High Art meets Wacky Art

This is a story I just couldn’t resist.

Some of y’all (hopefully a lot of y’all — I don’t think I’m that much older than the rest of you) may remember a product of the 1970s called “Wacky Packages” — bubble gum trading cards and stickers that featured gross parodies of well-known consumer products. I used to love these when I was a kid — I’m sure they’ve all been thrown away long ago, but they were (to my high-toned grade-school mind) extremely funny and fun to stick on your bike or your notebook or your school desk.

And it turns out that one of the original “Wacky Packages” creators was Art Spiegelman, the guy who wrote and drew the Pulitzer-Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus”.

Not that Topps, or more specifically illustrator Art Spiegelman and writer Jay Lynch — goaded by Topps’ Woody Gelman and Len Brown — knew the import of the work. In the preface to the new book “Wacky Packages” (Abrams), a collection of the first seven series of the Topps cards, Spiegelman — yes, the same Art Spiegelman who won a Pulitzer Prize for “Maus” — remembers the creation of Wackies as being “a dream job,” but something that would probably be forgotten.

“It was all done as Part of a Day’s Work, much like the way early comic books were made: they certainly weren’t made as art, they weren’t sold as art, and they weren’t thought of as art,” he says in the book’s introduction. “Wacky Packages just formed an island of subversive underground culture in the surrounding sea of junk.”

It’s amazing that these are considered collectable now. I think if I had a package of these now… well, I’d probably just go stick ’em on my desk at work. Can’t go wrong with the classics…

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