The Oddball Monster Card Project!
By Kurt Kuersteiner ©1999 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards
Are the days getting shorter, the shadows growing longer, and the evening breeze starting to chill? Halloween is fast approaching. The demons, ghosts and goblins will soon be knocking at your door. That means it's time for the 7th annual Oddball Monster card article. So break out your fangs and favorite monster mask. This time we're going to dig really deep and uncover some super supernatural sets...
First on the list is an unusual set from England called Creatures of Legend. There is no date provided for this Brooke Bond Foods series, and it doesn't appear in any US price guides, but it looks modern and was probably released in the 90s. There are 24 color (1 13/16" x 3 1/16") cards in the series, and a special 22 page album is also available. The artwork is detailed and includes some neat renderings of Frankenstein, Dracula, King Kong-- along with a variety of generic monsters including ghosts, Cyclops, and Genies. Most of the "factoids" on the backs are duplicated in the album. There is also a giant 50" x 27 1/2" poster that reproduces all the pages from the book. I'm uncertain how collectors went about obtaining the poster, but according to the album, cards were given away free with PG Tips and tea bags.
Another oddball Brooke Bond set is Unexplained Mysteries. These are slightly smaller (1 7/16" x 2 11/16") and there are 40 in the series. What makes them especially interesting is that many of the pictures are actual photos. So we get to see the famous "bigfoot" shot, the Loch Ness "sea serpent" picture, and a close up of the Shroud of Turin. The information on the backs is fun too.
One of the unexplained mysteries of this series is the publishing date. It doesn't seem to be listed in any US price guides either. However, a careful reading of the backs indicates it was printed sometime after 1982. One could also theorize it was printed before 1993, since it extols the talents of Uri Geller, the famous Israeli Psychic. Uri, you may recall, baffled millions with his "bend the spoon" trick, until the Amazing Randy exposed him as a complete fraud live on Johnny Carson. I don't remember when that show aired, but Johnny retired in 1993, so it had to be before then. If you're wondering what happened to Uri, he pulled a wonderful disappearing act after his lawsuit against Randy for defamation of character was laughed out of court. (If the spoon does not bend, you may offend.)
Remember when Goosebumps was going through its marketing craze? I bet I wasn't the only one who became burned out on seeing its logo plastered on everything from dolls to key chains. Somebody got rich, but it sure wasn't the fan who tried to collect it all.
Some of the items were better than others. On the low end of the scale is Pesadillas Sport. Pesadillas is Spanish for nightmare. (The Spaniards don't seem to care much about exact translations. They called The Sound of Music "Smiles and Tears". Go figure.) Anyway, this Goosebumps spin off won't win many awards. The artwork is cartoonish and there's an overabundance of white space on every card. It's used in some sort of kid's card game. There are 32 cards (four groups of eight) and all the backs are identical. They measure 2 1/4" x 3 1/2" and were sold as a boxed set. The copyright date is 1998.
One of the better Goosebumps items has to be the two series of lenticular squares issues with Smith's Potato Crisps (of UK). They are an unusual size (1 10/16" x 2") and are not paper, but plastic. One series is made up of 40 and features images from the television series. The backs are labeled Goosebumps and give the title of the story, plus the card number. The other series is made up of 60, and features the great artwork from the book covers. They are labeled Goosebumps Action Cards, and list the title, the number, and the story "catch phrase". Both sets move as you turn them in the light. Neat!
Another fun flicker series is the six card "flicker sticker" set of Universal monsters (Style Club, 1991). These are about the same size as the Goosebumps flickers, but were sold as a set in J-packs. They feature Frankenstein, his bride, Wolfman, Mummy, Dracula and the Creature. The first image is a somewhat serious cartoon image, and as you move it, it takes a goofy pose. Wolfman puts on sunglasses, the Mummy unwraps, that sort of thing. I haven't removed them from the J-pack, but they presumably peel off and become stickers.
Disney Adventures magazine also included a four card Universal monster set in their October 1991 issue. These feature the Creature, Dracula, the Mummy, and Dr.Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in colorful cartoon form. The perforated cardboard cards are flimsy and measure 2 3/8" x 3 3/8". The backs contain goofy "factoids" about each monster.
Then there are the Universal monster toys. I know, I know, this is supposed to be about cards, but trust me, these are worth a look. They're every bit as nice as the classic Aurora monster models we used to collect as kids. Even the packaging is cool. The action figures by Sideshow Toys are my favorite. The first series came out earlier this year and can be found at bargain prices in various department stores. It featured 8" poseable figures of Frankenstein, Wolfman, and the Mummy. Each of these are superb mini-sculptures of a classic Universal monster, fully painted and nicely mounted in J-packs. They include appropriate stands and props like chains, wolf traps, and Egyptian tomb pieces. They generally retail for $10. The second series just came out. It features the Bride of Frankenstein, the Phantom of the Opera, and the Creature of the Black Lagoon. You can find them at most Toys R' Us and Walmarts. If you want to spend twice as much for the exact same thing, check out the Spencer Gifts or Sun Coast Video stores at your local mall.
Also from Sideshow Toys are the "Little Big Heads". This is a series of 8 Universal monsters in caricature form. They measure just 3 3/4", and feature the likes of the Mummy, Frankenstein, his bride, Wolfman, the Creature, the Invisible Man, Phantom of the Opera, and Dracula. As the name implies, the head is exaggerated in size, creating a comic appearance. The detail is otherwise accurate.
And finally, what Halloween castle would be complete without a couple of voodoo dolls? Recently discovered behind the G.I. Joes were Frankenstein and his bride (sold separately by Hasbro). These 12" poseable figures are not as detailed as the action figures, but include cloth clothing. (That can be a real plus if you want to reenact the fiery finales from either movie.) And for what it's worth, don't forget that Kenner (a division of Hasbro) also released Frankenstein, the Mummy and Wolfman dolls together as a set last year. There may be more of this series out there, so keep your eyes peeled. (If you know for certain, please call or email me.)
Well creeps, it's time to blow out the candles and return to the coffin before day breaks. Remember to add some card packs to your trick-or-treat tray. It's a good way to introduce the hobby to the next generation and bring in some (pardon the expression) new blood...
(A special thanks to Jose Gonzalles, Mark Denton and Todd Riley for information included in this article.)
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