Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: 'Capturing Archetypes: Twenty Years of Sideshow Collectibles Art'


Sideshow Collectibles are strangely multifaceted for models of characters from comics and genre movies. Sure, they’re basically scaled down representations of Darth Vader and Batman and the Alien and Bride of Frankenstein and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, progeny of the Aurora models adored by the monster kids of the fifties and sixties. But they are also exemplars of how seriously the geeks of today take their obsessions. The jocks can have their cheap plastic football trophies. Sideshow Collectibles are lovingly, intricately sculpted from assorted materials—resin, polystone, real cloth and leather, fiberglass. They may depict the icons of alleged low culture, but they are genuine art pieces, and they’re affixed with big art piece price tags, which also yokes them with the dubious distinction of being status symbols too (as of this writing, the most inexpensive item on Sideshow’s official site is a $69.99 vinyl doll of a character that looks like a licorice jelly bean called Dolly Colorway; the most expensive are lifesize busts of similar looking guys called War Machine and Iron Patriot, both running $8999.99). This means that they are only available to the wealthiest nerds, guys like Guillermo Del Toro, who pens the introduction to the new coffee table tribute Capturing Archetypes: Twenty Years of Sideshow Collectibles Art. This book is a far more economical way to collect these pieces than actually collecting them.

Del Toro offhandedly but insightfully mentions the “fetishistic” impulses of the collector, and Capturing Archetypes is nothing if not fetishistic. Instead of depicting the sculptures in flat full view, the book presents them in alluring shadows, lighting, and smoke, often zooming in on a particular feature or contour. There is an unabashed gaze on body parts, most obviously in the leering sculptures and photographs of curvaceous female characters, such as Catwoman, Molotov Cocktease, Lady Death, Vampira, Elvira, and Jessica Rabbit—who actually receives her own centerfold!—but also the absurd, veiny musculature of male characters like Dare Devil, the Hulk, and even Darth Maul. Capturing Geek Porn might have been a more accurate title for this book, but only the most blinkered critic would deny the true artistry of the pieces it depicts. And besides, Psychobabble Reader, whose body would you rather ogle: David’s or Boba Fett’s?

That’s what I thought.

Get Capturing Archetypes: Twenty Years of Sideshow Collectibles Art on Amazon.com here:


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