Garbage, Gum & Lawsuits:
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About
the GARBAGE PAIL KIDS, But Were Afraid to Ask.
A Conversation with GARBAGE PAIL KIDS Creator Mark Newgarden.
By Monte Beauchamp
BLAB Magazine #4
I believe it was Carl Sandburg who mused
rhetorically, "Why oh why did the children put beans in their ears, when
the one thing we told them not to do was put beans in their ears?"
Anyway - while you ponder that major profundity, allow us to explain that the indepth interview you're about to savor is definitely not about beans. Instead, it examines that eternal joy all children experience when they do something (hell, anything) that bothers adults very much. C'mon... weren't you always secretly in love with grotesque gags like plastic up-chuck and rubber boogers?
Don't be afraid to 'fess up! There's something magic about sickeningly sophomoric vulgar humor, and when it manages to offend everyone from Ann Landers to the Archdiocese, it begins to approach majesty! Add the ability to blend the cheapest kind of Johnson Smith "Liar's License" novelty with Kurtzmaniac humor of a surprisingly high caliber and what you've got is some top-flight frosting on a very special cheesecake.
Of course, what we're referring
to are Garbage Pail Kids
stickers from the Topps Chewing Gum Co. -one of the hottest preteen fads of
this, or any decade. And the interview with Garbage
Pail Kids creator Mark Newgarden
that follows is the brand of eclectic irrelevancy you'll only find in the warped
(but acid-free) pages of Blab!.
Read on and discover how Topps and Newgarden are revitalizing the satire market just in time for another baby boom.
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How Did the concept to do
a gum card series based on such perverse characters as the Garbage Pail Kids
Basically it evolved out of a revival of a series of gum card stickers called Wacky Packages. The original series was conceived by Art Spiegelman in the late Sixties, and I collected them as a kid. They were Mad-style parodies of almost every consumer product imaginable, from food to floorwax, and had a long run for a Topps novelty - deep in the Seventies. Then, in 1984, Topps decided it was time to try them out again, and I wound up doing most of the gags. One of these concepts was a parody of the super-hot Cabbage Patch Kids dolls called Garbage Pail Kids. So that was the seminal idea for the whole thing. However, that particular entry never made it into the upcoming 1985 Wacky Packs series. At a meeting which I wasn't present at, the idea to parody the Cabbage Patch Kids was under consideration and this Garbage Pail Kid painting that had been done for Wacky Packs was brought up. And it was decided to spin it off into a full-blown parody series of its own. So that's how the whole mess got started.
So you were involved in the creation of the Garbage Pail Kids right from the start?
Yeah. The actual term, the Garbage Pail Kids was mine, and the first prototype, which was this Wacky Packs sticker, was also mine.
Final Artwork by John Pound
Did you have any idea that
the first set would be such a success with the kids, yet at the same time outrage
a lot of parents?
I guess I thought it should be somewhat successful, because there hadn't been anything quite like it in kid culture in a long time. It was something that I would have loved when I was a kid.
As for outraging parents, it didn't specifically occur to me at the time; in retrospect it seems like an integral part of the concept. I remember thinking that when some of the finished art started coming in that it was really nice and that it might get a glance of recognition beyond that of your typical kid purchaser, but I didn't feel there was very much in that first series that would truly outrage anybody.
I really enjoyed working on the first series... it was something new and by far the most creative project that I had worked on for Topps up to that time. As I recall, I was the only one at Topps who was at all enthusiastic about the project. Nobody else involved seemed to be too enthusiastic about the series at this point; it was just something we were mandated to do.
Wasn't the series, commercially, sort of a dud to begin with?
Well, from what I was told, early testing of the series wasn't very successful. Topps had tested it in a few markets and it didn't do well except for one test market, which I believe was somewhere in Pennsylvania, where it did very, very well, and it gave Topps the idea that the series just might have potential. Then, amongst the kids, the word started getting out about the series. The whole gum card phenomenon is almost an underground type of thing. It's something a kid can buy with his own money, a real personal kind of purchase that doesn't involve the kid's parents' or teacher's approval. It's something that is strictly on the kid's own level. And that's how it started to build momentum: kids found the product, got a kick out of it, told their friends about it and started to collect the things.
But the Garbage Pail Kids became much more than just another gum card series, they became a fad. What was it that caused the series to really catch on?
I think it was all the negative publicity that really got the ball rolling. Bob Greene, a very widely syndicated newspaper columnist, wrote a really scathing piece about how harmful and awful these bubble gum stickers were, which in turn started a whole barrage of similar articles. It made the wire services, magazines and TV news fillers, and when parents started telling their kids "I forbid you to have these awful, destructive things," teh more popular the series became.
The series really outraged grade school teachers. What was thir main complaint?
That the kids brought their stacks of cards into the classroom. Of course, Garbage Pail Kids are a functional utilitarian product, not merely a passive entertainment. Each card carries an offensive name as well as a disgusting image. Subsequently, for instance, I guess a lot of 10-year-old Kellys of America wound up with a Smelly Kelly Garbage Pail Kid sticker on their desk, chair, or head. Also, the backs of the cards featured licenses and awards designed for the user to taunt his selected victim with. Topps has been producing similar cards for years.
Another complaint was that the kids would bring them to school and trade them during class.
Did any of the TV evangelists protest the series?
Probably all of them did. I know the series made the front cover of Falwell's magazine at one point, which was one of the proudest moments of my life. [Laughter.]
Did Topps receive any hate mail concerning the series? Any bomb threats, stuff like that?
Unfortunately it's one of the company's policies not to let anyone in the creative department see much of the mail, but I know that we were getting tons of hate mail, and what I saw was really sick, vicious stuff. I remember a top executive telling us that the first letter he opened one morning accused him of being the devil!
Who's the artist that paints the fronts of the cards?
That's John Pound, who did all of the fronts for the first two series on his own. With the third series we brought in Tom Bunk, who has become just as important a contributor.
How'd you come to select Pound as the main artist for the series?
Well, Pound had worked on that Wacky Packs series that the concept for the first Garbage Pail Kid card had originated from. Plus he had done some nice work for various underground comix and paperback covers. He's a good cartoonist who can paint real well, and that's what was needed for the series. Before we had any idea where we actually wanted to go with the series, we assigned the concept out loosely to a few artists and told them to let their imaginations run wild. And of the three artists we tried out, Pound scored the real bullseye.
Who were the other two artists that you auditioned for the series?
One was Robert Grossman, the famous airbrush illustrator who's been around since the Sixties and has done everything in the way of illustration. Grossman had done some Wacky Packs for us earlier, primarily because his own kids were really into them. The other artist that was tried out was Howard Cruse, and his submissions were like these twisted doll creatures and weren't at all what we had in mind.
Since Pound was kept busy doing the fronts for the first two series, who did you get to draw the backs?
The backs of the first two series were drawn by Tom Bunk, who, as I mentioned earlier, started helping out doing the fronts beginning with the third series.
Why isn't the artwork signed by the artist?
A good question. It's another one of Topps' plicies, one that they've adhered to for a long, long time. Personally, I feel that it's wrong.
Who are some of the writers that come up with the gags for the backs of the cards?
Actually the backs for the first two series were sort of adapted from some of Topps' older series. So except for what was adapted, I probably wrote the first six series. Other writers have included John Mariano, a stand-up comic and actor who's also a cartoonist, and underground comix artist Jay Lynch has contributed much of the writing and artwork for the backs. Also, the "Flick It" protionon the backs of the last several series, which emulates a flipbook-type effect, were animated by Richard McGuire.
Just how successful was the seriesin relation to other non-sport card series that Topps has released in the past?
In terms of non-sport cards, the Garbage Pail Kids are probably our most successful series. I think that out of the 16 series we've done so far, it wsa the third series that sold the most.
Had Topps ever released a series prior to the Garbage Pail Kids that caused a similar public outcry?
I can't think of any series that has caused a similar outcry to the extent that Garbage Pail Kids has. Of course, back in 1963 the Mars Attacks cards caused quite a public uproar, but at that time Topps was pretty sheepish about any negative publicity and curtailed the distribution of that series themselves, before it really got out of hand.
Didn't the makers of the Cabbage Patch Kids hassle Topps about the series? What was that all about?
Well, to be quite frank, I believe they saw how well the series was doing so they decided to come after Topps. I can't really go into much detail about it, but there was a court case, which tied our hands from working on the series for a little while. But eventually the whole thing was settled out of court.
Was the settlement favorable to Topps? We're still producing the series, so I'd say it was favorable?
There was a certain sum of money that Topps had to pay, which I'm not at liberty to disclose.
With the 10th series there was a change in the design of the characters. Was this a result of the settlement?
Yeah. Part of the requirement in the settlement demanded minor changes in the actual characters and teh cards design. A blatant example would be the logo across the top of the cards. It was originallyin a curved, cloud-like design and now it's in a straight banner. The look of the characters changed too, but a lot of people haven't particularly noticed it. The shape of the characters' heads changed substantially, the shape of their eyeballs and the proportion of their bodies was altered. We are no longer able to depict the characters as soft sculptured dolls; they're now rendered as hard plastic.
I read where the design for the Cabbage Patch Kids was lifted from an uncopyrighted source. Is there any truth to this?
I heard the same exact rumor also, but I have no way of knowing whether it's true or not.
Wasn't Topps at one point planning to release a comic book about the Garbage Pail Kids?
Topps never was, but they were actually working on a deal with DC Comics to do one. It was terminated rather quickly, though. DC backed out as soon as the lawsuit controversy got under way.
How about the Saturday morning Garbage Pail Kids cartoon series? Why was that project shelved?
CBS was well into production with it, it was listed in TV Guide and there were newspaper listings all aroudn the country for it, but then at the last moment it was dumped because of continuous pressure from various parents' groups, particularly one TV watchdog group called The American Family Association. Donald Wildmon is the head of this organization and he's the same "genius" who instigated the recent problems for Ralph Bakshi's new Mighty Mouse cartoon series by claiming in one episode Mighty Mouse was sniffing cocaine. [Laughter.]
It sounds as though he's some sort of far-right religious fanatic.
I don't know if he's a religious fanatic, but I do know that he's powerful. The Garbage Pail Kids never made it to Saturday morning TV and the alleged cocaine sniffing scene in Mighty Mouse got excised because of him.
Actually I'm delighted the TV series was canned. I've seen the pilot episode and it's lame, castrated version of the Garbage Pail Kids, carefully avoiding everything that made our cards work. It's just as well that it never made it to television. [Laughter.]
How'd the Garbage Pail Kids movie do at the theatres?
The movie did terrible. I heard it actually lost money. [Laughter.] And deservedly so... it's probably one of the worst films I have seen in my entire life.
Yeah, it really sucked. Were you at all involved with the production of it?
No, not at all. I had absolutely no connection with the production of that movie. It's so bad that in maybe 15 or 20 years it just might become a cult classic.
Sort of like, "it's so bad, it's good"?
It brought new meaning to the word bad. I was sick and depressed about the whole thing.
Did the Garbage Pail Kids fad just take place here in America, or was it a worldwide phenomenon?
Actually, the Garbage Pail Kids did make it to other countries. They were marketed in England, Ireland, Mexico, Japan, France, Germany, Israel and probably a few other countries.
Were the parents from these other countries as outraged over the series as those parents here?
Oh yeah! I've got some articles from Mexico mentioning how horribly outraged the Mexicans were over the series. Wherever teh Garbage Pail Kids appear, the reaction by the parents of the world is pretty much the same.
Did you ever have any other alternative names for the series?
No, it was always called the Garbage Pail Kids. When Topps began getting hassled by the makers of Cabbage Patch Kids, the name The Garbage Gang came into play on the backs of the cards, solely as a backup name just in case we ever legally have to change the name of the series. But from the beginning it was always the Garbage Pail Kids. The name came before anything else, really.
Were there ever any stickers in particular that met with such parental outrage that Topps pulled them from the series, or were forced to tone them down?
No cards were ever actually pulled from any of the series, but various ones have been complained about by special interest groups. In the first series there was an alcoholic Garbage Pail Kid with the DTs [Laughter.]... and Mothers Against Drunk Driving had a lot of problems with that one; also a Hell's Angels Garbage Pail Kid guzzling beer didn't meet with their approval either (2nd series).
We did have to change the names on a few cards when we went back to press, for example: Cindy Lopper (changed in Australia), Mad Donna (not changed) and Woody Alan because they parodied famous people's names. Also a few of the cards that parodied trademarks we had to alter.
Did any of the gum card distributors threaten to boycott the series?
Well, I know that Southland 7-11 banned them, but they're a retailer, not a distributor. They're also the same outfit that stopped carrying Playboy adn Penthouse when Attorney General Edwin Meese illegally sent out letters to wholesalers and retailers insinuating that anyone distributing such adult material could wind up in big trouble.
Have you submitted any cards
that shocked ethe executives at Topps? Any that they've refused to release?
Yeah, we've done some, but we keep resubmitting them until we wear them down. So most of those submissions have found their way into the series in one form or another. But there was one that we never got anywhere with, that they flat out said no to, and that was one that showed a fetus in a mason jar. That one just didn't get too far. I recall another one with a little girl in a wheel chair diving off of a diving board that was never printed either.
Unpublished Artwork by John Pound
Unpublished Artwork by John Pound
Have you come up with any
card concepts for the series so disgusting that you've censored them yourself?
Well, I remember one that Art Spiegelman came up with that I felt was totally unacceptable. It was an image of a Garbage Pail Kid sliding down a bannister that's actually a gigantic razor blade. So we compromised on that concept and made it a wooden bannister with lots of knives sticking out of it instead. [Laughter.] (11th Series 453a "Dead End KIT" and 453b "Slidin' CLYDE")
So you guys do have a set
Yeah, amazing at it seems. There are certain areas that we don't dare delve into. Some of the best Garbage Pail Kids images were based on classic, iconic images like Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty, so obviously a crucified Jesus Garbage Pail Kid would be a perfect image to produce. But there's no way Topps would go for it. Religion is a taboo.
The main theme of the series revolved around almost every imaginable bodily excretion. It's a theme that has made millions of dollars for Topps. Why are kids so fascinated with this subject?
Well, kids are both fascinated and repelled by their bodies before and during adolescence. It's an area of development that can cause them great anxiety. One way for kids to release this anxiety is through humor, and I believe that's where a lot of the success of the Garbage Pail Kids comes from.
During the mid-Fifties a comics code was instigated to keep crime and horror comics off the newsstands. Does Topps fear that someday someone may try to instigate a similar code against the gum card industry?
The Comics Code was created by certain people within the comic book industry, whereas Topps is the gum card industry. So there's not a lot of competition going on, except, of course, with some of the other companies doing their versions of baseball cards. So I can't really foresee any kind of outside regulatory authority coming along and affecting us.
The series really rattled a lot of parents' cages. Do your parents approve of your involvement in the series?
Yeah, as a matter-of-fact, they are damn proud. [Laughter.] They've seen me producing a similar sort of thing ever since I was six years old, so I think they're pretty happy I found a slot somewhere to express the more pervers aspect of my personality.
How do children act around you when they find out you're the creator of the series? Do they treat you like a Beatle?
Oh god no! But I remember back during the summer of 1986 during the Statue of Liberty centennial, a friend and I were hanging out in Libert Park and the crowds were just enormous, and it got to the point where we just couldn't move. For hours we wound up standing next to this family from the Midwest, and at some point, my friend mentioned to their young son that I was the creator of the Garbage Pail Kids, and the kid was just amazed; he couldn't believe it. So I stood around and drew him some characters and answered every imaginable question about the Garbage Pail Kids. His parents weren't very happy about it though. They seem pretty annoyed. [Laughter.]
Have any Garbage Pail Kids groupies ever chased you down the street?
I haven't encountered any Garbage Pail Kid groupies yet - luckily!!!
Do you find working on the series to still be appealing?
Early on it was a lot of fun, but now I feel that creatively it's kind of run its course. We're just doing variations upon variations at this point.
The most interesting work I have at Topps right now is developing a new series in collaboration with Drew Friedman that will make the Garbage Pail Kids seem like Care Bears.
How about going through the process on how an actual Garbage Pail Kid card is produced?
Well, the ideas can come at any time and in any form. When the series was at the height of its mania, Art Spiegelman and I were literally dreaming them up. Quite a few of the ideas came from dreams.
Would these be drug-induced
[Laughter.] Overworked-induced dreams more than anything else. Basically our minds were just so geared to finding one more idea for these things that at first it became a game, and then an obsession. So I guess it just kind of spilled over into our dreams.
But getting back to the process, Art and I sit around the table coming up with ideas, and either give them a thumb's up or a thumb's down. Then - at least with the first couple of series - I would do pencil roughs for the artist to follow, but I haven't done that for a long time. For Tom Bunk we'll make the simplest doodles; for John Pound, who lives in California, they're just described over the phone. Then, the next stage is for the artist to do very tight pencils, and it is at this stage where we'll make suggestions or corrections.
After all the paintings for a series are completed, we'll have these massive naming sessions.
At this point in the game we've done over 600 characters, and since we name each character twice, once for the A series and once for the B series, that's over 1200 names we've had to come up with.
Is there a particular size the finished art for the cards is done at?
The finished paintings are done at five by seven inches.
What medium are they done in?
A variety. John Pound does his in a combination of acrylic and airbrush, and Tom Bunk does his in gouache... which reminds me, there was a third artist who started helping out around the fourth or fifth series, and that was James Warhola - Andy Warhol's nephew. He's been doing a lot of children's book illustrations, which is why he hasn't been able to do any cards for us lately, but when he did he would render his in oils. So that's three different techniques doing the bulk of these things.
There've been a few other artists who have done some of the fronts here and there, but the vast majority of them have been by Bunk and Pound, and Warhola made a big contribution to the series, too.
Did the success of the series spawn any imitations?
Yeah. There were some put out by really small companies. There was a series called Trash Can Tots, one called Trash Can Kids and another one called Bunch O'Brats. But aesthetically they were truly awful. They look as if they were drawn by company accountants.
Why do you think so many parents were outraged over the Garbage Pail Kids?
It's impossible to generalize, but I think a lot of adults are really out of touch with the child in themselves. They forget what it's like to be a kid.
Then there are certain people who scan the culture looking for things to be outraged about - self-appointed censors and moralists. Mighty Mouse will come along and the next thing you know it's Mighty Mouse snorting cocaine, or it could be anything else.
That brings me to mind Ann Landers. I'm sure she really got bent out of shape over the series.
Yeah. Ann Landers truly hates the Garbage Pail Kids. She's been pretty vicious about them. "Dear Abby" as well. But keep in mind that others have been understanding about the cards. Psychologists have successfully used them in therapy with children. I've heard of a case where a Garbage Pail Kid card was the first thing an autistic child ever responded to in his life. But these are the stories that don't get much press.
Is the bubble gum card business one that you'd encourage young artists to try and break into?
The whole idea of a bubble gum card business is pretty ridiculous, really. It's not exactly something I would direct young artists towards. They sure aren't going to find a pot of gold waiting for them in the bubble gum card industry. [Laughter.]
With the success of the Garbage Pail Kids it's really hard to say where it will all lead. It's certainly enabled Topps to try some things that it normally wouldn't do, like our recent Dinosaurs Attack, and an upcoming series with Drew Friedman. But where Topps' business is really at is with baseball cards - that has reached monstrous proportions. These other series are just a subsidiary sort of thing. Every so often it'll pay off and they'll have a monster hit with something like the Garbage Pail Kids.
How'd you get involved in the bubble gum card business?
Through Art Spiegelman, who's been with Topps for over 20 years now. I was a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and took a class of his - along with Drew Friedman and Kaz - called Language of the Comics during 1979. After the course was over all three of us got a call from Art asking us to be in this magazine he was doing, which turned out to be the first issue of Raw. Then after I graduated, Art asked me to come to Topps to work on a few projects, and I've been working there as a consultant ever since.
Were you a bubble gum card fanatic as a kid?
Maybe not a fanatic, but I was an avid consumer. I remember being crazy about those Batman cards painted by veteran pulp magazine artist Norm Saunders. I also collected The Monkees gum cards... a lot of the monster cards; Wacky Packages; and also Ugly Stickers, which I got into at the tail end of the series. And even baseball cards for a while, though I had absolutely no interest in baseball.
What other cultural trash
did you enjoy as a kid? As creator of the Garbage Pail Kids, something
must have really warped your mind.
Oh yeah - I was definitely warped by the usual graphic trash Americana available to a child growing up in the Sixties. First, old cartoons on TV, then comic books, Mad magazine - especially Harvey Kurtzman's version of Mad reprinted in paperback form - Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creepy, Eerie, National Lampoon and underground comix.
Is there anything else you're involved with that you'd like the readers to know about before we sign off?
Currently I'm producing a weekly syndicated strip that appears in the New York Press and in various alternative papers in Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and San Diego. I'm a regular contributor to Raw and I'm co-editing Bad News with Paul Karasik, now in its third big issue. I also do freelance illustration, I teach, and there's various other projects I'm involved in, too vague to mention.
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The trading-card rage: Some kids like gross
CABBAGE PATCH DOLLS GET DUMPED FOR A HOT NEW COLLECTORS ITEM: ITS THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS
Critics say that the Garbage Kids are beyond the pale, but card collections nearing the 1,000 mark have been spotted across the country.
Trends: People Magazine
February 17, 1986
Two decades from now, when todays kids want to show their children their favorite trading cards, they wont be pulling out Pete Roses, George Bretts, or Buddy Blancalanas. Instead theyll be dusting off such treasured images as Leaky Lindsay, a stringy-haired little she-monster whose runny nose equals Linda Blairs in The Exorcist. Or theyll haul out Wrinkled Rita, Oliver Twisted, Bad Breath Seth, Messy Tessy, Dead Fred and the rest of the 88 dirt bags who populate the world of the Garbage Pail Kids.
A cross between Cabbage Patch dolls and Mad magazine cartoons, Garbage Pail Kids are the new kings and queens of the trading card world. Introduced last June by Topps Chewing Gum, Inc.--the Brooklyn N.Y. company of baseball card and Bazooka Bubble Gum fame--the Kids are a spin-off of Topps Garbage Pail Candy- a plastic waste can filled with confectionary versions of fish heads, old shoes and other detritus. Yet company spokesman Norman Liss admits that the sight of the peel-off cards plastered on the nations buses, books and doorways "was really unexpected."
Priced at 25 cents for a pack of five cards and a slab of pink bubble gum, the lowlife Kids are apparently turning high profits. Mohmmed Khan, who owns two Manhattan candy stores, reports sales of nearly 500 packs a day. Joan Fernbacher, owner of Candy Alley in Los Angeles, sells out her stock "within two days, and if your store is near a school, like mine is, thats to be expected." Chicago teacher Judy Feiertag says her students "like the takeoffs on the Cabbage Patch dolls, which they thought were a little silly." But the real gauge of the Garbage Pail phenomenon is that at least one school, Manhattans PS 6, has banned the Kids from its premises.
"Theyre a disruption, a distraction," says principal Jack Zucherman, who concedes that the cards "are the most popular things in creation."
If some children have long held that Toppss bubble gum lacks taste, some adults are now making the same complaint about the companys latest product. "The cards have a risque bathroom humor that 8 or 9 year olds think is funny," says Chicago teacher Feiertag. "Theyre also nasty and insulting, which might appeal to an insecure child." Even the Garbage Pail Kids most ardent defenders make no claims for propriety. "Theyre funny and gross," explains New Yorks Ariel Siegelberg, 9," and I like gross things."
This fad is straight from the garbage can
By Marian Dozier of The Journal staff
The Milwaukee Journal
Sunday, June 22, 1986
It all started innocently enough. A few months back, you had taken your kid along shopping and in some store, the kid promptly plunked down a quarter for a pack of what looked like trading cards. You smiled to yourself as you remembered when. What a healthy, all-American tradition.
Mom and Dad, thats where you were wrong.
What your beloved child had purchased were Garbage Pail Kids, and by now, he and she probably has hundreds of them and no allowance left.
Hundreds? Yep. These things are bigger than last years craze, the Cabbage Patch dolls, and incidently, they bear a striking resemblance to the sweet, pudgy-faced darlings.
But the similarities dont stretch for miles and miles: the Garbage Pail kids are as nasty and disgusting as the Cabbage Patch-ers are sweet and beguiling.
These new-fangled trading cards/stickers that show pictures of plump, round-faced kids doing all sorts of disgusting things, are not so amusing, according to some parents, psychologists and educators.
John Schmuhl, principal of MacDowell Elementary at 1706 W. Highland Ave., said he took the necessary step of banning them last winter, as did some educators here and across the country.
"Besides the fact we werent really thrilled at the content, they were becoming a disruptive factor," said Schmuhl. "They were getting stuck all over things, causing a rash of arguments. Plus, they really werent consistent with what were trying to teach."
But perhaps thats the essence of the cards appeal.
"They have all these really neat and gross things on them," said Daniel Huyssen, a 9-year-old collector with more than 100 cards. "Me and my brother David both collect them."
These cards, which poke fun at everything from fat kids (Broad Maud) to Uncle Sam (Snooty Sam) to nuclear bombs (Blasted Billy) have become their very own subject heading.
"The interest in these things has been just incredible," said Norman Liss, spokesman for Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., which manufactures the cards. "Weve done no PR, no advertising. We get waves of telephone calls and letters. Were not surprised; were just simply amazed."
And these waves are not all notices of complaint, either. People adults are checking on where they can get more, Liss said. The fourth series is due out any day now.
Please see Cards, Page 6
Just another fad, another phase
Garbage Pail Kids are in short supply in many stores
Cards, from Page 1
Why are these things so popular? Everyone has a theory. Some say kids like whatever their parents dont. Another says it could be linked to an underlying tension produced by a childs insecurity about how he looks and whether he fits in (this, obviously, from a social psychologist).
The most promising theory is that told by one who should know: a parent.
"Fortunately, I dont think its the hideousness of the cards that attract children," said Amy Lewis, 3369 N. Newhall, mother of two collectors. "Theyre just caught up in this collectomania: this whole plastic toy craze (that says) get one, get them all."
Itzhak Matusiak, a child and family psychologist in private practice in Milwaukee, while saying he sees nothing wrong with the cards in and of themselves, finds them problematic in a larger sense.
"They represent another form of child exploitation," he said. "And when theres no thought-out parental philosophy, as is the case within our society today, children become very accustomed to passive influences."
Children are a captive audience, he said, and more subject to exploitation by peers or savvy marketers.
Indeed, Topps marketers were savvy enough to realize years ago what kids like: gross and degenerate humor. Remember Wacky Packages satirical takeoff on everyday products ("Neveready" batteries, "Grave Train" dog food) from 1973? Or 1964s Nutty Awards, brought back as the Kooky Awards in 1967? This is formula stuff.
"Almost every product we do eventually comes back around as a new product, and I think thats the secret of our success," said Liss. "The same things today appealed to kids generations ago."
Besides repetition of ideas, its as simple as adding three other things: use of actual peoples names, ludicrous, exaggerated drawings and the product name itself.
For example, the "Garbage Pail Kids" is a takeoff of a Topps product from a few years back called "Garbage Can-dy," which was a plastic garbage pail filled with little candies shaped like fish bones, soup cans and other stuff found in garbage cans.
So. You say you want to get a few of these cards, just to check them out.
Forget it. Not only is demand outstripping supply at the company plant in Brooklyn, but now Topps is engaged in a lawsuit with the manufacturer of the Cabbage Patch Kids over appearance and reputation infringement.
"There is absolutely no basis for the suit," said Liss. "These cards are not pointed at any product."
Though Liss refused to comment further because the lawsuit is still in litigation, a report in the Washington Post quoted Topps lawyers as saying the Garbage Pail Kids "are in the nature of satire or parody" and that any similarity between the two Kid" types constitutes "fair use" of the Cabbage Patch trademark.
Though introduced just last June, listen to what retailers are saying about these cards:
"We havent had them for five weeks. But when we do get them, we allow two per kid, one per adult, and you must come in and get them yourself," said a matter-of-fact store owner in South Milwaukee.
"Weve got a standing order for 10 boxes, but we havent heard from the supplier yet," said a clerk at Superamerica at 3102 S. Chicago Ave. "We always put a sign up in the window saying we got Garbage Pail, But if the signs not up, then we dont have them."
And this from a distributor: "Nobodys got them. We get people calling all the time, even from Illinois. Its been like this for the last four months. Theyre hotter than a pistol."
Even so, there are signs that the Garbage Pail Kids popularity may be on the wane.
Lewis said her 10-year-old son had lost his zest for collecting them and Principal Schmuhl said he did not see them around anywhere, even off-campus.
But a more telling sign may be the half-full carton of them spotted on a shelf in Downtown Woolworths recently, as passing little ones gave them barely a glance.
Oh well, if the Cabbage Patch-ers will move over in fad heaven, there may be room for Blasted Billy, Stoned Sean and Acne Amy.
Gang Dragged Into Court
CABBAGE KIDS Act Like Brats
By Joseph B. Frazier of The Associated Press
THE DAILY NEWS
June 24, 1986
DIRTY TRICK: Garbage Pail Kids are just a ripoff of copyrighted Cabbage Patch Kids, says dolls' dad, Xavier Roberts.
Atlanta - The Cabbage Patch Kids have a date
today with "Beaky BECKY", "Dirty HARRY", "Green DEAN"
and the trio's wretched sidekicks, the Garbage Pail Kids, but it's not down
at the malt shop. It's in federal court.
"Beaky BECKY" has a vulture's appetite and appearance. "Dirty HARRY" is a pig - literally, and "Green DEAN" is a carnivour plant.
The Cabbage Patch Kids are cherubic soft-sculpture dolls that come with birth certificates, diapers, and adoption papers. They soared to cult status about three years ago. Since then, an estimated 35 million have been sold.
Their Garbage Pail counterparts showed up
last year on bubble-gum cards distributed by Topps Chewing Gum Co. of Brooklyn.
They bear a strong facial resemblence to the Cabbage Patch Kids and are wildly
popular in adolescent America.
Some adults thing they're funny, but Cabbage Patch founder Xavier Roberts, of Cleveland, GA., isn't one.
He is suing Topps to have the cards withdrawn
and destroyed. He also wants all the profit from the Garbage Pail Kids sales,
claiming infringement of copyright and trademark, that the Garbage Pail Kids
are unwholesome and that the similarities make it impossible to see the new
kids on the block, without thinking of his own product.
The court documents claim that Topps once was offered, but declined, a license to use the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and their name. Topps later applied for license but was refused, the papers claim, and suggest the Garbage Pail Kids may be a form of revenge.
The U.S. District Court Judge G. Ernest Tidwell will hear a motion today for a preliminary injuction to ban further sales of Garbage Pail Kids products until the case comes to trial.
Topps contends in court documents that no copyright violations are involved and that the Garbage Pail Kids products "are in the nature of satire and parody."
The Cabbage Patch Kids have been to court before.
In 1980 Martha Nelson of Louisville, KY., sued Roberts claiming he had copied similar dolls she had made for sale in the Louisville area some years earlier.
A federal judge dismissed part of the suit, stating that while it was evident Roberts had benefited from the study of her dolls, he had copyrighted the dolls design and she had not.
Have you met the new Kids?
Garbage Pail Kids cause controversy
By Jackie Risse
The Daily Dispatch
Have you met the new "Kids" on the block the Garbage Pail Kids? No, theyre not cousins to the Cabbage Patchers, though their chubby-cheeked profiles are reminiscent of the "Kids" who took the world by storm a few years ago.
Some might term the Garbage Pail gang as Cabbage Patch kids gone delinquent, but Norman Liss of Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., which manufactures Garbage Pail Kids stickers on cards and sells them five to a pack with a piece of gum for a quarter, says the characters are not based on the Coleco dolls.
Whatever their origins, the Garbage Pail Kids have wormed their way into the hearts and pockets of millions of American schoolchildren. Like baseball cards, kids collect and trade the different characters, while adults try to decide what to make of the sometimes tasteless cards.
Meet Spikey Mikey, impaled on a bed of spikes. Or Travellin Travis dotted with used bubble gum and tire treads, wrapped around the rear tire of a car.
Then theres Formalde Heidi, chemically preserved in a jar. Losing Faith is tied to a nuclear warhead, on rapid decent. Lets not forget Baked Jake, the sizzling sunburned youngster crawling across the desert.
In all, there are more than 200 different cards, said Liss, spokesman for the bubblegum company, which began business in the late 1930s selling gum and baseball cards.
Liss refused to disclose how much money the company has made off the cards and how many have been sold since the cards were introduced in June 1985. He did say they are selling so well that the company has added workers to try to meet the demand.
"Weve got three shifts going and we still cant keep up. Were in our fifth series, planning to start our sixth. Now theyre becoming popular in Europe, too.
"We still hear about kids who go from store to store to buy the cards. A lot of people call the stores to ask when the next shipment will be in."
Doyle Weber, manager of the 7-Eleven store at 1305 15th St., Moline, said demand for the cards is still brisk, but not as much as it was last spring. "Its kind of dying down now. We were selling about 15 boxes a week (48 packs to a box). Were selling about three boxes a week now."
Sheila Wells, owner of Convenient Food store at 702 17th Ave., East Moline, agreed the cards arent as popular as they once were, but still sell quickly when a new shipment comes in.
"When we can get them, they sell," she said. "We usually can get only three boxes at a time and they sell out in about a day and a half." Weber and Wells said card collectors range in age from 3 to junior high school age. Wells said that although parents usually frown when their child wants a package of the cards, they usually allow them to buy them.
Liss said the company is not unaware of the controversy the cards have created. Different parents groups across the country are angry because they say the cards portray violence. Some elementary schools have banned the cards.
Local schools dont appear to be having a major problem with the cards. Spokespeople for Roosevelt and Horace Mann elementary schools in Moline, Apollo in Carbon Cliff, Hawthorne-Irving in Rock Island, George O. Barr in Silvis and Hillcrest in East Moline, say they havent seen too many of the cards at their schools.
A secretary at Hillcrest said a few students brought the cards to school last spring, but had to leave them in the office until the end of the school day.
Dr. Dewat Chaudhry, a Moline child psychiatrist, likens the effect Garbage Pail cards have on kids to the violence they see on television. "My feeling is that they (cards) dont foster good emotional health for kids. Theyre a distortion and not conducive to good emotional being."
Mike Carl, a psychologist with the Moline school system, said he thinks the cards are harmless. "Personally I dont think they do any harm. Its just something to collect. The kids like to get a reaction out of the parents. Its more of a competition to collect something than a way to work out violence."
Dr. Richard Hutchison, a psychologist at Southpark Psychology, specializes in child psychology. Many of his patients, he said, collect the cards. "Ive never seen any damage done to kids by the stickers.
"Adults probably read more into them than the kids do. Some of them (cards) are geared more to the adults. Some are puns on things kids might not understand. The cards are crude, but I dont think they damage the psyche."
He agrees with Carl that kids are more interested in completing a collection of something than the content of the cards. "Theyre not interested in the details of the cards."
Therese Roman and Cheryl Vyncke, both of Silvis, have sons who collect the cards. Though both mothers say they personally dont like the cards, they dont feel they have a harmful effect on their kids.
"I think theyre wrong," said Roman. "Theyre cute in a certain way, but theyre not flattering to certain names. Theyre in poor taste. As a mother, I really dont care for them."
She said she was reluctant to order her 8-year-old son Kevin not to collect the cards because she didnt want to draw a lot of attention to them. When he started collecting them last spring she hoped hed just lose interest on his own a theory that seems to have worked. Lately he hasnt made any real effort to enlarge his small collection, she said.
Kevin says he likes the cards because "theyre funny and stuff. They have good pictures."
Vynckes two sons, 9-year-old Carsten and 4-year-old Patrick, both collect the cards. "Its like any violence, " she said. "You need to explain to your kids the context its meant in. Just because they see a Baked Jake doesnt mean they can put baby Jake in the oven."
Carsten said he doesnt think the cards promote violence. "I collect them because I think theyre neat and theyre fun to trade. My mom thinks theyre gross, but I dont."
Liss said the cards have no worse effect on kids than the Monster Valentines of the 60s and 70s had on their parents. "The company wouldnt put out anything they thought was wrong. We realize we have a responsibility to the kids who buy our products."
The rival kids patch things up
GROSS OUT: Expect the Garbage Pail Kids to look less Cabbage Patchy.
By Tracey Wong Briggs
Topps wont have to trash Icky Ricky, Acne Amy and the other popular Garbage Pail Kids, but future versions wont look like Cabbage Patch Kids.
Topps Chewing Gum reached a settlement Monday with Cabbage Patch copyright owner Original Appalachian Artworks of Cleveland, Ga., in the $30 million copyright infringement suit filed by OAA in March. The undisclosed settlement came after a weekend recess in the U.S. District Court trial in Atlanta.
"Its no secret (Cabbage Patch creator) Xaviar Roberts is elated," says OAA spokeswoman Laura Meier. "Hes having a company-wide celebration."
Topps, which introduced the gross character bubblegum cards in June 1985, will introduce the made-over Garbage Pail Kids "later this year," says Topps spokesman Norman Liss.
The seventh edition of the parody cards, still resembling the phenomenally successful Cabbage Patch Kids, will be out as scheduled this week.
OAA claims Topps has earned $64 million on sales of the 25-cent package of five cards and related products such as lunch boxes.
Lawyers from both sides agreed not to discuss details; neither side is sure what will happen to Garbage Pail Kids licensed products.