I’ve been running Branded in the 80s for a long time, longer than I ever thought I would to be perfectly honest, and in that time the site has pulled me in a number of directions while coming up with content. On the one hand, there’s a strong urge to document all kinds of 80s era ephemera so that the site can act as a sort of digital museum of the era populated with all of the things that kids would have loved. That’s why I spent so much time procuring and scanning vintage stickers, magazines, and advertisements. But one of the reasons, one of the main reasons, why I started this site was to try and start conversations about the 80s and nostalgia. That’s why I initially chose a podcasting format, and then over the years why I tried to seek out topics that weren’t being overly discussed and wrote about them in the hopes of starting a dialogue. In recent years, I’ve also been very into the idea of filling in some gaps when it comes to the pop culture of the decade that I love so much. This is a more creative exercise where I attempt to bring life to ideas that should have existed back in the day, but for whatever reason were never realized. This had led me to envisioning stuff like book covers for novelizations and magazines that never were, but by far my favorite variation on this theme is in creating digital trading card sets for movies and TV shows that never had them (but probably should have.)

These trading card sets have really pushed me to up my game when it comes to digital photo manipulation and graphic design (work that I do on a small scale for a side hustle.) I’m hardly at a professional level, no where near where I’d like to be, but with each set I learn something new about the tools I use and the it allows me to really dig into the inspiration of what actually came out in the 80s. This is also a way for me to continue to pay homage to one of the websites that was a huge inspiration on me when I started Branded, a site that sadly no longer exists, Bubblegum Fink. The creator of that site made a series of digital trading cards for flicks that never had them back in the early 2000’s (films like Friday the 13th, a Clockwork Orange, and Dawn of the Dead), and it was something I wanted to do for years before finally attempting it back in 2014 when I made my first set, the digital Monster Squad cards. Since then I’ve created sets for a handful of properties including Adventures in Babysitting, Robo Force, Jem, the Lost Boys, Rad, Young Guns & Young Guns II (with my bud Paxton Holley.) I haven’t created a set in a few years so I decided to jump back into the creative saddle this past weekend and started working on a set for one of the truly deserving films that was sorely lacking in any sort of merchandising back in the early 80s.

So without further to do, lets take a look at what I think a set of Karate Kid trading cards might have looked like…

Typically when I start working on a set of these digital trading cards, I usually start by designing a template for the actual card. With this set though, I started from the other end and worked on the wax wrappers first. If I were really nit-picky, I’d probably be angry with myself for picking base wrapper images from two separate eras of Topps cards. Though I played with them enough so that the overall design matches, one obviously is from an earlier era with the advertisement on the side, while the other is a more modern wrapper. Does anyone care? Probably not.

As for the cards themselves, I had a lot of fun with this set. Taking a cue from the original one-sheet poster, I decided to go with an orange, blue and yellow color scheme. I cribbed some of the layout from the old Fleer Magnum PI cards, but created my own new corner logo. Even though there were never any official Karate Kid cards, there have been a few fan sets made over the years and I really wanted to differentiate mine. The fan sets tend to go with a more sports-themed card design, so I really wanted these to look more authentically non-sport.

I also really wanted to flesh this set out with enough cards to touch on characters and imagery that is very important to the film, but I have yet see pop up in other fan sets. That’s why I really wanted to include cards for Freddy Fernandez, Daniel’s mom, and cards featuring the director (John Avildsen) and writer (Robert Mark Kamen).

I also did my best to research all sorts of trivia to include on the cards, from insights included on DVD commentary, IMDB trivia, interviews with the actors, and bits and pieces taken from the old souvenir magazine that was released in tandem with the second film back in 1986.

I was also really excited about making cards for all of the main and featured Cobra Kai, pretty much all of the characters that got a chance to fight or specifically fight Daniel in the tournament. There is one character I neglected to include. For lack of a better name, let’s call him the “Husky” Cobra Kai. He fought Darryl Vidal in the tournament and was kicked in the stomach. I’m kind of semi-obsessed with that character, but I can not for the life of me pin down that character’s name, or identify the actor. He’s not listed in the credits of the film and his character isn’t described in either the novelization or the script for the film. He’s also a hard one to get a decent screen shot of; he always turns out blurry as if I’m not supposed to get a clear look at him.

If I had more free time, I probably would have tried to make a complete set of cards for this movie, something more in the range of 90 or 100 cards. But as it stands, this set took three weeks to design and execute, so maybe another time.

All in all I did my best to cover all of the characters, and a bunch of the highlights of the film but I know there is plenty of material to create a second set. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s not a bad idea. There were two sets for the First Batman movie after all, so there is some precedent for that. And then I could do 2 more wrappers!

Hopefully you guys dig these and maybe you even learned a thing or two from the card backs. Thinking of card sets that were never made, is there a film or television show you think really deserves the These Should Exist treatment? Drop me some suggestions in the comments, hit me up on Twitter or shoot me an e-mail!