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Plot twist: Controversial Capt. America statue designed by lifelong Brooklynite!

The master: Dave Cortes hoists his master model of the 13-foot-tall statue of Captain America coming to Prospect Park.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Truth is lamer than fiction!

A born-and-raised Brooklyn sculptor and architect of the massive bronze effigy of Captain America coming to Prospect Park this month is none too pleased with the controversies surrounding the Disney-owned brand going into a public green space, and is challenging New Yorkers to name a real-life champion of justice more deserving of a place Brooklyn’s Backyard.

And if locals can identify a non-fictional Brooklynite as upstanding and squeaky clean as Captain America, the artist said he’d be happy to design it — for free.

“When I hear people say, ‘Why can’t we use a real positive figure,’ I say, ‘Pick the person and I’ll make that sculpture for free,’ ” said Dave Cortes, who was born in Red hook and designed the Captain America statue from his 13th Street studio in Gowanus. “But you can’t do that these days, because everybody has something behind them. So this fictitious character like Captain America is a really cool symbol of how people should behave.”

News that superhero-studio Marvel is erecting a 13-foot-tall, one-ton bronze effigy of Steve Rogers’s super-powered alter ego in the park for two-week stay on Aug. 10 has scandalized many in the borough.

Park lovers are furious that the pop-culture icon will corrupt the commercial-free sanctity of their beloved green space, while comic nerds are peeved that the statue is coming amidst a story arc in the character’s comic adventures in which Cap has joined the ranks of Hydra — an evil organization with ties to the Nazis.

But Cortes insists their concerns will disappear when they catch sight of the impressive idol, which will unite parents with children with its depiction of the 75-year-old character hoisting his impregnable shield over his head in a gesture of heroic triumph.

“A sculpture like this is something where you will see parents and kids going over there to take photos and hang around,” he said. “It’s almost like passing the baton. All the stuff you grew up with, you get to pass that over to your kids. I can see the power of that.”

Cortes is one of only a few sculptors designing statues and action figures for major comic labels in Brooklyn — and indeed the East Coast — as most of the industry is based out of Los Angeles, he said.

He began his career crafting models out of clay for McFarlane Toys, which revolutionized the toy industry with hyper-detailed figures centered on the devilish Spawn character and his fiendish associates.

These days Cortes mostly works digitally, creating three-dimensional models of all your favorite heroes and villains, including Batman, Cat Woman, Juggernaut, Wolverine, and the Hulk.

Cortes says his unorthodox career also makes him something a superhero himself — giving him the power to scale impossibly high New York rents and inspire youngsters along the way.

“Here I am able to live in Brooklyn today, which, you know with rising rents and all, most of my friends aren’t even around any more, they had to move out,” he said. “And I get to see these young kids get excited about the opportunity of making their own characters.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Gowanus lair: Brooklyn-native Dave Cortes designs action figures and statues for major comic labels out of his 13th Street studio in Gowanus, which is filled with the models he’s created of numerous beloved superheroes and villians.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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