Superman—as you’ve never seen him before
Royal Canadian Mint Product Manager Jamie Desrochers and DC Comics artist Jason Fabok tell the “origin story” of the Mint’s new three-dimensional Superman coin—an exclusive, jaw-dropping collectible comic book fans have never seen before.
After years of appearing on coins, Superman finally breaks out of the coin’s surface, reimagined as a gold-plated, silver statuette that shatters the boundary between 2D and 3D art. Superman: The Last Son of Krypton is more than an ode to the hero who represents the very best in humanity—it’s a celebration of the generations of Canadian talents who have helped make Superman a beloved pop-culture icon.
SUPERMAN’S CANADIAN CONNECTIONS
Hardcore comic book fans likely already know Superman was co-created by Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster in 1933. The city Superman defends, Metropolis, was modelled on Toronto and the Daily Planet newspaper was inspired by the Toronto Star.
But the Man of Steel’s ties to this country don’t end there. Over the years, many Canadian creators have contributed to the legends of Superman and the entire DC Comics universe.
“A lot of Canadians are involved in the world’s biggest comic books today,” says Desrochers. “For us at the Mint, that’s something we really want people to know about and take pride in. It’s an incredible legacy.”
Thirty-three year-old artist Jason Fabok is one of those carrying that legacy forward, bringing to life characters across DC Comics titles like Superman, Batman, Justice League and Swamp Thing—all out of his home in Kingsville, Ontario, just south of Windsor.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF HEROES
Fabok’s career would have never got off the ground if not the support of a pair of real-life heroes. While he grew up loving Super Heroes, his interest came largely from cartoons and movies. It wasn’t until high school when a teacher took notice of Fabok’s passion for drawing that he got into comics.
“He brought me comic books to read and really opened my eyes to that art form,” says Fabok. “He saw something in me I didn’t know I had and encouraged me to become an artist.”
Fabok honed his skills in the animation program at St. Clair College. Upon graduating, he reached out to local artist David Finch, who was working for Marvel at the time, to get some pointers on how to improve his technique. The serendipity of having a mentor in the same Canadian city—and not even a big city like Toronto—isn’t lost on Fabok.
“It’s funny, there are actually quite a few people in comics who have ties to the Windsor area,” he says. “There’s me. David Finch. Jeff Lemire is also from a small town in the area.”
What followed was a six-month “boot camp” where Finch took Fabok under his wing. When Finch made the jump over to DC Comics, he encouraged his protégé to send in his portfolio, confident Fabok had the chops to land a job, even without any experience in the industry. That was in 2010—and Fabok has been drawing super heroes for a living ever since.
SUPER TECHNOLOGY FOR A SUPER HERO
According to Desrochers, the idea for Superman: The Last Son of Krypton first came about when the Mint’s R&D team was working on the Sculpture of Majestic Canadian Animals series. Each coin features a gold-plated statuette rising up from the surface, depicting iconic animals like the elk and grizzly bear in a uniquely multi-dimensional way.
Having worked on a number of previous Mint DC Comics coins—including the series of Justice League coins illustrated by Fabok and Canadian colorist Brad Anderson—Superman literally leapt into Desrochers’ mind.
“When I saw those statuettes, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if Superman could be literally bursting out of the coin?’” he recalls. “To me, that new technology was just begging to be used with Superman.”
A comic book fan for as long he can remember, Desrochers always puts himself in the shoes of a collector when thinking up new coins. With several longboxes of comic books at home along with numerous toys and statuettes, he has a pretty good idea of what fans will actually want to buy—and what they have and haven’t seen before.
“You often find the same image of Superman across countless t-shirts and mugs,” he explains. “But what really resonates with people is original art, something they can’t find anywhere else. You have to respect the fans. Having original art is the best way to do that.”
And when it came to original DC Comics art, Desrochers knew there was only one man for the job.
BRINGING THE LAST SON OF KRYPTON TO LIFE
Fabok didn’t hesitate to take on the challenge of designing a 3D Superman coin, even if he couldn’t quite grasp the idea at first.
“I had never seen anything like it,” he admits. “But once Jamie showed me the elk statuette, my jaw hit the floor. I was so impressed by the creativity. It was the kind of thing where you say, ‘Yeah, I need that in my collection.’ And to do one with Superman? That’s even better.”
Fabok quickly got started on the initial sketches for the coin, drawing Superman from every angle: front, back, side, top-down and three-quarter profile. Even for somebody who draws for a living, this was a challenge; comic book illustrations tend to stick to a handful of angles that present well on the page. This version of Superman, however, had to be presentable from every angle.
“When you’re dealing with artwork for coins, you usually have to make adjustments,” adds Desrochers. “But Jason nailed it from the get-go. He knows the character inside and out.”
Fabok’s designs were given to Mint engraver Matthew Porter, who digitally sculpted the coin using 3D software. Trial moulds based on the 3D sculpt were produced for fine-tuning and from there it was on to manufacturing—and into the hands of collectors across Canada and around the world.
“This project was challenging because there are so many more components than your typical coin,” explains Desrochers. “But our R&D team is always pushing the boundaries of minting technology. So when we saw that this coin was a possibility, we had to give it a try.”
THE CLASSIC SPIRIT OF SUPERMAN
There was a debate at one point in the design process: should Superman be depicted with or without his trunks? When the project began, the comic books had ditched the red trunks, opting for solid-blue tights. But both Desrochers and Fabok felt the classic look was the only way to go.
“It’s timeless,” says Fabok. “No matter how many times Superman’s look is revamped, 20 years from now, that’s the version that will always come to mind first.”
And with DC Comics since bringing back the red trunks, it looks like the team made the right call.
Just like how classic costumes never go out of style, neither does the appeal of unique collectibles. And with the 2018 $100 fine silver sculpture coin, Superman: The Last Son of Krypton, collectors will find something unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.
“I never would have imagined that my artwork would appear on coins or statues,” says Fabok. “As a Canadian, I was humbled to be asked to design this coin. It’s something I’m very proud of—and I think Superman fans will absolutely love it.”