Mars Attacks is a science fiction trading card series released in 1962. The cards feature artwork by science-fiction artists Wallace Wood and Norman Saunders and tell the story of the invasion of Earth by cruel, hideous Martians. The cards depicted futuristic battle scenes and bizarre methods of Martian attack, torture and slaughter. The story ends with a combined Earth invasion fleet attacking Mars by landing on the planet and destroying it.
The cards proved popular with children but their explicit gore and implied sexual content caused an outcry, leading the company to halt production. The cards have since become collectors' items, with certain cards commanding over $3,500 at auction.
In the 1980s Topps began developing merchandise based on the Mars Attacks storyline, including mini-comic books and card reprints. An expanded set of 100 cards was issued in 1994. Director Tim Burton filmed Mars Attacks! in 1996 based on the series, spawning another round of merchandising.
The Mars Attacks trading card series was created by Topps in 1962. Product developer Len Brown, inspired by Wally Wood's cover for EC Comics Weird Science #16, pitched the idea to Woody Gelman. Gelman and Brown created the story—with Brown writing the copy—and created rough sketches. They enlisted Wood to flesh out the sketches and Bob Powell to finish them. Norman Saunders painted the 55-card set.
The cards, which sold for five cents per pack of five, were test marketed by Topps through the dummy corporation Bubbles, Inc. under the name Attack from Space. Sales were sufficient to expand the marketing and the name was changed to Mars Attacks. The cards sparked parental and community outrage over their graphic violence and implied sexuality. Topps responded initially by repainting 13 of the cards to reduce the gore and sexuality, then, following inquiries from a Connecticut District attorney, agreed to halt production.
Adaptations and merchandising
Rossem Enterprises re-issued a set of 13 cards from the original series in 1984. The set consisted of those cards found most objectionable upon first release. Also in 1984, Renata Galasso issued a full reprint of the series that included a cover card featuring the original wrapper art. In 1988, Topps collaborated with Pocket Comics to create a 54-chapter mini-comic book serialization of the card series. Sales and distribution were poor and the series was canceled after four issues. Topps issued an expanded 100-card set in 1994, featuring the original 55 cards and 45 "New Visions" cards. Twenty-one comics and graphic artists collaborated on the new cards, including Zina Saunders, daughter of the original artist. In conjunction with the expanded set, Topps issued a six-issue limited comic book series written by Keith Giffen and drawn by Charles Adlard. The series featured a "flip-cover" format, with 22 pages of the book following the story of the card set and six pages detailing previous encounters leading up to the invasion. The limited series was successful and led Topps to continue it as a regular series.
In 1996, Tim Burton's film Mars Attacks! was released by Warner Bros. The film combines the storyline and tone of a B-movie spoof with the budget of a blockbuster movie. In conjunction with the film, novels were released: Mars Attacks: Martian Deathtrap by Nathan Archer; and Mars Attacks: War Dogs of the Golden Horde by Ray W. Murrill. Screamin' Products released a tie-in set of Mars Attacks model kits. A novelization by the film's screenwriter was also published.
In 2012, in celebration of the franchise's 50th anniversary, Topps has partnered with a variety of companies on a merchandising campaign to include comic books (via IDW Publishing), bobble heads and vinyl dolls (Funko), action figures and plush (Mezco Toyz), costumes (Incogneato), statues and busts (Quarantine Studio), electronics skins (Gelaskins) and a hardcover commemorative book (Abrams Books).
Topps also released the original 55 card series as Mars Attacks Heritage a deluxe 50th anniversary reissue of the original set that included 10 'Deleted Scenes' cards and 15 'New Universe' cards. Topps has announced that the IDW comic book series is just the first in what is planned to be an all-new Mars Attacks universe that will expand into future trading card sets, toys, games and other entertainment. Mantic Games has also announced that they have acquired the rights to Mars Attacks for a tabletop miniatures game based off the series, with a Kickstarter campaign to begin on October 4, 2013.
- "1962 Topps Mars Attacks Set – Martians Still Have Hobby Appeal". psacard.com. http://www.psacard.com/Articles/ArticleView/5822/1962-topps-mars-attacks-set-martians-still-have-hobby-appeal. Retrieved 2013-05-10.
- Stewart, et al., p. 150
- Rice, David T. "Mars Attacks: The Original Invasion Begins Again!". Outré (7): pp. 44–9.
- "Mars Attacks Gets Major Relaunch". icv2.com. http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/21631.html. Retrieved 2011-12-01.
Pocket Comics Publisher, Mario A. Bruni. http://www.marsattackscomics.com
Stewart, Bhob, Bill Pearson, Roger Hill, Greg Sadowski and Wallace Wood (2003). Against the Grain: MAD Artist Wallace Wood. TwoMorrows Publishing. ISBN 1-893905-23-3