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James Bama – RIP

Famed western and book cover artist James Bama has passed away.


James Elliott Bama
April 28, 1926 – April 24, 2022

Social media is reporting that James Bama died this morning.

   

James Bama is famous for his western paintings that are in museums around the world.

But…

James Bama contributed very little to comics, though one of his book covers was repurposed into a comic book cover in 1966. He was however well-known to purveyors of popular culture for, among other things, his long-running series of Doc Savage Bantam paperback book covers.

Among those other things of pop culture fame is his Aurora/Universal Monster model kit art,

and a series of Nevada Jim covers.

 

Robert Deis goes even further  back in James Bama’s work:

Bama’s men’s adventure work is less well known, even though it’s also great and helped him develop the skills he later used for his “fine art.”

Of course, men’s pulp adventure mags are my main focus as a collector, writer and editor. So when I contacted Jim at his home in Wyoming and he graciously agreed to do a phone interview, many of my questions were about his work for them. And, most of the artwork I picked to go with my transcript of the interview is men’s adventure art. But we also talked about other aspects of his life and career.

 

James Bama interview for Men’s Adventure Magazines part one

James Bama interview for Men’s Adventure Magazines part two 

James Bama interview for Men’s Adventure Magazines part three

A comic strip connection from the Robert Deis interview:

I’ve read that two of your other big influences were comic strip artists: Alex Raymond, the creator of Flash Gordon and Hal Foster, who created Prince Valiant.

Bama: Yes, I was four months shy of eight years old when Flash Gordon came out in 1934 and I kept copies of that comic strip for 10 years until I was 18. I’d go to the candy store every Sunday and wait for the newspaper truck to come. I must have known how good he would be. Alex Raymond grew and grew and grew as an artist. He was incredible, and he was my first hero. I loved Hal Foster’s comic strips, too. In fact, I originally wanted to be a cartoonist. I used to copy comic strips all the time, like Flash Gordon and Tarzan…

Hal Foster also drew the Tarzan comic strip in the ‘30s.

Bama: That’s right. So, I wanted be a cartoonist and as a teenager I managed to get a job working for Burris Jenkins, Jr. who was one of the two leading sports cartoonists in the country. He worked for Hearst, for the Journal-American, an afternoon newspaper in New York. When I was 15 years old I did my first original artwork. I sold an aerial view of Yankee Stadium to The Sporting News for $50. Jenkins was too busy to do it. I worked for him when I was 15, and then I was offered two jobs when I was finishing high school with Jimmy Hatlo, who did the comic “They’ll Do It Every Time,” and Bob Oksner, who did a detective series whose name I don’t remember, before going on to work for DC Comics. So, I was doing those two jobs and I had even worked up my own comic strip, “Mr. Faith.” But then the war happened and I went into the service, then I got the GI Bill and went to art school and wound up being an illustrator. But I always wanted to be a cartoonist. And, Alex Raymond and Hal Foster were my two biggest influences when I was a kid. Ironically, I wound up writing the introductions to books about both of them. What are the odds on that? [EDITOR’S NOTE: The books are ALEX RAYMOND: HIS LIFE AND ART and HAL FOSTER: PRINCE OF ILLUSTRATORS, FATHER OF THE ADVENTURE STRIP.]


above: the Miss Cairo Jones of October 7, 1945
(unknown if James Bama contributed to this or was already in the Air Force)

Community Comments

#1 Ignatz
April/25/2022
@ 5:59 am

His Doc Savage was the model for Marvel’s comic book version of the character, which was my introduction to Doc. R.I.P.

#2 Maher Younsi
April/25/2022
@ 11:52 am

R.I.P , James Bama .

#3 A Nahigian
April/25/2022
@ 1:38 pm

After the first book, Bama did not paint some of the early book covers that you have on your site. He was on his honeymoon, so Bantam hired some other illustrators to do them while he was not available. He painted, The Man Of Bronze, The Thousand Headed Man, The Monsters, The Mystic Mullah and The Phantom City.

#4 D. D. Degg
April/25/2022
@ 2:12 pm

Thank you A. The books have been replaced with, what I hope, are all James Bama covers.

#5 Rory Schultz
May/3/2022
@ 9:03 am

I am saddened by his passing. I learned a lot from him and many other illustrators as well as fine artists. I had always wanted to own paintings from the differing mentors and finally achieved this this past year to obtain one of James’ paintings.
He will always be known as being part of the greatest collective of illustrators and fine artists of both the 20th and 21st century.

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