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Home Entertainment Books Reprints in Review: Garbage Pail Kids Wreak Havoc in New Collection of...

Reprints in Review: Garbage Pail Kids Wreak Havoc in New Collection of Classic Card Art


by Casey Burchby

One of the only fistfights I’ve ever been in was over Garbage Pail Kids – proof they were a dangerous influence, no? I was eight and a kid named Chad lived down the street. Chad was bad. His family was shady. Their house was overgrown; the lawn was a small parking lot. Chad was the kid I’d play with – maybe – if no one else was around. But Chad had had Garbage Pail Kids. So with some hesitation, I decided to do a little business with Chad. I had a card he was dying for. He promised me several cards in return for just that one. I jumped at the offer, which I knew was foolish. Little did I know Chad planned to welsh.

After using all of the diplomatic tools at my disposal, I brought out my eight-year-old guns and punched Chad in the neck. This caused a stir in the neighborhood for most of that afternoon, and gave unintended leverage to parents who wished to see Garbage Pail Kids burn in hell. My collection was decimated by the loss of Rappin’ Ron, and I was never the same.

But now everyone missing that one card can complete their collection (at least virtually) with a volume just out from Abrams. The book is a wonderfully designed tribute to these shit-disturbing cards in all their graphic, full-color glory.

Created by Art Spiegelman (who provides an introduction here) and sold by Topps, the cards built on the success of previous trading card series including Topps’ own Wacky Packages. The first run of GPK was entirely drawn by John Pound, whose original single-card design was executed (but never used) for Wacky Packages. (Wacky Packages trading cards satirized all manner of consumer products: Cheerios became Cheapios, Taster’s Choice became Taster’s Choke, etc.)

In his chatty introduction, Spiegelman also cites a briefly popular (but now largely forgotten) Topps series from the 1960s as an inspiration for GPK: Ugly Stickers, which were simply images of abstract, crazy-looking creatures with names like Jeff and Melvin. Yet they were drawn by comics legends Will Elder and Basil Wolverton; and that series was followed by the similar Slob Stickers by Jack Davis.

Spiegelman’s short four-page intro does possibly more to put these faddish cards in their proper creative context than anyone has ever attempted before. He provides a very welcome bit of history and reminiscence. The remainder of the book’s 224 pages consists of exquisite reproductions of each and every card in the first five series (1985-1986), plus a short afterword by artist John Pound.

Credit for the wonderful book design goes to Neil Egan. Although the size is larger, the book’s proportions mimic those of a card package. Continuing with this theme is the dustjacket, which feels like that waxy, thin paper used with trading cards. The boards feature an image of a single stick of too-hard gum on the front; the stick is shown shattered on the back. On the inside of the back cover is a small package of actual cards wrapped in clear cellophane.

Abrams has done a lovely job here, memorializing a brief but cherished piece of mid-1980s pop culture – despite the fact that it dredges up my own violent past.

  1. I don’t think you are supposed to say “welsh” anymore. It is an expression that has been binned along with “Indian Giver”.

    (I blame your Garbage Pail Kid upbringing.)

    The book sounds cool, though. Glad to know about it.

  2. Ugly Stickers were painted by Wally Wood and Basil Wolverton. Will Elder and Harvey Kurtzman did a GPK parody on the back cover of MAD then called “Garbage Pail Adults”.
    Will Elder, however, was a great influence on Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids however. He’s the guy who virtually invented this kind of stuff!
    Wacky Packages were revived briefly in the ’80s. Then again they were revived in the early 2,000s. They are still coming out to this day, as are GPKs, and John Pound’s work can be found in the current incarnation of both series.

  3. I should look for those GPK cards I have somewhere signed by Spiegelman way back at one of the late ’80s Comic-Con— back when he looked like Paul Simon to me (short, white shirt + black vest), and everyone else was talking to him about this ‘Mouse’ book he was doing…

  4. It was a mistake to omit mention of Jay Lynch from my review. As his comment above attests, Mr. Lynch has all the history on these cards because he was a key contributor to GPKs, Wacky Packages, and others — to say nothing of his work at Mad and his own comics. I hope he will forgive the unintentional oversight.

  5. Casey,
    That’s cool. No big deal. Over the years, dozens of artists and gag writers have toiled over the GPK stuff. Hopefully science will discover some new bodily fluids. I’m kind of burned out on snot and barf gags, to tell you the truth.

  6. Coming in October!


    Mars Attacks

    Authors: By The Topps Company, introduction by Len Brown, afterword by Zina Saunders
    Imprint: Abrams ComicArts
    ISBN: 1-4197-0409-5
    EAN: 9781419704093
    Availability: Prepublication
    Publishing Date: 10/1/2012
    Trim Size: 5 1/2 x 7 1/8
    Page Count: 224
    Cover: Hardcover with jacket
    Illustrations: 200 color and black-and-white illustrations


    IDW will also be launching a serial comic, with 55 variant covers of #1. Yup! Each cover will reproduce the original card, front and back, on the cover!

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