Cthulhu: Death May Die - Creating Cthulhu

The gigantic Cthulhu model for the R’lyeh Rising pledge in the Cthulhu: Death May Die Kickstarter is an incredible accomplishment. It took sculptor Remy Tremblay countless hours, and he poured his blood, sweat, and tears into the effort. The final result is truly breathtaking. Tremblay shared a bit of his experience working on the massive model. 

It is always delicate to talk about one’s own work; you hope it is self-explanatory. However, I will share a couple thoughts about this unique project: realizing the Cthulhu model for the game Cthulhu: Death May Die.

We knew right from the start that this project was going to be a challenge, based on the size, the material used, and of course, the fact that we had to come up with our version of a classic figure of horror. We had to reexamine our know-how at every step of the process: from the conception, to the sculpting, and finally the plastic production. 

I have to make a brief aside to explain the difficulty of creating a version of Cthulhu that is both original but still familiar enough to be immediately recognizable. Mr. Smith lost some hair in the process of producing the front, back, and profile sketches that were then used as base material for the measurements and the armature.

Once these sketches were done, the first problem to arise was: how are we going to be able to produce the sculpture in such a short time-frame, in order to allow the molding teams to produce the best plastic model possible afterwards. Given the huge size of the model (65cm high), the polymer clays were not an option, since we don’t own an oven that big. I did not even consider digital sculpt, since I’m not a master of the technique. I was left with what the 90’s cinema special effects creators used: clay, silicon molds, and resin copy.

Oil based clay doesn’t dry, but it is extremely heavy. Therefore, I had to create an armature that would support the 22 kilos of the final sculpture, that could be disassembled in order to finalize the head, wings, and arms, and that would allow me to change the posture if need be, without bending at places where it should not.

With these details settled, I grabbed my pride and my technical baggage and immersed myself in this fabulous odyssey that would test me, as well as my mental health.

After a series of quick sketches of a dozen centimeters, I realized that a scenic base would be necessary. In order to give both dynamism and an imposing bearing to the figure, Cthulhu had to be massive and had to be emerging from the cyclopean ruins of R’lyeh. To make this happen, I created a rough outline in polystyrene so that the measurements could be sent to a sculptor who, in turn, would make the base digitally, print it, and send it to my workshop where it would be finalized. At every step of the project, I had to put blind faith in all of the contributors in order to move on, despite the fact that every step could go wrong and ruin the entire project. A base too small, too big, or not adapted, would have ruined the figure. But I had to keep working, hoping my partner would produce the perfect base.

Applying plastiline on the armature has been the most crucial step (with the molding), and also the one I’m the least satisfied with. The paste is very hard at room temperature (it can even be sanded), and therefore it is very difficult to adjust the volumes once they are in place. You have to be very precise so that you don’t need to remove matter, and that is where Adrian Smith’s sketches proved to be valuable beyond compare. I then proceeded to add paste, a little at a time, until obtaining the nearly final sculpt. This laborious work bears fruits as soon as you start working the details by engraving, one ripple at a time, one plague spot at a time. Every step needs to be meticulously finished before starting the next one, but the steps complete each other, filling the character with life. 

The particularities of the material require completely different techniques and tools from the ones I normally use. But at this step of the modeling, I also had to find ways to make each texture readable enough for their transposition into a plastic model, and at the same time realistic enough to convey this feeling of unease and horror generated by the presence of a multi-millennial creature announcing the end of mankind. I had to pay extra attention not to use the same textures too often. Every area of the beast’s skin has been given a different skin quality, smooth here, flabby there, rough at another place. The realism stems from this variety, and I have to point out that the concept was very poor in information of that type because of the material used. Therefore, I had to grope around, try, undo, and redo every area until I reached a result that was both varied and consistent.

The last hitch in the modeling process was the fact that the tentacles, like Mona Lisa’s smile, would only be added at the end, since this essential element couldn’t be added in a practical way before we were finished with the sculpture of the body. We had to anticipate the impact on the design and work – once again as a team – on a model deprived from its main feature. Confidence in the team was, again, a key element.

The wings were also a source of worry. The concept art was beautiful, but the wing’s anatomy didn’t allow the making of a realistic 3D version. That’s when I grabbed my pencil and drawing board, in order to make the sketches leading to their creation.

Two and a half months later, the modeling process had finally come to an end, but still without the tentacles. The moment we feared the most had arrived: the molding of this huge model.

More than ever, I could not fail this molding, or I would destroy all this hard work and seriously compromise the future of this project.

We thought of working with a professional caster, but quickly put that idea aside, because of the limited remaining time as well as because of my geographical situation, closer to a desert than a metropolis. I had to do it myself, quickly and carefully. I have to admit, the whole process put everyone on edge. We applied a screed of silicon on the model, reinforced by a resin shell, and we did this for every part of the abomination.

A month and a couple ulcers later, the mold was done, and whatever happened next, I would be able to provide the molding team a copy of the model.

We then faced one last but major challenge: getting a solid resin copy, devoid of bubbles or deformities, having close to no tools. Two resin shells were produced directly in the mold, creating a hollow copy, both light and resistant, allowing me to manipulate it easily while integrating Cthulhu to its base.

Creating the long-awaited tentacles and the texture of the base gave the final touch to the sculpture, finally coming into its full dimension. By then, I seriously doubted the result, but sadly, I had no time left to change anything. The show had to go on. One parcel later, the stressful wait for the delivery, and the resin colossus was about to go through its final transformation. For that, we had to find a molder able to make high quality plastic injection with rotary machines allowing a hollow print…

Through this short history of this incredible model, I hope you were able to envision the twists and turns that are common in this type of project. I hope it will remain as a white monolith in the history of CMON’s publishing.

Tremblay achieved a monumental task with the creation of the R’lyeh Rising Cthulhu model. Surely, it is one of the most memorable sculpts in recent gaming history.

For more information on Cthulhu: Death May Die and to back the project, follow the Kickstarter here.

Cthulhu: Death May Die - Creating Cthulhu

Related news