Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What SHOULD Have Been



The motivation behind my cards, outside of being a creative outlet for me, is to create tangible vintage inspired trading cards for different movies, TV shows and miscellaneous pieces of popular culture that never got trading card immortalization.  I try to make cards that, if they had existed, I would have spent my hard earned allowance or bottle deposit collection money (it’s an MI thing) at the counter of the closest party store for as many packs as I could afford.  These are cards that I would have wanted to own, to collect, flip through and organize in my childhood bedroom.

The above card I not only would have loved to have owned as a kid… I should have owned as a kid.  I should have feverishly shuffled through packs of 1991-92 NBA Hoops Series 2 in hopes of pulling this card.  Years later I should have been able to seek out PSA 10 Gem Mint graded copies as well as autographed copies of this card for my collection.  Not only this NBA Hoops card, but versions of this card from all of the other brands of basketball cards.  Not to mention the other cool merchandise like posters, jerseys, t-shirts, cereal boxes, Starting Line-Up figures, magazine covers and the list goes on.  You see, Isiah Thomas was my boyhood idol.  I’ve been collecting everything and anything related to him nonstop since 1988.  At this point I could basically curate a museum of Isiah Thomas memorabilia.

There are a lot of really cool custom cards out there for sports cards that didn't get made for one reason or another.  This card is a bit different.  It's not a late season trade, an unheralded rookie or a guy who didn't see much playing time and could hardly justify making a card for.  This is a card of a guy who was never on a historic team but had every right in the world to be.

In 1988 the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team took bronze in the Summer Olympics is Seoul.  Up and through that Olympic Games the U.S. team was comprised of amateurs while other countries were using professionals.  Starting with the 1992 Barcelona games USA Basketball has since sent NBA pros to represent them every four years in the Summer Olympic.

The team that went to Barcelona, Spain in 1992 was dubbed "The Dream Team".  It's without a shadow of a doubt the greatest team ever assembled and anyone who says any different is just being a contrarian.  Eleven individuals of this twelve man roster are in the basketball Hall of Fame, all except Christian Laettner, the lone collegiate. Three of the four coaches have been elected to the Hall of Fame as individuals, and the team as a whole was enshrined in 2017.

As legendary as that team is for whom was a part of it it's as infamous for the one man that was not.  You simply cannot entertain a Dream Team discussion of any depth without talking about the blackballing of Isiah Thomas.  In 1991 when the team was selected you could say there were only three players to have more of a claim to be on that team than Isiah Thomas.  There was Magic Johnson and Larry Bird who had led the Lakers and Celtics respectively to eight of the ten championship in the previous decade.  Then there was Michael Jordan who was arguably the most recognizable athlete in the world at the time.  As much as the '92 Olympics were about restoring U.S. basketball pride they were equally as instrumental in marketing the National Basketball Association on a global stage.  Michael Jordan was a marketing machine.  The team needed him.  The problem was he refused to participate if Isiah was a part of the team due to their intense professional rivalry.  As deserving as Isiah was of the honor of being named to that team, with that type of ultimatum it's pretty hard to go against "His Airnesses" wishes.

The bottom line is that it's criminal that cooler heads couldn't have prevailed.  I get that Isiah didn't do himself any favors in his quest to keep Michael Jordan and the Bulls down as long as possible, much like the Celtics had done to Detroit all those years before.  The walk off in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals was most likely the final nail in Isiah's Olympic coffin.  Isiah has said looking back that he regretted leading the Pistons off of the floor without congratulating the Bulls in the closing seconds of Game 4 of the ECF, but to play devil's advocate, I can understand how it went down with that Bad Boys team being a prideful group and through the media Michael and his guys were basically shitting on what took the Pistons years of blood, sweat and tears to accomplish.  What makes the 1992 snub even more of a sour story is when you consider that Isiah also missed out on an Olympic medal in 1980 when the U.S. boycotted the summer games that were being hosted in Moscow due to the Soviet's invasion of Afghanistan.

Most of my cards have an air of comedic parody to them, like a Michael Scott basketball card for example.  Not this one.  I was serious when making this card.  I wanted to bring justice to Isiah's Olympic snub the best and only way I really could.  This card is in total homage of what should have been.

The picture is from a photo shoot for the 1994 FIBA World Championships which saw a team dubbed "Dream Team II" win the tournaments gold medal.  Isiah was named to this team but, as if cursed, he didn't get to compete due to an Achilles Tendon tear in the last month of the 1993-94 NBA season, Isiah's last season before he retired from playing.

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Crabcakes And Football


I caught Wedding Crashers on one of the cable channels and was reminded of the hilarious touch football game near the beginning of the movie.  From Bradley Cooper going HAM over what was supposed to be a friendly game of touch football to Carson Elrod’s hilarious taunts that I read were actually all ad lib.

1979 Topps football
Wedding Crashers was released in 2005, so in other words no matching it up with its 80’s equivalent football card set.  My aim was to use a design I had not previously and I also wanted to be a bit older.  I landed on a 1979 Topps football inspired design.  It had the older look I was going for and I like the positioning of the player position on the football giving me a prominent spot for “Crabcakes & Football” and the other in-jokes from the movie.

Okay, so now that you’ve seen the cards there’s one plot hole that never made sense to me… how did Sack’s friend get the scoop on John and Jeremy Ryan is he only knew them be there fake last name?  Plus, they weren’t really brothers either.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Thrashin' Drops In


If you’ve never seen it, Thrashin’ is ninety-two minutes of 80’s awesomeness.  I think if I was teaching a course on 80’s cinema it would be on the required watching list.

For my money Thrashin’ is the Citizen Kane of skateboarding movies.  But, I guess a movie that has a similar story as my all-time favorite movie, The Karate Kid, would create some bias in my eyes.  Corey Webster (Josh Brolin) is the new kid in town who quickly finds himself the annoyance of a rival gang and the only way to settle things is a big competition for Southern California skate scene supremacy.  There's also that idea of a class struggle, although in this movie the protagonist is on the Valley end of things.  Mix that with shades of Romeo and Juliet with Corey’s love interest Chrissy (Pamela Gidley) being the younger sister of Hook (Robert Rusler), the leader of the punker skater faction “Daggers”, sworn enemy of the Corey and his “Ramp Locals” buddies.  If you're a fan of fine 80’s cheese this flick is Havarti. Mmmmm.

If that little write up isn’t enough to make you shell out the bucks to get your very own VHS copy then maybe this line will seal the deal:
Chrissy: "Well, what do you thrash?"
Corey: "What do ya got?"
1986 Donruss
And if your STILL not convinced there's lots of rad skate scenes and cameos by the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers,  pro skaters Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, and Eddie Reategui.  Plus, it was the film debut of Lost Boys' vampire Brooke McCarter.

Alright, now for the card mini-set.  This was the second time I used the 1986 Donruss baseball inspired design, the first was with my set for The Wraith (also with Sherilyn Fenn).  Although this time I took a couple of gnarly creative liberties. I changed the color of the frame to pink.  It's a color that's used in the movie's logo plus it's a predominant color of the 80's fashions worn in Thrashin'.

On the veritcally oriented cards I moved the Thrashin' logo to the upper left of the card.  I just thought it looked better.  On the horizontal cards I put it back in the lower left of the image where the team logo would be for the '86 Donruss.  I also added a 1986 Donruss-esque Phantom Cardboard logo which I thought fits nicely with the overall design.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

SNL MusiCards


I made this Lazy Scanton card in the style of the 1991 Yo! MTV Raps cards and posted it on Instagram.  If you're unfamiliar, the "Lazy Scranton" rap from The Office is a parody of the 2005 "Lazy Sunday" Saturday Night Live skit by Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell.  Well, a follower to the Phantom Cardboard Instagram suggested a card for the original SNL skit.  Why didn't I think of that? 

While making the "Lazy Sunday" card it dawned on me that there's another SNL musical short that would make a great card ... "Dick in a Box"!  This one is done in the more fitting R&B/pop friendly 1991 ProSet MusiCards inspired design.

Monday, September 10, 2018

High Praise From The SD Chicken


I made a card of Ted Giannoulas aka The Famous San Diego Chicken for my 80's Icons set that I've been tinkering with.  Not only did Mr. Giannoulas graciously lend his great looking signature to my card he also included a small note on his stationary with some really nice approbation for my custom card.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Freaks And Geeks


I’ve maintained that The White Shadow is my favorite show ever since discovering it on ESPN Classic in the early 2000s.  Then would come Freaks and Geeks.  Well, after a re-binge of the show on Netflix with my nine year old daughter I think it’s become a 1a / 1b situation between the two shows.

I've decided that if a person could watch the pilot episode of Freaks and Geeks and not be hooked then said person and myself probably don’t have much in common.  I like it that much.

I appreciate that Freaks and Geeks, set during the 1980-81 school year, feels authentic to the times.  There’s a show that I believe is pretty popular called The Goldbergs.  I tried watching it once and I just couldn’t get into it because in my estimation I was spoiled by Freaks and GeeksThe Goldbergs is set in the '80s, but it doesn’t feel like it.  If anything it just seems like it aims to parody 80's clich├ęs.  I believe I even caught a year continuity issue the one time I tried to watch The Goldbergs, although I don’t remember exactly what it was.  For someone like myself that revels in minutiae that is a deal breaker.  I’m not sure why I’m burying The Goldbergs other than it’s supposed to be set in the same era as Freaks and Geeks.

Freaks and Geeks, on the other hand, does nail the details -- and don’t think I wasn’t Googling different factoids that for most would be trivial and not stop them from enjoying the show.  Well, there was one Bill Laimbeer reference that didn’t really fit … but, besides that everything lined up.

As someone who hails from suburban Detroit I love that show is set in Michigan.  Freaks and Geeks is the brainchild of Michigan native Paul Feig.  Paul attended Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township - a suburb of Detroit.  That’s where the show’s fictional suburban city Chippewa, MI gets its name.  My only home state nitpick was that I don’t recall (unless I’m having amnesia) any snow scenes which you’re always going to get in the course of a school year in The Mitten State.

If you’ve ever read either of Paul’s memoirs “Kick Me” or “Superstud” you’ll recognize that many of the situations are adaptations of some of Paul’s hilarious adolescent experiences.  While reading those two books you’ll come to realize the Sam Weir character is probably based on Paul’s awkward youth.  I highly recommend reading both.  They’re two books that had me talking to myself while reading often saying something like “oh, nooo, no” and setting down the book to laugh.

Then there’s the cast.  What a collection of talent.  Freaks and Geeks was the springboard for megastars such as James Franco, Linda Cardellini and Seth Rogen.  Then there’s early guest roles for the likes of Joanna Garcia, Rashida Jones, Shia LeBeouf and Ben Foster.  Those are just the tip of the iceberg.  Seriously, go watch it if you never have, or rewatch it if it’s been a while.  The series seems to have a permanent home on Netflix.

While watching the episode “The Diary” I was inspired to make a custom card of the geek's P.E. softball triumph.  At first I thought to do three individual card but then thought it’d be much cooler to throw Sam, Bill and Neal into a 1981 Topps baseball Future Stars inspired design.

1981 Fleer baseball
The next card I did was from the “Tricks and Treats” episode.  That particular episode is one of my favorites.  I did a Lindsay Weir card in the style of the 1981 Fleer baseball design.  This card is along the same lines as the cards I’ve done with the theme of characters using baseball bats for something other than playing baseball with Lindsay and the gang playing mailbox baseball during the episode.  Set on Halloween this would have taken place in 1980, but I still decided to use the 1981 Fleer baseball inspired design.  I already had the idea of making a Freaks and Geeks set that consisted of multiple sports card designs all from the same year.

After numerous legal battles over the years Fleer finally broke Topps’ stranglehold on the sports card market and in 1981 both Fleer and Donruss both rolled out their respective inaugural baseball card sets.  I’ve included that little piece of trading card history to explain how 1981 offered my set a couple more design options that were not available the previous year.  I later found a pic of Nick (Jason Segel) looking like a mad man getting his mailbox baseball at-bat.  Both the Lindsay and the Nick photos fit perfect with the 1981 Fleer design as they have a hazy look to them.  It seemed that the photos on the 1981 Fleer cards look like they were taken with a Polaroid camera or something.  I specifically remember as a kid picking up a 1981 Fleer Kirk Gibson at a garage sale and thinking the picture they used was so old looking.  With that being said I’ll point out that these two cards use the Detroit Tigers color scheme from that set for the Michigan connection.

After making the first two cards, the Lindsay and Geeks Future Stars cards, I decided to show them on Instagram hoping I’d find others to nerd out over Freaks and Geeks with me.  I tagged all four actors on the cards and to my swooning surprise not only did the show’s co-main star Linda Cardellini like it but she shared it on her own page and it got a like by Paul Feig!  The plan was already in place to add cards to make it a mini-set but that recognition put an extra turbo boost in my creative fire.

This set turned out to be my largest to date.  At 41 cards I’m wondering if it’s still okay to refer to it as a mini-set?  I wanted to make the set fun and comprehensive and I think I accomplished both of those goals.  I made cards of every character I wanted to get in the set.  There was a couple of fringe characters but the lack of good images in my searches sealed their cardless fates.

What I’ll refer to as the “base set” consists of character cards done in the style of the 1981 Topps hockey cards.  This was the only set I’d used previously.  Well, technically I’ve used the 1981 Topps baseball set for my Incredible Hulk cards but I still had to make the Future Stars card from scratch with the two cards in the Hulk set being modeled after the 1981 Topps baseball base card design.  

1981 Topps Hockey
I framed the base cards in McKinley High Norseman Green and also added the actors name after deciding that just using the character name made it look like to me that there was something missing.  For these cards I also added a Phantom Cardboard logo much like the style of Topps’ branding on their 1981 hockey cards, just mine being a little smaller.  In the past I’ve been content to take credit by just stamping my text logo on the card’s back.  I started playing around with initials on the front of these cards.  I was still on the fence so I threw up a with / without picture poll on my Instagram story and ‘with’ won out by a 3-to-1 margin.  So going forward I will probably add a signature to the front of cards when applicable; granted it has to fit in with the original spirit of the design and not distract from the card overall.

Next up is a design inspired by the 1981 Topps basketball set.  There’s an episode “We’ve Got Spirit”  where there’s a little basketball action.  I was looking forward to doing these cards just because I’m a basketball guy first and foremost.  I did cards of McKinley’s star player and Sam’s crush’s crush, Todd Schellinger.  Coach Fredricks gets a card too, you may also recognize him as Biff Tannen.  Tom Wilson is fantastic in Freaks and Geeks.  Then my favorite of the three, a Norseman mascot card featuring the three kids that were the McKinley High mascot in the “We’ve Got Spirit” episode.  This one is a parody of the Team Leaders card found in the ‘81 Topps basketball set.
1981 Topps basketball

1981 Donruss baseball
Lastly I did a few cards in the style of the 1981 Donruss baseball set bringing the total of vintage inspired card designs to five.  The cards are some of my favorites of the set.  With this design I paid homage to some of the McKinley High School groups.  Overall the 1981 Donruss design was not difficult to replicate but I might have spent more time on these cards with all tedious work it took to give the text in the lower right that two-dimensional look.

There’s the McKinley Cheer team from the “We’ve Got Spirit” episode, the Dungeons and Dragons loving AV Club and the Mathletes from “Looks and Books”.

Then, and I’m not sure where the inspiration for this idea came from, but I made a sort of two part puzzle card with the Freaks and the Geeks cliques.  The way this card lays out Ken gets cut pretty much in half.  Originally I had a similar image that split perfectly between the two groups, the only issue was that Kim Kelly, for whatever reason, was not in the picture and I just could justify leaving her out.  It’s not like she was introduced midway through the series.  The O.G. Kim K. was a core member of the Freaks and appeared in all 18 episodes.  The card HAD to have Kim.  The other thing is that with Seth Rogen spliced in half it’s a great visual cue that this card has a second part to it so I figure all’s well that ends well.


Fun fact: During the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival where Paul Feig was promoting the A&E Freaks and Geeks documentary he told of how NBC really wanted a small part, such as a waitress, written in for Britney Spears seeing as back in 1999-2000 she was about as popular as a person could get.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Lazy Scranton


I wanted to do another card from The Office so I started thinking about different episodes and what ridiculous Michael Scott exploit would make for some tasty Phantom Cardboard.

There's an episode entitled "The Merger" where the Stamford Dunder Mifflin branch is merging with the Scranton office.  Michael and Dwight make an orientation rap video for the benefit of the  Stamford transfers.  The video parodies SNL's "Lazy Sunday" skit.

This makes a great addition to the growing 1991 Yo! MTV Raps set.