We’ve previously chatted with Neil “Blackbird” Sims, a key artist in the creation of the look of The77 anthology about his comics work, but this time out we’re focusing on his amazing work in sculpture, after he dropped some amazing Doctor Who-inspired work on social media as if no-one would notice!
Neil has been a professional artist for the past 25 years, working on many projects in many different mediums. With skill sets spanning both 2D and 3D, he’s very busy creating both comic strips for a variety of titles, with plans for many more…
Past projects have included a 10-year stint for the Laurel and Hardy Society, supplying sculptured character busts and figures for collectors. He also created sculptures of some of the characters from Lord of the Rings when the first movie the fellowship of the rings was in post-production, which were used to create high quality vinyl model kits.
The sculpts featured are not available commercially, although if there’s a company out there that’s interested…
How did your Doctor Who-inspired project come about?
Neil “Blackbird” Sims: It was approached as a fan of the show, I believed I had reached a level of sculpture where I could replicate in clay all the wonderful monsters and aliens that have appeared through the years.
Did the BBC bite, at all?
Neil: In short, no! Ha ha! I tried contacting them on a number of occasions, but all efforts returned fruitless results. We have to remember the BBC are a global corporation and I was just a guy working from my shed!
That’s a shame – but at least you tried! Which are your favourites?
Neil: My favourites is Eldrad, from The Hand of Fear, the female creature form, although it’s a more subtle work than some of the others, she took a lot more work to get the likeness correct in scale.
And which was the hardest to capture?
Neil: I’d say Michael Gough, as the Celestial Toymaker. He isn’t just a likeness, there was some very challenging patterns on his hat and sash which took a lot of time in clay.
When you do a sculpt like this, what’s the process? Do start with sketches to work out the character?
Neil: I didn’t make sketches as I was using photographic reference, I kind of used the clay as the sketch medium to get the scale right first, then just refined the sculpt till completion.
How long does it take to build a sculpt like this?
Neil: It differed, some just fell together as they were more basic creatures such as the Sensorite, but the Toymaker took a whole week of non stop work.
Does the process have you hurling materials across the room when it goes wrong?
Neil: Haha! No, Luckily for me, mistakes are part of the process, there’s no “ wrong” as clay can be replaced and further refined.
The one part of this Doctor Who process that did really bug me was the lack of a response from the IP holder! I did chuck a few things about during that!
Are there other characters you’ve sculpted that weren’t commissions that you wish had gained an audience? Or do you do these simply for the creative buzz?
Neil: It’s the creative reward first always, if something comes along that gains an audience that is great and makes me believe I’ve done my job properly – but I do them for me, initially.
You’ve been blowing folk away with some amazing designs… have you approached companies like Forbidden Planet about doing limited editions?
Neil: Ah Thank you The collectible industry has changed dramatically in my time, Most prototypes are sent away to be produced abroad, I’m a bit too much of a control freak to send a sculpt off to be painted by people I will never meet ,so it’s a no from me. I’d rather work on a one to one basis with a respectful commissioner.
What are you working on right now… and can we see it yet?
Neil: Well there is something I’m working on at the moment, I’ve recently been in touch with Rebellion, who own 2000AD and a project may arise soon. I think people are going to love.
It’s not what you might think though, it’s a more emotionally driven piece of art.
Neil, thanks for your time and sharing your work. Good luck with future projects!
• Check out more of Neil’s work in The77 – and on Facebook
• The77 Issue Five is available to order here from GetMyComics – with a main cover by Neil
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.