Good morning everyone, and welcome back to this monthly Masterpiece Theater feature covering the 2022 Unbound, only on Hipsters of the Coast!

For those just joining, this is once again an Upper-Deck ePack exclusive, illustrated entirely by French artist and illustrator Fred Roy and his studio assistant Ian. They’ve been working traditionally in oils in the comic industry for nearly a decade, and you can find their sketch cards in various Upper Deck sets as far back as 2017, After the smash success of the initial Unbound, they’ve reprised their role in trading cards with that unmistakable hyper-realistic style for this new 2022 dated set.

As a reminder, Unbound 2022 is a bit different than its predecessor in both blueprint and breadth. The time is the same: at 9am PST every week on Upper Deck’s ePack trading platform the cards are released, but this time it’s 1999 packs. Collectors may purchase a maximum of two packs per transaction, and could open any of the following: A Base Card, numbered to 999, a Canvas Parallel numbers to 299, an unnumbered Rainbow Foil (estimated at approximately 646 each week), a Gold Autograph Parallel hand signed by fred.ian and numbered to only 50, one of four different 1/1 CMYK printing plates, or a 1/1 hand drawn sketch card, often corresponding to that week’s character!

Complete sets of each parallel can be redeemed each quarter for Quarterly Achievement Cards, and then those four Quarterly Achievements within a parallel series can be redeemed at the end of the year for even more scarce and exclusive cards.

As we’re now monthly we’ve got four artworks and a bevy of sketch cards this time, all to go with the new Ask fred.ian artist interview question! This is Weeks 21-24 of 2022 Unbound, and cards #73-76.

Unbound Year 2: Cards #73-76, Weekly Sketch Cards, and APs

Ghost Spider by fred.ian, oils on paper, 29.7cm x 40cm (11.7” x 15.7”)

#73 Ghost-Spider

Ghost Spider by fred.ian, oils on paper, 29.7cm x 40cm (11.7” x 15.7”)

This was the week that changed it all, just like Spider-Man did last year. Previously cards were announced midday Saturday, ahead of the Monday release. But come 9am PST, the demand was so overwhelming the site not only crashed, but went all the way down. This was the point where ePack had to cease attempting to sell the cards, remove them from achievement necessity, and offer them later on in the week. It’s no wonder- Ghost Spider is one of Marvel’s most popular characters, and this is the first original artwork of her sans mask in the 2020 Marvel Anime set. This will be one of the piece’s the set is remembered by, and one of the artist’s strongest works yet.

Minotaur by fred.ian, oils on paper, 29.7cm x 40cm (11.7” x 15.7”)

#74 Minotaur

Another figure steeped in mythology, the Minotaur in the Marvel universe has many iterations and backstories. Aligned with the Thor storyline, and seeming to follow suit with other surprise appearances by Ares and the like, the three-toed beast comes crashing through the card frame and ready for a fight. Half man and half bull, the artist’s have captured the realism of the human figure with the magic of the myth which surrounds it. 

Heimdall by fred.ian, oils on paper, 29.7cm x 40cm (11.7” x 15.7”)

#75 Doctor Octopus

Everyone’s favorite bowl-cut, multi-armed bad guy joins the roster this year. Doctor Octopus is shown as wild and unhinged as we’d expect him to be. The artist’s noted on Facebook how this was Ian’s favorite villain from way back, and as such, they’ve reprised his classic green and yellow suit and even mirrored it into the background. This one is classic as the day is long, and is going to look particularly awesome in Rainbow Foil.

Morbius by fred.ian, oils on paper, 29.7cm x 40cm (11.7” x 15.7”)

#76 Morbius

It took 76 weeks until we got a duplicate character, as Morbius also appeared in the inaugural run at Week 37. It seems the Living Vampire has come back from the dead for another go for this year. This composition is a bit simpler, featuring the character without any architecture, but rather an absolutely divine blood red background. I’m not sure why Upper Deck wanted Morbius again, but our guys sure know how to paint him.

Weekly Sketch Cards Inserts

The Unbound of last year required 52 weeks of perseverance and collecting autographed parallels to land a fred.ian sketch, but this year a single (usually) sketch card is released at random amongst the 1999 packs each week. They are showcased each Monday morning with the Base Card for that week.. Here are the four most recent sketch cards for these Weeks 21-24

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The Ghost Spider is one of the coveted large format sketches, measuring 5” x 7” and coming with a full and complete background design. I can’t help but think the lottery for this phenomenal piece helped fuel the site meltdown on that Monday. It was a rare opportunity to acquire a fred.ian sketch at that size and of tippiest top quality; something we may only see once or twice again.

Artist Proofs

As a part of their contract, Fred and Ian receive a number of Artist Proofs, blank sketch cards that can be illustrated with whatever characters they choose. They’re offered exclusively through the artists’ agent, Kirby’s Comic Art, and the artists don’t take commissions; they paint whoever they choose. You can see the six from this year’s collection below, and stylistically they follow the new aesthetic of big color and blank background as seen in the weekly releases. I was fortunate enough to have one find its way to my own collection.

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Ask Fred

As I mentioned in my first article, each piece covering this set will have an interview question for Fred and Ian, and we’ll keep with our sketch card subtheme for this query. Today I asked them:

“What influenced your design decisions this year to use largely white backgrounds for your sketch cards? Was there anything else you did differently, knowing you had even more sketches to create for this release?”

It’s really all about time.

Before Marvel Unbound, we took 3 to 4 weeks to do a piece. Short deadlines meant that 5-8 paintings had to be done in a month; it was all work, no more weekends, no more vacations, no more days off the whole time it lasted. Only work.

When we were asked to do 60 sketch cards, we got straight to the point. The character, nothing but the character. And then, without comparing what is incomparable of course, we really liked Simone Bianchi’s sketch cards for Marvel Masterpieces or for other sets. They are superb without decorations, as they are. So we made that choice, and it is a choice that we have kept for our APs.

Wrapping Up

This past month saw a change in the dynamic of the set with Ghost Spider causing chaos, and even with some less collected characters, packs never last more than a few minutes when offered every Monday. My set is still complete, 100% across the Base, Rainbow Foil, and Canvas versions, and hopefully I can hold on through the end; they’re going to look very cool with each version three across in my binder.

Looking ahead, there will be some “double-up” Unbound articles featuring eight works (like I did initially) in order to make space for some new Upper Deck releases. Fleer Ultra Avengers should be arriving on ePack any time now, and I’d be remiss if I skipped a complete original artwork base set such as that. Stay tuned here to Masterpiece Theater for all your Marvel Trading Card art news, and as always, thanks for reading. 

Donny Caltrider (he/him) is a Senior Writer at Hipsters of Coast writing about all things related to the art of Magic: The Gathering and the larger imaginative realism genre. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. When he’s not writing for Hipsters or working with artists, you can find him traveling with his wife, petting his two cats, and watching the Baltimore Orioles.

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