Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Marvel Universe Trading Cards - Series 2 (1991) Revisited

Much like my post last week, today we're revisiting my collection of Marvel Universe Trading Cards Series 2! Here's the video from the old post. I'll say again, this is a long vid of me going through each and every card, so make sure you've got your popcorn ready.


Series 2 has always been one of my favourites. I loved the vibrant colours of the borders, which were a big level up from Series 1 and their white borders around the cards artwork. It has a very 80s vibe to it, which make sense since the hangover of the 80s lasted well into the 90s.


The biggest improvement in this series were the Power Ratings, which picked six different attributes and ranked all of the character cards accordingly. There was Strength, Speed, Agility, Stamina, Durability, and Intelligence. This rating system would continue after Series 2 and became my favourite thing about collecting these cards.


Ever argue with your buddy about who would win in a fight: Spider-Man versus Daredevil? Well just compare the Power Ratings! My friends and I would pore over these cards and ratings and practically memorize all of them, so we could throw them out on the fly whenever one of these arguments reared its ugly head.

We also used to often "play Marvel", which meant we'd each pick a character and we'd act out our own scenes. So if we were playing and Ultron was facing up against Wolverine, knowing these Power Ratings and special abilities could mean life or death to an 8 year old.


As I mentioned with Series 1, there were different subsets in each series. In Series 2 we had Weapons, Legends, and Arch-Enemies. Arch-Enemies is really just a re-brand of Famous Battles,  Legends would essentially feature old and (at the time) dead characters within the Marvel U, and Weapons would give you the low-down on the different "tools of the trade", like Wolverine's claws or the Infinity Gauntlet.


There were five holograms in this set, as well. I managed to snag two this time: Doctor Doom and Fanastic Four vs. Mole Man. The foil on these cards actually went all the way to the border, as well, which makes them look even more impressive when you manage to snag one.

I hope these old trading cards are getting you amped up for the upcoming release of Avengers: Endgame. I know they're having that affect on me! Stay tuned for more! Next up we'll finally get caught up with Series 3, which I affectionately call "the cosmic set".


Excelsior!
R

Friday, April 12, 2019

Marvel Universe Trading Cards - Series 1 (1990) Revisited

Waaaaay back in 2014, around when I first launched Retro-Def, I figured a great feature for the site would be a look back at my Marvel Universe trading card collection. I ended up making two videos fairly quickly and then getting busy and forgetting to continue on with the series.

That's a real shame, because not only were these cards incredibly important to 7-year old me, but I think they're a really cool slice of the Marvel Universe in the 90s. With the recent passing of Stan Lee I've found myself flipping through my old card binders and I felt the need to share!

Let's start by revisiting Marvel Universe Trading Cards Series 1. The video I made in 2014 still stands, and some of the reminiscing you'll find here is in the video, but I'd say only the most hardcore fan would be interested in watching the whole thing. It clocks in at around 25 minutes and I go through each and every card.

Excuse the old website branding!

The Marvel Universe Trading Card series was launched by Impel in 1990. You might not remember the name Impel, especially if you weren't into trading cards in the 90s, but you may recall SkyBox, which was a re-brand of Impel in 1992.

The base set was 162 cards. The subsets included Super Heroes, Super Villains, Rookies, Famous Battles, Team Pictures, Most Valuable Comics, and Spider-Man Presents.

Wolverine as "Patch"

Most of these are self-explanatory, except for Spider-Man Presents. This particular subset featured Spider-Man attempting to interview some of the heavy-hitters in the Marvel U. They were like little mini-comics and I thought they were hysterical. I remember thinking the Spider-Man Presents: Wolverine card was one of the funniest things I'd ever read.

Each of the super hero and villain cards would feature a drawing of the character on the front with a unique backdrop like it had been pulled right from the pages of a comic. On the back you'd find all kinds of cool information about the character, like their aliases, how many battles they'd had, their win/loss ratio, some information about the character, and finally some trivia.

I have no idea who "Roughhouse" is...

One neat thing that was only featured in this particular set was that certain characters could appear multiple times, like Wolverine, who appeared in the super hero subset three times; once in his brown and tan costume, again in his blue and gold costume, and finally as "Patch", his secret alter-ego.

Features of this set that didn't carry forward are the Spider-Man Presents cards and the Most Valuable Comics. Each set would feature something unique from the others, but you could always expect to see super heroes, super villains, special teams, and cards that somehow featured big events and battles from Marvel's storied history.


See, it's hilarious!

This was my first foray into trading card collecting and I was only 7, so some of the cards in my set are a little roughed up on the corners, but they hold so much nostalgia and importance to me, it's hard to state. This was my gateway vehicle into comic books and super heroes. Growing up on an island, it wasn't difficult to get comics, but it certainly wasn't easy to get them all in order each and every month. Also, without any sort of archive of Marvel Comics, this was the only way to really dig into the historical events in the Universe and learn all the backstory for the characters.

I started buying these cards in a corner store in the summer of 1990, but eventually had to start going to a hobby store as I worked at getting the whole set. Every red cent of my allowance went into these cards. Each pack would contain 12 cards, so over time you'd amass a stack of what we called "traders". The hobby store would keep a box of their own traders so you could swap out your extra cards for a card you still hadn't found in a pack. They'd usually do a 2:1 trade to keep their stock high and some cards, which were harder to come by, would require more traders or you'd just have to buy them outright.

Danny Ketch Ghost Rider's rookie card - one of the rougher cards in my set

As I mentioned, there were 162 cards in the base set, but there were also five hologram cards, which were the holy grails. There was only one hologram per box, as far as I know, so they were hard to come by. I never did collect all the holograms for each set. I managed to get a few here and there, but buying them at the card store was usually highway robbery and not something my parents were interested in funding, so I would shoot for the base set and hope to get a few holograms along the way.

It was a crazy summer when I first found these cards and little did I know that I would spend at least the next four or five years collecting the different sets of Marvel Universe Trading Cards. I have some of my fondest memories buying, trading, and most importantly, poring over these cards and gleaning as much information as I could about the amazing characters and stories they represented. My friends and I would commit so much of the information on the cards to memory and have classic conversations about who would defeat who in a fight or who the most powerful bad guy was.

My lone hologram from Series 1: Cosmic Spider-Man

Well, that's it for Series 1. Next time we'll revisit Series 2 and then hopefully I won't forget and we can finally take a look back at Series 3 and onward!

I hope you enjoy this trek down memory lane as much as I did.

Make Mine Marvel,
R

Friday, April 5, 2019

Memory, Blog: The Unsolved Mysteries Book Cover



Since I know you've been waiting on baited breath for this, let's get nuts and dig even deeper into my sleep-shattering fear of those junky alien TV shows from yesteryear. This next one is a doozy (do the kids still say doozy?).

I don't know where I got the gumption (do the kids still say gumption? damnit...) but one night I decided it was a great idea to try and watch an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. I had an idea of what I was getting into - everyone was talking about the show - but I had no clue just how much of an effect it would have on me personally to this day.

Perhaps you can solve a mystery...

I'm still not sure how I made it through Robert Stack's introduction or the theme music (likely judicious use of hiding under the blankets), but I can still remember the content of the episode like it was yesterday. Much like with E.T. several years before, I think my pulse dropped to zero, like I was in some kind of TV-induced hibernation. I stared at the set in rapt fear.

Although I was initially creeped out, it wasn't until Robert Stack presented the story of Bob Matthews that things really went south. Matthews was in the United States Air Force and in 1966, while en route to a posting in Massachusetts, was dropped off at a local market at night. He called the base for someone to come pick him up when he realized he was in the middle of nowhere. It's at this time that he claims he saw a strange ship flying through the night sky. When his ride came to get him he was totally AWOL, before calling back hours later asking where his ride was. Matthews claims that he experienced missing time and later, through hypnosis, recalled that the ship he saw in the night sky touched down outside the market and that he was abducted by the beings inside.

Trrrrrraumatized!

This story on its own was enough to raise my hackles, but it was during this clip that I was disturbed even further than seeing Elliot's squat little alien buddy with the glowy fingers (I'm not gonna drop it, ET's still creepy). As Matthews recounted his story, he spoke about finding a paperback book at a supermarket aisle by author Budd Hopkins called Missing Time. In the clip on Unsolved Mysteries the book he actually picks up is entitled Intruders. Here's a close-up:


From the moment I saw this clip my greatest fears had a new visage. Whatever creature this was on the cover of this book would haunt me for years and years to come, but also drive me to face those fears and watch any and all paranormal films and TV programs I could lock my eyeballs onto.

What's interesting is that I always considered Unsolved Mysteries to be a show about the paranormal, but as I've been re-watching it recently on Amazon Prime (I've recently discovered it's on YouTube, as well) I've realized that it rarely featured segments about the topics of aliens or UFOs, and usually with a few derisive words from Robert Stack, who seemingly didn't want to report on it at all. The show was mostly about true crime and helping people find their long-lost loved ones, with a smattering of ghost stories or aliens here and there for us weirdos.

All it took was this one episode, however, and I was forever changed. The thing is, I was bound to see the image of the "grey" alien at some point. It's ubiquitous in our culture now, much like the Bela Lugosi-inspired vampire or a bed sheet ghost. I kind of believe that no matter where I first saw it that those huge black eyes and enormous great skull would have the same affect, but it certainly didn't hurt that I saw it while watching Unsolved Mysteries in my parent's basement with no lights on that sealed the deal.

As an adult, I want to say that I'm mostly over it, but if I'm being honest grey aliens still give me the heebie-jeebies (do the kids... ah, nevermind) I remember when the found footage film The Fourth Kind came out back in 2009 I was immediately engaged and wanted to see the movie, but the only way I could bring myself to watch it alone in my apartment was in the middle of the day with all the lights on. As it turns out, it wasn't so bad, but those scenes with the owl eyes? Uuuuugh.

I'll try and summon up the courage to write another one of these soon, but from now on I don't think this will be a chronological account. I'll just jump back and forth to different shows and films on the subject. Ya know, for the whole one of you that actually reads this stuff! (Thank you by the way, you're the best!)


Cheers,
R