In 2015, as Topps marks the 30th anniversary of the Garbage Pail Kids brand, the cards and characters are poised for a return to the popularity they achieved in the days when children of the 1980s snatched wax packs off of drugstore shelves as fast as they could be stocked. The company has big plans for celebrating the brands’ milestone anniversary, and this time it has the potential to be a multigenerational success, enjoyed by kids and the adults who grew up with them.
The Garbage Pail Kids sticker cards were an offshoot of Topps’ “Wacky Packages” stickers, which featured parodies of popular brands and products. “GPK” were developed by several cartoonists including Art Spiegelman, who would go on to contribute to The New Yorker and win a Pulitzer Prize for his graphic novel “Maus.”
The Garbage Pail Kids stickers became known for their irreverent, gross-out humor and clever wordplay. Examples include “Many Lenny,” who has multiple heads and “Stormy Heather,” whose umbrella is struck by lightning. Other characters, like “Potty Scotty” and “Acne Amy,” speak for themselves and demonstrate why they were so popular with kids.
Despite the concerns of parents and teachers, however, the original fans of Garbage Pail Kids grew up just fine, and Vice President of Global Licensing Ira Friedman says that’s a major reason why he and Topps are excited about the 30th anniversary push.
“A lot of the kids who were 10 years old when they initially came across it are now parents with their own children, and it’s an opportunity to relive some of their past,” Friedman says.
The enduring nature of the Garbage Pail Kids brand has a lot to do with its anything-goes approach to humor, and Friedman says it’s an aspect of popular culture that remains as relevant as ever. “It seems like the irreverent humor aspect of the Garbage Pail Kids has never faded from the public’s consciousness,” Friedman says.
Topps’ Head of Outbound Licensing, Adam Levine, continued, “It was counterculture – the type of thing that kids didn’t want to be showing their parents.”
Fans of the Garbage Pail Kids in the 1980s had little more than the original sticker cards, but Topps is making sure the brand’s 30th anniversary gives fans more ways to experience the artwork and characters. First and foremost is the new Garbage Pail Kids comic book series from publisher IDW. At long last fans of the Garbage Pail Kids will learn the stories behind their favorite characters. “This is the first time Topps has ever introduced the characters of the Garbage Pail Kids in a true story form,” Levine says.
The comic book is the centerpiece of the revival of the Garbage Pail Kids because as Levine says, “the 30th Anniversary is a good platform for reintroducing the characters and the original concepts behind the brand while also doing something different and new.”
Levine continued, “While we’ve had many opportunities and lots of interest over the years, this anniversary does what we couldn’t before, providing a strong brand story for us to build our licensing around; a springboard to make GPK relevant again.”
The comic book will be accompanied by a series of toys and collectables from Funko, which has become well-known for its lines of stylized pop-culture-inspired toys that run the gamut from bobble head dolls to action figures.
“I can think of nobody better in the collector toy business than Funko,” Levine says.
Joining the toys will be a new line of games from Steve Jackson Games, starting with a collectable dice game. Levine says Topps and SJG are discussing other types of games to follow the dice game after it debuts later this year.
Continuing the Phenomenon
Topps won’t be forgetting what made the Garbage Pail Kids a phenomenon to begin with, as they will continue producing sticker cards featuring new and classic artwork from the series, starting with a 30th anniversary set coming out this summer. The 30th anniversary is the right time for Topps to make a serious push with Garbage Pail Kids, Levine says, and the company is confident that its licensing efforts will make a big impact on a new generation of young fans as well as the original collectors.
“We’re very excited by what we’re seeing from our licensees already, and we know fans of all ages are going to go nuts for it.”