Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mars Attacks!

Michael Jones asked me:  "What's your favourite "Mars Attacks" card?"

This is a question for which I already had an answer which I didn't need to think about. 

For those of you who don't know, Mars Attacks! was a set of trading cards released by Topps in 1962 which depicted the invasion of Earth by Martians. The set was disturbingly gruesome for its time which made it popular with kids and horrified their parents. The trading cards inspired the Tim Burton movie which came out in 1996. 

Here's the whole story in a nutshell:

The cards really succeeded in depicting on overwhelming onslaught in which humanity had no chance of winning. The Martians, and their weapons, were particularly nasty. Sadly, once the giant bugs are brought in the disturbing depiction of impending doom falters and the sense of being right on the front lines of the invasion is replaced by a feeling of distanced voyeurism, much like what you have in the lesser Godzilla movies where the monsters fight it out in what appear to be empty cities where there is no human collateral damage. By the time the humans reach Mars for some payback on that planet's women and children you kind of see why the Martians came here to eradicate us in the first place.  

I own a set of the cards from its reissue in the 1980s. The images featured here are from the original release and I don't remember where I found them online. 

Anyway, on to my favorite cards. 

Card #10 - This card does what no Hollywood movie at the time could do. Not only does this image have great composition, but depicts the destructive fury of the Martian fleet is before even one Martian touches Earth soil. 

Card #36 - No, I don't have anything against dogs. Remember, this is a trading card series aimed at kids. Imagine the reaction that a six year old might have had to seeing this card. This image is emblematic of the graphic horror of the entire series as well as its crossing the boundaries of good taste. Not only is the actual destruction of the dog horrible and agonizing for the dog, but look at the face of the dog's boy master at witnessing this first hand. the dog was probably even trying to protect him. The boy's distraught rage against the Martian will no doubt be ineffectual and lead the boy to a similar end as his pet. 

Card #35 - Above, I complained about how the cards lost their edge once the giant bugs entered the storyline. My opinion has not changed, yet two of my favorite images from this series come from the giant bug section. The card above has great compostion and use of color and lighting. Even though the soldiers seem to be winning and their body language suggests confidence, those bugs don't appear to be backing down, or feeling much effect from those flame throwers. they've even managed to take down one of the soldiers. 

Card #41 - My other favorite bug card is my second favorite Mars Attacks card. The catepillar is posed in such a way that our very low eye level rises up its back and around as it curves around the Eiffel tower. This would look amazing on my wall as a 6 foot tall print. 

My absolute favorite Mars Attacks card: 

Card #19 - This card encapsulates the entire series in one single glorious image. Unlike the fuzzy, painless seeming disintegrations of the original Star Trek television series, disintegration by Martians seems like a horrible way to die. What's even worse than the man in the forground witnessing his flesh being burned away from his still living body is the corpse of the other victim. This poor guy has been reduced to a skeleton except for his face. The Martians seem to be completely unaffected one way or another by what they are doing. 


Michael Jones said...

Excellent choices. I knew the dog would be included; it's one of my favourites as well. Though 17 & 21 were included for the cheesecake factor, I'm rather partial to 30. Not really fond of the retaliation in the last few cards but I do like 18 for its depiction of courage.
I'm really looking forward to the new release, some of the chase cards look incredible. I'll definitely be dropping the extra bucks to pay for overseas postage!

John Rozum said...

Those are all really good choices, too. I agree with you regarding card #18. Card #17 is one I like for the wrong reasons, so I didn't include it on my list. I find that one fairly amusing because the Martian looks so embarrassed to be smashing through a window into the woman's bedroom. It's almost like he wants to apologize to her. "Sorry, but Topps is making me do this. I really just want to be working on my garden, but I've got two kids to send through school."

Hobgoblin238 said...

Wish I had a set! I think the movie did a great job in doing justice to these cards.