Friday, August 28, 2015

Speaking of werewolves ...

Phil Nichols had a question:
"Do you know off hand if any of the dramas deal with a werewolf plot line?"
My answer got into spoilery territory, but yes, several of the DARK SHADOWS audio dramas from Big Finish deal with the legacy of Quentin Collins' curse. And then our e-mail conversation took a turn for the amazing.

Known online as "The Fiendish Dr. Phil," Nichols is an artist who has worked with the legendary Dick Smith, who passed away earlier this year. Among Smith's many accomplishments are the "old vampire" make-up effects used in the DARK SHADOWS television series and feature film, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. Nichols was also mentored by sculptor Henry Alvarez of Alvarez Wax Productions, who worked on such films as John Carpenter's THE THING, ROBOCOP and PREDATOR. The guy had some legendary teachers.

Nichols sent me a few photos of a mask he made of the "Collinsport Werewolf," as played by stuntman Alex Stevens on the television series.

The mask was so realistic that I wasn't entirely sure there wasn't a human being underneath it.

And Nichols has been super busy. With the upcoming 50th anniversary of both DARK SHADOWS and the classic BATMAN television series, he's been working on masks for many of those programs' leading characters. He plans to have the final pieces on display at Comicpalooza next year in Houston, Texas.

Here's his process:

"I sculpt in non sulfur plasticine," he said. "I use mainly Klean Klay which is the modeling clay we all had as kids in school in the 1960’s. Once the piece is sculpted and that takes about three to four weeks to get the likeness and detail right it is sealed with an acrylic spray and a spray wax."

After that, the sculpt is used to make a mold.

"I take the mold as a two-part mold using U.S. Gypsum Moulding Plaster," he said. "Once the mold is done it’s allowed to set undisturbed and dry out for a week to cure up really well. Once the mold is cured I strap it and seal the seam with water based clay then wrap it in plastic to prevent any leakage. Mask Making latex is poured in and allowed to sit over night for about 12 hours in the mold."

"This makes a very thick casting," Nichols said. "The the latex is drained out and the mold is allowed to dry out completely, usually taking four days or so to get dry enough to de-mold. When it’s dry enough I de-mold the piece then trim it and out out the eyes and mouth if it’s to have glass eyes and acrylic teeth."

He dries the mask the old-fashioned way: by hanging it on a clothesline ... which must freak out his neighbors.

"Once it is totally dry it is seamed using a moto tool," he said. "Once it’s seamed it’s based coated with latex paint in the appropriate color. I do at least 3 coats of base color."

Next, the glass eyes and teeth are inserted and sealed. Flexible polyurethane foam is used to fill the piece and  make it suitable for display.

"Once it’s all foamed up I finish the paint job with airbrush contours and layers of washes of color to make it look good," he said. "Then the hair goes on wigs for some hand laid hair for others. I usually hand mix the hair when I paste it on so it looks realistic."

You can find Phil Nichols online at

See more photos at BLOOD DRIVE.

Phil Nichols and some of his creations.

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