Mars Attacks, the famous science-fiction trading card set, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. And in doing so, its original creator and licensor Topps, one of the biggest companies of trading cards in the world, is partnering with comic book publishers IDW to take on a massive venture, taking the aliens attacks Earth story that it’s based on to Broadway as a musical.
This big-budget musical, entitled Mars Attacks: 21st Century Slaughter, is to be written and produced by comic book veteran John Layman (Chew, Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness). In a statement released by Topps and IDW, Layman describes the undertaking of this project as an upbeat, sci-fi version of West Side Story. He also went on to say that like any good Broadway show, there will be catchy songs as well in the production.
“My approach to MARS ATTACKS on stage is sort of a science fiction version of West Side Story: a human and a Martian involved in a star-crossed romance, set against the backdrop of a violent interstellar war—with all of humanity caught in between! It’s going to be a rollicking good time, with songs that will make you want to get up and dance!”
Mars Attacks debuted as a trading card series in 1962 by Topps, best known for its yearly baseball card releases. Originally with 55 cards in the set, the series showed an alien attack on Earth in a most graphically grotesque manner, each card in the set was full of gore and sexual innuendos to boot. In a nervous climate as the early 1960s, the uninhibited manner of the cards created an outcry by the public (mainly parents of course), forcing Topps to halt production. The cards, sketched by the late, great Wallace Wood (best known for his work in the early years of Mad Magazine) finished by Bob Powell and painted by Norman Saunders, became and remain huge collector’s items to this very day.
In the 1980s, Topps rebooted the series, with a reprint of the original card set and producing new mini-comic books as well. In 1994, they released an expanded card set which included 45 additional cards to the already existing 55, putting the total at an even hundred. Over 20 comics and graphic artists expanded the vision set forth by Wallace Wood and the reprints became very successful.
This led to a theatrical release in 1996 directed by Tim Burton. Combining the original narrative with all the makings of a classic 1950s B-movie yet with an astronomical budget and an all-star cast (including Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Danny Devito, and Natalie Portman among others), the result was rather mixed with moviegoers and critics alike. A wave of marketing followed the film release as well.
Now, with the 50th anniversary of the trading card set on the way, Mars Attacks: 21st Century Slaughter on Broadway has to be the most adventurous and original approach yet to the series. Rehearsals are to start later this year with a projected Broadway debut for 2013. This is also the first time Topps and IDW have ever ventured into the world of theater and certainly should be, at best, a fascinating curio for sure. Individually, IDW will release a Mars Attackscomic book series, written by John Layman, starting this June, while in July Topps will reissue their card set with reprints of the original 55 cards from 1962, as well as 25 never-before-seen subjects.
UPDATE: Apparently, IDW & Topps were ‘only kidding’ when they announced this news; now they say it’s not happening after all. Damn.