Monstrous new horrors emerge just in time for Halloween in the form of recent vinyl figures by James Groman for DC Collectibles’ Artists Alley line. Imagine a Gotham City even more terrifying than the one you know (if that’s even possible) in which your favorite heroes and villains have all taken the form of terrifying beasts and are wandering the streets as these ghastly creatures.
These nightmarish figures have been waiting in the shadows to be released, but the road to get them in your hands was a long and winding one. From the earliest stages to the last, the process took quite a lot of creative input from the whole team at DC Collectibles along with James Groman himself, who not only designed his pieces but also sculpted them as well.
DC Collectibles Creative Director Jim Fletcher remembers the day his team first saw Groman and decided his ghoulish designs would be perfect for the DC Artists Alley line.
“We were at the Five Points Festival and we saw these really cool monster designs, such as King Corpse, and we thought James Groman’s unique design sense would be fun to apply to the DC characters,” he recalls. “When we talked to Groman about designing our characters, he couldn’t say yes fast enough!”
“When said I was being commissioned to design my version of Batman, Joker, Two-Face and Killer Croc, intimidation set in,” Groman shares. “Being a monster guy, I wasn't sure that the folks at DC would be open to what I might do with the Caped Crusader and his classic gallery of villains. I was wrong. I was encouraged to do whatever I wanted, to take them in any direction I thought was cool. I think they trusted me to still be respectful to the characters’ history and push it as far as I could without truly changing the characters’ basic DNA.”
One aspect that makes Groman’s Artists Alley figures particularly impressive is that he not only designed each piece, he also sculpted them all by hand as well. (Digital sculpting is the norm nowadays in the collectibles world, so it is rare to see traditionally sculpted pieces.) Fans of Groman’s work will relish the level of detail in his sculpt, which often came after much back and forth during the design phase. For example, the Two-Face figure went through a few design interpretations before the final one was chosen, which essentially portrays Two-Face as one giant head sitting atop a chair.
“The Two-Face character ended up being my favorite character,” reveals Art Director Trevor Zammit. “I think it is the perfect James Groman figure. It is such a Mad Balls homage. Only Jim could have done that. They are all weird and crazy just like we wanted, but Two-Face is my favorite. It is pure Jim.”
The other characters in the line are equally as inspired. Like Two-Face, the Joker went through a few design changes, but in the end was imagined as a long-necked, toy-box-esque monster with a jack-in-the-box body and roller skates on his feet (and don’t overlook the puppet skeleton Robin)!
Killer Croc was perhaps the most literal take on the character, as it portrays the beast as a toxic waste-covered horror show with smaller creepy crawlies covering his body.
As for the extremely vibrant paint work on these figures, credit goes out to the talented Michael Cowart who used a variety of bold colors to bring these sculpts to life and to reflect the bold personality of each figure.
In fact, each figure actually had more than one paint deco. There were quite a few variations for each character.
“We did a number of unreleased variants in assorted color combinations and one of them is actually being released by DC Universe as an exclusive,” said Zammit.
That would be the Aqua Vision Batman variant, which was painted by Mark Bristow. This special Groman figure will be sold exclusively on the DC Universe website.
Overall, this unique line of DC Artists Alley figures is the boldest yet. Horror and monster buffs, along with fans looking for a fun way to help their Batman collections stand out, will want to get their hands on these unique vinyl pieces, all of which are in stores this month.
In Groman’s own words, “The final result is a line of figures that are some of the most artistically satisfying characters I’ve ever had the honor of designing. I’ve spent my life trying to conceptualize and design characters that would resonate with fans and become part of monster 'pop culture.’ Batman is as big a pop culture icon as they come. Being able to have my name associated with his incredible legacy is definitely a career milestone for me.”
James Groman's DC Artist Alley designer vinyl figures are now available in comic shops, specialty stores and online retailers. For more information on the figures, visit DCCollectibles.com.
Amanda Levine writes about DC Collectibles, Young Adult comics, cosplay and the DC Universe in general for DCComics.com.