PrintE-mail Written by Kris Heys

Review: Mars Attacks / Publisher: Abrams Comic Arts / Format: Hardcover / Release Date: Out Now

Timed perfectly to coincide with the property’s fiftieth anniversary, Abrams Comic Arts’ fourth book dedicated to the most seminal of Topps trading cards of old leaves the best to last – Mars AttacksFor the first time (unless you’re one of the very few filthy rich collectors out there) you can now enjoy the entire original 55-card set of the gloriously gory bubblegum cards reprinted in one handy tome.

Each side of the card is granted its own full page - the back featuring key developer Len Brown’s description, and the front depicting those wonderfully pulpy painting and hyperbolic headlines. While this is chiefly an art book it’s a joy to finally get to read the series narrative properly, with Brown’s blurb adding depth to each card. Who knew the victim in the (one time) controversial Prize Captive card managed to get away from her attacker, for example? (Okay, so she was probably destroyed by a frost ray or giant centipede a couple of minutes later, but still.) And if you thought Earth prevailed against its Martian marauders due to Natalie Portman’s novel use of a gramophone, think again. Not how it went down in ’62.

Printed alongside the cards is a running commentary providing interesting incites into the line, including information on the cards conception, production and, ultimately, public reaction. None of these went as Topps had planned, it must be noted.

Not only is this book a celebration of the original 1962 run, it also goes further to include later incarnations of the concept, including all 11-previously unpublished cards that were tagged onto the Mars Attacks Archives re-runs in 1994 (standout, Slaughter in the Suburbs); their comic book spin-offs (that judged against what’s come before, completely, like Tim Burton, fail woefully to catch that same vibe of the originals); early concept sketches; and the laughable attempts at a ‘cut version’ of reissues. These sanitized editions depicted doctored artwork with so little thought that they result in some wonderfully weird curios such as Beast and the Beauty - which now features a mustachioed bloke in lieu of terrified lady - and Destroying a Dog 2.0 has the Martian’s death ray blowing a hole through an army officer rather than a canine. (‘Cos that’s way less troubling.) You’d have thought Topps wouldn’t have been so thrifty as to not change the caption too, now that none of these versions made sense. Ill-judged as they are, they’re fascinating nonetheless.

Mars Attacks is bookended by humorous accounts from Len Brown (who details his quite incredible journey from teenage fan to Topps developer), and artist Zina Saunders, daughter of the card series’ primary painter Norm Saunders. Turns out that even at nine years old, she played a small but crucial role in the making of the Mars Attacks that we know and love…

As with Abrams’ previous release dedicated to Topps’ Garbage Pail Kids, the four exclusive, never-before-produced set of cards that come included are worthy of purchase alone.



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