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Friday, May 16, 2008

1996 Metal Universe Braves Team Set

I did a post on 2000 Skybox Metal yesterday on A Pack A Day and I looked around the interwebs for some examples of the '96 or '97 sets to show off the fantastic cartoony backgrounds. Unfortunately, I found bupkis. So to fill this void of Metal Universe information on the 'net I'm posting the Braves team from the inaugural 1996 set. In the process I figured out why there's hardly any of these cards on the web. They are a pain in the kiester to scan. You see, the entire set is on foilboard - which is notoriously hard to scan- and the foil is also etched into patterns that enhance the design that only make things even tougher. The scans here don't really do these flashy cards justice (and in some cases the cards themselves don't do the cards justice) but I think I did a good enough job getting the basic colors and designs to come through. Here's the complete set except for Maddux which I have misplaced for the time being. Commentary on each card is forthcoming, but enjoy the scans in the meantime.

The background really looks like a mess on Avery's card, but it's actually supposed to be a huge explosion behind Steve who is chucking a baseball that's on fire. If you click on the card you can see the detail that went into the foil etching to make the explosion look sort of cloud-like and the blast rays coming out from it. I guess they used this background since Avery's career was blowing up at this point.

This one is almost impossible to see, but that's ok, because it's one of the weaker backgrounds in the set. The only thing you can really make out are the tentacles of greed dragging the once Brave hero off to Queens where he would be tortured and ultimately disgraced for five long years. Ok, I'm reading into this one a little bit too much. There are definitely tentacles though, and I'll bet Dr. James Andrews would have to be paged if an octopus grabbed your arm right as you were about to deliver a fastball to the plate. As for the background, I have no clue what's going on. There's a lot of purple and orange swirly things going on. It could be a misty vapor, a humongous tentacle with orange suckers or possibly the inside of a stomach with festering ulcers.

Marquis Grissom is battling little rockets that are whizzing by him. They kind of look like spears or spikes on the scan, but if you squint you might make out the rocket fins and jet streams. I'm not sure if Marquis is trying to dodge the missiles or take them out with his bat. I think he's doing a Neo bullet time Matrix dodging thing, because if he's playing real life Missile Command there's going to be a lot of dead cities behind him.

Yeah! Chipper! I........ have no idea what's going on here! Chipper might be swimming underwater through clumps of algae or turds or something, but then again, there are licks of fire down by his hands. Or he could be shrunken down fighting off mutant red blood cells that have turned green while the patient's farts spontaneously light causing further peril for Chipper. However, there are also some planetary looking orbs behind him so he just might be in space. With asteroids and a solar flare maybe I guess. I don't know what the hell is going on here. Let's just call it space and move on.

Best card in the whole damn set right here. Dave Justice isn't just fighting a dragon, he's running full speed straight toward it's mouth, pushing open the jaws with his bare hands and TAKING A FIRE BURP POINT BLANK IN THE CHEST. Dave's reaction before he leaps down the dragon's gullet so he can rip out the beast's heart from the inside is "Man, you're getting my uniform dirty you dumb lizard!" Dave Justice is one baaaaaad mother.

If each card can be considered a panel from a comic book, then Klesko's card would be infinitely cooler if it was one panel before or one panel after this one. Ryan standing in front of a brick wall with a couple of chunks of debris falling down isn't very exciting without any context. Did Ryan cause the wall to crumble with one of his crazy swings? Is a monster about to bust through the wall Kool-Aid Man style to battle with the slugger? We don't know. We get a wall.

This one is a little puzzling because Mark Lemke actually does have electric current constantly coursing through his throwing arm. I guess they went with the realism with this one.

There's nothing I like better than the combination of trading cards and atom bombs. This just goes to show how underrated a fielder Javy was. Hundreds of thousands of people were instantly vaporised by the blast, and millions more suffered burns, sickness and mutation from the radioactive fallout, but Lopez still remains focused on pouncing on that bunt and throwing out the lead runner with a strike to the second baseman.

Greg Maddux is supposed to be here but I can't find the damn card anywhere. I thought I pulled it a while back to put with my Maddog collection but it's not there either. It's kinda bumming me out.

In a set full of insanity, sometimes simple is best. The contact between a 99 mile per hour fastball and the Crime Dog's mighty swing creates a shockwave that bends both time and space. If major leaguers used aluminum bats every game would look like this card. The card kind of reminds me of the Akira explosion, but I could only find a video of it in this music video on YouTube. My joke ends after 10 seconds but if you like Anime stuff blowing up to the soothing sounds of J-Pop, by all means watch the whole thing.

Another example of how effective simpler geometric designs are in this set. John Smoltz is being sucked into a time warp vortex of some sort. Kind of a cross between the trippy scene in 2001 where Dave gets sucked into the Monolith and the opening of Dr. Who back when it was good. (warning: best website design ever) Notice how the locus of the vortex is on John's shoulder. I would give almost anything to time warp Smoltzie's shoulder back to 1996.

Last card for the Braves and we've come full circle. Wohlers' card is Avery's background flipped for use with a righty instead of a lefty. The career blowing up motif is once again strong with this card.

And just for completeness' sake (even though I don't have the #%^&#! Maddux) here's the back of one of the cards. You see the metalworks theme that was brought back in '99 and 2000 when Fleer abandoned the sci-fi comicbookieness of the set in the rivets and gears and such. It was a pretty good choice to go with a regular portrait on two thirds of the back when the front was filled with such weirdness. Unfortunately the way the market has evolved a set as creative as this one just couldn't get made nowadays. With only two manufacturers limited to 17 releases in a market driven by big hits and safe products, there's no way anyone would risk a flop by doing something as strange as this set. Because no new products flop nowadays. The rest of the month I'll sprinkle my posts with a few of the more ridiculous cards from this set, so stay tuned.

1 comment:

capewood said...

What, no Braves card with the big eyeballs? That design was my favorite.