Hey, gang- it’s MASK MONDAY!
Since we’re all having to mask up these days, I thought I’d show you the resin mask I made for my wife Nicki. It was one of my art projects while staying home from work due to the pandemic. I don’t recommend wearing this mask, but it looks cool sitting next to a computer or hanging on a wall in a Fangirl Room like my wife’s.
My wife Nicki is a huge fan of Barbara Gordon, Oracle, and the Birds Of Prey. She can school me on comics any day of the week (and does).
She’s got a nice collection of comics, toys, collectible statues, dolls, and even some original sketches and comic book art.
Speaking of my wife and original art, when we first started dating I showed her this Batman/Oracle page I owned that was drawn by our local artist friend Dean Zachary. She really dug it and said that if we were ever married she got it. Well, we did, and she got possession of that page along with some of my collectibles on upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas. She later said I was trying to expand out of my Batcave studio and take over her room down the hall. Completely untrue- I knew how much she loved the women of DC Comics, and well- my Batcave is only 10’x10′, so…well, they had to go somewhere.
She also has a sketch by Batgirl’s legendary co-creator Carmine Infantino who we met in Metropolis, IL in 2010 at the annual Superman Celebration. Batgirl made her first comic book appearance as Batgirl in Detective Comics #359 – The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl! back in January 1967, and appeared shortly after in the Batman TV series and portrayed by Yvonne Craig (Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin) Batgirl’s other co-creators include the Batman television show’s producer William Dozier, DC editor Julius Schwartz, and writer Gardner Fox.
Hey, is it just me our did Carmine look happier to see Nicki than me..? Don’t blame him- she is my better half.
Carmine was the co-creator of the silver age Flash, Elongated Man, Deadman, and many other characters, and had long runs as artist on many titles including The Flash and the Marvel Star Wars comics, Spider-Woman and some issues of one of my favorites- Nova. He first visited Metropolis back in the early ’70s when it became the official home town of Superman. He was DC’s publisher at the time, and if you can find a copy you can read about that ceremony in the 1973 “The Amazing World Of Superman: Metropolis Edition” Treasury sized comic- along with the proposed Superman theme park in Metropolis. Unfortunately plans for it died around 1974 and it never was built, but it did feature a giant Superman statue which did happen later in the town.
Sadly, Carmine passed away on April 4, 2013, at the age of 87. He did live a long life and had an amazing and influential career in comics.
Now we return you to our discussion of the history of Oracle…
Barbara Gordon was originally Batgirl, but due to a situation caused by a certain story in a 1988 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland (that we tend not to speak of in this house) she became paralyzed after (spoilers) being shot and sexually assault by the Joker.
My wife is not a fan of that story, and I’m honestly surprised she kept dating me after I suggested it to her- much less marry me! After reading the story she wasn’t happy, but she figured that- hey, it’s comics and people in comics always get better. Besides, that story was supposed to be more of an Elseworlds tale than canon. Nicki was a fan of Yvonne’s Batgirl on TV and had read comics growing up, but hadn’t been into them as much as an adult- although that had been changing. She started researching, and looking, and reading, and reading, and reading and found out- nope, she hadn’t miraculously gotten better.
Barbara was still in a wheelchair from the brutal attack, but was now this mysterious baddass calling herself “Oracle“. We have writers (the late) Kim Yale and her husband John Ostrander to thank for Barbara’s new identity.
You see, Kim wasn’t happy about how Barbara had been treated either and wanted to do something about it. She and John were fans of the character and thought she deserved better than just lying in a hospital bed or completely forgotten.
So they did something about it, and other writers like Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone continued to tell Barbara’s story as well. She had this new life in comics as Oracle– an online tech wizard and strategist, who has become a real role model for many in our world.
Oh, and just because Barbara was in a wheelchair didn’t mean she forgot how to be a fighter. Don’t let that fool ya one bit.
She adapted her fighting style and trained to still be a formidable opponent- one both in person and online. Readers did’t find handles for pushing on her chair, but some her enemies who underestimated her found out that those armrests can be pretty deadly- plus she had her batarangs and some escrima sticks..! Now, I honestly didn’t keep up with the DC Comics universe after the New 52 and Barbara getting out of the chair, or never ever being in it. Also not really up on all of DC’s recent business happenings. My wife is much more up on Bab’s history and recent comics than I am. She’s had to answer several questions of mine- I’m so out of touch when it comes to comics continuity and the industry itself.
Oh, that’s John with Nicki and our friends on the left and with the late Noel Neil/Lois Lane on the right- both pics taken in at the Metropolis Superman Celebration. Nicki and “Uncle John” got to have a great chat while riding in her truck during the Celebration. She was totally geeking out over getting to spend some one on one time with a favorite comics writer of hers. She loves his work on Suicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy and is a big fan of Kim’s as well. They had a lot to talk about.
Here’s John again in Metropolis that trip with his current wife Mary Mitchell (who’s a heck of an artist), writer-extraordinaire Gail Simone, actors Justin Hartley and Phil Morris, and some blogger/artist/fanboy. We not only immediately became friends when we met John, Mary, and Gail (and her hubby Scott)- but they felt like old friends as well. Really miss seeing them at shows these days. Hope our paths cross again, but we still get to see them online. They say don’t ever meet your heroes, but these folks all proved that rule isn’t always true. Oh, found out that Phil is a big comics fan and has a huge collection at home.
Like Batgirl’s costume and the look of most other comic heroes and villains, the Oracle mask has looked different over the years since it was introduced. It has been illustrated as a physical mask, a desktop image and online persona, as well as being a logo on the top of her laptop. Depends on the story and artists.
Sometimes it’s a simple graphic/2D type of logo, sometimes it’s 3 dimensional, sometimes its features are angular and sometimes more softer and human looking, sometimes it’s reversed out, sometimes it glows and sometimes not- but I’ve almost always seen it as a light neon green.
In whatever form it appears in it is very iconic and recognizable to comic fans.
To make a physical Oracle mask for Nicki I started off with some plastic wrap around a styrofoam wig stand and then mixed up equal parts of Magic-Sculpt resin and hardener. (You can find it online from a few different suppliers.)
I worked in the Batcave and smoothed the 2-part resin into shape over the wig head form- working in thin layers, building the shape of the face up, and smoothing the clay-like resin with my fingers and some water. Once I got it rough shaped and it had hardened I pulled it off the wig stand and headed out to the back patio. The weather was great and I sanded the heck out of it with a small electric sander, sanding block, and some finer sheets of sandpaper. I recommend doing the sanding outside, as well as wearing an apron or old clothes and a mask or respirator. That dust gets everywhere. I didn’t worry too much about the back/inside of the mask, just the front and back edges.
When I work with Magic-Sculpt I like to work on a couple projects (or more) at a time so I don’t waste any. I only have about 30min or more after mixing before it gets too hard to shape by hand, and it’s nice to have something else to work on if I have any extra mixed.
Once cured this stuff is as hard as a rock, but can be carved on, sanded down, added to, or drawn on and/or painted. It’s not super expensive, but hey- waste not, want not.
When I had the shape of the mask smooth and symmetrical I sketched out the face details in pencil, and then filled those in with black Sharpie marker.
I used an X-acto knife to carefully carve the design and then used a few dental tools to gently remove the parts I wanted recessed and smoothed out. I bought them at a local flea market years ago.
If I goofed while carving with them I could just mix up more resin and fill in my mistakes. Luckily I didn’t have any catastrophes.
I washed the carved mask really good with soap and water, let it dry, and then sprayed the whole mask with neon green spray paint/primer. It took a few coats and I found a few areas that needed a bit more sanding. So I sanded, rinsed, let dry, and then took it back outside to paint again until I got a coverage I was happy with.
Once the mask had set overnight to dry I painted the recessed areas dark green with a small paintbrush by spraying the darker paint in its cap and brushing by hand with the detail brush. Had a few “Oops..!” moments while using the paintbrush, so once the paint was dry I did some light sanding to remove mistakes. I then did a light sanding over the whole surface with the fine sandpaper, rinsed it, and let it sit overnight again. The mask had to be light sanded for the next step…
…spraying the whole thing with a glow-in-the-dark spray-paint. It took a few light coats of the glow paint but the effect worked!
Before I started I asked Nicki if she wanted a custom stand for it or if she wanted to hang it on the wall. She wanted the wall option so I added some eye hooks and picture hanging wire to the back of it. I’d say she’s happy with it. Now we still need to find a place to hang it in the Fangirl Room…
That’s it for this blog. Remember, public safety is the responsibility of every citizen- so mask up when you go out. Capes are optional, but I strongly recommend keeping some bat-hand-sanitizer in your utility belt, ol’ chum.