Today on Dino Drac: 1500 words about eight old trading cards. I’d like to say that I give people what they want, but nobody asked for this.
The eight cards are from eight entirely different sets, spanning from the late ‘70s to the mid ‘90s. If you can stand a site like Dino Drac, there’s a good chance that you collected at least one of these sets.
May this article help you remember a time when there was nothing sweeter than curling up next to a heating vent to read the backs of Batman trading cards. Fifty cents went so far!
Robocop 2 (Topps, 1990)
I posted this card on Twitter yesterday, and y’all seem just as impressed as I was. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, this card does depict the scene where Robocop tears out Cain’s brain stem. That’s a special kind of “holy shit.”
The Robocop 2 set pulled no punches — the cards were full of gore, and Topps made no effort to neutralize it for kids. With today’s checks and balances, a set like this would never get approved.
That was one of the thrills of collecting sets like this in the ‘80s and ‘90s. No matter how strict your parents were about R-rated movies and “mature” entertainment, they were unlikely to pay much attention to trading cards. We all amassed huge piles of suggested sex and outright gore, and the fact that we weren’t necessarily ready to absorb such things made the cards all the more… what’s the word… invigorating?
“Monarch of the Ocean!”
Jaws 2 (O-Pee-Chee, 1978)
I have sympathy for Jaws 2. I feel like so many of us ignore it. The first film is a classic that everyone still references. The third film has become one of our greatest guilty pleasures. And the fourth film is just so unbelievably bad that it’s hard not to love it. Comedy often works best where none was intended, and a shark that traverses thousands of miles in a couple of days just to pester one grieving widow is fucking hilarious.
And then there’s Jaws 2. Nowhere near as beloved as the original, and yet far too competent to enjoy in a spiteful sort of way. Today, it mostly exists so that people who proclaim their intention to “marathon all the Jaws movies” won’t sound like they’re bragging over a non-effort.
Bright side? It had a killer trading card set. The unusual black & yellow motif made the cards seem both expensive and aggressive. Had the actual movie adopted those colors in its promo materials, I bet we’d hold it in much higher esteem.
“The Fiend Flies High!”
Batman (Topps, 1989)
I collected the hell out of this set. I never cared much for Batman as a comic book character or pulpy TV star, but in a black suit on the big screen? I was all over him.
We all were! Batman was 1989’s coolest thing. Every kid I knew saw it multiple times. So far-reaching was our love, that when ToyBiz released an action figure based on Bob, the Joker’s goon — arguably the least desirable action figure of all time — we bought it without hesitation. Nobody knew what “king of the wicker people” meant, but we said it every goddamned day.
For me, though, it was really about the Joker. I always gravitated to the villains, because they got the best lines, and because they generally wore things that I could duplicate after enough rummaging through my father’s closet.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Collect-A-Card, 1994)
I have a soft spot for Baboo. One of the chief minions of Rita and Lord Zedd, Baboo served his masters not by killing the Power Rangers outright, but by devising horrible potions that would make that job a little easier for them. Mostly, though, Baboo was there to hang in the background and look uncomfortable with the mere action of existing.
He never struck me as a particularly bad guy. Baboo was just playing the hand he’d been dealt. If you’re born as a blue-black monkey-bat-rat, and astigmatism leaves you needing to wear a monocle, what COULD you be besides some conqueror’s alchemist?
Jason Goes To Hell (Eclipse, 1993)
Of the dozen Friday the 13th movies, Jason Goes To Hell — that’s #9, by the way — was the only film to get a dedicated trading card set. That’s so weird! It was the by far the least conducive to one. The big man was hardly in it!
Still, that’s a great trading card. For one thing, there are so few photos of Jason that clearly show Kane Hodder hiding under the latex. This may be the best of them. I see your eyes, Kane!
Also, I believe that this card used a promotional image rather than a frame from the movie, so it provides an unusually clear look at Jason’s upgraded “visuality.” It was much cooler than I previously thought!
Notice how this spin on Jason ignored the wilder interpretations from Parts 6 & 7, and seemed more like the perfect follow-up to his appearance in Part 4? I realize that only five of you have any idea what I’m going on about, but I’m also sure that those five agree with me.
Back to the Future Part II (Topps, 1989)
One neat thing about collecting sets based on movies is that we often got to see things that audiences didn’t: Behind-the-scenes photos, frames from deleted scenes, and even production photos of the various sets.
The internet has spoiled us, and it’s easy to forget a time when images like this weren’t perpetually accessible.
(Also: Back to the Future Part II was largely off in its assertions about 2015, but it was dead on about our present notions of ’80s style — which boil down to “make everything look like a Trapper Keeper.”)
World Championship Wrestling (Impel, 1991)
I used to be so fond of these cards, which more served the purpose of an “encyclopedia” than a “trading card set.” Having grown up on the WWF with only passing glances at whatever WCW was up to, these cards were a great supplement.
Best of all were the cards representing wrestlers that I knew from stints in the WWF. Suddenly I had proof that Giant Gonzales wasn’t born as a fur-covered zombie-hunter, but rather became one later. Wrestling is weird.
If you’ve never heard of Sting, he was WCW’s #1 hero, who’d later get depressed over Hulk Hogan’s heel turn and find even more success ripping off The Crow. (Again, wrestling is weird.) Now 56 years old, Sting will incredibly still wrestle under the right circumstances. In fact, his was one of the top-billed matches at the most recent WrestleMania!
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Topps, 1991)
Wow. I never would’ve expected an Azeem card to spark so many memories, but here we are.
In 1991, some friends and I — not quite teenaged, but close to it — occasionally went to the movies. Since the movie theater was right next to a bowling alley, and the bowling alley was right next to an arcade, and the arcade was right next to a pizza place, it was more like a day out. Specifically, a day out for people who were still young enough to appreciate the mere concept of a “day out.”
In effect, the movies we chose to see did not matter. We just wanted our happy, unchaperoned afternoons. Often enough, we didn’t even agree to any particular movie before going to the theater. We’d just watch whatever seemed reasonable, and reasonably timed.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was one of those movies. None of us were at all interested in the film, which by then was past its peak and probably days away from being yanked. As such, the audience consisted of us three and us three alone.
With no passion for the film and no adults to make us shut up, we spent the first hour cheering riotously for everything Azeem did… and booing unmercifully at Robin Hood. To our eleven-year-old minds, nothing was funnier than pretending that Azeem was the real star.
Even that wasn’t enough to keep us seated for the full movie, and to this day, I’ve only ever seen the first hour of Prince of Thieves.
We spent the rest of the day bowling badly and eating shitty fries.
It’s pretty cool that an Azeem trading card can remind me of this.
PS: If you feel like you haven’t read enough of my words today – ha ha ha – then please review these two dinosaurrific pieces, written for DealNews in celebration of Jurassic World. First there’s this startling collection of weird Jurassic Park collectibles found on eBay, and then there’s a list of some other famous dinos from all walks of pop culture.
PPS: This might be your last call for Dino Drac’s June Funpack! Subscriptions are going to be closed very soon.