Do You Remember Collecting Wacky Packages?
Wacky Packs Wild Success
Wacky Packages were collector stickers, produced by the Topps company, that parodied commercial consumer products, thumbed its nose at well-known brands and lampooned brand packaging. Topps first produced Wacky Packages in standard trading card format (aka die-cut cards) in 1967.
In 1973, Topps revamped the collectables into the much now cherished sticker format. The new sticker style was so highly successful, that for the first two years they were published, Wacky Packages out sold the Topps flagship... baseball cards. The series has been relaunched several times over the years, most recently to great success in 2007, but who cares about re-releases! I'm tlking about Wacky Packages heyday...1973 to 1977. Wacky Packages are known to those who affectionately remember the smartass sticker of the 70's as "Wacky Packs." Amazingly the creative force of artist included Art Spiegelman, Kim Deitch, , Bill Griffith, Jay Lynch, and the late, Norm Saunders; who are all well known names amongst the (adult) underground comics crowd.
While Wacky Packs' original fans are now in their 30s and 40s, the primary target audience is still the 6 to 12 years old group. The adolescent age bracket where armpit farts, fake puke, and making fun of the products that surround them is still part of the natural progression. It's that kid, Wacky Packages radar pings on. When was the last time you laughed over someone eating a Dork's Peppermint Pottys, or used Crust Toothpaste?
"When you live in a consumer culture," Art Spiegelman once said, "it's really the most ambient part of the adult world you're exposed to outside of the quirks of your own family. Anything that gives you another take on that is going to be attended to."
Unwrapped - Wacky Packages
Its The Topps
At a time when underground talents were barred from mainstream publishing, Topps deemed them fit to babysit America's kids. To be sure, Wacky Packages were not loaded with sex, drugs, or violence--though Spiegelman does recall an in-house parody of Ivory Snow featuring model-turned-porn star Marilyn Chambers and the logo "Ovaries Show." But an underground sensibility is evident in the card line. "Gets rid of Reds, Pinkos, Hippies, Yippies & Flippies" reads the motto for "Commie Cleanser," an early card spoofing Comet Cleanser. The more conservative Topps execs approved of it as all-American. Lynch saw it as a joke about political repression.
"That's what made Wacky Packages and Mad magazine so precious," says Carrie McLaren, editor of Stay Free! "There was a long tradition of parody advertising meant for adults when Wacky Packages appeared, but there was no other media about media for kids."
Wacky Packs, range of spoof was from the satirical to the utterly silly; with full-frontal sarcasm that was as sharp as being poked in the eye with a blunt ended stick. They even picked on the Disney-esque mascot for Peter Pan peanut butter becomes Peter Panhandle, a drunk slumped on the sidewalk with a bottle of hooch. "Will work for peanuts," says the sign hanging around his neck. Hormel's corned beef hash is now Gormel's Scorned Beef Hash, which promises "15 oz. of dead tormented flesh." York Peppermint Patties are Dork Peppermint Pottys--chocolate-covered candy toilet seats.
"They bring the fantasy of advertising down to reality," says Lynch. "They teach kids to think for themselves, and that what's good for GM and Coca-Cola isn't necessarily good for them. This is important, because these are the people 20 years down the road who will be doing your heart bypass."
Lynch is waiting along with Topps to see how Wacky Packages do with today's more consumer-savvy kids. Meanwhile, the adult fan base that grew up with Wacky Packs is driving another market: the paintings for the original Wacky Packs series fetch between $3,000 and $5,000 each. Topps itself will be auctioning off the original for Crust toothpaste, among other works, this summer; the company estimates that it will go for between $25,000 and $45,000.
"I was outbid at auctions for my own work and then fans asked me to sign them," says Spiegelman, who left Topps over the issue of royalties in 1987. "It physically sickened me."
Industry Stories from Arthur Shorin
Wacky Packages: Series One from 1973
The Wacky Pack: The Underground Artists Who Were Responsible
Wacky Packages since 1967, as been the king-pin of product-parodies. The stickers that turned Crest toothpaste into Crust (the toothpaste for those who only brush twice a month) or Gravy Train dog food into Grave Train ("Your dog will never eat anything else . . ."). Painted in spot-on detail and cut into the shapes of the products themselves, Wacky Packs stickers became instant graffiti for 70s kids.
Over the years the wack pack reasonsible for writing and drawing were some of the sharpest talents in the world of underground comics and Wacky Packages smuggled the counterculture onto playgrounds; years before kids were of age to buy these artists' comics.
"They change the DNA," says Lynch, "They teach kids not to put their total trust in corporate culture."
Norman Sauders was the legendary illustrator of Mars Attacks, Batman, Pre-Code Comics, Men’s Adventure, Paperbacks, Pulp Magazines, and Sci-Fi. His unique artistic vision influenced the visual language of American pop culture throughout a century of changing fashions, and continues to inspire today’s important visionaries. Savvy collectors have long dreamt of a book on the entire lifework of Norman Saunders, and that dream has finally come true with the world’s first book to present his finest paintings in radiant reproductions, to savor the extraordinary artistry behind so many iconic images, familiar from timeworn vintage collectibles.
Arthur Spiegelman was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and immigrated to the United States with his parents in his early childhood. After leaving college in 1968, he joined the underground comix movement. The following decade, Spiegelman became a regular contributor to various underground publications, including Real Pulp, Young Lust and Bizarre Sex. Under a variety of pseudonyms like Joe Cutrate, Skeeter Grant and Al Flooglebuckle he drew creations such as 'Ace Hole, Midget Detective', 'Nervous Rex', 'Douglas Comics' and 'Cracking Jokes'. In 1975, he and Bill Griffith co-founded Arcade, an influential comix revue with artists like Robert Crumb, S. Clay Wilson and Justin Green.
With the publication of 'Maus' in Funny Animals in 1972, Spiegelman's career really took flight. 'Maus' was based on the experiences of his parents as concentration-camp survivors. He expanded this premise into a full-blown graphic novel, which he drew from 1980 to 1986, with the Jews presented as mice and the Germans as cats (the Katzies). The book 'Maus: A Survivor's Tale', earned Spiegelman fame. He completed the tale in 1991 with 'Maus II: From Mauschwitz to the Catskills'. Art Spiegelman received the Pullitzer Prize in 1992.
Kim Deitch is generally held to be one of the greatest influences in American underground comix. He contributed to comical and psychedelical comix like The East Village Other, introducing characters like 'Sunshine Girl' and 'The India Rubber Man', starting in 1967. He was co-editor of Gothic Blimp Works, and co-founder fo the Cartoonists Co-op Press. He has often collaborated with his brother, Simon and Seth Deitch.
Throughout the years, Deitch has published a number of solo comix, starting with 'Corn Fed Comics' in 1972. Then followed 'The Stuff of Dreams', 'The Boulevard of Broken Dreams', 'Beyond the Pale', 'All Waldo Comics', 'A Shroud for Waldo', 'The Mishkin File', 'No Business Like Show Business', 'Shadowland' and 'Hollywoodland', mainly dealing with themes like addiction, deception and delusion.
Deitch regularly exhibits his originals in various galleries.
"Are we having fun yet?" This is uttered by the clown-suited
philosopher/media star Zippy the Pinhead has become so often quoted that
it is now in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Zippy has in fact become an
international icon, even appearing on the (former) Berlin Wall. Zippy's
creator, Bill Griffith, began his comics career in New York City in 1969.
His first strips were published in the East Village Other and Screw
Magazine and featured an angry amphibian named Mr. The Toad.
He ventured to San Francisco in 1970 to join the growing underground
comics movement and made his home there until 1998. His first major
comic book titles included Tales of Toad and Young Lust, a best-selling
series parodying romance comics of the time. The first Zippy strip appeared in Real Pulp #1
While dreaming of becoming a comic artist, New Jersey artist Jay Lynch noticed that American mainstream comics in the 1960s were dull and on their way back. So Lynch decided to become an underground artist. He published his own comic book, Bijou, which contained work by Skip Williamson, Art Spiegelman, Evert Geradts and Justin Green. But he has also made a considerable amount of comics himself, including famous works like 'Nard 'n' Pat', starring the hip and horny Pat the cat (in The Chicago Seed and later in Bijou, 1967).
He also has contributed to various magazines, such as Cracked and Help!, Jay Lynch is a teacher with the Chicago Art Institute. In more recent years, he has contributed to several popular comic series, like Topps' 'Zorro' comics and Dark Horse's 'Duckman'.