Assorted travels have left me with assorted trading card packs. I figured it was time to do something with them.
…so I ripped open the six shown above, and challenged myself to name the best card in each of them. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. For example, in the case of the Gremlins 2 pack, I was forced to choose between a glamour shot of Lenny and a card depicting the scene where Murray Futterman pours wet cement all over the Bat Gremlin. My whole head melted.
Off we go!
Pack #1: “Gremlins 2” Trading Cards
Favorite Card: “Lenny the Mogwai”
I used to buy Gremlins 2 cards at literally every opportunity, slowly amassing not just one complete set, but probably three of four. If you’ve been reading me for more than a day, you know that I’ve spent the last 25 years absolutely obsessed with this movie. No matter what I write when it’s convenient, Gremlins 2 really is my favorite film.
My favorite thing about the card set was how it named the Gremlins. While it’s true that even a casual investigator could’ve easily learned the names of Lenny, George, Daffy and Mohawk, it’s also true that none of those names were spoken in the film.
(My second favorite thing about the set was the wallet-sized photo of Marla.)
While the bulk of the cards simply used still images from the movie, my favorites were more of the “promo shot” variety. This picture of Lenny certainly didn’t appear in Gremlins 2, and the lovable goof never looked better.
Pack #2: “Jaws 3-D” Trading Cards
Favorite Card: “Fin of Fear”
Jaws 3-D cards were awesome. Owing to the movie’s famous gimmick, each pack came with a miniature pair of 3D glasses. Rather than the usual text blurb, the backs of the cards featured comic-style art that came alive when viewed through them. Factor in the shiny plastic wrappers, and this was one fantastic set.
Unfortunately, the card-fronts weren’t nearly as cool. The problem with making a trading card set based on a Jaws movie is that you’ll invariably have to pull from many non-shark scenes. And who’d want a Jaws trading card without Jaws on it?
In that respect, this pack was a dud. This “Fin of Fear” card was the only one that came even close to showing Jaws. It won only by process of elimination. It was the lesser of evils. It was either this or a picture of the Brody brothers.
Pack #3: “Dick Tracy” Trading Cards
Favorite Card: “Jake ‘Itchy’ Rossi”
I was almost as crazy for Dick Tracy as I was for Gremlins 2, and since the two films debuted at virtually the same time, the summer of 1990 was my personal nerdy nirvana.
Each pack came with one sticker, and while it feels like cheating to pick that one, there’s no way I’m gonna choose Tess Trueheart over motherfuckin’ Itchy. He was the man! The inspiration for me to intentionally fail eye exams! As much responsible for my crayon-colored trenchcoat obsession as the Joker!
The guy who played Itchy would later go on to portray Ruth’s ambivalent Russian boyfriend on Six Feet Under, which continues to blow my mind over ten years later. “Acting” is nowhere near a good enough explanation for Itchy and Nikolai being one and the same.
(Oh, and if you haven’t seen the movie, Itchy is a low-level mobster so named because he gets… itchy a lot.)
Pack #4: “Dinosaurs” Trading Cards
Favorite Card: “Charlene Sinclair”
Confession: I was never a big fan of the Dinosaurs TV series. I didn’t dislike it, but I never felt particularly compelled to seek it out. (My biggest memory of Dinosaurs remains that potshot from The Simpsons.)
I should mention that upon revisiting the series much later, I found it many times more enjoyable. And even subtly dark.
Dinosaurs had all sorts of merchandise, including a pretty bland trading card set, which looks to have been primarily focused on weird pop art shots of the main characters. The series also had the disadvantage of being under the Pro Set umbrella. Pro Set used heavier and shinier cardstock, and their cards indeed felt sleeker, but for me they usually seemed to lack charm.
I chose Charlene as the best card from the pack, but it’s really the worst. It’s so bad that it goes all the way around to good. And then halfway back to bad. Look, it was either this or Grandma Ethyl.
Pack #5: “Little Shop of Horrors” Trading Cards
Favorite Card: “Audrey II”
This time, picking the sticker isn’t cheating, since the Little Shop of Horrors set was all stickers. I would’ve preferred one that used an actual movie scene, but this was the only sticker with a clear shot of Audrey II. Besides, that’s some killer art right there.
One interesting thing about this set is that certain stickers appear to pull imagery from the film’s insanely great original ending. If you’ve never seen the original ending to Little Shop of Horrors, holy shit, go fix that right now. I can totally see why they ditched it, but had that ending survived, Little Shop might’ve ended up being the next Rocky Horror.
Anyway, the more I look at this sticker, the more I want a new marble notebook to decorate. And I think that’s the truest sign of a really good sticker.
Pack #6: “Fright Flicks” Trading Cards
Favorite Card: “Predator”
The Fright Flicks set never fails to give me the warm fuzzies, since I wrote about it on Dino Drac’s opening day. Memories!
Fright Flicks cards have slowly increased in price over the years, and it’s easy to see why. Drawing from so many classic horror movies, it’s the ultimate set for horror fans, where a single pack can get you pictures of everyone from Freddy Krueger to Pumpkinhead. (In their heyday, I imagine that these cards acted as gateway drugs for kids who weren’t yet into horror, but were very much into twenty-cent wax packs.)
Mixing killer photos with cheeky quotes, the best card from this particular pack had to be Predator, bathed in the sort of light that one might expect to come from radioactive Fla-Vor-Ice. As is the case with many of the cards, the quote underneath Predator probably wouldn’t fly in 2015.
Thanks for reading about old cards!
PS: Want more words? My latest piece for Star Wars Dot Com is up. Go read about Star Wars Bend-Ems from 1993!