The Ghost of Oddball Monster Cards!
By Kurt Kuersteiner © 2003 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards
Fall is here. The hot humidity is slowly being replaced with a cool evening breeze. The brilliant red speck of Mars, which was closer to Earth than it has been for 57,000 years, is beginning to fade into the night among a million bright stars. And Halloween is upon us. That means it's time for the 11th annual oddball monster card article!
We have some real jewels inside the blood stained steamer trunk this time. Why not start with an unusual set from down under? Texta-FineLine released a 36 card series sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s in Australia. These 2.5" x (slightly less than) 1.75" cards are small but brilliantly colored. The borders are gold. The monsters are from Ultra-man, the Japanese super hero who could instantly grow into a giant and fight various monsters-- so long as his chest light didn't start blinking and require him to fly to the sun for a solar recharge.
I remember seeing the TV series as a kid and thinking it was the exact same plot every week, except the rubber monster suits changed. Many of them were recycled from other monster movies. You'll see some of that in this set as well. But it's a tough set to finish. They were parsed out one at a time and required patience to complete. The backs have identical text promoting Texta products. This is a classic low supply, low demand item. Since many people don't know about it, when it does turn up, the price isn't usually high. (Often $25 to $50.)
Heavy Metal Monsters Trading Cards. These were issued as complete sets sold in conjunction with the 1992 comic book of the same name, published by Revolution Comics. The 55 card set was made up of black and white drawings by 13 artists. The monsters would have some sort of rock reference, for example, a werewolf (Blackwolf) would be playing the guitar. Only 150 of these sets were made and sold through the comic book. (No wonder so few people have seen or heard of them.) A typical price for this scarce item is unknown, although they were originally just $10 a decade ago.
Here's a list of the artists involved and which cards they did: Scott Jackson did #1-8, 22, 53. Daerick Gross 9-13. Earl Ferguson 14-18. John Statema 19, 21. Dennis Worden 23-25, 41-45, 54. Dennis Bayuzick 20. Chris Swanberg 26. Steve Crompton 27-31. Jane J. Oliver 32. B. James 33. Lyndal Ferguson 34-40. John Braden 46-48. Craig Stormon 49-52.
Many of the artists have gone on to become well known comic artists. For example, Dearick Gross is the artist behind the Lestate comic book series, and Steve Crompton is the artist doing the current Demi the Demoness comic book series. Scott Jackson was the publisher of the Heavy Metal Monsters, but he is better known as the artist who painted the covers for the Rock'n Roll Comics series (unauthorized biographies of famous rock bands.) Jackson's most recent project happens to be...
Monster Masterpieces. This is one of those series you wonder why no one has done it until now. The concept is simple: Pick 50 of the best monsters and paint beautiful portraits, much as Joe Jusko did with super heroes in Marvel Masterpieces. Scott Jackson has mimicked Jusko's formula with dramatic results. Along with text writer Barry Kaufman, the two have embarked on a five year project. Each year (starting this October), ten new 4" x 5" postcard sized cards will be released. When the 50 picture series is complete (in 2008) the entire series will be reproduced in traditional (non-oddball) trading card format of 2.5" x 3.5".
I called Jackson to find out more about his series. He is no stranger to trading cards, and recalls collecting original Topps Outer Limits and Wacky Packs as a kid. (He still has some.) He is also a big fan of the Mars Attacks cards and the Ugly buttons, as well as the Weird Wheels and Dinosaurs Attack. His enthusiasm for monsters permeates this set. He originally painted the gorgeous images on 3 by 4 foot canvas. There's plenty of detail and this is one instance a larger format card is justified. The price for the ten card sets are $14.95, available this Halloween season through Diamond Distribution. Promo seekers will be interested to know that there were two sets of four promos given away at two different conventions.
And now for a oddball monster card mystery: It's a very rare set ©1965 by Ed-u-cards Corp. of New York. The cards are colorful monsters connected with tabs in the back. Viewers insert the face and hands through precut slots, producing a 3-D effect with the parts that stick out. A collector asked me about these cards, but I couldn't find out much about them. The backs are devoid of text except for the copyright notice. They are unnumbered and it is unknown if there are more than the 18 he found in the set.
The cards measure 2.25" x 3.5". The monsters are not very threatening, and the names are rather goofy (probably in an effort to avoid copyright problems). One Frankenstein monster is called "Kosmo", while another is labeled "Fingo." The Cyclops is called "Eyebop." Weird. If anyone has more information on this series, please let me know. It is possible that the cards were game pieces or salesman samples, and a larger series was never produced.
Now for something closer to home. Last year, I said I intended to photograph a monster card series in a real haunted house (Wrapper #191, page 7). I'm pleased to say that set is a reality. The NightSlasher is a color series of 36 cards. It's a parody of the 1970s Night Stalker TV show, where an intrepid reporter in a Sears sucker suit and straw hat investigates a series of supernatural murders. The blood trail leads to an abandoned factory, which just so happens to be the real life location of our charity haunted house. It was the perfect backdrop for this photo series, since all the props and illusions were used in the four year run of the Mystery Playhouse haunted house. Now that the building has been condemned and is being demolished, we're especially glad we immortalized the haunt before it was destroyed.
There's no mention of any trademark names like Night Stalker or Karl Kolchak, but fans of the original horror show should get a big kick out of this spoof. I'd like to think we succeeded in capturing the atmosphere and mood of that eerie show, plus a good dose of humor. We couldn't afford the real Darren McGavin, so we used a less experienced actor who was stupid enough to do it for free (i.e., myself). The backs tell a story of how a Nazi war criminal has succeeded in cheating death and threatens the world with an army of monsters (until a certain reporter gets involved). This series received a lot of help from very talented people, not the least of which was Todd Riley of Nostalgia Cards.
The set is issued in six card test packs with a stick of gum and a Mystery Playhouse color sticker on the outside. Originally, 100 (36) count test boxes were planned, because we wanted it both unique and rare. At the last minute, we went even farther, slashing the NightSlasher figure in half and making only 50 test boxes. (That equals just 1 box per state, or 300 sets total.) Each box and checklist is numbered to verify the limited print run. This was more a labor or love than anything else, but we're hoping the lucky few who wind up with them enjoy them as much as we did creating them.
That's it for this oddball edition. Remember to include trading cards with your Halloween treats. Who knows? You could create another obsessive collector bent on finding those elusive oddball monster cards!
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