What would you do with 62 plastic monster model kits? Before you answer, let me explain what these model kits meant to kids of my generation…
Slide Show: Images of Joe Moe’s Monster Model display at last year’s Kevin Burns: Monsters & Friends gallery preview.
Growing up in the 60s and 70s, long before VHS tapes, the internet, or streaming apps, movies were not unlike live theater. Immediate and fleeting. Projected for an hour or two in a cool dark room with strangers shoveling popcorn into their faces, laughing, screaming, and occasionally crying together. But when the movie was over, it was over. Sure, back in the day, you’d be permitted to sit in the theater all afternoon and watch Planet of the Apes or Tales from the Crypt four or five times in a row. But once you left, all that remained was the memory of the experience. We’d run home, grab our sketch pads, and try to capture the fearsome faces that leaped off the screen and burrowed their way into our impressionable young minds. If you were captivated by Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror movies like I was, you’d turn to magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland or other genre periodicals to fill the space between scarce opportunities to watch your favorite movies or TV shows. When you reached the back pages of any monster mag worth its weight in ghouls, you’d find yourself in the mail-order section. A place where items and objects specific to our obsession seduced us into spending our allowance, plus postage & handling, then waiting eagerly by our mailbox as we allowed six to eight weeks for delivery!
Amidst the deluxe monster masks, 8mm film reels, books, magazines, and other horror novelties, there lurked the coveted monster models. These cast-plastic, puzzle figures came in a cardboard box with a glorious full-color lid featuring a vivid image (painted by the brilliant James Bama) of your favorite movie monster, which we’d ultimately use as our paint master. Once newspapers were spread across the kitchen table, the tight-fitting lid would vibrate and practically hum as we pried it off the box bottom to reveal, first, the industrial perfume of fresh plastic. Next, we’d regard all the split, hollow pieces of our particular creature, suspended in a plastic spider’s web matrix of flashing that we would twist each model piece free of as carefully as you’d extract a loose, wiggling baby tooth. Once the pieces were laid out, we’d unfold the graphic instructions, which weren’t needed, but served to get you even more excited about the finished masterpiece you were about to assemble and paint. Unlike other collectibles you could buy, once you’d finished painting and detailing, your monster model would be a one-of-a-kind display piece – unique from anyone else’s.
I should answer my question. What would I do with 62 monster model kits? Sure, if I sold them individually, they’d probably pay for themselves, and I’d still get to keep a crypt’s worth. But I could never be mercenary when it comes to the vessels of inspiration of my childhood. I’d use 30 kits for modeling parties. I’d invite friends to visit and choose their favorite monster. Then we’d sit around a plastic-covered dinner table and reminisce, laugh, glue, and paint. It seems somehow easier to discuss disasters, personal challenges even politics while in the act of creating something extraordinary. I’d reserve 20 kits to share with nieces, nephews, and other kids in one of the best bonding activities I can imagine. As they carefully assembled the limbs of their mini-Prometheus, I’d tell them the story of Frankenstein’s monster, a man-made creature stitched together from body parts. I would encourage them to think outside the box when using color – glitter if they like, to make a scary monster or even a pretty one. Just invent! That is the nature of creativity. And when we inspire a generation of kids to imagine, there’s virtually no obstacle they can’t think their way through. This would leave a dozen or so of my fave kits to stow in my hoarding closet for a rainy day.
While these models are contemporary castings of the vintage, original Aurora kits, they are still not easy to find. But you, your mantle, or display case won’t know the difference. Your fingers will glue and snap pieces together dexterously, and your best painting techniques will be as effective as those many decades ago when you made a monster while youthful hopes and dreams roiled about your head. An innocent time when monsters were imaginary and collecting was purely a hobby. If you end up with this monumental lot, you know where to send my invite to your paint party!
Some assembly (and bidding) are required.