1965 saw the release of Ugly Stickers. A series of grotesque creature creations from Topps, illustrated by the great American Artists Basil Wolverton, Wally Wood and Norman Saunders. Each popular for their work in venues such as Mad Magazine, Marvel Comics, Pulp Paperbacks and the Mars Attacks! series of trading cards. Later came Slob Stickers by Jack Davis and another Saunders creation, Nutty Initials, a series that allowed collectors to spell their names using odd-ball characters bent into letterforms.
Art Spiegelman credits all of the above as inspiration when, in 1985 he was part of the creative team behind the development of a new range of stickers titled the Garbage Pail Kids. A mischievous parody on the popular and sickly sweet Cabbage Patch Kids range of toys, mixing an underground comic-book aesthetic with dark satire and gross-out humor. What emerged was a pop-culture phenomenon that dominated the typical 1980’s school playground, with adolescent economies thriving on a currency of bogie, fart, zit and puke gags. To well-meaning parents these cards appeared illogical and shocking and school Headmasters across the land hated them, claiming them to be so much of a distraction in class they should be banned! A sure sign of their street cred if ever there was one.
A movie followed (and probably best forgotten, seriously, don’t bother, it’s terrible) and an animated TV series cashed-in on its success. But the most enduring aspect of this series will always be the artwork by illustrators Art Spiegelman, Mark Newgarden, John Pound, Tom Bunk and Jay Lynch, along with the hilarious wordplay employed in creating the character names. So it was via my inner teenager that I sniggered my way through the new Garbage Pail Kids book from Abram Comic Arts. A superb and long-awaited compilation of the complete cards from Series 1 to 5 with text from Spielgelman and Pound. Each card is brilliantly reproduced from transparencies of the original artwork with the characters ‘a’ name taking prominence with the ‘b’ name shown underneath. To further explain; each card was released in two versions, ‘a’ and ‘b’ each with a different character name. Occasionally a third card shared one of the letters as seen in the Holly Wood picture below.
There are welcome details throughout such as the waxy book jacket, made from a similar paper as the original wrappers and end papers that show some of the joke awards, permits and licenses from the back of the cards. Each series is introduced with a shot of its relevant wrapper and at the very back you’ll find the ‘lost’ stickers. Possibly the biggest draw for die-hard collectors, these are a set of 4 previously unreleased and limited edition bonus stickers.
I was admittedly left wanting to see some more development drawings and sketches as there’s surely plenty available given the 206 cards in the book, but maybe this can come in a later deluxe edition? Here’s hoping. As it stands, this is an absolute must, delivering on the promise to fans and collectors and serves as the perfect introduction to these purveyors of the best possible kind of bad taste.
Garbage Pail Kids – Collected Series 1 – 5 (1985 – 1986)
Abrams Comic Arts
Hardback 224 pages
18.8 x 14.7 x 2 cm
The Topps Company, Inc., founded in 1938, is the preeminent creator and brand marketer of sports cards, entertainment products and distinctive confectionery. Art Spiegelman is an American comics writer, artist and editor best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel memoir, Maus.