New book about the greatest trading cards ever: Mars Attacks

Yesterday I posted an illustration by the famed pulp illustrator Norm Saunders. Coincidentally, Abrams ComicArts just released a book commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Mars Attacks trading cards, which the Topps Company issued in 1962. Saunders' lurid paintings for the series depicted a horrific invasion of Earth by hideous looking Martians with giant exposed brains and rictus leers. When parents discovered the gruesome, violent, and sexually explicit images on the cards, Topps was forced to pull them off the shelves, making them instant collectors' items.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mars Attacks, this comprehensive book is the first-ever compilation of the infamous science-fiction trading card series produced by Topps in 1962. Edgy, subversive, and darkly comedic, this over-the-top series depicting a Martian invasion of Earth has a loyal following and continues to win new generations of fans. For the first time, this book brings together high-quality reproductions of the entire original series, as well as the hard-to-find sequel from 1994, rare and never-before-seen sketches, concept art, and test market materials. Also included are an introduction by series co-creator Len Brown and an afterword by Zina Saunders, daughter of the original artist, providing an insider's behind-the-scenes view of the bizarre and compelling world of Mars Attacks.
Mars Attacks 50th anniversary collection


  1. I have this and it’s a thing of beauty. The jacket cover is the same paper quality and texture as the old card wrappers!

    1. Some of the cards had buxom women with torn blouses and skirts being grabbed by the Martian’s steel claws, a bit like the covers of pulp magazines of the 50s. Not really explicit, but certainly in keeping with the delicious sleazyness of the entire enterprise.

      i remember the outcry in the papers when these first came out, and how collecting them took on a cloak of rebellion. There were similar cards on a US Civil War Theme (it was the centennial of that conflict) which tried to gain some historical respectibility, but the cards featured Johnny Reb getting his arm blown off, etc, so it missed by a bit.

    1. The problem with “Dinosaurs Attack” (and other subsequent card series, including later and inferior “Mars Attacks!” cards) was that they were too self- aware…”Mars Attacks!” came out in the pre- ironic- everything days of the early 60’s. As Tim Burton says, “Not a bit of ‘camp’ about them”, though he went on to make the horrible, campy movie version of the cards.

  2. Had those as a kid (and the “bloody Civil War News” series) and LOVED them. My 3rd grade nun confiscated my cards when she caught me with them in class… I was devastated. She put them in the big supply closet at the back of the classroom- I saw the cards she had stolen from us kids on the top shelf, and kept my eye on them every time that door was opened, for months. I waited and waited until the last day of school, and as she was leading everyone out I ran to the closet, tore open the door, and jumped up to grab the cards. My heart was pounding! And to my crushing disappointment, they were all just baseball cards- not a “Mars Attacks” in the lot. She must have thrown them out as soon as she saw them.
    This is a major reason I am now an atheist and despise the catholic church.
    I paid $350 for a set of them in the late 70’s- a ton of money to me then. But I HAD to have them.

  3. Despite the commonly held belief, Norman Saunders didn’t do ALL of the cards. It mentions this in the book, and if you look closely you can see differences in the art. Cards 6,8. and 9 (and probably card 5) are not by him, for instance.Card 7 is- his art glows, and isn’t as “flat” as the other artists’. Norman had a huge hole at the bottom of the saucers- you can see the Martians around the interior rim in card 4. Pulp artist Maurice Blumenfeld painted the saucers with solid bottoms, for the most part. Plus his people look dated- look at the ladies in card 8, they look like 1920’s flappers.

    1.  Loved those Commies from Mars!  Have a set of them and the trade paperback.  A few are water damaged from the flood of ’93, but not too bad.  Loved the mixing in of other Zap! critters.

  4. Mars Attacks is the #1 non-sport trading card series. We publish a magazine for non-sport trading cards collectors (Non-Sport Update) and are promoting a show this weekend which has Mars Attacks as it’s theme! All show attendees will get a free and exclusive Topps Mars Attacks promotional card along with many other free cards. Topps will be exhibiting at the show. Details at

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