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SECRET ORIGINS OF FRANKENSTEIN - CHAPTER 14 OF 18
FRANKENSTEIN by JAMES BAMA

Every once in a while, a toy comes along that captivates the kids of America and becomes an overnight sensation. The Frankenstein Model Kit by Aurora was one of those toys. With sales of over one million, the product caught the industry a bit by surprise.

Who expected a plastic model kit of a movie monster from 1931 to suddenly become THE hot toy of 1961? But it did, leading to a whole LINE of Universal monster models. This ad, or one like it, was seen on the back cover of nearly every DC comic for many years...
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XJAMES BAMA, MONSTER MAKER

Why did Aurora's monster kits sell so well? One reason was their amazing box cover paintings, all done by a single artist, the incredible James Bama (pictured right).

Bama's intimidating body of excellent work includes countless paperback covers for books of every conceivable genre. He seems to turn these things out by the hundreds, and there are no misses in his work. Every painting is a grand-slam home run.

Bama also did dozens of gorgeous paintings for a series of Doc Savage novels. Here are three of my favorites...
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Bama once said, "In my neighborhood we had six movie houses and we went to the movies on Saturdays. Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy are still my most memorable mo nster movies. They were seriously done and beautifully crafted. I first saw them when I was about six years old, and I still remember having to sleep with my mother after seeing each one."

BELOW: JAMES Bama's classic box cover for Aurora's FRANKENSTEIN model kit.
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Bama recalls, “[Aurora] brought the Frankenstein model to a trade show. The buyers were not overly enthusiastic but their kids were. So Aurora gave Frankenstein a try, and it became their biggest seller.”

All together, Bama painted twenty monster model box covers for Aurora. Prepare to pass out. Each painting was done for just (OH MY GOD) three hundred dollars.
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“When I was doing the early Aurora Monster cover art," Bama says, "I worked directly from photos of the actors in make-up, with my imagination filling in the backgrounds. But parents complained that the cover art did not match what the actual kits looked like and some kids were disappointed. So, starting with The Mummy and The Creature, Aurora sent me black and white photos of the prototypes to work from. Occasionally these photos were not that clear, so I would often go back to movie photos for details.”
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BELOW: The instructions that came with the Aurora model kit. If Doctor Frankenstein had had these plans way back when, he could have built the Monster in half an hour!
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And here's the finished Frankenstein kit, with a great paint job...
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This ad for the monster models ran in Famous Monsters of Filmland...
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When the original models were re-issued with glow in the dark parts, Bama's drawings were traced by someone to make a new advertisement...
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The super-popular Frankenstein model kit was spoofed by Mad magazine's Norman Mingo, who drew a very Bama-ish looking Monster turning the tables by assembling an Alfred E. Neuman model...
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Bama also did THIS unforgettable portrait of the Monster, a garish and highly-detailed close-up that would be imitated for decades to come...
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The portrait appeared on the box cover of ANOTHER model, this one called "Gigantic Frankenstein, or, lovingly, "Big Frankie," the friendliest monster in town. Yikes! This ad for the model ran on the back cover of countless comic books...
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A close-up view of the box for one of the largest models Aurora ever created...
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Big Frankie poses proudly next to his Bama box cover!
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The Bama Frankenstein head painting was used for the cover of this i ssue of Famous Monsters of Filmland...
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...and it eventually found its way onto both
the front and back of a Super Sugar Crisp box...
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AURORA MONSTER SCENES

A traced version of the painting was used to advertise a controversial series of snap-together horror model kits. Besides Frankenstein and Vampirella, these kits included a wire cage and medieval torture rack, complete with a rabbit and a girl victim. Her model was actually called "The Victim." I, Robby Reed, boy genius, author of this article and creator of this web site, owned all these models, and they were totally awesome.
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What does Jim Bama SOUND like? Here's a 33 second clip from a documentary on Bama where the artist describes a trip he once took to China to research paintings. Click it -- BAM(A)!!!
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Bama also provided the box cover for "Frankenstein's Flivver."
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After Frankie's car got its own model, his bride demanded equal time. She soon got her wish, complete with an electrifying James Bama box cover painting...
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But Mrs. Frankenstein was NOT happy about having to share her comic book ads with an old witch! Both illustrations are knock-offs of Bama's paintings...
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According to Bama, "The first Wolf Man movie was the best of the series. It wasn't campy, and I still have strong, vivid memories of watching it. Doing the model boxes gave me a chance to relive my childhood. The Creature came much later, but I really liked the mood it set. I later used The Creature as the basis for the monster on the cover of Doc Savage: The Sea Angel."
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BELOW: The cover of this famous 1964 record album was based on Bama's paintings for monster models. Bama didn't paint this cover, but the artist who did was clearly imitating Bama's distinctive style.
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FAMOUS MONSTERS SPEAK

Reader, did you ever wonder what was actually ON this album? Well this is your lucky day. We've got the ENTIRE 20-minute "Frankenstein" track right here! It's a disturbing tale voiced by Gabriel Dell of the Bowery Boys. Want to hear it?
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The album's little-seen back cover featured stills from the original Frankenstein and Dracula movies with humorous and satirical captions, imitating the style of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine, one of the album's producers.
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