Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gross Out Toys of the 80's - Garbage Pail Kids

The Garbage Pail Kids.  I don't think that there was a single kid in the 80's who didn't own a shit ton of these....or at least have a sibling who did.  Created by Topps Chewing Gum Inc. in 1985, GPK (as they're affectionately known by fans) were a cash-in and parody of the ever popular Cabbage Patch Kids that were all the rage at the time.  The artwork very closely resembled said dolls until Xavier Roberts sent Topps a cease and desist letter stating that their creations too closely resembled his dolls and they were bordering on copyright infringement on their IP.  The "Kids" were portrayed in various gross out ways, from having their bodies covered in oozing pustules, eyeballs all over their bodies to heads exploding into a nuclear mushroom cloud.  There were also more abstract "Kids" as well, who would take the form of inanimate objects with a face, usually being abused in some horrible fashion.  Besides being a "gross out' gimmick, a lot of these cards (which were also peel off stickers!) were quite heavily steeped in horror imagery.  It ran the gamut from really sick and twisted to having more of a fun Halloween vibe. 

Here's some of my favorites

Wormy Shermy.....this guy is one of my favorites because the worms look like The Monster That Challenged The World!  Yes, I know that technically TMTCTW is technically a mollusk.....but still
gotta admit, it's a pretty close resemblance!  Perhaps these little fellas are actually mollusks themselves.....highly intelligent alien mollusks from beyond the moon planting their flag on the sleeping kids face.  You can't see it from the vantage point on the card, but their UFO is park just outside the kid's window!

Abandoned Amanda.  There is something that is just absolutely disturbing about this particular piece, to me.  Apparently Cthulhu dropped off a baby from Innsmouth at this house.  What Lovecraftian horror are these people in for???  I imagine that the tentacles will all vanish before someone opens the door and Dagon's servant will go unnoticed for quite sometime....until the stars align and the time to strike is upon her.  AI AI AI!

A-Bomb Tom. I don't know exactly why, but there was always just something about the GPK's where an inanimate object is personified. To this day I can't think about someone "pressing the button" or WWIII without this card popping into my head!  When I was a kid, we had a Commodore 64 and I used to imagine that at night, it would come alive and look something like this guy. 

Dead Ted.  One of the first and one of the best!  This guy was in the 1st Series of cards and is an excellent marriage of the GPK artwork with EC Comic's art style.  One of my all time favorites!  This guy reminds me a lot of the zombies from Return on the Living Dead and just has that totally awesome zombie vibe to it!  Aside from being rotted and missing an eyeball, I often wondered how Dead Ted came to be dead.  What horrible GPK fate had he endured?

Jugglin' Julian. As if clowns aren't creepy enough,  the sick mothers at Topps decided that it would be a good idea to have this guy juggle his eyes and teeth in addition to the balls.  All I had to do was MENTION this card to my sister and she was huddled in the fetal position in the corner!  It's like when Homer built Bart the clown bed....CAN'T SLEEP, CLOWNS WILL EAT ME!

Bern-Out.  Again, inanimate object personified!  This is awesome!  When I was a kid I would make up little stories about GPK's and how they got to the place they were in on the cards.  If I remember correctly, Bern here, was a light bulb left behind when the people who owned the house moved.  He just sat there, alone with no one to talk to.  Years went by before the house was sold.  Bern went insane.  Eventually, when a new family moved in, as soon as they flipped the light switch, poor Bern here was so far gone, it blew his mind.

 Yul-Tied. This is one of those cards that seems like some random wacky card, but the more I looked at it, the more disturbing it became.  Here's what I see:  Some backwoods Texas Chainsaw type wackos took this poor kid and did horrible, unimaginable things to him.  Then after leaving him in the shed for a bit to decompose, they thought "Hey, he'd make a nice Christmas Tree!"  So they wrapped his corpse in in garlands, hung some ornaments on him and ramped a star into his noggin.  Bingo.  Yul-Tied.  Tell me this isn't one of the most fucked up things you've seen!

Spacey Stacy.  Eight eyes, Six limbs, three antennae and a forked tongue.  What's not to love about this girl?  Apparently she lives on one of the many tiny moons that orbit Saturn....judging from the size of the gas giant in the background, I'm gonna guess that it's one of the farthest moons out.  Tiny too!  I'm sure she's a nice girl though....the people in the rocket she's holding think so too, I'm sure.

Juicy Jessica.  Sounds like the name of that chic who smells like Boston Harbor that is always hanging around your favorite bar trying to pick up guys, doesn't it?  But alas, this Jessica is a Venus Flytrap gone mad.  I mean, holy crap she's HUGE and she's eating someone!  I actually can't help but think about the end of Creepshow II.  The kid leads the bullies to the junkyard, where giant venus flytraps (that I can only assume he planted there) eat them all.  Friggin awesome.   

Lee Tree.  This one absolutely horrified me and I will tell you why.  There was a story I read.  Can't remember for the life of me what book it was in, but there were these people who were camping and one of them at an apple and started to turn into an apple tree.  It freaked me out as a kid to think about how scary it would be to turn into a tree and not be able to move.  This card was like a physical representation of that fear.  Of course there was also the scene in Troll II where the kid was turned into a tree.....  

Meltin' Elton.  Snowman Suicide is a pretty heavy subject to stick on a kid's trading card, but Topps pulled it off with flying colors.  As per usual, I would always find some strange obscure thing to obsess about.  In this particular case, I couldn't help but wonder what the hell the people in the house behind him would think if they saw this icy death scene take place?  What would YOU do if you looked out your window one snowy winter's evening to find a snowman melting himself over a fire he made in the back yard?  Again, this is seriously disturbing stuff.  I LOVE IT!

Monte Zuma.  One of the few examples of a GPK who ISN'T being abused in some horrific fashion.  I'm not sure exactly what it was that I found fascinating....perhaps the fact that he's a giant evil looking dude with horns adorned with the skulls of insubordinate guards who failed him in some way.  One of the great ambiguous things about this piece is that they IMPLY that this is a statue....but we know we're in the GPK we know better!   

Dustin to Dust.  So here we've got a rather disturbing looking tombstone with rosy cheeks smiling at us.  I imagine that this graveyard is somewhere in the Dunwich, Massachusetts.  Our boy Dustin here is a living tombstone that is sealing one of the 7 Gates of Hell.  It is THIS tombstone that breaks open when a priest hangs himself in the graveyard, unleashing the living dead upon the living.  He is in that church in the background, preparing his final sacrifice at this very moment.  Damn you, Dustin....DAMN YOOOU!  

Ground Chuck/This is a card from one of the later series....with the obvious change to to the face, no longer resembling a Cabbage Patch Doll.  Though the faces have changed the sick (and often very dark) sense of humor is still there.  I didn't really have too many of the later series cards and to be honest, I just came across this one and though it was suitable nasty.  I've noticed that a good many of these cards involved GPK's attempting (usually succeeding quite smashingly) suicide in some awful fashion. 

  Fryin' Ryan.  Now you can't write an article on GPK's without including one of my favorites!  Topps' homage to Godzilla is AWESOME.  I mean seriously how can you not love a giant baby-faced reptile tearin'up a town and ruining everyone's day?  I think that Ryan here was sent by Monte Zuma to go and punish the civilized world for encroaching on his lands.  That's why he had that smug look on his card.  Seriously, he did!  Scroll back up and look!  I'll wait. . . .see?  I told ya so! 

Garbage Pail Kids had a pretty good run through 1988 until eventually going the same direction as everything else that was awesome in the 80's.  I had a pretty massive collection of these and I'm sad to say that unfortunately I have NO idea what the hell happened to them....but looking around on E-bay, they seem to be pretty easy to find...though they are a bit on the pricier side depending on what series and what condition they are in.  However, if you are a collector it's well worth it!   There were also several toys that were made from the GPK brand, including their Cheap Toys with Crummy Candy Line!

The GPK machine managed to squeak out a movie that was (believe it or not!) released in theaters. 
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie was released by Atlantic (whose top grossing movie of all time was Teen Wolf....random factoid there for ya!) to 374 theaters on August 21, 1987.  It's opening weekend grossed  $661,512 in total (which equals out to about $1,768 per theater on average....not that you'd really want to know that....but I'm just really trying to drive home the point of how badly this flick did!).  As of now, it's total domestic gross is $1,576,615.  Now after telling you all this info about how poorly the movie did, I'm gonna go ahead and tell you that I friggin LOVE this movie.  $6.25 of that $661,512 from the opening weekend were mine.

  It is the type of terrible movie that dreams are made of.  It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the card series and to be honest, out of all the characters they had to pick from.....they chose the most BORING characters you can think of.  Messy Tessy, Greaser Greg, Nerdy Ned?  Really?  That's the best you could do?  Why the hell couldn't Atom Bomb, Loony Lenny and Alien Ian been in there?  Those characters are the friggin bomb! 

 Michael Bay, if you are reading this (yeah right!) you need to make a summer popcorn blockbuster!  They brought the cards back in 2003, so let's get a new movie in the works!  Think of how awesome it would be to see some of the most outrageous GPK's up on the silver screen in 3D IMAX!  OH HELLS YEAH! 

GPK even was made into a short lived Saturday Morning Cartoon. which only aired it's premier episode in the US (CBS cancelled the show's 13 episode test run when the movie flopped)  However the show did run in Canada and the U.K.  I only vaguely remember watching the premier episode.....and I was probably extremely upset that it never got it's full run....but I don't remember.

Now much like every other Pop Culture phenominon, the GPK were imitated and ripped off ad nauseum.  He's a few of the rip offs that I remember:

TRASHCAN TROLLS:    Yep.  They took them cute little guys with the crazy hair and turned 'em into a GPK clone.  Here's  a couple of samples:

This fellow's name was Monster Kit

Phil D. Grave   Ha ha!  Get it?
Next up we've got an  attempt at some toilet humor with The Bathroom Buddies.  These guys weren't even trying to be cute or clever....check out a couple:

Add caption

They even tried to merge Beanie Babies and GPK's, creating the Meanie Babies......yeah I wish I was kidding about that too.  Check it out:

Well, I was going to just go ahead and end this article with the inclusion of the rip off's but instead I will leave you with these awesome slides of all the GPK cards up to Series #15 that I found on You Tube!  Enjoy!


  1. I remember Garbage Pail Kids. I had a *TON* of them when I was a kid, starting with series 3 (which i believe was right around the time they really took off). Sadly, all that remains of this vast collection is one single, solitary card that I keep protected at all times. I never caught the cartoon series, but I did see the film--in the theater! It was a rather surreal experience.

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

  2. Me again. Just wanted to let you know that I chose this article as one of my favorites from February, and included a link to it in the 5th "issue" of Spatter Analysis.

    Check it out!


  3. Hey Jonny! Sorry I've been away for a bit! Thank you so much for including my GPK article in the 5th issue of Splatter Analysis. I'm so glad that there are others out there who share the same wonky passions that I do!