Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bama’s Monsters

When James Bama was a six years old, he went to see the classic Universal monster movies: Wolfman, Frankenstein and Dracula. “They were seriously done and beautifully crafted,” Bama said. He was so scared afterward that he had to sleep in his mother’s bed.

When he later became a professional illustrator, he got the the assignment to illustrate the plastic model box covers. He used movie stills as reference for Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and Dracula.

But parents complained that the actual plastic models didn’t live up to the painted covers. So starting with the Mummy, he worked instead from reference photos of the completed models. Despite the truth in advertising, the painting based on the actual model might not be quite as successful at presenting the fantasy.

In all, Bama did 23 model covers, contributing to the Baby Boomer’s monster craze of the 1960s.
Images from:
Monster Kid
Full story and large color reproductions in: James Bama, American Realist, published by Flesk Publications.


r8r said...

after completing the models, I cut out the paintings on the box lids, and thumbtacked them onto the walls of my room.
good times, during the middle 60's, moving from car and plane models to figurative movie monster kits...

Super Villain said...

cool paintings, but i think the true master of monster art during that time was Basil Gogos (creator of my profile image! haha)


My Pen Name said...

those models lasted well into the 70s (i grew up then) and had the 'glow in the dark' appendages.
I remember those models well. Frankestien, Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula (scared me), Wolfman.

I have to say as a model builder, I remember often being disappointed with Revel and other model boxes lavish illustrations.. but then again the final output was the result of the model builder.

side note, in retrospect, now that you've awaken me to the power of building maquette's etc, to help with painting, the advanced model building skills (dioramas for WWII tamyia models) will come in handy :)

RB said...

Ha! Funny, I had forgotten these. I think I had the Dracula model. I vaguely recall a bunch of others. Thanks for the fun memory and interesting notes.

Roberto said...

When I was just a little monster, in the 60’s, I was crazy about Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth and his imaginative hot-rod monsters. Before I would assemble the models I would combine the pieces of several different sets: Rat-Fink, Frankenstein, and a jet-plane, and reassemble the pieces into a Rat-Finkenstein-Plane.
On a slightly related topic, today is Stan Lee’s Birthday (89?!), co-creator of ‘SpiderMan.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Lee -RQ

Steve Fastner said...

I loved those box cover paintings.Although it's one of my favorites,the Wolfman art looked nothing like the model.Those wolf ears sticking out from the top of his head were different from the movie version too,but it was an interesting interpretation.

On the other hand,the Creature and Mummy art resembled the kits,and were pretty appealing to me.Basil Gogos did cool stuff as well.

I wonder if anyone happens to know if Bama or another artist like Mort Kunstler did the cover art for the Superman model kit?

Unknown said...
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Steven K said...

Not surprising that someone mentioned Basil Gogos. James Bama and Basil Gogos both studied with Frank Reilly. They may even have been classmates.

kdwmson said...

I had a couple of those monster model kits. Wish I still had them for my man cave! I don't remember feeling cheated comparing them to the cover art, but I might now! thanks for the trip down memory lane!