Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10 Days 'Til Halloween: Trading Card Tuesday (Marvel Universe)

Marvel Comics started putting out sets of trading cards when I was in high school, which on the one hand was also right around the time my comic-collecting habit was getting its second wind, but on the other hand means I was arguably way too old to be helpless before the allure of opaque packets of mysteriously concealed cardboard rectangles. And yet, out of some misguided sense of loyalty to Marvel and any product they might care to license, not to mention residual fondness for card-collecting itself, I ended up acquiring tons of Marvel Universe cards. Most of them ended up getting glued collage-style to the longboxes I stored my comics in, so that the big, heavy oblongs in the corner of my room were less plain white and more funky and decorative. The rest sat in rubber-banded stacks on my dresser, serving absolutely no purpose whatsoever until they eventually got thrown away in an unsentimental purge.

At any rate, in keeping with the Halloween theme, what better Marvel character to highlight than the comic universe's own version of the Devil Himself: Mephisto!

Marvel Universe cards were more like baseball cards than just about anything else I ever collected, right down to the reverse of each card reading like a career overview for a journeyman athlete:

The front picture, though, is pretty non-dynamic. It gets across the idea that Mephisto is a ruler of the underworld, I suppose, and maybe hints at the themes that most of his appearances played around with: that whoever's in charge of Hell is a study in contradictions: gleefully sadistic in pursuing plans of others' ruination, yet also lonely, tormented, self-loathing; a cosmically powerful entity, yet at heart a coward and a bully who prefers to pick on the weak, dealing in lies and exploiting trickery. He might occasionally engage in epic physical battles, since we are talking about comic books here:

But he's just as likely to be scowling and sulking in some dark stygian corner, deeply dissatisfied with his place in the grand scheme of things, and unable to do much about that, other than distract himself with another attempt at corrupting a hero or somesuch.

Still, not trying to conjure up too much sympathy here. Being the devil in a superhero universe is a pretty good gig if you can get it. And to be honest, Mephisto knows theatrics, and how to look very bad and very cool making an entrance:

Can't beat the fire and brimstone for getting psyched for Halloween!

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