“I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.”
That is an iconic line spoken by one of the most recognizable and oldest comic book superheroes of all time, Captain America. Making his first appearance in 1941 for Marvel Comics, Cappy has adjusted with the times of American politics and culture. And, thanks to the tremendously successful Marvel Studios, the character is more popular than ever. The decision to erect a 13-foot bronze statue of the character in the borough is proof of his significance, especially to children.
The project came to fruition thanks to artist and Brooklynite Dave Cortes, who sculpted the statue. Since this past summer, it has been on display at Prospect Park, Barclays Center and currently, at Beyond at Liberty View, where Cortes recently held a meet and greet.
“’I’ve been working in the industry for 20 years and I’ve had a long relationship with Marvel,” said Cortes. “I’ve sculpted a bunch of statues and action figures that are in toy stores over around 17 years with them.”
When he turned 24, the Park Slope native got his start with McFarlane Toys in New Jersey. “This was my first major opportunity to work with toys,” he said. “I worked there for two years and that’s where I got my start and how I learned how to make figures.”
Subsequently, he freelanced sculpting for several companies, such as DC Comics.
When Marvel approached Cortes to sculpt the Captain America statue to commemorate the character’s 75th anniversary, the artist was thrilled. “This was pretty unique compared to anything else I’ve ever done,” he said. “It was kind of cool that they thought of me to be involved with the project. I would like to think that mostly it was just based on my ability, but I’m sure being from Brooklyn had something to do with it. It was a great fit.”
According to the artist, the piece was originally slated to be a small statue, but Marvel came up with the idea of celebrating the anniversary with a much bigger tribute. Cortes, a perfectionist, wishes he had more time. “I should’ve worked it a little differently because I didn’t know it was going to be that big, but we’re all pretty happy with it.”
Although the finished product was enjoyed by all, the process of sculpting it was a big undertaking. “From our end, it takes about four weeks, but it took longer because the guys at Marvel decided a bunch of things before I got the project,” Cortes said. Among these were what costume he was going to have and the statue’s pose.
Marvel gave Cortes a loose sketch to turn into a three-dimensional object since there are a lot of little things that don’t translate well from drawing to sculpting.
The statue doesn’t just represent the film portrayal of the character, but several interpretations.
Cortes’ Brooklyn roots have made the project all the more gratifying for him. “It’s been the highlight of my career,” he said. “I grew up in Park Slope and my family is from Red Hook.”
His current studio is in Gowanus where he continues to work on future projects. “I don’t want to leave Brooklyn,” he said. “It has a special place in my heart. To have a piece here that connects me to it is amazing.”
One of the largest obstacles for Cortes was some of the opposition that came from some adults when the statue was placed in Prospect Park. “There was a little bit of controversy in the beginning, which was silly,” he said. “People were upset, but my stance is that, with kids these days, it’s cool when you have a piece of art that a kid could enjoy. Anything to get kids to think about art is exciting to me. Art was my way out of whatever I was going through. I wasn’t a strong student. Art was guiding me.”
To find out about more about Cortes and his work, visit www.cortesstudio.com.