The Hellboy/BPRD comic book props of "Grim Tim"

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The 48th Ronin

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So I used to have images of my collection of Hellboy & BPRD comic book (and film) props - as well as quite a few licensed collectibles - on an image hosting site that finally shut down earlier this year, after being online for over 20 years. I thought I'd start a thread to create a new repository for images of my work, and will include some new shots (as well as new projects) and any build photos that I happened to take during the process of creating each piece. Some builds were better documented than others, but whatever I find in my archives will be shared.

As for the moniker "Grim Tim"... that was my user name on the old hellboy.com message boards back in the day (early 2000s). The nickname actually pre-dates that by a bit however, and originated when I went out on tour with Rob Zombie. But that's another story...

On the Creator Audio Commentary track for the special edition DVD of Hellboy, Guillermo del Toro briefly mentions the encounter that we had at San Diego Comic Con in 2002, referring to me as "Grim Tim." This is during the scene in the Russian graveyard where one of the pieces that I created is featured - the corpse resurrection amulet.

And Adam Savage mentions my old user name in a couple of his Tested videos, when talking about the spear prop that we collaborated on (in 2008 - 2010).

But I'm actually getting ahead of myself here. My intention was to start at the beginning and cover each piece in as close to chronological order as possible.

So without further ado...

This was actually the very first prop replica that I did that was inspired by the Hellboy comics. The idea came to me and I started on it while I was still living in Colorado (born and raised). I moved to Los Angeles in the Spring of 1998 to get into the film industry (which took a little while, but that's also another story...) and I completed it there in the summer of 2000 (according to the issue date on the ID).

badge 01.jpg


No, it's not exactly the same as the badge seen in the comics...

BPRD badge01.JPG
BPRD badge02.JPG


But it was the simplest and easiest way that I could conceive (at that time) to reproduce the prop in 3-dimensional form. The badge came from a law enforcement/security supply company catalog - the base form was customizable with whatever text you wanted engraved on the fields above and below the center roundel. That center roundel was an empty socket on the badge, so I had to come up with something with the BPRD logo to place there. I'd had a small business in Denver do some custom engraving for me on a couple marble display bases prior to this project, so I figured that they could handle this as well with no problems. I can't remember if I supplied the brass disc or if they had them, but they engraved the logo on it for me, as well as on a Zippo lighter that I threw in while I was at it. I filled in the engraved design with black enamel paint and attached the disc to the badge with epoxy.

badge 02.jpg


The ID I created myself, compositing the elements together in Photoshop. I printed out the final version on inkjet photo paper and then laminated it with one of those do-it-yourself machines that I picked up at Office Depot/Office Max/Staples.

BPRD Headquarters was originally designated as being in Fairfield, Connecticut in the second Hellboy story arc "Wake the Devil," first published in 1996. The address and street name I made up, and were a tongue-in-cheek nod to the date of Halloween and to Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

badge 03.jpg


I put some more silliness on the back of the ID - which was a riff on some actual text that I found - even though it would never be seen. The leather badge holder also came from the same catalog that I sourced the badge from.

badge 04.jpg
 

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The 48th Ronin

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The next two pieces that I created were done at around the same time, later in 2000. I can't recall which one I completed first, but it's likely that it was the pistol, since I had been thinking about how fun it would be to make a replica of it, ever since I read the very first Hellboy story arc "Seed of Destruction" back in 1994 or '95. I'm positive that it was at the top of the list, anyway.

This was where I first started the practice of scanning and compiling a visual reference file for an object, wherever it appears in the comics. I would do this for several reasons...

First, to get a "feel" for the object, and to figure out how I'm going to make it (and what I'm going to make it out of).

Second, to try to figure out a general scale or size for the object.

And third (and most importantly, in my mind), to see if there are any variations in the way that it's drawn and represented (as far as what it might be made out of).

There were definitely further appearances of Hellboy's pistol afterwards - with almost certain additional variations - but here is my original image compilation of the gun from that time. You can see that the details sometimes varied quite a bit in the way that Mignola drew it:

pistol 001.jpg


I settled on this image as my main inspiration for the creation of the prop, which is from "Seed of Destruction."

pistol 002.jpg


I bought a Korean Airsoft Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver kit to use as the base for my build (1).

pistol 003.jpg


Apologies for the poorly-lit (and grainy) image, but here's a breakdown of the rest of the components that I used in the fabrication:

2. Plastruct ABS elliptical hemisphere slices for rear cylinder caps
3. Sections of Plastruct ABS tubing for side cylinder covers
4. Plastruct ABS tubing for outer barrel sleeve
5. Electrical conduit PVC for inner barrel (to give the barrel a more substantial thickness)
6. Sintra pieces for barrel undercarriage
7. Section of aluminum tubing with machine screws for hinge

And speaking of the hinge - I noticed that Mignola sometimes drew the hinge in front of the split line between the barrel and what would be the cylinder...

pistol 004.JPG


And sometimes he drew it behind the split line...

pistol 005.JPG
pistol 006.JPG


And then sometimes he drew it right on the split...

pistol 007.JPG
pistol 008.JPG


In the image that I was basing my build on, it appeared to me that the hinge was located in front of the split, so that's where I put it.

pistol 009.jpg


I finished the gun off with a real lanyard ring from a Swedish Husqvarna 7.5mm revolver, which if I remember correctly I sourced from a Numrich Gun Parts catalog. The tattered remnants of the lanyard are genuine U.S. Military surplus.

pistol 010.jpg


The paintjob was an early attempt at rubbing graphite powder over black paint to create a metallic sheen. I remember it working fairly well, but when I gave it a satin clearcoat it pretty much killed the effect.

pistol 011.jpg

pistol 012.jpg

pistol 013.jpg

pistol 014.jpg


Anywhere there was free space on the inside, I tried to fill it with scrap steel, lead sheet, and lead shot mixed into five minute epoxy, to give it a bit more heft than a mere plastic gun. In the end it weighed in at about 2 1/2 pounds.

The bore measured out to approximately 33 millimeters, which I wanted to know for the custom plaque that I had made for it. At that time, the largest handguns that Smith & Wesson made were "N Frame" revolvers. A 33mm handgun would be quite the beast, so I figured that it would be something custom-made for Hellboy and I came up with the designation of "X Frame" (as in "eXperimental") Ironically, only 3 years later Smith & Wesson introduced an actual X Frame revolver - the .500 S&W Magnum. Weird! :oops:

pistol 015.jpg

pistol 016.jpg


Unfortunately I don't recall who it was that did the plaques back then, but I'm pretty sure that it was an RPF member who offered the service. I want to say that it's etched magnesium, but that may not be correct. All I know is that it was really well-done and is a very nice plaque. I also had a display case made and I built the clear acrylic cradle myself, since it had to be custom-fit to the pistol.

pistol 017.jpg

pistol 018.jpg


After years of speculation about how Hellboy's comic book pistol would function, Mignola finally drew him reloading it in the story "In the Chapel of Moloch," first published in 2008.

moloch_reload.jpg


Yep... pretty much like what everyone figured. And look - he's drawn the hinge behind the split line.
 
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The 48th Ronin

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The other piece that I completed around the same time as the pistol was Cornelius Agrippa's charm against demonic animals, from the story "The Corpse," first published in 1995. This was the first instance of Hellboy actively using an amulet in the comics and my imagination was captivated by the idea of creating a replica of it.

agrippa 01.jpg


I'm not sure that I would have thought of it, but if I remember correctly a co-worker at one of the FX shops where I frequently worked suggested the idea of casting the amulet in a low melting temperature metal alloy. At that time I didn't realize that a silicone mold could withstand temperatures up to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The go-to standard silicone in all of the shops that I worked at back then was Silicones Inc. GI-1000, which has a maximum "service temperature" of 350° F. In my investigations into sourcing low-temp casting alloys, I found that most of them melted at a point below that threshold, so I was in business - I bought a tin/bismuth ingot, a cast iron ladle, and a propane plumber's torch.

As for my pattern, I decided to try my hand at clay sculpting. I used Klean Klay - which was an industry standard back then for mold making - because it was plentiful and readily available in the shops where I was working, and I knew that it was sulfur-free, so it wouldn't inhibit the curing of the silicone when I molded it. I didn't snap any pics of the sculpt back then, but I do recall making a rudimentary tool, which I used to press all of those little triangle shapes into the clay. Here's the mold as it is now though:

agrippa 02.jpg


The black is graphite powder residue - I remember reading back then about dusting your metal casting molds with graphite, similar to how you can dust your molds with baby powder when you're casting with resin. Same idea, basically. Not sure if it truly helps with metal, but I was pretty happy with the results of my first foray into metal casting.

I buffed the casting with superfine steel wool, and then wanting to put some "age" on it, I grabbed what I had on hand (from painting the pistol) - Testor's Model Master Buffing Metalizer lacquer (I think it was one of the darker colors, like Titanium or Gun Metal). I completely covered the casting in it, by just brushing it on (these days, I'd probably give it a patina by using a chemical blackening solution). Then I lightly buffed it again with the steel wool, which left the dark paint in the low spots and recesses. I then did a pin wash in the stamped/engraved designs with black oil paint thinned with turpenoid. All that was left to do was to attach the leather cord and it was done.

agrippa 03.jpg

agrippa 04.jpg

agrippa 05.jpg
 
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The 48th Ronin

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Encouraged and inspired by the success of the Agrippa charm, in 2001 I fixed my sights on the Lemurian talisman seen in the 2-issue Batman/Hellboy/Starman crossover comic, first published in 1999.

lemurian 01.jpg

lemurian 02.jpg


This time I figured it would be better to create the pattern out of hard materials, and by using my model making skills, based upon the geometry of the piece. Since it was only ever seen face-on in the comic, I had to extrapolate what the dimensionality of the piece would be. The way the three triangular "arms" were drawn suggested that they were beveled towards a center ridge, so that was a starting point.

I used a piece of 3mm Sintra (foamed PVC board) for the base plate. I made the triangular arms out of Ren Shape (a dense polyurethane foam board) as well as the main center triangle. For the eye in the center, I made a plate out of styrene sheet to go on top of the triangle, with the eye shape cut out of it. Here's the finished pattern in primer:

lemurian 03.jpg


Once again I made a silicone mold and cast it in the tin/bismuth alloy. To make it the gold color as seen in the comic, I airbrushed it with a transparent yellow/orange lacquer mix. I gave it a bit of aging by airbrushing a dark color into the corners (it might have been Testor's Model Master Burnt Iron) and then a wash in the crevices with burnt umber + black oil paint in turpenoid (and on the back too).

lemurian 04.jpg


For the cord I used 1.5mm round leather lace, which I found at Michael's, along with the beads. I wasn't specifically looking for rosette beads, but their antique gold finish caught my eye and I thought the subtle details were a bit more interesting than just plain old smooth gold beads.

lemurian 05.jpg

lemurian 06.jpg
 
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The 48th Ronin

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2002 was a banner year for me, as I created several replicas early in the year, and closed out the year by making a few pieces for Guillermo del Toro's first Hellboy film (2004).

My image file data gave me some conflicting dates, but I believe the first piece that I made that year was something not from a Hellboy comic, but from the second Hellboy novel "The Bones of Giants," written by Christopher Golden and illustrated by Mignola, which was first published in 2001. The story opens in Sweden, with the discovery of the dessicated corpse of a giant man that has been partially unearthed - clutched in its right hand is an ancient iron hammer. It's the remains of the Norse god Thor and the hammer is Mjolnir.

There are several illustrations of it in the novel, so once again I compiled an image file. I roughly calculated the size of the prop by referring to some illustrations of the hammer gripped in Hellboy's Right Hand of Doom - I have the Bowen Designs Hellboy statue, which I knew was 1:8 scale, so that was my reference point.

Starting with the head, I decided to use a chunk of "2 pound" open cell foam (1 cubic foot = 2 pounds, so it's not very dense and actually quite light). I roughed out the base form and then cut a stencil out of card stock to apply the branching spiral Yggdrasil design with black spray paint, as a sculpting guide.

hammer01.jpg

hammer02.jpg


I carved the design and other features - plus the classic Mignola nicks and dings - into the foam, and then brushed on several coats of acrylic gesso to seal it.

hammer03.jpg

hammer04.jpg


For the final finish I first gave it a base coat of Rust-Oleum Dark Anodized Bronze. Then I began to lightly dry brush over that with acrylics in various shades of silver, starting on the darker end of the spectrum (steel, gun metal) and working towards the lighter shades (aluminum, silver). Here and there I added a little Tamiya Titanium Gold, just for a bit of variation. Then I gave the whole thing a wash with a very thin mixture of burnt umber + black oil paint to dirty it down.

hammer05.JPG


I had a friend turn the handle on his wood lathe from a section of a 4 x 4 Redwood post. After applying a few dings here and there (just like the head), I then stained it and sealed it with several coats of clear water-based polyurethane. I sourced the strap from Tandy Leather - I beveled the edges with a razor blade before I dyed it, and then wrapped it around the handle, securing it with superglue at the beginning of the wrap at the top and then at the end of the wrap at the bottom. Prior to that however, I did several "test wraps" to try and figure out if the extreme alternating angles of the wrap as it was drawn was actually possible. The answer was "sort of... but not really." To keep the wrap in place on the handle at the angles that I wanted, I had to resort to gluing it at strategic points with superglue. Also, the wrap had to be abbreviated, in comparison to the illustrations, due to the strap only being about 4 feet long. In addition, the diameter of the handle had to be downsized a bit as well, since easily sourcing a piece of lumber larger than 4 inches square would probably have been a challenge (and perhaps a bit costly as well).

hammer06.JPG
 

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The 48th Ronin

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Immediately following the completion of the hammer, I then wanted to do the bronze Midgard Serpent pendant that also appears in the novel.

serpent01.jpg


I roughly calculated the size of the pendant by referring to several illustrations in the book, where it's seen around the necks of both Thor and Hellboy - it appeared to be about the same length as the head of Mjolnir.

I sculpted the master in Klean Klay (this is right after I pulled the mold off of it)...

serpent02.JPG


...and I poured the final piece in polyurethane resin. Actual bronze would have been cool, but I wasn't capable of doing that myself. Nor did I consider looking for an art foundry to do it for me. Anyway, for the paint finish I also based it out with the Rust-Oleum dark bronze and then dry brushed over that with acrylics in various shades of light bronze and gold. I can't remember if I gave it the usual oil paint wash, but I probably did.

For the chain, I ended up finding a manufacturer of rings for making chain mail armor. I went with brass, in the heaviest gauge that they had, and aged them down with a solution called Liver of Sulfur, which is used by jewelers to patinate metal. Then I linked them together, one-by-one, with a couple pair of pliers.

serpent03.JPG

serpent04.JPG

serpent05.JPG


And here's a silly pic to give you a sense of scale for both pieces.

hammer07.JPG
 

The 48th Ronin

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The next two pieces that I did followed shortly thereafter, and were also done very closely together.

I'm pretty sure the next piece that I tackled was another one that I had been thinking about since I first saw it - Saint Dunstan's box from "Box Full of Evil," first published in 1999.

St Dunstan box 001.jpg


There were a couple panels in particular that helped with determining the approximate size of the box...

St Dunstan box 002.JPG
St Dunstan box 003.JPG


I built the box out of Sintra and picked up a pair of cheap hardware store hinges, which I attached to the box with epoxy. I filled in the screw holes on the hinge plates with Bondo and then added pieces of styrene sheet that were the same thickness as the plates, to extend the plates both down and up & over onto the lid. Then I made a quick pattern and mold to cast up some polyurethane resin "rivet heads," to finish the hinges off.

box001.jpg

box002.jpg


I engraved the sigil of binding for the demon Ualac on the inside of the lid with a Dremel, using a ball grinder bit.

box003.jpg


Before priming the box, I applied a textured finish in some areas by layering on acrylic modeling paste with a natural sea sponge, to give it a "crusty" look.

modeling paste.jpg


To achieve the slightly embossed look for the design on the lid, I created a stencil with masking tape - I taped off the whole area where the design would go, transferred the design onto the tape, and then cut along the lines with an X-acto knife. After I peeled away the excess tape, I had my stencil. I applied the paste with the sponge and then peeled the tape off while it was still wet, and it left the design in shallow relief.

box004.jpg

box005.jpg

box006.jpg


I even made a display base like the pedestal seen in the comic out of 2 pound foam, but I never did get around to finishing it off.

box007.jpg


The final finish was started with Modern Options (now Triangle Crafts?) Sophisticated Finishes "Instant Iron" and "Instant Rust" - iron particles suspended in acrylic paint, with a copper sulphate solution applied over that to create actual rust.

instant rust.jpg


It worked great but it created bright orange rust, so I had to tone it all down by applying numerous washes of burnt umber oil paint. Then I went in with black acrylic paint to punch up the design on the lid, as well as the sigil on the inside.

box008.jpg

box009.jpg

box010.jpg
 

The 48th Ronin

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The final piece of my building spree was the Vulcan 65 grenade from "Conqueror Worm," first published in 2001.

Vulcan 65 001.JPG


The component parts of the build...

Vulcan 65 002.JPG

Vulcan 65 003.JPG


I used Plastruct ABS tubing, a few different thicknesses of Sintra, styrene sheet, and a little bit of Bondo. I took some liberties with the fuze/igniter assembly on the top cap and made a slight modification, based on the features of a real life dummy training grenade that I had. I lined the inside of the main body with lead sheet to give it some heft - it weighed in at around half a pound, which gave it a bit more of a realistic feel than just a hollow plastic tube.

The "spoon" (the lever which is released after pulling the pin) is a combination of bent aluminum and styrene sheet. The pin is a real grenade pin & ring.

Vulcan 65 004.JPG


I picked up a small rattle can of Testor's Model Master paint for the base color of the grenade - I think it must have been one of their military equipment colors. The top and bottom caps, along with the recessed area on the main tube under the spoon were painted with Krylon Stainless Steel. The fuze and spoon were painted with Krylon Dull Aluminum, as were the recessed areas in the "vents" down near the bottom of the grenade.

I mixed up an orange color with Tamiya acrylics to airbrush the circle (after cutting and applying a masking tape stencil) - I then hand painted the black outline. I cut a card stock stencil to apply the "VULCAN" and "65" lettering with airbrushed Tamiya black, but unfortunately there was a little bit of underspray. I didn't feel that it was worth trying to touch it up though, so I just left it. I did the text on the opposite side of the grenade with an old sheet of Letraset dry transfer lettering left over from my art school days. Old school! I based some of the text on what was legible on the spoon of the dummy grenade - the letter and number combinations were all gibberish to me though, so I have no idea if what I used makes any sort of sense. After sealing it all with a clearcoat, I gave everything a light wash of very thin black oil paint to dirty it down a little bit.

Vulcan 65 005.jpg

Vulcan 65 006.jpg
 

The 48th Ronin

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So in the summer of 2002 a series of events transpired that culminated in me creating a few props that Guillermo del Toro had requested for use in the production of the first Hellboy film. Many years later I related the tale of how that all came about to Matt Munson, in an interview for his YouTube channel The Project Workbench:


The pieces that Guillermo requested were:

5 copies of the Cornelius Agrippa charm
5 copies of the Lemurian talisman
3 copies of the Midgard Serpent pendant
1 copy of Mjolnir

film props.JPG


I decided to modify the leather cord on the Lemurian talisman to make it a loop with a drop, rather than a single strand like I had done originally.

film amulet 01.JPG


And it ended up being used as the corpse resurrection amulet.

film amulet 02.jpg


As for the other pieces...

A friend took this pic of Professor Broom's box that was in the del Toro "At Home With Monsters" travelling exhibit when it was at LACMA in 2016:

Broom box.jpg


There in the top drawer was one of the Agrippa charms (and I could also just make out what I'm pretty sure are some of the beads of a Lemurian talisman in the compartment above that as well):

Broom box detail.jpg


I'm guessing that *maybe* the Mjolnir might have served as some small bit of inspiration in the design process for the giant CG pendulum that destroys the bridge, when Hellboy is making his way down into Rasputin's mausoleum. I think that definitely appears to be "inspired by."

film hammer.jpg


Not knowing what they might be using it for going in, I thought that I should probably make the hammer a bit more robust, just to be safe. I molded the original foam head and rotocast a hollow polyurethane resin copy. After the same friend turned another handle for me, I traced out in pencil where I was going to wrap the leather strap and then carved a shallow trench into the wood, so there wouldn't be any slipping or movement of the strap when the prop was handled. After the handle was stained and sealed and the strap was prepped and dyed, I secured it at the beginning of the wrap with a screw. If I remember correctly, I then slowly wrapped it around the handle while gluing it down into the trench bit by bit. And then at the end of the wrap, I secured the end of the strap with another screw. Then I filled in the slots in the screw heads with Bondo, and painted them so that they looked like rivets.

I never did catch any glimpses of the Midgard Serpent pendant anywhere, so I have no idea if they were used.
 
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The 48th Ronin

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In 2005 I revisited the metal casting process, when I did the pendant of the German alchemist Edel Mischrasse, as seen in "Almost Colossus," first published in 1997.

Mischrasse 000.jpg

Mischrasse 001.jpg


I had been thinking about this piece for quite a while, and really wanted to do it, but the problem was always the little sun face, which I knew I couldn't sculpt very well myself - precise, organic forms on such a small scale were never really my forte. Providence finally smiled upon me though, when I ran across some small cast resin cherubs in a Joann's craft store and the lightbulb went on over my head - I chopped one up and sanded it down to just the face, and it became the perfect solution.

Mischrasse 002.JPG

Mischrasse 003.jpg


I sculpted the base form of the pendant in Klean Klay, stuck the face on it, and then carved the little crescent moon out of a piece of Ren Shape.

Mischrasse 004.jpg


And here's the process laid out, from original reference to sculpted pattern, and from silicone mold to final metal casting:

Mischrasse 005.jpg


The casting got the same aging and buffing techniques as the Agrippa charm. For the chain, I returned to the supplier of chain mail rings - pretty sure I went with stainless steel, in the smallest size and in the lightest gauge that they had. And again, I just linked them together, one-by-one (yep... pretty tedious).

Mischrasse pendant01.jpg

Mischrasse pendant02.jpg

Mischrasse pendant03.jpg

Mischrasse pendant04.jpg
 

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The 48th Ronin

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Shortly after that I wanted to do something that wasn't from Hellboy, but from my favorite of Mignola's comics - "The Amazing Screw-On Head," which was a single-issue comic first published in 2002. I do love me some Hellboy, but I think The Amazing Screw-On Head is Mignola's best work.

I decided to make a replica of Emperor Zombie's medallion.

ASOH 01.jpg

ASOH 02.jpg


Once again turning to Klean Klay, I sculpted the skull and crown, and used Plastruct ABS elliptical hemispheres for the eyeballs.

ASOH 03.jpg


I made a mold of the sculpt, but for some reason that I don't recall now, I set the project aside and didn't get back to it for a couple years. When I finally did get back to it, I cast the pieces in polyurethane resin. I based them out with Rust-Oleum dark bronze and then drybrushed on a few different shades of copper, light bronze, and gold. I then applied a dark wash of burnt umber + black oil paint in the nasal cavity and in the sockets around the eyes. To replicate the look of the skull floating separately below the crown (as Mignola sometimes drew it), I decided to suspend the skull from the crown with a short length of ball chain. For the beaded leather cord, I picked up some cheap plastic "pearl" beads at Michael's and painted them with the same colors as the medallion.

ASOH 04.jpg


While I was at it, I also decided to make the "Kalakistan Fragment," which Emperor Zombie stole from "The Museum of Dangerous Books and Paper."

kalakistan 01.jpg


I used real hand-made papyrus that I found at one of the many excellent art supply stores in LA. After cutting out the shape of the fragment with an X-acto, I gave it a little bit of age and staining with a thin mixture of yellow ochre gouache (an opaque watercolor). Then after transferring the glyphs onto it lightly in pencil, I mixed up a darker and slightly more opaque color with the yellow ochre + a little bit of brown and painted them in. After it was dry, the final step was going over some areas around the edges with a very fine sponge back sanding pad to take some of the color off, and then adding a few creases and folds here and there.

kalakistan 02.jpg

kalakistan 03.jpg
 

The 48th Ronin

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In 2008 I ended up collaborating with Adam Savage on a couple pieces. I didn't really know Adam personally at that time, but we had a couple good friends in common, and he had purchased a few of my earlier pieces... and we shared a passion for all things Hellboy. I would occasionally have brief conversations with him, either via email or through a PM on the RPF, and he would usually ask if I was working on any new Hellboy stuff.

I can't remember if I had already been thinking about doing this next piece, or if he might have suggested it... but I do know for a fact that he *did* suggest that I do the pattern and then send it to him - he would handle the molding, and would then go about getting castings made in bronze (as he apparently had an established relationship with an art foundry in the San Francisco area). This I gladly agreed to, and set about creating the pattern, which was for the Merman King's broken spear from "The Third Wish," first published in 2002.

spear 01.jpg

spear 02.jpg


I used my go-to material of choice - Ren Shape - to create the whole pattern. I did the blade and the socket as two separate pieces, grinding and sanding them into shape. When I got them to a stage where I was happy with the forms, I glued them together with epoxy.

This image was my main reference and inspiration:

spear 03.jpg


I added the little bit of damage that Mignola had indicated and then expanded upon those design cues, adding an additional smaller ding and a few chips along the edges and adding a couple more pits, as well as some nicks and scratches (and the whole other opposite side as well). I also broke out the acrylic modeling paste & sea sponge - I figured that if this thing had been lying neglected under the ocean for a century (or two? several?) it definitely would have gotten kinda' crusty. And here's the finished pattern in primer:

spear 04.jpg

spear 05.jpg


I sent Adam some pics and I remember him commenting that he thought the three diamond shapes on the leaf-shaped section down at the base of the blade were actually cut-out holes through the spear, rather than raised pieces. This was a question that I had also considered myself - I could see how one might think that, particularly when looking at this panel:

spear 06.jpg


That could certainly be interpreted as seeing the thickness of the spear through holes, while also seeing the black background through them. But from my time doing these pieces, I knew that I had to consider every drawing of the spear (which is why I've always done image compilations for reference).

There were many more instances of the spear appearing to be solid, with no evidence of holes. In addition, long-time colorist on the Hellboy series, Dave Stewart, has always been pretty good about small details like this. Whenever the diamond shapes were indicated by Mignola, Stewart made them the same color as the rest of the spear (although in a couple spots they do appear to be a shade darker than the primary color):

spear 07.jpg

spear 08.jpg


There was also this panel, with the spear in silhouette - no holes:

spear 09.jpg


And then there was this panel, which answered the question definitively in my mind:

spear 10.jpg


With most of the spear in silhouette, the light is hitting the upper corners of three raised diamond shapes. If they were holes, you would see two full diamond shapes the same color as the background against the black silhouette (with the third diamond being obscured by Hellboy's hand).

This final image of the spear shows the same thing:

spear 11.jpg


And you can see the same effect in the pics of my finished pattern, with the light hitting the corners of the diamonds.

With the spear head pattern completed, the thought crossed my mind that I could also quickly and easily do the Bog Roosh nail from the same comic, and send that pattern to Adam along with the spear.

bog roosh 01.jpg

bog roosh 02.jpg


So I did just that, carving and sanding it out of a chunk of Ren Shape and giving it a coat of primer.

bog roosh 03.jpg

bog roosh 04.jpg


And with that, they were off to Adam...
 
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The 48th Ronin

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In the meantime, I was feeling the itch to do another medallion.

I'd noticed that a particular design had appeared in a couple different places - it was used on a Hellboy t-shirt...

moon man tee.jpg


And it was also embossed on the cover of "The Art of Hellboy"

moon man book.jpg


It's such a classic Mignola design that I thought it would make a nifty amulet. Its actual first appearance was in "Wake the Devil," first published in 1996. It's seen on the "moon door" of the crypt where Hellboy encounters the Women of Thessaly.

moon door.jpg


While the base form was always the same, some of the details were slightly different in each instance where it appeared.

moon men.jpg


I chose this as my main reference image (although I did borrow the shape of the stars from the t-shirt/book cover variant).

moon man 002.jpg


I made the pattern using a styrene disc for the base, and carved the crescent moon shape and face pieces out of Ren Shape. I used a piece of styrene half-round strip for the raised rim and some bits of styrene sheet for the stars. Plus a little sliver of styrene for the eye.

moon man amulet01.JPG


After primer:

moon man amulet02.JPG


I made a mold and decided to just pour it in polyurethane resin, instead of metal - after having already done two silver metal castings, I thought perhaps a slightly different look might be good. I based it out in metallic black and then dry brushed over that with gun metal and silver acrylics. And then of course I gave it the requisite pin wash with black oil paint. I vacillated between leaving it as is, or turning it into a pendant. It just seemed a bit "unfinished" though, so I drilled a hole for a ring and strung it onto some black leather lace.

moon man amulet03.jpg

moon man amulet04.jpg
 

The 48th Ronin

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In late 2009 I got an email from Adam with this pic:

adam spear.jpg


The bronze castings were done!

A short time later - at the beginning of 2010 - I received 2 spear head castings and 2 Bog Roosh nail castings. I immediately started to research what was available in chemical patinas, and ended up purchasing some products from the company Sculpt Nouveau.

I built a makeshift trough, just slightly larger than the spear head, and lined it with a scrap of plastic from a heavy duty garbage bag. I mixed up a solution of Liver of Sulfur and filled the trough with it, and then submerged the spear head in it - I left it in until it had a nice dark brown patina. Then I pulled it out, rinsed it off with water, and let it dry. I then applied Sculpt Nouveau Tiffany Green patina solution - if I remember correctly, I spritzed it on with a spray bottle. And then I left it to do its thing. It was cool to see the effect that it created, but a lot of the sculpted pitting and corrosion detail kinda' got lost in all of the mottled coloring. So I decided to mix up a thin wash of burnt umber oil paint to go in and tint certain areas, to create some contrasting shades and to define some of the pits.

spear final 001.jpg


I picked up a 1" diameter wooden dowel from Home Depot for the remnants of the broken shaft. First thing I did was to clamp it in a vise and start yanking on it (it's surprising how strong wood is sometimes). The first break was disappointing from a visual standpoint. I flipped it around, re-clamped it, and yanked again - success! I got a much more interesting break, with some good splintering. I sanded a taper into the opposite end, so it would fit into the socket, and then stained it with an alcohol-based weathering solution that I sourced from Micro-Mark - "Age-It EASY" in gray.

age it.jpg


I also did a little tinting with a thin burnt umber + black oil paint wash for some variation, and to define some of the splintered areas. The last step was to secure it in the socket with epoxy.

spear final 002.jpg

spear final 003.jpg

spear final 004.jpg

spear final 005.jpg


In 2014 the artist Chogrin organized a Hellboy 20th Anniversary Tribute Art Show at The Hero Complex Gallery in Los Angeles. He contacted me and asked if I would like to participate by sending some of my Hellboy props for display.

During the show's opening night reception, Mignola was photographed goofing for the camera as if he was going to use the spear to cut the custom cake (which was made to look like a stack of pancakes, in reference to the awesome 2-page Hellboy story "Pancakes")

spear final 006.jpg


And here is the first Tested video, from December 2019, where Adam talks about the spear replica:


And a subsequent video, from just over a year later:


Definitely fun to see what Adam did with his. :D

I then turned my attention to the Bog Roosh nail - it got some sanding with increasingly finer grits of sandpaper, and then some buffing with superfine steel wool. I think I may have given it a short soak in Liver of Sulfur, just for a little color in the nicks and dings, and then buffed it again. I did a pin wash in the glyph on the nail head with burnt umber + black oil paint and then gave the whole thing a coat of clear wax finish, which I buffed once it had dried.

bog roosh 05.jpg
 

The 48th Ronin

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Later in 2010, I did a prop that was not only the first piece that I ever did from a BPRD comic, but it was also the first piece that I did that wasn't drawn by Mignola. Guy Davis had taken over drawing duties on the BPRD series a couple years prior to this particular story arc, which was "BPRD: The Black Flame," first published in 2005. And the piece was a Hyperborean relic (which actually made its first appearance in an 8-page BPRD story "Born Again," which was part of a promotional comic published through Wizard Magazine in 2004).

Born Again:

hb relic 01.jpg


The Black Flame:

hb relic 02.jpg

hb relic 03.jpg


During my usual compiling of reference images, I noticed that Guy Davis didn't appear to be too concerned about continuity - i.e. getting the details of an object consistently drawn the same way.

I found that not only did the piece appear to change in size and subtle shape, but that he had also drawn it with 6 spikes:

hb relic 04.JPG


As well as 7 spikes:

hb relic 05.JPG


And even with 8 spikes:

hb relic 06.JPG


WTF, Guy?! I decided to go with 7 spikes - not only was it a "happy medium," but it also turns out that there were 7 Ogdru Jahad, so I figured that that could have some significance.

Considering the replicas that I had been creating were my "interpretations" of the objects in the comics, I figured that the best interpretation of this object was this general shape:

hb relic 06.JPG


A cylinder with a ball at one end and a spiky hamburger at the other.

And I figured the easiest, simplest way to achieve that shape would be plastic tubing and hemispheres. So I ordered up my components from Plastruct - ABS tubing and a couple ABS hemispheres, plus some acrylic elliptical hemispheres. For the spikes, I turned a master out of Delrin on one of the lathes at the shop where I was working at the time, and then molded it, so I could cast up multiples.

Once I had the complete pattern assembled, I carved in the jagged crack that can be seen in a couple panels in the comic, and added a few Mignola-style nicks and dings.

hb relic 07.jpg

hb relic 08.jpg


Then I molded it, so I could cast the final versions in solid resin. The first casting became the "clean" version - which is how it's seen in the comic after Liz Sherman channels her pyrokinetic powers through it, to destroy the Ogdru Jahad known as Katha-Hem. (spoilers - sorry!)

hb relic 09.jpg


I painted it with Krylon Dull Aluminum and then did a bit of shading with airbrushed Tamiya Smoke, which is a transparent color. I then spritzed those areas with a spray bottle of 99% isopropyl alcohol - the alcohol dissolves the Tamiya a bit and breaks it up, giving it a mottled pattern. After sealing it with a satin clearcoat, I then did a pin wash in the cracks and crevices with thinned black oil paint with just a touch of burnt umber.

hb relic 10.jpg


Then I made the "crusty" version, which was its original condition when found by Roger the Homunculus in "Born Again." Once again, I used the acrylic modeling paste applied with a sea sponge to achieve the texture of the crusty areas - I did it in several passes, sanding it down slightly between coats. I created the hard-edged transitions between areas of texture and smooth metal by cutting ragged shapes out of masking tape and sticking them on before applying the paste. Then I would pull the pieces of tape off before the paste had dried. I also did this in spots within the crusty areas, to build up what looked like chipped layers of corrosion.

hb relic 11.jpg

hb relic 12.jpg

hb relic 13.jpg


For paint, I based out the lower 3/4 with the dull aluminum. I mixed up a dark brown color and based out the textured areas with a large paintbrush. Then I hit the areas where the texture transitioned into smooth surfaces with airbrushed Tamiya brown. I then did several light dry brush passes over the textured areas with increasingly lighter shades of brown mixed with orange, ending with a mostly orange shade applied in a few spots.

Then I did some shading in the aluminum areas with airbrushed Tamiya brown, and spritzed that with alcohol. I then applied numerous washes of burnt umber oil paint, to give the aluminum a brown tint, and finished it with a wash all over the whole piece. After letting it sit for a couple days I gave it a satin clearcoat.

hb relic 14.jpg

hb relic 15.jpg
 
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The 48th Ronin

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Shortly after that I started on an Order of the Fly ring, as first seen in the Hellboy comic "The Wild Hunt," first published in 2008. By this point Duncan Fegredo had taken over drawing duties on the Hellboy series.

wild hunt 01.jpg

wild hunt 02.jpg


Since it was worn by a demon knight that was significantly larger than Hellboy, that meant it would require a larger than normal fly. Doing an online search resulted in a find which was exactly that - I bought a bag of large plastic flies.

fly ring 01.jpg


They were approximately 1 3/8" long and made out of a soft, translucent smoked plastic. The plan was definitely to give it a paintjob, and I also contemplated replacing the legs with wire of a slightly smaller diameter. In addition, I'd considered the idea of slicing the wings off and replacing them with a new pair made out of clear acetate.

I bought a few different sizes of Plastruct acrylic hemispheres for the cabochon, and settled on the 2 inch diameter, based on the size of the fly.

fly ring 02.jpg


I had to sand off the ejector pin at the very top and I just went ahead and sanded the whole thing - the plan was to wet sand up to 800 - 1000 grit and then airbrush it with Tamiya transparent orange, which would restore the shine.

I made the bezel out of Ren Shape - I made the hole a tiny bit larger and then did a "Bondo squish," so that the inside would fit the contour of the acrylic hemisphere exactly.

fly ring 03.jpg

fly ring 04.jpg


Probably moot, since once it would have been molded and cast in resin, it probably would have shrunk a tiny bit (most likely requiring some re-fitting to the hemisphere).

I started on the band portion of the ring, but since there was no reference in the comic for how it might have looked, and since I wasn't convinced that I was heading in the right direction with it, the build sputtered to a halt.

fly ring 05.jpg


Plus, at around that time I ended up abruptly moving to another state - needless to say, it got put on hold... and I haven't gotten back to it since.
 

The 48th Ronin

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In 2011 a co-worker suggested that I revisit the Lemurian talisman and have it cast in bronze, since we were having some bronze pieces done anyway for the job that we were working on. I thought that was an intriguing idea, so I ended up doing a short run of the corpse resurrection amulet in a bronze edition.

bronze lemurian 01.jpg


I added the skull bead at the point where the loop transitions into the drop, to further tie the design to what it ended up being used for in the Hellboy film.

After cleaning up the bronze castings with various Dremel grinding bits and sandpaper, I threw them into a metal parts tumbler, in the machine shop at the studio where I work.

For a patina, I first tried Liver of Sulfur, but it turned the bronze a strange gun metal grey color (which was not what I was expecting). After stripping the casting back down, I then tried JAX Chemicals Brown metal finishing solution, for brass, bronze, and copper. That did the trick nicely. Then it was just a matter of buffing it with superfine steel wool, which left the dark patina in the corners and crevices, and then giving it a final clear wax coating.

bronze lemurian 02.jpg

bronze lemurian 03.jpg
 

The 48th Ronin

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In December 2012 I was contacted by Israel Skelton - the head of Skelton Crew Studios - about sculpting the pattern for one of the upcoming pieces in their just-released line of licensed Hellboy & BPRD comic book collectibles, the "BPRD Artifact Archive Collection." Of course I said yes, as I was definitely excited when I had heard the news about the line a short time before.

Ironically, the piece that Israel had in mind for me to do was the very first amulet that I had done all those years ago - the Cornelius Agrippa charm. This time around, instead of a clay sculpt I used Ren Shape to create the pattern. It was basically a process of cutting shapes out of thin layers with a jeweler's saw and stacking them up until the whole form was assembled.

skelton agrippa 001.jpg


I asked Israel what he wanted to do about the back of the amulet. I recalled that when I had done my cast metal amulets, various interesting surface features had formed as the metal cooled, including some small retracted pockets with visible crystalline structures. I snapped this pic of the backs of my cast amulets and emailed it to him:

skelton agrippa 002.jpg


He was on board with the idea, and liked the features of the one on the right (which is the Mischrasse pendant). So I made a quick mold of it with Knead-a-Mold silicone putty and made a thin resin casting, which I then grafted onto the back of the Agrippa charm pattern, blending it in around the edges with Bondo. The final step was a coat of primer.

skelton agrippa 003.jpg


I delivered the pattern in March of 2013 and at the end of the year I received a copy of the final product.

skelton agrippa 004.jpg

skelton agrippa 005.jpg

skelton agrippa 006.jpg
 

The 48th Ronin

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In the Fall of 2013 Israel contacted me again about sculpting another piece for the line - the Ogdru Jahad amulet, which was seen in the Hellboy comic "The Island," first published in 2005. This time it was a resounding "HELL YES!" This was another piece that I had been thinking about from the moment that I first saw it - with such a detailed close-up, it was just begging to be replicated. Only took me 8 years to get around to it! :lol:

ogdru jahad 01.jpg


I once again utilized Ren Shape to create all of the tiny little pieces that comprised the amulet. Yes, all of those tiny balls were separate pieces, cut and shaped by hand. For the necks of the Ogdru Jahad, I used aluminum armature wire.

ogdru jahad 02.jpg


I again asked Israel what he wanted to do about the reverse side, and he was fine with just using the same texture detail that was used on the Agrippa charm. I molded my Ren Shape master and made a resin casting. I then made a thin resin casting of the backside detail and pocketed that into the back of the amulet, blending it in with Bondo.

ogdru jahad 03.jpg


In the Summer of 2014 I received a copy of the final product.

ogdru jahad 04.jpg

ogdru jahad 05.jpg

ogdru jahad 06.jpg

ogdru jahad 07.jpg

ogdru jahad 08.jpg

ogdru jahad 09.jpg
 

The 48th Ronin

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Over the course of the next few years I would occasionally think about doing another piece, and I believe Adam asked once or twice if I was working on anything new... but no plans ever solidified.

Recently though, I was beginning to get the itch again... I think what lit the flame (more like a pilot light) was seeing an online article a while back about flintknapping artists, and I made a mental note - a knapped stone blade is the main component of a prop that I'd had in the back of my mind for a while, and this definitely brought it to the forefront.

Earlier this year I decided that it was time, so I started work on the "ghost knife" that was first seen in "BPRD: Killing Ground," first published in 2007.

killing ground.jpg


A knapped stone blade was the inspiration - and my starting point - but not knowing the first thing about stoneknapping, I figured my best bet would be to find a knapping artist who did custom-made pieces. After a bit of online research I found someone who fit the bill - a gentleman by the name of Mike Cook, who has been stoneknapping for over 40 years. His website is Art of Ishi:

Flintknapped Stone Knives and Authentic Native American Jewelry

Actually, my ORIGINAL starting point was the task of determining the size and shape of the blade, so that I could tell him exactly what I needed.

I scanned and compiled the images where the knife appears in "Killing Ground," as well as one panel in the later series "BPRD: The Warning," (2008) and then much later in "BPRD: Hell on Earth - The Long Death," (2012) which was drawn by James Harren (which meant a different artist's interpretation of the knife).

ghost knife 001.jpg

ghost knife 002.jpg

ghost knife 003.jpg

ghost knife 004.jpg

ghost knife 005.jpg

ghost knife 006.jpg


The dialogue in this particular panel is the reason I'm calling it a "ghost knife." Plus "were-jaguar killing knife" just doesn't quite have the same panache. :p

ghost knife 007.jpg


And then there was this drawing, which is found in the sketchbook section at the back of the "Killing Ground" trade paperback:

ghost knife 008.jpg


That was a wealth of information concerning the material details of the knife - a stone blade (my initial impression was that it would have been obsidian), the handle wrap being cloth, and the flat, gold metal pommel with the extended prong actually having a small blade at the end. That told me everything that I needed to know.

But as far as the design details go, of course I had to compare all of the images to find the average, or "middle ground." For instance, you may have noticed (or not?) that the spikes arranged along the arc of the pommel vary in number (between 7 and 8) and in their spacing. Also, the zigzag arcs and busy chicken scratch lines in the main body of the pommel are all slightly different from panel to panel (which really isn't all that surprising). I ended up settling on the notated sketch as my main inspiration.

The next task was figuring out if a person could grip the handle of the knife and fit their fingers between it and that extended prong on the pommel. As drawn, the knife would have to be ridiculously large to accommodate that. Plus, it's clear to see in the comic what size the knife should roughly be. So that meant the pommel design would have to be slightly altered for those reasons. I printed out a few different sizes of the knife sketch, mounted them onto foamcore with spray adhesive, and then cut them out. I settled on this scale, shrinking the pommel prong down a bit, moving it out a tad, and shortening it so that it fit a little better around my knuckles.

ghost knife 009.jpg

ghost knife 010.jpg


And that mockup also showed me what size the blade would need to be (approximately). I also chose to make the blade a little more leaf-shaped, as it appears in the Harren-drawn panels.

So with that decided, I emailed a line drawing of the blade with dimensions to the stoneknapping artist. After some consultation about material choices and additional dimensional requirements (as far as blade thickness) he set to work, and a couple weeks later I had my blade.

ghost knife 011.jpg

ghost knife 012.jpg
 

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