For this week’s Thursday Throwback, we’re going baseball cards.
Well, baseball cards if they were designed by some really, really demented people. And thank God, because as child of the 80′s, I reflect fondly on the emergence of Garbage Pail Kids. For those of you who don’t know, Garbage Pail Kids were the brainchild of Topps, Inc. and future Pulitzer Prize winner Art Spiegelman. I’m not being cute. He won the Pulitzer for his holocaust comic Maus, but let’s get pack to the Garbage Pail Kids. First released in 1985, they riffed off of the look of the super popular Cabbage Patch kids, which took the country by storm in 1984.
For 25 cents, you got a pack of six GPK cards with a stick of bubblegum that would break your teeth if you attempted to chew it. Each card would showcase a new Kid, with images like children unzipping their skin (Unzipped Zac) to babies with mouths so rotten they killed all life around them (Foul Phil). Elementary school playgrounds were rife with kids exchanging cards featuring these monsters.
What’s great about the Garbage Pail Kids how nervous they made parents. Protests sprung up all over the country, and schools banned the cards from entering their sacred halls. Steroid-using baseball players? Those cards were fine. Satirical take on modern commercialism? Keep it out. But there was no stopping the GPK train once it left the station.
By 1987, other mediums were being discussed. A Garbage Pail Kids movie was released to critical and commercial failure, which was a shame. Not because the movie was particularly good, it wasn’t. But its audacity is what made it such a treat. Essentially, it encouraged slave labor and taught the lesson that as long as you’re super shallow you should get everything you want in life. We can debate the social legacy of the 1980′s, but I kinda feel that Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie summed it up nicely.
Here’s the trailer. You’re welcome.
There was also a cartoon series that was supposed to debut on CBS’ Morning Line-Up before the parents groups killed that idea too. The completed episodes were finally released on DVD two years ago and, in hindsight, maybe the parents groups did us a solid on that one.
By 1988, the popularity of the cards was bottoming out and they would only last a few years more before being canceled. They’ve recently been reactivated in a line known as Garbage Pail Kids: The New Series (TNS). Topps has also announced a “legacy series” that will feature the Who’s Who of the original GPK line-up.
Regardless, Garbage Pail Kids were a unique experiment and a great addition to geek lore.