Admit it, many of you clicked on this post thinking I’m going to talk about the 1996, Tim Burton adaptation of Mars Attacks. Though I will have to bring it up here, I’m mostly talking about the very famous, very controversial card series from 1962 and comic series from later on. We’re only three months in to this new year of 2018. Yet a lot of things have happened so far. Stephen Hawking died, people think Black Panther is a masterpiece, students across the nation are protesting gun violence, North Korea is willing to negotiate the nuclear weapon crisis with America, the internet is battling the FCC over net neutrality, and The Shape of Water won the Oscar for best picture, yay! Who knows what else will take place this year? An alien invasion perhaps, probably not, but who knows? Yep, that’s gonna be my tie in for this one. That’s stupid, here I’ll think of something else. Let’s see here…uh…oh, the month we’re in right now is March, the French translation is “Mars”, like the planet Mars, like from Mars Attacks. There we go, bulletproof, or laserproof, whatever floats your boat. This is the word -for- word plot of Mars Attacks on one of the cards. “Planning to conquer the Earth, Mars sends flying saucers through space carrying deadly weapons. Burning the cities, the Martians destroy much of Earth’s population. The enemy then enlarges insects to over 500 times their normal size and releases them on the helpless planet. People go into hiding, knowing that death is the consequence if they are discovered by the creatures. Despite its losses, Earth launches a counterattack that shatters the Martians on their home planet, Mars.”. These cards would come packs of five, including a stick of bubblegum, in a small packet that looked like the thumbnail above. The story just seems like your typical alien invasion story, except these aliens are hardcore. When ever they’re doing something horribly violent, they go to the next extreme. They fry people at first, then freeze them, shrink them, then send their giant robots and ground troops to scout and kill any survivors, then enlarge insects to the size of kaiju. If you think flies are pesky now, imagine one coming at you Godzilla sized. Each card shows in bloody detail the terror the Martians infringe on humanity. These martians are so cruel, that they even blast a puppy in front of its kid owner’s eyes. That is mercilessly brutal. The Martians’ design is unique and frightening at the same time. The skull faces, the big brains, and their eyes red with murder. It’s inspired by past media, but manages to be it’s own thing. The artwork in general is really good. It’s very associated with the decade it came out in. It certainly has a lot of imagination and bloodlust. The artwork was done by Len Brown, Woody Gelman, Norman Saunders, and Bob Powell. The cards would show a picture with a caption on the front, then tell a short story of what’s going on in the picture. No surprise that with a card series like this, mostly marketed towards kids, parents became outraged. When you have cards like this:
and also this:
you’re bound for controversy. Besides the graphic violence, there were also cards that would show the Martians kidnapping young women. The original sketches would show the women with skin showing, but Topps, the company producing the cards, told them to make the designs more tame due to the vast amounts of complaints from parents. Adults complained so much that many stores were banned from selling it, teachers would force students to write angry letters to the writers, and they even couldn’t use the Topps logo and instead had to go under the fictional name of Bubbles Inc. in order to avoid lawsuits. It wasn’t just in America either, the UK banned the trading cards because of one that displayed Parliament being attacked by the Martians. How did the creators react to all of this outrage, they shrugged it off. Yep, they acknowledged it, but didn’t really care. Topps, cared though. Though they did let the creators, that being Len Brown, Norman Saunders, and Wally Wood; get away with a lot of things, they eventually pulled the plug on Mars Attacks due to the public outrage and demands from a Connecticut district attorney. The series lated only lasted 55 cards and was discontinued after their short run. It wouldn’t be until the 80’s when the series started to gain a cult following did it return. The series hit a big high in 1984 when Rosem Enterprises issued the original 13 repainted cards, and former baseball card dealer, Renata Galasso ordered a reprint of the original 55 cards. Later in the decade, Topps would adapt the original cards into a comic with the aid of Pocket Comics. Unfortunately, the mini-comic didn’t last long due to poor sales and distribution. Then in 1994, Topps re-released the original 55 along with 45 new cards. The series’ revival was so successful that Warner Brothers distributed a Mars Attacks film by Tim Burton that came along with novels and other merchandise. But we’re still saving that for later. Besides that, Topps would once again try to adapt the series onto comic panels. This is where we start talking about the several Mars Attacks comics that have been published over time.
We already know that Topps’ first attempt to create Mars Attacks comics with Pocket Comics failed. However, these new comics managed to find a little more success than the past others. Some of the original creators returned like Len Brown. In some cases relatives of the original creators would take over, like Norman Saunders’ daughter, Zina Saunders. The comics for the most part do follow the tone pretty well of the classic cards. They’re mean spirited and clearly understood their demographic well. But just like the original series, it wasn’t meant to last long. In the 90’s there was a huge comic book crash where sales were going down the toilet. It was so bad that even some of the big dogs like Marvel and DC were struggling to bring in the numbers. Even before that the comics weren’t doing too good. I think the writers eventually found out that there’s not much to expand upon as far as the Martians and the amount of chaos they ensue. Some comics started to feel worn out and stretched too much. Where the original team knew where to take the story, the new writers couldn’t. Also the artwork started to take a huge nosedive over its short time. While the cover of the comic above looks good and strongly resembles the original cards, as pencilers were shifted around a lot, you’d get artwork that looks like doodles a fourth graders would draw on their notebook. What do you do when you’re out of ideas for a money-making property, combine with more successful properties. Topps Comics would usually crossover Mars Attacks with famous characters from Image or Dark Horse Comics. But the comic book crash put an end to that eventually. Once again, Topps halted production on Mars Attacks. Hope came again in 2012 when Topps celebrated the 50th anniversary of Mars Attacks. The original 55 cards were re-released again, new cards were added, there were figures, costumes, and of course, new comic books. Topps gave the publishing rights for the comics to IDW. With new comics published, Mars Attacks was alive again. But once again, IDW’s writing team for Mars Attacks realized that there’s not much to expand upon with the story. Time for more crossovers! They faced the skull-faced Martians with the likes of Judge Dredd, the Transformers, Ghostbusters, KISS, Spike, and, I’m not joking here, Popeye. They were so desperate for sales that they threw in Popeye! Who would’ve ever thought to pit bloodthirsty Martians against a nasally, deformed sailer with an addiction to spinach? Well they did, and here’s the cover to prove it:
I haven’t read any of them, but still I think the whole idea to crossover Mars Attacks with other properties is just desperate. The Mars Attacks franchise is alive and well. Just last year in 2017, Topps released even more cards in a sequel series called Mars Attacks: The Revenge. Proving that Mars Attacks will last a long time. If you want other violent card series’ outside of Mars Attacks, than check out its sister series, Dinosaurs Attack!. Which is actually more gory and mean spirited, yet never got any controversy. Showing clothed, young woman is bad, but showing dinosaurs eat kids out of a school bus like packing peanuts gets a free pass? What is wrong with people? However, if there’s one thing Mars Attacks taught us, is that kids are not happy, nice, little snowflakes of joy. Instead, they’re bloodthirsty monsters that love seeing people get blown to bits.
So that’s my review of the cards and comics of Mars Attacks! Sorry if this goes into a lot more detail than usual, but having to cover a topic like this requires a lot of research. Most of the information I got was from a book called Mars Attacks: 50th Anniversary Collection that was released in 2012. Which contained the classic 55 cards, bonus cards, original sketches, and information on the creators. If you’re interested in knowing more than purchase it on Amazon or any online shopping site. Hope you enjoyed it and follow me on Snapchat at bensuey3. This is the Adolescent Critic signing out.
Oh right, I was supposed to talk about the Mars Attacks movie. Just watch the Nostalgia Critic’s review of it which is basically my thoughts on it also. Maybe I’ll do a full review on it someday, but who knows? I’m out, peace!