NEW YORK - Somewhere, in a a junior high
school locker, sits a faded sticker: "Weakies, the Breakfast of
Time to scrape it off, and make room for a new generation of pop
culture spoofs. "Wacky Packages," the hot 1970s fad parodying
popular household products, is revamped and ready for the 21st
In May, the Topps Co. will rerelease Wacky Packages with one eye
on the nostalgia market and its other on kids brought up in the
computer age. The company hopes its product can transcend time and
the generation gap.
"Poking fun at things, making parody, is a long accepted form of
entertainment and one we think transcends generations," said Ira
Friedman, vice president of new products at Topps.
"But the question remains: aside from the adult market, will it
resonate with younger kids today? We hope so."
Born in 1967, the "Wacky Packages" were hand-drawn parodies done
with Mad Magazine style-humor, placed on punched-out cardboard with
a lick-and-stick back, and sold like baseball cards in a pack with a
piece of gum.
Early artists included pulp-novel cover master Norman Saunders,
who also created the Mars Attacks series for Topps, and Art
Spiegelman, who later won the Pulitzer Prize for his illustrated
holocaust narratives "Maus" and "Maus II."
Everything was fair game. Jell-O became Jail-O - a metal file
hidden in a jello mold and billed as Sing Sing's favorite dessert.
Gravy-Train Dog Food became Grave Train, with a picture of a dead
dog and the grim tag line, "Your dog will never eat anything
Topps even took swipes at its own products, turning Bazooka gum
Initially, the cards were not successful but when they were
brought back in 1973 as stickers they quickly became the biggest
thing since white rice (or Minute Lice, as the stickers would have
"Anyone who was 7 years old in 1973 who wasn't really square was
into this stuff," said Greg Grant, a University of Pennsylvania
research mathematician who also runs an elaborate "Wacky Packages"
Web site. "It was just life back then."
With their booming popularity, New York Magazine put them on the
front page, The New York Times gave them a large spread and kids all
over the country affixed them to school desks and lockers.
"It's an inherently common pastime for kids to take a printed
sticker and - as a form of expression, mind you - put it on
something," said John Williams, the creative series manager at
Topps. "It's kind of like graffiti, I suppose, just maybe not as
By 1976, Topps began running out of ideas, and called it quits
after printing the 16th series. Briefly in early 1980s and again in
the early 1990s, Topps came out with new "Wacky Packages" series but
they never took off.
Grant said the ones from the '80s and the '90s were "just too far
into gross-out humor."
Oddly, the Topps folks decided on the rerelease after the success
of last summer's encore of the uber-gross Wacky-Pack-successor, "The
Garbage Pail Kids."
The new series will feature art from some of the original artists
and with takeoffs on modern products like baboon-flavored "Chimp
Stick" (Chap Stick), "Mr. Coffin Casket Liners" (Mr. Coffee coffee
liners), and blue snazazberry flavored "Bling Pups" (Topps' own Ring
Completing the consumer angle, the backs of the new stickers will
feature fake coupons offering savings like $2 on "Vinnie's
Brooklyn-English Translator" or seven cents on an "Extremely
ON THE NET
Topps, Co.: http://www.topps.com/
Grant's Web site: http://www.wackypackages.org/