As a collector of 80s era stickers, one of my absolute favorite sticker producers has to be the Topps Chewing Gum Company. Whether it was the plethora of sticker subsets that came in packs of their movie and television trading card sets, Garbage Pail Kids, or a number of their other similar trading card/sticker offerings, they just seemed to have their fingers on the pulse of what kids in the 80s wanted. After over 30 yeas of collecting Topps stuff from the 80s I couldn’t help but eventually start dipping my toes into their earlier releases, in particular the card sets that gave birth to and informed my favorite 80s era products. So when one considers a series like the classic Garbage Pail Kids, there is a direct link to a previous offering, their long-running sticker series Wacky Packages. Not only was the humor of both very similar with a lot of spoofing and morbid visual gags, but the very first GPK came from a set of Wacky Packages.
The series initially ran from 1967 to 1976 with a total of 16 official sets, and a bunch of subsets and off-shoots. Then, in the lead up to or in early 1985 the company decided to attempt a relaunch of the brand with an All New set of stickers spoofing more modern day products. One of the cards that was originally slated for the set (roughed and thought up by Mark Newgarden) was by a young underground illustrator named John Pound who painted a gag knock-off of the Cabbage Patch Kids called the Garbage Pail Kids. The sticker was held back as the company was already trying to get the license to create Cabbage Patch Kids trading cards, but then on a spur of the moment they decided it would just be easier to create a parody set. Art Spieglman was going to take point on the project and Mark Newgarden brought out the John Pound painting slated for the new Wacky Packages set and a phenomenon was born. Of course Pound would go on to paint the first two complete Garbage Pail Kids sets and a ton of others from the other 13 series.
When I was learning about these connections I couldn’t help but start seeking out the original Wacky Packages stickers, which is way easier said than done. I eventually settled on the awesome Abrams books that collect the first 14 series in two volumes (book one and book two), but I was able to snag a set of the 1985 relaunch series finally. Information on the set is weirdly hard to find besides the fact that Tom Bunk worked on the illustrations for the wrapper and the box, that Mark Newgarden came up with a bunch of the gags, and that John Pound painted a handful of the cards. Apparently original Wacky artist Norm Saunders worked on a few of these paintings as well, but it’s unclear which ones he painted.
The set consists of 44 sticker cards
One of my favorite paintings from this set is the Burger Thing card that just happens to be painted by John Pound, but he also painted the Loafing Cow sticker above.
In fact a lot of Pound’s paintings were in the beginning of this set as he also worked on the three above and Aqua Flush below.
Pound worked on two other paintings in this set, the Grave cat food sticker above and the Lazy Goo sticker towards the end of the set. Having this set debut in the mid 80s is great because they hit on a ton o 80s era staples that I have a lot of nostalgia for. Cards like G.I. Toe, Pimple Weekly (my mom was a huge People Magazine fan), the colored Mr. Pig toilet paper, and the Soapy Washman are great standouts.
Some of my favorite Wacky Packages are the ones that features monsters and spooks, so the Ghost soap sticker is a favorite for sure.
Conversely, I hate the stickers that feature cigarette or cigar themes, so the Tobacco/Tabasco or Hamel Pigarettes are probably my lest favorites in the set.
Here’s that final Pound piece in this set, the Instant LAzy Goo.
Though I was hoping for a Transformers parody, we did get a Go Bots one, with the Go Bums.
Completing the set imagery are these card backs featuring the 1985 Checklist and of course various puzzle-back pieces as well as a couple of backs that let you know what puzzles to complete.
All in all this is a very solid set and I’m surprised that it didn’t catch on as well as the eventual Garbage Pail Kids line would. We wouldn’t see another Wacky Packages set until 1991, and then it would go dormant again for almost another 20 years before Topps did their huge Garbage Pail Kids relaunch in the early 2000s.