Thursday, 1 November 2012

Review: Garbage Pail Kids (National Non-Fiction Day 2012)

I have been caught a little unawares as far as this year's National Non-Fiction Day is concerned. I checked the NNFD website earlier this week and saw it listed as being on 3rd November this year, and as we are away from home until Saturday morning I thought I would leave my NNFD post writing until then. Imagine then my horror when I am on Twitter earlier today and spot it being mentioned over and over that today is National Non-Fiction Day! I had forgotten that NNFD is actually the first Thursday in November every year. This means that I only have one of the books with me that I wanted to write about this year, as the other is sat on my desk at home. I have chosen something a little different this year's NNFD offering, but please believe me when I say that it is a little beauty!

Garbage Pail Kids, a series of stickers produced by Topps in 1985 were designed to parody overly saccharine Cabbage Patch Kids. Each sticker card features a Garbage Pail Kid character depicted in a grotesque and biting image, christened with a humourous character name involving wordplay. The series was the creation of Pulizer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who in collaboration with other successful artists, turned the cads into a pop-culture phenomenon. Garbage Pail Kids will feature all 206 rare and hard-to-find stickers from Series 1 through 5, originally release in 1985 and 1986 and contains an introduction by Spiegelman. Garbage Pail Kids includes a limited edition set of four rare and unreleased stickers, is packaged in a wax-coated jacket and is guaranteed to appeal to die-hard collectors as well as a new generation of fans.

If you are an adult who was 10 years old or above in 1985 then you don't need me to explain exactly who the Garbage Pail Kids were. If you are a teen or younger, and you have a devilish and macabre (some may say sick) sense of humour, then you have one hell of a treat in store for you with this book.

The Garbage Pail Kids originally appeared as a series of collector stickers, the first series of which appeared in 1985. Money was tight in those days as I come from a big family, so I was not able to become an obsessive collector of these stickers, but I had a number of friends who could afford them, and we would delight in their subversive and frequently disgusting images. I think they were eventually banned at my school, a story that was repeated across many schools in the UK and the USA. Parents and teachers hated them, ergo kids loved them!

The stickers came about as a reaction to the twee-ness of the Cabbage Patch Kids (and also, as explained in Art Spiegelman's introduction to this book, because Topps did not manage to strike early enough to get a cheap license from the makers of those dolls). Instead of images of those rather unnerving looking dolls, they featured horrible (in the best sense of the word) parodies. The artwork on these stickers was invariably of a very high quality, and they became so popular that they ended up running for a massive fifteen series, finally coming to a close in 1989.

Earlier this year the awesome people at Abrams Comic Arts published a retrospective book of the first five series. This book is page after page of artistic nastiness, with each page showcasing a different card in wonderful enlarged format, with every card in these series displayed. This hardcover book has a wax-coated dust jacket, designed to emulate the wrappers in which the stickers and accompanying strip of chewing gum were sold. We are also treated to a packet of four previously unreleased cards, although I haven't yet been able to bring myself to detach them from the inside back cover.

I think this book has huge appeal for today's youngsters, even though I know that there will be some teachers and parents who will frown at me saying so. Children's fiction has changed immeasurably since the late 80s, and kids are now able to read a plethora of books that just would not have seen the light back in those days. Author's such as Darren Shan, Lemony Snicket, Barry Hutchison.... the list goes on and on.... have taken great delight in making kids squirm, whilst also ensuring that the disgusting and macabre are laced with humour.

The Garbage Pail Kids book should also not be underestimated for its educational value. Bear with me whilst I explain.... The names of the various GBK kids are great examples of alliteration, word play and rhyming. A few personal favourites of mine (and I will include images at the end of this post) include Adam Bomb, Drew Blood, Toothie Ruthie, Michael Mutant, Hugh Mungous, Brenda Blender, Stormy Heather and Gore May. And there are so many more I could mention.

I love this book, and have already pored through it three times since it arrived on Wednesday from the wonderful Tina at Abrams. She also sent me a similar book that showcases the Mars Attacks cards, again by Topps, but as I left this at home you will have to wait until anther day for my review.


(Please note - images are taken from the internet. Those shown in the book are of a very high quality and do not show the die-cut lines that appeared on the stickers)


  1. I remember those stickers (although I must have been a later comer to them around 1994/5) and yes you're right My mum hated them whereas my little brother went mad for them

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