Joshua Reynolds: How long have you been sculpting these obscure kaiju?
Alex Merdich: I made what I consider to be my first official sculpture in 2008. I made the Kaiju, Bagan, as he appeared in the SNES video game, Super Godzilla.
Reynolds: What inspired you to start work on your sculptures from the video games?
Merdich: I have been a fan and collector of Godzilla since the age of 4. Over the years, I have accumulated many figures of Godzilla and his friends and foes. I wanted to sculpt Kaiju that I did not already have sitting on my shelves. That’s when I decided to create the video game monsters like Bagan, Super Godzilla, Krystalak and Obsidius.
Of course, obscure Kaiju can be found outside video games as well. I have sculpted Godzilla as he appeared in Hanna Barbera’s Godzilla cartoon series along with Godzooky. I also sculpted the Wolfman from Shizuo Nakajima’s film, Legendary Giant Beast Wolfman vs. Godzilla.
Reynolds: Was there something specific that made you want to do a figure for the Legendary Beast Wolfman?
Merdich: Years ago, I remember seeing a picture of Godzilla battling this Wolfman, but, knew very little about the actual film. In fact, many internet sources were saying it was just a short 10 minute film. Regardless, I thought the Wolfman design was very cool and the Godzilla suit was impressive and accurate to the original suit! In 2012, I met Mark Jaramillo and found out there was so much more to this film. It is a full length film made by Shizuo Nakajima and other crew members that worked for Toho. While not officially a Toho film, it practically is, considering the staff behind it and the quality of work put into it. Every year at G-Fest, myself and many other G-fans look forward to seeing new footage from the movie. With so many followers of this film out there, I wanted to give fans the opportunity to own a figure of the Legendary Wolfman for their collections.
Reynolds: Do you have any favorites amongst your sculpts?
Merdich: My favorite sculpture would be my 14” tall Stan Winston Godzilla (pictured below). This is the design that would have been used in the 1994 TriStar film had it been made. I was a big fan of that design and wanted to sculpt him in a dynamic pose. The original Marquette was built for design presentation rather than conveying him in action. I’m also very happy with my sculpture of the Hanna Barbera Godzilla and the Legendary Wolfman sculpt that I have casted into figures.
Reynolds: I recall Shizuo Nakajima has both seen and approved of your Legendary Beast Wolfman figures from his film. Can you go into detail about his response?
Merdich: I was honored to meet Mr. Nakajima at G-Fest in 2013. Since then, we have corresponded through Facebook. I made a one of a kind sculpture for him of his Wolfman and also made busts and chibi versions for the Kaiju Gaiden Kickstarter. As I mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of his film. Every year at G-Fest, I can see at Mark Jaramillo’s presentation panels that I’m not the only person that loves Legendary Giant Beast Wolfman vs. Godzilla. So, I wanted to release a figure of the Legendary Wolfman to the fans that was not tied to the Kickstarter and also an accurate representation of his screen appearance. I made the original sculpt prototype and sent Mr. Nakajima a photo of it. I asked his opinion on making multiples so fans had the opportunity to own his creation. He was very pleased with the sculpture and gave his blessing on producing more for the fans. I was so thrilled and honored that he approved the idea. Each Legendary Wolfman I make has a number written underneath the foot to indicate how far into production it is. I sent the very first one to Mr. Nakajima.
Reynolds: Do you know if any others have seen your creations, such as Pipeworks’ personnel or anyone at Toho and what their responses were if they have?
Merdich: I’ve met Simon Strange of Pipeworks at G-Fest when he has brought Colossal Kaiju Combat for presentation. He has stopped by my table and saw the sculptures of Krystalak and Obsidius. I’ve met many other directors, actors, and sculptors from Toho thanks to my trips to G-Fest and many have seen my sculptures. The list of those from Toho that I have met is very long, and I have only had positive reactions to my work. As an artist, it is honor to have my work viewed by those involved with the actual movies.
Reynolds: Do you have any personal favorite stories to tell about those behind these iconic films seeing your work in person?
Merdich: There are a couple personal favorite experiences that come to mind. I made a bust of Godzilla 1954 for actor Akira Takarada to autograph. When I told him I sculpted this, he studied it very closely and finally said “It’s perfect” which absolutely made my day! Another favorite was meeting director Koichi Kawakita in 2014. I made a bust of Heisei Godzilla rising from the water for him to autograph. He really liked the sculpture and studied it closely. At one point, he held it up to my face with a big smile. I was afraid the bust was going to slide off the base since it was not attached! He was a very nice man, and I was sad to hear about his passing. I grew up watching the Heisei Godzilla films every year at Christmas as they came out. I loved those movies. It was such an honor to meet him.
Also, I must mention Master sculptor Hiroshi Sagae (above) who has attended three of the G-Fests I have been to. I really look up to him and it is always great talking to him about sculpting. I have learned so many great sculpting techniques through his advice. It humbles me that he always takes the time to view my work and give advice – especially when I was just starting out as a new sculptor.
Reynolds: Do you have any plans for other obscure kaiju that often don’t see highly detailed sculptures, such as ones from comics and the cartoons?
Merdich: It is interesting you bring up the comics - I would love to do a sculpture of Marvel comic's Godzilla. He has a unique design that I have never seen as a three dimensional figure. I would also like to sculpt the Gryphon that Stan Winston designed to battle Godzilla in the unmade 1994 Tristar film.
Reynolds: In general, how long does it usually take to finish just one of your works?
Merdich: There is no one answer to this question. It varies depending on the complexity and size of the monster I am sculpting. When making a bust where the focus is just the head, I can sculpt something like that in a week. When building a full body figure, in which I am focusing on anatomy as well as overall body details - that can take a month to 6 weeks. Naturally, when I am able to cast a piece from a mold, I can produce duplicates at a much quicker rate. I am very glad Mr. Nakajima has allowed me to make duplicates of his Wolfman. I have also met Shinpei Hayashiya at G-Fest, the director of Gamera 4 and Deep Sea Monster Raiga, and he has allowed me to make figures of his creations, Raiga and Ohga.
"(Left) Shizuo Nakajima with my one of a kind Wolfman sculpture. (Right) Director Shinpei Hayashiya with a chibi version of Ohga and Raiga that I sculpted and cast as figures." -Alex Merdich
While it is great to be able to cast figures for the sake of speed, I have to be aware of making it in a way that will not cause problems in the mold process. Thus, I am somewhat restrained in the amount of detail I put into the piece. I love doing one-of-a-kind sculptures, as I am able to put in much more complicated details.
Reynolds: What materials do you usually use when making your sculptures?
Merdich: I always use Super Sculpey to make the original sculpt. I build a wire frame skeleton and use foil to build up the bulk before applying the sculpey. As for my cast figures, they are made of resin. Regardless of resin or sculpey, I airbrush and hand paint them using acrylic paints.
Reynolds: Do you have any stories of ideas/work that has gone wrong and that you learned from?
Merdich: Sometimes I have been too dramatic with a pose of a monster that will make the sculpture unstable. I am thankful though that these mistakes are usually able to be caught early in the process to be corrected, so no loss of material. With practice and trial and error, I have become very aware of my limits on what I can do with a sculpture.
Reynolds: Has there been any push to get you into any of the big name companies such as NECA, X-Plus or Bandai to do licensed figures?
Merdich: My focus has been on growing my own business. I would like to look into the details of getting a Godzilla license for myself someday. I do not know if anyone from NECA, X-Plus, or Bandai has seen any of my work. However, it would be an honor to do work for any of them if they would ask.
Reynolds: What was your main inspiration behind doing the Godzilla: Daikaiju Battle Royale game and what can we look forward to now that we have Toho continuing with films and the Legendary-verse going strong?
Merdich: I was a big fan of the video game Godzilla: Monster of Monsters! for the NES when I was young. I started out with the idea in mind of making a sequel to the original game. However, I ended up focusing more on the fighting game aspect and expanded the roster greatly to what I originally had in mind. It became its own game and the name changed from Godzilla Monster of Monster 2 to Godzilla Daikaiju Battle Royale. However, the NES game inspiration is why the combat system seems very similar to the old game. I also wanted to make a Godzilla game that accurately captured the monsters as they appeared in the films, including the beam colors, sound effects, and personalities. As a child, I was a very detail oriented artist, and it drove me crazy when a video game character did not accurately portray the movie incarnation! So really, the game is a labor of love. In the future, I plan to add Shin Godzilla into the game’s roster.
"Hanna Barbera Godzilla [...] Got the base signed by Hanna Barbera artist Tom Cook." -Alex Merdich
In the time periods between new movies, I want to improve old characters and add in missing monsters from the past movies as well. As an artist, I am constantly seeing new ways to improve previous characters I have made, so it is not uncommon for me to redo one of my game characters. The game will never be complete in my mind as I am always seeing ways to improve it. This is a free fan-made game for anyone to play. My reward is the wonderful response from the fans who enjoy and play it. I am always open to suggestions as to what fans would like to see in the game.
Godzilla Daikaiju Battle Royale can be played at: www.awmstudioproductions.com/gdbr.html
Reynolds: How long have you been a Godzilla fan and what has been your favorite film thus far?
Merdich: I’ve been a Godzilla fan for about 25 years. The first movie I saw was Son of Godzilla (1967). I instantly liked the big guy and even Minya despite what other fans may think of him. As for picking a favorite film, that’s a tough decision. I do love the original Godzilla (Gojira) from 1954. Great story, rich with symbolism, it truly is a masterpiece. I would say it is the best Godzilla film, however it’s not the movie I personally pull out to watch on a regular basis. My personal favorite movie would be Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991). While I know some criticize the time travel parts of this movie, I feel that if you can look beyond that element, this movie sums up the essence of what Godzilla is all about.
"Me with Akira Takarada (left) and Koichi Kawakita (right)." -Alex Merdich
As amazing as the original 1954 film is, his character has evolved into so much more than what was seen in the first movie. We never see the heroic or fighter side of Godzilla in the original film. In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), you see a little bit of everything. Godzilla can be either a hero or villain depending on the film. In this movie, he actually plays both. The 1954 film’s ending is rather final, with only verbally expressed concerns of another Godzilla. The final scene in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) is a more accurate reality in that Godzilla will always rise again. I am sure there is a lot of nostalgia guiding my choice of favorite film as well, but I think it features a nice summary of Godzilla’s overall character too.
Reynolds: Your thoughts on the newest films (Godzilla (2014) and Godzilla Resurgence (2016))?
Merdich: I really enjoyed both of the films. I would have liked to have seen more Godzilla scenes - a common wish that many other fans share. However, I do realize there are time constraints and budget for creating those scenes as well. My solution would have been to make both movies shorter by being more concise on the human scenes, but keep Godzilla’s screen time the same. In my opinion, Godzilla Resurgence (2016) did a better job of spreading out the Godzilla scenes throughout the movie. I was not a fan of Gareth Edward’s approach of cutting away from scenes and saving everything for the very end. I was not surprised that Legendary’s Godzilla (2014) was all CGI, but I do miss the suits and the actual physical sets seen in Toho’s film. As a sculptor, I personally like seeing the suits and all the miniature work in the cities. While CGI is cool and certainly has its place, I love the craftsmanship involved in making the older films and actually seeing something physically there on screen.
Reynolds: Do you have any previews you’d like to show or tell us about involving your next work?
Merdich: For Godzilla Daikaiju Battle Royale I would like to reveal the next character I am currently upgrading in the game. It is Monster X and Keizer Ghidorah. While they were in the game previously, I have made completely new models for both of them. They will have improved animations and new attacks.
Reynolds: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring artists to eventually reach your level of quality and craftsmanship?
Merdich: First I would like to thank you for the compliment! I would advise any aspiring artist to honestly ask themselves if they find working on their art to be fun or does it feels like work? If it feels like work, this may not be the career for you. I put many hours into my art every day, but it does not feel like work to me. I love it! I knew at a very young age that this is what I was driven to do. My advice to becoming a better artist is to practice every day. Not just an hour or two, but serious dedicated time. School is great for learning generalities of art, but to truly hone your skill, nothing beats putting in the time to practice your skill every day. For me personally, there is always something new to learn. When I look at my past work, I am always finding things I might have done differently. I am excited to see with some more experience, trial and error, what I might be able to accomplish one day.
I really enjoyed doing this interview with you Joshua. If anyone would like to learn more about my work, they can visit my portfolio website at www.awmstudioproductions.com or contact me at email@example.com
Alex Merdich is a rather renowned fan and kaiju sculptor among the Godzilla and kaiju fandom. His work can often be seen on display on Facebook pages and his deviantArt, while even more can be seen on his personal website. Some of his sculptures have been both seen and approved of by those behind the Godzilla films while his work on Bagan, Obsidius and Krystalak have seen use in Toho Kingdom’s K.W.C. banners. Alex has also designed and continuously updated the highly popular 2D Godzilla: Daikaiju Battle Royale fighting game for the PC.
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