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Trading Card Set of the Week (Special Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghost Halloween Edition) – Ghostbusters II (1989, Topps)

October 31, 2013

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Okay, so Ghostbusters II wasn’t as good as the original. But what could have been? The original Ghostbusters — or, shall we say, the movie that everyone associates with the word, not the Larry Storch-infused show with a giant ape — is fantastic cinema, a genuinely funny film with excellent effects work and a superb Elmer Bernstein score, a movie that remains a gold standard almost thirty years later. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. “He slimed me.” Undersea, unexplained mass sponge migrations. People smoking cigarettes for seemingly the last time in film history. Proton Packs. “Yes it’s true. This man has no dick.” Tobin’s Spirit Guide. Ecto-1. “There is no Dana, only Zuul.” Rick Moranis getting attacked in Central Park as affluent seen-it-all New York diners calmly look on. Sigourney Weaver at her prettiest, making it totally believable that Bill Murray’s smart-ass, sleazy Peter Venkman would fall for her.

It’s no surprise that, taken together, it all took 1984 audiences by storm. Ghostbusters is as fun a watch now as it was back then, an assertion I tested with a recent viewing. Thirtysomething me likes it just as much as six-year-old me, though the humor gets better with age. (And thirtysomething me has a better understanding of what was going on when the hot babe ghost unbuckled Dan Aykroyd’s/Ray Stantz’s pants.)

That Ghostbusters burst upon the movie-going public like a positron glider blast is one of the reasons that there’s no trading card set for it. Unlike, say, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, there was no way to tell if it was going to be a hit — no Spielbergian imprimatur. It might have been a dud. But it wasn’t. It was, of all things, a cultural touchstone for a decade.

So there was a sequel. And for the sequel there were, yes, bubble gum cards.  

Ghostbusters II shaves at least two stars off of the original’s five-star ranking. It’s serviceable and enjoyable in its way, but suffers from the leaden set-up of the disbanded Ghostbusters getting back together again, as well as other assorted maladies. The sub-villain was odd, and the rivers of pink emo-slime beneath the streets of Manhattan didn’t have the same appeal as monsters lurking in fridges. And let’s not get started on the animated Statue of Liberty, taking over Mr. Stay Puft’s “stomping downtown” duties. But this time it’s a good guy (girl) who’s doing the stomping! Piloted by the Ghostbusters and good feelings! (It was then — as small me sat in the theater watching the movie, the same theater where smaller me had seen the first film years before — that I knew that it was all irrevocably lackluster. It was a feeling I’d have again a long time in the future, when Shia LaBeouf did his Tarzan routine with CGI monkeys.)

And hey, why are Rick Moranis and Annie Potts suddenly a babysitting power-couple? Didn’t she have a thing for Egon Spengler, the man who collects spores, molds and fungus?

But it put the fab four back together in their old uniforms, and that was kind of fun. So.

The cards that went along with it are your typical Topps issue, with a base set — blue borders with a lightningish effect this go-around — and an assortment of stickers. Now, a few for your consideration.

Bill Murray IS Venkman:

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Here’s Peter MacNicol (a long way from Dragonslayer) as the bizarre little museum curator, Janosz Poha, and his oil and canvas liege, Vigo the Carpathian:

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There are several “Wide Screen SFX Shot” cards sprinkled in, giving the collectors a look at full shots in the days of pan and scan. Here’s the Scoleri Brothers ghosts from the courtroom scene, returning to wreak vengeance on the judge who sentenced them to the chair:

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There’s also a series of cards with clunky word balloons — or word blocks, as it were:

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The set wraps with a few artist renderings. Here’s one for the breakout star of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon — good old Slimer:

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The card backs have a dash of detail about the movie, with its repurposed ghost logo:

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He shows up again on the last of the 11 stickers — judging by the disappointment of many fans after watching the movie, he might as well have been holding up a middle finger:

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There you have it. The cards are reasonably enjoyable, perhaps more so than their subject. They fit right into the Topps continuum, alongside Mork & Mindy, Alien, Superman II and other contemporaries. A third Ghostbusters film has been in development for roughly a thousand years now, so long that the long-dead Chris Farley was once mentioned as being part of a potential new generation of spook-hunters. That movie may or may not happen. If it does, it may or may not have an associated trading card set. But there probably won’t be stickers. Or gum.

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