Written by: Gary Gerani Series: Topps (Book 1) Publisher: Abrams ComicArts; Har/Crds edition Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Before there were DVDs and VHS tapes, Baseball cards (or should I say, movie cards) were our window back into our favorite films. Topps Trading Cards, famously known for producing baseball cards, produced three different sets of Planet of the Apes cards from 1969 to 2001. These cards captured moments from the original 1968 film, The Planet of the Apes, the short-lived TV series that aired in 1974. However, it was the 2001 film that had the distinction of being the last Apes film to get movie cards. If you are Apes fan (how could you not be if you are reading this?), you know that leaves out 4 original films, a cartoon series, and now 3 modern films. Topps has collected all the cards that were made into another one of their spectacular hardcover bound editions. If you are a fan of their Star Trek and Star Wars editions, you know that Greg Gerani supplies plenty of insight and trivia about these cards into these books. This was my first one, so I did not know exactly what to expect.
To start with, I love movie cards. I often look at them at Comic Cons and debate if the whole set is worth the money. They will just go into a three-ringed binder and again, be unseen. I usually pick up an unopened wax pack and add that to my collection. I am in the process of creating a window box that will feature the likes of Back to the Future II, Batman, Harry and the Hendersons, The Rocketeer, and Little Shop of Horrors. I always keep my eyes open for older ones, but having the likes of Planet of the Apes is a near impossibility. That is why I love the cover to the book. It captures the look and feel of getting that pack of cards. Additionally, Topps places a 4 pack of cards into the rear cover of the book, but the collector in me will forever keep them sealed. If only they could scent the book with bubble gum.
Gary Gerani, an obvious collector of cards, a writer, and an employee of Topps, is our great tour guide through the history of these three different sets. What I found so intriguing about the original set of cards were two things. First up, all the cards are taken from production stills. Marketing the movie in this way, at that time, was unheard of. So, with it being an afterthought and gamble, production stills became a logical choice. However, with that comes the second thing. Printing cards with an actor's face on them had not really been done before, especially for a big budget movie. This put Planet of the Apes’ star, Charlton Heston, on the side of caution and allowed his likeness to be on only 9 cards. Yes, we only see Heston’s Taylor 9 times out of the 44 cards produced. Even then, some of them aren’t the greatest. One picture is of his leg. Besides this limitation, I still loved seeing what was chosen and one moment, in particular, was not even in the film (Heston’s last card, seen below). Topps and Gerani did not disappoint with trivia and history about the actors and the film. I particularly loved seeing the old boxes that the cards were sold in. I just found it odd that as popular as this franchise was, only the first film had cards made. The Planet of the Apes TV series, with its whole 14 episodes, spawned 66 cards and doubled downed by having puzzle cards in the set. If you do not know what that is, each card had a smaller piece of a larger picture on it. After you collected them, you could make a larger image by assembling them. These eventually became a standard on a lot of movie cards and on the backside of stickers that were bonus cards in movie sets. Topps included the assembled cards here. I particularly wish they would sell those as posters or perhaps include a whole one as something you unfolded. Puzzle B and Puzzle C would have been my favorites (seen below).
One thing I liked, in particular, was that Gerani asks, why did 20th Century Fox start the TV show with a whole new Ape universe? Why not go with the one we had at the end of Battle of the Planet of the Apes? Why indeed?
It is a great contrast in the style of the cards from the first Apes film to the Tim Burton Apes film. Obviously, a lot had changed in movie production, contracts, marketing, and card manufacturing. Outside of just the character images and profiles on both sides of the card, we had officially licensed card books, autograph chase cards, costume cards, and embossed foil cards. Now, I had a few of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes cards, but I never lucked out with an autograph card or a costume card. Imagine being a super fan and opening your pack to discover a Charlton Heston autograph on one of your cards!
Again, Gerani supplies a decent amount of trivia for the actors and the production of the film. He even reveals why there is no President Thade card. What I found almost shocking was that likes of Estella Warren got multiple write-ups about her career, where Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (played Krull) and Kris Kristofferson (played Karubi) got nothing. Tagawa has had a great career appearing in such films as Memoirs of a Geisha and Kubo and the Two Strings, to name just two. Kristofferson is a Rhodes Scholar, an accomplished musician, and has appeared in countless movies. Another snub goes out to Lisa Marie who also appeared in numerous Tim Burton films. The same can also be said for Glenn Shadix (“Otho" from Beetlejuice). I guess a quick blurb on the card that these two actors share (seen below) was too much.
In closing, I have to say this may have been my first Topps Trading Card Series book, but it will not be my last. There are several Star Wars and Star Trek books already out there for me to dive into. What I really hope is that there is a Batman and Batman Returns book(s) in the works. Greg, I know I had some complaints above, but I am ready to write copy and do research for the Burton Batman films. Much like you, who experienced the thrill of buying the Apes cards back in 1969, I bought the Batman cards in 1989. Order this incredible book HERE.