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SFX Issue 197

Summer 2010

SFX historical notes: Another one of our regular back page features. In this one members of the team wax lyrical about areas of SF and fantasy that they love. We reckon Russell, our production editor, came up with a doozy with this one…

Regular feature:

We Love Sci-Fi: Horror Top Trumps

There has been something in life that has been a great mystery to me for nearly 30 years now. Why was Godzilla wearing a bow tie?

Yes, I’m talking about the Godzilla card in Waddingtons Horror Top Trumps from the early ’80s. The fearsome monster is pictured in the “Dracula” card series wearing not only a purple bow tie but a green high-collared outfit – with a pink frilly bit. What the hell?! But whatever the explanation (and please write in!), it only added to my fascination with these brilliantly bizarre Top Trumps.

Besides the Dracula series there was the Devil Priest series. Each pack had 32 cards. I mixed them into a 64 mega-pack and played with them endlessly with mates, perhaps in a tent in the garden, or at the dining room table. I was mostly enraptured by the art, I suppose, which viewed now is obviously the work of a hack aiming for the incredibly lurid while copping lots of his images from old movie stills. It’s fun identifying some of the sources: The Mad Magician is Lon Chaney in London After Midnight ; Creature From Outer Space is an alien from This Island Earth (plus gore – more on that in a moment); Phantom Of The Opera is actually Vincent Price as Dr Phibes, whereas The Hangman is Lon Chaney – again – from 1925’s Phantom Of The Opera . Others are more blatant – there’s Frankenstein, Dracula and King Kong for instance, all probably ignoring pesky copyright issues.

Lots more fun comes from the gore. The Jailer holds a flaming torch to his prisoner, making the skin on his face bubble up; The Beast stands there with a severed, spurting arm; The Fiend slices a woman’s head off with his claws. These were for children – what were they thinking?! (The answer is that there was a small window in pop culture which was post-prudishness and pre-political correctness, and the blood was free to flow.)

For this feature I had to re-buy these two packs on eBay, for around £55 combined. But I’m delighted to now own these unique artefacts – that can also be played with! – whose casual tawdriness is their main attraction.

Still not sure about that bow tie, though.