(All images copyright 2012 The Topps Company, Inc., used by permission.) My kids and I have become deeply engrossed with the book Garbage Pail Kids, a fond look at the Topps bubblegum trading cards that were art directed by Art Spiegelman 25 years ago. This book, published by Abrams ComicArts, has all 206 images from the Garbage Pail Kids stickers produced in 1985 and 1986.
Below, a gallery of some of our favorites along with an excerpt of the great artist John Pound's essay about the creation of the cards. Incredibly, he painted one per day!
Popping Out Garbage Pail Kids, by John Pound
The early 1980s saw punk rock, personal computers, Rubik’s Cubes, Star Wars sequels, video games, Reaganomics, and AIDS.
In California I was painting lurid underground comix covers, heavy metal–style art prints, and fantasy book covers. Meanwhile, in New York, while creating comix, Art Spiegelman was also art directing Topps Wacky Packages stickers, which parodied products sold in stores. In 1984, Art called and asked if I could paint a few Wacky Packages. I loved humor art, so it sounded great. I did nine paintings from their gag roughs.
One idea, sketched by Mark Newgarden, was “Garbage Pail Kids,” a parody of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. But that image was never printed when Topps decided to do a whole series of Garbage Pail Kids stickers. They asked several artists to each draw some idea sketches plus a color rough to show how the cards might look. I got carried away, doing about fifty pages of loose sketches, with lists of ideas and names. I planned to redraw the six best ideas to look more professional, and send those in. But my wife, Karen, said, “Don’t redraw. Send them everything. They already know you can paint.” Wise words. Topps liked the ideas and sketches I sent in, and the color example, so they asked me to paint forty-four stickers for Garbage Pail Kids (only forty-one were used). Art said having all the paintings done by one artist would give the set unity.
The deadline was two months away. That meant doing one painting a day. For covers or art prints, one painting took two to five weeks, but there was no time for perfectionism. I had to get organized. I broke each painting into little one-hour tasks: sketch rough layout; trace tight pencil; send copies to Topps for approval or revisions; color rough; paint flesh and hair; paint clothes; paint props; and airbrush the background.
Art assigned me ideas to paint from the ones I’d sent in, and from others that artists like Mark Newgarden had developed.
Using shock tactics for maximum impact, GPKs (as they came to be known) would be gross, mean, snotty, rude, and rebellious. But since I had to look at these violent, miserable, and disgusting kids all day while painting them, I selfishly wanted them to also feel good to look at—to be cute and lovable while spewing mayhem, disasters, and wild, crazy nonsense like they’re proud to be weird!
Overall, making Garbage Pail Kids was a dream job. I’m deeply grateful to have worked with a team of many talented creators, sharing crazy fun with the world.
JOHN POUND has painted art prints, book covers, comics covers, and hundreds of Garbage Pail Kids stickers. He also writes code that draws instant random art books.
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