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I met David Wilson at the local Capicons comic book convention earlier this month. Laid out in front of him were three tables of what I at first took to be superhero sculptures, but which turned out to be carefully made and painted models from kits. Wilson made many of the models for his own pleasure, but he also sold them or would build one upon request. I had never met a semi-pro model maker before, and chatted with him about how he put together a vinyl model, including tricks such as weighting it by filling it with plaster of Paris, painting different parts before assembly so they would look like a costume being worn, and changing some features and reconstructing them to make a different version of a figure (such as sanding off the double D from the chest of the current red Daredevil costume to make the single D of the original yellow and black costume). In the interview below, Wilson explains more about his hobby.
Washington City Paper: Can you discuss and explain the particular aspect of comic work that do you do?
DW: I assemble and paint model kits. The majority of these kits consist of Marvel and D.C. superheroes. I also assemble and paint kits of supernatural beings (classics such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolfman). Another category that I dabble with are female kits. I work with vinyl, plastic, resin and porcelain. On many kits, I add my own personal touches, like eyeballs, claws and weapons. When I can’t find a specific character, I will convert a kit to a different character. For family and friends and for an occasional business, I also repair existing statues and figurines.
WCP: Do you know anyone else who builds models the way you do?
DW: No. I use to enter a model contest once a year, but it was mostly for cars and planes. There were a few categories for figures, but mine were generally the only one of its kind.
WCP: How long does it take to do an “average” model?
DW: With a full time job and family, I average 2-4 months to complete one kit. Sometimes I start and can’t stop until it’s finished; sometimes I walk away for a week before I return to it. It’s easy for time to get away from me when I start working on a model. I’ll tell myself I only have an hour to work, but when I look at the clock, four hours have passed.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
DW: 1956 in Norfolk, Va.
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
DW: My father’s job brought my family to Northern Virginia in 1966. I currently reside in Fairfax with my wife, and three teenage children.
WCP: How did you get into doing these types of models?
DW: When I was a kid, I assembled and painted the old Aurora plastic monster model kits. I grew out of it (or so I thought). Then on my birthday in 1992, my wife took me to a Star Trek convention in D.C. where I bought The Enterprise model and assembled my first model in many years. As a kid I also was very much into comics and superheroes, which kind of carried over into adulthood. I met someone who introduced me to the wonderful world of vinyl model kits by a company called Horizon, and I’ve been assembling and painting ever since. I painted exclusively for two years for a man who sold my work on eBay.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
DW: I get a lot of compliments on my female figures and have won first place in the IPMS convention for The Mummy and The Creature.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
DW: I pour a lot of myself into each kit that I do and am proud of every piece that I complete, so I can’t really identify one piece that I’m most proud of as each is special in its own way to me.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
DW: I would like to paint for a model company and be that artist who assembled and painted the model that is displayed on the box. I also would like to do special orders for people. My dream would be to work with a production company building models to scale of movie scenes and such.
WCP: What’s your favorite thing about D.C.?
WCP: Least favorite?
DW: Finding parking and getting parking tickets.
WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?
DW: Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?
DW: I’m in the process of putting some of my models on a friend’s website. He’s a comic book dealer, Greg Reece.