Mars Attacks: 50th Anniversary Collection REVIEW
Release Date: 1 October 2012
224 pages | £12.99
Half a century ago, bubblegum manufacturers Topps thrilled kids with a set of 55 lurid cards depicting an invasion by big-brained Martians. Tim Burton was a fan, and went on to adapt them into a hit-and-miss 1996 film. This neat little hardback reproduces them all, front and back. The art’s been taken from the original transparencies, while the text on the back’s been scanned from an archive set.
Back in 1962, parents were scandalised, and you can see why: artist Norman Saunders’s imagery is still eyebrow-raisingly gruesome, filled with bodies bursting into flames as they’re zapped by the Martians’ atomic rayguns. But for all the human slaughter, perhaps the most harrowing card is the one titled “Destroying A Dog”, in which a young boy cries out as his beloved pet is fried! There are numerous blackly humorous examples of landmark-wrecking, including a giant caterpillar snapping the Eiffel Tower in half. That aspect of the series was reflected in the Burton movie; another, the use of gigantic spiders and flies to decimate the population, might come as a surprise.
As well as the original cards, there’s bonus material aplenty, including further cards released in the ‘90s (these are even more gruesome, featuring vivisection and decapitation), alternate designs featuring toned-down levels of violence (drawn up when Topps was considering reworking the cards after complaints – in the end they pulled them from the market altogether), concept designs and development sketches. There’s also a touching remembrance of the artist by his daughter, and an introduction by co-creator Len Brown. Finally, tucked away at the back in a plastic pouch is a reproduction card.
Sure to delight any fan of ‘50s SF, Burton’s movies, or the grotesque in general, this is a great little stocking filler that represents good value for money – especially when you consider that a full set of cards in mint condition would now set you back around $25,000!
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
Read more of our book reviews.