Planet of the Oddball Monsters!
By Kurt Kuersteiner ©2006 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards
It's hard to believe Halloween is only about a month away! Or that Christmas will be right at its heals soon thereafter. So it's time to start breaking out those windbreakers and warmer clothes. And of course, oddball monster cards...
That's right, it's that time of year again, the time of year for trick or treats and overviews of the various oddball monster cards. Call it Episode 14 of The Never Ending Story (cards).
Since gum cards are supposed to have gum with them, why not start with some old fashioned monster gum from behind the iron curtain? Okay, so the Soviet Union and it's communist border are no more, but here's a series of gum stickers that reminds you of how behind the times the Eastern Bloc countries continue to be. It's called MNP YXACTNKOB, but since my Ukraine is a little rusty, let's just call it by it's name brand, Hentyh. It's sold in a great looking P.O.P. box covered with a variety of monster critters, and inside resides 100 pieces of individually wrapped gum squares, each with one sticker wrapped inside. The gum isn't half bad, either. (Not surprisingly, the gum color is typical commie pink!) The color stickers are 1.2" x 2.4" in size and feature some good monster make up jobs. They are probably from some super low budget movie, because I don't really recognize any of them. Here's the funny part: There are only 7 in the set! That's right, 100 pieces of gum and stickers in each box, and the entire set is just 7 stickers. Go figure.
Some Soviet apologists claim the reason the communist economy collapsed is because they didn't have a profit motive and failed to make products that were built to break and require replacements (and make more profit). These left leaning contrarians believe the communists basically ran themselves out of business because they didn't know how to manipulate the consumer and maximize their profits. The Russian tractors kept running, the cars kept running, everything kept running-- except the economy. If such a theory is true, Hentyh could have learned a thing or two from Topps, and not only include another 50 or so designs in each box, but make sure there were several short printed stickers to keep collectors stuffing their mouths with more product! As it is, one can easily make a dozen sets out of a single box. BTW, my box was dated Nov. 2004.
Closer to home, I completely missed a cool series until the product it was issued with had expired and long since been removed from the grocery shelves. It was last Halloween when Yoplait issued 9 different two card panels on the back of GoGurt yogurt. The 9 pairs made up a total of 18 different monster cards, and although the various swamp monsters, bogeyman, wicked witches and shrieking skeletons were rather cartoonish and not particularly frightening, they had a fun 3D effect that could be enjoyed with 9 different pairs of red/blue glasses, one of which was included in each box. Like many food issues, this set is tough to complete. I was able to piece together a near set but still need cards 1 & 2 and the matching set of glasses (and I'm not ashamed to ask for help. HELP!) There's no word if Yoplait will repeat the stunt this season, but I for one will keep a close eye on the refrigerated section. The muted color cards measure 2.8" x 3.75".
Turning back the clock to the golden era of monster cards, one oddball series you rarely see is the 1960s version for Monster Pin-ups. These were printed on the back of a Phoenix Candy Company series called, "Frankenstein Candy & Toy". Collectors would cut them out from the box. They are surprisingly scarce as well, and as late as the 1990s, catalogs like the NonSports Illustrated only knew what four of the six cards were. Those four were #1 Frankenstein, #2 Dracula, #4 Wolfman, and #5 Phantom of the Opera. They were all b/w photos from the Universal movies of the same name, except Phantom of the Opera, which was a close up of an Aurora monster model! (We're talking low budget substitutes here!) Another collector indicated #5 is The Mummy, and I was able to recently acquire the unknown #4, which turned out to be-- not the Hunchback model or even the invisible man, but everyone's favorite fish-monster, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The cards are one sided and regular size. Some people also cut out and collect the front cover image from the box which featured a close up of Frankenstein's face.
Here's a real oddball item: Horror Zone tattoos issued with potato chips! They were issued with Canadian Hostess Chips and Humpty Dumpty Chips sometime in the 1990s. One of 31 different temporary tattoos were in each bag. Images were color drawings of spiders, cuts, stitches, flies, and so forth. (To view, one can either apply them onto something or just hold them to the light.) They measure 1 13/16" x 1 5/16". They are unnumbered, which always makes them tougher to locate and trade.
Remember those Johnny Lightning die-cast cars circa 2000 that included blank back cards of various real life custom cars? Two of them were from the TV show The Munsters (The Munsters Koach, and Grandpa Munster's Drag-u-la)? Well, Johnny Lightning has struck twice. In 2004, they produced a dozen different die-cast custom cars with Universal Monster themes, and all twelve were sold with their own b/w trading card. They're slightly smaller than regular size cards and measure 2.2 x 2.7". The number of cards per film are: (2) The Bride of Frankenstein, (2) The Wolfman, (2) The Creature of the Black Lagoon, (3) Dracula, (1) Frankenstein, and (2) The Mummy. I haven't taken my cards out of the J-packs, because they're presumably blank backed and what would I do with all those cars? The cards fit great in 9 pocket sleeves, but I don't have a garage with enough slots for the cars!
The photo images are really fantastic. The stills must be taken from the films, but they all appear to be different from other images we've burned into our brains. They are not grainy or poor quality. They include shots not seen in any other series. For example, many of the cool atmospheric sets are shown, like the moss covered swamp from The Creature of the Black Lagoon. That wasn't really a Hollywood built set, but Wakulla Springs, located near here in Tallahassee and home of yearly outside screenings of the classic monster flick. The giant springs occasionally loses a tourist or two to alligator attacks. Or so they claim. Of course, we locals know it's really a government whitewash attempting to conceal the real culprit, The Creature!
On that note, I'll close. But remember to include monster cards with your trick or treat tray this Halloween. There are still plenty of cheap ones available (Fright Flicks, Dinosaur Attacks, Monsters In My Pocket) and it introduces our hobby to the next generation. 'Coz we still need new blood...
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