I’m going to take a break from talking about things that I like and talk about some things that I really hate when it comes to non-sports cards. I’ve talked about it before being a pet peeve of mine, and today I want to illustrate some examples from my collection that highlights this. I’ve also written a bit about the speculator boom, and the first set that I’m going to highlight dovetails these two topics nicely.
Valiant was a comic book publisher in the early 90s that launched some classic characters like Rai, X-O Manowar, and re-launched classics like Solar and Dr. Magnus. You remember those guys, right? Of course you don’t, the line was hyped because it was created by former Marvel editors. Unfortunately, it was those Marvel editors that were in Marvel during some of the worst times in Marvel history. The universe was created with a novel concept that each comic works in real time in the same universe and the laws of physics still applied. At first, there was some talent and people were interested in the story lines, but it quickly faded as the line ran into the same problems every comic line runs into: creative changes, stagnant stories, and hype. The titles were very popular with the first issues, but sales dropped quickly and by 1994 the publisher was sold to Acclaim- the now-defunct video game company. You might remember the Turok and Shadowman games from the mid-1990s; both of these games were based on the comic titles launched (or re-launched in the case of Turok) by Valiant.
The year before the sale, Valiant released a line of comic cards and why not, seeing as how everyone else was getting in on the boom. They released a very large 122-card base set of cards and every card- EVERY FREAKING CARD- was the cover of one of their comics. Remember that cool cover to Harbinger #1 that had some really good detail? Who wouldn’t want to see that shrunk down to a 1×2” card? What about the cover to Solar: Man of the Atom #10? That one was completely black. So they put it on a card. The whole enterprise smacks of cheapness, and the fact that it came out in 1994 when there were so many good lines of cards make it seem even worse.
The one saving grace of the cards was that the back had a little synopsis of what happened in the issue. That’s good if you didn’t follow a certain title and wanted to see what was happening, but if you were following the line the cards added literally nothing.
There were two chase sets with this line; one was a foil card set of “First Appearances” that still included the cover art of the comic a character made their debut. The other was a set of “Unseen Art” that featured promo art and unused covers. Even the chase sets managed to re-hash things they already had in inventory!
After Acclaim took over the comic line, they cancelled and re-launched everything to make them more suitable for video games. This managed to push out the remaining talent and credibility Valiant had built up over the years until the line began to suck out loud in the late 90s. By the early 2000s, the whole thing collapsed. The silver lining to this whole ordeal is that in 2012, Valiant re-emerged with several of their original properties and a focus on quality stories and art. So far the reviews and receptions have been positive, but I personally can’t speak for the comics. I was never a Valiant fan and haven’t read any of their new stuff. If they put out a line of cards, I hope they don’t repeat the past.
One of the sets that I own that breaks my rule of pre-existing art is my beloved set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cards. I bought a box of these 1989, wax-sealed, gum-containing cards at San Diego Comic Con years ago and it was a real treat to open them. Casey’s right, there is something to cracking an authentic wax pack of low-quality cardboard cards. These cards all featured still shots from episodes of the first season of the TMNT cartoon introducing the turtles and their foes. The colors on the cards are slightly off-set which gives it just enough of a terrible vintage look to make me feel like a hipster. The back of the cards tell a continuous story of what’s happening, similar to the Gremlins 2 and Robocop 2 cards Casey recently posted. They also included stickers, and the back of the sticker cards could be put together to make a larger picture. As a fan of the cartoon series, I still really like these cards. And looking at some of the still shots, it’s hard to believe my generation made it out of the late 80s at all considering the games I played based on this cartoon.
Another set that breaks my rule is the Marvel Motion set of cards. This was more of a curiosity set of cards put out in 1996- it was 30 base lenticular cards that showed movement when you moved the card from left to right. Most of them were from the various Marvel cartoons or really crappy computer-generated images. There was a chase set of cards that gave the cards a 3D effect, but really every card was like a chase card, and they were packaged in 2 card packs inside of a blister card, inside a display box. Still, it’s a neat thing that smacks of the 90s like the TMNT cards smacked of the 80s.