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