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February 19, 2010

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays: 25 Years of the Garbage Pail Kids!

Two weeks ago when we left off here at our From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays column, I rode off into the sunset on my high-powered submarine to cause a reign of carnage with my pet turkey named Mr. Gobbles, as told here. Well as it turns out, owning a submarine and acting like a sovereign nation is frowned upon in this day and age. So as Mr. Gobbles and I are on the lam this week, I leave you with this column all about the 25th Anniversary of the wonder known as The Garbage Pail Kids.

Cartoonist Bliss: The Garbage Pail Kids

Pultzer-Prize winning cartoonist Art Spielgelman is known for a lot of great things, including his multi-award winning graphic novel Maus. However before all of this he was a creative consultant at Topps Trading Cards, where he and a group of underground cartoonists created the joy known as Wacky Packages (Topps printed several lines of off-beat cartoonist cards for entertainment including Mars Attacks, Wacky Packages, Hollywood Zombies and Dinosaurs Attack). One of the cards they created for the Wacky Packages series was a parody of a Cabbage Patch kid, which they called a “Garbage Pail Kid”. The executives at Topps got such a kick out of this idea that they decided to not release the card as part of Wacky Packages but do an entire set of cards based on the Garbage Pail Kid concept.

In 1985, Topps released the Garbage Pail Kids trading card set to much fandom and high sales. They took the world by storm, producing 15 series to the set, survived a trademark infringement lawsuit from the makers of Cabbage Patch Kids, and had a good run until 1988.

Years later in 2003, Garbage Pail Kids struck back again, riding in on the wave of 1980s nostalgia in the United States, and launched several more new editions to the trading card line (7 new series total). This month Topps releases a Flashback Garbage Pail Kids set to celebrate the 25th anniversary, reproducing your favorite characters from over the years, as well as never before seen artwork.

The Garbage Pail Kids cards are parody brillance, ranking up there with the likes of Mad Magazine and Wacky Packages.  Sure it’s babies doing vomit and fart gags, but that’s why we love them! That’s why we buy them! An array of underground comic book and comic strip artists have worked on these, including Jay Lynch, Tom Bunk, James Warhola, Mark Newgarden and as mentioned earlier Art Spiegelman. If you’re into the whole gross-out humor vibe, here’s a piece of Americana to pick up.

Something to Watch: The Garbage Pail Kids Movie

Yes they even made a live-action film (and here you thought nothing interesting happened in 1987). The film was critically bashed and commercially it never had a chance. It had a hard time getting released to start with due to some PTAs protesting to their local cinemas not to carry it. For years it lived as cult-movie phenomena, watched on bootlegs and talked about on the internet and finally in 2005 it found a home in the world again as MGM released it officially on DVD, and god bless them for it.

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie is an experience to say the least: the kind best enjoyed with beer, ice crème and your best friend named Larry, like I did.  The plot, if one can dare to dig it, is the tale of a young boy named Dodger, who doesn’t seem to have parents and hangs out at an antique shop run by a magician. He is frequently beat up by a gang, lead by a bad-ass named Juice, who looks about 6-10 years older than him. Dodger takes these blows well because he is in love with Juice’s wanna-be-clothing-designer girlfriend, Tangerine. One day while getting the crap kicked out of him at the shop, a garbage can is accidentally knocked over, which magically was holding a group of ugly children known as the Garbage Pail Kids. The Garbage Pail Kids rescue Dodger and agree to help him pursue his love for Tangerine. Luckily the Garbage Pail Kids know how to create top of the line outfits that would make America’s Next Top Model weep.

As one may guess, things don’t go so well. There’s lots of farting and boogers. We get to see Nat Nerd pee himself on film about 4 times. We get to see the Garbage Pail steal trucks, get into a bar fight, say some really off color things, oh and they randomly sing a song in there somewhere (every movie needs one awkward musical number in it). Chances are you will probably say every 5 minutes “This is ridiculous“, because honestly it is and I still don’t know how this got made. An animated series based on The Garbage Pail Kids was also created but never aired in the United States (although Europe was blessed with it), however it was finally released here stateside on DVD a few years back.

In closing thought, The Garbage Pail Kids were a great phenomenon that provided many youth with their much needed first exposure to toliet humor. Here’s to your 25th birthday, and 25 more to come! Oh and this last one is for our editor, Andy:

Drew McCabe



  1. billy

    I remember the GPK coming out when I was a kid and all the adults saying…”how disgusting, why would anybody buy those”! Of course, then every kid I knew wanted them. lol

  2. Well, don’t tar and feather me everyone but I’ve never seen the show, cartoon, nor collected the cards. Too over the top for my tastes and a satire of a franchise I coulda cared about (The Cabbage Patch Kids). Still though, this article was hilarious!

    …and how the heck did Abandoned Andy down all the booze without murdering himself? lol

  3. Aron White

    Hahaha! Oh, man! What an awesome article! The Garbage Pail Kids were the ADAM Bomb-diggity! My mom would never let me buy them (she thought they were stupid. Go figure!) so I would trade Happy Meal toys for them. But when she’d find my stash, she’d throw them away. Grr!

    Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, sir!

  4. Kristin

    This is for kids? Really? Dismemberment, nuclear explosions, vomiting?

  5. Drew

    Oh man, totally for kids. When I was 7 there was a series off Garbage Pail Kid-esque cards called ‘Trouble Trolls’ in which it was Trolls vomiting, farting, etc; It was all pretty amazing.

  6. Jay Lynch

    We’re still doing these things as well. Check out http://www.ltlprints.com for 7 foot high Garbage Pail Kids and Wacky Packages wall murals. And a new limited edition Wacky Packages series called Wacky Packages Old School will be available in mid February from http://wackypackages.com
    Everyone who buys a box of Old School gets a free sketch card by me. I did 3,800 of ’em…or something like that.

  7. Hey Drew,

    I totally collected not only the Garbage Pail Kids, but also the Dinosaurs Attack! cards as a wee lad. In fact, I had a copy the movie of GPK on the same beta-cassette as The Neverending Story and, strangely enough, Maximum Overdrive. They were my three favorite movies, for a while there. I know, it explains a lot.

    Anyway, kudos for bringing me back to the 80s. I suppose that which never lived can never truly die…

  8. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by drewdirector: My biweekly column: https://comicattack.net/2010/02/ffgtrgarbagepail/ All about the Garbage Pail kids This Week!…

  9. I remember teachers snatching these things up from kids during class and the “garbage pail kids epidemic” that made the news several times lol

  10. Kristin

    OK, I guess I’m not really getting this because by 1988, I was only 5 years old. Also maybe because I was a girl…so I got actual cute little Cabbage Patch Kids. I’m not girly about a lot of things, but I guess this is one where I am.

  11. I loved GPK’s when I was a kid (‘Dinosaurs Attack’ was my 2nd favorite! Those where pretty friggin awesome too!!). I saw the GPK movie in the theater, and I remember being really disappointed that all their friends had been euthanized for being ugly. It wasn’t a tear jerking moment or anything, i just wanted to see more of characters in the movie. I watched it recently, and it still hold’s a high nostalgic value. Very cool article, man!

    -Sloshed Josh

  12. Eli

    I loved these guys. It was disgusting, but in a cartoony way. I remember the trolls too. This takes me back, they were so much fun.

  13. […] in a high powered submarine. In the last column, the columnist just left a note on those disgusting Garbage Pail Kids, which admittedly didn’t lead us anywhere. BUT THEN a hot tip came in and we began to follow this […]

  14. […] you are interested in other cartoonist trading cards, also check out The Garbage Pail Kids and Crumb’s Heroes Of Blues, Folk and Jazz […]

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