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AURORA COMIC SCENES
By Ed Sanchez
In 1974, Aurora issued 10 toy figure kits based on both DC and Marvel characters. The unique thing about these kits was that a comic book was included with each one. These "Comic Scenes" kits featured characters such as Batman, Robin, Captain America, The Hulk, Lone Ranger, Tonto, Spider-Man, Superman, Superman, Superboy and Tarzan. Popular comic book artists such as Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Curt Swan and Dick Giordano contributed to these promotional comics, making each much more than an add-on to the toy's packaging. Over the years these promotional comics became rarities highly prized by kit enthusiasts as well as comic book collectors because of the way in which they were distributed,

Aurora Plastics Corporation was founded in 1950 by Abe Sikes, who had a background in the business before serving in World War II. Sikes joined forces with John Cuomo and Joe Giammarino to form the company, and the three set up shop in Brooklyn, New York. Aurora was just a tiny operation until 1952, when they entered the hobby field by introducing The Grumann Panther F9F Jet Fighter as their first plastic model kit.

By producing model kits at half the cost of their competitors, Aurora was able to penetrate the mass market and change the hobby industry. With the company on the rise, Sikes and his partners added Ray Haines, William Silverstein and Rocco Landi to the mix, and went on to produce an awesome array of kits, which included the famous Mr. Machine kit in 1961.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Sikes next began to diversify Aurora and they moved into the Model Motoring and "Guys and Gals of All Nations" lines. These two new avenues opened up a windfall for Aurora and by 1969, the Model Motoring line alone was a $20-million-a-year annuity for the growing company. They would go on to produce "Famous Fighters," "Famous Warriors," and "Ancient Warriors" lines, always ahead of competitors such as Pyro, Bachman and Precision. By the end of the 1950s, Aurora's catalog of models totaled over 150.

In the early 1960s, when Universal Pictures released some of its classic horror films from the 1930's and 40's to local TV stations, Marketing Director Bill Silverstein had an idea. Launching a contest that yielded thousands of entries, Silverstein got one letter that suggested Aurora should create kits based on the classic monsters. With monsters now invited into living rooms with the infacy of television, and the pulp magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland fanning the flames, Silverstein was convinced that monster kits were the next big thing.

Commissioning noted Bantam Books cover illustrator,James Bama, to paint box art, the Frankenstein kit was the first of the monster kits, hitting the shelves in late 1961. It was an instant sell-out. A second Frankenstein was quickly rushed into production, followed by Dracula and the Wolfman. A year later the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Phantom of the Opera filled out the ranks of Aurora's growing monster kit catalog.

Thanks in part to the advertising Aurora was doing in comics, in 1964 they released the first Superman kit, and like the Frankenstein kit before it, this was a complete success. Kits for Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman would soon follow. Recognizing a good thing when they saw one, Aurora next tapped the successful characters of Marvel Comics, snagging licensing rights for Spider-Man, Captain America and The Hulk.

By 1989, after many ups and downs, Aurora had ceased producing new kits, but by that time, had produced more kits then all of their competitors combined. Aurora changed the toy industry and its kits remain some of the most sought after collectibles in this or any other hobby.

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AURORA COMICS SCENES

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