Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mush, So To Speak

Sometimes the problem with cards is not want-to but how-to.

Now Comic Ball -- that was a want-to thing. Comic Ball had more creative talents behind it than a Beyonce album. It assembled the maker of the world’s most collectible trading cards, the world’s largest media conglomerate and the best animator in cartoon history, fed them carloads of cash, and in return got Ishtar. Or for those of you needing a more recent frame of reference, The Last Airbender, Jonah Hex, and The Losers, remade as musical comedy.

It wasn’t that Upper Deck didn’t know how to make good, honest collectible cards. Whoops -- scratch that. It wasn’t that Upper Deck didn’t know how to make collectible cards. It was all about making collectible cards. And color correction. And slipping cases off the loading dock to certain very special dealers.

It was just that for whatever reason -- creative meddling by Warner Brothers, shuffling the project to the new kid, the person at Upper Deck in charge of collectibility being out that day -- Comic Ball was three years in the wilderness with Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, and nothing to eat but haggis.

Harness Heroes, on the other hand, was 180 degrees removed from Comic Ball. Harness Heroes was created by a printer and someone who knew something about horses, possibly one in the same but most likely not. You can tell that a printer had a hand in it because when you look at the quality of the paper and the printing embellishments it screams “sample book!” Speaking as someone who has spent the last three years trying to convince local printers that trading cards need to be printed on paper at least thick enough to not fit between your front teeth unless you are Lauren Hutton, with Harness Heroes the printer was driving the bus. Or the starting gate, in this case.

And that brings things around to the Iditarod set.

Most of you have likely never heard of an Iditarod set, but take it from me, they’re all over Nome.

The set shows the sled-dog racers who compete in North America’s most grueling sled-dog race, and relax fans of large soulful eyes, each a different color: It shows sled dogs too.

The set is an extremely curious mix of Big League Cards and cards inspired by Big League Cards, which is like being inspired by a ABBA karaoke record, but that criticism aside, the non-Big League Cards parts of the Iditarod set were screwed together admirably. The fronts are on the front and the backs are on the back.

The makers even took a huge step toward ensuring collectibility by having the people pictured on the cards autograph their cards.

Only half of them signed their cards on the back.

I’m sorry, but this is like putting the senator from Louisiana in charge of raking tarballs out of the Gulf, minus the entertainment value inherent in his explanation of how building a four-lane highway from Lafayette to Shreveport helps the oyster beds.

Did the Yankees’ clubhouse boy sign “Best Wishes, Babe Ruth” on the backs of the 8x10 glossies? When you walk into a really old Holiday Inn, the kind with a lounge, and look at the autographed pictures of the Captain and Tennille impersonators on the walls, are they autographed on the back? A pleasant thought for certain, but in general not bloody likely.

I really do like my pictures of Libby Riddles and Joe Redington Sr., the “Father of the Iditarod,” a title which leaves him only 49.85 states behind George Washington. I really like the fact that they’re autographed. But I really would love them if they were autographed on the front.

But I know I’ll be swimming with the oysters before that happens.

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