Order of the Oddball Monster Cards!
By Kurt Kuersteiner ©2007Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards for The Wrapper Magazine
Greetings Card Creeps! Halloween is fast approaching, and that means it's time once more for the Oddball Monster Card overview (#15). So break out your latex masks and glow-in-the-dark fangs, 'coz things can get scary once we start digging...
First out of the cardboard coffin is a couple of series that should have been mainstream, but distribution problems made them very tough to find here in the USA. I'm talking about the latest Hammer Horror series (post 2000). The first two series (1995 & 1997) were produced by Cornerstone and are abundant in the USA. The later two series were produced by different companies and had to be imported if they were found here at all. (I think I recently paid $25 for each factory set, plus UK postage.)
The 2000 Hammer Horror series is called Entombed. It was produced by Creative Marketing Associates (CMA). The 72 card base set has clean, crisp pictures, but the first 36 cards have no commentary on the backs at all. Instead, they form large 9 piece puzzles of the various posters for each movie featured on the obverse (also in 9 card subsets). Those subsets focus on Plague of the Zombie, The Reptile, Captain Clegg, and Kiss of the Vampire. Cards 37 to 72 briefly profile other popular Hammer films from the 1960s and 1970s. The studio was famous for producing inexpensive but classy gothic films, and still maintains a big cult following.
This set was distributed primarily in factory sets with one random insert card. The available inserts include 3 different discount cards (1 per set), 3 different redemption cards (1 per 12), 3 insert sets (the six card "Actress Portrait Gallery" set, a six card "Actor Portrait Gallery" set, plus a 3 card "House that Hammer Built" set.). There are also 5 different autograph cards (2 per case), and two promo cards.
The 2004 Hammer Horror series is called Behind the Screams. It was produced by River Wye Productions. The photos in the 72 card base set are not as clear as the ones in the earlier series. Most are black & white and somewhat dark. The few color ones are a little fuzzy. They're probably starting to run out of archive material! The commentary can also be rather sparse at points. But Hardcore Hammer fans will enjoy all the off-camera photos and trivia.
This series was also issued as a factory set with one special insert per set. Those inserts include 15 different "transition" art cards (1-5b, 1-5b, 1-5c), 3 different "Magazine Tribute Ultra Rare" cards (T1-3), and 3 redemption cards (R1-3). There were also two promos.
One of the more creative and original sets from 1992 is the Zombie War cards put out by FantaCo. This was commonly a 45 card boxed set and it told the story of an alien who comes to Earth for revenge. He basically does what the aliens in the Ed Wood movie, Plan Nine From Outer Space, did: He raises the dead to reek havoc and destruction against Humanity. But unlike Wood's incompetent aliens, this intruder raises large armies of aggressive zombies. The same premise was used in the Zombie War comic series 1-2 (drawn by Kevin Eastman) and the Zombie War sequel series 1-4 (drawn by Jim Whiting). Both series were written by Tom Skulan, who also wrote the story for the cards (and owned FantaCo when it was still in business). I tracked Skulan down and asked him about the series. He said the cards fleshed out (no zombie pun intended) the subplots in the series better than the comics did, and that his favorite artist was Charles Lang, who did all original art for the cards.
I was impressed when I heard this, because up until then, I assumed the artwork was recycled from the comic series. Instead, all the artwork was specifically commissioned for the card series and limited to 5,000 sets. They also made 1,000 "signed edition" sets, which included another six cards (totaling 51 cards). The 51 st card was signed by all four creative persons involved in the cards and the comic series: Charles Lang, Tom Skulan, Jim Whiting and Ken Eastman (who was co-creator of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles). The other five cards were profile cards of various characters.
The color artwork for this series is quite good and atmospheric. Enjoying these cards makes you realize what we've lost when companies stopped doing original art story cards.
Skulan said 50 to 100 uncut sheets were also made. He can't remember if they were numbered, but he does recall that all 51 cards were on the sheet and all four men signed each one.
Toxic Waste Zombies was a similar themed set produced by Mother Productions in 1991. It has 42 cards in it, but three are without images (a checklist and two cards with credits). The images depict cartoonish characters in various levels of decomposition, supposedly the result of toxic waste. The backs attempt to be environmentally conscious by including information and quiz questions about pollution. Mother Productions has a long reputation of exploiting all sorts of controversial topics (like Nazis, S&M, Freaks, etc.) and attempting to make up for it with PC editorial. They were located in California though, so they were probably worried about acts of retaliation! Whatever the reason, we can all feel better about cutting down the trees to enjoy this set with an "environmental theme." The artwork is along the lines of Baseball Super Freaks.
Here's a way out oddball item: Count Chocula's 3-D Art Gallery Cards. These were goofy blue/yellow/orange/green cartoon images printed on the backs of Count Chocula cereal in the mid 1990s by General Mills. The expiration dates I've seen are March & May of 1996, so they probably came out before Halloween in 1995. There were four per box, and I've seen two different boxes, so there are (at least) eight different. They are unnumbered, unnamed, and have blank backs. The characters on box 1 are a mummy, a ghost, some bats, and a wolf. The 2 nd box has a Knight, a werewolf, a spider and a buzzard. These characters are very dumbed down to make sure no parents complain about them being too scary. Too bad they never ask the kids if they are scary enough!
Chromo-death 3-D glasses are provided, which makes the brighter colors appear to reach out at you. The size (when cut out) measures 3.5" x 4.25" each. I've never seen these referenced anywhere, so I cannot be positive there are not more, but I believe eight is the card total. (Wrapper dealer John Heath agrees, and he was my source for this set.)
Hollywood Zombies is a new series by Topps, and it's certainly not scarce. You could even call it mainstream, except the topic is so-- well, oddball. The concept is to lampoon various Hollywood celebrities by turning them into rotting zombies. It sounds rather silly, and you can definitely feel the heavy hand of the marketing department trying to reach a "cross over" market of monster fans and celebrity seekers, but Topps managed to come up with a clever back-story to justify this contrivance. Card #1 explains how primitive natives believe that taking a person's photograph robs them of their soul. It goes on to explain that celebrities had so many photos taken, that the superstition became a reality and they lost their souls, becoming brain eating zombies!
The artwork is very professional, utilizing the talents of various MAD magazine artists and caricature experts including Drew Friedman, Richard Williams, Mark Stutzman, Hermann Mejia, Mark Fredrickson, and Garbage Pail Kids artist Layron DeJarnette. The backs have creative newspaper spoof reports written by Frank Santopadre.
There are 72 cards in the base set, all of which are also available as "freaky foil parallels" (1 per 6 packs). There are also ten glow in the dark "Mug Shots" cards randomly inserted 1 per 4 packs. Oddly enough, there are no autographs, even though you would think out of the 72 famous folks, at least a few would sign to prove they are in on the joke. (But perhaps they are all too offended.)
Promo fans should know there are two promos, the 2 nd of which was included in Non-Sports Update magazine. Internet surfers might want to check out the official website at www.Hollywoodzombies.com
One thing that detracts from this set is the celebrities tend to be the ones who appear most often in the tabloids, and are therefore (usually) the most obnoxious ones the media has to offer. For example: Oprah Win freak, Wacko Jacko, Paris Hell ton , Donald Stump, George Gloomy, Rancid O'Donnnell, Ho weird Stern, Spawn Penn, Britney Speared, and Comedy Central's Jon Speward & Stephen Ghoul bert . I'm sure these people have their fans, but most sane Americans are fed up with their narcissism and nonsense. (The biting commentary on the backs indicates that Topps is aware of that.) The good news is they are all dead--at least in this card set. So if you want to celebrate the worst Hollywood has to offer, killed off for your amusement, and then resurrected for yet another shot at the limelight, this set is for you.
And now for an ultra-oddball series, this one reportedly from England in the 1970s. It's called...well, I don't know what it's called. There's no title or copyright or anything else on the backs. Just 18 blank backed monster cards measuring 1 7/8" wide and 2 13/16" tall. The artwork is rather crude but quaint. The most identifying aspect of this series is the number on each card, which appears as "No. _ of 18" logo, which is made to look like a piece of paper stuck in the top left corner with a tiny knife. Since there is no checklist provided, here is one: #1 The Evil Troll, #2 The Blob, #3 The Bonesucker, #4 Mr. Hyde, #5 The Werewolf, #6 The Zombie, #7 The Bride of Dracula, #8 Slimeball, #9 The Phantom of the Opera, #10 The Headless Ghost, #11 Creature from the Pit, #12 Four Eyes, #13 Frank N. Steins Monster, #14 King Tut, #15 Count Vlad, #16 Quasimodo, #17 Egor, #18 Attila The Hun. I picked this set up on eBay and it may have been labeled "Monster Olympics" by the seller, but I don't see any sports theme in the cards.
Well, that's it for 2007. Don't forget to stock up on cheap monster trading card packs for Halloween treats. One can still get Fright Flicks and Dinosaurs Attack boxes at close out prices. It's a great way to infect the next generation of monster card collectors! (And if the cards don't scare them, the chalky gum will!)
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