Hey, Martians! Chew on this Forget Dostoyevsky.

Hollywood now finds it easier to adapt bubblegum cards.

As everyone knows by now, Tim Burton's gleefully subversive Mars Attacks! is based on a 1962 series of bubblegum cards. This is yet another example of the modern-era blockbuster's casting wide of the net for movie material. Once, films were based on important books and plays, or the lives of the great and the good; then the lively field of pulp fiction was colonised, with many gangster movies and westerns demonstrating that it's a lot easier to make a great film from a book by a second-rate hack than one by Dostoyevsky. Subsequently, there have been serious films based on pop songs (Ode to Billie Joe, The Indian Runner), concept albums (Tommy), comic books (Batman, Tank Girl, et al), board games (Cluedo), arcade games (Super Mario Brothers, Mortal Kombat), TV cartoons (The Flintstones), singleton cartoons (The Addams Family) and ranges of toys (Masters of the Universe). But bubblegum cards?

These days, they are called "trading cards" and are sold in packs of assorted numbers sacrilegiously free of actual bubblegum. The industry is a bizarre racket, complete with bonus cards in variant editions with or without holograms and artificially under-printed "rare" cards in any series that can be held off the market and sold at above-the-odds cost. Sports and comics-related cards are still popular, but there are underground artists out there cranking out serial killer collectibles, among much other strange detritus.

In Britain, where bubblegum wasn't much of an option during rationing, cards with series titles like Birds of the British Isles were issued with cigarettes or tea, but in America it was bubblegum, that commodity used almost as currency by GIs in search of a good time, that accompanied the cards. The big player in the field is Topps, which has been producing series of baseball cards for many years, yielding collectable ephemera even more obscurely valuable than rare postage stamps. Topps put out, and rather quickly withdrew, the original Mars Attacks! series.

Oddly, the inspiration was not the Fifties and Sixties craze for science- fiction paranoia that powers the film but the then-recent success of a line of cards celebrating the centennial of the American Civil War. That series had historical respectability, but mostly featured extremely gory battle scenes. It was reasoned that the series was popular with kids - not because they wanted the history lesson but because of the splatter. And the Mars Attacks! series, drawn by Bob Powell and Norm Saunders and masterminded by then 21-year-old Len Brown, delivered even more violence, with the big-brained aliens zapping sundry American icons (a particularly prized item is Card No 36, Destroying a Dog) and giant insects munching down on victims (which Tim Burton strangely omits).

The 55-card series was slipped out as if it was along the lines of Topps' other hits - US Presidents, Railroad Trains, Flags of the World - and was confiscated by horrified parents and teachers almost immediately, then pulled off the market due to complaints. Paradoxically, this suppression made the series amazingly collectable and valuable. A complete, original set will cost you $2,000

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices