Garbage Pail Kids Reviewed: Disgusting, Frightening, Bloody Brilliant

They were disgusting. They were frightening. They came with a stick of gum. They were bloody brilliant. I delve back into my childhood as the Garbage Pail Kids book is unleashed on the world…
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They were disgusting. They were frightening. They came with a stick of gum. They were bloody brilliant. I delve back into my childhood as the Garbage Pail Kids book is unleashed on the world…

Do you remember Oozy Suzy? How about Itchy Richie? Fond memories of Luke Puke? If so, you either had some very weird friends or were a collector of the Garbage Pail Kids stickers. For the sake of everyone, I am going to assume it’s the latter.

For those of you who never had the pleasure, the Garbage Pail Kids were a series of stickers manufactured by Topps that were originally meant to be an antidote to the cloying niceness of the Cabbage Patch Kids (the makers of which took offense and sued Topps). The aforementioned Oozy Suzy? A girl with a lit wick in her head who was melting all over the place. Itchie Richie was a baby covered in insects. And if you haven’t worked out just what Luke Puke is doing then you haven’t been paying attention.

Their brilliance lay in the fact that they were cartoonish enough to ensure that the moral guardians (i.e. our parents) were content to dismiss them as childish whimsy. But we knew better. There was plenty of snot, violence, blood and nastiness to ensure there was an illicit thrill in opening each new packet. At least one still remains stuck on my bedside cabinet (the delightful Yicchy Mickey) and I haven’t had the heart to remove it after all these years.

If you haven’t worked out just what Luke Puke is doing then you haven’t been paying attention.

Of course, much of the satirical undercurrent and political comment (of which there was plenty) went over young heads. Reading this book – which contains the first five series of the cards – is a vivid reminder of the images and an eye-opening introductions to the origins of the stickers. In his very good introduction, Art Spiegelman (best known for the seminal work Maus) talks about his day job at Topps and his pivotal role in bringing the cards to reality. With luminaries involved including Andy Warhol’s nephew and influences from the likes of MAD Magazine and Robert Crumb, Spiegelman explains how there was more going on with the Garbage Pail Kids than mere gross-out.  He also explains the relief shown by the publishers of Maus when they realised that the creators of the cards were anonymous: “If this gets out, they’ll review your book and call it ‘Garbage Pail Jews’!”

This book will bring the memories flooding back (though try and suppress any of the awful film adaptation that bizarrely stars Anthony Newley): hell, it even comes with a waxy book jacket, exactly like the originals packets of stickers. And there’s a pack of bonus stickers with previously unreleased cards (such as Hole in Juan).

If they’d included a stick of rock hard chewing gum, it would have been perfect.

Garbage Pail Kids is published by Abrams Comic Arts and is out now.

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