Most of the time, I never made a steady diet of any one thing with regard to my scale model building. I’m not sure exactly when my fascination with this category of modeling began or why. I suspect it had to do with my enjoyment of horror comic books such as Tales from the Crypt , Creepy, and Eerie beginning in the late 60’s and early 70’s. At any rate, I began to notice and acquire these kits in the early 70’s at The Hobby Shop in downtown Knoxville, which was across the street from the YWCA. Back then, mail order was a novelty — you snagged whatever was on the shelves. The monster models were made by a company called Aurora which was bought out by Nabisco in 1969. The original Aurora models are collector’s items, although the molds have been licensed to several companies who continue to the produce the old models and produce new titles as well.
The first eight of these are undated, but it’s a good guess that I started building my collection when I was in eighth or ninth grade, prior to 1974. I will try to list these models in the order I built them but cannot vouch for accuracy in this case. The first dozen were completed during my Sophomore and Junior years of high school. As far as I knew, those were all that existed. It was not until almost 25 years later that I discovered additional figurines and added to my collection, courtesy of online sources and a few good hobby shops. I displayed all of these models in my first Media Center at Rock Crusher Elementary, and later in my office at the Citrus High School Media Center. It wasn’t until I taught ninth grade Science classes that I acquired the display case in which they currently reside.
The first acquisition was Boris Karloff’s interpretation of The Mummy. I had just learned about dry brushing and went a little nuts with it. Most of these early kits had “glow in the dark” features and I preserved those as they were, even if it distracted from the realism of the model. After a couple of constructions, I discovered that gloss red made an excellent looking blood, so I began to find areas where I could use that, incorporating it in previously completed models as well.
The second in the series was this model of The Wolf Man:
Next came The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Charles Laughton portrayed the bellringer, Quasimodo, in this classic movie scene. I’m afraid I went a little crazy with the blood and I again sacrificed realism to keep the glow-in-the-dark accents intact.
Boris Karloff makes another appearance in this kit as Frankenstein’s Monster. This one has lost a few pieces of the gravesite over the years, but I hesitate to replace them. With a few exceptions, I will try to keep these models in whatever condition they are in, mainly as a reflection of my modeling abilities at the time of construction or because it would be too time-consuming to fabricate new parts. The Frankenstein monster is the first on which I put a very thin wash of paint over the glow-in-the-dark features which added to the realism while still allowing it to glow in the dark.
The model below is that of Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula.
I’m not sure if The Forgotten Prisoner of Castlemare is based on an actual story, or just a representation of a gruesome dungeon scene. I’ve recently purchased “The Ghost of Castlemare” which I will construct as a companion piece for this one.
The Witch does not appear to be from a specific movie either, but rather is a stereotypical interpretation of an old crone witch surrounded by the tools of her trade. One of the things that tickled me at the time was staging a decapitated rat near the cleaver, with a trail of blood drooling down the chopping block as the head fell to the floor. Several parts of this model still glow through the thin paint.
Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde is supposed to have some sort of flask or test tube in his hand which fell out at some point over the years. Or, maybe he dropped it after he chugged down the formula.
The first of my dated models is this one of King Kong with his girlfriend, Faye Ray. This was completed in May of 1974.
Below is Lon Cheney, Jr. as The Phantom of the Opera. He is supposed to have a mask in his right hand which I plan to replace as soon as I get a chance. This one was completed on August 22, 1974. I had just turned 16 years old.
This is a model of Godzilla wreaking havoc. Originally, I thinned out cotton balls and glued it on the city at his feet to represent rising smoke. Completed on October 4, 1974.
The classic movie, The Creature From the Black Lagoon was partially shot in Silver Springs, just outside of Ocala, Florida. The Creature was completed on November 8, 1974. There is another notation under the base: “With this model, the set is complete.” Or so I thought…
What I found next was a model that didn’t fit my usual mold. This was an excellent reproduction of my favorite comic book hero, The Amazing Spider-Man, showing him subduing Kraven the Hunter. It was a painstaking operation to paint all the individual lines on his suit (with a small brush), but I was up to the challenge. This was the last figure that I constructed before graduating from high school and going off to college. For some reason, I did not list the completion date on it, but is most likely late 1975 or early 1976.
In 1995, the school systems in Florida were given access to the World Wide Web through a single dialup port. It was slow and cumbersome, but it was the Internet. Search engines were primitive by today’s standards, but the world of information was profoundly changing.
In the late 90’s, on a whim, I looked up “monster models” and found information on the kits I owned as well as kits I had never seen. I was floored to find this wonderful representation of Elsa Lanchester as The Bride of Frankenstein. This was another detailed model and I had a lot of fun with it, since I hadn’t built one of these in more than 20 years. Evidently, Aurora had a version of this kit back in 1966, although this was a new kit offered by a company named Polar Lights, who took over many of the molds from Aurora. This model was completed on July 10, 2000.
Continuing to search online sources for everything, including models, I discovered a new release of a very old kit, The Guillotine. This old Aurora model was first released in 1964. I remember being in first or second grade at Galbreath Elementary School in South Knoxville, when one of my classmates brought a working model of a guillotine for show and tell. I remember being absolutely amazed by the demonstration, but never saw another reference to it again. Evidently, some people complained to the company and it became hard to find. There is a recent online reference to the guillotine in this Mental Floss article. I spotted this model sometime around 2001 and completed it on November 2, 2002. I would occasionally loan it to the Social Studies department at Citrus High School whenever they were discussing the French Revolution.
About the same time, I was browsing in Toys R Us and stumbled on this terrific (but simple) model of The Jetsons. The characters were vinyl and pre-painted, so there was very little to construct. It was a cool acquisition nevertheless.
In the summer of 2010, I worked on the most ambitious and detailed monster model yet — The Invisible Man. There were a ton of pieces and a considerable amount of detailed painting to complete. I found the end result very satisfying. This model marks the first time that I used an airbrush for painting. The Invisible Man was completed on September 2, 2010 (almost eight years to the day as I write this entry).
Continuing with my comic character series, I built this model of the original DC Comics crime fighter, The Batman. I not only used an airbrush for this kit, but employed copious amounts of putty and sandpaper to try to eliminate any assembly seams. Batman was finished on May 5, 2013.
The most recent character model I have completed is this version of the original silent-movie vampire, Nosferatu. I am not happy with his skin tone, which I wanted to be a pale, washed out green, not the teal that it appears. I’ll fix it one day. It’s still a cool model anyway. It was finished on July 18, 2013.
I still have several figurine kits awaiting construction, including The Flash, Superman, The Ghost of Castlemare, Robin – the Boy Wonder, and Blackbeard. I suppose I’ll need another display case like this one: