Sci-fi museum page master background Neil Cole top piece Museum label

BUILD DIARY

Sci-fi museum page master background test subject with line Preservation Restoration v2 Ben Grimm with shadow Home

As a life-long fan of Marvel Comics, I was delighted to add this wonderful 'Thing' bust from the 2005 'Fantastic Four' movie, worn by actor actor Michael Chiklis. It's a good example of an over-head,  multi-part, actor's prosthetic. It was designed to be worn (and for performance) as opposed to a 'perfect' static dislpay piece.  Here's how I prepared it for display...

click for floor plan

When props arrive at the museum, they are rarely ready to be displayed: this is because they were never intended for that purpose.  A major part of the museum project has been (and continues to be) getting props ready for display. This is a challenging task as they arrive in a considerable variety of conditions and are constructed from a baffling array of materials!  Due to financial pressures(!) most of the museum work has been carried out by myself and this includes the preservation and restoration of the props. I thought visitors to the site might find it interesting to gain an insight into some of the props I have been preparing, ready for opening the museum.  It's easiest to look at a few illustrated examples....

 

The prosthetic arrived on a foam life-cast of actor Michael Chiklis. This was a real bonus as it meant the foam rubber appliances were perfectly supported from underneath. A 'no turning back' moment was the point at which I decided to coat both the inside and outside in preservative sealant: this meant that the life-cast of Chiklis would no longer be seen as the mask would adhere to it- forever!  However, the mask is the 'real piece' here and as with all rubber artefacts, action needs to be taken to prevent them from perishing. So... the mask was coated in resins and set firm to the life-cast.

 

Ultimately Chiklis's closed eyes could still be seen, so the next decision was whether or not to paint these (to match the mask)...or gouge them out and insert life-like glass-eyes and re-sculpt the eye-lids and surrounding area. Going for the latter was a lot of fun and ultimately made for a more visually arresting finished display. It also helped me tackle the problem of the nose-bridge. Basically, the foam had tightened a little and where the nose and brow prosthetc pieces had 'met' on the actor during filming (and will have been glued down to Chiklis' face), sadly now there was a gap. Tugging at the rubber did stretch the pieces correctly, however, stress on foam rubber would ultimately lead to cracks and tears in the future, so I decided to sculpt in a new nose-bridge and ensure the foam rubber remained 'relaxed' and not under stress.  It's a good example of how you often need to use a little creativity to get props ready for a display! Next step...blending the newly sculpted eyes and bridge to match the studio paintwork...

Long collage - thing 1 (Large) the thing Long collage - thing 2 (Large) Long collage - MARVEL thing 3

Following careful masking of the surrounding, original foam rubber (and glass eyes) I first added a black primer (spray) and then hand painted the orange 'skin'. This took quite a while, slowly adjusting my orange paint mix to match as closely as I could. I finished with a brown ink wash (as visible on the original pieces) and added a little dry-brushed highlight.  Overall, in the flesh, I felt very happy with the end result and I do think it had more impact with the eyes 'open' as opposed having left 'The Thing' with his eyes shut!  Next step...getting the piece together on a display...

The display stand itself was pieced together as the mask was being restored. I was fortunate to get a set of screen-worn(!) teeth, used by Mr. Chiklis during filming. It was important for the teeth to be displayed with the mask, although as tempting as inserting them was, I knew this had the potential to damage the prop considerably (it's the long-term stability of the prop I'm thinking about here!).   The above pics show how the stand came together and the finished restoration...with teeth!  Standby for more restoration archive reports!