Ah yes, the Aurora Monsters - what got me started into the modelling hobby, and what probably turned me into a home haunter as well!
Still have the entire set, still love 'em...
The Aurora Monster Models are SO ingrained in the lore and legends of that period - the famed Monster Craze of the '50s, '60s and '70s - that a little background info is necessary to bring it AL into focus
Aurora Plastics Corporation was founded in March, 1950 by engineer Joseph E. Giammarino and businessman Abe Shikes in Brooklyn, New York (moving to West Hempstead, Long Island in 1954), as a contract manufacturer of injection molded plastics.
With the hiring in 1952 of salesman John Cuomo, the company began the manufacture of its own line of plastic model kits. These kits were marketed to young hobbyists, as were the kits of rivals Monogram and Revell. Aurora profitably targeted to a younger demographic than their competitors, creating smaller-sized, less detailed models at a lower price point.
The first kits came in late 1952 and were scale aircraft models. The
this time appeared in narrow white letters and in a semi-circular form across
the top of the script. The more recognized Aurora oval did
not appear until 1957. Boxes were a simply illustrated orange color. The slogan
under the Aurora logo was
"U - Ma - Kit" (You Make It). Aurora's market approach was to make
kits simple, thus undercutting the competition. Along these lines these first
two kits appear to have been Hawk kits measured and copied to Aurora 's own molds. Aurora
In 1956, monster mania swept the nation, thanks to Universal Pictures releasing its classic monster movies to local television stations. By the time of
Believe it or not, the entire nearly didn't happen as several higher ups at
At the end of the day, whoever, the success of Frankenstein led
From the start,
carefully devised how it would package and promote
its monsters. Noted artist James Bama was
commissioned to create the striking images on the kit boxes. For many
collectors today, the kit boxes are often more desirable than the monster
inside. Aurora also chose to package its monsters in "long
boxes" made of rigid cardboard. These measured 13-by-5-by-2 inches and
allowed Bama's full-body renditions of the creatures to be faithfully and fully
Aurora's shrewdest move, attributed to the company's marketing director, Bill Silverstein, was to advertise exhaustively within the pages and on back covers of DC monsters and Famous Monsters of Filmland. Die-hard
collectors often haunt comic shops' DC and monster
magazine bins for issues featuring Aurora monster ads. Aurora
When the hot-rod craze of the '60s hit,
stepped forward to mesh
monster with machine. Monster
Rods raced into hobby stores, featuring oddball
creatures in wacky roadsters, such as Dracula's Dragster, Wolfman's Wagon, and
the Mummy's Chariot. Alas, in 1969, Aurora executives determined it
was time to spend more energy on nonfigure kits. Rather than produce new
monsters, the company decided to reissue its existing line in a new
light--monsters that glow in the dark. Aurora
When first issued as Frightening Lightening kits (with the slogan "Frightening Lightening Strikes!"),
Unfortunately, the box snafu was a harbinger of things to come. In 1971,
introduced a new series
of plastic malevolence: Monster
Consisting of four new figures (Dr. Deadly, Frankenstein, Vampirella, and the
Victim) and four ominous settings (The Pain Parlor, The Hanging Cage, The
Pendulum, and Gruesome Goodies), the scenes were pitched with the box slogan,
"Mix 'em and Match 'em," encouraging kids to make up their own
monstrous situations. Unfortunately, the other half of the box slogan read
"Rated X...for Excitement." Angered parents and religious groups
across the country picketed Aurora 's factory. New Aurora owner Nabisco Foods
promptly axed Monster Scenes and practically all the company's executive
staff--just 2 weeks before Christmas 1971. Aurora
And without further ado...a look at my kits, along with the box art and my own reminiscences...these are to the originals, by the way - and I use florescent and glow in the dark paint as my own touch...
For the record, my first kit was Dracula, followed quickly by Godzilla, both of the glow variant, which my father put together for me - and then got fed up with me incessantly bugging him every five minutes with "is is done yet?" and figured I was intelligent enough to do all this myself
Notice how James Bama's art here resembles more Oliver Reed in Curse of the Werewolf than Lon Chaney Jr's Wolf Man....?
Now THAT'S more like it!
The Prisoner of Castel-Mare was to have a back story and tie in to Famous Monsters, something that never did come to fruition – basically leaving the kit that of a skeleton chained to the wall, but it sparked enough curiosity that was to have an echo effect years down the road, but we’ll get to that a bit later…
I went ultra-fluorescent happy with this one...
The infamous Monster of the Movies line - they were smaller, a bit less detailed in some cases, but still fun - all I have is the Creature...
The '80s were an odd time for monster models – the classic Aurora molds were thought lost, then resurfaced and companies like Monogram would reissue a few from time to time - vinyl kits were all the rage, resin style molds were on their way up however.... there were a few distributors – most notably Horizon, who introduced a line of classic nicely detail 10” monster figure kits that included Lugosi’s Dracula, Chaney’s Phantom, and the Invisible Man – the company went on to produce a wide variety of larger scale figure kits in the 90s, including good Wolf Man, Creature (I had that one! Gave it to a friend years ago...) and a remarkable Tom Tyler Mummy sculpt, adding to their amazing interpretations of both The Joker and the Green Goblin in the middle part of the decade...I had those, too, and, silly me, gave 'em away, too...
Two companies really held the market when it came to this type of kit – Japanese distributors Billiken and Kaiyodo, who tended to specialize in kaiju related materials, and both companies had an amazing array of the Godzilla family available….I own Billiken’s 1962 and 1964 version of The Big G, and they are amazing pieces…
It must be said that Billiken did a brief run of the Universal Monsters, which include Lugosi’s Dracula, Karloff’s Frankenstein, Chaney’s Phantom and these are to DIE FOR – AMAZING sculpts, and while they are available on EBay, they carry a rather impressive price tag. Caveat Emptor.
...and a few goodies from Kaiyado and some other Japanese note worthies...
For horror buffs, the big company to watch in the 1990s was SCREAMING – they released a line of large scale kits – usually about 18” tall - and this included a Howling-styled werewolf, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, several of the Hellraiser Cinobites, Lon Chaney as the vamp[ire from London After Midnight, not to mention some fantastic representations Batman, Catwoman and the Penguin form BATMAN RETURNS, but also a truly spectacular Darth Vader and Yoda and even an Elvira and Tales form the Crypt Cryptkeeper figure - this stuff was to die for....they are on EBay, but, again, be forewarned of the sticker shock!
Worthy of note were Monarch Models, a small one-man operation that, while not producing a huge amount in terms of sheer volume, what they did produce was of the finest quality – and all fit to scale and packaged in the style and packaging art traditions of Aurora…and quite a few had glow in the dark versions produced as well!
Starting with a spectacular Max Shreck Nosferatu kit in 2007, their line included Sinbad, Gorgo and a spin off on Aurora’s Prisoner kit, The Ghost of Castel Mare, and a lot of these were reissued later with Glow in the Dark extras as well. This line was very much in the spirit of Aurora's classic kits, being of the same scale to sit comfortably next the the originals.
Sadly, in January 2016, found Scott McKillop announced the dissolution of the company, bringing to close a truly great small scale producer of quality kits...they will truly be missed!
The Glow Heads of the late 1970s
Moebius Models – they’ve been around for a while - but starting around the latter part of the 2000s, they began producing some amazing figure kits of the classic monsters, stating in 2008 with the Invisible Man and releasing a few annually until about 2013 when their focus switched to other subject matter, most recently focusing in on the ships and vehicles of shows like Lost In Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and a remarkable line of figures based on the 1960s BATMAN TV series…
In regards to their monsters, in all fairness, they could be very hit and miss in terms of scale and likeness accuracy…I don’t want to start criticizing what went wrong with what kit, but, suffice it to say, the highlights included their Boris Karloff Mummy, replete with a finely detailed sarcophagus, a Bride of Frankenstein kit sculpted by Jeff Yaeger, a Bela Lugosi Broadway Dracula, which was later re-released to include a female victim, a fantastic replica of the Munsters House, and a slick Creature from the Black Lagoon kit complete with a Julie Adams figure nestled in the Creature’s arms...
Another series of kits pertaining to here would be Jeff Yaegher's Aurora Box Art Monsters - these are available most directly from Monsters In Motion and include Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein and the Bride and the Mummy all interpreted as done by James Bama's original cover artwork...
And that's all for now - hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!
See ya next time!