Sunday, July 8, 2018

Rookie Of The Year Turns 25

Yesterday the movie Rookie of the Year turned 25 having been released in theaters on July 7th, 1993.  In recognition of this I wanted to share two of my favorite autographed custom cards.

The first is special due to my interaction with Mr. Henry Rowengartner himself, Thomas Ian Nicholas  -- with the awesome "Go Cubs!" inscription that was signed at the 2017 Motor City Comic-Con.

The second is my Chet "Rocket" Steadman custom card done on the matching 1988 Donruss inspired design.  I was lucky enough to get Gary Busey's autograph on it through the mail and then got in touch with Mr. Nicholas to complete the dual signature.  I love having my cards autographed and multiple signatures are like holy grails to me.

Happy 25th, Rookie of the Year.  Now, have some hot, stinky cheddar on me!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

John Elway

You may (or may not?) know that John Elway was a two sport athlete coming out of Stanford University. His most notable exploits came on the football gridiron but he also played for the Stanford Cardinals’ baseball team in 1980 and 1981. Elway showed enough raw talent to have Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner totally enamored with the prospect of having Elway's services in right field for the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees used their 52nd overall pick of the second round to draft Elway in the 1981 MLB draft. Elway received a $140,000 signing bonus and in the summer of 1982 played for the Yankees' short season affiliate Oneonta Yankees in the New York–Penn League. Then the 1983 NFL draft came around and the Baltimore Colts selected Elway as the #1 overall pick. That’s when the drama started because Elway wanted no part of the Colts so he leveraged his baseball career to force a trade. At the time it looked like a prima donna move but looking at it now it was a shrewd move with the Colts not being the stablest of franchises and him going on to cap his 16 year career in Denver with back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

I came across some good quality pictures of John Elway playing baseball so naturally I wanted to do a card of him. I quickly also found out that Topps themselves did an Elway baseball card in 2014 using their 1981 template. Undeterred I just went a year earlier since he did play Stanford baseball in 1980. I used the color scheme that was used on the New York Yankees that year for reasons I assume are obvious if you are on this paragraph by way of the one above it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hangin' With Mr. Cooper

After the Golden State Warriors dismantled the Cavs in four games of this years Finals (which I couldn't have been happier about) I began seeing screen shots from the 1992 episode of Hangin' With Mr. Cooper where Mr. Cooper was offered a contract with the Golden State Warriors. Naturally I wanted to make a custom card out of it.

I went with the 1992-93 Upper Deck Team MVP insert set, which I remember being a very hot insert set back in the day.

I think this is a fun addition to my cards. My one and only lament was that I wasn't able to find a little sharper version of this image for my card.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Eli Roth Is Legend

I'm always incredibly appreciative when any of the subjects of my custom cards take time out of their busy schedules to autograph and send back my cards through the mail. I'm completely blown away when they take the additional time to include a little note with the cards. Not only did actor/director/writer/producer Eli Roth sign my custom Donny Donowitz card but his note floored me.

As you can see from his note he's no stranger to vintage cardboard! Not only did he know the design I used but suggested a corresponding year design for another Donowitz card. What?! If you're familiar with my cards that's normally the goal but I went with the 1990 design for fun because I'm not all that familiar with designs that go back that far. Looks like I'v got some work to do...

Monday, June 11, 2018

Bone Saw McGraw

I've been wanting to do a Randy Savage card of some sort for awhile now but just couldn't figure out what type of card. Someone out in cyberspace already beat me to a Randy Poffo minor league baseball card so that was not an option.

The Macho Man was my favorite wrestler growing up. I don't watch wrestling anymore because for me it's just not the same. You no longer have gimmicks, just a bunch of scripted guy going out there using their first and last names. If it's not a real fight it should have more fantasy involved. It's showbiz, it should be fantastical. The character gimmick, in my opinion, were great, and the best ones were the ones that made you believe that that's who that guy really was. Come to find out that the Macho Man character was only a slightly magnified version of who Randy Savage was in real life. The guy was intense and he lived his gimmick as he treated it like an art form. It was tough losing a larger-than-life personality like that; can't believe it's been seven years already.

In 1990 I missed series one of Impel's Marvel Universe cards, but I more than made up for that in with the second and third series the next two years. I loved those cards! Even though I wasn't much of a comic book collector (none of the store's around me really had them) I collected the crap out of these cards. What kid doesn't love super heroes? Despite not having the books I knew a lot about different characters stories and origins thanks to these cards. But, for me it wasn't about the backstories it was about the artwork. As a kid my best skill was my drawing ability and there wasn't anything cooler to me than drawing comic book characters. Later, when I was able to find comic books, that fire was stoked even more by the brilliant work Image comics was doing at the time.

The 1991 Marvel cards had a subset called Arch-Enemies which filled you in on the super heroes biggest nemesis' were. I got the idea to do one one these cards for the epic battle between Spider-Man and Bone Saw McGraw in 2002's Spider-Man.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Above The Rim

1993-94 Upper Deck
Back in middle school I still had high hopes of being a professional basketball player. I’m of average height with the skill set to match, but I held out hope for an eight inch growth spurt that simply never came. Basketball was my passion. I wore the And1 gear and studied SLAM Magazine like it was religious text. After school I always had a few hours to myself before anyone else got home and nearly every day I would watch my copy of Above The Rim that I dubbed off of cable. For this period of time it supplanted The Karate Kid as my favorite and to this day remains among my top favorites.

There’s a lot of great basketball movies that have been made, but for me Above The Rim is number one. It’s urban and from living in and around Detroit that made it more relatable to me, the streetball element. It told a great story. Tupac and Leon were cool as hell. Duane Martin was brash reminding me of a young Allen Iverson and Marlon Wayans was really funny. Plus the soundtrack was super hot. You probably can’t find too many people between the ages of 30 and 40 that don’t know “Regulators” by Nate Dogg and Warren G word-for-word.

Above The Rim was released in 1994 so I chose to go with a 1993-94 Upper Deck basketball inspired design. Around this time, the mid-’90s, I was exclusively collecting basketball cards so these were real fun for me to recreate especially for this particular movie. Unless I’m forgetting one these are the first Upper Deck inspired design I’ve done.

I went with the blue-to-black gradient based on Kyle Watson’s Shout Out Tournament team wearing blue, and I also thought it looked got with Birdie’s team’s black unis.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Yo! Phantom Cardboard Raps

Chances are that in 1991 if you had any of the ProSet MusiCards you probably also had some of that card set’s funky cousin, the Yo! MTV Raps MusiCards. It seems that on the store counter where you found one, you found the other. The format was the same, music act on the front, informational blurb on the back. The Yo! MTV Raps cards featured strictly hip hop acts where as the the regular MusiCards featured popular artists from all genres, a few acts even are featured in both sets. The aesthetic of the Raps cards had a little more going on than the much simpler template of the regular MusiCards. If I didn’t know better I would say it looks like ProSet consulted with Lisa Frank to help this set pop.

I’m just freesetyling here but the Yo! MTV Raps cards target audience may have been Suburban America. With Vanilla Ice and M.C Hammer bringing a new demographic into the rap fold these cards introduced hip-hop acts that weren’t as well known as rap and hip-hop culture was experiencing a mainstream boom. Just a theory.

Anymore rap is a culture of its own. Hip hop is now multigenerational and is really transcending race. Back in 1991 white rappers, by and large, were mainly novelty acts. For my Yo! cards I wanted to have fun and add some Anglo pop-culture flava from back in the day.

If you’ve ever seen 1989’s Teen Witch you are well aware of one of the most pinnacle scenes in movie history; the “Top That” rap battle between Polly and Rhet. I have to believe that scene was the seed that the whole plot of 8 Mile would eventually grow from. If you’re a fan of that gritty street-level lyrical rap and you’ve never seen this scene then stop reading this blog and hit up YouTube. Just type in “Top That”, watch and then come back and finish this post.

I read recently that the “Top That!” scene was not even part of the original movie but added months after the movie had wrapped with producers wanting to add a rap feature to the middle of the movie. Both Noah Blake (Rhet) and Mandy Ingber (Polly) each recalled being embarrassed about performing the scene but both went HAM on “Top That!” thinking no one would ever see it. Little did they know that the Internet and a generation heavy on nostalgia would resurrect it into a pop-culture phenomenon.

In Season Six (1992) of Married … With Children we were introduced to Bud Bundy’s alter-ego Grandmaster B. For the longest time I thought the producers were using the popularity of rap music at the time as another avenue to put Bud Bundy’s ineptitude with woman on display, which it was, but what I found out only a few years ago was that David Faustino around this time was trying to throw his backwards Raiders cap into the rap game! Faustino, under the moniker D ’Lil, released a single in 1992 called “I Told Ya” and it’s the most early ‘90s rap thing you’ll ever listen to.

So you wick-wack, knick-knack, tic-tac, skip back
I got the funky style and you know you can't get with that
I got more flava than the bar candy Kit Kat
And when it comes to kitty cats, I gotta have the jimmy hats

If you think “Top That!” is cringey then I’d have to believe that the Prince Zack rap from the “1-900-Crushed” episode from Season Two (1990) episode of Saved by the Bell has to be as hard to watch as your grandparents in the throes of a saliva heavy makeout sesh. It makes “Top That!” sound like Eminem’s “Rap God”.

The scene comes as a dream sequence of Kelly’s little sister Nikki. It’s a bastardized rap retelling of Cinderella with Zack as a rapping Prince Charming with Slater and Screech providing the spit-shower beatboxing as Zack tries to find the owner of the golded out hi-top sneaker. Spoiler alert; it fits Nikki Kapowski. After seeing this no wonder it took white people so long to be taken seriously in rap music. But, I jest. I love Saved by the Bell and think this scene is charming in a ridiculous Zack Morris kind of way.

I could not make a fantasy music trading card of Saved by the Bell and not pay tribute to probably the greatest fictional band of all-time, Zack Attack. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Saved by the Bell basically lay the groundwork for VH1’s Behind The Music series with the Season Three (1991) episode “Rockumentary”? The episode chronicles, again in dream sequence form, the rags-to-riches rise, fall, and eventual reunion of Zack’s powerhouse band “Zack Attack”.

I dusted off the two fluorescent oblong triangles of my 1991 ProSet MusiCards inspired design and plugged in Zack, Lisa, and Kelly performing their worldwide smash hit “Friend’s Forever”. Seriously, that episode ruled. The voices in the songs didn’t even remotely match those of the Bayside gang.