Professional photographer Daniel Picard has taken what might be considered very behind-the-scenes photos of superheroes to give us all a sense of what normal means to them. And by creating sets at 1:6 scale, the Canadian makes action figures look like real people just going about their hilariously mundane days.
Picard’s passion for getting creative with toys and figurines first started at the age of ten, when he received a bunch of G.I. Joe action figures for Christmas. “Those were great years that I used to push my imagination to another level,” Picard would tell online magazine Entropy in June 2015. “And then came the drawing!”
It was then that Picard began posing his action figures in still scenes, like you’d see in promotional materials for movies. He’d also draw short, one- to two-page comics depicting whatever wild short stories starring his favorite superheroes that he wanted to create, such as one featuring Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine going for a nice, relaxing row on a lake.
Picard’s hobby duly stopped as he got older, as he put his toys aside in high school. After college, then, he worked as a graphic designer in advertising for over 15 years. But just before the birth of his son, he decided to pick up a camera and take up photography in earnest. He fell in love with his new hobby, keeping a daily photoblog to keep track of his progress as he honed his craft.
As he worked on his skills, moreover, Picard stumbled upon a really “cool” location that he wanted to photograph. But getting a human model on short notice to the site, which was about to undergo construction, proved a challenge. So instead he enlisted the help of a little robot action figure he had. Using some perspective trickery, then, Picard took the above photo, making the robot appear much bigger than it is in real life.
Spurred on by his robot photos, Picard went in search of more action figures that he could use as models. That’s when he discovered Sideshow Collectibles, which makes extremely detailed, lifelike figurines of superheroes, TV, movie and video-game characters. Immediately, Picard knew he’d found the perfect place to source new models for his photo series.
He called the series “Figure Fantasy,” and used Sideshow’s 12-inch action figures to create incredible photographs. Many of these photos involve putting iconic superheroes and movie characters into weird and banal situations that we don’t associate them with for comic effect. Like this one of Superman taking a selfie as he’s about to stop an oncoming train – proving once and for all that the “man of steel” is just as much a narcissist as the rest of us.
Notably, Picard achieves this incredible effect not only through clever use of perspective, but by making sure that the main characters in the foreground are as much in focus as the background. Another tough part of getting the perfect shot is making the wires and stands that hold the figures in their poses invisible. So, for example, snapping this boisterous battle droid jumping into Commander Cody’s leaf pile would’ve been very tricky.
Curious to see if his action figures could actually “interact” with real people, Picard worked the camera magic until he got the exact perspective he needed. Of course, once he had the skills mastered he was able to realize a long-standing childhood dream of having his photo taken with his favorite movie and comic-book heroes. That Boba Fett Picard is standing next to is actually the same size as the one he’s holding in his hand!
Again showing off Picard’s ability to take photos of little action figures alongside real people, here we see R2-D2 helping him with the design and layout of his new office. And if you take a close look at the images that our favorite robot is projecting onto the wall, you might recognize the heroes in them as well.
Yep, those figures on the wall are none other than DC’s diametrically opposed icons: Batman and Superman. It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between these two, and here we see them sneakily trying to expose each other’s alter-egos. For the Batman image, Picard is recreating cartoonist Sergio Aragonés’ work published in Mad magazine.
Meanwhile, it looks like the The Joker, seen here sitting at the head of a dining room table playing with Legos, is taking a break from super villainy in this photo. Or maybe he’s using the superhero-themed Lego set to plan a trap for Batman? Hard to tell with that ever-smiling poker face of his…
And it’s a tough life being a Cold Assault Stormtrooper from Star Wars. When you’re not getting blown away by Han Solo, Chewbacca, Rey and company, you’re making ends meet by clearing snow from suburban driveways. By creating everyday scenes like this using action figures, Picard hopes to make the images funny even for people who are unfamiliar with the characters.
Picard loves using battle droids in his photos because of how photogenic they are, as well as how easy they are to position, balance and articulate. He also uses them because he doesn’t want to promote human violence by pitting his superheroes against each other. Keeping up the sense of fantasy, then, is important – such as the fantasy of seeing battle droids toiling away in a warehouse.
This complex shot of a truckload of battle droids being delivered to a villain’s rural home, meanwhile, was actually made using just four figures. And it took some planning: Picard had to recreate his pickup truck in 1:6 scale using cardboard boxes to know exactly where the droids would fit and then reposition them after each photo. Eventually, the four droids became nine thanks to a clever bit of post-processing! But enough about droids…
Actually, just one more. What better way to show off the grace and versatility of battle droids than by snapping them with their pants down, as it were? Though this shot raises more questions than it answers… After all, what do battle droids excrete? Perhaps it’s loose bolts and engine oil.
Remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and those creepy “Gentlemen” demons that stole everyone’s voices and forced Buffy and her crew to communicate without talking for a whole episode? Well, they’re retired now and spend their free time walking their dogs around American suburbia. The dogs in the shot are real and are, in fact, all the same dog: Cosmo!
Given the ingenuity and plain awesomeness of Picard’s work, then, it’s no surprise that it’s since earned him worldwide recognition. And it’s helped him travel, too: in July 2015, for example, he even got the chance to show off his photos at the Sideshow Collectibles booth at Comic-Con. What’s more, Picard took full advantage of the legendary San Diego venue by creating this picture of Catwoman being the flagwoman for a couple of other heroes. Is that Uncharted’s Nathan Drake on the left, maybe?
Comic-Con was also Picard’s opportunity to show off his book Figure Fantasy: The Pop Culture Photography of Daniel Picard. The book features hundreds of photos from his collection, with hundreds of scenes like those we’ve just shared. The foreword and afterword, moreover, have been written by two famed proponents of geek culture: Simon Pegg and Kevin Smith, respectively.
So what’s next for Picard? Well, he’s a big fan of Deadpool, and before he even received his pre-ordered figurine from Sideshow, he had already sketched out 16 scenes featuring the wisecracking meta-superhero. When the movie came out in February 2016, then, Picard had this photo to share from New York.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Picard is also a big fan of horror movies and has made a few not-so-ordinary images using figures of Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. In the shot above, for example, Jason is dragging a – probably dead – Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs towards a cabin. And, having found an amazing niche, Picard wants to carry on working with action figures and has his sights on Sideshow’s Court of the Dead line-up in particular. Perhaps a spookier, more supernatural direction will eventually be the order of the day, then…