Ingeniously Gross - 30 of our favorite Garbage Pail Kids
Topps is well known, even today, as a maker of baseball and other sports collectible cards/stickers. The company also found great success with some non-sports themed collectible cards. They did this two ways. One was to create a line of cards based on a successful entity like The Beatles and Batman and license use of images for trading cards. Perhaps the greatest example of this is Topps' Star Wars collector cards from the late Seventies. This worked for them because the powers that be at Topps were prescient enough to anticipate the demand that would rise for Star Wars related merchandise before the fad tsunami hit the shore. This element of timing meant the cost of licensing was reasonable. The other way Topps found success was with original, artistically painted cards that combine humor and horror. Their popular Ugly Stickers from the Sixties portrayed funny yet grotesque characters. Later, the Wacky Packages line parodied existing products with outlandish and gross re-imagining of well known brands. The birth of Garbage Pail Kids was the result of a serendipitous combination of these two pursuits. With the Eighties and the eminent end of the Star Wars series Topps was looking for another entity to license. At the time Cabbage Patch Kids' popularity was exploding and Topps desperately wanted to produce a line of cards based on the toy line. However, they had waited too long and the cost for licensing The Cabbage Patch Kids became too high. So they decided haphazardly to "just do a parody" and the Garbage Pail Kids were born. In fact the Topps archives already contained a never released concept created for the Wacky Packages line that contained a "Garbage Pail Kid" in it's package. From there the company was off, churning out a combination of gruesome art and humorously clever name play that exploded into a fad that rivaled Cabbage Patch Kids themselves. If you grew up in the Eighties, even if you did not collect the cards yourself, you became quite familiar with some of these characters. You saw them in school, on notebooks, folders, and locker doors. Kids were proud to let you check out their collections and your young mind just absorbed the odd, wonderful images. In fact, at the height of popularity Garbage Pail Kids were banned from some schools. This was not so much in protest of the content, but because they were deemed a distraction.
Zombies were big in the eighties, perhaps not as big as they are now, but Micheal Jackson's Thriller (1983), George A Romero's Day of the Dead (1985), the TV movie Midnight Hour kept Zombies in the forefront in the mid eighties. This Series 1 (1985) Dead Ted card featured a traditional zombie, rotten and worm infested, ascending from his grave. His alternative name was Jay Decay, although growing up in Chicago, I would have preferred he shared the name of a certain local newsman instead.
This superbly painted Meltin' Elton Garbage Pail Kid from the 3rd series (1986) revealed the logistical problems snowmen encounter in keeping warm. It had an alternative name (Crystal Gale) that was a play on the name of the then well know country singer with extremely long hair. An example of how pop culture puns were part of the formula, used in conjunction with the evocative artwork. It also had a rare second alternative name IG Lou.
This Garbage Pail Kid Phony Lisa simply places a kid in Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting. It appeared in Series 1 (1985), and had an equally irreverent alternate name: Mona Loser.
Adam Bomb was one of the most iconic Garbage Pail Kids and was so good it was used on the collector card's packaging. It was also one of the first conceived. It had the alternate name Blasted Billy. I think it worked well as the poster child because it didn't directly parody anything (except Cabbage Patch Kids) so it was an idea kept within the its own world.
A gangster learns that crime doesn't pay in the end. Note the negative space in the characters shadow showing bullets have torn right through him. This is from Garbage Pail Kids Series 1 and has the uninspired alternative name Dead Fred.
Inspired by a pop culture reference not intended for children, this Series 3 (1986) homage to the popular cult movie might have come as a shock to many parents. Its one thing to have gross or even violent images, that was to be expected and somewhat tolerated for a fad aimed predominately at young boys. But images like Rock E. Horror here, that feature an ambiguously sexualized Garbage Pail Kid must have ruffled some feathers. The alternative name was Marty Gras.
Wrinkled Rita could very well be the inspiration for the sun-baked Magda character from Something about Mary (1998). Her alternate name was Ancient Annie and she appeared in Garbage Pail Kids Series 1 (1985).
From Garbage Pail Kids Series 1 (1985) this simple yet morbid concept had an alternate name Zach Plaque.
It seems as though the garbage pail kids are filled with gum. In scenes where a kid might otherwise bleed a pink gooey substance is shown. This may be a device in place to reduce the gore in these violent scenes. We really like the alternate name her: Flat Tyler. This was part of Garbage Pail Kids Series 3 from 1986.
From Series 1 (1985) here is another one where in lieu of blood and guts there is pink stuff. She was also called Flat Pat.
One of the most famous images in American history. Here Uncle Sam, instead of urging us to enlist, is mining for nose gold. From Series 3 (1986) he also went by the alternate name U.S. Arnie.
Launched in Series 1 (1985), this image appeared smack dab in the middle of Ronald Reagan's presidency. It successfully caricatures the President while retaining the Garbage Pail Kid aesthetic. The alternate name is Ray Gun.
I'm reminded of the sink scene from the 1988 Blob remake. This Garbage Pail Kid, Clogged Duane came as part of Series 2 (1985). It's alternate name was Bye Bye Bobby.
I love how this character seems to be reacting to stress in a very adult way but is still in a diaper and picking his nose. Nervous Rex appeared in Series 1 (1985) and his alternate name Nerdy Norm doesn't seem to suit him, in my opinion.
As cleverly named as Guillo Tina was, this Garbage Pail Kid had a great alternative name that fit the art work as well as tied into a pop culture icon of the time. I give you Cindy Lopper. She appeared in 1985 as part of Series 1.
Grim Jim is the personification of death. The alternate name is Beth Death. This Garbage Pail Kid is an example of where the alternate name is a different sex then the original. This may be a way to make the two characters using the same image, even more distinct from one another. You will see in these cases the artwork keeps the character androgynous enough to be viewed as male or female. Obviously with this example, being a skeleton, it was not difficult to achieve ambiguity. This Kid was part of Series 3 (1986).
From series 4 (1986) this being is called Alien Ian its alternative name is Outerspace Chase. Tim Burton must have appreciated this Garbage Pail Kid, because it was used as the inspiration for the design of the aliens from the movie Mars Attacks (1996). Looks closely at the alien foot soldiers in the background to see the details that were copied almost exactly.
From Garbage Pail Kids Series 3 (1986) here we have Alice Island / Liberty Libby. I wonder how may children got the Ellis Island reference?
Being that Tops found great success with their line of Star Wars collector Cards its surprising there aren't more references to that popular franchise. I suspect the artists needed to be careful not to violate copyright laws. Pictured is the 1977 R2D2 card from their star was series. You can see what really makes this a direct parody is the robot's feet. Here Ashcan Andy appeared in Series 1 (1985) and was given a female alternate persona Spacey Stacy.
Simple, disturbing and surreal. Some of the best Garbage Pail Kids weren't satirizing anything, just showing us Daliesque body horror on a Cabbage Patch Kid. Bony Tony was also know as Unzipped Zack and was part of Series 4 (1986).
Again, as with Nervous Rex, the juxtaposition of a baby who is in an negative adult situation is repellent. Boozin Bruce is plastered drunk, about to step into an open manhole, and yet clutches a bottle with a nipple. This garbage Pail Kid from Series 1 (1985) had the humorous alternative name Drunk Ken. By the way, Rot Gut is an old term for cheap booze. Also I understand the pink elephant is an emblem of hallucinations, but whats with the blue bunny? I still have so much to learn.
This clever tie in to a celebrity name appeared in Series 3 (1986). The alternate has a female name: Karate Kate. As mentioned before, with Grim Jim / Beth Death, this Garbage Pail Kid (with his/her ponytail) was designed to appear either male or female.
Charlotte Web was part of Garbage Pail Kids Series 3 (1986) her alternate name was Didi T. The latter was a reference to DDT an infamous pesticide used since the forties then eventually banned in the 70"s and 80's throughout the world.
This odd Garbage Pail Kid had an alternative name evoking a pop culture icon of the time. Called Blue Boy George, he wore Boy George's trademark pork pie hat and braided hair. I had to look up the meaning of Earl Painting, it appears to be a homage to Ralph Earl a painter known for predominantly and prolifically painting portraits. Who says the Garbage Pail Kids aren't cultured? This unique image combines attributes of these two unlikely muses. He appeared in Series 5 (1986).
Why not Frank Furter? This disturbing image had a male alternate name Hot Doug. This unappetizing Garbage Pail Kid was part of Series 5 (1986).
At first glance it would appear as though the woman is the subject of this Garbage Pail Kid card instead of the unfortunate Furry Murray. The alternate name is Foxy Francis from Series 4 (1986).
Turned-on Tara from series 4 (1986). I quite like the alternate name Tiffany Lamp.
Another memorable and surreal Garbage Pail Kid image Handy Randy was also called Jordan Nuts.
Stuffed Stephen from series 4 (1986) has the brilliant alternate title parodying our 19th president: Rutherford B. Hay.
If you want to see more, you can check out every kid conceived from Series 1 through 5. This 2012 book showcases Garbage Pail Kids at the height of their popularity. Published by The Topps company, it features an insightful forward by Topps artist Art Spiegleman and amusing afterword by fellow Topps artist John Pound.
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ELVIRA'S 1986 MTV HALLOWEEN SPECIAL
Submitted for your approval, another edition of Be Kind Rewind, here we have a tricky treat known as the 1986 MTV Halloween Special hosted by Elvira, mistress of the dark. You may notice these photos are unfortunately pretty bad, that is because this comes from a YouTube video transferred from a VHS tape that an utter genius had the foresight to record from it's original live broadcast on Halloween night in 1986. At the beginning of the YouTube video the gentleman who uploaded it explained that he popped in the VHS tape, pressed record, then went out to have a Halloween night of fun with his friends. The Elvira Halloween Special was a four hour production that consisted of music videos and random skits spread throughout all featuring the talents of Elvira. These skits are split between Elvira doing some ad-lib shtick and some scripted skits. Because this was taped from television the original commercials are here and they are just as much (in retrospect) part of the show. The music videos are unfortunately removed to eliminate copyright entanglements, but the beginning and the end of each video is there so you can research and seek out the songs if you like. The music represented here for the most part is an odd but refreshingly progressive collection of moody almost goth-rock that was probably chosen to fit in with a Halloween theme. At the end of the four hour show Elvira herself gets into the groove with her oddly ambiguous "countdown" of songs, we will get into that later.