Book Review: Garbage Pail Kids

PrintE-mail Written by Kris Heys

Review: Garbage Pail Kids / Author: Art Spiegelman, John Pound / Format: Hardback / Publisher: Abrams Comic Arts / Release Date: April 1st 

If, like this reviewer, you can remember a time when you’d think nothing of walking for miles, your sweaty pre-pubescent palm clutching 15p, desperate to find a newsagent that stocked a controversial bubblegum card series featuring warped versions of popular dolls The Cabbage Patch Kids, then keep reading. If you don't, you might as well stop here, this book is not for you.

Still there? Great, you're going to love this. Publishers Abrams Comic Arts have created a beautifully presented reminder of just how strange you were back when you were young. A celebration of the phenomenon that was GPK.

Kicking off with a brutally honest, information packed foreword by creator Art Spiegelman (who would years later go on to atone for his sins here with the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel Maus), the book then showcases full page reprints of every card from series 1-5. Within these pages you’ll be re-introduced to long forgotten characters and facts, the first surprise being that these five series were produced over just two years (1985-1986), with makers Topps capitalising on their sudden success and churning them out in quick succession (the book later elaborates on this with the admission that each card was painted in a single day!). With 16 series in total, naturally the law of diminishing returns soon applied, with desperation clearly showing in later designs. Abstract situations in favour of actual characters became more evident, losing the iconic nature of earlier creations. The names too got increasingly lazy (Mel Meal? Really?), not that they ever were particularly clever in the first place (unless you were 10 of course), but this is again provided context with the revelation that the naming process came only after a piece of art was submitted. While the simple alliteration and word play serves only to highlight just how easily amused you were back in ’85, the quality and inventiveness of the artwork continues to impress to this day.

Once you’ve poured through all 206 designs, we’re treated to an afterword by chief GPK artist John Pound. While admittedly a dry read, it’s no less information packed than Spiegelman’s foreword, and makes no bones about their mission statement. Kids got pocket money, and Topps wanted every last penny!

The coup de grace here you’ll find stuck to the very back page – 4 new GPK cards exclusive to this book. These ‘lost’ cards were originally destined to appear in series 10 & 16 but were ultimately rejected, surely due to their depictions of bodily harm (2 x gunshots to the face, nails to the head and scissors through the nose). The company did have a line they wouldn’t cross after all. Who knew!

If you’ve long misplaced your old collection, this book delivers a nostalgia fix that only a couple of years spent trolling eBay to buy them all over again could possibly provide.

Topps marks!

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