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  1. So, this afternoon, I been paintin' Martians. I love me some Mars Attacks. First heard about Mars Attacks back in the seventies. Found a magazine at the drugstore devoted to science fiction. These didn't turn up as often as I would have liked, being as I lived out in the distant reaches of south Texas (I loved Famous Monsters, but they only turned up about every second or third month), so when they DID turn up, you bought them. Fast, before someone noticed a flicker of color and creativity on the magazine rack, and disposed of it in favor of Rancher's Monthly, Quilting Today, or Dull Periodicals. And this particular magazine, some small press thing I can't remember the name of, had an article on Mars Attacks, the infamous 1962 trading card set. They included illustrations of several of the cards, and talked about how due to the rarity of the cards and the weird chord they struck with kids of the early sixties, these cards were now worth a zillion dollars each, and that an art production outfit out of New York was reproducing the art as poster sized prints for way too much money. I devoured the article with avid interest. I was a sucker for fifties style science fiction, I admit it. Still am. Hell, I can still watch and enjoy Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, and one of the great pleasures of last Halloween was finding Robinson Crusoe On Mars showing on TV that evening. And I still get a kick out of giant bug movies. Because when I was a kid, I soaked this stuff up with abandon. The Black Scorpion. Invasion Of The Saucer Men. Invaders From Mars. Earth Vs. The Spider. Mars Needs Women! And now I was reading about this so-called series of trading cards that seemed like they were MADE of this stuff... albeit, a tad on the gory side. These were not your Ray Bradbury crystal spires and toga Martians. THESE Martians did NOT mess around. None of this "Peace In Our Time" nonsense. And they were PROPER equipped. They had death rays, heat rays, disintegrator rays, shrink rays, and freeze rays, as well as the growth ray, which they used on Earth bugs in order to make about a third of the card set be about gigantic bugs eatin' civilians and snackin' on soldiers and tearing up the Eiffel Tower, among other things. They had flying saucers, they had giant stompy robots, they had everything you'd expect Martians to bring to a gunfight. It was ON! Washington burns! Panic in Parliament! Moscow is gone! China is attacked! And that humungous caterpillar can't be doing Paris any good, even after he's full from eatin' the Eiffel Tower! And best of all, they didn't have to do any of this "mind control" or "possess Earth bodies" silliness to save money on costumes, makeup, and special effects. No, WE don't need no steekin' MIND CONTROL and endless talky dialogue! We just bring out the DISINTEGRATOR RAYS! I was downright disappointed. This stuff had actually existed, and here I was finding out about it fourteen years too late! The article went on to explain how the card set never got national distribution, and was yanked from shelves on the East Coast after the local parents and moral guardians found out about it, adding to its rarity... which had added to its popularity... which had led to the insane prices collectors were willing to pay for the original cards. Finally, Topps, the company who'd printed them originally, did a reprint set in the early eighties, which apparently totally went nuts at the card and comic shops, leading Topps to actually publish a line of Mars Attacks! comics, which would eventually lead to MORE card sets, and finally, a Tim Burton movie. I dunno what it is. I mean, these cards were printed before I was born, but there's something about them that completely awakens my inner ten year old and makes me wanna play toy soldiers and giant bugs and big stompy robods with Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers on the DVD player in the background. What IS it about these evil, green, brain headed, skull faced sadists from the Red Planet that has this effect on me? And apparently a lot of other people, for that matter? My fondness for bad science fiction movies has led me to study the matter. The fifties was a heck of a time. The psyche of most of the human race was still recovering from the horror and insanity of WWII, and since PTSD hadn't been invented yet, all the sol'jers who were suffering from it were just expected to suck it up and get over it and get on with getting a job, buying a house, and raising the kids, bringing it all back to normal. And a lot of those kids... my own parents included... were old enough by the 1950s to start spending money. What could we sell kids and teenagers in the fifties? Well, movies were a big thing... and cheap, lurid films were in big demand as drive-in movie product... and, then, there's our old friend, the Atomic Bomb, the great symbol of science as savior, ender of war... as well as a pandora's box that might have some pretty scary stuff in it. The film THEM!, which was about giant mutant ants caused by the original A-bomb tests, is laughable nowadays... but was nominated for an Academy Award in its time. It was vurra serious stuff, and gave birth to the entire giant bug genre. And what about those flying saucers that Col. Mantell supposedly saw scooting around the southwest, where all those secret airbases are? There was plenty of real stuff to be scared of; the Soviets had the bomb, and they had Nikita Khruschev, and they had better missiles than we did at the time. What better way to forget about real terrors than by going to the movies and immersing in the fake ones? By 1962, this was all the stuff of cliche, a bunch of established tropes... ready for assembly and use. And Topps did exactly that. They assembled every old hackneyed trope and cliche into a cohesive whole, and launched it as a set of bubble gum cards. And oh my, did they start something. I discovered this stuff back around 1976, and I've had it with me ever since, part and parcel of alien invasion movies, giant bug films, and the great and wonderful and chaotic world of the really awfullest science fiction of the fifties and sixties. We're well into the new millenium now, but weirdly enough, the horrors of giant spiders and the evil of brain-headed invaders remains with me, a set of villains to be fought that remains far more appealing to the child within than Nazis or stormtroopers or the terrorists of COBRA... living relics of the pulp sci fi of the fifties. Reaper and Gene Van Horne aren't immune. They did a lovely line of Alien Invaders a few years back. Snagged every one of them, some in multiples. Still regret the lack of bubble helmets for them. Mantic did this when they released their Mars Attacks! miniatures game earlier this year; bubble helmets packaged separately, to be carefully glued into place after painting. Anyone else have memories and/or reminiscences of the Martians and their spawn? Bad movies? Giant bugs? I'm curious to see who else on the forums gets charged up with the flipping of this particular switch...
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