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Trading Card Set of the Week – Batman Returns (1992, Zellers)

October 2, 2013

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Hey, didn’t we already do a Batman Returns thingamabob for the Trading Card Set of the Week? Yes we did. But the Topps Stadium Club Batman Returns product, though certainly the most prominent of its kinsmen, was by no means without company. Returns was, after all, a sequel to a runaway blockbuster hit, so the tie-ins, from cards to video games, would be numerous. There was another, standard, humdrum Topps set, as well as assorted international releases. And there was an odd little set of cards from Zellers, the Canadian department store chain. Cards that would let you win a gen-u-ine Batman jacket — whatever the hell a gen-u-ine Batman jacket is/looks like. We are through the looking glass, people.  

Zellers had a long-standing promotional relationship with the Caped Crusader, one that included a number of animated Batman commercials which predated the famous, highly-regarded 1990s cartoon. The spots were mainly notable for featuring the leading members of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, and for having every character hyper-posed and over-expressive like a Neal Adams cover. To wit, here’s one with the Joker:

So the Returns cards weren’t as out of the blue as they might seem at first glance. There were 24 in total, printed on thinner, flimsier stock than you’d find in your typical wax pack products. The cards were also oddly shaped, slightly narrower and taller than normal, like a cross between your typical modern size and the old cigarette card size (i.e. the infamous, priceless Honus Wagner T-206). Annoyingly, they don’t fit into your standard 9-pocket pages. The card fronts were fairly mundane, as you can see from the scan of the first Michael Keaton Batman card that opens the set.

Nothing really sets them apart from any of the other associated products. That said, Michelle Pfeiffer sure knew how to fill out a leather Catwoman outfit, no matter the medium:

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To quote the lady: Meow.

You want Batmobile? There’s plenty of Batmobile:

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I’d be lying to you if I said that I’m certain of the mechanics of how these cards were obtained. Did you get one with each purchase? Several? Did they come in packs? Were they tossed from the top of the building to gathered ravenous hordes below? I don’t know. The card backs, though, printed half in English, half in French (La Batmobile!) in the grand Francophonic Canadian tradition, have some clues:

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You’ll note the white circle at the bottom, where apparently a cashier must have stamped a letter — a B, A, T, M, or N — and the customer collected our hero’s full name, until they could enter to win a jacket at the good old customer service desk. (Were there angry scenes in which people who only needed an N got another A, and then yanked the cashier over the register by their collar?) And what did this damn jacket look like? Leather, the obvious choice? Denim? A letterman jacket? Was there a big Batman symbol on the back? On a breast pocket? Though I scoured the internet, I couldn’t find a picture of one. (Granted, I didn’t go the full Edward R. Murrow in my investigation, but still.) If anyone has any intel on what they looked like, please feel free to chime in. And that also goes for the mechanics of the card procurement, when they were stamped, etc.

There you have it. You can find (unmarked) sets of the cards quite easily and quite cheaply on eBay, so there was certainly no lack of extras lying around after the Batman Returns bonanza came to a close. But they’re certainly one of the odder mainstream comic superhero products you’ll come across.

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