Friday, October 4, 2013

Mars Attacks - The Invasion Begins!

A charming book from Abrams is titled simply Mars Attacks. It's a fiftieth anniversary reflection on the notorious collectible cards which have truly invaded the popular imagination. The cards designed by Bob Powell and painted by Norm Saunders were the brainchild of Len Brown and Woody Gelman. Brown writes an informative introduction about how the card set came to be. It turns out a number of the specific images have particular sources.

But the most famous and arguably important influence can be seen below. The very first card puts the Martians front and center, their massive brainy heads leering menacingly out of their protective transparent helmets. The saucers are ready and waiting as the invading force boards for Earth. 

The look of the Martians was obviously a great concern to the Topps people who wanted something a little bit scarier than the classic Green Man from Mars, but also something which while lurid wasn't so over the top that it would ignite community outrage. History shows they failed on that final count, but nonetheless in the effort to thread that needle they drew upon the talented Wally Wood to solve the problem.

It turns out Wood had drawn aliens with just the right blend of weird and ick when he illustrated this cover for Weird Science #16 for the legendary EC Comics. This iconic cover fronts a story titled  "Down to Earth" also drawn by Wood. Below is a wonderful original page from that most influential story.

The "Martians" are right there to behold. The guys at Topps had their inspiration, a monsterous gibbering head atop an oddly human form. It was a hit.

Let the invasion begin.

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  1. Replies
    1. It's very entertaining and filled with info not just on the original cards, but the many offshoots and sequels since. I could've used more text, but the pictures are ideal.

      I have a reprint box of the Martian cards from many years ago. This book is better I think.

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  2. Of course Wood , who did a number of projects for Topps, was the one who revised his own designs and actually created the Martians, as well as producing a number of roughs for the card set. I hope he gets due credit in the book.

    1. Absolutely. Woody is given credit. His designs though evidently didn't have the pizazz they were looking for so Bob Powell was brought in. It's amazing how often these two guys competed for the same gigs. There is a later card, not an original that uses the classic EC cover as its basis.

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    2. Let me add, that some of Woody's roughs are included in the book.

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