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Trading Card Set of the Week – Deathwatch 2000 (1993, Classic)

November 6, 2014

deathwatch

Ah, the comic card boom of the 1990s. We remember it fondly. The Marvel cards were all nice, whether the regular issues or those of the Masterpiece variety, and DC’s Batman-less early releases had their charm — even if, similar to their movie franchises now, they were struggling to catch up. The explosion wasn’t limited to the big two, either. Lesser companies like Valiant and Image got into the act, moving their smaller but still significant market share over to this new territory. And this fresh field was so inviting, even publishers that were barely off the ground got in the swing. We’ve already examined one such set here, based on Malibu’s Ultraverse line. Maybe someday we’ll get around to looking at its two(!) sequels.

We have another boutique’s cards before us today, a set backed by no lesser name than Neal Adams. Yes, the long-buried Continuity Comics had trading cards, and what a set it was — one almost buried under the weight of its own interminable chase cards. When Ken Griffey Jr. wanders into your comic book trading card set and for some inexplicable reason he’s an insert, you are reaching, my friends.

The main selling point of the Deathwatch 2000 set, like the Continuity Comics brand itself, was Adams. He of the transformative style that produced great cover after great cover and the occasional infamously bad book, Adams founded the company long before the speculative boom, way back in the dim pre-history of 1984. He was both the frontman and eminence grise of the line, contributing art and plots and overseeing the stable of artists who replicated very much his — some would say over-the-top — style. Characters like Megalith, Ms. Mystic, Armor and others had titles published intermittently over the ensuing decade, until Continuity folded in 1994, embroiled in the industry-wide crash that brought down so many lines.

Towards the end of this run, Continuity indulged in that classic trope to sell more books — the intra-company crossover, where all titles were woven together into an overarching narrative. I can’t delve too deeply into the plot, as I’ve never read all twenty issues that came under the umbrella of Deathwatch 2000 — and in fact, no one has. You see, in a perfect microcosm of the publication problems that plagued the company throughout its existence, the concluding chapter was never produced. And this wasn’t because the company had shuttered the windows at that point — no, there was another crossover after Deathwatch 2000 called Rise of Magic, which amusingly enough referenced events in that never published conclusion. Which is, and I don’t think this is overstating it, slipshod beyond belief.

Anyway — the Deathwatch 2000 cards. Continuity teamed with Classic to produce them, the latter a company we’ve crossed paths with before, with their WWF Wrestlemania product. (They were most known for making baseball cards that were packaged with board games — a Deion Sanders card, back when he was a Yankees prospect, was what put them on the map.) There are 100 cards in the base set, and they’re reasonably well put together from an aesthetic perspective, with regal purple borders around artwork recounting the Deathwatch storyline:

deathwatch13

If there are complaints to be had, they’re in the details. (And maybe the fact that the bombastic Adams style is more suited to covers than much smaller cards, which feel crowded with his trademark chaos.) The card title is often hard to make out, as it’s partially printed in a font that baffles the eyes — New Times Confusica or something. And on the back the numbers are printed vertically, which can lead to some accidental dyslexia as you’re sorting. When you’re holding them as most people do it’s easy to mentally transpose 13 into 31:

deathwatch13back

Granted, these are the dopiest of First World Problems. But still.

The real perplexity comes in the never-ending chase sets. The cards were distributed in two ways: standard boxes with 36 packs, and jumbo boxes with 20 packs. Only in the jumbo packs could you find Prism chase cards, which were included on per. Such bifurcation became somewhat standard in the mid-nineties, as a once white-hot industry began to cool down, and purveyors started latching onto anything they could to up sales. (If there’s a saving grace in this instance, it’s that there was usually a twenty card set of the prisms in each jumbo box.) Like all prism cards, these are seizure-inducing and dreadful to look at:

deathwatchprism3

There are seven acetate Hybrid cards, made of plastic (like an animation cel) and partially clear on one side with one letter from HYBRIDS on each — the white portion in the card below is clear, as the white comes from the lid of my scanner:

deathwatchhybrid5

The most bizarre of the chase sets is a three-card assemblage of sports greats. Well, two sports greats and a bewildering third inclusion. They’re in here for no damn reason, other than to perhaps sucker sports card collectors into buying packs of the product. First up is Shaquille O’Neal, who’s dunking a basketball with such volcanic force he’s shattering the backboard, setting the very air ablaze, and likely murdering whatever unlucky souls are beneath the bucket:

deathwatchshaq

Then there’s Ken Griffey, Jr. (note that neither he nor Shaq have team logos due to the licensing issues that would engender):

deathwatchgriffey

And last, Manon Rheaume:

deathwatchmanon

If you don’t have the foggiest idea who Rheaume is, join the club. She gained some notoriety around this time for having a contract with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. A goaltender (as you can see), she only ever appeared in exhibition games, though she did play a number of years in the minors. No offense to her, but her inclusion alongside two Hall of Famers in their respective sports seems a bit like PC pandering — she wasn’t exactly the Ronda Rousey of her day. Jackie Joyner-Kersee wasn’t available? Steffi Graf turned them down?

Last but not least of the chase cards is the super ultra hard to get Neal Adams autographed card, numbered by the man himself. There were “only” 7500 of them made:

deathwatchauto

How many sittings to sign the 7500? Did he plow right through?

If you’re an OCD collector, please note that there were dozens of additional cards polybagged with assorted Continuity comics. We’ll leave them be, but feel free to try to track them down, you know, if you want to end your days bound and babbling in an asylum.

When your super-rare card can easily be found for under ten bucks (which it can), you’ve printed far too many of them, and this extends to the whole set. Deathwatch 2000 cards are pretty much worthless today, with unopened boxes not fetching a ton of money when people even deign to try to sell them, and complete sets, even with all the chase cards, not flying off the shelves: true market pricing would probably see the people holding them paying others to take them off their hands. This is part and parcel of the over-produced era that they come from, but the chase sets in this case — especially the vexing prism cards — weigh the set down. Maybe their numbers would have been acceptable in a Marvel or DC product, but with Continuity, collectors could be forgiven for wondering why they were even bothering.

No one can dispute Mr. Adams’s place in comic book history, but he had his misfires. For the reasons listed, this is probably one of them. Whether it ranks above or below his Expanding Earth advocacy we’ll leave to others to judge.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 18, 2015 10:40 pm

    Never bought any of these but one day after getting off the school bus, I noticed some strange looking purple things across the street. A friend and I walked over to find a ton of these cards floating in a water filled ditch. We reached in, grabbed handfuls of mushy cards and ran to my house where we took a hair dryer to them.

    I was just searching old comic trading cards when I somewhat remembered these but didn’t know the name. All I could remember was the non Marvel or DC characters and the purple boarders. If I hadn’t found your blog, this might have driven me crazy not knowing what these were.

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