X15: Trading Cards 1990-1991

X15 is a series of blog posts celebrating the 15 years of x-fandom I have experienced. From the 15th anniversary of first seeing the X-Men in Fox's animated series (late October 1992) to the 15th anniversary of my first comic book purchase (January 1993), I will explore every facet of Professor Charles Xavier's gifted youngsters.

As I wrote in a previous entry about my cousins, I was introduced to the Marvel universe through my cousin Matthew's trading cards. His binder of Marvel Universe Series III trading cards fascinated me and began an obsession that would be as strong as my comic book one for the next three years. During this time, the super hero trading card heyday, I would regularly debate whether or not I should buy the complete set of ___ trading cards or the first appearance of ____ in a comic. I spent many Saturday afternoons reorganizing my cards (by team, alphabetically, numerical order, or by character) and studying up on my Marvel knowledge. Much of my general grasp on the Marvel universe comes from these cards.

In these five blog posts, I will share the memories associated with every set of Marvel trading cards that my little sweaty hands grasped back in elementary school as well as pictures of the cards that either have stories behind them or the ones I think are just plain cool. Since I'll be going chronologically, I'll be starting with the two first trading card sets Marvel made. These two were before my time, but still managed to take up a lot of it.

Marvel Universe: Series I (1990)
162 Card Set - Impel

These cards actually hold a special place in my x-memory. The first series of X-Men action figures (to be blogged about very soon) came packaged with the figure's Series I trading card. Because of this, I had Apocalypse, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and a few others. The rest of the cards I acquired before buying the whole set came from Box Seat Cards & Comics in Hendersonville, the place that my mother eventually learned doubled as a babysitting service for me when she went shopping for fabrics. I, of course, focused on the X-Men cards which explains why I have vivid memories of the Marvel Girl and Professor X cards as a third grader despite these two not getting figures until much later. As a series, I would say that this one was pretty comprehensive. The art on the front, while not as dynamic as later series, is very competent and some of the images are quite iconic. The layout is simple, as evidenced by the clutter free back. Future series would have power grids and designs galore, but this one is void of a lot of razzle dazzle. There's actually an urban legend surrounding the X-Men team card pictured above. Apparently this was the roster that Claremont had planned on using but never saw publication. I mean, a roster with Asian Psylocke, Strong Guy (then known as Guido and mistakenly identified on the back of the card as Sunder, a Morlock), Rogue and Gambit never appeared. At the time of this card's printing, the X-Men were in their aimless phase where no actual team existed. Instead of going with this roster, Claremont would ditch Havok, Rogue and Strong Guy and put them all in matching uniforms. The second series of Marvel Universe trading cards also has this problem, featuring the roster above minus Rogue and depicting a team that almost matches the lineup that actually existed at the time (Havok's in the Series II trading card and was not a member then either).

Marvel Universe: Series II (1991)
162 Card Set - Impel

These cards never found their way inside action figure packaging, so I never really encountered them before buying the entire set years after their initial release. I know I had the Banshee card before buying the whole set, but that's about it. This set is notable because it marks the debut of the power ratings system, the feature on trading cards that I loved over all else. Seeing how smart and strong characters were measured with a handy dandy number became something that I memorized. Beast has a 4 strength, Bishop has a 6 fighting ability, etc. This series features a more complex back and even more detailed pictures. Speaking of details, the series features a 12 card weapons category, breaking down and describing many important artifacts of the Marvel universe. These included Spider-Man's web shooters, Thor's hammer, Captain America's shield and, of course, Wolverine's claws. This series also marks the trading card debuts of Gambit and Psylocke, characters only pictured on the trading card for the non-existant X-Men team in the first series, and X-Force, who receives a rookie card.

Look out, because 1992 is a huge year.

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