Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 49 - PAUL HARDING
SCULPTOR/ARTIST - PAUL HARDING
"I like to flex the artistic muscles a little bit. When I do the darker stuff it's fun for me." Paul Harding, artist and sculptor
ON EPISODE 49 - ART IS EVERYWHERE:
On this week's Fueled By Death Cast THE SHOW - the hosts go to ancient Eygpt on Science. A new mysterious void has been found in the Great Pyramid of Giza and no one knows what it really is. Then the idea that art and inspiration are everywhere is on What Fuels You and D-Man and Jeff talk about how they really feel about flat earth theories on The Roast.
ABOUT PAUL HARDING:Paul Harding is a trained graphic artist that molded himself into a sought-after sculptor. He has created stunning works of art, action figures, statues and more for companies like Gentle Giant, DC Collectibles, Marvel, Sideshow Collectibles and so much more. Paul talks about some of his recent work and some of his favorite projects including the new Xenomorph (The monster from the movie Alien) Cookie Jar from Diamond Select. Then Paul gives exciting details on his graphic novel creation, Beasts of the Black Hand, which will be written by the legendary comic book writer Ron Marz. As a special treat, Paul talks about his labor of love, Future Cyborg, which is a 1980's Toy Review parody show he stars in on YouTube.
Paul: Well these days, you probably would want to go to school for it but none of that is necessary. I mean, I did not go to school for sculpture.
Jeff: Oh okay. Did you go to school for art?
Paul: Yeah I went to school for illustration. And I took probably two sculpture classes in those four years.
Jeff: So where was that transition then? Did you go to school for art wanting to become a graphic artist?
Paul: Oh yeah. I knew I was going to do something. And I was hired right out of school to be an interactive artist. Like a designer. Which was not what I went to school for. But a company from New York came and plucked me out of school, basically, in the last couple of weeks and then I moved down to New York City.
Jeff: Very cool.
Dustin: What was it that attracted them to you?
Paul: It was probably my looks.
Dustin: This man is just stunning. We need him.
Paul: He looks like a New Yorker. No it was my art, my portfolio.
Dustin: Oh nice.
Paul: They could see it.
Dustin: Did you send it to them?
Paul: No they were actually Syracuse University alumni. And they just came back to hire somebody.
Dustin: Oh nice.
Paul: Yeah so it got me to New York and it got me meeting people. And that was the beginning of the story. Because I stayed working for businesses like that. Well, I worked for that business and then we split off and we formed a new company. All in all, it only lasted a year and a half, I think, and then I was out of a job. The company folded, all of those companies, at that time, collapsed.
Dustin: Were you concerned when you were out of a job? Or was it like, oh I've got the skills to pay the bills so I'll just find another gig?
Paul: It was very concerning. I mean, I was young. I was probably 24 years old. It was 30 days before 9/11 happened and I was working right on Wall Street and Broadway, which was two blocks away from the towers. So I lost my job 30 days before that happened.
Paul: I would have ...
Dustin: Been there.
Paul: Yes I would have been there had it not been for the company collapsing. So yeah, it seemed like a good thing at the time that I lost the job. So then I was on unemployment for six months and I guess nobody really likes that. But I hustled and I met people.
Jeff: So where was the tipping point where you started to get into actually sculpting? Because I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, when you started out in the sculpting world, you were doing a lot of it physically, right?
Dustin: Like that scene in Ghost?
Jeff: Yes. Just like the scene in Ghost.
Paul: Yeah, exactly. I like to straddle a wooden table. Have my loved one in my arms.
Jeff: Oh my goodness.
Paul: Oh my ...
Jeff: Where did that shift come when you were actually were like, okay I'm gonna start working in this medium?
Paul: Well I was hustling at that time and I started getting gigs for magazines doing editorial illustrations and newspapers. So Golf Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, they were hiring me to draw things for them.
Jeff: Oh okay.
Paul: So it wasn't really paying the bills that well but I was working.
Paul: And I met a company called MezCo Toys. And I met the owner and became friends with him and I started designing, and when I say designing, I mean illustrating characters for his toy company. And that was what got me into the toy business. He, in turn, introduced me to one of the greatest sculptors in the toy business ever. And I helped him and he helped me. His name was Dave Cortez, great guy. Still one of the great ones. And this was about 16 years ago when this all started.
Jeff: And so you actually learned under Dave?
Paul: Well he showed me tons of short cuts. So I was helping him on his Marvel Legends figures right when Marvel Legends first started. And those were, you know, serious action figures for us back in the day.
Jeff: Oh yeah. So incredible.
Paul: So I was kind of Ghost sculpting some stuff for him and other stuff for that company, Toy Biz, which was actually Marvel Comics.
Paul: And their toy division was named Toy Biz. So I was helping him but I was also doing my own gigs, designing and sculpting action figures for this company MezCo. So after a couple of years of that, then I transitioned. I got to know Marvel, started working for them and then about a year and a half after that or so, I met DC Comics.
Jeff: Wow. So it was kind of like this whole roller coaster in a sense of you just meeting the right people. And they say that's the thing. You just get out there, hustle, meet the right people and you never know what's gonna ...
Dustin: It's like life sculpted you.
Paul: It is. It is. Dream sequence.
Jeff: Let's go back slightly and talk about your artistic background. What were some of the reasons you got into art in the first place? Who inspired you to get into that track?
Paul: When I was a kid, you mean?
Jeff: Yeah, definitely.
Paul: Who inspired me? It's a great question. I think it was in me because I don't know where it started.
Jeff: Were your parents artistic?
Paul: My dad was a little bit artistic but he went into accounting and my mom became a lawyer.
Paul: That ain't me, folks. But it was there and my grandmother's a bit of an artist too. So it really was comic books when I was around 12 years old.
Dustin: What were your favorite comics?
Paul: Anything Jim Lee was doing. And before that it was a lot of the Marvel comics and Superman and Batman.
Dustin: How cool was it to make these characters now?
Paul: Well it's definitely strange to put yourself back into your childhood and picture yourself doing this now. But I wouldn't trade it.
Dustin: Yeah. I imagine. That's so cool.
Jeff: And one thing that people probably don't know about someone like you is that your job as a sculptor, what you do for a living, is predominantly ... Even though you're working for all these companies, you're predominantly working for yourself. You're a freelance sculptor, correct. Are you contracted with anybody?
Paul: Well I'm not exclusively contracted with anybody. But I'm a contractor. A freelance contractor. And I've always been that way since 2001.
Jeff: That's really, really cool.
Paul: I don't know much else at this point.
Jeff: Well that just allows you to have the freedom and the ability to kind of pick and choose the jobs you want to take, correct? It's not like I'm sure you get ... Let me rephrase that. Are there jobs that come across the table that you don't want to do so you say no to?
Paul: Yeah only recently over the past couple of years I've started saying no to stuff. So I'm able to focus and pick and choose the ones that I want to do. Which, I worked a long time to get to that spot.
Dustin: That's incredible.
Paul: And it's a balance to try to keep my schedule filled up without overwhelming myself.
Jeff: And you do such a varying style of sculpt. So I mean, it's not like you pigeon hole yourself and you're like, I'm going to make a specific type of action figure. You know? Because obviously, I don't know if people can actually see, I'll actually throw some better stuff in there, but Dustin and I both have some of your action figures in front of us that are normal action figure scale. But you do larger scale stuff. You do statuary stuff. And even some more random stuff.
One of my favorite pieces that you just came out with, actually, was the Shakespeare bust from the 66 Batman series. For those of you who don't know, in the 66 Batman series with Adam West, the Shakespeare bust was his little secret. You flip the head open and hit the button and Batman things would happen after that.
Dustin: The theme music starts.
Jeff: Yeah, exactly. And you sculpted that. It's a bank. It obviously doesn't make me into Batman, although I wish it does every time I open it.
Dustin: It doesn't get you a witch either.
Jeff: It doesn't get me a witch either. But I mean, you do a lot of different things like that. So that's really cool that you get to have a career where you're not just like, okay we need a guy to sculpt the arms on action figures and that's what you do.
Paul: Right. I mean, for me, variety is the spice of life. And I love making statues, I love making action figures. But I think if I had to do just one I might get a little bit bored. So I do different things. I mean, I do Halloween masks, I do mugs, I do all kinds of strange things.
Dustin: But even on top of having different types of things to sculpt, your genre of sculpting, you do some dark demonic stuff, but you also do ... You can kind of do anything.
Paul: Well thanks. I mean, yeah. I like to flex the artistic muscles a little bit. You know, you have to keep them going. So when I do the darker stuff, it's fun for me.
Dustin: Yeah. Is there any jobs you take on for the challenge?
Paul: That's a good question. Each one has their own challenges, I would say. Every project is different. But I don't think I would just take a project to make myself angry.
Dustin: I do it all the time. Can't help it.
Jeff: That's funny. Going off of that, do you gravitate toward specific jobs? We're talking that you actually have the ability to sculpt and do all different types of mediums, all different types of things. Is there one that you like to do more than another one?
Paul: For me, I do a lot of superhero stuff. But what I enjoy more is doing the darker, grittier things. Like monsters and creatures and villains. Even in the superhero world, I like doing those villains.
Paul: So a character like the Joker crosses over into that realm of interest for me.
Jeff: Yes and if you guys have not checked out our recap of this year's New York ComiCon 2017, I actually got a little bit of a chance, we were so busy, both of us down there, but you and I got a little bit of a chance to actually walk over to the sideshow collectibles booth and see your brand new Joker. And Bob and Lou, Harley's Hyenas that had just been announced this year at San Diego. And that was a lot of fun. You've gotten to do a lot of different Jokers throughout your career.
Paul: Yeah, it was a thing when I was younger, when I was a Batman fan as a preteen. I really liked the Joker. So I would draw him all the time. I would look in the mirror and I would use myself as reference to draw the Joker.
Dustin: That's awesome.
Paul: And I got some good creepy stuff that way. So it's just been fortuitous for me to keep on sculpting that character in many different sizes and versions.
Jeff: It's such a cool character. I mean, being able to sculpt the different things that you've been able to do, like we've said, Marvel and DC and Star Wars and monsters and all these types of things. But someone like the Joker, to me, is a lot of fun to see a different sculpt on all the time. Because, like Batman, he's just a man. He's just a human being but depending on just how you pull back his smile and just how you make his eyes sit in his brow, you can make the Joker a hell of a lot scarier than some of the Universal monsters out there.
Paul: Absolutely. He ranks up there with the greatest villain of all time. At least in the comic book world.
Dustin: Totally. His super power is insanity.
Paul: Right. Say, though, he was actually sane, he just didn't care.
Paul: What's scarier?
Dustin: Yeah, uninhibited.
Paul: And it's hard to tell what he is.
Jeff: A fun little side question, as a fan of the Joker, this is kind of a two part question. I want to know our favorite rendition of that character. Both on screen and on the page.
Paul: There's no doubt that the Heath Ledger Joker was the scariest.
Jeff: Man he knocked that out of the park.
Dustin: Stupid good.
Paul: So well done. I mean, Jack Nicholson was fun, but that was 25 years ago.
Dustin: And it looked of that era.
Paul: Right. It worked, he was a huge star. He did tell Heath Ledger not to take the part.
Jeff: Yeah, he did.
Dustin: Did he do it because of like, don't take that part, you'll go crazy?
Paul: You'll actually go crazy, yeah.
Dustin: No shit. How much do you think that contributed to his death?
Paul: It's hard to tell but there was a lot of pressure on him. And if you're one of those actors who puts your heart and soul into something I think ...
Dustin: I love the Joker. And he did do it so well. Just that he's nuts. He was just nuts you could tell that he was losing it.
Paul: Yeah and I think his thing was that he knew he wasn't insane, he was just scarred and he didn't care. Because look at what he did at the end of The Dark Knight. He burnt that giant pile of money.
Jeff: Yeah because he didn't care.
Jeff: It was awesome.
Paul: Maybe he is insane. I don't know.
Jeff: So favorite Joker on the page, then.
Paul: Without a doubt the Killing Joke. Bryan Ballin.
Jeff: So good. Did you see the adaptation that just came out of that?
Paul: No I don't watch the cartoon movies that much.
Jeff: They did an okay job with it. I didn't hate it.
Dustin: I think I even watched it. It wasn't so bad.
Jeff: It wasn't so bad but it still, you don't get the same feel from that graphic novel. If you've never read it, everybody out there, go pick up The Killing Joke. Even if you're not into superheroes, even if you're not into comic books at large, it should be required reading, I feel. The Killing Joke.
Paul: It's a scary story. It was twisted. Bur for me it was the art. The story was secondary. He took two years to draw that.
Dustin: Wow really?
Dustin: Have you ever taken two years to do a project?
Paul: No. I would not be working.
Jeff: I was gonna say you'd be fired, right?
Dustin: Well I mean, I'm sure you can do other projects on the side as you're working on this one close project for two years.
Paul: Right. Maybe when my kids grow up I'll have time.
Dustin: So I'm curious about your process a little bit. Now I see on your Instagram and stuff like that that you do a lot of 3D digital designing. Do you do any hand sculpting still?
Paul: Just once in a while for fun.
Dustin: Just for fun?
Paul: Yeah. The first half of my career I sculpted everything in wax and clay but I don't do it anymore.
Jeff: Pretty much the industry doesn't do it anymore, right?
Paul: There are plenty of my peers that still do it that way.
Dustin: Do they think that you lose something when you go digital? Do you feel that you lose something when you go digital?
Paul: Well yeah. Well I did not appreciate it 15 years ago when I first started seeing people do it that way. I thought it was ...
Paul: Yeah. The feeling I had was fear, I think, and a little anger towards it. But now I would never go back. Once you find something that has so many short cuts ...
Dustin: It's kind of interesting. Technology in the artistic world. And you always see resistance at first. Whether it be tattoos or for you, sculpting. And I even saw it in the dental world where it's like no longer do you have to have this chump in a basement making wax sculptures then casting it then seeing if it'll fit the patient. Now they can just scan you right in the chair, 3D design something right as you're waiting and have it 3D printed and just pop it in your mouth. And there was so much resistance. At that point you're eliminating a job. It's insane.
Dustin: But that resistance, I think, slows down the evolution of technology in art. And I think that we could get ... I don't know. Is it more organic if you do it by hand? Are you going to lose something when you go digital?
Paul: Well, it's a great question. Sculptors feel that they will lose something when they go digital.
Jeff: And you use a special tool to go digital, right? It's called a syntek, I believe.
Paul: Right. It's a monitor. It's like a flat screen but you can draw right on it with a pen.
Jeff: With a regular pen? No, with a stylus?
Paul: With a stylus, exactly.
Jeff: Yeah and then basically, like you were sculpting a piece of clay, you just manipulate the image in the same manner, kind of thing?
Paul: Yeah I don't take complete advantage of the program Zbrush that I use. I probably only use 10-20% of the program. It's an incredible program. You can do anything. Literally anything and I'm not exaggerating. But for me, I use it pretty simply. I'll use five or 10 tools and I just kind of treat blobs like clay. So you start with a sphere and I just treat it like clay, essentially. And then there are some of the harder things to do that are much faster with Zbrush.
Jeff: And then the process, the steps from there are you get your finished sculpt digitally done and then that is what you send off to the company who's going to make the sculpt then and they work off of that digital, right?
Paul: Exactly. I send the properly sized files and they 3D print it.
Jeff: And that's got to be a lot easier on the industry because back in the day you're sculpting out of clay or wax and then you're making a mold of that and then you're pouring silicone or whatever else you're going to pour into that mold to make the thing that you're going to then mass produce from. So you're taking all those steps out of there.
Paul: Yeah it has eliminated some of the molding and casting jobs.
Jeff: Do you feel that sculpting, on a whole, as the industry is producing a better product because of the technology now?
Paul: Yeah. It's producing a better, faster product.
Paul: Yeah. It's efficient. And from a project manager's standpoint, they have a lot more control. All the way up until I'm completely finished sculpting, they can make major changes to it and it's not a big deal to me.
Paul: So they know they have that control so they rest easy in general.
Dustin: That's interesting.
Jeff: So out of everything you've gotten to do in your career up to this point, is there any project that you think fondly back on? Or, conversely to that question, is there any project you think back on and you're just like I wish that I never had to go through that ever?
Paul: Oh there's been a few of those?
Paul: Yeah. I mean I did a Wonder Woman figure a few years ago and it took forever. I'm telling you, months. It took months. And it's probably, in the end it would have been a nine inch figure. But she was considered Mecca Wonder Woman. So she was a robot.
Jeff: I love it already.
Paul: And she was really cool. I don't know why they didn't produce it. She had so much organic armor. She was all metal and Mecca parts and robotic.
Dustin: What was so difficult about it? Just all the moving pieces?
Paul: Oh you really got to see it.
Jeff: So you spent all this time on it and they just never came out with it?
Paul: They never produced it. They treated it like any other project. I got paid to do it.
Dustin: I was about to ask, how does that financially affect you? They just pay for your sculpt and it's that or do you get a percentage of the sales? And you don't have to go too deep into that.
Paul: They just pay me for the sculpt. In this particular instance, it was for one of the DC comics video games. And they asked me to start sculpting it while the video game company was still doing concept art.
Dustin: Oh man.
Paul: So it was like, here, sculpt this for a month and then change everything.
Dustin: Oh my gosh.
Paul: And then change everything again.
Dustin: I hate that. It's like, figure out what you want before you make me do shit.
Paul: Yeah. It's part of the game. It's part of the game being someone who designs products, though.
Jeff: And that's not your only creative avenue, though. Because, like you said, you started out as an artist. And I still see, to this day, a lot of art that you produce just for fun. And you're now getting into the graphic novel game, which is very, very exciting. Because you're working with some people that we and our fan base at large actually knows. You have created a brand new project called the Beast of the Black Hand.
Jeff: And this is your own story.
Jeff: And you got some pretty awesome people involved in this. You want to talk about it a little bit?
Paul: Got some great people. I pitched it to Ominous Press. They publish comic books.
Jeff: Yeah they helped publish our comic books as well, the Odenforce as well.
Paul: That's right. Yeah. Beautiful books. So they ate up my concept and we decided to do a kick starter. So knowing that my time is taken up with sculpting and designing and things like that. I wanted to get real professionals on it. So I got Ron Mars to write it and Matthew Dou Smith to draw it.
Jeff: We love them both.
Paul: Yeah, you guys know Ron Mars.
Jeff: Oh yeah.
Paul: He wrote the Odenforce books.
Jeff: He wrote the Odenforce books. I love Matt Dou Smith, though, too. What an incredible artist. As we were talking about it off pod, he's great at drawing guys in suits.
Paul: He sure is. He sure is. And this concept takes place just before the 1920s so Matt has this incredible sense of how to draw real people. And it's not a totally realistic concept but it feels realistic because of how he draws.
Jeff: Can you talk a little bit about the story?
Paul: Yeah it's like a dark adventure. We have this guy named Oswald Reynor and these are actual historical characters but we put them into a fictional sensational [inaudible 00:24:27].
Jeff: I always love that.
Paul: Yeah like the fantastical setting. So it takes place in France in 1919 and this guy, Oswald Reynor is an MY6 agent like James Bond. And he basically has to fort the evil nefarious plot of the Black Hand and the daughter of Rasputten. So it's exciting. There's monsters and magic and some creepiness for sure.
Jeff: So when did the ideas start to form in your head where you're like, I've got this story and I should really maybe do something with it.
Dustin: This is why I started talking about Rasputten too, Ron Mars recently. I was like, wait, I was talking about this to somebody. Because I always liked the story of ... You know Rasputten's calling card, right? It's very large endowment of genitalia. And it's still in a jar. It's giant. But when people were like you're not Rasputten, he would whip it out and it would be like, oh yeah, that's the dude. Nobody else has a dong that big.
Jeff: Is that in your book?
Dustin: Is it?
Paul: It's in the second book.
Jeff: There we go. There we go. I would think as someone who is in one track, creatively, as a sculptor, you'd have this idea and maybe be like, maybe I'm gonna just sculpt these things. But when did you start to coalesce the idea like maybe I should try and see if I can get a book made?
Paul: Well, that's basically where the germ of the idea started. It started as a reason to sculpt monsters. So essentially I was looking for a reason to sculpt monsters for myself. Back to the personal projects, that's what I would do if I had a personal project.
So I'm trying to think, how can I sculpt what I want to sculpt and be able to sell it to the public so I can keep on doing what I want to do? So I talked to a few people about it and then I met Carl Pots, who's a famous writer. He wrote a DC book on how to write comics. He used to write The Punisher, really cool stuff. And I told him about my idea and he's like, Paul, you need a narrative. He said come up with a story. So that same week, essentially, after I met him, I came up with the story.
Paul: Pitched it to Ron Mars first, he said well absolutely I'll do it. He said definitely. And before he even wrote it, I pitched it to Ominus Press and they were into it.
Jeff: That's awesome. And like you said, the kick starter is live now. I'll put up that information as well as Ominus Press' information so you can find all of the incredible books that they make over there. So that's really cool. So you've got that going on, you've got your sculpts going on. And what's interesting about your career is, and I know this just from you personally, that like you'll get contracted to do a job and sometimes, that job won't come out for a little bit. So it's like you get done with something and you have to be very tight lipped about it because of NDAs and that kind of stuff. And you can't really talk about that kind of stuff.
But I would like to talk about some of the newer projects that have just hit and that you can talk about. One of them being what's been sitting ...
Dustin: Let's talk about what you can talk about.
Jeff: What's been sitting in front of us this whole time, I've been really excited to see this. This is, for those of you guys who don't now, a cookie jar, which is incredible. But it is the awesome movie Alien, and Aliens.
Dustin: It's a great cookie jar sound, by the way.
Paul: Clink clink.
Jeff: How cool was it to sculpt something literally born from the brain of Geiger?
Paul: Well an honor from the first second that I started doing it, obviously because he's one of the amazing designers that we've had. I always wanted to do Alien stuff and I've never had the chance.
Jeff: This is the first time that you've ever gotten to sculpt an alien? Anything Alien?
Dustin: That's so cool.
Jeff: Wow. So cool. Which is very cool because it's not like let's say they wanted like a little six inch Alien. Which would still be fun, I'm sure. But it's like you get to really get in there. And the detail on this is just awesome. The double mouth and all the veins coming out and everything.
Dustin: Is there anything you learned from Alien by doing this?
Paul: Well I learned that I could probably draw or sculpt him with my eyes closed now. When you see the movie and you look at Alien, you recognize the zenal morphs right off the bat.
Jeff: Oh my gosh yeah.
Paul: The Alien warriors.
Jeff: Even the silhouette is recognizable.
Paul: Even the silhouette. But if you take a closer look, it's a jumble of craziness.
Jeff: Thank you, Geiger.
Paul: That's right. He was a crazy man. But I got to learn about the anatomy and the biomechanics.
Jeff: That's so cool. And this one that we're seeing right now is actually not the original color scheme. This is the Think Geek Exclusive and it's in copper. It's like an other worldly penny. It's very, very cool. But the original one, I believe, is the normal colors of the zenal morph, right?
Paul: Right. So black, basically with some blue highlights.
Jeff: It came out so cool. And this is available through Diamond select and also, like I said, the copper version is available through Think Geek. Which, we love those guys over at Think Geek. They always come out with a lot of fun stuff. I always go on that site and like, man I'm going to spend way too much money if I stay here too long.
So what else can we talk about ...
Dustin: That you can talk about.
Jeff: That you can talk about, yeah? That you've got coming out.
Paul: Well I get to work with this place called the Bottleneck Gallery down in Brooklyn. We do some really weird stuff. They have become famous for doing licensed movie posters with brand new art. So I don't know if you've checked them out yet but they do amazing stuff and they come out with a new movie poster once a week, I think.
So they just started getting into the sculpture game and the collectibles game and they pulled me in for that. So we started doing a lot of Fish stuff for the band
Dustin: Yes I have seen some of this. This is good.
Jeff: Oh I remember that. You came out with collectible statuettes for their recent run of shows at Madison Square, correct?
Paul: Exactly. And they have another little mini run and maybe something will happen with that too.
Jeff: So all you Fish fans out there, that's cool. That's such a cool little collectible that you can get. I like that.
Paul: Right and that sells out. That sold out in like the first night out of the 13 nights. Basically everything that I have been doing for the Bottleneck Gallery sells right out. So they have a good fan base.
Jeff: Was the Bottleneck gallery the place that you took me to in New York that we saw that awesome caterpillar that they had released from you?
Paul: That's about a six or seven inch resin statue of a little tripped out caterpillar.
Jeff: Yeah. It's so cool. I'm gonna put up a picture of that as well. That's really awesome.
Paul: That was designed by famous concert poster artists Marks Busta. So he's like a California guy who does all the trippiest movie posters out there.
Jeff: Very, very cool. What else? You got anything else for us that you can reveal?
Paul: Oh loads of stuff.
Jeff: I'm sure. You're a busy guy.
Paul: Well what I just announced was a new statue that's going in that Joker line that we were talking about before for the DC super powers line.
Jeff: The same line that the Joker came out through side show?
Paul: Exactly. Through sideshow and a company called Tweeter Head.
Jeff: Tweeter Head, yes. Right.
Paul: Yep. So I just sculpted, he's about a 15 inch tall Steppan Wolf. And Steppan Wolf is the new villain in the new Justice League movie.
Jeff: Right. Yeah.
Paul: But the version I did was the old school, 1980s super powers Steppan Wolf.
Jeff: Oh cool. I did see this. You just put up the sculpt that you came out with. And I'll put that up. That's awesome.
Paul: Right and that was an exciting project, for sure.
Jeff: Man, this last year I've seen you come out with so many cool things. Like I said, the 66 Shakespeare bust. The one thing that you showed me a couple of years ago that came out, I believe this year, was the Deadpool statue that you did. That isn't even just a statue. It's a painting kit, right? Like, you buy it and you can bring it home ...
Paul: Right. You've got to glue it and paint it yourself.
Jeff: So you made a model kit but it's Deadpool.
Paul: But it's Deadpool. Exactly.
Jeff: That's so rad.
Paul: And he's standing on a bunch of unexploded missiles.
Jeff: Like you do when you're Deadpool.
Paul: Yeah. With his legs wide open. You know? Just being Deadpool.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dustin: How much do you participate in the color scheme of your sculpts?
Paul: I don't really have to think too much about that when it comes to statues and action figures. That stuff we pretty much leave it up to painters who paint all day long. So they're more professional about it. But when I do smaller projects, I'll paint it up digitally just for the factory to see so they have guidelines for that.
Jeff: Very, very cool. I see you have Spiderman pulled up there.
Paul: Right. I did a little diorama from the latest Spiderman homecoming movie. And that's a statue of Spiderman fighting the Vulture. And that was only released with the Blu Ray in Europe.
Jeff: So we couldn't even get it here? Oh no.
Paul: There are ways to get it.
Jeff: Wow that's awesome. With the Blu Ray. Man, I can't say enough good things about that movie.
Paul: It was fun.
Jeff: That was so much fun. And Michael Keaton as the Vulture, man. He stole the movie for me. He was so good.
Paul: I think he did.
Jeff: He's so good. It's great to be able to see someone like that be able to cross genres like that. Because you know, we get to see him as Batman and then we get to see him as the Vulture. And it's a lot of fun.
So something like that, let's talk a little about something like that. Because you've done some stuff, sculpting for specific movie and television releases. In fact, I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, you did something recently with Game of Thrones.
Paul: I did the little magnets of the sigils.
Jeff: And those were released with the Blu Rays, correct?
Paul: Those were released with the steel books, which are fun for collectors.
Jeff: Right. So how does a job like that come across your table? Are you getting contacted directly from those properties? Like is Marvel Entertainment [crosstalk 00:35:38]. Or is it more of the Blu Ray purveyor?
Paul: Well she sent me the king's hand. And I couldn't say no.
Jeff: Of course not. Of course not.
Paul: No for that, there was an intermediary. So it was a licensee. A small company called Snap Creative and they do a lot of the Blu Ray stuff.
Jeff: Oh cool.
Paul: And it was actually the same company I did the Game of Thrones stuff for that I did the Spiderman statue.
Jeff: Oh very, very cool. We haven't even touched on this and this is near and dear to my heart and I've just got to ask. Because I know you've worked with this property a lot, we're very excited because next month it's coming out, let's talk Star Wars a little bit. Can we talk Star Wars a little bit?
Paul: Can we?
Jeff: You've gotten to do some incredible stuff for Star Wars throughout your career, which is really fun.
Dustin: How much did you like Star Wars as a kid?
Paul: I liked all of it forever.
Dustin: How do you like it now?
Paul: I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it.
Dustin: How do you feel about Disney taking on Star Wars.
Paul: Well I figured they didn't break the Muppet's when they bought the Muppet's. And I was a Muppet's fan and I still am. So they know to leave things alone.
Jeff: Right. They just help fuel it down the road.
Paul: They got deep pockets and we have, for the next 10 years, we have Star Wars moving coming out every single year for 10 years.
Jeff: I'm so excited.
Dustin: Yeah that's really cool.
Jeff: So is there anything Paul Harding related Star Wars wise coming around?
Paul: Well there's stuff I can't talk about.
Dustin: Awesome. Talk about it. Let's talk about it. Roll them dice.
Paul: No, I have things that I can talk about.
Paul: Related to the movie is a Halloween mask and that's the only thing I can talk about.
Jeff: Oh cool.
Paul: So he's one of the specialty storm troopers.
Jeff: Oh neat.
Paul: That we'll see. And I think he was revealed. So I can't talk a lot about it. But I tend to do Star Wars stuff that is extended universe and stuff that's based on the previous movies.
Jeff: Yes. As a huge fan of Star Wars, what is your most favorite thing you've gotten to sculpt?
Paul: It would probably have to be the Darth Reevan statue. That was about a nine inch statue I did for gentle giant and I do a lot of Star Wars stuff and stuff I can't talk about.
Jeff: Right. But the Reevan we can show you.
Paul: Right. We can show that Darth Reevan. And that was a fun project because I'm friends with the guy who originally designed it.
Jeff: Oh cool.
Paul: For his video game company, John Gallagher designed it about 15 years ago.
Paul: So that was kind of cool to be able to sculpt something that he designed so long ago.
Jeff: That's so awesome.
Paul: And it's one of those characters that doesn't really have a specific movie likeness yet. So you can kind of go do what you want.
Jeff: That's a lot of fun. On that question, is there any character from the Star Wars universe that you haven't been able to sculpt yet that's high on your list of, oh man I want to do that?
Paul: Well, I don't know if you're a Bobba Fet fan.
Jeff: Yeah, I don't know either. I've never heard of him.
Paul: Yeah, I guess not.
Jeff: And you've never gotten to do Bobba?
Paul: Never did Bobba. I was asked to do Bobba once and I couldn't do it. I sort of turned it down.
Dustin: Just a timeline issue?
Paul: Yeah. It was a deadline issue, mostly.
Dustin: Rough man.
Paul: But I wouldn't say he's a fun character to sculpt.
Jeff: There's a lot to it.
Paul: Yeah. There's no wiggle room at all. People know every inch of that character.
Jeff: Every single inch.
Paul: And really, if it's not armor, he's really just wearing wrinkly clothing.
Jeff: Yeah, which isn't fun. You want to do him in the armor, obviously.
Dustin: That's the only reason why we actually love Bobba Fet. Let's be real here.
Paul: The wrinkles?
Jeff: Hey, I'm a huge Bobba Fet fan. I'll be the first to say he is one of the weakest characters in the entire franchise. He is. He shows up on screen very, very, very short. He dies stupidly.
Paul: He will have his revenge.
Jeff: Of course he will.
Dustin: Jeff, we're not allowed to be this controversial on this podcast.
Paul: I know.
Dustin: You're going to piss so many people off saying that.
Paul: Look, the hate mail's coming in.
Jeff: Here it comes. So let's ask the question that we ask every single time that we have somebody on this show. And it's something that I'm very interested to hear your answer to because you've had quite a career and you've been able to keep that career fresh and new, take the jobs you want, really kind of get out there, do what you want to do to the point where you're now even creating a graphic novel. What fuels you to keep doing what you do? What fuels you to keep that creativity heightened and not just want to be throwing in the towel and I'm done?
Paul: Three things, I would have to say. Fresh art from other people.
Paul: Yeah, inspiration. The second thing would be money. And the third thing is coffee. And that's real.
Dustin: How much coffee do you drink?
Paul: I drink two to three cups in the morning.
Dustin: Oh my God. Is that it? You're done for the rest of the day?
Paul: I have to be done. Occasionally I'll have tea at around three.
Jeff: Yeah. How British of you.
Paul: I like to stick to my roots.
Jeff: But I mean, that seems to be a very succinct way of putting it. Because, I think that, and we just talked to somebody, actually, recently on the podcast that was saying kind of in the same vein, when it gets not fun, when the creativity's not there is when I will hang it up. And I think being able to draw inspiration not from just what you're doing and being able to create something and being inspired to continue down that road. But the creative world at large, I think that's very commendable, you know? And that's cool that that lights a fire under you when you see something awesome.
Paul: It's the only thing that keeps me going. I mean, it's hard to describe how an artist feels. People might laugh at that, but it's true. If you're not creating, as an artist, you feel like you're wasting away. And it's really tough to balance that feeling. Really, really. Because you can have dark spots.
Paul: If you're not creating or feel like you're inspired, it feels like a slippery slope.
Paul: Yeah. So I don't like feeling that way so I try not to. And that's creativity and working fends those evils off.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dustin: It's so strange how that works. Just kind of like, and it doesn't even have to be an artistic thing. If you have something that you're particularly good at or something that particularly motivates you and if you don't use that, it'll turn on you. It's strange. What is it that is turning on you?
Paul: It's a great question. I think part of it is the artists' addiction to feeling good when they're creating. So when you take that away, I think that's part of it.
Paul: But also, the act of creating is something that is almost exclusively human.
Dustin: Yep, we talked about this recently.
Paul: I mean all humans and animals, basically, you procreate, that's one of the things you do. And you have the instinct to survive. That's it. Everything else you see when you open your eyes is art.
Paul: So you look around the room, that stool was designed. That couch was designed. That tripod was designed. So it's there. It's everywhere.
Dustin: Yeah. Which, none of these things existed until somebody thought of it first. Until somebody created it in their mind and then physically made something in the world that never exited before. And I think that's, like I said, Jeff and I were just talking about this, that's the most amazing thing about being human is being able to be our own gods in our own little universes, just making our own little creations.
Paul: Yeah. I mean, only in the past one or 200 years, I think, we've been able to evolve away from just having babies and hunting our food.
Dustin: But even then we were making cave paintings.
Paul: Well there was always creativity but look at us now. We can sit around, essentially, and drink coffee and create and email stuff. And we get paid.
Dustin: A lot of things a person can do when they stop getting chased by a tiger.
Paul: Right. Exactly. And I like to think about things like that to keep life in perspective.
Dustin: It's almost like a gratefulness that we get to live in sedated, is not maybe the right word, because we find ... I mean, I guess creation makes up for the sedation of the society that we live in now.
Paul: Right, exactly. And that leads us to virtual and augmented reality. And we're not getting into that right now.
Jeff: No. We don't need to go there.
Dustin: Quick question, how much are you getting into that right now?
Paul: I will be getting into that.
Dustin: I bet. Because all that is is you're 3D designing, which is what you do. Awesome. That's right up your alley.
Paul: Yeah. So that is ...
Jeff: I love the future.
Paul: Exactly. We can get even lost further lost into that rabbit hole.
Jeff: Oh so cool. So cool.
Dustin: There is one thing that I wanted to bring up that we haven't brought up yet.
Jeff: All right.
Dustin: That I absolutely love is your, do you call it a podcast? Do you call it a show?
Jeff: Oh my gosh. We didn't even bring this up. You're right.
Dustin: That's what I'm saying.
Jeff: Future Cyborg. Let's end on this, please.
Dustin: If you haven't seen ... Listen people if you hear my voice right now.
Jeff: Yeah, I'll put some of this up.
Dustin: Stop what you're doing and watch an episode of Future Cyborg. And then come right back and go.
Jeff: I almost forgot to bring this up honestly because I have to separate ...
Dustin: You're a different person.
Jeff: The Paul Harding I know and love, my buddy here, to your persona on Future Cyborg. So yeah, let's talk a little bit. How did this come to be? Why did you want to do this type of thing?
Dustin: Wait. You've got to go back. Tell us what Future Cyborg is, please.
Paul: Let's start with the URL. It's thefuturecyborg.com.
Jeff: There you go.
Paul: That's all you need to know. It's extremely awkward, you might feel embarrassed when you go there. But give it a chance. Just give it a chance, watch the videos. So the question was, how did I come up with it?
Jeff: Yeah. Where was this idea born from? Like, oh I'm going to do this.
Paul: Yeah. Well, the initial seed of the idea came from me being a toy collector my whole life. I've recently slowed down. I don't collect toys much anymore but I did when I was a kid. And I kind of wanted to feel that again. Growing up in the 80s, as you know, that was the jam.
Dustin: Toys were the jam.
Paul: Yeah, without a doubt. And that was there. And then we had this friend, Darren, who was a great guy.
Jeff: Yes he was.
Paul: He was the best. And he would have loved this idea and I knew that. And after he passed away, the idea just started to build up. And what we do on the show is it's a 1980s show that takes place in the 1980s. We're super nerdy and basically it's a product review show like you see on YouTube. But we're reviewing action figures. And you can see all kinds of action figure reviews on YouTube but this is different because it's parody, it's comedy.
Paul: And we take beautiful, expensive, gorgeous, vintage 1980s toys and we tear them open.
Jeff: The comments on YouTube are crazy. People lose their minds when you rip open the packaging, like how could you do that?
Paul: Yep. Yep. And I knew my buddy Darren would have loved it.
Jeff: Oh my God.
Paul: So I took that and I said I'm doing this no matter what. And my second thought was to contact one of my best buddies, Joe, who has done a toy podcast in the past.
Dustin: Shout out to Joe Nub.
Paul: Joe Nub, great dude. He is the other half.
Jeff: Yeah, the one half of Future Cyborg.
Dustin: And it literally looks like you just popped in a VHS tape and everything's all scratchy and the filter's perfect. And what are you? In your mom's basement?
Paul: Yeah, well, I'm actually in my own basement. But in the show, yeah. I'm in the basement.
Jeff: And that has to be a shout out to your editor. Because, I mean, oh my gosh.
Paul: Oh yeah. Without Kana, who is also my wife ...
Jeff: I was going to say, you should marry your editor.
Paul: I'm gonna. I'm totally gonna.
Jeff: I mean, the feel, the look of this show is just incredible.
Dustin: The music, you can even hear the music waver.
Paul: Oh yeah. And the show would be nothing without her because she adds all of the 80s sensibilities. And we talk about it constantly. She does some great visual effects and then I have to reel her back like no baby. Take it down a notch, make it bad. And you mentioned the music because the music is a fantasy of what the 80s were. And we're going to blow this out more and more.
Jeff: Right. But I mean, okay. So the music is a fantasy of what the 80s were, made by someone who's not even born anywhere close to the 80s.
Paul: Yeah right. Exactly.
Jeff: Which is crazy.
Paul: Exactly. My son, who goes by the name Dr. Fluorescent.
Jeff: Dr. Fluorescent.
Dustin: I didn't know this. Now I'm learning something new.
Paul: Well, he's 12 years old and he's, what would you call him?
Jeff: A savant? I don't even know. He's nailing 80s music better than people in the 80s were nailing 80s music.
Dustin: Are you giving examples or is this just what he's ...
Paul: Oh we study and we talk about it and we listen to music all the time.
Dustin: Oh that's cool.
Paul: I play a lot of bad music for him too so he understands.
Jeff: Good because there's a ton of bad music in the 80s.
Paul: Right. But he's 12 but he's been studying jazz improv for about seven years. So picture that. And he's got one of the best keyboard teachers around, Dustin Delouk, who's the man. So yeah, Grant, my son, he does the music for the show, Future Cyborg. And it's amazing. Because he's got perfect pitch.
Jeff: Follow Dr. Fluorescent. Follow him.
Dustin: That's amazing. I did not know who created the music. That's such a cool surprise.
Paul: And we're releasing the album.
Jeff: Oh my gosh. Really?
Paul: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Jeff: You heard it here first. They're going to release the album, that's amazing. We need to push that. That is so cool.
Paul: And if you get lucky, it'll be on vinyl too.
Jeff: Oh my gosh. I can't wait for that.
Dustin: That's a good idea. Or you can get it on eight track.
Paul: Possibly. We're gonna have to find an eight track player.
Jeff: First season of Future Cyborg is out now on YouTube.
Dustin: How many episodes?
Jeff: There are six episodes. And it starts to go a little dark at the end because special guest star and friend of this show, he was actually on another episode as well, Steve Orlando makes an appearance and really screws up a lot of stuff. So you have to watch the whole season to really get the whole gist of it. It's pretty crazy. I'm so happy that you guys are doing something like that.
Dustin: Does it hurt to tear open some of those packages?
Dustin: You really tear into them.
Paul: It hurts Joe. But I acquire all of the examples of the toys and the packages. And then on the show I ask Joe to open them.
Paul: Because I know he cringes. It's so funny. So we love it. We love it. Thefuturecyborg.com.
Jeff: So outside of the Future Cyborg, outside of Beast of the Black Hand, where can people follow you specifically on social media?
Paul: Well I'm Harding Studios on Instagram, Harding Art on Twitter. And Paul Harding Studios on Facebook.
Jeff: There you go and that way you can follow all the cool stuff that Paul's coming out with all the time, including you do a lot of the Con circuit now too. I know this year you've made it out to San Diego and to New York City and a couple of other, a handful of other conventions too so you can find out where Paul's gonna be and actually even meet him. Which is a lot of fun when I get to see you at conventions. And we'll be doing that again next year, for sure.
Paul: Oh yeah.
Jeff: Thank you so much for sitting down and talking with us. This was a lot of fun.
Dustin: Yeah, man. Thank you. This was a lot of fun.
Paul: I missed your faces.
Dustin: Aww. Cheers.