By Jason Juniewicz and Ryan Penagos; cards provided by Greg Draudt; hologram scans by Salvador Velázquez
[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 all. Kick back and enjoy Marvel's merry past with us.
have the Ghost Rider Rookie Card? What about the much sought-after Stan Lee "Mr. Marvel" card? How about the complete set of Hologram chase cards (and no, even we couldn't find those!*)? Well if you do, you were obviously a collector of the Marvel Universe Series 1 Trading Cards. This is the granddaddy of all Marvel Universe cards--the one that started it all. By far the most ambitious outing to make a collector's card set, it helped kickstart the comic trading card market that flourished for years.
This series had plenty of awesome features and factoids that the subsequent sets didn't have. In addition to being the only set with multiple cards dedicated to certain characters (Wolverine, for example had a brown costume card, a yellow costume card and a card featuring his "Patch" persona), each character card also sported Classic Battles, nicknames and--the fan favorite feature--fight records. We're not sure if the card writers used science, magic or some tricked-out hybrid of the two to come up with each character's scorecard, but it was always the first thing we looked at when checking out a new card.
A close second in awesomeosity would have to be the 12 card section dedicated to Spider-Man interviewing various characters in the Marvel Universe called "Spider-Man Presents." Spidey would ask questions and the characters would answer with hilariously goofball responses. There is nothing like seeing Magneto having a pow-wow with Spidey and giving him a little taste of some "magnetic humor" as he puts it. Like a red and blue spider-journalist, Spidey asked the tough questions and dug deep to find out stuff like Iron Man's greatest enemy (surprisingly, it's not liquor) and Thor's fallback job if the superhero gig didn't work out (have hammer, will carpent). Seriously, this bunch of cards are so bad, they've now turned to pure golden goodness.
Through it all, these cards are a great look at the history of the Marvel Universe and what it was like waaaaaaay back in 1990. We see that greenhorns such as Dan "Ghost Rider" Ketch, The New Warriors, Deathlok and many others had their very own Rookie cards. We also see a collection of truly historical relics from the comic vault in a section of the series called "Most Valuable Comics." This is really a picture of the times when you see the values for some of these must-have collectibles (Hulk #181 for $75? You couldn't get a coverless copy for that today!).
One aspect can't be ignored: the art! Each card (except for the Most Valuable Covers) boasted an original image, and even now it's a hoot trying to figure out who drew what. We can definitely figure out which cards are by Arthur Adams (bliss!) and we have a hunch Walt Simonson dropped lead for a few cards. We'd bet money that Rick Leonardi and Mark Bagley also lent their remarkable talents to this series, though most cards lack signatures. Even so, this set really opened the doors for some of our favorite Marvel artists to get in the game and provide some sweet shots you won't find anywhere but on the trading cards.
This set was the first of its kind and still stands up to the test of time, acting as an index to the Marvel Universe--a time capsule of the Marvel U., complete with that ripe 1990 smell. Sure, some characters have come and gone and the powers may have changed a little (ahem, Speedball), but all of the information is there like a mini Marvel library. The following sets may have been bigger and gave you all new information (and yes, we'll get to them in due time), but this set still holds a place in every Marvelite's heart that was there when these cards first hit the stores.
*Big ups to Salvador Velázquez for providing the scans to all the hologram cards, each of which has the same backside.