Interview: DC Collectibles Sculptor James Marsano


Ever wonder what it takes to bring sculptures, busts and other collectibles from the design stage to the finished products that line our shelves? Our Friendly Neighborhood Jman got to pick the brain of DC Collectibles sculptor James Marsano to find out.

Yfnjman: Looking through your Instagram and Facebook page, you’ve got all kinds of art from illustrations to sculptures. What do you consider yourself more of: a sculptor or an illustrator? How did you get started in the arts? Are you classically trained or self-taught?

James Marsano: I’m more of a sculptor, but I enjoy drawing on my free time.
Sometimes I do 2D commissions on my off time. As a boy I always drew superheroes, and I told my mom when I grow up I wanted to work for Marvel or DC, so she started feeding me with anatomy books. I also started sculpting based on the books she’s been giving me.

I see myself more of a self-taught artist. I got into Gnomon to strengthen my fundamentals and learn more about the Digital art.

Yfnjman: Most of your sculpting work looks to be traditional. Do you do any 3D sculpting?  Besides the most obvious differences between the two, what are some of the differences for you between digital and traditional sculpting? Which do you prefer?

JM: I do 3D sculpting for all of my freelance work. The difference between digital and traditional sculpting, especially for the collectibles industry, I think it’s the depth and the feel of the medium. From my experience of working in both media, there are pros and cons to both.

In digital sculpting, the pros: there are a lot of shortcuts to create things that are faster than making them with hands, scaling characters are no longer an issue, etc. But the cons are that you often need to exaggerate details and features in order for them to stand out on the physical model because of 3D print shrinkage. Also, digital sculpting is really technical!!

I love doing both, but personally, I would only stick with digital when it comes to production work because of how clean they look, and they are also easier to manage when it comes to make changes in size.

I like to channel my traditional work as a way to relax myself and practice on the side, because of the relationship of my hands and the medium itself, I think it’s something that you don’t get much when it comes to sculpting with a pen and a tablet.

Yfnjman: How does the sculpting process work for you?  How long does it typically take for you to sculpt a statue? Do you use many references when sculpting?

JM: The sculpting processes are tedious, they can be really technical. I use Zbrush for all the organic forms that go into a character but everything else that would be considered a hard surface objects would be done in Maya.

The entire process typically takes from 2 weeks to a month, it all depends on the project. For instance, a movie statue can drag on for weeks, and sometimes more than a month, because my art director and I would work together to fulfill whatever the filmmakers want. With that said we go back and forth with the filmmakers and get feedback from them to try our best in matching their expectation.

Comic statues are done quicker because they are much simpler and don’t require insane amount of hyper details. I always use references in everything. What they see is what they want. Sometimes they want me to play with the design a bit to make it look cool.

Yfnjman: What do you feel are your strengths in sculpting? Are you known as the go-to guy for anything? Is there anything that you’re not real crazy about sculpting?

JM: I feel that my poses and anatomy are what most people tend to say the positive things. I often get asked to give feedbacks on my friends’ work. I’m not real crazy about sculpting mechs or robots.

Yfnjman: You’re currently sculpting for DC Collectibles. How did you end up with them? What was the first piece you made for them?

JM: I was fortunate enough to get contacted by my art director when I was in school. And I started working for them right after graduating. I sculpted DC Icons Firestorm

Yfnjman: One of my favorite lines from DC Collectibles is the Bombshells line. You sculpted the upcoming Catwoman statue based on Ant Lucia’s art work. How did that project come together for you?

JM: Thanks! It was a fun one. I had a blast, I enjoyed collecting the proper reference and breaking down all the details to the tiny diamonds. I actually went in and played with the jewelry design. Though you can’t really see it on the actual product since it’s very small.

Yfnjman: You also worked with Erick Sosa on Kotobukiya’s Rogue Fine art statue. Was that a digital sculpture? Sculpting seems like such a personal process, how is it for you working with another sculptor?

JM: Yes it was, I love working with Erick! He is such a cool guy and easy to work with. It was a very collaborative process, to say the least. I would love to work with him on more projects in the future!

Yfnjman: DC Collectibles showed off a new statue in their Gotham City Garage line, Harley Quinn, at Toy Fair this year. It’s an impressive, fun piece. It’s based on Dustin Nguyen’s art. How did you get involved with it? DC Collectibles only showed off Harley on her bike at Toy Fair, though. There’s talk of a sidecar with Harley’s hyenas (Bud and Lou). Did you sculpt them as well? 

JM: I was in the middle of their other collectible line, but it was something that needed to be helped with, so they gave me the assets that were already done by Adam Ross, and I sculpted her face and finessed her body features .

The hyenas were done by Adam Ross; I’m bummed that they won’t have them included in the actual product. I really love what Adam did on them. I think it really adds to the piece. We shall see though, I hope they [DC Collectibles] release it altogether. 

Yfnjman: Not to ignore your 2D art, because that’s equally impressive. Has any of your work been published or shown anywhere? Do you work traditionally or digitally?

JM: No, they are mainly just for my own. Though, I would love to do more 2D art. I think it helps with my 3D skills. I do both digital and traditional art for 2D

Yfnjman: From the looks of your DeviantArt page, it seems like you’re a fan of David Bowie. What’s your favorite Bowie “era”?

JM: I love the Goblin King. I think he is the coolest. Aside from that, I like Ziggy Stardust.

Yfnjman: Is there a dream project you have in mind that you’d really like to bring to life?

JM: A series of girl ball-jointed dolls based from my own 2D characters. 

Yfnjman: Do you have anything upcoming that you’d like to mention?

JM: Nothing I can mention from DC Collectibles at the moment. But cool stuff is coming for sure!

Next: Review: DC Collectibles Gamestop Exclusive Arkham Knight Red Hood figure

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