It’s been 22 years since the first Marvel Masterpieces trading card series was released. The original, produced by SkyBox International, came on the heels of several Marvel Universe series, which used pick-up from the comics. The Masterpieces series was quite unique and very exciting in several ways. For starters, it featured all original art. Secondly, all of the art came from one artist, Joe Jusko. Nothing quite like this had been done before. And last, but certainly not least, the art was mind-blowing. It stills ranks as one of the best non-sport card series ever produced. Just this month, a Facebook post of Joe’s about the original series racked-up 70 glowing comments and nearly 100 likes. Jusko says “To this day, I sign more of those cards at appearances than anything else I’ve ever done. For a certain generation of fans that is the property that defines me.” So it’s VERY exciting to learn a follow-up is in the works for later this year.
To coincide with their 25th Anniversary taking place today, Upper Deck has announced the new Joe Jusko Marvel Masterpiece series for the end of the year. “This is an enormous feat that Joe is collaborating on with Upper Deck” says the company’s Jason Brenner. Just like the original, Jusko, and only Jusko, will be completing all 135 base card images (1992′s base card series contained 100 cards). “These are all new images that he is creating from scratch and they are stunning to say the least” say Brenner.
We spoke briefly with Jusko about working on the new series and how its been going so far (Joe has already been laboring on the series in secret for months and months). “I am having so much fun!” said Jusko. He continues “This type of project suits my temperament better than any other. I can put my all attention and effort into a piece and then move on to another image that is completely different in both subject and approach. It’s impossible to get bored, even with my notoriously short attention span.”
It’s now 22 years later and we wondered what fans can expect this time around. Jusko says: “Despite the success of the classic set, the main reason I’ve always wanted to return to Masterpieces has been my gnawing dissatisfaction with the amount of time I had to complete it, roughly three and a half months. That neccesitated doing very small paintings very quickly. While I think the great majority of those cards hold up very well, Upper Deck is giving me a much bigger window, making it possible to produce larger, cover quality images. I think fans will be really happy with the results.”
SkyBox International’s 1992 series had Spectra card inserts and some other inserts in related releases but those probably wouldn’t fly in today’s marketplace. When asked about inserts, Brenner assured us those details will come soon enough. He did let us know that sketch cards will figure into the new release and that additional artists will be employed for those. “The sketch work will all be inspired by the body of work that Joe has done so this is very much an homage to Joe himself” said Brenner. He continues “There will be a few different variants as well as some other inserts, I can’t talk to specific now though.”
We are very excited to show off one of the first ever 2014 Joe Jusko Marvel Masterpieces cards below.
2014 Marvel Masterpieces art by Joe Jusko
1992′s Marvel Masterpieces inspired four additional Marvel Masterpieces releases in the 90s. Two of those series (produced by SkyBox and later, Fleer) were worked on by dynamic artists duos (Greg & Tim Hildebrandt in 1994 and Boris Vallejo & Julie Bell in 1996) while the others were worked on by a mix of artists. In 2007 and 2008, Upper Deck released three more Marvel Masterpieces series employing a mix of artists. The 1992 set is the only time a single artist has completed the entire base card series.
We will have much more on the 2014 Marvel Masterpieces release in the pages of Non-Sport Update magazine later this year. An exclusive promotional cards is planned for inclusion in one of our issues as well so be sure to get your subscription in now!