recently, Matt was cool enough to take some time out of his busy schedule, with San Diego Comic Con right around the corner, to talk about some of his latest works.
your friendly neighborhood jman: Matt, thanks for taking the time to answer some more questions. Last time we spoke it was just after SDCC 2015. With SDCC 2016 quickly approaching, you’ve got a bunch of new pieces that have recently been revealed by Sideshow Collectibles. You know I love your work, but man…that Premium Format Darth Maul Figure. He is awesome. How did you get involved in that? Did you have to fight anyone to get the project? Or did everyone know that you were the only man for the project?
Matt Black: Thanks very much! I’ve always loved Darth Maul. He has such a great presence. Say what you will about the film, but his part was spectacular! When the opportunity arose to work on this project I grabbed it! I don’t think there were too many other candidates in mind, plus I work in house, so I earmarked it from the get go.
jman: Did you design the pose? How long did it take you to sculpt him? Looking at the photos of the prototype, there is something real about the texture of his skin. A lot of times in statues the skin has a flat tone. Too smooth, I suppose. Is that something you account for in zbrush? Or is that something that comes together in the painting process?
MB: On Mr. Maul (if i may call him that), there was a long process that led us to where you see him today. Initially there was a completely different concept. The creative process is just that, its a process. Sometimes you get all the way to the end, and think, maybe we can do something else, tell a different story. I had been watching a lot of the footage from the Darth Maul video game that was in development through Red Fly studios, as well as listening to the Darth Maul audio book, Lock Down.
I was really inspired by the quiet inner rage that really came though in his stride when watching the footage. I imagined him stalking through a crowded prison in an authoritative posture, really commanding respect. So, I took it upon myself to sculpt this one on my own. I did it on lunch breaks…here and there. Whenever I could. When I was done I presented it to the design team. After much debate, we went with this current incarnation. Its simple in composition, but it has a power to it, I think.
When sculpting something like this I usually cut, and key as I go. It becomes easier in the process to cut elements off early, that way you can manipulate parts individually. Plus, you can get the poly count higher if the parts are split up. So, keying is usually done here and there during the sculpt phase. Details like skin texture come last. There are tons of resources on the net that can provide some great maps, and alphas to help you achieve a really realistic look, but of course to really make them pop you have to go in and shape them yourself in the program. Sort of the Z version of a “human touch”.
jman: You’re a big Star Wars fan. Besides Darth Maul, you also sculpted the Kylo Ren Premium Format Figure. Did you sculpt Kylo before the movie came out? Even though he’s wearing the mask, you still seem to capture Kylo’s attitude. Do you know that while you’re sculpting him? Is there a point in the process when you think: “yea…I nailed this guy”
MB: I LOVE Star Wars. Usually I jump at the opportunity to be involved in any Star Wars projects. Unless you’re working on classic subjects, you need to be sculpting them well ahead of the film. This means limited reference, and limited knowledge. We work a lot with the design team to dissect the trailers, and commercials to really nail down how we are going to portray whoever it is we are working on. Fortunately for us, Lucasfilms gave us a lot to work with on Kylo. He was featured a great deal in the trailers. I think we had a pretty good grasp on him as we went into this. After watching the film, I think we came up with a pretty accurate portrayal.
jman: Onto another sci-fi property, you sculpted Sideshow’s Internecivus Raptus Alien statue. How did you get involved in that project? I have a weird fascination with Alien(s) and H.R Giger’s work. It creeps me out, yet I can’t help but be drawn to it, as well. You capture that feeling in the statue, too.
MB: Now this is one I was dragged into kicking and screaming. I did NOT want to work on an Alien. It seemed like trying to eat an elephant. Initially I was tagged to do some pose studies to aid the development. Nothing more than a really rough Zsketch of a body. I posed out 6-7 in various creepy poses. And the vampire like pose was one of them. There have been a couple other products in a similar pose, I was just riffing off them. When the design team saw them, we were all drawn to that pose. So after much debate (again), ( was strong-armed by David Igo into sculpting this guy.
After I dug into my meal of elephant it turned out to be more fun that it should have been. It was a real academic exercise. I ate that beast one bite at a time, and learned a lot of new techniques along the way.
I’m not a big horror fan, but I’m really proud of this statue. It was a great collaboration between myself and the design team.
jman: Unlike, say Kylo Ren, there’s a lot of detailing in the Alien statue. Do you see that as a problem or is that a plus for you?
MB: I LOVE projects that are detail heavy. Detailing a sculpt is like eating dessert. Its the part of the process that is very zen like. There’s not much thinking involved, just a slow crawl over the surface. And when you are all done, you finally get to step back and take a look for a brief second before you say “ok, whats next!”
jman: I recently read that principal photography on Star Wars VIII is in the home stretch. You looking forward to it? What did you think of the Force Awakens?
MB: I was blown away by Force Awakens. LOVE the new blood that has come on board. John and Daisy have such amazing chemistry. I cant wait for the next one, but I’m WAY more excited by Rogue One. That one is going to be incredible!
Many thanks to Matt Black and Sideshow Collectibles!