Garbage Pail Kids


Every artist has a day job, at least at first.

In the mid-80s, Art Spiegelman was editing Raw, his underground comics magazine, and writing and drawing issues of a comic book that would later become Maus. In the meantime, his salary came from being an illustrator and designer for Topps, a baseball-card company.

As Spiegelman was getting ready for the release of the first edition of Maus, he designed a line of novelty comic trading cards. It started with a single picture: A baby playing with a red push-button. The baby’s head, of course, was exploding. This became Adam Bomb, one of the first Garbage Pail Kids.

Eventually, thousands of GPK cards were published, all of them depicting children in various gross or disturbing situations. (A feature film was also released.) Though Topps wanted to keep the artists’ names anonymous, Spiegelman protested–eventually, however, he was silenced by Maus’ publishers. “Please keep it quiet,” his editor insisted. “If this gets out, they’ll review your book and call it ‘Garbage Pail Jews!’”

Since those days, Spiegelman has moved on–his book MetaMaus, an account of writing Maus, was just awarded a National Jewish Book Award. His day job, too, has gotten more prominent–he now illustrates covers for the New Yorker. In a recent feature for, Spiegelman showed off ten of his Garbage Pail Kids cards, and provided commentary on the making of them.

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