James Bama and Doc Savage

Yesterday I talked about the influence Frazetta and his paperback covers had on me as a youth.  There was another artist that was a very close second in capturing my imagination and that was James Bama.  Specifically his amazing Doc Savage covers.  Much like I discovered Burroughs through Frazetta, I became enamored with Doc Savage entirely because of James Bama’s depiction of the pulp hero.

The interesting thing about Bama for me is that although I admire all of his various works and his flawless technique, I don’t find his western fine art as compelling as his Doc Savage work. The reason for this, I believe, is that with his Doc Savage paintings, Bama altered the look of his model in the drawing stage.  Instead of staying with a strict realist approach, he exaggerated the muscularity, made the arms longer and the hands bigger and sometimes the head smaller to make Doc look larger than life.  So now instead of pure photo realism, you have a figure with exaggerated superhero proportions being painted in a realistic manner.  That adds an element of fantasy into work that makes it infinitely more interesting to me.

This exaggerated approach is clearly visible in his cover for “He Could Stop The World”, one of my favorite Doc Savage covers.  I would be remiss if I didn’t  mention that his use of mostly monochromatic color schemes made his covers unusually cool!  Just as a side note, two of my all-time favorite Bama pieces are his covers to “Frankenstein” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.  If you haven’t seen these find them! (okay, I will post the Dr. Jekyll cover as well)