By Craig Tello
15 years after Marvelites first unsheathed the original Marvel Masterpieces series from its luminous foil packaging, the legendary trading cards have returned to fans' collections.
Hitting stores now, Upper Deck's Marvel Masterpieces 2007 not only represents the first set of its kind this millennium, but also provides finely printed proof that a true legend never dies.
"People haven't seen a high-end super hero trading card product like this in a long time," says Senior Marketing Manager for Upper Deck Scott Gaeta.
He continues, "Upper Deck and Marvel have had a great relationship for many years. We saw a good opportunity to re-launch the brand. It just took the right people here to put [Masterpieces] together."
From quintessential icons such as Captain America and Spider-Man to vile rogues ranging from Venom all the way to cosmic heathen Thanos, Masterpieces offers a vast presentation of fans' favorite heroes and villains in high-gloss, cardstock, foil-embossed treasures, and even one-of-a-kind sketch cards.
To further whet fanboys'-and girls'-insatiable appetites, the "mother of all comic trading cards" boasts extraordinary art pieces from top creators including Alex Ross (MARVELS), Bryan Hitch (ultimates), the legendary Neal Adams and Drew Struzan, the latter best known for his Indiana Jones and Star Wars movie poster artwork.
"We not only have all the most popular characters, but some incredible names working on them," Gaeta says. "We have relationships with lots of artists...and we knew we could generate a lot of interest among them [with this series]."
Also featured among the list of creators: the indelible Joe Jusko, whose art featured prominently in the initial 1992 Masterpiece set. The Jusko throwback demonstrates just one of many nods to loyal Masterpiece enthusiasts who enjoyed the inaugural series manufactured by the now-Upper Deck-owned Skybox brand.
"The base 90-card Masterpiece set is actually Skybox branded and the parallel [foil] set is Flair branded...there are some surprises in there as well," Gaeta adds. "It will be nice for the collector that has all the old stuff to make those connections."
Essentially, this Marvel release represents the ultimate dose of nostalgia for fans who ravenously sought the earliest incarnations of these trading cards in the mid-1990s. After more than a decade of hibernation, the reintroduction of one of the most highly collectible creations in comic industry history will also offer new fans the opportunity to obtain a collection of fine comic art in a most unique medium.
"Upper Deck has people working here-myself included-who were fans of Marvel Masterpieces when it first came out 15 years ago," Gaeta admits. "We wanted to pay tribute to the set's roots."
According to Gaeta, Upper Deck hopes to exceed the expectations of Masterpiece lovers and "raise the bar," taking super hero trading cards to the next tier. The best way to get to the next level? Toss in distinct features that make this Masterpiece series truly marvelous.
Spotlighting the craftsmanship of key artists, Marvel Masterpieces 2007 includes a slew of three-piece "panoramic sets" that can be put together to form a larger horizontal masterwork of, for example, a mid-city collision between Galactus and Marvel's mightiest champions.
In addition to that, look out for limited edition "ashcan" box toppers and case toppers-grayscale versions of the panoramic offerings-X-Men and Spider-Man subsets, and rare original pieces of sketch art.
"We didn't limit artists and say they had to use [a specific] medium," Gaeta explains. "We have some cards that are painted, some in pencil, some in inks; it runs the gamut. This is just one more top quality product out there for Marvel fans."
Gaeta claims, Marvel Masterpieces 2007 was "the most fun product [he's] worked on all year." More importantly, however, the rebirth of this incredible phenomenon culminates a historic year for the House of Ideas. Marvel has made 2007 even bigger with the resurrection of its comic-inspired trading cards.
And, if all goes as planned, this rekindled tradition will help make 2008 just as huge.
"We are looking into having another masterpiece set in 2008," Gaeta reveals, promising more information after the first of the New Year.
Much like its extraordinary, scour-worthy chase cards, Marvel Masterpieces has been randomly re-inserted into the collector market for some time to come, it seems. Get yours now and continue to check back with Marvel.com for more information on Marvel Masterpieces 2007, and the future of this blockbuster trading card release.