Monday, June 1, 2015

For The One, For The Twenty-Five, For The Rest Of Us: The DC Comics Super-Villains Trading Cards

The Good: Cool subject, Some awesome artwork, Some wonderful/creative bonus cards, No redemption cards!
The Bad: Virtually impossible to collect
The Basics: Cryptozoic’s The Super-Villains card set is great . . . unless one tries to collect it, when it becomes an impossible, mind-numbing boondoggle!

As my small business has been growing and last week, I hit a very cool milestone for my business. I've been branching out into non-Star Trek trading cards over the past year and last week, Cryptozoic came out with a new DC Comics-themed trading card set and since I started dealing in DC Comics trading cards, this was the first set of such cards that I got in stock the first week they were out. The set is DC Comics Super-Villains trading cards. I was super-excited about the Super-Villains trading cards and my glee for them only rose when I got the cases of cards in and discovered that the stated odds of the various chase cards in this set were less than the actual odds of getting the chase cards. In other words, the cases were loaded with more chase cards than the odds said there should be.

But then, I started to assemble a set and I found it was absolutely impossible. As of now, there is no collector in the world who will have a true, complete, master set of DC Comics Super-Villains trading cards and that is because Cryptozoic created a set that was inherently uncollectable. Creating a set with 360 unique cards found in packs . . . on top of multiple types of sketch cards with undetermined numbers for rarity and artists and Cryptozoic manages to completely suck the joy out of collecting trading cards with the Super-Villains set!

Basics/ Set Composition

The DC Comics The Super-Villains trading cards were originally released in boxes with twenty-four packs, packs containing five cards each. Properly assembled, the Super-Villains consists of 870 cards, but there are only twenty-five possible "master" sets now that would contain about 510 trading cards. Featuring cards that span the recent DC Universe and the New 52 Universe, the Super-Villains card set is written (mostly) as a New-52 Universe set that focuses on the Forever Evil crossover event that gave the adversaries of the DC Universe a main storyline. Properly assembled, the set features sixty-three common cards and at least 447 bonus cards (not counting the 360 printing plate cards) (all but two of the cards are available in the boxes of Super-Villains cards).

Common Cards

The Super-Villains is a 63 card set that features both the most popular villains of the DC Comics Universe and the adversaries that had a significant presence in the Forever Evil storyline. The common set has an introductory card, sixty-one cards with many of the most of the recognizable adversaries of DC Comics universe (characters like Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn, and Captain Cold . . . but with some notable absences like Doctor Psycho and Parralax), most of whom are in their “New 52” renderings and one checklist card.

The common cards are an unfortunate mixed bag. The artwork is of a generally high-quality (though the cartoonish version of Parasite was disturbing compared to his usual nightmarish version), but there are a couple of random cards that are landscape-oriented instead of portrait-oriented. So, in the middle of a page, there are cards like the one for Clayface that are oriented completely off from the rest of the page.

The writing for the Super-Villains set is very simple. The set is very much intended for the fans of the broad DC Comics Universe. Some of the cards, like Professor Pyg, do not reference - even obliquely - which corner of the DC Universe they come from (Professor Pyg's artwork and motivation were disgusting enough for me to infer he was a Batman villain and, as it turns out, he is!). In general, the cards are not terribly enlightening, though most have at least one interesting factoid to them - Doomsday has Kryptonian origins, Hush's mundane name and knowledge of Bruce Wayne's relationship to Batman. The cards do not have a wealth of information - most mention a super power, an adversary OR the villain's origin.

Chase Cards

The Super-Villains set features a great deal more bonus cards than common cards, which is not at all uncommon for contemporary trading card sets. The Super-Villains set features at least 447 chase cards (though there are actually at least 807 bonus cards in the set) which range from simple foil parallel cards to significantly rare sketch cards to the 360 unique printing plates. In the packs, collectors can find 805 of the 807 bonus cards. The chase card breakdown is thus: 3 Sirens, 6 Crime Syndicate, 9 Noir, 9 Forever Evil, 90 foil parallel cards, 90 gold parallel cards, 9 Classic Batman TV On Cryptomium, 9 boxtopper cards, 6 Patch cards, 3 Totally Fabricated, 108 sketch cards, 103 Hall Of Doom Sketch cards and 360 printing plates. The most basic chase card set found in the packs are the foil parallel cards. The parallel cards replicate the common cards, Sirens cards, Crime Syndicate cards, Noir cards, and Forever Evil cards but with mirrored accents. Unfortunately, the silver foil versions of the common cards are essentially the common cards with silver foil for the lettering. The bonus cards have backgrounds that are full foil. The backs of the foil parallel cards are identical to the common cards, so when going through the packs, one has to look at the front of each card. It takes about a case to assemble a complete set of 90 foil parallel cards.

Each box has a full common card set and the boxes also tended to have complete sets of Sirens, Crime Syndicate, Noir, and Forever Evil cards. The Sirens cards are a tryptic that features the three Gotham City Sirens - Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman. The artwork is fine, the writing it all right, but the Sirens cards are entirely unremarkable (accented by how cool the foil parallel versions look!). Similarly, the Crime Syndicate cards are a six-card montage featuring the Earth-3 villains from the Crime Syndicate that came into the normal DC Comics Universe to try to take over during the Forever Evil event. They are generally unremarkable and the character summaries on the backs are fairly similar to those for the common cards . . . though the artwork is impressive. The Noir cards are a neat concept; nine cards that are black and white drawings of popular villains (mostly from Batman) rendered to accent their fear-inspiring qualities. The artwork on these are hit or miss (Bane is virtually unrecognizable, Doomsday looks lethal), but this is a neat concept. The Forever Evil cards feature the Villains Month covers for the most popular (and Deadshot) villains who took over the various comic books. The comic book cover cards are a great idea and the Forever Evil ones fit the Super-Villains set perfectly with bright colored replica covers on the front with details about the relevant issues on the back!

One per box was one of nine Batman Classic TV Series Cryptomium Reissue card. Cryptozoic replicated classic Batman TV series cards on their thicker Cryptomium foil cardstock and they remade the campy into cool and collectible cards. The foil and bright color cards make for a surprisingly distinctive chase, even if the text on the back is a bit boring (the backs simply state that it is a replica of a classic trading card, as opposed to replicating whatever text was on those original classic trading cards.

One per box is an oversized Forever Evil variant cover boxtopper. Each of the boxtoppers comes sealed in its own toploader and while the concept is cool - variant covers are awesome - Cryptozoic picked the least interesting possible iteration of the concept. For Villains Month, DC Comics did various variant covers, including lenticular covers! Cryptozoic replicated the blank cover variant for the boxtoppers. These largely white covers basically feature the name of the primary comic book with the name of the villain "painted" over it. The boxtopper set is very white and bland, but does justice to the source material.

One in every other box is a Gold Parallel Card for any of the ninety common and basic chase cards. The common set is replicated with silver foil for the character name and a gold or coppery color foil for the set name on the front of the card. The gold parallel cards for the chase cards have a coppery foil background that looks awesome. All of the gold cards have a gold foil stamped collector's number on the back of each card. Each card is individually numbered out of 25, so one presumes there are at least 25 master sets (not including the printing plates).

The Totally Fabricated cards are a “hit or miss” concept card for fans of the DC Universe villains. Costume cards are immensely popular trading cards these days and as the subjects of the Super-Villains set are comic book characters, there would seem to be no costume cards that could be produced for the set. Cryptozoic did not let that stop them. Instead, they produced the “Totally Fabricated” bonus cards and the Super-Villains set has three such cards in the boxes and packs. Found one in every 192 packs, the Super-Villains set features admittedly fake fabric swatches (not really) from the costumes of Bane, Deathstroke, and Lex Luthor. The Totally Fabricated cards are a neat idea and they are executed incredibly well, especially the foil-material Lex Luthor card. Cryptozoic, to its credit, did not overproduce the Totally Fabricated cards.

In addition to the Totally Fabricated cards, there are six patch cards that replicate the symbols of the six main villains from the Crime Syndicate. The six patch cards were found about three per case and are like costume cards. This is a neat idea that is familiar now to fans of many varied genre-themed trading cards and Cryptozoic continues the tradition well in the Super-Villains set.

The Super-Villains set is fleshed out with one hundred eight sketch cards of villains of the DC Universe. The sketch cards are produced by one hundred eight different artists and each one is absolutely unique, so assembling a master set requires one to track down one from each of the one hundred eight artists Cryptozoic hired for the project. The quality of the sketch cards varies greatly between fine-art quality colored sketches and cartoonish, animated versions of the significant DC Comics villains.

There are also Hall Of Doom sketch cards found one per case. The die-cut cards are in the shape of the Legion Of Doom's Headquarters and feature drawings of villains as well. According to Cryptozoic, all but about five of the artists produced Hall Of Doom sketch cards before the manufacturer ran out of the special shaped cards.

To assembled a true master set, collectors usually want one of each card. While sketch cards are absolutely unique, the concept that most collectors go with is needing one from each artist to complete a set. Unfortunately, with the Super-Villains set, there are 360 Printing Plate cards. Unlike sets like Rittenhouse Archives's progressive printers proof sets from things like their Women Of Star Trek: Voyager set (reviewed here!) where the card manufacturer used the proof cards that insured the printing process worked and made them available to collectors, Cryptozoic broke up the actual printing plates - Black, Blue, Magenta and Yellow - and inserted them in packs (one or two per case). I, personally, know of two that are in hands to two different collectors . . . which means that no one collector can ever assemble a complete, true master set of the Super-Villains cards any longer. The idea of making a set of 360 truly unique cards is troubling from a collecting point of view. The printing plates are neat and the backs direct fans to a Cryptozoic site that details the concept behind printing plates and that's cool for fans, even if they are entirely uncollectible.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

No matter how many packs or boxes of Super-Villains cards one opens, there are two cards collectors will never find there. Non-Sports Update Magazine released a promotional card for the Super-Villains set. The other card that cannot be found in any of the boxes or packs is the Joker Totally Fabricated card. That card is only found in the binders of the Super-Villains cards. Having only two cards that cannot be found in the cases is actually pretty awesome, especially for a Cryptozoic release.


I have long decried the use of redemption cards, so the fact that the Super-Villains set does not have any is pretty awesome. Unfortunately, replacing them with 360 unique cards (progressive printers proofs would have been a much kinder way to reward collectors than the 1/1 printing plates that make it impossible to assemble a true master set. Between that and the problems in the common set and boring basic chase, the set is easily robbed of perfection, though it is a fun product to break boxes of.

This is a set of trading cards I sell in my online store! Please check out my current inventory of these cards at The Super-Villains Inventory Page!

For other DC Comics-based trading card sets reviewed by me, please check out:
Epic Battles
The Women Of Legend
The New 52


For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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