Saturday, 19 March 2016

Trading Card Theatre: Gen 13 '96

I don’t think this is going to be a regular feature, but I bought a bunch of trading card sets at a convention and I’m pretty sure I can get blog posts out of all of ‘em and by damn I’m not wasting that opportunity for content.

First up is Gen 13 ’96, the second series of Gen 13 trading cards Wildstorm put out that cost me roughly £1.66, so I shouldn’t complain too much that the set didn’t include the alloy chase cards but I will mention that it didn’t so you know why I left them out. Gen 13 Volume 2 was easily one of my favourite books of the ‘90s and remains something I re-read fairly often, it wasn’t clever, it wasn’t deep, it wasn’t dark and gritty, it didn’t deconstruct anything, it was just filled with likeable characters in enjoyable stories with work from a bunch of creators I liked – people like J. Scott Campbell, Jim Lee, Gary Frank and Adam Warren – though it did have work by Ed Benes but y’know, nobody’s perfect. For this set I’m just going to pick out noteworthy cards I think are worth talking about or showing to the internet, the way I figure it even if nobody cares about my opinions on trading cards from 20 years ago at least this’ll include some rarely seen art by some recognisable names in the industry, after all, I bet you didn’t know Kelly Jones drew a Gen13 picture.

Packet by J. Scott Campbell
As this is the only piece of J. Scott Campbell art in the whole regular set I thought I should include it, yeah Campbell, who was synonymous with the book in its first two years, who made his career on the title and whom I believe the book would have failed without, didn’t draw a single bloody card that wasn’t an alloy card – good sense if you’re trying to sell more packets of cards, bloody annoying if you’re having to buy them, typical trading card stuff really. AND this picture of Freefall in a nice hat wasn’t created for the set but is taken from issue 1 of the ongoing series and it was reused more than just here, turning up in ads and other places, I do like it though, even if the fashion is so mid-90’s she might as well be wearing a The Craft t-shirt.

Love Hurts by Brett Booth & Sandra Hope
I really need to do a Look At for Fire From Heaven, Wildstorm’s big event that ran summer ’96, because it kind of has a reputation for being long, confusing and horrible but I haven’t read it for so long I can’t remember if it actually was. Anyway art’s by Brett Booth (Anita Blake) who I was obsessed with for a time thanks to his work on Backlash, another Wildstorm title that had a character called Taboo who I was also obsessed with briefly, but for different reasons. She isn’t shown here, but Backlash’s daughter is the tiny jailbait hugging Burnout’s crotch.

Poignant Reminder by Mitch Byrd
I initially thought this was by Kevin Maguire but it’s actually by Mitch Byrd, who I’d never heard of but comicbookdb tells me was the artist on Dinosaurs for Hire - sweet! I actually include it just because it did something different and included a funny scene rather than just an attempt at a sexy picture of one of the Gen13 cast (which makes up about 98% of this set) and because of the card set’s need to be dramatic and awesome to appeal to the obviously highbrow mid-90s trading card audience gives it such an inappropriate piece of text on the back, seriously, read it on the scan above and imagine a picture of the scene described, I bet it isn’t a comical image featuring splattered ice-cream by the bloke who used to draw gun-toting dinomen.

Detention by Richard Case
Nothing clever for this one, I just really like Freefall (my favourite Gen 13 character) dressed as a school girl, even if the art’s not exactly a style that appeals to me. Richard Case is the literal definition of fill-in artist, though he did have a brief run on Shade, The Changing Man (issues 61-70, give or take an issue) which ran the year before this set came out, presumably that’s why he got the job, or maybe he just got the job because finding over 40 people willing to draw Gen 13 cards was a little difficult.

Dancing Fiend by Tony Daniel
I maintain that Tony Daniel (The Tenth, Teen Titans, Batman) was a better artist before he retooled his artwork to ‘fit superheroes’ and became a horrible artist around the time of One Year Later but you really wouldn’t know I’m right from this, where he’s managed to make Freefall look like a prostitute. And apparently she’s dancing, I thought she was using her gravity powers to float but she could quite easily be practicing tai chi, falling or being pushed over by the camera. Still Daniel drew some of Grant Morrison’s ‘amazing’ run on Batman (hated that run) and I liked The Tenth and Adrenalynn so here’s his card in the set.

Sunset by Terry Dodson
Few people draw women as hot as Terry Dodson, yeah you can go on about sexualizing and you’re right but he has a gorgeous way with lines, a very visually appealing style and never falls into the ‘Escher Girl’ style of ‘sexy’ pioneered by Rob Leifeld and his disciples. I also love that both he and Adam Hughes (to appear later) give the girls very different body styles that actually match how the books tell us they’re supposed to look, even Campbell used to draw Fairchild way to slight, I like me a built Fairchild like this.

Dark Love by Randy Green and Rick Ketcham
I loved this two-parter (issues 8-9)! The Gen kids were taken out systematically by a group of creepy supervillain carnies and I am just so up for any and all creepy carnivals, theme parks and circuses in any media (I blame Batman Returns, and the Vampire Ride from Chessington World of Adventures). That said this card set is really into that story, all of Trace’s carnies have their own card, the very first card in the set is a scene from the story and they even worked a reference to it into the text for that Tony Daniel card which as you can see has absolutely nothing to do with it in any way, hell it barely has anything to do with its actual subject matter. Incidentally Randy Green is another fill-in artist, he did a lot of work for Wildstorm and fellow Image Comics imprint Top Cow, the most notable things I can find that he drew was those Phoenix Resurrection back-ups for Ultraverse and the first story-arc for Emma Frost.

Surveillance by Adam Hughes
I pretty much looked through the set waiting to find the inevitable Adam Hughes card, knowing full well it would be the best piece of art in it and of course I was absolutely right. Again if you want to go off on one about sexualisation you are totally justified but Hughes was at the time known almost exclusively for his stunning art of comic book women so it’s not shocking he’d turn in some stunning art of a comic book women and Fairchild was a bonafide sex symbol at the time (Wildstorm touted some statistic that more dorm rooms had their life-size Fairchild poster on their doors than Pamela Anderson’s, I doubt that was true but that poster did sell like meth, I really would like one) and never looked better than when AH! was drawing her so this all makes sense in my mind, and he added a nice bit of comedy to offset the sheer sexualizing (unlike lots of other, far weaker artists in this set). Plus Hughes would have been still drawing or just finished up with the best Gen 13 story of all by this point – Gen 13: Ordinary Heroes.

Spirituality by Dave Johnson
Nothing clever here, I just wanted to share the card by Dave Johnson, a terribly underrated artist who I fell for after reading the first Superpatriot mini-series though is probably best known for his cover art, he did 100 Bullets, Mark Azzarello’s horrible run on Batman, the JSA Returns event  and god loads of other shit.

Two Images of a Lesbian in the Rain!
Splash by Kelley Jones and Summer Shower by Jae Lee
Really, didn’t anyone have to heart to tell one of these two that they’d pretty much duplicated each other’s pose? Or were they just so pleased that they got two actual notable creators to do a card they didn’t want to piss off the ‘big stars’? If you’re unaware, Kelley Jones (Sandman, Batman: Red Rain) was still hot on Batman at this point and is a great artist who draws really weird shit, and Jae Lee (Inhumans, Sentry, X-Factor), whose art is nearly as weird and dark as Kelley Jones’ had his own Image comic at the time called Hellshock, so these would have had more star power than most everyone, including most of the people on here bar Lee, Campbell and maybe Terry Moore and Adam Hughes. On Rainmaker, She was a very prominent lesbian character at a time when there really wasn’t any in superhero comics, and they did some good stuff with that so I’m kind of proud of her, though it’s up to you if this was undermined or not by still going with the will-she-won’t-she plot with Burnout.  

Solidarity by Jim Lee
This must be THE most boring piece of trading card art Jim lee has ever turned in and it’s his only contribution to the regular set and I think the set as a whole, I have the feeling he drew it in about 20 minutes on a napkin, and what’s worse he has the talent to have produced an actually sexy image unlike two thirds of the fill-in artists in this set, still points for doing something different I suppose.

Guardian by Kevin Maguire
Speaking of doing things differently, Kevin Maguire plays to his strength as the best artist of expressions in the super hero biz instead of his other talent of drawing very attractive women with very nice hair to produce a solo image of Gen 13’s badass Professor X, my man John Lynch. This is easily the most awesome card in the set though it really doesn’t have a great deal of competition. Maguire (Justice League International, Defenders) would go on to turn in great work in the Gen 13/Fantastic Four special.

It’s Crispity, It’s Crunchity! By Tom McWeeney
BEST CARD IN THE SET! I would buy Gen 13 Flakes in a heartbeat, just for the box! Hell you know what they need to do – a whole trading card set of super hero cereal – Batman-Os, X-Pops, Spawn Flakes, I would buy a box. Tom McWeeney, who’s mostly an inker, did a pretty damn funny ‘Gen 13 kids’ back-up story in the earliest issues of Gen 13’s ongoing series (volume 2) that almost made up for the horrible three-issue run he had on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1, almost.

Striptease by Terry Moore
Well this was a surprise, and it really shouldn’t have been because Terry Moore brought his Strangers in Paradise to Homage Comics, which was also owned by Jim Lee as Wildstorm was, exactly around the time this set came out (the first Homage issue was published in autumn 1996) so must have been in talks around the time it was being made. I am just…there isn’t a strong enough adjective for my positive feelings toward Strangers in Paradise, though it is kind of weird to see a man who was praised (and rightly so) for his ‘real’ and unsexualised women drawing a naughty pic of a character who’s whole power is being sexy.

Spirit of the Elements by Dan Norton
This is a nice little piece of trivia is all, spin-off series Gen 13 Bootleg was undoubtedly in production around the same time as this card set (the first issue, part of the brilliant Lindquist's Fault, came out in November 1996) and that would have included issue 3, that this card ties into, but as this set hit before that (I think) this would be the first piece of Gen 13 Bootleg related material to appear. I’ll leave you to debate whether or not turning the Native American girl into an elf for a medieval fantasy reimaging is racist or not. Dan Norton btw did pretty much all fill-in issues for Wildstorm.

Castaways by Ryan Odagawa and Terry Austin
It’s a Gilligan’s Island reference; it’s going in this post. Other than being inked by veteran inker Terry Austin there’s nothing else worth mentioning.

Acrobat by Adam Warren
And we shall end on a high note! The set’s card by Adam Warren (Dirty Pair, Empowered)! If you don’t enjoy Empowered there’s no hope for you frankly but like ‘Spirit of the Elements’ this is also some Gen13 trivia. Adam Warren would go on to produce Gen 13: Magical Drama Queen Roxy – a wonderful little mini-series starring Freefall that you really need to read, if you’ve even a passing knowledge of the Wizard of Oz, Manga and fun you should love it regardless of if you care about Gen 13 or not – and would then go on to become the final writer of the main Gen12 series after first writing a very fun two parter that pitted Fairchild against… an evil pop song. I don’t know if this is his first Gen13 work (I doubt it is) but it is an early piece for the franchise featuring my favourite character from it and a character he would go onto write the solo series for, so it is awesome.

I’m done, many thanks, if I track down the Alloy cards for this set I may return to it but otherwise I think you’re safe from me talking about Gen 13 cards from now on, though Space Jam and Casper are still to come so you can decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, never mind eh? 

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