Saturday, May 6, 2017

Comics on baseball cards

Today is Free Comic Book Day, which is yet another modern-day celebration that would have been a lot more useful to me in, say, 1980.

That's when I read comic books. That's when I bought the few that I bought.

It's an interest that didn't stay with me long nor follow me into adulthood. While I appreciate comics and cartoon drawings and story-telling immensely, I have no desire to read through a comic book anymore and haven't for years. When Free Comic Book Day comes around every year, I look at the offerings online with faint interest. But the days of wanting to turn those pages are gone.

Besides, cards take up all my free time.

I decided to look at a few instances of comics on the fronts of cards. I talk all the time about how much I love the cartoons on the backs of cards (and how they should be on the back always). But comics on the front are a rarity.

This is by no means an exhaustive, historical look. I don't have the time today. I just want to show you some examples.

You've seen this "card" from me before. It's possibly the closest any baseball-card company issue has come to a comic book. It's from the 1970 Topps Booklets set, a 24-card "set" (there was also an OPC hockey version in 1971-72).

I'm fairly certain if I was collecting then, I'd be trying to get as many as I could. Each booklet tells an 8-page story about the player.

But the vast majority of comics on cards are restricted to a single card -- a single panel, if you will.

My favorite example of that are the Fleer Laughlin World Series cards for the early 1970s (later republished and updated as stickers in early 1980s Fleer).

The 1979 Topps Baseball Comics issue features drawings that came straight off a comic-book page. They're not really cards as they're printed on flimsy Bazooka Joe-type paper. That's possibly the reason why these weren't popular when they were issued. Slap some cardboard on those and they're much more collectible.

Probably the best time for spotting comics on cards was the early 1990s.

Upper Deck partnered with Looney Toons to show cartoons on cards in 1990. The Dodgers -- and several other teams -- are featured prominently in this set, and my love for cartoons ensures that these cards are filed with the rest of my Dodgers.

Topps added comics to its Topps Kids set in 1992. These are ubiquitous by still fun.

Upper Deck followed suit by adding some comics to its Fun Pack sets, which may have been the precursor for Collector's Choice. This really reminds me of '90s Nickelodeon cartoons.

The early '90s also produced another kind of booklet, courtesy of Line Drive.

These Collect-A-Books told stories, but weren't comic books. The only "comic" was on the back cover. But I love the illustrations. I like them so much that I display both the front and the back in my Dodgers binders, meaning I need two of each (I've yet to get a second Drysdale).

Like everything, comics on cards works only if you do it right. The best example of that is Panini's Triple Play cards from four or five years ago. That is not the way to do it.

I think my lack of interest in comic books comes down to subject matter. Too many of them don't have any appeal to me. The array of titles and options is so large now that I'm sure I'd find something that interested me if I dug around, but I really can't get into a second hobby.


  1. Love this post concept - I didn't quite realize how many comic/baseball card crossovers there are out there.

  2. I wasn't aware of the Line Drive ones.

  3. Score did a comic-ish looking subset sometime around 1990-92, I don't recall the exact year. It was like one player for each position all-star set and Wallach was passed over (as usual), so I didn't pay much attention to it.

    I don't know if it included any Dodgers, that post '89/pre-Piazza window was sort of a bleak one for Dodger Super Stars if I recall. Maybe Strawberry or Murray?

  4. I collected my comics starting in the late 70's and then heavily in the early 90's - while skipping the junk wax era. Still have eight long boxes full, but cards took over for good by 2005 and haven't looked back.
    They've rebooted the DC and Marvel universes at least once since I was actively reading (and I think it's happening again), so I have no idea who some of the present heroes and villains are. (The movie Guardians of the Galaxy aren't the group I'm familiar with.)

    I think I have a binder of the CardToons set from 1993. ( They're very satirical portrayals of then-current players and teams.

  5. A. I'm surprised the 1979 Topps Baseball Comics set doesn't receive more love among collectors. It's such a beautiful set. Maybe you're right... and it has to do with the fact that it's printed on that flimsy wax paper.

    B. I just purchased a bunch of Topps Kids packs at the card show. I hope they're the same year as your Murray, because that's a great card design.

  6. I was so into baseball and baseball cards growing up that I missed most phases a boy goes through. No dinosaurs, trucks, comics, space (aside from a little Star Wars), legos, video games, etc.