Friday, May 27, 2011

Cryptozoic Entertainment Preview

My goal for writing previews on this blog has been to devote a post to just a single product; however, I feel I have to make an exception in this case. Cryptozoic Entertainment (CZE) has jumped into the trading card business with guns a-blazing and of the four products they have announced, I am excited about three of them. So, I figured it only right to discuss them all in a single post.

I didn't know much about CZE prior to the trading card news, but a review of their website shows that they were founded in March 2010 and initially produced games. While gaming is definitely still part of their business, the company announced in February that it would be producing its first trading card set to raise funds for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). Not long after, the group announced plans to produce sets based on three television shows: The Walking Dead, Vampire Diaries and The Big Bang Theory.

Here is a breakdown of the sets and my initial thoughts. I'll start with the TV shows.

The Vampire Diaries
Release Date: September 2011
Packs: 5 cards per pack; 24 packs per box
MSRP: $3.50 per pack
Base Set: 72 cards
Chase Sets: Two 9-card chase sets
Inserts: Autographs and Memorabilia

This is the set I am least interested in only because I do not watch the show nor have any knowledge of it. In the briefest of terms, the official CW Network website for the show states: "THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is the story of two vampire brothers obsessed with the same beautiful girl, and battling to control the fate of an entire town." This set will cover season one of the series.

This appears to be a typical set in terms of the number of cards in the base set, as well as number of packs per box and cards per pack. With one hit guaranteed per box there should be a total of 119 base/chase cards (unless packs are shorted due to thickness of a memorabilia card). I would assume that a complete base set could be made from this, but my guess is that neither of the two chase sets can be completed in a single box.

One thing CZE has stated from the beginning is that they will not announce autograph/memorabilia inclusions until the items are actually in hand. They also state on the website that each of these inserts will have a CZE hologram to denote authenticity.

For this set, there are 11 confirmed autographers as of 5/10/11. They are:
Candice Accola
Sara Canning
Matt Davis
Nina Dobrev
Katerina Graham
Steven R. McQueen
Julie Plec
Zach Roerig
Michael Trevino
Paul Wesley
Kevin Williamson

While CZE has not shown an image of the base cards yet (at least not that I've seen), they have included samples of the autographed cards on their website.

copyright Cryptozoic Entertainment

If this design is any indication of what the base cards will look like, then this will be a very nice looking set, and definitely one that fans of the show will strive to own.

The Walking Dead
Release Date: Summer 2011
Packs: 5 cards per pack; 24 packs per box
MSRP: $3.50 per pack
Base Set: 72 cards
Chase Sets: Two 9-card chase sets
Inserts: Memorabilia and Sketch Cards and Autographs

This show on AMC, based on the long-running comics series written by Robert Kirkman, had quite the debut in October 2010. The show was hailed by comics and zombie lovers everywhere, but seemed to end a bit prematurely after just six season-one episodes. However, the fans spoke and AMC ordered a second season of 13 episodes.

This set highlights season 1 and contains the same number of base cards and cards per pack/packs per box as its other sets. This set differs from the other two CZE TV sets in that it will include sketch cards, as well. However, no details on who the artists will be have been released. Also, a list of autographers also are not known at this time, although I hope they are able to include autographed cards from the comics creators.

However, some of the materials to be used in the memorabilia cards have been identified, including this nice number:

copyright Cryptozoic Entertainment

Without a doubt, I will add this set to the collection.

The Big Bang Theory
Release Date: Fall 2011
Packs: 5 cards per pack; 24 packs per box
MSRP: $3.50 per pack
Inserts: Autographs and Memorabilia

This CBS sitcom, which recently was renewed for three more seasons, is one of my favorites. It's consistently funny and with the recent addition of two additional female characters to play off of main character Penny, the funny has been amped up.

This set will highlight scenes from the show, although the CZE website does not specify if it will be limited to season one or combination of any or all of the first four seasons. It sticks to the five-card-per-pack/24-packs-per-box pattern as the other sets and will include memorabilia and autograph cards. So far, four of the five main players (Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar) have provided autographs, which look like this:

copyright Cryptozoic Entertainment

I like the profile images and the use of the show's logo at the top; however, I don't think they are as visually striking as the autograph cards from The Vampire Diaries set. But with four of the five main characters in hand, I think this will be a must have set for many of the shows fans. What I really like about this license is the many possibilities for autographs, especially dual autos. How great would it be to have dual autos from each of the shows couples or what about a dual auto of Sheldon and Evil Wil Wheaton? But no matter what they do with this set or what they add to it, it will be one I definitely add to my collection.

CBLDF Liberty Trading Cards
Release Date: Summer 2011
Packs: 5 cards per pack; 24 packs per box
MSRP: $3.50 pack
Base set: 72 Cards
Chase Sets: Two 9-card chase sets
Inserts: Autographs and Sketch Cards

This is the set I'm looking forward to the most. According to the group's website, the CBLDF "is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education in furtherance of these goals."

With this set, CZE will highlight some of the historic legal battles involving comic books. But what makes this set so amazing is that everyone involved is donating its services/fees to the project. According to a press release from CZE, many creators have donated the rights to their characters so they can be used on the sketch cards, and many, many creators have signed on to autograph cards and provide sketches. Some of those creators include Geoff Johns, Neil Gaiman, Darwyn Cooke, Gail Simone, Mark Waid, Brian Azzarello, Paul Levitz, Denny O’Neil, Frank Quitely, Phil Hester and many more.

Here is an example of one of the sketch cards:

copyright Cryptozoic Entertainment

With the names involved, this set is a must have, but on May 26, 2011, via his twitter account, Neil Gaiman shared images of the cards he was working on. Not only did he state that he was signing 500 cards for the set, he also worked on these:

copyright Neil Gaiman

That in and of itself is worth buying at least one box of these cards.

But in the end, its the benefit for the CBLDF that is the best reason to buy them.