I would like to welcome John von Gunten back to Wax Cracker for another round of talking Comic Wax.  Yesterday’s Robocop cracking was a great set up to bring John back today.  Below, compare a card I pulled from the Robocop pack to John’s current profile picture:

2014-02-22 10.03.54
Robocop pull…
JVG avatar
…JVG’s profile picture, coincidence?

I’m excited to have JVG back in the writing saddle.  Here’s John’s article on some of his good sets:

Somewhere in all these Rubbermaid tubs in my parent’s basement is my misspent youth:


 I didn’t run around with a bad crowd and I didn’t get into drugs, I got into collecting things. I didn’t grow up near other kids, and my sister is three years older than me and was not interested in any of the things I was, so I had to occupy myself for a lot of the time. This involved me getting interested in computers, video games, TV shows, and eventually comics and everything that goes along with them. The end result: I have a damn lot of cards.

damn lot
Those binders aren’t full of women! (Is that still a joke?)

There are two kinds of card sets out there, in my opinion: very good sets and very bad sets. In this post, I’m going to talk about some of the good sets I have in my collection. First up is the 1993 Marvel Masterpieces line. I think that 1993 was a real turning-point for the comics card world; sets from 1992 and earlier were almost all just cards with panels or art from comic books with few chase cards. Take for instance the 1991 X-men line from Comics Images- the name of the company gives away the fact that all 90 of these cards were just reproductions of art from the comics, many with hastily-done editing to get rid of word bubbles.

91 x-men The 1992 Marvel Masterpieces changed that by getting one artist to paint the entire set. While that set is very good, the 1993 is one of my favorite lines because it featured several very talented artists like Jim Steranko, Joe Jusko (who did the entire 1992 line solo), Glenn Fabry, and Bill Sienkiewicz. The art on the 1992 and 1993 lines were so good they printed comics just showcasing the art in greater detail- not the other way around like the industry had been doing. The back of each card features a main shot of the character from a comic and basic information and backstory. Each card also has an “in the beginning…” line at the bottom that has some trivia fact about the character which usually shows you how batshit crazy comics are. For example, the back the Red Skull’s card says “In the beginning… The Red Skull wore a skull-like crimson headpiece- but now his face is a red skull for real!” Also, the chase set of 10 hologram cards is disappointing now because it features characters from the short-lived Marvel 2099 universe.

93 masterpieces

I already wrote a little about the 1994 Marvel Masterpieces line that followed the stellar 1993 run. Those cards were painted by the Hildebrandt brothers and featured a massive 140 card base set. The art on the cards do get a little samey feeling to them, and some of the characters look different on the cards than they ever did in the comics. They also did a pretty obvious cash-in with this line where they released an entire chase set in parallel to the base set that featured a gold foil signature on the base card. The back of the cards also has the most generic blurb on it that I’m embarrassed for whoever wrote it and a quote about the painting from the Hildenbrandt brothers. Each of those blurbs and quotes ends in an exclamation point. On the back of the Nightcrawler card you have: “Despite his demonic appearance and the whiff of brimstone whenever he teleports, the mutant Nightcrawler is really a swashbuckler at heart!” and “This is the first card we painted for the Marvel Universe!” Great insight there from some assistant editor that is really reconsidering their life choices.

94 masterpiecs The 1993 Marvel Universe set is another of my favorites because 135 of the enormous 190 base cards were interlocking 9-card images. This meant that when you put them into a protective binder sleeve you got a much larger contiguous image. Again, the chase set for this was based on the disappointing Marvel 2099 line of comics they were promoting the hell out of, but it also included the ultra-rare Spider-Man vs Venom 3D hologram card I wrote about in one of the earlier posts. Included in the base set were a series of “Unsolved Mysteries” cards. This is curious to include, because the continuity of comics is more fluid than a soap opera- no one stays dead, any plot can be retconned, and no mystery stays unsolved. Let’s take a look at what these mysteries were in 1993 and where they are now:

– Origin of Wolverine – We have since had a mini-series called “Origin” that details his life before he was a mutant and what happened the day his mutant power manifested. Marvel is now publishing a sequel to that following up on his time before the Weapon X program. This is no longer a myster.

– The Origin of Cable – This card is a hype piece for the then-upcoming crossover event X-Cutioner’s Song. This was based around the fact that Cable, while we know he is from the future, looks exactly like the villain Stryfe. The series was considered a disappointment by everyone and didn’t reveal the origin of Cable, even though it had promised to. We now know the origin of Cable and it involves time travel and a whole lot of apathy on my part.

– The Face of Darkhawk – They don’t actually ever show his face, so I guess it could still be considered a “mystery”, but they later said that the Darkhawk armor is really an android body kept in a wormhole that the amulet wearer activates and switches consciousness with. I don’t really know what I just wrote right there, and if you think on it too hard you’ll give yourself an aneurism. Chalk it up to one of the reasons you’re not into comics.

– The Origin of Ghost Rider – This gets a bit complicated, but basically the original Ghost Rider was a demon that inhabited a guy and they were at odds with regards to methods. In the early 90s, they rebooted the character with a different human host (whose sister was attacked by ninja gangsters. The 90s were a pretty stupid time and I’m glad they’re dead forever). This guy and the demon bonded to his soul got along and it was pretty obvious it wasn’t the same demon that inhabited the last guy. In 1997, they finally revealed that this demon was the Angel of Death. That lasted for a whole year before they killed off the character and started the merry-go-round over again.

– The Fate of the X-Men – This was a story line in Uncanny X-Men in which Bishop claims that one of the current X-Men will betray the team and will murder them all. It turned out to be Stryfe who looks like Cable (since their clones and comics are basically sci-fi soap operas). This was another puff piece for the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover event.

– The Sixth Member of the Infinity Watch – Turned out to be Thanos. Ho-hum.

– The Secret of Spider-Man’s Parents – The card mentions that Peter Parker’s parents- thought to be dead- have returned. Turns out they weren’t his parents. They’re still dead. A short-lived, insignificant mystery.

– The Origin of Nightcrawler – His origin is canon now, and his parents are Mystique and Azazel. He grew up in a circus.

mysteries That’s enough geeking out for right now. Next time I’ll write about one of the crappiest line of cards ever, and wonder how I managed to not kill someone with a sword.

Stop back soon for John’s next post, The Bad Sets.  Until then follow John on Twitter @CaptJohnstarr.