The Mars Attacks trading card series was created by Topps in 1962. Product developer Len Brown, inspired by Wally Wood’s cover for EC Comics Weird Science #16, pitched the idea to Woody Gelman. Gelman and Brown created the story – with Brown writing the copy – and created rough sketches. They enlisted Wood himself to flesh out the sketches and Bob Powell to finish them. Norman Saunders painted the 55-card set.
The cards, which sold for five cents per pack of five, were test marketed by Topps through the dummy corporation Bubbles, Inc. under the name Attack From Space. Sales were sufficient to expand the marketing and the name was changed to Mars Attacks. The cards sparked parental and community outrage over their graphic violence and implied sexuality. Topps responded initially by repainting 13 of the cards to reduce the gore and sexuality, then, following inquiries from a Connecticut district attorney, agreed to halt production.
Rossem Enterprises re-issued a set of thirteen cards from the original series in 1984. The set consisted of those cards found most objectionable upon first release. Also in 1984, Renata Galasso issued a full reprint of the series that included a cover card featuring the original wrapper art.
In 1988, Topps collaborated with Pocket Comics to create a 54-chapter mini-comic book serialisation of the card series. Topps issued an expanded 100-card set in 1994, featuring the original 55 cards and 45 “New Visions” cards. Twenty-one comics and graphic artists collaborated on the new cards, including Zina Saunders, daughter of the original artist.
In conjunction with the expanded set, Topps issued a six-issue limited comic book series written by Keith Giffen and drawn by Charles Adlard. The series featured a “flip-cover” format, with 22 pages of the book following the story of the card set and six pages detailing previous encounters leading up to the invasion. The limited series was successful and led Topps to continue it as a regular series.
In 1996, Tim Burton’s film Mars Attacks! was released by Warner Bros.; it combines the storyline and tone of a B-movie spoof with the budget of a blockbuster movie. In conjunction with the film, three novels were released: Mars Attacks: Martian Deathtrap by Nathan Archer; and Mars Attacks: War Dogs of the Golden Horde by Ray W. Murrill. Screamin’ Products released a tie-in set of Mars Attacks model kits. A novelization by the film’s screenwriter was also published.
In 2012, in celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary, Topps has partnered with a variety of companies on a merchandising campaign to include comic books, bobble heads and vinyl dolls (Funko), action figures and plush (Mezco Toyz), costumes, statues and busts (Quarantine Studio), electronics skins (Gelaskins) and a hardcover commemorative book (Abrams Books).
Topps also released the original 55 card series as Mars Attacks Heritage a deluxe 50th anniversary reissue of the original set that included 10 ‘Deleted Scenes’ cards and 15 ‘New Universe’ cards…