By Eric Drumm
[Welcome to Make Mine Marvel, a bi-weekly series of articles devoted to all the things we've loved about Marvel over the past 60 years. From toys to video games, movies to trading cards, Underoos to stamps and more, we embrace it—warts and all. Kick back and enjoy Marvel's merry past with us.
1992 was wrought with milestone events. The Redskins won the Superbowl, the Penguins took home the Cup and Bill Clinton took over in the Oval Office. For us comic folk, there was "Infinity War," "Operation Galactic Storm" and "X-Cutioner's Song," but the real gem of the Nine-Duece was Series 3 of the Marvel Universe Trading Cards. The first two series revved us up, but Series 3 drove us positively batty with upgrades in all areas.
Mainstay features like Heroes, Villains and Teams stuck around for Series 3, complete with power ratings and info, but added to each card was a personal quote and the issue the quote was said. For example, the hard-brawlin' Luke Cage, fresh into his new series was quoted on his card (from CAGE #1, May, 1992) saying, "I bust heads for the American dream, life, liberty and the pursuit of Beaucoup cash." Hmm, that's a far cry from being the leader of the New Avengers and the softy family man he is today...and actually kind of awesome.
Another feature making a return: the Rookie cards. Slapstick makes an appearance, and then didn't really show up much until 15 years later in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE. However, tattooed time cop Bishop makes his debut here, and we've grown to love him and his jerry curl over the years. Are you listening, X-office? Bring back the 'mul!
New features in Series 3 were varied and provided sweetness from all corners of the Marvel Universe. The fresh Team-Ups menagerie of cards featured famous and not-so-famous pairings. Old school team-ups like Beast and Wonder Man had their own cards, but lesser known bro-downs like Spider-Man and Sleepwalker got the spotlight as well. Can't villains be BFF too? Even evil dudes need friends, and Series 3 shed some light with Team-Up cards such as Red Skull and Baron Zemo and Juggernaut and Black Tom. Wolverine made quite a few appearances in this section with an almost ridiculous seven team-ups in all. Ah, the '90s.
Additional new sections fleshed out the rest of the set. Cosmic Beings was a good way to categorize characters such as the Watcher and the Living Tribunal who don't really fit into Hero of Villain classes. Replacing the Events section was Wars, recanting massive crossovers such as Secret Wars and the Infinity Gauntlet. The Origins sections provided retellings of how classic heroes such as Captain America and Daredevil came into being, and the Milestones section was a vehicle to remember events that shaped the course of the Marvel Universe such as The Death of Gwen Stacy and Fall of the Kingpin.
Most of all, the complete overhaul in the art and presentation of the cards is what made Series 3 a cut above the rest. With signature starry backgrounds and creative paneling, the characters were literally leaping off the cards. And the superstar talent didn't hurt either. Industry heavies such as Erik Larsen, John Romita Jr, Jim Lee, Steve Epting and Marc Silvestri all lent their pencils to make this series something special—and it worked.
With stellar art, more info and anecdotes than ever before as well as prestigious presentations of all our favorite characters, Series 3 was a milestone within itself. It's still fun to open up the binder and reread where these folks were 15 years ago, how things have changed and how they've stayed the same. Like the other early '90s Marvel Trading Card sets, Series 3 provides moments frozen in time, snapshots of an era of long gone but which laid the groundwork for the Marvel Universe that we have today.
*Once again, we're hologram-less. If you have them and can scan them in—front and back—at 400 dpi, post a message in the forum. We'll post 'em up, give you credit and maybe a little something something for your troubles!