Creativity Magazine

From Cabbage Patch To Garbage Pail

By Mrstrongest @mrstrongarm

Ask me to describe my most memorable 2012 assignment, and I might choose this one: a client asked me to turn someone into a Garbage Pail Kid so they could put him on the front of a t-shirt. Here’s the final: illustration that mimics the Garbage Pail Kids bubble gum cards that were a craze and very popular back in the 1980s shows a half-and-half kid one half a normal guy with khaki pants and loafers and button-down shirt, the other half a geek with loud ugly clothes, high-water pants pocket-protector, calculator, toolkit, iPhone, and untidy appearance

What’s a Garbage Pail Kid, you ask? They were trading cards originally released in 1985. Each card featured a kid doing something disgusting, or as the serene victim of some horrible fate.

They were die-cut sticker cards, so you could peel off each kid and paste it somewhere else– where it would be sure to cause further disgust. I had a niece and two nephews who couldn’t get enough of them. Here are some typical examples:

three Garbage Pail Kids trading cards from mid-1980s, Haley's Vomit as astronaut puking in space capsule, U.S. Arnie in Uncle Sam outfit picking his nose, Hy Gene shaving skin off his face and bleeding
three Garbage Pail Kids trading cards from mid-1980s, Leaky Lindsay holding huge mass of snot that has dripped from her nose, Slobby Robbie an enormous fat obese baby, Oozy Suzy who has a burning wick in her skull and is melting like candle wax

In researching this post, I finally understood something that had always puzzled me: each of the original cards is numbered, and the number is always followed by either an ‘a’ or a ‘b’– why the suffix?

Turns out they always came up with two different names for each kid, and used the same art for both. A pretty sneaky way to get extra mileage– and money!– from a drawing… illustrators, take note!! Here’s an example:

two Garbage Pail Kids trading cards, both with identical art showing alien invader carrying earth woman with flying saucers, example of cards with duplicate art only difference being kid names and card ID numbers

Garbage Pail Kids were a parody of an enormously successful line of dolls known as Cabbage Patch Kids. Here’s what they look like. Sweet, adorable, and crying out for parody– you can almost hear them! That kid at the lower right is sure to become an illustrator someday– there’s no mistaking that dazed and vacant look…  : ) 

three Cabbage Patch Dolls from the early 1980s, one with cabbage leaf and certificate information card, a baby, and a black African American little girl wearing bib and sucking pacifier
two Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, a girl and a boy with their distinctive bright eyes, fat chubby faces, tiny puckered mouths, and goofy expressions

Here’s how my half-and-half kid compares to an actual half-and-half Garbage Pail Kid. The AS20 had some special meaning for the client, but I don’t know what it was.

It would have been fun to try to mimic the trading card style exactly, but a t-shirt design works best with bold lines and flat colors.

compare between tee shirt art Garbage Pail Kid design half-geek, half-human and original Garbage Pail Kid trading card Glandular Angela showing kid who is half-girl, half-boy

Here’s a close-up:

detail image for illustration that mimics the Garbage Pail Kids bubble gum cards that were a craze and very popular back in the 1980s shows a half-and-half kid one half a normal guy with khaki pants and loafers and button-down shirt, the other half a geek with loud ugly clothes, high-water pants pocket-protector, calculator, toolkit, iPhone, and untidy appearance

As previously mentioned, my kid was based on an actual person. Here he is– clearly a good-humored guy.

illustration that mimics the Garbage Pail Kids bubble gum cards that were a craze and very popular back in the 1980s shows cartoon kid and real person he was based on, half-and-half kid one half a normal guy with khaki pants and loafers and button-down shirt, the other half a geek with loud ugly clothes, high-water pants pocket-protector, calculator, toolkit, iPhone, and untidy appearance

What do you think? Were you familiar with either set of kids? Ever collected any trading cards? Do you ever get the feeling that parody has become a mindset these days– that we feel compelled to make fun of everything? Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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