But that wasn’t always the case. When I started building models, resin and vinyl kits were virtually non-existent. Airbrushes and moto-tools were unimagined luxuries, glue came in red and white tubes and paints came in little square bottles with “Testor’s” on the cap. My first kit was ancient even in 1972… Monogram’s 1/72 scale Curtiss P-36 Hawk. I doubt that I paid more than 75¢ for it, and the finished product was hardly worth bragging about. But I was instantly hooked on a hobby that I still enjoy 37 years later.
In those days I built everything and anything… from the crappy Hawk box-scale airplanes, to Monogram TBF Avengers with a torpedo that actually dropped from the bomb bay, to Aurora’s Russian Golf-class Missile Submarine. I even tried my hand at the Visible Eye… and wound up with something not even Lasik could save. But given my natural affinity for the monsters, it was only a matter of time before I found the fantastic Monster kits from Aurora.
Anyone who was a regular reader of Famous Monsters in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s will remember the ads for these kits… Dracula and Frankenstein, the Wolf-Man and the Mummy, the skeletal Prisoner chained to the section of dungeon wall, even a scraggly-toothed, wart-nosed witch, hard at work stirring a bubbling cauldron. Famous Monsters #59, November 1969, lists several of the monster kits in the Glow-in-the-Dark style for the princely sum of $1.49… quite a bit of money when you consider that you could get a perfectly good airplane or car kit for half that.
But the monsters of Aurora were hard to ignore, and, as soon as I saw one for sale at my neighborhood Pic-n-Save, I had to have it. It was, luckily, my favorite monster, the Mummy. But I wouldn’t have cared which monster I wound up with… I just wanted one of them. Somehow, I came up with enough money to buy it. How, I’m not sure; I am sure that it was no mean feat on a dollar a week allowance. How much I paid for the kit is a mystery; I doubt I could have told you the next morning the price of the model. I had one, and that was all I cared about.
When I got home with my prize, I rushed to my room and opened the box. The figure seemed huge compared to the kits I was used to building, though simple to assemble… a definite plus at that stage in my modeling experience. I can’t recall much detail about the kit, other than the Mummy was undeniably Kharis. I don’t remember what color plastic it was molded in, or how good the quality was. I just remember the joy of building it.
I later added other monsters to the collection, as well as some of the MPC Pirates of the Caribbean and AMT/Ertl Star Trek kits. There was a Tarzan along the way, as well as a Spock, a Batman, and others. Eventually, Aurora folded, the monster kits went away, and I returned to the B-17G’s, M60A1’s, and Federation Starships that I loved.
Now, some thirty-seven years later, those Aurora monsters are hot collector’s items, going for thirty to fifty dollars, unbuilt. Companies such as Polar Lights have issued their own versions of those kits, and high-quality resin and vinyl monster kits abound. These kits, especially the latter, are so far above the old Auroras in terms of quality and accuracy that comparing the two is akin to comparing a ’78 Ford Pinto to a brand-new Mercedes S-class. I just wish I could afford them.
Yes, the new kits are better in terms of quality, better in terms of accuracy, better in terms of choice of subject matter. The only thing they don’t do better is inspire joy and wonder in the mind of an eight-year-old boy.