𝘽𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙄 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙣 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙧𝙩, 𝙄 𝙖𝙡𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙮 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙄 𝙘𝙖𝙣’𝙩 𝙬𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙤𝙙𝙪𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙗𝙡𝙮 𝙚𝙭𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙞𝙣 𝙢𝙮 𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙝𝙪𝙨𝙞𝙖𝙨𝙢, 𝙚𝙭𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙢𝙮 𝙜𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙙𝙚, 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙞𝙣 𝙢𝙮 𝙚𝙭𝙘𝙞𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙧 𝙢𝙖𝙠𝙚 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙞𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙢𝙮 𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙫𝙚𝙨, 𝙚𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙝𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙫𝙞𝙚𝙬.
𝙒𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝘽𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙂𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙗𝙚 𝙣𝙤 𝙈𝙞𝙘𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙤𝙛𝙩. 𝙒𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙋𝙖𝙪𝙡 𝙈𝙘𝘾𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙣𝙚𝙮 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙗𝙚 𝙣𝙤 𝘽𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙡𝙚𝙨. 𝙒𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚, 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙗𝙚 𝙣𝙤 𝙗𝙪𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙛𝙡𝙞𝙚𝙨. 𝘼𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙬𝙚𝙚𝙠𝙨 𝙏𝙧𝙖𝙨𝙝 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙫𝙞𝙚𝙬𝙚𝙚, 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙗𝙚 𝙣𝙤 𝙂𝙖𝙧𝙗𝙖𝙜𝙚 𝙋𝙖𝙞𝙡 𝙆𝙞𝙙𝙨!
Will Marston – 𝙃𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙠𝙚𝙩𝙘𝙝, 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙒𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙮 𝙋𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙨, 𝙛𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖 𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙤𝙙𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙤𝙥𝙪𝙡𝙖𝙧 𝘾𝙖𝙗𝙗𝙖𝙜𝙚 𝙋𝙖𝙩𝙘𝙝 𝙆𝙞𝙙𝙨 𝙙𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙨 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙡𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙣, 𝙗𝙚𝙘𝙖𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙖𝙨𝙞𝙨 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙣 𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙘𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙨, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙤𝙣 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙨𝙚 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙙𝙨 𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 𝙣𝙤𝙬. 𝙇𝙞𝙠𝙚 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚𝙣’𝙩 𝙜𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙡𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙮…𝙞𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙖𝙣 𝙖𝙗𝙨𝙤𝙡𝙪𝙩𝙚 𝙝𝙤𝙣𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙩𝙤 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙤𝙙𝙪𝙘𝙚 𝙈𝙖𝙧𝙠 𝙉𝙚𝙬𝙜𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣!
Mark Newgarden – Thanks Will, my pleasure.
Well, I’m not the biggest Beatles fan on earth (and having worked for Microsoft, I have no illusions.) But butterflies? OK, butterflies, sure, I’ll go along with that…
WM – 𝙒𝙚𝙡𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙈𝙖𝙧𝙠! 𝘼𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙨𝙚𝙚𝙢𝙨 𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚 𝙖 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙮 𝙜𝙤𝙤𝙙 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙧𝙩…𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙪𝙨 𝙖𝙗𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙞𝙣𝙛𝙖𝙢𝙤𝙪𝙨 𝙨𝙠𝙚𝙩𝙘𝙝? (𝙒𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙮𝙤𝙪? 𝙒𝙝𝙤 𝙙𝙞𝙙 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙞𝙩 𝙩𝙤? 𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣? 𝙏𝙀𝙇𝙇 𝙐𝙎 𝙀𝙑𝙀𝙍𝙔𝙏𝙃𝙄𝙉𝙂!!!)
MN – As I’ve mentioned in interviews before, the germ of GPK grew out of Topps Wacky Packages, which I collected myself as a 1960s kid (the very first ones, which were on thick gummed card stock – the stickers came later.) Wackys became a huge fad (and moneymaker) in the 1970s and Topps would reissue or revive them periodically – and around 1985 it was time again.
I was given an initial assignment by Len Brown (longtime Topps New Product Development dept. creative director) to compile a working list of new, feasible products to parody. I was also given a fat folder of corporate cease and desist letters that Topps accumulated over the years and a list of companies and products that were considered off limits. Most of the familiar supermarket brands were now verboten and there was some doubt that that a decent Wacky Packages set could be pulled off in 1985. But even if possible, it would not be a simple task. The subjects had to be iconic, family-friendly nationally distributed products that were owned by companies that had not threatened to sue Topps in the past – and believe me there were damned few left!
So I went shopping and got to work. I read the fine print on labels and learned about brand acquisitions and corporate conglomerates. I filled pages of ideas in a spiral notebook. Supermarket workers eyed me suspiciously. Len drove us out to a Toys-R-Us one afternoon to see what was on the shelves. My running idea list included the requisite parody /switch concept right off the bat (Burger King/ Burger Thing, T.V. Guide/ T.V. Died, Cabbage Patch Kids/ Garbage Pail Kids, etc.) So the GPK title came before anysketches. Cabbage Patch Kid dolls were not even available in toy stores at that point, but they had gotten a ton of publicity and were on kid’s radar, so it made sense to include them.
My finished list was reviewed by Len, the best prospects were OKed, (we ultimately needed 44 good ones) and I proceeded to flesh them out visually, adding the ancillary gags. I probably worked on these at a drawing board in the corner of the windowless NPD meeting room at Topps in Bush Terminal, Brooklyn over a number of weeks. I never really liked drawing there, the markers they used at Topps gave me the worst headaches (as did the ample supply of sugary gum products on hand.)
Len looked over my sketches next, as did Art Speigelman who would typically give notes. I don’t recall any specific reaction to that one at all, there were no notes or revisions. It was just another gag, it worked, next. It was filed in the series “OK” pile and ultimately sent off to John Pound (who was just starting at Topps) to use as a basis for a finished rendering. How that Wacky Package was spun off into a series of it’s own is a story that has also been told before…
WM – 𝙎𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙥𝙚𝙤𝙥𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙘𝙚𝙣𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙜𝙚𝙩 𝙟𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙗𝙞𝙜 𝙂𝙋𝙆 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚. 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙝𝙚𝙡𝙥𝙚𝙙 𝙨𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙖 𝙇𝙊𝙏 𝙤𝙛 𝙗𝙪𝙗𝙗𝙡𝙚𝙜𝙪𝙢! 𝘿𝙞𝙙 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙪𝙞𝙩𝙨 𝙖𝙩 𝙏𝙤𝙥𝙥𝙨 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙖𝙮 “𝙜𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩 𝙟𝙤𝙗 𝙗𝙤𝙮𝙨” 𝙤𝙧 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙞𝙩 𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙟𝙪𝙨𝙩 “𝙬𝙚 𝙣𝙚𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙣𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙙𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙗𝙮 𝙣𝙚𝙭𝙩 𝙬𝙚𝙚𝙠?”
MN – GPK became a big product for Topps. There were some modest bonuses for the creative team as new series accrued, but the suits paid themselves those kind of bonuses a thousand fold; the Topps CEO came from a sales background and any successes were routinely credited to the sales force. However, “we need another series done by next week” was a pretty constant refrain for the next several years. If anybody had ever invented a way to make new products without creative people, Topps would have bought the patent in a heartbeat!
WM – 𝘿𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙧𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧 𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙛𝙚𝙡𝙩 𝙬𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝘼𝙧𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙞𝙚𝙜𝙚𝙡𝙢𝙖𝙣 𝙗𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙜𝙝𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙞𝙣 𝙖𝙨 𝘾𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝘾𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙪𝙡𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙖𝙩 𝙏𝙤𝙥𝙥𝙨? 𝘼𝙣𝙙 𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙙𝙞𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙥𝙖𝙨𝙨?
MN – I had been a student of Art’s at SVA and then working with him as Raw magazine was getting underway. I was tossed a few random Topps assignments starting around 1982 or so while I was still at Raw. The first one was to research and write a series of backs for the upcoming Jaws 3D gum card series. They wanted 44 “Fun Facts About Fish” over a weekend. Universal wasn’t releasing the script for some reason & Topps needed a plan B in their back pocket, ASAP. I had written some funny fortune cookie messages prior so maybe that was credentials enough.
How did I feel? I was happy to have a paying gig, however inane, but it felt like a Jr. high school homework assignment. I handed the job off to Art at Raw and never heard about it again. Anyway, about a year later, NPD decided they needed some young blood on a regular basis and I guess they liked my blood type. I began coming in once a week and essentially hung around for the next decade or so. It was a strange and fascinating place, filled with absolute characters. At best, it was like stepping into a well-written sitcom. (And at worst, a badly-written soap opera.)
WM – 𝗜 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘀𝗲𝘁𝘀 𝘂𝗻𝗳𝗼𝗹𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲… 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘀𝗮𝘆 𝗶𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗽𝗶𝗲𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗚𝗣𝗞 𝗵𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗵𝘆?
MN – Yes, I’m sure I do. Those posters were fun btw, it was always enjoyable to extend things in a fresh direction, but they were done very quickly- another rush job. Anyway, I guess I would nominate that tattered spiral notebook of 1985 Wacky concepts that I mentioned earlier. If there is an actual physical starting point for GPK, that’s it.
WM – 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙢𝙤𝙨𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 1980𝙨 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙤𝙣 𝙨𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙖𝙛𝙩𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙂𝙋𝙆. 𝘾𝙖𝙣 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙨𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙖 𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙩𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙗𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙘𝙚𝙨𝙨? 𝘿𝙞𝙙 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙪𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙧 𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙗𝙡𝙤𝙘𝙠, 𝙤𝙧 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙝𝙚𝙡𝙫𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙙𝙚𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤𝙤 𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙦𝙪é?
MN – For me, the most creative part of GPK (new gag concepts) was always the easiest and most fun part of the job. If I ever felt blocked, my personal method was to stop thinking and just draw. Eventually something would develop on the page.
Yes, we shelved things all the time, only a small fraction of the ideas made it to print. And even then, “objectionable” concepts could get all the way to the finished art stage & still be rejected by the powers that be. But we would always resubmit them in the next series and most would eventually get used. A few outliers never saw the light of day for a variety of reasons. I recall one painting of John’s involving a smiling purple pickled kid in a jar that somebody there insisted just had to be a fetus.
WM – 𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙙𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙠 𝙤𝙛 𝙂𝙋𝙆 𝙛𝙖𝙣𝙨 𝙩𝙤𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙫𝙨 𝙂𝙋𝙆 𝙛𝙖𝙣𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 80𝙨? 𝘾𝙖𝙣 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙗𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙚𝙫𝙚 𝙬𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙟𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙖𝙨 𝙥𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙗𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙗𝙤𝙤𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙥𝙪𝙠𝙚?
MN – Night and day. The original GPK was a mass-market product aimed at all kids – not fans, and something they could buy themselves with their own pocket money. Today it’s a pre-sold niche market “property” and “branding opportunity” aimed at rapidly aging ex-kids (with far deeper pockets.)
Weirdly enough, there was an element of truth-telling in depicting gross bodily fluids in American pop-culture back in the buttoned-up Reagan era. Prior to GPK, that kind of content was considered beyond the pale in material aimed at children. For my part, I was always trying to include what I would have loved as a kid and proceeded accordingly. I was the oldest child in a large family, and snot and puke was just part of daily life in the Newgarden household. In fact, I almost got kicked out of art school for drawing a classmate of mine, vomiting and farting, on the walls there. Anyway, these became a 1980s kid-culture formula pretty quickly of course, and not just for Topps.
WM – 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙮 𝙛𝙖𝙢𝙤𝙪𝙨 𝘾𝙚𝙡𝙚𝙗𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙛𝙖𝙣𝙨 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙈𝙖𝙩𝙩 𝙂𝙧𝙤𝙚𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙍𝙤𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙩 𝘾𝙧𝙪𝙢𝙗. 𝙃𝙤𝙬 𝙙𝙤𝙚𝙨 𝙞𝙩 𝙢𝙖𝙠𝙚 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙛𝙚𝙚𝙡 𝙩𝙤 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙟𝙪𝙨𝙩 “𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙥𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙙”, 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪’𝙫𝙚 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙥𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙜𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨?
MN – I’m not sure what role “inspiration” ever plays, but if the original GPK series was great it was great because of the talents involved and because we all worked our butts off on it. There was a true serious of purpose behind all that snot and puke.
WM – 𝙒𝙝𝙤 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙥𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙨 𝙮𝙤𝙪?
MN – Cole Porter once said “My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a director”. I tend to share that sentiment, if not the particulars. In other words you need to be pre-inspired, self-inspired and ready for the call.
WM – 𝙒𝙝𝙤 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝘾𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙘 𝙞𝙣𝙛𝙡𝙪𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚𝙨?
MN – Harvey Kurtzman, the genius cartoonist and creator of Mad is probably the most pertinent influence in terms of GPK. Pretty much everybody involved in the creation of GPK was similarly enamored of Kurtzman, and his partner Will Elder. A comprehensive list would be too long to include here, suffice it to say it consists of hundreds of 20th century cartoonists, filmmakers, animators, performers, writers, illustrators… I could go on and on, but you get the idea – old funny dead guys.
WM – 𝙄𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙬𝙞𝙨𝙝𝙚𝙙 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙙 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙂𝙋𝙆 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 80𝙨?
MN – I’m a perfectionist and never satisfied with anything I work on—so sure, a million things. But that’s just the nature of the beast, especially when the work is deadline-driven and collaborative. After a certain point things are out of your hands. Letting go, moving on to the next project and incorporating lessons learned is part of the drill too. I’m still working on it.
WM – 𝘿𝙞𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘾𝙖𝙗𝙗𝙖𝙜𝙚 𝙋𝙖𝙩𝙘𝙝 𝘿𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙨 𝙡𝙖𝙬𝙨𝙪𝙞𝙩 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙖𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙢𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙛𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙤𝙧 𝙥𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣, 𝙤𝙧 𝙙𝙞𝙙 𝙞𝙩 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙞𝙩𝙚 𝙚𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙘𝙩, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙨𝙥𝙪𝙧 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙤𝙣?
MN – Good question and I’m not sure I have a good answer. At a certain point GPK kind of got old, probably for all of us. We had figured out what made a good GPK image, what made a good card back and what made a good series. We had 3 outstanding, dependable painters, a good idea of their individual strengths and how much work each could accomplish per week. And the stickers were still selling like crazy. GPK wasn’t exactly running on autopilot, but we had a solid handle on things and it became a little rote. John Pound (who was absolutely terrific with gag concepts) even created a computer program around this time to randomly generate new GPK ideas, that part had become so mechanical for him.
The lawsuit and settlement shook things up a bit and afterwards we had to rethink certain aspects all over again, to one degree or another anyway. In the meantime there were many proposals floated for similar, but completely different series and various other directions we might pivot to. They mostly came to nothing, but it was good exercise to flex our GPK brain cells in new ways. The original GPK really didn’t last all that much longer after the settlement anyway, and then we were on to new adventures.
WM – 𝘿𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙠 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙖𝙧𝙩 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 21𝙨𝙩 𝙘𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙮 𝙞𝙨 𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙗𝙚𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙘𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙤𝙧𝙚𝙙, 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙂𝙋𝙆 𝙣𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙡𝙤𝙤𝙠 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚 𝙙𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙨 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨 𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙝e𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙡𝙙𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚 𝙙𝙚𝙥𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨? 𝙒𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙨𝙖𝙮 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙥𝙚𝙤𝙥𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙤𝙬𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙨 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙧𝙩 𝙫𝙨. 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙫𝙞𝙤𝙡𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚?
MN – Art is censored all the time, that’s nothing new. To answer your question, take a look at the self-censorship of arecently postponed Philip Guston show that was in the news a few weeks back. The curators were concerned that the artist’s 1960s & 1970s paintings featuring unequivocal anti-KKK imagery might somehow offend in Trump’s 2020. Are we worried about hurting sensitive Klan member’s feelings now or is the cartoonish depiction of a white hood in and of itself just too traumatizing for public consumption?
Who is censoring GPK? I’m not aware of any recent changes, but then again I’m not looking too hard either. GPK were always supposed to look like dolls, albeit flexible, animated ones. After the lawsuit we had to add cracks to deliberately make them resemble jointed, hardplastic dolls as opposed to the “soft-sculpture” Cabbage Patch variety. That was part of the settlement terms. It didn’t help the product any, I always felt like those randomly added cracks were distracting. I’ve always wondered how much kids at the time noticed or cared. I think I would have.
WM – 𝘿𝙞𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙫𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙤𝙪𝙨 𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙙𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙨 𝙢𝙞𝙭 𝙖𝙩 𝙏𝙤𝙥𝙥𝙨? 𝘿𝙞𝙙 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙉𝙤𝙣 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩𝙨𝙘𝙖𝙧𝙙 𝙜𝙪𝙮𝙨 𝙜𝙧𝙖𝙗 𝙖 𝙘𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙚 𝙤𝙧 𝙖 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙧 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩𝙨 𝙘𝙖𝙧𝙙 𝙜𝙪𝙮𝙨? 𝘼𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙞𝙩 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙚𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙗𝙚𝙩𝙬𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙡𝙡?
MN – Topps was located in a Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood that was considered kind of dodgy in those days, so they maintained a company cafeteria to keep employees from wandering into trouble. I recall casual lunchtime intermixing with a couple of sports guys there, but to no great extent, on my part anyway. I don’t think most of the folks in the sports department had a clue what we even did- or cared, for that matter. (And vice versa.) I did learn years later that the negative publicity around GPK created some moments of tension in renewing certain player contracts for the sports execs, which is sort of amusing. For years they kept telling these morally indignant ball players “No, no, we don’t make those things anymore.”
WM – 𝘽𝙊𝙉𝙐𝙎 𝙌𝙐𝙀𝙎𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉 𝙃𝙤𝙬 𝙙𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙛𝙚𝙚𝙡 𝙖𝙗𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙂𝙋𝙆 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙣𝙣𝙞𝙪𝙢? 𝙄𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙛𝙚𝙚𝙡 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙞𝙩’𝙨 𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙤𝙧 𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜?
MN – It’s pretty depressing. Too much of what I have seen is frankly incompetent, so I try not to look.
WM – 𝘽𝙊𝙉𝙐𝙎, 𝘽𝙊𝙉𝙐𝙎 𝙌𝙐𝙀𝙎𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉: 𝙏𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙪𝙨 𝙖 𝙂𝙋𝙆 𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙜𝙚𝙩 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧.
MN – It’s a little late for trouble but here’s a secret: the late great Jay Lynch was a NPD creative workhorse for decades but he didn’t really have anything to do with GPK until pretty late in the game. Why? Well for one reason Jay was working on licensed Cabbage Patch Kids products for a toy company in Chicago at the time and had to recuse himself to avoid the suspicion of engaging in corporate espionage.
WM – 𝘽𝙊𝙉𝙐𝙎, 𝘽𝙊𝙉𝙐𝙎, 𝘽𝙊𝙉𝙐𝙎 𝙌𝙐𝙀𝙎𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉: 𝙄’𝙢 𝙜𝙤𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙪𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙗𝙧𝙤𝙬, 𝙡𝙤𝙬𝙗𝙧𝙤𝙬, 𝙚𝙭𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙖𝙡 𝙨𝙡𝙖𝙥𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙘𝙠, 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙙 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙫𝙞𝙚𝙬𝙨 (𝙞𝙩’𝙨 𝙤𝙠, 𝙬𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙮𝙤𝙪). 𝘼𝙣𝙙 𝙨𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙬𝙤𝙣’𝙩 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙚 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙖 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙙𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 “𝙗𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙡𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣” 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙚 𝙖𝙨𝙠 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙨 𝙬𝙚 𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙠 𝙩𝙤…𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙨𝙤 𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙜𝙤𝙚𝙨… 𝘽𝙪𝙣𝙠 𝙑𝙨 𝙋𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙙?
MN – It all depends on the gag!
Interview was conducted by longtime GPK collectors Sybil Ferro, Will Marston, Slippa Chervascus, Roddy Francisco Fell, and Alicia Forrest in Sept. 2020, and originally appeared on the Garbage Pail Kids Misfits Facebook group. Sybil can be contacted here.