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Trading Card Set of the Week (Special Scorched Retinae Edition) – The Silver Surfer (1992, Comic Images)

September 10, 2013

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There’s such a thing as going too far with a concept. Despite its invulnerability, you wouldn’t make the whole plane out of the black box (Seinfeld routines to the contrary). You can’t make a pizza crust out of cheese, though you can certainly hollow it out and cram as much fromage into the breach as you can. A dawn to dusk diet of chocolate sundaes with all the trimmings would be a Candyland-like heaven, but you’d rot from the inside out.

They aren’t good ideas. They’re too much of a good thing. And there are even times when the good thing you can go overboard on isn’t all that great in the first place. Enter the Silver Surfer trading card set.  

Comic images had the single character license for Marvel characters for a number of years in the late-1980s/early-1990s, for a time running concurrently with the company-wide sets issued by Impel and Skybox. If a character was hot, he got a set. Wolverine. Spider-Man. Ghost Rider. And, in 1992, the Sentinel of the Spaceways himself, the Silver Surfer.

Recall that Comic Images often included a chase subset in their products, a five or six card object of desire to keep collectors buying more packs than needed to simply fill out the relatively small base sets. The design of choice for Comic Images chase cards was the good old prism, a useless, rather nauseating effect that looked cheap and did absolutely nothing aesthetically. (It gave them a “Tiger Beat Heart-Throb Pictorial” feel.) We’ve seen some of this chase type when we delved into the Youngblood Comic Images product — ironically enough, a subject useless, rather nauseating, which looked cheap and did absolutely nothing aesthetically. Kind of crummy, right?

The Silver Surfer cards are all prism. They’re all chase. All 72 of them. It’s too much of a thing that wasn’t that good in the first place. It’s a shame that scanning them doesn’t really do them justice, because, and you’re going to have to take my word for it, they’re hard on the eyes. You squint when you look at them. God help you if you have overhead lighting with a high wattage, because then you may need to don welding goggles to preserve your precious eyesight.

The effect here is sort of a card-wide bubble-bath, with round refractory discs covering the entire front. It’s as if the Mysterons from the old Captain Scarlet marionette show were going nuts with their sinister circles of light. (If someone was shooting for a Kirby dot effect, they failed utterly.) It’s overboard and distracting, a double shame since the Surfer and the cast of characters he’s interacted with over the years are magnificent, with some stellar (no pun) art thrown into the mix — and the Surfer cards were, like other Comic Images products, card versions of previous comic book art. The Surfer was just winding down his time in the hands of Ron Lim, who seemed to be born to drawn the him, and made him into a scowling, beefy Muscle Beach avatar. Kirby. Buscema. Moebius. People with talent brough Norrin Radd to life over the years, and they deserve better than a criminal bedazzling.

Alas.

Without the crummy FX, the thing might have turned out well. (Maybe chromium, a less infuriating effect, would have worked better.) The cards are a trip down the visual memory lane of the Surfer, ideal for fans of the character. And he’s not alone. Much of the set is devoted to his assorted enemies and allies. That list is, naturally, headed by Mr. Tuning Fork — Galactus:

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Thor might not have been a usual co-traveler, but he was part of quite possibly the best Surfer cover of all, from issue #4 of that character’s first eponymous series. Again, the scans do no justice to how much the effect totally ruins the art:

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Eros/Starfox. Drax. Mephisto. Dr. Strange, Namor and the Hulk, his fellow Defenders. The Ben-Grimm-pummeling Champion. Eternity. They’re all there. And no early 1990s set would be complete without two treasured 1970s characters resurrected in the very pages of the Surfer’s hot-selling mag. First up is the Mad Titan himself, who’d now and again put the Surfer into bondage gear — Thanos, with a smile that becomes Evelyn Creamish when prismed:

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And Mr. Soul Gem, Adam “I look better when my eyes are all white” Warlock:

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These cards are maddening. For someone who loved the Surfer and his intergalactic doings back in the day, they’re a colossal disappointment, not even uncovering a modest twinge of nostalgia. That’s a dubious achievement in and of itself. Behold the real things at your own risk, with sunglasses and high SPF sunblock applied liberally to exposed skin.

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