The 1980s were pretty gross. Feathered hair. Bleached denim. Hair metal. But this month, IDW Publishing brings back the undisputed gross-out champs with "Garbage Pail Kids Comic Book Puketacular" #1, the first in a series of one-shots celebrating the 30th anniversary of the crude crew that included Adam Bomb, Scotty Potty, Dead Ted and more. "Garbage Pail Kids" debuted in 1985 as a Topps trading card sticker set, and the new comic series features vignettes by indy creators including Peter Bagge, Dean Haspiel, Joe Simko and many more.
Bagge, Haspiel and editor Denton Tipton -- AKA Beautifully Ugly, Sex Machine Dean and Denny Saur -- explained what they have in store for the occasionally offensive title when speaking recently with CBR News. They also shared their thoughts on "Garbage Pail Kids" and "Maus" creator Art Spiegelman -- and why it's not so surprising the two ostensibly opposite creations came from the same man.
CBR News: Obviously, a lot of people are pretty excited about the return of "Garbage Pail Kids" in comic book form. Where did each of you first encounter the classic gross-out gang?
Dean Haspiel: "Garbage Pail Kids" debuted the same time I was trying to lose my virginity while assisting Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin and Walter Simonson on their respective comic books my senior year of high school in 1985. I believe the last time I picked up a trading card from Topps it was either Bucky Dent from the New York Yankees or something perverse from a "Wacky Pack." Alas, "Garbage Pail Kids" never made it into my back pocket.
Peter Bagge: I was an adult when they came out, but I was a fan of "Wacky Packages" as a kid, as well as the monster stickers with kids' names on them. "GPK" are clearly an extension of both of those, so I have no doubt I would have gone nuts over them if I was born 20 years later!
Denton Tipton: Totally. I was 10 when they really hit big, so I was quite helpless to their charms. But there was only one problem. I was also really into comics at the time (go figure), and it was a tough call between an issue of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" or three packs of "GPK." Ah, to have those problems again.
Most of you were pretty fresh to the property, then. As you did research for the new series which of the "Garbage Pail Kids" became your favorites?
Haspiel: In studying for the upcoming "GPK" comic book series, I discovered a treasure trove of disturbed characters and I came to empathize with Heartless Hal aka Bowen Arrow for the simple reason that his love bolt backfires through his own heart!
Bagge: All the throw-up ones are my favorites. The snot ones are a close second.
Tipton: Flat Tyler was a favorite because I loved the name play on that one. Bony Tony, too, because one of my best friend's name was Tony. I'd have to throw in Shorned Sean as well because it freaked out the most people. Still manages to make me wince.
Dean and Peter, what are your stories about?
Haspiel: I co-created a new "GPK" character called Asphalt Walt with Hang Dai Studios mate/writer Vito Delsante. What was originally a parody of Marvel Comics' The Thing, quickly turned into a boulder-sized brute with blistering bowel problems. All Vito had to tell me was, "He shits bricks," and the character came painfully alive. I also co-created another "GPK" character with another studio mate/writer, Jonathan "Swifty" Lang, for the "Love Stinks" issue.
Bagge: One is rather self referential -- about a couple of "GPKs" collecting similar collectables at a comic con. Another story is about fart fated lovers for the Valentine's issue.
Dean, you mention you created a new character for your story. Peter, were any of your characters original as well? Also, will either of your creations be featured in future GPK sticker sets?
Haspiel: Once "Ew Nick" got the kibosh, I decided to lean on my collaborators to help concoct original "Garbage Pail Kids." I feared that my innate sensibilities for "GPK" were too scandalous. However, since I have co-created some new and approved Garbage Pail Kids, it's up to Topps to turn 'em into cards.
Bagge: I made up one character, who's on the cover of #1 and in the first story. I was asked to come up with a new one. Otherwise there's way too many existing characters to work from!
The "Garbage Pail Kids" have courted controversy since their inception because of how over-the-top they were, even being banned in some schools. Where do you guys draw the line personally when dealing with humor aimed at kids?
Haspiel: Stretched boogers, uncontrollable diarrhea and projectile vomit is a laugh riot but nothing beats a well-furnished fart. What's not funny is when you get taken advantage of and/or be put into a compromising position that can emotionally scar you for life.
Bagge: No full frontal nudity? That's about it.
Tipton:> Well, the comic isn't really aimed at 10 year-olds, and I doubt the new card sets are either. I encouraged all the creators to push the boundaries of potty humor and let Topps rein us in when necessary. In this first book, there was only one gag that I rejected outright, but it didn't really fit with the story or "GPK" in general. And, no, I ain't telling.
Dean and Peter -- did your stories have to be reined in at all on the gross-out factor?
Bagge: My first story wasn't really gross at all. The second one was, but no one told me to hold it back. I assumed that's what Denton wanted!
Haspiel: When Denton asked me to pitch an idea for the romance issue, this is what I initially gave him:
Ew Nick in "Love Punch." Ew Nick (eunuch) likes girls but he has never kissed a girl and didn't get a prom date. So, he's standing sad and alone by the punch bowl at the prom where he (nefariously) spikes it with a love potion in hopes of getting a girl to drink it and fall for him. Literally. Sally Bit (celibate) notices what Ew Nick did and lets him pitch one pathetic line of woo before she declares "I'm saving myself for a proper Romeo, you psycho-sexual predator" and clocks him with her fist, knocking him out. Ew Nick wakes up naked in a bathtub full of ice wearing a bloody diaper and a ransom note for his castrated balls. Those two were never meant to get laid!
Needless to say, Denton (thankfully) shot that idea down. What was I thinking??? Luckily, I got writer/studio mate, Jonathan Lang to collaborate with me on another, more appropriate idea that sold.
How did IDW wind up doing a "Garbage Pail Kids" anthology?
Tipton: I had been working with Topps on the "Mars Attacks" comics, and when that run came to a close we looked at other properties that were ripe for comics. "GPK" was a natural choice, and once I came up with a game plan, IDW quickly agreed.
I was surprised to learn when doing research for this interview that "Garbage Pail Kids" was created by "Maus" writer/artist Art Spiegelman. Seems crazy. What do you think is the connection between somebody making both one of the oddest and one of the most profound properties of the last 30 years?
Bagge: You'd have to ask Art about that! But they clearly took up two very different parts of his creative mind.
Haspiel: After having tackled a few serious subjects myself (including "The Alcoholic" with Jonathan Ames, and "CUBA: My Revolution" with Inverna Lockpez), I came to understand the critical importance of levity. You can't be all serious all the time or your message hits people over the head like an anvil. I can't speak for Art Spiegelman but I can only guess that balancing "Garbage Pail Kids" with "Maus" is what energized him to go full throttle on both projects. It must feel quite cathartic to dig deep like that knowing you can take a break and hopscotch between entertainment and something more meaningful.
Tipton: According to Art, one was a job done for a corporation that had its needs, the other was art that fulfilled his own needs. The source was the connection, but done with completely different intents. Not to get too high-brow in an interview about potty humor in sticker form, but as Walt Whitman wrote, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
Peter you clearly have an affectation for "Wacky Packages" since it appears in your story but Dean and Denton – do you have any thoughts on the "GPK" precursor? Do you think it paved the way for "GPK's" success?
Haspiel: Absolutely! Not only was "GPK" poking fun at "Cabbage Patch Kids," but it was picking up the gross gauntlet that "Wacky Packages" threw down. I remember dressing my notebooks and lockers with "Wacky Packages" stickers and trading doubles with my schoolmates. And then I discovered girls.
Tipton: Those were great, for sure, and definitively paved the way for "GPK." The very first "GPK" was an unpublished "Wacky Packages" sticker that found new life as the basis of an entire sticker series!
Denton, how did you decide which creators tackled which characters?
Tipton: I let the creators decide that, but we did concentrate on the first five sticker series. Some characters appear in multiple strips, but we didn't have to be concerned with continuity or canon. Just fun stories with as many gross-out moments as possible.
What's your favorite story from the collection?
Dean: Peter Bagge always brings the guffaws but I have a soft spot for what Bill Wray and Hilary Barta did with their witty ditty, "$#!tstorm."
Tipton: Jeez, that's like picking your favorite child. Your favorite disgusting, unwanted child. I have to plead the Fifth on that one.
Dean, what's going on with your other series "The Fox" right now?
Haspiel: I'm currently finishing the art for issue #2 of the next "The Fox" series for Dark Circle and breaking down issue #3. If the first "Fox" story, "Freak Magnet," was my modern homage to Silver Age superheroes, "Fox Hunt" is my attempt to amp up the body count in a way that keeps the story gritty without getting gratuitous.
Finally, if you were had to give yourself a "Garbage Pail Kids" style name, what do you think it would be?
Haspiel: Sex Machine Dean.
Tipton: I would have to go with one that exists, and the closest to Denton would be Denny Saur.
Bagge: Beautifully Ugly. Or Irresistibly Grotesque.
"Garbage Pail Kids Comic Book Puketacular" #1 is available this month from IDW Publishing.