James Bama

by Arnie Fenner

Every so often it's nice to do a "call out" to the artists who shaped out field. When it comes to narrative art rendered realistically no one casts a longer shadow than Jim Bama [b. 1926]. It didn't matter if he was doing paintings for the men's adventure magazines or model kit box art or paperback covers (of all subject matters), Bama was simply one of the best out there. While he left Illustration decades ago to devote himself to Western Art, his influence—whether directly or subliminally—is strongly felt. And think about it for a second: he painted something like 62 Doc Savage paperback covers and they were all good: who else has matched both that output on a single series and maintained such a level of quality? No one that I can think of.

When Ian and Betty Ballantine first began publishing books devoted to illustrators in the mid-1970s, the first two were devoted to Frank Frazetta and James Bama—with good reason. Both had a profound impact on the art community that is immeasurable. Frank passed away in 2010 but, fortunately, Jim is still with us (though retired from painting). Bama was one time designated as the "strongest man in New York" and reportedly still whips visitors to his Wyoming home in basketball. Flesk Publications has been publishing books devoted to Bama's art with a new one due soon.

I can't wait!