3 New Movie Monster Sets!
By Kurt Kuersteiner (©2006 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine
Last Halloween was a fruitful one for monster card fans. We got not one, not two, but THREE new monster series. They were all pretty fun in their own way as well. Let's dig through the old tattered trick-or-treat bag (past the petrified Tootsie-rolls and melting lolly pops) and see what we pull out...
Ah, first up is the infamous Frankenstein series by Artbox. This series was supposed to come out a year ago, and was even featured on the cover of NSU way back when. But for various reasons, it was postponed. (As if I could complain about printing delays.) This was supposed to be the first of several Universal monster series that profiled each of the main monsters and told the stories depicted in the movies scene by scene. It was an exciting concept, but once the cards arrived, collectors quickly realized there was a problem: Licensing. Although Artbox had the license to depict Frankenstein in all his gory glory, all the other actors were NOT licensed, and the only pictures of them in the card set had their faces turned away from the camera! It gets to be funny after a while. We see Fritz's hump, we see Fritz's matted hair, we even see Fritz's "eerie" ear, but we never get to see Fritz's face! The same goes for Dr. Frankenstein-- the very man for whom the series is named (the monster had no name). You'll see his back, and you'll see his arms, hands and shoulders, but they must be saving his face for the sequel. So they should have called this set "Frankenstein's Monster", because you never get to see a clear shot of Frankenstein himself anywhere in the set.
However, the monster IS nicely represented, and to be fair, he's the creature we're all mainly interested in anyway. He's in about 40 of the 72 black and white cards. He's also in all nine of the glow-in-the-dark chase cards, which are the best cards in the series. They are numbered R1-R9 and have puzzle backs. The box topper glow cards are also cool. Each of those has Frankenstein being menaced with fire (which also glows in the dark). Those are unnumbered and there are three different. Other inserts include a prop card with wire from the lab. That's right, a piece of wire from the lab. If this sounds like the bottom of the movie memorabilia barrel, it is. But one has to give them points for camp humor. After all, cheap-o wire is right up there with dirt from Dracula's coffin! And if you like things with low print numbers, the prop cards are limited to just 50. (Rest assured, there was a lot more wire available. Maybe they started to run out of trees.) Would you believe folks are paying hundreds of dollars for these wiry cards on eBay? It's... shocking.
Also scarce are the Cinema Film cards, numbered CFC 1-9. Those contain a film cell from the movie. Not the 16mm version mind you, that would make it too easy to see the pictures if you held it up to the light. No, these are the tiny 8mm movies that were sold in the back of monster magazines. Once again, there's something kinda charming about the cheesiness factor though. These are limited to just 84 of each card. For the Ubber-fan, there's also the super limited (as in three, or 1 per 2,000 packs) Boris Karloff cut signature cards. These are cool no matter how you slice them, although once again, there's something not quite legit about them. You see, Boris Karloff was a made up "stage name" for William Pratt. So in essence, this is a signature of someone who's name wasn't really Karloff, playing a monster that wasn't really named Frankenstein! (Somebody tighten my bolts, I think my head is beginning to spin.)
But wait, there's still more. Also included are artist sketch cards. There are at least ten different artists doing them, and they've run the gambit from quicky sketches to nicely rendered images, some color, most are not.
Finally, there are also two different plastic figures, one of the monster, and one of his bride. One or the other comes in each box, and there are three different varieties. They come in clear plastic, glow-in-the-dark green, or hand painted. They measure about 3 1/2 inches tall. If you're nimble, you can even assemble them without opening the clear plastic bag.
There were 2,500 boxes of this product made, each one numbered on the bottom. That's a pretty low mintage for non-sports. I'm glad Artbox did this set, but I don't think I want to see the other movies depicted if they are going to avoid showing any of the supporting cast. It's quaint the the first time around, but it would get real old fast if they tried the same trick with the other movies.
And speaking of other monster movies, looky at the new Godzilla card set from Comic Images. I must confess, I had low expectations for this set. Most the Godzilla card series have been lackluster. But this one is packed with colorful movie artwork, and a large assortment of stills from a wide array of different Godzilla flicks. The first 16 of the 72 base card set are black and white, and those are nice as well. Not as exciting are six different cartoon Godzilla images used to illustrate the "origin cards". But that still leaves 66 pretty cool cards. I had no idea they did at least 29 different Godzilla movies. (And you thought they milked the Rocky franchise to the limit!) There's Godzilla, Zilla, MechaGodzilla, Super MechaGodzilla, Space Godzilla, Baby Godzilla... and that's just the variations on Godzilla himself! The non-Godzilla monsters range from the flying dinosaur Rodan, to the three headed flying dragon, Ghidorah. There's also Mothra (you guessed it, a giant moth. Grab your wool and run!) If that's not weird enough, there's also Hedorah, aka, the Smog Monster (I've actually breathed this monster while visiting L.A.)
Whatever the monster menace, we knew we could always count on Godzilla to blow up some buildings and melt a few tanks with his fire breath. The last Godzilla movie was made in 2004, so for all we know, another one is probably preparing to attack soon.
The Comics Images series has six different foil cards and various sketch cards by different artists, but with only a couple of foils per box, it has more than a few collectors frustrated. The base set break down isn't so great per box either, so people are paying $50 a box for incomplete sets all the way around. I guess they figure if we love a monster that kills us and destroys our cities, we should adore a card series that costs plenty but won't complete our sets. (But that's why they call them trading cards. You gotta trade to get what you want.)
The last set in our monster bag is The Monster Box, volume 2. This is the nifty follow up series to last year's volume 1 from Pulp Novelties (see Wrapper #216). Series producer Tim Brown remastered 1960s covers from the 8mm films we used to order from Captain & Company and other shady monster mail-order outfits back in the day. The square covers were usually garish images, and there's many great ones represented in this 25 card set. (They measure about 1/8th inch shy of 5 inches on all sides.) Titles include The Deadly Mantis, Dr. X, Equinox, Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster, It Conquered The World, The Mummy's Ghost, Reptilicus, and Squirm. The color is absolutely fantastic, and the original image on the film box package (designed by Brown) is neat-o as well. They are blank backed cards, which is a pity because the artwork is so inviting, you naturally want to flip it over and learn more about some of these off beat films. For example, "Bucket Of Blood"... you know that involves a bucket and some blood, probably a LOT of blood, but is the rest of the story any good? The cover art sure is!
Less than 500 factory sets of this unusual product were made, and a third series may be forthcoming. If you enjoy gaudy monster art, this is the set for you. The company website is www.pulpnovelties.com.
That's three reasons I enjoyed collecting this Halloween, let's hope we have some more next time. Till then, keep your eyeballs out for more monster cards!
A special thanks to dealers Todd Riley and John Heath for information used in this article.
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