Many prototype collectors consider original sculptings as the single most desireable three-dimensional stage in the action figure developmental process. The intricate detail entrenched within a sculpting along with its sheer rarity lead collectors to this belief. By nature of the wax material, sculptings are extremely fragile and often suffer from minor to severe damage experienced during removal from the silicone molds (more on this in the next paragraph). Many original sculptings were melted down into raw wax for use on future projects after serving their primary function. Surviving sculptings used to create toys from the 80's are obviously extremely old, so improper storage conditions also play a part in additional breakage, chipping, and other degredation. Fortunately a scant few ex-Kenner employees, typically sculptors (but not always), exhibited great foresight and saved some original sculptings to serve as examples of their work.
Sculptings essentially serve as the single parent of every corresponding action figure produced world-wide. In many cases, a sculpting is the primary three-dimensional representation of the action figure. Some toy sculptors begin their project by producing a rough sculpting in clay, which may or may not be sculpted directly over a wire armature. Silicone molds are then created from the clay rough. The preliminary mold stag serves as a temorary tool for pouring a wax casting to which intricate detail is later added. Others bypass the clay rough/prelimary mold stage choosing to sculpt directly in wax from the onset of the project; it's essentially dependant on the individual sculptor's preference. Regardless of the chosen method, the final product is a "wax master"; the final sculpting used to create silicone molds to make hardcopies. These hardcopies eventually serve in unpainted form as tooling masters, a term used to describe a hardcopy utilized in the creation of the steel production tooling (molds). These expensive steel molds yield the production quality toys we all know and love. Additional hardcopies undergo hand painting to serve as paint masters, catalog photography samples (like this Mr. Freeze and Cyborg), and display samples for industry events such as Toy Fair.
Collectors will immediately notice this Kalibak sculpting looks completely different from the style ultimately chosen and approved for production. The exact reason for abandoning this rendition is unknown, however its plausible final approval was denied by DC Comics. Silicone molds were cast from this sculpting and corresponding hardcopies were poured and finished as evidenced by the unpainted hardcopy parts seen here and a fully painted hardcopy. My first exposure to this alternate Kalibak design in three-dimensional form came in the form of painted hardcopy photos submitted for the site by former Super Powers prototype collector Reinhold Longenbach in 2004. Three years later the sculpting and matching unpainted hardcopy parts surfaced from an ex-Kenner designer affording me the opportunity to add them to my collection.
The close-up head and torso photos covey the a portion of the ornate detail found in each sculpting part. The head differs exponentially from the final rendition, however the torso contains many similar details compared to the final approved form.
The arms share the intricate details present in the previously discussed components. Notice Kalibak's right arm incorporates a urethane sphere corresponding to the eventual ball joint, a critical portion of Kalibak's action feature, of that found in the production figure. A metal dowel protrudes from Kalibak's left arm. These metal dowels enable limb and head attachment to the torso, a shared characteristic of hardcopies. Typically flat, circular, milky off-white discs are incorporated into the arms and upper thighs although they are not incorporated into this sculpting. Similar disks are often incorporated into the corresponding limb attachment points of the torso as well.
By now you probably realize several components comprise a complete sculpting. Super Powers action figure sculptings actually feature more components, two more to be exact, than those from some other Kenner lines such as Star Wars, Ghostusters, and Silverhawks. The explanation for this fact resides in the jointed knees found on most Super Powers action figures, which resulted in the final legs being sculpted in two seperate sections: upper thigh and lower leg. Some of the figures started as early sculptings featuring non-jointed legs, but once sculpting and refinement was complete, the wax masters contained their appropriate two-piece legs. As mentioned earlier, the sculpt's main purpose in life is to generate the silicone molds used to produce hardcopies. Individual silicone molds are made for each compenent of the sculpting, so a total of 8 individual silicone molds (head, torso, left arm, right arm, left upper leg, left lower leg, right upper leg, and right lower leg) are necessary for a single Super Powers figure.
Both the original sculpting and matching unpainted hardcopy parts are shown together in the above photo. As I previously mentioned, both the sculpting and hardcopy parts surfaced together and remain together in my collection.
The sculpting and hardcopy head comparison convey that the silicone mold was created with the metal dowel still in place on the sculpting. As a result of it's presence, a corresponding cavity was created in the silicone mold. When the liquid urethane was poured, it travelled throughout the entire mold cavity resulting in a urethane peg.
The final two photos afford comparative views between the arm/leg sculptings and their hardcopy counterparts. The lower left leg comparison shows an interesting point. Take note of the conical shaped portion, sometimes referred to as a pour stem, protruding from the hardcopy's foot. The extraneous material found there corresponds to a point in the silicon lower leg mold, called a gate, where the liquid urethane is poured into the mold. Obviously this particular piece has not been finished by sanding down the pour stem.
Kalibak didn't enjoy "favorite figure" status with children in 1985 upon its release, nor does he with today's collectors. I recall encountering copious amounts of the figure on clearance at Toy Liquidators during the late 80's. Regardless, from a detail standpoint, the figure is quite impressive and I've been fortunate to build an extensive pre-production series representing many of the steps in the production process of the character.