X-Fan alerted us that they've posted a new interview with Matt Saunders from Topps about the upcoming X2 movie card set. The interview includes lots of preview images, so be sure to check it out at the link above!
This April, The Topps Company are set to unveil their trading card set companion to 20th Century Fox's mutant movie sequel, X-Men 2 (see 'TOPPS ANNOUNCE X2 MOVIE CARDS'). The set is scheduled to come in two flavors - Hobby boxes via Diamond Comic Distributors, and Retail boxes via mass-market chain stores such as Toys R Us and Wal-Mart.

X-Fan recently caught up with Topps' Entertainment Cards Editor Matthew Saunders to find out more about the release.

X-FAN: First of all, Matt, can you tell us what the set consists of?

SAUNDERS: The set is 72 cards. The breakdown is 15 Character Cards, 51 Storyline Cards, 5 Behind-the-Scenes Cards and 1 Checklist Card.

X-FAN: What are the differences between the Hobby and Retail versions?

SAUNDERS: There are only two differences between the Hobby and Retail boxes. Hobby boxes have 36 packs per box, Retail have 24. Those are the configurations that each distribution channel prefers.

The other difference is in the inserts. The Retail boxes will have Prismatic Foil (10 in all) and Clear Cards (5 in all) featuring the main characters. The Hobby boxes will have Authentic Autographs and Movie Memorabilia (3 in all). Regarding the Autographs, we have commitments from 10 signers - Bryan Singer (Director), James Marsden (Cyclops), Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler), Bruce Davison (Senator Kelly), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), Aaron Stanford (Pyro), Michael Reid Mackay (Jason/"143"), Daniel Cudmore (Colossus), Katie Stuart (Shadowcat), and Kea Wong (Jubilee). The Memorabilia cards will feature pieces of the pants worn by Storm and Lady Deathstrike's, as well as Wolverine's Leather Jacket.

X-FAN: How does this set compare/differ from its predecessor from the original X-Men film?

SAUNDERS: As I didn't work on the previous set, I can't speak to the experience of working on the two sets comparatively. But superficially, we've created all-new designs for the set, incorporating new design material and elements provided in the X-Men 2 movie style guide. I, and others working on the set, have worked closely with Marvel and Fox, as well as Executive Producer Tom DeSanto, to ensure the set is as accurate (meaning as close to the final film edit as our advance deadlines will allow) and exciting as possible.

Personally, I'm very pleased with the way the set's turned out, especially the designs. In particular, the storyline backs - which I'm not able to show you now because the text reveals details about the story - have 3 variations that are really cool. There are Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler headshots, each with different color highlights, that rotate through the set 1-2-3, 1-2-3, etc. The promo backs give you a bit of a preview, with a different Wolverine headshot, of what the storyline backs will look like. But overall it's a great looking set and will be a nice complement to the film for collectors and fans alike.

X-FAN: What was the procedure to determine what images to use to tell the story of the movie like?

SAUNDERS: The bulk of the set is obviously the storyline cards. What we include is largely determined by what is available from Fox and Marvel. As with any card set, there are certain scenes and effects that have a moritorium on them. At the end of the day, the movie's the thing, and Bryan Singer has certain surprises he wants to save for the movie itself. That said, we've been given access to a lot of great material and that's what we use to compose the set. Our photo editor Gary Gerani then reviews the images and makes selections, taking into account both the flow of the story and which shots are the most exciting to show.

We also like to include a few behind-the-scenes cards in the set as well. As with DVDs, it's always fun to see some of the behind-the-scenes magic and candid moments, so we provide a little taste of that here.

X-FAN: What of the aforementioned Character Cards?

SAUNDERS: As a big X-Men fan myself, I can easily say that the X-Men universe has one of the best casts of characters around. It's exciting to see even a small handful of them up on the big screen. So, given that the characters are one of the highlights, it's a no-brainer to do a subset of character cards. It allows us to update the returning characters' status in the movie and introduce the new characters. And, as you know, there are differences between the movie and comic book versions, so this is one spot where some of those changes can be hightlighted or alluded to. A good example of that this time around would be both Lady Deathstrike and Stryker.

As a side note, and before I forget, a special shout-out to Tom DeSanto for providing us with a shot of Colossus transformed into his metal form! It's a fantastic image that'll be on the front of his character card and I can honestly tell you, it looks amazing. With apologies to Superman, you'll believe a man can, er... change to metal!

X-FAN: I assume you've either read the script or seen a cut of the film? At the very least seen enough images to have a somewhat good overall idea of the sequel. So, what do you think it's like and how does it compare to the original?

SAUNDERS: I haven't seen a cut of the movie, only the same trailers as everyone else. But I have read the script and worked with a lot of the imagery. Based on all of that, the movie is going to rock! It's a strong story, with character moments for everyone, plenty of action and mutant special effects, and a further development of the themes introduced in the first movie. I'm a big fan of the first film, but it suffered a bit in having to introduce general audiences to the X-Men universe. As such, it was a little more expository - this is who the X-Men are, this is what a mutant is, here's why they're fighting Magneto, this is why humans fear them, etc. - and it became a bit stilted by that necessity. Still a fine movie, but hamstrung nonetheless.

Now that that's out of the way, X2 really cuts loose, telling a much more fully developed and realized story. There's more development of the returning characters and we get new characters Nightcrawler and Lady Deathstrike. How cool is that!?! Plus those little extra moments, like Colossus transforming, really round out the film for the hardcore fans. In terms of the story, it expands on the Xavier/Magneto dichotomy by adding the third part of the mutant issue triangle in the form of Stryker: humanity, or at least that part of humanity that is afraid of mutants in the spirit of the best Chris Claremont stories. And "Xavier's achilles heel" that Patrick Stewart has alluded to in several recent interviews? All I can say is it's a great twist on a long-time X-concept. If I say any more, I'll get tossed in a cage with a P.O.ed Wolv
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