DC Collectibles recently approached James A. Powell, vice president of Design at Monster City Studios, a fully equipped design and fabrication company in Fresno, California, about doing a character statue for the annual, world-famous San Diego Comic-Con® International [SDCC]. After initial discussions, they eventually decided on the original version of the popular Harley Quinn character and sent the digital files of their design over to Powell.
“We had a little over two weeks to make it,” says Powell, noting that short turnarounds are actually commonplace around his shop. “Because we had such a limited amount of time to fabricate the statue, we used Precision Board HDU from Coastal Enterprises in combination with EPS foam. It made cleanup easier on the parts of the statue made from Precision Board, including the plaque, gun, and master mold for the smoke, [since] it is smoother and requires less sanding.”
Monster City Studios works with HDU a couple of different ways, depending on the job.
“We will hand-sculpt Precision Board with traditional tools like knives, curry combs, hand saws, and chisels,” says Powell. “And we are fortunate to have two four-axis Frog CNC Mills here, which have 6-by-10-foot beds. With these, we can mill flat stock and gigantic 3D pieces.”
For the SDCC project, Powell and his team created Harley in pieces and then assembled her around a steel frame composed of one-inch tubing with steel wires going into her fingers. Harley had bolts welded to her frame and she was also bolted to the base.
The entire statue was hardcoated with Polyurea, sanded, and then Bondo’d. Powell used Pur Stick expanding polyurethane glue to attach the EPS and Precision Board together, since it doesn’t “expand a lot.”
The gun assembly, including Harley’s hand, cuff, gun, and smoke, were all made out of PBLT-6. This was fabricated separately and then attached to the main body.
For the smoke coming out of the gun, they made a master mold out of PBLT-6. The smoke was given a Polygem hardcoat and then sanded. That piece was then molded and cast in resin.
The plaque was made out of PBLT-15, covered with PB Hard Coat, and then primed and painted.
Fabricators knew they needed something strong to attach the plaque to the base, given the heavy foot traffic it would see on the convention floor. “We used Rare Earth magnets, which are super strong, and put them inside the plaque,” says Powell. “There were magnets inside the base as well. This allowed us to attach the plaque to the base and help it handle the accidental abuse from people walking the convention floor.”
Monster City Studios is a custom fabrication and themed environment shop that specializes in foam props, signs, characters, and custom play structures, and the company has has worked with DC Collectibles for about a year on a few conceptual projects.
“Making Harley for SDCC was a natural fit, as Comic-Con is so graphic and visual,” says Powell. “She was the perfect photo-op.”
For more information, visit www.precisionboard.com.
—Tai Freligh (with additional reporting by Jeff Wooten)