Topps’ Mars Attacks Trading Card Series Turns 50

One of the coolest horror/sci-fi events that's coming this summer won't be playing at your local multiplex. Topps' legendary Mars Attacks trading card series is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and in honor of this pop culture landmark, Topps will re-release the original 55-card set this July along with 25 additional cards that feature never-before-seen art. Several other companies have also signed on to release a wide selection of other Mars Attacks merchandise during this summer, including action figures, plush toys, comic books and model kits.

A 50th Anniversary Mars Attacks Action Figure, by Mezco.

In the long list of alien invasion novels, movies and TV shows, there's nothing quite like the Mars Attacks card series. It's an insane mash-up of 50s-era nostalgia and over-the-top violence; even though the cards depict a story about an alien invasion of Earth by skull-faced, large-brained invaders, the story doesn't weight itself down with complex characters and nuanced story arcs and goes straight for the gory carnage in card after card.

The Atomic Age feel of the Mars Attacks art is hardly coincidental. Len Brown used Wally Wood's cover of Weird Science issue #16, a sci-fi comic book that was published by EC Comics during the early 50s, as a source of inspiration when he pitched the card series to Topps. Horror and sci-fi comics disappeared from newsstands by the mid-50s due to the Comics Code Authority (CCA) but their influence clearly lived on in other titles such as Mars Attacks. (Read more about horror and sci-fi comics from the 50s here in my review of Jim Trombetta's book, The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read!)

The comic book cover that launched a trading card invasion ...

... And its tribute card from the 1994 Mars Attacks re-release.

Given its source of inspiration, Mars Attacks inevitably generated its own controversy back when it debuted in 1962, but that wasn't enough to stop the invasion. The cards were re-printed during the 80s and 90s with additional cards included, and the Mars Attacks license expanded to include comic books, novels, and even a feature-length movie by Tim Burton in 1996. There's also THQ's Destroy All Humans! video games, which are essentially video game versions of the Mars Attacks cards.

If you're a fan of gory horror and sci-fi art, then the Mars Attacks card series is something that would fit perfectly with your collection of artistic atrocities. Click here to see the complete set of Mars Attacks cards as they were originally released in the 60s, and you can also check out the official Mars Attacks Facebook page here.


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