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Super Spooky Sequel Sets!
By Kurt Kuersteiner (© 2003 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine

 

 Today's card business is definitely a business. Manufactures seem only interested in the money. If a set does well, they'll keep producing follow up sets until they've soaked each idea for all it's worth. Just look at the Star Wars or Star Trek series. Enough already!

But there was a time during the Camelot years of the 60's, when greed wasn't what it is now. Packs were a nickel instead of $2. You didn't have to search for ultra-rare chase cards. The sets weren't UV coated or Chromium. And yet, cards were more popular a generation ago than they are today, despite all the modern lights, bells, and whistles. Back in my school days, it seemed like everyone collected cards of one sort or another. And why not? They were cheap thrills.

One thing that made them inexpensive was that kids could collect the entire series without having to knock over a bank. Companies might make one sequel set but that was it. This meant that two complete sets which continued the numbering sequence finished around 150 cards or less. That was something even a limited allowance could afford.

Three of my favorite monster sets are actually sequel sets. They are unusual sets in that the "second series" is actually better than the first. (Although "better" may mean more camp, or less polished, or--just read on and you'll see what I mean.)

First and foremost are the Terror Monster series (Rosan 1963). Series one (with green borders) consists of mostly retouched photos. It's practically an identical set to Famous Monsters of Filmland which was put out the same year by the same company. It's a fun set in its own way, but the second series (with purple borders) is much more unique. Few if any of the photos in the second series are retouched. They look so much better, that if you weren't paying attention, you wouldn't notice that over half of them are duplicates from the first series! There are no line drawings of monster faces like there were in the last 20 cards from the first series set. Some collectors really like those drawings because they are so primitive. (They're definitely different.) But I prefer the photos.

You can find some of the second series with purple duotone effects added to characters in the pictures. When done right, this gives the image a 3-D effect. Unfortunately, they are commonly out of register and this effect is lost. Then again, it kinda makes it funnier. The first series had the god-awful retouching, and the second can't get the duotone right. Rosan sure knew how to screw up cards!

There are more cut rate "special effects" featured: Card #102 (The Tingler) features a woman with an ax over her head. The picture is sliced horizontally and shifted to give it a "shattered" effect. I've never seen this technique used before or since in any other card set. It's clever but definitely low tech. Card #128 (The Time Machine) was far less creative. A monster is leaning over a lady who has her face blotted out with thick black ink. The monster as what appears to be a skull and cross bones drawn above his shoulders. It has to be the most unprofessional card ever made! But hey, that's just another unique thing about this set. After that stunt, one half expects to see a blank card labeled "the invisible ghost" or something along those lines. But Rosan was probably saving that idea for the third series which never materialized.

There's also two bonus cards. They presumably fill the two missing numbers between the last card of the first series (#64) and the first card of the sequel series (#67). Though not titled, one of the cards is commonly called the "Screaming Skull" and the other is called the "Shock Monster". (The "Screaming Skull" has no lips while the "Shock Monster" is missing an eyeball.) The set is usually sold without the bonus cards. Mine came with the Shock Monster, but then I had to buy the Screaming Skull separately. Would you believe I paid $200 for it? Now THAT'S scary!

To liven up things more, there are two different back graphics available for the second series. Most collectors seem to prefer the arch backs to the skull & cross-bone backs. (There are more monsters in the arch drawing.) For collectors who have too much time and money to spend, there can try to assemble the different joke variations on the backs of both green and purple series. It can make an already tough job nearly impossible.

Another great sequel set is the Horror Monster Orange series (Nu-Card 1961). The first series (with green borders) is pretty nifty. It has good photos and a cool looking skull containing the card number on the front. The sequel series (with orange borders) doesn't have the skull, but one of the coolest back graphics ever put on cardboard. Unlike the You'll Die Laughing series, this graphic is serious instead of goofy. The duotone fronts are very professional and make Rosan look like the card company that couldn't shoot (photos) straight. In fact, I consider Horror Monsters the most professional monster card set of all the 60s. The photos are diverse and rarely seen in other sets, the back graphic is way cool, and the fronts have serious subtitles instead of goofy joke lines. (A few have jokes, and funny ones at that, but most of them are straightforward movie titles.) Horror Monster Orange also has some of the coolest box art of any monster series. I don't normally collect boxes, but if I could get my hands on one of those babies, you'd need the Jaws of Life to pull them off of it.

Another favorite sequel set isn't from the 60's, but looks and feels like it. 60's Sci-Fi and Terror TV, The Sequel was printed in 1994 by FunFax, and oozes the essence of sixties from every pour. It's full of the great science fiction and horror shows from the golden age of television. Lost in Space, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, One Step Beyond... the list has everything including Star Trek. The black and white photos are printed on thick card stock with no UV coating (just like many of the cards from the 60s were printed). The first series is good too, but the sequel set is more fun for several reasons. The back graphic is pretty neat. It features retro illustrations of the Lost In Space Robot, Rod Serling, Uncle Fester, Spock, Herman Munster, and some Alien from Outer Limits. The text gives brief but informative synopsis of the series or episodes featured on the front. The photos appear to be unique to this series.

There is another advantage the second series has over the first. The first series wasn't organized as well. The second series devotes six cards to each anthology series. The anthology shows of the 60s were some of the best TV has ever offered. They didn't use recurring characters or locations, but featured a regular host (or "control voice" in the case of Outer Limits). Some classic examples are Alfred Hitchcock with his tales of suspense, Rod Serling with twist ending stories made famous in The Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff with shocking tales of Thriller, and John Newland with supernatural dramatizations from One Step Beyond. Each one of these segments has its own header card, and then several famous episodes are profiled.

I like the fronts of the sequel series better because they're darker. It's the way I remember most those classic shows from the sixties late at night on TV. Another good addition is the checklist card of the sequel set: It has a weird angle shot of the eye-bulging mutant from The Outer Limits on the front, and a serial number on the back (limited to 2,000 sets).

Another good thing about all three of these sequel sets is that they are easier to find and cheaper than the first series. I rarely see EX Terror Monster Green singles for sale, but the Purples pop up in better condition much more often (usually around $5 each). EX Horror Monster Orange cards are always more plentiful and cheaper ($3 to $5 each) than the first series Green (which often runs $6 each). A NM set of the 60's Sci-Fi and Terror TV Sequel series is usually $15 (compared to $40 for the first series). It's nice to save a little money to spend on other hobbies, like say, eating.

But this isn't about money. It's about memories; memories of the movies and the television we enjoyed watching while growing up in that golden era. There was an innocence back then that has since been replaced by modern cynicism. I think that's another reason I love these cards so much. They turn back the clock to a time when monsters weren't silly but exciting. The audience would let themselves go and play along with the otherwise ridiculous premise. They were richly rewarded with imaginative (albeit cheesy) adventures that provided fond reflections for later years. Thumbing through these cards is like climbing into a cardboard time machine and going back 40 years. Just try to ignore that sloppy skull and cross bones drawing floating over the top!

 

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