Three New Sci-Fi Sets!
Godzilla Super-view, Small Soldiers, X-Files Movie
By Kurt Kuersteiner ©1998 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards from issue #158 The Wrapper Magazine
This has been a good summer for sci-fi flicks. Japanese monster fans got to see Godzilla made-over for the 90s. X-file fans got to see some of what "The Syndicate" has been hiding from Scully and Mulder. And "Toy Story" fans got to see more computer generated toys come alive with "Small Soldiers". Most these summer blockbusters have left the big screen by now, but that doesn't mean they will be forgotten. They continue to tell their story via several collectable card sets (not to mention millions of video rentals).
We'll let Siskel & Ebert review the videos, but if you haven't seen the cards yet, here's some of what you can expect...
Godzilla! (Gesundheit.) He (or rather, "she") has come a long way from the guy in the rubber suit smashing miniature Japanese cities. The same producer of "Stargate" and "Independence Day" revived the giant lizard to destroy most of Manhattan. If you think New Yorkers are rude, they have clearly met their match with this monster from the deep. It destroys most the landmarks in less time than it takes to stomp a roach. But this is no lumbering monster. In fact, it's so quick, it can dodge missiles. The result is our military destroys more of The City than the monster does. Good work, guys!
The 72 card set by Inkworks does an enjoyable job relating the story line. The set is officially called "Godzilla Superview" because they are wide vision cards that fit in six pocket sleeves. The first 42 cards tell the story line, the next twelve explore behind the scenes, and the next half dozen show production art (story boards). There are also nine cards that feature very colorful artwork of the beast, called "Godzilla Gallery" cards. These are the best in the set. Then there's a couple of character cards and a checklist.
Overall, this is a fun set. The movie is fun too, as long as you don't try to make too much sense out of it. (You should avoid watching it with a scientist unless you like to hear them nit pick it to death, explaining how radiation stunts growth instead of increasing it, etc. etc... So much for suspension of disbelief.)
The set includes plenty of pictures of the various characters. The only character you don't see enough of is the star. And that ain't Mathew Broderick either. It's the REAL star- Godzilla. Someone forgot to include many photos of her in the card set. There're plenty of shots of her foot, her tail, even her eggs and her babies- but mama monster is rarely seen except as artwork. Two cards come close (23 & 25) but only two out of 72? I can understand this omission in the previews to build suspense, but making the title character scarce in the card set is bound to disappoint a few fans.
No doubt Inkworks would have included more of the monster if they had been able to. The licensing agreement may not have allowed it or the computer generated effects weren't ready in time for the set. Whatever the reason, it's hard not to notice the overall absence of the main attraction. But there's still plenty of art renderings to make this set worthwhile. There are also six glow-in-the-dark Godzilla puzzle cards randomly inserted 1 in 17 packs. There are three different Godzilla Silver cards inserted 1 in 27 packs. These feature production art sketches on a metallic finish and aren't colorful at all. There is also a Godzilla Supreme card inserted 1 in 108 packs (it sports a special "reptile finish").
Breakdown wise, my box had two puzzle cards, no silver or supreme cards and was two cards shy of a complete set. Inkworks also sells a binder for the set.
If monster movies give you the munchies, you're in luck: Maggi 2 minute noodles offer ten different Godzilla collectable cards with artwork based on the movie (the same as "Godzilla Gallery"). The cards measure 2 3/4" x 2" and the backs advertise noodles. Unfortunately, these noodles are manufactured in Australia, so you may need to travel to find them.
Closer to home, Taco Bell taco kits offer two different Godzilla lenticular cards. These 2 1/2" x 3" cards are very cool. One shows a giant eye opening to glare at two terrified fishermen. The other shows a priceless T-rex skeleton being viewed in a museum... as Godzilla's foot crashes through the ceiling and smashes it! (Both have product text on the reverse.)
In the last three years, there have been three Godzilla sets that have come out of Japan. The latest set is by JPP Amada ©1998. If you recall, Amada also did a neat 54 card Godzilla chromium set in 1996 but the collation sucked eggs. Trying to find a checklist was harder than hailing a taxi in Tokyo. The new set has even worse breakdown. It's called Godzilla- The Movie Premium and consists of 60 metal-tex cards (similar to chromes) and 30 lenticular cards. There is also a super rare chase card inserted 1 per 240 packs. No one I know has found one despite opening dozens of cases. (Perhaps it was eaten by Mothras.) It's supposedly a 3-D card, but who knows for sure.
Odd ball promo collectors should know that Starlog magazine offered a #0 promo to readers to mail in for (Superview size). Suncoast Video produced a three card promo strip, also Superview size. And sticker fanatics should check out the Godzilla sticker book produced by Mello Smello. It has over 100 die cut stickers that peel off and go inside the book. These have popped up in Suncoast Video and Target stores.
And for hard-core Godzilla fanatics, in issue #4 (Jan 1993) of Screen Monsters Magazine, there were four Godzilla cards inserted inside. The color cards are made of light cardboard and feature artwork from four different movies: Godzilla, King of Monsters (1954), King Kong vs Godzilla (1963), Godzilla vs The Smog Monster (1971) and Godzilla 1985- the Legend Reborn.
Small Soldiers is one of those movies that you can't afford to take your kids to see unless you're prepared to buy all the toys featured in the cast. It's a cute story with clever product placement and endless merchandising. Inkworks contribution to the licensing frenzy is a slick 90 card set. The first 72 cards tell the story in detail, and the remaining cards profile the characters (especially the toys). There's nine different tattoos, one included in every pack. The line art tattoos look good but are a somewhat difficult to apply. (I noticed my nephew had one stuck on his arm with scotch tape!) There are also six glow-in-the-dark Battle Cards inserted 1 in 27 packs. Other chase cards include a double sided Troops Tribute foil etched card, inserted 1 in 108 packs. The breakdown was decent. My box had two complete basic sets and one Battle Card.
If you're an autograph hound, there are also four different autograph redemption cards randomly inserted into packs. The autographs available are from actor Gregory Smith, Kirsten Dunst, Director Joe Dante and Special Effects wizard Stan Winston. There's also a binder for sale from the Inkworks.
Care for some senseless TV trivia? What two comedians co-starred in the above Inkworks sets and what show did they have in common? Answer: Harry Shearer (Godzilla card #6) and Phil Hartman (Small Soldiers cards #49 & 59). Both actors were regular voice over characters on The Simpsons. (Small Solders was Hartman's last film before his untimely murder.)
Last but certainly not least is the new X-files set from Topps. It outlines the recent X-files movie, Fight the Future. Many fans thought the movie was no better than the TV show, but that's probably because the television series has all the production values of a full fledged motion picture. This series by Topps has nice production values as well. For one thing, the card stock is thick. The images are clear albeit dark. But then again, so was the movie. There weren't very many shots of monsters in the X-files movie, nor are there in the set. But both the plot and main characters are profiled nicely.
One of the interesting details of the movie is that "The Syndicate" is only pretending to help the aliens colonize in order to buy time and develop a vaccine that will protect humans from the "black oil". If this is true, it means that the cigarette smoking man, the well manicured man and the Nazi scientist (Strughold) are actually engaged in a "conspiracy" to save our planet. If Mulder and Scully expose the truth, won't that cause an international uproar that would tip off the aliens? (Maybe we should be cheering for the men-in-black!)
Speaking of black, there are 6 different Mystery Cards randomly inserted 1:12 packs. These are black cards until you heat them up in the palm of your hand. Then the photo appears... sorta. (The image is difficult to make fully appear.) It is uncertain if touching these "black oil" items infects people with the virus like it does in the movie.
There are six different autograph cards randomly inserted 1 in 17 packs. The signers are Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), The Well Manicured Man (John Neville), and the Lone Gunmen (Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, and Bruce Harwood.)
Collation appears to be excellent, with boxes often yielding 3 sets and 3 mystery cards. Autographs turn up in every other box on average.
There are probably more oddball X-files sets floating around than there are unconfirmed UFO sightings, but here's one I bet only the real compu-geeks know about: It's a nine card perforated series on flimsy cardboard inserted in Yahoo Internet Life magazine (July 1998). The fronts have colorful caricatures of X-file cast and the backs list X-file web sites. It's pretty surreal!
That's it for this time. If you want to distribute a really unique trick or treat item for Halloween, remember to hand out trading cards. (I like to give Dinosaur Attacks & Fright Flicks packs. They're good and cheap, although the gum is so hard that X-ray machines might mistake them for razor blades.) Next issue: The always infamous annual oddball monster card article! Happy Halloween!
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