Plans for a Spider-Man sculpture are continuing to take root in Forest Hills, thanks to longtime resident and creative visionary Larry Ng, who appointed the talented sculptor Dave Cortes, the mastermind behind the Captain America sculpture in Brooklyn.
For decades, Forest Hills has not seen any significant public sculpture commissions. Now Spider-Man is expected to follow the success of the WWI Soldiers & Sailors Memorial, Remsen Cemetery’s two doughboys WWI memorial, the Captain Gerald MacDonald Statue, and Forest Hills Post Office’s “Spirit of Communication.” Now is the chance to travel behind the scenes and discover the “talk of the town.”
“My approach was to design a compelling monument that epitomizes the character of Spider-Man, and incorporates elements of NYC,” said Dave Cortes, who also takes pride in bearing homage to the creators of Spider-Man. “Putting their names on street signs would be a good way to remind others of the blood, sweat, and tears Steve Ditko and Stan Lee put into creating the Spider-Man comics.”
A Spider-Man sculpture will both educate and entertain the public, imparting an appreciation for the beloved superhero genre. “Before Disney and blockbuster movies, a bunch of talented artists were telling amazing stories through comic book panels,” Cortes explained. “These superhero stories captivated the imaginations of children and adults alike for many years. It’s my hope that an iconic superhero, when seen as a life-sized statue, will inspire a sense of goodwill and civility towards others, the way the character of Spider-Man would in his stories.”
He believes that the hustle and bustle of NYC, where the story of Spider-Man originated, is the perfect location to experience the sculpture.
“Unlike many superheroes, Peter Parker was a normal teenager, having normal problems growing up in Forest Hills,” Ng said. For example, Parker struggled with paying bills, time management, worrying about the health of Aunt May, and dating girls. “Spider-Man became popular because his fans could identify with him.”
Cortes initially designed four renderings on paper and some loose clay sketches. He said, “The designs were typical for a heroic character or bronze statue, like the typical standing tall, ready for action kind of pose. Then I knew I wanted to try something different, even though I was a bit hesitant. When I shared the design with Larry Ng though, he liked it a lot.”
Ng considers Cortes to be very thoughtful in his design, such as how his goal was to honor Stan Lee, who conceived Spider-man, in addition to recognizing the less well-known but equally important artist Steve Ditko, who granted Spider-Man’s iconic appearance and brought him to life. “Spider-Man hanging off a lamppost is amazing,” Ng said. “It is dynamic and very different from traditional superhero poses. It shows one of Spider-Man’s unique powers; the ability to cling onto walls and objects.”
Ng feels that Cortes was the best candidate for Spider-Man, based on his history with Captain America in Brooklyn and his numerous years in designing animation, action, and comic book figures. He recalled, “When Dave first showed me Spider-Man hanging off a lamppost, my words were ‘Wow, breathtaking! This is amazing! This statue absolutely has to be built!’ To this day, I smile every time I look at Dave’s model.”
“Children and Spidey fans will absolutely love it!” Ng said, who marvels over Spider-man as the world’s most popular superhero, since making waves in pop culture in 1962. “Thousands of people already know about the Spider-Man Forest Hills project and are excited to see it come to fruition, and hundreds already told us that they can’t wait to take pictures with the sculpture.”
Cortes also designs action figures, statues, and collectibles. “I was fortunate to work with nearly every toy company out there, from Marvel to DC, and hundreds of licenses from popular to obscure,” Cortes reminisced.
Some of his work includes Batman, Hulk, Spider-Man, Hellboy, Pirates of the Caribbean, and recently Fortnite. He added, “My studio was asked by Marvel to model the 13-foot Captain America 75th anniversary statue, and that was pretty cool, but personally, my original work is what I’m most proud of.”
One must wonder how Cortes’ career as an artist developed. “I used to think it was accidental, but looking back, I was always interested in some kind of art,” he explained. “Before I could write my name, I drew animal faces, but after realizing I was just a mediocre illustrator and painter, I was lucky to find clay and sculpture–the right medium. I could manipulate the material into the shapes I wanted. Then after getting pretty good with clay, I was lucky to work for the company, McFarlane Toys. Once I was introduced to the toy industry, I never looked back. It felt right, and here I am today, 23 years later!”
Cortes draws much inspiration from old-time masters and considers the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an amazing place for finding inspiration. “Sometimes the inspiration comes from the most unexpected places, as in a book, illustration, comic, movie, or just a memory of a special event. Everything inspires me, and I hope to always stay open to it all,” he said.
Back to Ng, he most recently presented at Forest Hills Comic-Con 2022–which was a draw for comic book fans at Forest Hills High School–the inspiration for Peter Parker’s “Midtown High School.”
“Everyone really liked the project, and when I presented the model of Spider-Man, I heard a chorus of ‘Oohs and ahhs.’ Many attendees already submitted comments in support of the project on the website,” he said.
“As I was thinking about this project, I thought of how much impact a character like Spider-Man has on kids growing up today, and how he represents such a positive figure,” Cortes said. He feels that such a role model is essential more than ever nowadays. “Even though he is a fictional character, I believe Spider-Man has affected the lives of many as if he was a living, breathing person. A sculpture of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is fitting to celebrate the character that represents the heart and soul of NYC.”
Frank DiBella of Academy Engraving, who is known for designing the Tony Awards, is expected to design a bronze plaque accompanying the sculpture. Spider-Man’s most famous quote, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” will be a highlight.
Mike Giordano, owner of Royal Collectibles at 96-01 Metropolitan Avenue, agreed to distribute a complimentary collectible trading card featuring Cortes’ rendering of Spider-Man and promote it on social media. “As per Dave’s suggestion, I loaned Mike the Spider-Man model to display in his store for a few weeks,” Ng said. This shop is among the most popular of its kind citywide. He continued, “If you would like to help build community support by volunteering to distribute these trade cards, please contact us through www.spidermanforesthills.com.” The public can also lend their support online by posting comments and offering suggestions.