I still remember the first time I laid eyes on a pack of Garbage Pail Kids cards. Nasty Nick, though now a staple card representative of the first set, was nothing special. Brainy Janie looked like a redux from the Mars Attacks cards I found later in life. But Oozy Suzie, Slobby Robbie, those kids were downright disturbing . . . and for that, I loved them.
Riddled with vomit, snot, and entrails, the Garbage Pail Kids cards remain burned into the memory of hundreds of thousands across America. Spawning countless future sets and spinoffs (anybody remember Grossville High sticker cards?), Garbage Pail Kids laid a foundation for the “gross” market.
Things were never quite the same after Garbage Pail Kids. Where once the family gathered around a board to send siblings and parents into a state of bankruptcy, now children could wile away the hours digging plastic viruses out of snot issuing forth from a giant nasal cavity. Innocent cartoons from the past were replaced by cartoons a decade later like Ren & Stimpy and Billy & Mandy.
So is it the gross-out factor that makes GPK bizarro? Not entirely. It’s the blurred lines between demographics, such as can be found in Lotus Rose’s Macho Poni. It’s the outlandish yet relevant parody also found in books like CM3’s Cannibals of Candyland. And why are these titles and Garbage Pail Kids so successful, despite the constant bitching and moaning of parents across the country? Because they tapped into something that was already there. The creators identified an unsaturated market . . . the rest is history.
Nervous Rex had cigarettes sticking out of every orifice in his head.
The transvestite Swell Mel likely served as an inspiration for Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.
Boozin Bruce hangs off a light pole, hallucinating pink elephants with a bottle of liquor in his hand.
The Garbage Pail Kids were so successful that both a film and a cartoon series were released. The intro to the cartoon series, now available on DVD, can be viewed below:
Garbage Pail Kids still thrives to this day. The official website features the latest GPK series, as well as countless spinoffs. You can find it at the link below: