Friday, January 26, 2007

Number 86

Frankenstein Friday: Aurora Frankenstein Models!

In the late 1950s the Baby Boomer generation got to an age where they began to have buying power and the ability to sway popular culture. Entertainment like rock music and television felt the effect. On the TV side the Saturday late night monster movies took off, fueled by backlists of films from the 1930s and 1940s. They were most often the film catalogue of what are now called the Universal Monsters: Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman and the Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Concurrent with that exposure on TV, Jim Warren published Famous Monsters Of Filmland, edited and written in a pun-filled way by horror movie/sci-fi guru Forrest J. Ackerman. It found its audience almost immediately amongst pre-adolescent boys. I should know. I was one of them.

The Universal Monsters went on to licensing nirvana, including the Aurora Model Company, where pre-fab plastic dioramas featuring Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, etc., were put on the market and caught on in a big way. So much so that many years later, with the Baby Boomers all grown up, they were

At the time I missed out on the model kits. I was still buying comic books that had the Aurora ads on the back. I was aware they were available. I had by that time "outgrown" model making (but not reading comics), and the only models I was interested in making were real live girls. The plastic models were aimed more at the age group my brother was in at the time. He and his friends had a great time with their monster model kits, Rat Finks, and all of the other stuff I turned up my nose at. The kids thought they were cool, I thought they were juvenile. Now I'm at an age, my second pre-adolescence, where such things finally seem cool. Such is the circular motion our lives take.

The ads are all from the back covers of DC comics. Click on the picture for larger image. The models must've been extremely popular, because the ads I have range from 1963 to 1969 (Big Frankie!) Only one doesn't have the classic Universal Frankenstein, but has the classic Bride Of Frankenstein image, instead. I wonder if the Witch or Bride sold well to young boys? I can't see girls being that interested, and boys would shy away from anything with a female. Or would they? Maybe I underestimate the intended consumer.

The ads are colorful and fairly well drawn. The Big Frankie ad from 1969 is obviously done by a commercial artist, rendered in pen and ink by light-boxing a photo. The other ads have the style of comic art of the time.

Finally, did anyone ever win the contest to be in a monster movie? And if so, what movie was it?

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