Marvel Masterpieces: Series 1 (1992)
100 Card Set - Sky Box
These cards were guilty of driving my eight year old brain into a tizzy. The idea of painted cards was so revolutionary and the images themselves were pretty phenomenal. Every card was painted by Joe Jusko, who probably got fame painting stuff for Dungeons & Dragons or something (I'm not bothering to check), and they were all hot commodities in the third grade. Along with the other two trading card sets of 1992, these were the ones that made me a superfan. I remember assigning high status to the kids that were cool enough (actually lucky enough) to get their paws on the Wolverine or Sabretooth cards. They were like winning the third grade lottery. These cards also got me into some hot water when my mom saw the Jean Grey and Rogue cards. I guess she didn't like me getting acquainted with the female anatomy by looking at the skin tight suits and big boobs Mr. Jusko painted. The illustrations became even more iconic when they were reprinted in a comic-size format by Marvel and then hung on my wall. Every card had a bio and minimal information on the back (real name, group affiliation, first appearance), the real treat being the picture of the first cover appearance of the character. I've always been a fan of comparing how characters change.
Marvel Universe: Series III (1992)
200 Card Set - Impel
Marvel hasn't made a more comprehensive trading card set since or before this. And this is the set that got me into the Marvel Universe. A 200 card set featuring every member of every current X-Team (except Boom Boom, poor Boom Boom), members from every Marvel team from the Avengers to the Guardians of the Galaxy, origins, team-ups, Milestones, everything. As far as I was concerned, this was the Marvel Bible. I memorized the power ratings (Beast has a strength of 4, those darn cosmic entities are all 7s) and even devised a war-like card game based around them. Aside from the easy to read and, more importantly, cool looking power ratings, every card featured a memorable quote from the character. Nightcrawler's "Mind my flying feet!" has always stuck with me. This is a fascinating set and a must-have for any Marvel Comics fan. Seriously, any set that's so inclusive that it gives Slapstick his own card deserves mad respect. Also, I once got two of the same Necrom cards in one pack and was kinda convinced it marked me for death.
X-Men: Series I (1992)
100 Card Set - Impel
The second batch of X-Men action figures came packaged with these cards, so they'll forever be linked in my memory. My Jean Grey card was ripped in half when I foolishly let someone else open one of my action figures. Ugh, I never made THAT mistake again. Since the cards packaged with the toys had an obvious Toy Biz stamp on them, I knew I'd have to replace them with the real thing eventually. Just like the Marvel Masterpieces set from this year, these cards would later be reprinted by Marvel in comic book format and hung on my wall, except instead of just ripping them out I had my sister take them to her job and enlarge and laminate them. Rogue, Domino and Gambit all went through that process. Every card was drawn by Jim Lee, who was the hottest artist at that time. It's no wonder since most all of these cards are near-iconic images and crackling with early 90s energy. The backs feature power ratings, a lot of stats, a bio, and an X-Tra fact. This is a solid set.