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Combining science fiction with century-old fashion and technology, steampunk fandom is one of the fastest-growing genres in the world, as conventions spring up around the U.S. and mainstream movies plaster its tenets across every billboard. Inspired by the billowing legions of steampunk cosplayers, Diamond Select Toys decided to add a similarly attired character to their Femme Fatales line of 9-inch PVC statues, and the result was the stunning Lexi, who hits comic shops and specialty stores next spring. We talked to project manager Chris Schaff as well as sculptor and steampunk fan Sam Greenwell about what went into her creation.
Art Asylum (AA): Chris, would you have considered yourself a steampunk fan going into this?
Chris Schaff (DST): Well, I've always been impressed with the gadgets that I see in various comics and films, but the steampunk genre in general was never anything that I followed. I could rattle off a list of things I enjoy that contain steampunk, but I can't really recommend them BECAUSE of steampunk. In terms of sexy women in costumes, I didn't know there was that big of a following until I went to Google and entered "steampunk girl." Of course, I ended up feeling silly when I sent the reference to Sam with something of a "Do you think you can make this work" e-mail and then I find out that he is a HUGE fan of the genre.
AA: Sam, what do you like about steampunk?
Sam Greenwell (Greenwell): I love everything about it. I was a big fan of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when I was a kid. I'm still disappointed that the ride at Disney World is gone. Something about the idea of technology that's before it's time is very attractive to me. That's why I was thrilled when Chris told me about this project.
AA: Chris, how does the process for one of these original Femme Fatales creations work?
DST: Since I'm such a horrible artist, I rely on the internet to help me out. I'll send the sculptor a variety of images that show the various elements of the piece, and I'll add notes that flesh out my vision for the finished product. Once he gets the reference, Sam and I get on the phone and go over all the details to make sure we're on the same page. In some cases, I am very specific about the details -- "I want her to have this skirt, I want her arms in this position," etc. -- but in other cases I give Sam some freedom to have fun with the piece -- "Use this image as a basis for the facial expression, make the base something like this," etc.
AA: What were the sources of some of the elements that went into Lexi?
DST: The interesting thing about our original Femme Fatales is that they are almost always influenced by so many different things. In the case of Lexi, I found numerous examples of cosplay girls in steampunk outfits that were very attractive, but no one image captured exactly what I wanted, so what you see is a composite of many costumes. The jacket and corset came from one, the boots from another, the stockings, the goggles, the necklace and the weapons from others. The basic idea of a making a steampunk Femme Fatale was inspired by all of the Sucker Punch cosplay in San Diego, but I wanted Lexi to stand apart from that film, so I actually used photos of characters from that film as examples of what not to do.
AA: Does the sculptor usually provide a sketch before he begins sculpting?
DST: No, I have a great relationship with Sam, and with all of my sculptors, and we communicate so well that "control art" isn't necessary. I see images of the sculpt in very rough/early stages, so any adjustments to proportions or poses can be done before it becomes an inconvenience to anyone.
AA: Sam, do you enjoy the process of piecing together your subject from multiple sources?
Greenwell: Oh yeah, that's the way I usually work on any of my original designs. I just sort of pick and choose, and change things as I go along. It's a really chaotic workflow, but I usually come up with something I'm happy with.
AA: Are there benefits with this method, compared to working from one piece of official artwork?
Greenwell: For one, it's a lot more relaxed. We didn't have to worry about any approval further up the line. We could really change whatever we wanted to get the most out of the piece. Sometimes a two-dimensional design won't translate well to 3D, but there isn't anything you can do about it, because the design is of a pre-existing character that can't be changed. With a piece like Lexi, if we had an idea, but it looked weird in 3D, we could change it around until it worked.
AA: Chris, what's your favorite part of the finished piece?
DST: For me, this project was always about Lexi herself, the girl beneath the costume. Without any specific character or actress to go off of, I decided to base Lexi on my vision of the ideal woman. Remember the film Weird Science? Well, all I need now is a supercomputer and some jumper cables. But seriously, Sam did a great job with the costume, and Jason Wires finished it off with spectacular paints.
AA: Sam, what's your favorite part?
Greenwell: I'm really not sure. I think she came out really nice in all regards. If I had to pick a part, I'd say her face.
AA: Since you're a fan, what's your favorite steampunk show/movie/comic/thing, if you have one?
Greenwell: The thing that will always be, in my mind, the greatest and most unique take on the genre is the Steampunk comic by Chris Bachalo. That may have been the first time I was aware of the genre. I was more disappointed when that comic was cancelled than any other that I can think of.
I would be thrilled to get to sculpt the characters from that comic, the designs are just perfect.