Michael's Long Box: Heard You Like Deathmate, So I Put Some Deathmate In...Never Mind.

in comics •  19 days ago 

Hey, you know what nobody at all needs in their lives right now? Deathmate. Know what nobody needed in their lives twenty-six years ago? Deathmate. Know what I've already spent far too much of your precious time talking about on Steemit these past two years?

"Gen13, you butt-chugging turbo virgin!"


Eat the entirety of my ass, @deadspace.

I was going to say "Deathmate", seeing as how I've written two entirely separate articles for #comics here already about the crossover event that practically destroyed the industry. But according to the dude who can't get enough wolf porn to satisfy his furry fetish, that's not the case, and so Deathmate it is!

Michael, what more is there to say about Deathmate?

Glad you asked, @blewitt!

The two previous times I've blabbered about this shop-shuttering, ass-assassinating crossover, it's been to explain what the book was versus what it should have been. But there was more to Deathmate than just comic books. I was reminded of this when I stumbled across this video by Emer Prevost (R.I.P., big guy), who vlogged about this part of his trading card collection:

Naturally I had to rush out and secure my own sealed box of Deathmate trading cards, because that is still something you can do two and a half decades after everyone should have thrown them the fuck away.


Proof I have more money than sense.

So yes, in accordance with prophecy, the Deathmate saga expanded to swallow even more of the universe than was previously imagined. And since two comic book companies getting together for a massive cross-over event wasn't crazy enough, Image and Valiant convinced trading card rivals Topps and Upper Deck to hop on the barge for a quick trip across Wacky River.

Wait, WHAT?!

The idea was simple: Valiant and Image were each responsible for producing half of the Deathmate series. Image was to handle Deathmate Black and Deathmate Red. Valiant, on the other hand, was to publish Deathmate Yellow, and Deathmate Blue. The Prologue and Epilogue books were each produced by talent from both companies, so the lead off and capstone (and also the glory) would be shared by both studios. With that ever-so-solid plan in place, Jim Lee at Image convinced Upper Deck to print the first series of cards, which would cover the Prologue and both of Valiant's contributions to the crossover. Topps would then issue a second series of cards covering Image's books and the Epilogue.

Since Valiant's books (and obviously the Prologue) were slated to come out first, Upper Deck got right to work on write-ups, layouts, and the premium chase cards to be featured in that first series. The end result was a base set of 110 cards, covering the places, heroes, villains, and stories from Deathmate Prologue, Deathmate Yellow, and Deathmate Blue, along with three different premium sub-sets to entice consumers to keep spending money even after they had all the commons.

Now, a single box of Deathmate trading cards contained 36 packs, and each pack contained 8 individual cards. Since a single box would net you a total of 288 cards, just buying a full box would be enough to virtually guarantee a complete set of the 110 basic cards. But if you wanted those premium chase cards, one box couldn't possibly give you all you needed, thanks to low print numbers.

The easiest of the chase card series to collect was the "Transitions" set, with one card found in roughly every 12 packs you opened. In other words, a single full box should gift you with 3 cards from this set out of a possible 8 total. These holofoil printed cards showcased the "transition" of one particular player from their normal incarnation into their Deathmate persona. Like so:

That scan looks far worse than I expected.

Next easiest was the "Players of Deathmate" series. Found in roughly one out of every eighteen packs (two per full box), these cards featured hologram-enhanced artwork, showcasing a specific scene from the books, like so:

That scan looks a lot better than I expected.

There were a total of six cards in this series--theoretically, you could acquire a full set of them by picking up three sealed boxes, assuming you didn't wind up with any duplicates. So far, so good. But if you thought Image was the king of getting people to spend their hard-earned cash on shit they didn't need, you never met Upper Deck before, baby. Because packaged in such a way as to appear in only one out of every ninety packs you opened were the "Special" series: special laser-etched chromium cards devoted to some major happening, such as a character death, like so:

Yeah, I got one. Don't hate.

For the mathematically-challenged, that would mean you needed to buy three full boxes of these cards in order to have the statistical odds necessary to obtain just one of these cards. Now the good news is, there are only two of these "Special" cards of which I'm aware, but that still means you'd have to purchase close to two hundred full packs of cards to acquire a full set of everything this first series of Deathmate trading card scene had to offer, once again assuming you received no duplicates of those chase cards.

Keep in mind, in 1993 you could have used all the money you spent buying Deathmate trading cards to buy Valentine's Day flowers for that cute girl you had a crush on, and while the end result would likely have been the same sense of crushing rejection you get from knowing you have a complete set of Deathmate trading cards twenty-six years later, it's also possible it would have resulted in the best sex of your life (and probably the worst sex of hers, but hey, memories, right?)!

Well, that's just fascinating. But don't you have more work to do? What about the Topps set?

Holy cow, you were paying attention. Good for you!

So, yeah, about that. Upper Deck and Topps touted the hell out of this Deathmate thing, since it was the first cross-over between trading card companies in the history of forever. The ads for the cards talked it up big time, and each company even produced a special Promo card commemorating the event:

UD Promo001.jpg
Upper Deck's Promo

Topps Promo001.jpg
Topps' Promo

However, despite being under contract to produce a second set of what would presumably be around another 110 cards to complete the Deathmate cycle, Topps watched as the deadlines for Image's books slipped like they'd stepped on Sub-Zero's floor freeze special move, and made the single wisest decision made by anyone involved in this calamity. They broke their contract and walked away, leaving legions of slavering fanboys unable to complete their Deathmate trading card collection and making Upper Deck look like idiots for devoting so much time, effort, and resources to the biggest crossover event in comic book history.

Hype at maximum for this sucker, dealers ordered an absurd number of boxes from Upper Deck on the assumption they'd sell through like mad. To be fair, the evidence at the time pointed to a huge potential for cross-promotion, given that initial orders for the Deathmate books themselves were in the high six-figures range. But after Image botched their half of the work and Deathmate became the single largest joke in comic books, retailers found themselves sitting on hundreds of boxes of these abominations that they couldn't return, but also couldn't sell either.

If you didn't notice, the price tag on my sealed box says $5.00...but that's what the guy selling it to me paid for it. I gave him even less than that, because that's what these things are worth. Seriously, do a search on eBay for "Upper Deck Deathmate" and you'll find these things floating around like turds in New York harbor. Here's a guy who sold ten sealed boxes of them for $25. After an intense bidding war between what I can only assume were two alcoholics who have both since had their Man Cards revoked, this sealed box sold for a whopping...uh...$1.99.

So, yeah, Topps looked at their contract and determined it would hurt them less to pay the penalty for breaking it than it would to actually close on their end of the deal. Deathmate broke everything it touched. And now, I have a sealed, boxed monument to the absurdity to go along with my full run of issues.

Damn, I love this hobby! :D

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So what you're saying is that I can sell my Deathmate collection and retire?

Sadly, @darth-cryptic, I've already bought one of everything, so your window for retiring off of Deathmate has closed. :D

Ugh. I spent a fortune on these. In the attic. Rotting.

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You personally, or you as a shopkeeper? ;)

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