Pictured above is the box art for the Creature from the Black Lagoon Aurora plastic model kit. The cover art, as I learned just a few years ago, is by the incomparable James Bama. Bama did many striking paperback cover for Bantam Books and among his best and most well-known works are the cover paintings he did for Bantam's Doc Savage series, which reprinted the vintage pulp novels in paperback format. Bama did the cover art for many of the first generation of Aurora monster model kits and it was his work on the Creature box art that grabbed me by the throat (metaphorically speaking, of course) when I was a very young boy.
The time was the early 1960s, the place, Fort Worth, Texas, where my family had been relocated for a couple of years due to my dad's work. I was in either kindergarten or (most likely) first grade, when I saw a display of Aurora monster model kits in a variety/department store. I had no idea who James Bama was (although he would become one of my all-time favorite artists). What's more, I had no idea who or what "the Creature" was. I had no knowledge of the film whatsoever at that young age and I didn't see the classic monster movie for the first time until many years later. All I knew was that this image, this monster, was one of the coolest things I had ever seen and I simply had to have it.
My father, who also loved old monster movies, indulged me and bought the kit, along with a tube of glue, some little bottles of model paint and a couple of brushes. As soon as we got home, the building of this fabulous monster model kit began. Having never built a model kit before, my father did the majority of the work while I merely watched in wonder and awe. When he was finished and all of the pieces were properly painted and the paint was dry, he began gluing the pieces together. It was an agonizingly slow process but the finished product was well worth the wait. I now owned my very first ever monster model. I had to have another and I did.
Over the next few years, I managed to purchase and build almost every Aurora monster model kit on the market. I quickly became proficient at kit painting and building by myself, a skill I had to master when my dad passed away in 1965. I never kept the original boxes once the kits were assembled and, as I've related elsewhere on this blog, all of my monster models met destructive demises.
The finished Creature kit looked like this:
One of these days, I plan to purchase one of the reproductions of the kit that are currently available. They're exact replicas in every way including the original box art and graphics. While it would be even better to own an original unbuilt kit in the original box, the prices that those treasures are fetching are beyond me. I'll settle for a nice copy at a decent price and throw in the priceless memories for free.