You ain't a 90s kid unless you had one of these.
They're comics trading cards, a staple of 90s memorabilia that's as much a symbol of the decade as pouches. In celebration of 90s Week, let's shine a spotlight on the trading cards that defined my childhood...and maybe yours!
In the 90s, comics trading cards were all the rage. Fleer and Skybox ran ads in comics, which in turn got kids like me to buy some. My friends and I went nuts over them. We drooled over the kids with the authentic (and expensive) cards, while the poor guys like me settled for one or two real cards and a couple hundred fakes. But you know what? We traded each other for them either way, and the charm of these little paper cards never really went away.
And I'll make sure it stays that way, with a rundown of my favorite trading card sets from the 90s!
MARVEL UNIVERSE TRADING CARDS (Impel)
It remains one of the biggest bragging rights you could ever have as a 90s kid: having a set of Impel's Marvel Universe trading cards! Whip one of these out and you'll be the talk of the playground. Bullies would target you. Your best friends would either want to trade or scheme against you. It's like Game of Thrones, but instead of an Iron Throne, it's a Wolverine or Celestials card.
Impel didn't realize how much these cards meant to me as a kid. These things sparked my interest for memorizing useless comic book trivia. I learned how to draw by drawing the Wolverine and She-Hulk cards (which unfortunately meant I could only draw Wolverine and She-Hulk). My imagination blossomed as my mind filled the spaces between the power rankings found behind each card (Spider-Man has 6 agility! Watch out, Hawkeye you slowpoke!). And finally, it was the gateway that lead me to become a collector, making me appreciate the vast universe that was Marvel in the 90s.
X-MEN TRADING CARDS (Impel/SkyBox/Fleer)
One of my most cherished memories of childhood was when my mom came home with a surprise for me getting good grades at school: X-Men trading cards! Sure she got me bootleg copies (since money was tight) but I got myself a Wolverine, which automatically validated the whole thing. Moms are awesome!
Anyway, Impel and SkyBox's series of X-Men trading cards were an iconic part of my geeky childhood. Amazing art by Jim Lee and other X-artists up front, those power charts at the back (replaced by a dossier in Series II), those little X-tra Facts and DNAnalyses...my kid self ate it all up like Star Margarine on rice. It's one of the few trading card sets I promised to complete someday, including our next entry...
MARVEL MASTERPIECES (Skybox/Fleer)
Marvel Masterpieces was the be-all, end-all of trading cards when I was a kid. Imagine, having been used to seeing your favorite comic book heroes and villains in flat, 2D drawings on paper. And now here they are, painted in this realistic style like they're actually living, breathing people! My 10-year-old mind was utterly blown.
Marvel Masterpieces first came out in 1992, and remains one of my most favorite trading card series ever. I had a soft spot for the first set, painted by Joe Jusko, and I also used his art to teach myself how to draw. Series 3 then introduced me to Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, painters whose style I absolutely love to this day. Their work inspired me to become a painter, until I went to college and found out I suck at painting. Still, Masterpieces!
I'm still waiting for the day somebody relaunches Marvel Masterpieces into a sketchcard-less, fully-painted thing of beauty my kids will drool over just like me. Until then, at least I have my memories of this amazing series tucked away in the ring-binder in my brain like a super-rare.
Thanks for following me on my trip down the trading card-paved memory lane that was the 90s! Did you collect trading cards as a kid? Which ones were your favorites? Leave me a comment below and let's trade nostalgiabombs! Thanks for reading!