They coming for ya: Mark Spears Monsters!
By Kurt Kuersteiner ©2023 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards for The Wrapper Magazine

Spears Inserts (Ser. 1 & N.o.t.l.d.

(Series 1 Concept card (L), and Night of the Living Dead (R) sample from Mark Spears Monsters Halloween Edition)

Monster cards remain one of the more popular genres for Non-sports card collectors. There are a variety of reasons for this: They are dramatic, diverse, and very imaginative. But I think one of the biggest reasons they are so popular is the nostalgia they recall to collectors. What monster kid doesn’t enjoy remembering the fun of childhood monster movies, or trick-or-treating in the old neighborhood, or encountering (and collecting) our first monster cards?

I was reminded of such memories when I visited with artist Mark Spears about his latest two card series, Mark Spears Monsters (2021) and his follow up sequel series, Halloween Edition (2022). Although born in 1975, Spears grew up as a 70s version of a Monster Kid. “I loved comic books, super hero cartoons, The Incredible Hulk tv show, Star Trek, and anything with monsters in it,” he recalled. “We didn’t have a VCR yet, and our black and white TV only picked up three stations. But my dad had a film projector and it had a short three minute Superman trailer. It was for the 1978 one starring Christopher Reeves. Whenever I could, I got dad to play that trailer over and over again to watch Superman, The Hulk, and the werewolf... For a kid being bullied, it would be great to be able to fight back like that. Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Hideous Sun Demon, The Colossal Man… Most of those monsters just wanted to be left alone, but they were the ones attacked.” 

Spears grew up and still lives in Huntsville, Alabama, the youngest of three siblings. His brother was six years older than Mark, but his sister was only three years older. The eldest sibling enjoyed watching The Shazam Isis Hour with Mark, while his sister was the one who introduced him to Night of the Living Dead. Mark was only about ten then, and it really made an impression. Then his sister doubled down and got him to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which caused Mark to wake up screaming at night! (Night of the Screaming Kid?) But despite these young introductions to hardcore horror (or perhaps because of them), Mark fell even more in love with monsters. As he points out, “I loved scary movies, especially dramatic ones like The Changeling, Poltergeist, and An American Werewolf in London."

As an artist, he drew different things, but it was his horror related digital art that got him recognized. “I would send samples out to various magazines, offering to do work for them for free.” Spears recollects,  “Several were interested, but when they asked what medium I used and I told them it was all digital, they wouldn’t respond anymore. There’s some king of weird bias against it. Fortunately, Diabolique magazine not only wanted to use my art, they insisted on paying me. I was able to do their last three covers before they went paperless.” 
That first big break not only paid $200 per cover, it got him recognized in the horror community. “Diabolique really loved the results and told me ‘Hey, we think you’re gonna get nominated for a Rondo.’ And I said, ‘What’s a Rondo?’” Spears not only ended up getting nominated by the Rondo Hatton Horror committee for all three covers, but he won the 2020 Artist of the Year Award. 

That boost gave Spears the confidence that collectors would support his work if it focused on the same subjects he loved. So he went about making his own monster set in a hyper-realistic style, heavily influenced by Famous Monsters of Filmland cover artist, Basil Gogos. He released Mark Spears Monsters on Kickstarter in 2021, followed in 2022 with Mark Spears Monsters Halloween Edition. (Both series also became available for on-line purchase via Amazon, Walmart, and Nacelle.) 

The card images feature surreal colors and monstrous portraits that would seem quite at home on any cover of Famous Monsters of Filmland (which is ironic, because FMF was one of the magazines that was interested in Mark’s work until he told him it was digital). Both of his Kickstarters were successful but both card series were rather complicated, with multiple parallel sets and unusual exclusives. Some of those details aren’t included on the regular checklist, so let’s discuss the particulars—as well as his current Kickstarter for the new series 2 (which is technically the third monster type series Spears has produced).

First, let’s examine series 1 and its Halloween Edition sequel: The following section should help answer that universal card collecting fear: Is my set truly complete?

The premier series was released in two varieties: A full bleed base set of 86 cards (which were sold inside a red Dracula wrapper), and a retro set (printed on chipboard with the same images but with a “distressed” border that made them look older and worn on the edges). Those were sold in purple Frankenstein monster wrappers. Both the boxes had identical designs but one says “complete full bleed set in every box” on the side, whereas the other container states “complete distressed set in every box”. The boxes contain 20 packs (with a Styrofoam spacer in the bottom). Each pack says “7 cards – 1 sticker – 1 stick of bubble gum”. Unfortunately, the printing company messed up and shorted each pack 1 card. (Mark found this out after the fact and had to ask for all the extras back that they didn’t use!) 

All the extra inserts are where things get complicated, starting with the stickers. There were supposed to be 25, but Mark added two more after printing the checklist (so there are actually 27). Moreover, there are 12 exclusive stickers that were supposed to go to Kickstarter Master set patrons, but they ended up getting mixed in with the regular boxes, so customers may discover alternative images for (up to) twelve of the regular 27 stickers. (Not all boxes had them, but some did.) 

Spears Series 1

(Series 1 Full Bleed base card (L), and also a Retro style base card (R) from Mark Spears Monsters)

The Series 1 updated checklist:
86 full bleed Borderless Base cards (250 boxes of full bleed and 250 retro boxes made)
86 Distressed “1980s retro” border parallels (features w/ old style borders on chipboard)
93 Classic Chromes parallels (the base card images in black & white, plus the seven images taken from the gold cards)
9 Blood Splatter Chase Cards
19 First Concept Chase Cards
7 Ghoulish Gold Cards (with gold foil borders)
25 stickers with puzzle backs (also 27 different “pack pulled” stickers)
12 unlisted stickers (the original versions, some of which found their way into boxes)
9 Mark Spears Autograph cards
16 3D cards (found in the hobby boxes)
3D glasses (one per box)
2 Monster Spectrums
3 Horror Foils
Printing Plates from the series
Original Sketch Cards by Spears (about 200 were drawn)
6 unnumbered “Super Rare Secret” cards. They are unnumbered but are titled: Dead End, Maldor The Wise, Surge, The Overseer, Count Dracula, and The Squad.

The Halloween Edition series had similar subjects and style, but the base cards didn’t have story text on the backs—just titles.

Spears Halloween Edition

(Mark Spears Monsters Halloween Edition Full Bleed base card (L), alongside a Retro style (R) base card)

Here's that updated checklist:

The base set was made up of 92 cards (700 boxes made, total)
92 retro 1984 parallel cards (on thicker chipboard, 199 made, plus 4 APs*)
92 monochrome (black and white) parallel cards (199 made, plus 4 APs*)
92 Bloody Nightmare parallel cards (red tinted, 99 made)
92 ghoul parallel cards (blue framed images with “Mark Spears Monsters” atop, 99 made, plus 4 APs*)
92 Grimly Gold parallel cards (using gold colored framing, 99 made)
7 Houdini stickers
13 different Night of the Living Dead cards (299 made)
Phantom Kickstarter Exclusive card (115 made)
Frankenstein Monster Kickstarter Exclusive card (115 made)
Monster Slayer Kickstarter Exclusive card (40 Made)
Future Dracula Kickstarter Exclusive card (40 Made)
Little Monsters special sticker (199 made)
Drac’s Hot Rod special card (199 made)
Nosferatu special card (100 made
3 different autographs (Joe Bob Briggs, Mark Spears, Scarah Damsel)
Promo card (group shot image, distributed in NSU)
3 different “Monster wanted poster cards” (Mummy, Frankenstein, and Brides of Dracula, 40 each made)
*The APs are Artist Proof cards. They are the same cards but have “AP” where the number is usually printed. Only 49 to 99 APs were made of any particular card, and the card stock was different from whatever the stock used for the regular parallels.

Some of the biggest differences between the two series is that the Halloween Edition base cards don't have any story text on the backs—just titles. But they also include a 13 card Night of the Living Dead subset and 7 Harry Houdini stickers—both of which are very cool.

With all the parallel cards, those make up some mighty massive sets… and there are more in the works. Spears has a Kickstarter campaign going on now for Mark Spears Monsters series 2, and it also includes an extra series (a spooky version of The Wizard of Oz, called The Wicked of Oz). Since the final makeup of the series can change until the campaign closes July 20th, you can view the checklist and images yourself on The shipping date is planned for October, so we should have plenty of (Mark Spears) monsters coming our way this Halloween!

Spears New Series 2

(Samples of his newest Kickstarter, Mark Spears Series 2.)

Rev. 7.19.23

The Non-Sports Trading Card Article Index