When Israel Skelton was younger his vivid imagination and ingenuity helped him alter everyday objects into comic book artifacts; a rake became Wolverine’s claws and a snow saucer was converted into Captain America’s shield. Now 30 years later the Maine resident has turned a childhood hobby into a thriving career.
I spoke with the congenial artisan last week and his enthusiasm for his craft was evident. Israel feels lucky to do what he loves and make a living at it … very few get to have that rare opportunity.
Skelton’s interest in fabrication began with his father who had a small goldsmithing shop. As a boy, Israel was exposed to buffing wheels, torches and other jeweler’s tools. A love of comic books fueled Israel’s desire to create realistic scaled objects from the panels of Batman, Fantastic Four and Dr. Strange.
The Litchfield artist brought some of his fantastic creations such as Thor’s hammer and Hellboy’s gun to the first BangPop, a Bangor Maine comic book convention. Fans ogled at the marvelous replicas, one being Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill.
Hill had just completed the first issue of his now famed comic book, Locke & Key and requested that Israel create a small run of sterling silver Ghost Keys from his book so that he could send them out as Christmas presents.
One of the recipients of those keys was Chris Ryall, the Editor in Chief of IDW comics. Chris then commissioned Skelton to produce 500 Ghost keys in pewter as an exclusive for the 2009 San Diego International Comic Con and the rest is history.
All 500 keys sold out by the end of the year. In 2010, Skelton and IDW debuted the Head Key, from the second series of comics, and the third key, the Echo Key, was released at the 2010 BangPop.
Israel has since created and sold many of the keys from the series and even constructed a “Ghost Door” for Joe Hill’s office that actually opens with a “Ghost Key”
Skelton hopes to work on future projects with other publishers such as DC and Marvel with the goal of creating limited, exclusive “gallery quality” comic book iconic replicas while his personal dream project is to create a 1940’s replica of the Batmobile that rotates on a turntable for his studio. (I can’t wait to see that when it’s completed!)
You can check out Israel’s studio, marvel at his creations and purchase them HERE.