My Interview With Mars Attacks Heritage Sketch Artist Sam Gambino

A few weeks ago I pulled this 1-of-1 sketch card from my box of Mars Attacks Heritage.  It was drawn by artist Sam Gambino and I recently got the chance to ask Mr. Gambino a few questions about his experience working on the Mars Attacks Heritage set and his thoughts on the original Mars Attacks card series.     

Q: Were you familiar with the original Mars Attacks series from 1962 before working on this project?  If so, what was experience with Mars Attacks?

A: Yes, I was familiar with them.  I do not own the full set, but I've always been a fan of the space age genre in all of it's forms - movies, comics and novels to name a few.  I've done quite a few paintings which I painted in the style of the old space age novels, movie posters and ads of the 1950's.  Where movies are concerned, I like the campiest ones the most.  I'm mostly interested in the genre as it was depicted in the 1950's and early 1960's, with the Mars Attacks series falling neatly within that time period.

Q: A lot of people first became familiar with the Mars Attacks story line through Tim Burton's film back in 1996. Are you a fan of that movie?

A: I have not seen the movie in it's entirety, although I am familiar with it.  I guess I'm more of an "old dog," being more drawn to the earlier depictions. 
Q: Along that line, the Tim Burton story line is a little different from the card series.  As I've looked at the sketch cards through eBay I haven't seen too many that use his mythology of the story.  Was that ever communicated to only use the original series as an inspiration?

A: Yes, I was directed to use the original 1962 series as inspiration, and it had to be in the spirit of the original artwork.  I do not recall the Tim Burton movie being mentioned. 

Q: How were you approached for the project?  Did Topps approach you or was there some sort of "call for artists?"

A: I had just finished some Wacky Package artwork for the upcoming series, and I was invited to contribute to the Mars Attacks series after that.

Q:  How many cards did Topps commission you to do?  On average how long did you take for each sketch card?  
I'm not supposed to tell the exact figure, but my total included 7 cards which Topps allowed me to keep for myself after the series was released to the public.  The time involved for each card varied depending on the detail and whether I did color or not.  The ink and color cards took a bit longer than the pencilled ones.  I would pencil out a few of them, then go back and ink them.   When that was done, I'd add the ink wash to them as a group and lastly, color them if I was doing them in color.  The cards were generally done in groups and in those increments.

Q:  Would you consider buying back any of your Mars Attacks cards that are floating around eBay?

A: Well, yes, there are a few that I'd like!  Again though, Topps allowed me to specify which 7 I'd like to be returned to me after the series was released.  I  let each of my two children pick out their favorite one, and I chose the remaining 5.

Q: Was there any sort of editorial control from Topps?  As in "Please focus on the Martians" or "focus on the battles?"  Or was there any guidelines for color versus black and white sketch cards?  

A:  The directions said that the depictions should not be more violent than the originals.  As for color or black and white, I was not directed to do any set number of color versus black and white for this series.  I personally love the look of inked artwork with a gray wash.  However, I feel that color cards may be more desirable to collectors, so I did quite a few color cards too.

Q: You mentioned that you were doing some Wacky Packages sketch cards soon.  Can you give us a preview or a hint of what to expect from those?

A: Since I have such great memories of collecting them as a kid in the early 70's, I based a good percentage of mine on those early designs.  However, since there are numerous killer cards from recent years as well, I drew a good amount of cards based on the recent series.  The whole Wacky Package concept from its inception to the present can do no wrong in my opinion!

Thanks again Sam!  You can find more Mars Attacks Heritage sketch cards drawn by Sam here.


Jeremy said…
Nice interview. I like the Mars Attacks cards I've seen so far. I might have to pick up a pack or two.