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Mars Attacks. Again
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
I can remember the first time I ever saw an original Mars Attacks trading card. It was the mid-1990s and I was at the Chicago Comic Con where a dealer was selling well-worn cards for $15 each. I'd seen photos of the cards in magazines before, but that was the first time I'd ever seen an actual card myself. I almost bought one of those cards but didn't, which is too bad. The price of original Mars Attacks cards has only gone up over the years.
The original fully-illustrated 55 card set, which were marketed to children, were, and still are, notorious for depicting over-the-top violence and gore. The cards feature images of men being literally dissolved alive by Martian death-rays, scantily clad women being threatened by the gruesome skull-faced giant-brained Martians and people being carried off to their doom by monstrous blood-sucking bugs.
Nothing is held back or hidden in the Mars Attacks cards, and I think that's the very reason why the pre-teen boys who bought the cards loved them and why their parents hated them. In fact, the parents hated Mars Attacks so much that the cards were pulled from store shelves by retailers before the series was fully distributed nationwide. As a result, they’re quite rare — and valuable — today.
In Mars Attacks, which is essentially a retelling of The War of the Worlds story set modern day 1962, Martians unexpectedly and for unknown reasons attack the Earth and quickly gain the upper hand with their superior technology and weaponry. Things look bad for us as our cities crumble by the onslaught of Martian saucers, our military is decimated by the Martian death-rays and our citizens flee in terror from giant Martian-mutated bugs looking for their next meal. Eventually, we get the upper hand on the Martians and, turning the tables, invade Mars, setting their cities alight and in the end destroy their entire planet in the conclusion of the war.
After the cards were pulled from store shelves in the 1960s it would be more than 20 years before Mars Attacks would return.
The cards were reprinted and re-released in the 1980s and 90s and there was also a short lived comic book series then too. It wasn't until the mid-1990s that public interest in Mars Attacks was rekindled by the feature film version Mars Attacks! directed by Tim Burton in 1996. That film has an odd sort of campy weirdness akin to 1950s alien invasion movies like Plan 9 From Outer Space or Earth vs. The Flying Saucers and is missing much of the over-the-top gore and violence of the cards.
But Mars Attacks! wasn't a hit at the box office and once again Mars Attacks failed to catch on with the public and was mostly forgotten.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the original card set and with this anniversary there's been a major attempt at renewing the brand again. So far this year new Mars Attacks collectibles have been released as well as new toys and posters and the original trading cards have been reprinted and re-released once again as well.
Since the original Mars Attacks cards were pulled from store shelves back in 1962 finding a set of them can be quite expensive today. A set of decent cards can run buyers thousands of dollars while collecting an excellent set can run much more, with single certified mint cards running upwards of $2,500. Each.
There's something to be said for the history of the original Mars Attacks cards; how they'd have had to survive moms cleaning rooms and pitching them as well as the cards never making it to bedrooms but instead pulled from store shelves and destroyed. While I do own sets of the Mars Attacks cards from the 1990s and the set released this year, I own just one of the original 1962 cards and honestly it's one of my favorite parts of my geek-collection.
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