20 Years Later, Joe Jusko Returns to Paint a New Set of Marvel Masterpieces
In 1992, Skybox teamed with Marvel and painter Joe Jusko to release what would become one of the most revered and sought-after trading card sets of the era. While Marvel had been in the trading card game already, the Marvel Universe series was steeped heavily in comic art and wore its sports-style influences on its sleeve. With Marvel Masterworks, the game was changed completely. Instead of cards for Spider-Man that offered stats and quips, we were treated to museum quality paintings that captured the power and majesty of heroes and villains alike. The Marvel Masterpieces series would see a number of releases over the years, including sets done by the Hildebrandt brothers and Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, but it was the original set, painted entirely by Joe Jusko that ignited it all.
This year, Joe Jusko and the Marvel Masterpieces card series return after a long layoff with 135 all-new paintings turned into premium quality cards for this momentous release. It's been a long time, but with the limited preview art that's out there, the wait looks to have been worth it.
While the project was announced back in 2014, there'd been little updates from Upper Deck on when the new Marvel Masterpieces might see the light of day. Turns out creating 135 original paintings takes a little bit of time. However, this week Upper Deck finally released the details on the revisited set, which means it won't be much longer until the high-end card series is available. This one is going to be expensive.
The 2016 Marvel Masterpieces set will come with just three cards to pack, and just 12 packs to a box. That means on an optimal pull, you'll only be getting 36 of the 90 base cards in a box, not to mention the 45 other parallels that will be included like sketches (100 by Jusko, an unspecified number by other artists), base variants, signature cards, mirage, lenticular and whatever else Upper Deck throws out there. All the cards will have serial numbers, and the rarest cards beyond the sketches will be limited to just 10 each.
Though the exact look and style of all the specific parallels is still under wraps, a forum post showed one of the signature variants takes Jusko's art and uses it as cover art for a particular comic. The thick card stock is also clearly visible on these, which only serves to show that Upper Deck is taking a premium approach to the set. The earliest cards in the history of the Masterpieces series were treated like normal trading cards, but with better card stock, the printing and durability of this series should fare much better than the loose cards hidden somewhere in the closet of my old bedroom in my parent's house.
While early art below has shown off characters like Captain America and Lady Sif, there are some Marvel characters that will not make the cut. Notably those under Fox's cinematic jurisdiction. That means no Fantastic Four or Galactus cards will appear, even though they were painted for the set. Deadpool however will be included, along with the Silver Surfer.
No firm release date or pricing has been announced as of yet, but given the way the cards and boxes are being packed, you can expect a box to fetch at least $120 based on similar formats from Upper Deck and its competitors. A pricey investment to be sure, particularly if you want to get your hands on a complete set, which will take about four boxes with no doubles. Haha, good luck with all of that. At least you should also get a healthy number of valuable variants with all those packs you'll be burning through.
Though it's a bit of a pricey endeavor, there's just something about the nostalgia of this set that's calling to me. I can still remember walking into Dreamscape Comics (RIP) with my limited saved earnings to buy a box of the 1992 set and pouring over them for hours. Hopefully I'll be able to get at least one pack when this revamped set arrives to remember what it was like to be that kid.
You can check out some of the art featured in the set below.
[An earlier version of this post listed noted Jusko painted 100 images for the set, but that has been updated to the correct number of 135 paintings. - Ed.]