The transformation from sports hero to super hero had its beginnings back in 1992. That is the year Marvel Entertainment purchased Fleer Tradings Cards. So when it came time to design the 1996 Metal Universe set of Baseball cards, it seemed like a natural fit to utilize some of the talented illustrators we now had an alliance with. We already had brands with a more traditional look like Fleer, Ultra, Flair, etc… This was an opportunity to try something different and create cards that took the player out of their natural settings (on the field or on the court) and put them in more of a “super hero” situation.
I started by isolating the player from the background and sent them off to some of the Marvel Comic artists. What I received back were concepts that I found exciting and dynamic and I knew there would be a certain card collector that would feel the same way. The original sketches were turned into digital color art that was used for final card production. With the set being named “Metal” I knew that foils stamping would play a part on the final card. The background art was sent to the die maker where they were etched to enhance the artwork for each individual card. Not an easy feat since there were 247 cards in the set. For the basic card the foil was over printed with the art but for the Platinum parallel cards, what you see is just the etched foil.
I am satisfied knowing the set has withstood the test of time. It has become more and more collectible as time goes by, especially the NBA version which had the Precious Metal Gems added. That set and parallel deserves its own post, which I will write in the near future. If you are a card collector, I hope you have enjoyed them. If you are not a card collector, check them out and enjoy some of the images here of the original sketches for the set.
In the set each illustration was used for two players that would be in a similar position. In the case of these four cards, the illustrator went a step further and made some changes to the art to make each player slightly different. Usually the same art was used but this shows a nice variation.
This shows the original sketch, then the Platinum parallel version without the color over the background, and finally the basic card. In this you can see how the foil dies were etched to the illustration so that you can still see the art even without the illustration printed over top.
Here you can see the final card over top of the original sketch. This should give you an idea of the size at which the sketches were created.