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“Big Trouble On Uranus!”

On July 13, 2010, in Blah Blah Blah, by Brian Berley

Take a gander at my latest epic:  “Big Trouble On Uranus” Inspired by all those nights I stayed up late as a little kid, watching cheezy creature features on WGN.

Bonus Material:

In this rare prodution still we see an example of the talents of the legendary cinematographer Lionel Sturdley who served as DP on the shoot. To create the hostile landscape of Uranus, 27 days were spent on location at an Elizabeth, New Jersey landfill.

1956 proved a busy year for leading man Bronk McGurk. In additon to "Uranus," he went on to star in such classics as "The Nearly Transparent Man" and "Renegade Nuns on Wheels." His trajectory to superstardom was curtailed shortly after a freak chariot accident during the filming of "Hercules vs. the Martians." Here we see Bronk frolicking on the set with his co-star, lovely Lola Von Treacle.

Note: Due to budget limitations, the original concept of filming "Big Trouble" in 3D was scrapped. Audiences were instead treated to "GREYTONE-A-RAMA" the short-lived process of de-colorization.

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Illustrator Pantheon: JAMES BAMA

On June 25, 2010, in Illustrator Pantheon, by Brian Berley

Illustrators Pantheon?  Yep.  Some are personal heroes who’ve influenced my own work  but, in large part, these are illustrators who’ve stopped me in my tracks with their sheer talent.  Most of the artists I will highlight are examined elsewhere at great length.  My hope here is to merely introduce these talents to those who may wish to discover more about them.

Also…  preemptive apologies to these artists for any unintentional inaccuracies.  photos, and  reproductions used without permission.  And to readers for the inevitable exclusions/omissions of source material.


James Bama (b. 1926)

There’s little I can add to what others have already written about JAMES BAMA.  So I’ll simply begin then by relating how I came upon his work.

Imagine for a moment:  you’re a twelve year-old boy, hungry for adventure, loitering around your local bookstore (trying hard not to let the notion of boosting a couple paperbacks get the best of you), when suddenly your eyes lock onto these….

…and BAM(a)! Were these… photos?  The hyperealism and the subject matter was dazzling.  I simply had to pick up one of these books and begin reading.  (Of course, I did purchase the books — in fact, each and every Doc Savage adventure!)  Bama did 62 covers for the Bantam’s 1960’s reprints of the Doc Savage series.  So great was the power of James Bama’s jacket illustrations that it spurred my love for reading — reading of all kinds.  Every kid should be so lucky.

Actor/Model Steve Holland as Doc Savage

This is Steven Holland, the model who posed for almost all of Bantam's Doc Savage paperback covers! He posed for cover artists James Bama and Bob Larkin. Steven Holland was also the cover model for the 1970's reprints of Bantam's The Avenger pulp series.

Alas, much like, say…. Sean Connery’s immutable association with James Bond, many of my generation shall most readily acknowledge James Bama for his Man of Bronze imagery.  But as Bama fans know (as with Connery) there is so much more to his legacy.  Several years later, as I entered my pursuits as a full-fledged illustrator I revisited Bama to discover the depth and breadth of this work.

James Bama was born in Manhattan in 1926 and grew up in the Northeast. He followed his early interest in art through New York’s specialized High School of Music and Art and the Art Students League. Beginning in 1951, he was an illustrator at New York’s Charles E. Cooper Studios for 15 years. His first paperback cover was Nelson Nye’s A Bullet for Billy the Kid (1950).

Bama's first paperback cover: Bullet for Billy the Kid

Strange Kingdom of Marine Sgt. Wirkus (Stag Magazine, April 195

Bama had a 22-year career as a successful commercial artist, producing paperback book covers, movie posters and illustrations for such publications as Argosy, The Saturday Evening Post and Reader’s Digest, and his numerous clients included the New York Giants football team, the Baseball and Football Halls of Fame and the U.S. Air Force.

1964 Bama married Lynne Klepfer, a New York University graduate with an art history major. Two years later, in June, 1966, the couple headed west as guests of artist Bob Meyers at his Circle M ranch near Cody, Wyoming. Two years later, Bama and his wife moved away from New York to Wapiti, Wyoming.  In the Wyoming mountains, Bama continued his illustration work, and, despite his new home, was not especially concerned with western themes. However, after attending the local pow wows, rodeos and Western reenactments, Bama became increasingly interested in the local people and in 1971 gave up illustration to pursue fine art. In 1978 the Bamas moved into their present home on a sagebrush-covered hillside some 20 miles west of Cody, Wyoming, in the village of Wapiti on the highway to Yellowstone National Park.

Now known for his photo-real figures and satin-smooth paintings that capture the Wild West, Bama is sometimes referred to as the “Vermeer of the West.” He works from a tidy home studio he and his wife, Lynn, built. There, he converts his many photographs into paintings, photographing his subjects in black and white, enlarging the photos, and beginning his painting with an outline of the photographic image.

The James Bama / James Bond Connection. Bond fans would probably support that Bama did do his research on this illo. His likeness of 007 is very much as Fleming described him. Some might also argue that there's a bit of Fleming himself in this portrait.

Today the paintings of James Bama are part of many prestigious collections, including those of Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Nicolas Cage and Malcolm Forbes.  Bama has been represented in major exhibitions throughout the West and has been presented in one-man shows in New York City.  Bama was inducted into the Illustrator’s Hall of Fame June 28, 2000. Through his portraits of real people of the new West re-creating their history and heritage, Bama pays homage to the Old West and is renowned in yet another realm of the art world.

Bama captures the horror classics for Aurora.

Even before they knew his name, many monster fans of the early ‘60s were already fans of Bama’s work. When Aurora Plastics Corporation launched a series of plastic model kits based on the Universal movie monsters, it was James Bama who provided the vivid color illustrations for the boxes.

Again, my thanks to James Bama for perhaps inciting in me the desire to take up the challenge all illustrators face:  to give substance to the visions of others through our own unique expression.  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t look at Bama’s work, for in my studio hang 15 of his litho reproductions.

The Art of James Bama

James Bama: American Realist

James Bama Sketchbook

Collecting James Bama – Publications & Reproductions

Visit LEGENDS OF FILM & FANTASY to discover more about James Bama’s work on the Aurora model illustrations.

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On June 2, 2010, in Uncategorized, by Brian Berley

Howdy.  Online & ready to spew….

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