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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

2016 Cryptozoic DC Comics: Justice League trading cards

I was browsing the vendor tables at my local 'once-a-month' Sports Card and Comic Book show (Capital Trade Shows) and I chanced upon this card set.

I didn't actually come to the show with the intention of browsing, I came with a very single-minded purpose of picking up a trading card collection I ordered from a vendor [1989 Batman The Movie trading card set from Topps, in case you were curious], paying and promptly leaving. Sports Cards & Memorabilia trade shows (along with flea markets) are my kryptonite as I seem to always spot something that I previously wasn't aware that I needed, but is suddenly the most important thing in the world and I urgently need it more than air itself.

Trading card sets are kind of a hard sell for me. I got caught up in the non-sports trading card boom of the 90s and ended up with more (worthless) non-sports trading cards than I knew what to do with. I'm talking mainly about gimmick trading cards and trading cards from now-defunct comic book companies (often a combination of the two). All this to say that I research a set really intensely before I decide to go out and purchase it. The point being here that my purchase of the 2016 DC Comics: Justice League trading card set by Cryptozoic was a completely impromptu purchase.
I typically overlook trading card sets by Cryptozoic, not because there's anything wrong with the quality of their cards, but because their DC comics cards tend to be heavily New 52 focused and as a collector I recoil from anything New 52 related.

What initially caught my eye with this trading card set was the card art. I've never heard of Alejandro Germánico Benit (aka Xermanico) prior to this card set, but his painted art is beautiful and very Alex Ross-esque

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) by Xermanico

Another thing that really interested me about this set (the vendor was kind enough to let me open the display box and examine the individual cards) was that the base cards can be joined to create 9-card 'team pin-up' images. I cannot express how clever this idea is. I love trading card sets that can be joined like a puzzle (on the card backs or etc). I loved them back when I collected Wacky Packages in my childhood and I still love them now.

While the beautiful realist art and the 9-card polyptychs were enough to get me curious about the set, the deciding moment that went from "these are nice" to "Sweet Lord, I've got to have these" was the realization that Cryptozoic also included late 80s/early 90s incarnations of the Justice League [i.e., Justice League Europe and Justice League Task Force] into this card set.

When you join all of the JLE cards together, this is what you get. Beautiful, no?

The entire set consists of 123 card (not including bonus sketch cards), but only 63 of these cards are 'base set' cards. So, for those of us who aren't quick at math: nearly half of this set consists of chase or insert cards. Don't get me wrong - there's a nice variety of desirable chase and insert cards (ex: Retro cards, Madame Xanadu Tarot cards, Model Sheet cards, All-Star Comics cards, Batman Classic TV series re-issue cards, etc) but I would've preferred more cards in the base set. An extra 18 cards allocated to the base set could've allowed additional 9-card inclusions of Justice League Detroit, the Super Buddies or even Justice League Elite. However, I'm starting to learn that some non-sports card collectors enjoy the thrill of hunting sketch, insert and chase cards — so it seems like this set appeals to both markets (i.e., collectors who just want a *good* base set and collectors who enjoy chasing 'special' cards).

That being said, I'm not going to snub my nose at the chase cards — there's some very interesting ideas in there, it's just the rarity of the cards that make it questionable if I'm going to try collecting them all (if any). On second thought, I really like the idea of the Retro cards and the Model Sheet cards (is that Jose Garcia Lopez art?) and with a distribution ration of 1:6 packs and 1:4 packs (respectively), I can see these being attainable without breaking the bank.

Samples of chase cards (from upper left going clockwise): Retro cards, All-Star Comics cards, Madame Xanadu Tarot cards, Model Sheet cards.

If I had to be hyper-critical about this set, I'd comment that the text on the back of the base cards are pretty sparse giving you an incredibly brief summary about what you're seeing on the front of the card. The Cryptozoic website tells us that comics veteran Adam Beechen wrote the base card text. I'm going to argue that most people who are buying this card set already know the histories of the characters, and if they really want to know more they can access the internet to look 'em up — so text on the back of the card isn't as important as it used to be, but it still would've been nice to have.

The card stock of these trading cards were nice and firm. Not quite as thick as a Fleer/Flair Ultra cards from the mid-90s, but thicker than an Impel card from the early 90s, and way thicker/stronger than a Topps/O-Pee-Chee card from the late 80s/ealry 90s. They even had an embossed set logo on the front lower bottom of the card (which you could see if you titled the card just right). They also had a nice gloss to them, so you really felt that Cryptozoic didn't skimp out on the quality of the cards.

In summary, I was delightfully surprised with the art and the diversity of the characters in this set — which is pretty impressive considering this was an impulse buy. I would've loved to have something like this during the early 90s when I was at the peak of my non-sports card collecting. Even the New 52 specific cards were so beautifully illustrated that it had me wondering about the teams thinking "huh, Justice League Dark looks like a pretty good line-up — I may decide to investigate that title someday soon". I really liked the fact that Cryptozoic celebrates DC's current state while ensuring to give due attention to it's legacy. I feel like this card set was actually produced by DC fans and not a company just trying to make a few quick bucks on the Justice League name. I would recommend this to any DC fans who are into the Justice League.

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