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Franchise / Garbage Pail Kids

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(We care a lot!) About the Garbage Pail Kids, 'cause they never lie
Faith No More, "We Care a Lot"

Garbage Pail Kids is a trading card series by Topps. The characters in the franchise resembled the Cabbage Patch Kids with variable humor and gross levels. Art Spiegelman, Topps consultant and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, came up with the product idea after the success of his earlier creations, Garbage Candy and Wacky Packages. The concept originally began as an unreleased Wacky Packages title, but the management at Topps thought it would be a good idea for a separate spin-off series. Spiegelman and fellow cartoonist Mark Newgarden worked together as the editors and art directors of the project, Len Brown was the manager, and the first series of the cards were drawn exclusively by artist John Pound, released in 1985. Several additional artists and writers were brought in to contribute to the series, including Jay Lynch, Tom Bunk, and James Warhola, among others.

It received a movie adaptation in 1987 that was a colossal bomb. A 13-episode animated series produced the same year was never aired but did see a DVD release in 2006.

IDW Publishing published a series of one-shot comics based on the Garbage Pail Kids from 2014 to 2017, afterwards Dynamite Comics picked up the comic book license in 2022 to publish a Garbage Pail Kids: Origins miniseries as well as one crossing over with fellow grossout-oriented 1980s franchise the Madballs.

R. L. Stine worked with Abrams to publish a three-book miniseries based on the Garbage Pail Kids, with the last two being released in 2021. It was also a promo event to celebrate their 35th anniversary.

An animated revival was announced for HBO Max in 2021. Hopefully, it has better luck than the 1987 show.

Garbage Pail Kids has provided the name for:

Garbage Pail Kids features some gross examples of:

  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Some characters have abnormal skin colors. Wretchen Gretchen/Ill Jill's skin consists of colorful patchwork.
  • American Gothic Couple: Barnyard Barney/Dick Hick. The pitchfork has a dog impaled on it.
  • Amusing Injuries: A lot of characters are shown being subjected to slapstick injuries, such as Hurt Curt/Pat Splat wiping out on a skateboard.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Some characters are like that. Some examples include Smelly Kelly/Doug Plug (an anthropomorphic fire hydrant), Noel Bowl/Pete Seat (an anthropomorphic toilet), and Willie Wipe-Out/Spencer Dispenser (anthropomorphic toilet paper).
  • Animated Adaptation: The Garbage Pail Kids Cartoon, which never aired in the United States because of parental complaints.
  • Animated Tattoo: Drew Tattoo/Marked Mark is horrified that the snake tattoo on his chest is coming to life.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Quite a few cards depict kids being dismembered.
    • Picked Nikki/Antsy Nancy has various body parts, including one arm and one leg, removed and being carried away by ants.
    • Art Apart/Busted Bob is calmly staring at his ripped-off arms and legs on the floor in front of him.
  • Artifact Title: Zig-zagged. The main gimmick of the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards was that they were unusual, grotesque, gross, and/or comedic characters that happened to look like Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, the name of the series itself is a take-off of Cabbage Patch Kids. A lawsuit from Xavier Roberts forced Topps to redesign the characters so that, starting with the 10th series, they wouldn't look like Cabbage Patch Kids anymore, and the Kids still looked nothing like Cabbage Patch dolls in the All-New Series revival run from the mid-2000s. However, the Brand New Series starting in 2012 has the Kids back to looking like Cabbage Patch Kids.
  • Art Imitates Art: Sushi Susie/Yuckie Tori is puking up the Great Wave Off Kanagawa.
  • Art Shift: The lawsuit resulted in the Kids being rendered with narrower heads, bigger noses, and more prominent teeth to make them look less like the toys they were parodying. By the 2010s series, the old-style returned.
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: Sheepish Seth/Wade Wolf is a wolf poorly disguising himself as a generic Garbage Pail Kid.
  • Autocannibalism:
    • Cannibal Stu/Brewin' Bruno is cooking himself in a pot.
    • Brady Back Ribs/Spare Rob is eating his own ribs in a barbeque restaurant.
  • Bad Santa: Chris Mess/Sandy Clod is a mugger in a Santa suit, while Sani Klaus/Sick Nick is shown dumping trash down someone's chimney.
  • Beatnik: Hip Kip/Walt Witless is a beatnik who hasn't noticed he's holding his book of zen poems upside down.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Boo Bradley/Pete Sheet is wearing a Peanuts-style bedsheet ghost costume, made from a sheet with pee stains all over it.
  • Belly Mouth: Tongue In Chico/Nick Lick has a mouth on his stomach with a huge tongue.
  • Big Red Devil: Hot Scott/Luke Warm and Moe Angel/Turned Lief both have the requisite red skin, horns, tail, and goatee. Hot Scott/Luke Warm also gets hooves and a pitchfork.
  • Bizarre Human Biology: Assuming the Kids are humans (they aren't).
  • Black Comedy: Many of the cards depict children being killed, mutilated, or close to being killed or mutilated. The sheer absurdity of the situation is what makes it so funny.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The All-New Series is a lot gorier than the Original Series.
  • Body Horror: A lot of cards feature characters with disturbing anatomical abnormalities or having sickening mutilations done on their body parts.
  • Chalk Outline: Chalk Linus/Crime Scene Dean is the chalk outline of a boy that somehow also outlines his fart.
  • Child Prodigy: Brainy Janie/Jenny Genius is a little girl with an oversized cranium and is shown using a computer with a blackboard full of equations in the background.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation:
    • IDW Publishing made some one-shots based on the trading card characters in the mid-2010s before losing the license in 2017.
    • Dynamite Entertainment would later obtain the license by 2022 and start publishing two new miniseries: Garbage Pail Kids: Origins and Madballs vs. the Garbage Pail Kids.
  • Conjoined Twins: Several Garbage Pail Kids consist of conjoined twins.
    • Double Heather/Schizo Fran/Fran Fran is a girl with two heads that don't get along.
    • Upside Donna/Two-Fer Juan depicts two babies joined at the tops of each other's heads.
    • Duped David/Twice Bryce depicts a boy on clean-up duty watching as his conjoined brother vomits.
  • Covered in Kisses: Nicky Hickey/Hank. E. Panky is wiping kissing marks off his face in disgust.
  • Cyclops: Sy Clops/One-Eyed Jack, as one might guess from both of his names, is a giant with one eye in the center of his forehead.
  • Delivery Stork: Bratty Maddy/Dirty Birdie eats the leg off of the stork carrying them.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Some characters smile at you while meeting some horrible demise. Guillo Tina/Cindy Lopper is a prime example as she's smiling at the viewer while at the guillotine.
  • Duality Motif: A favorite of the series. Notable cards include Split Kit/Mixed-Up Mitch (a normal kid on one half and a nasty punk on the other side) and Half-Nelson/Glandular Angela (male and female).
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference: The OS Series 1 Kids have a slightly more cartoony, slightly less CPK look to them.
  • Eaten Alive: Sometimes the Kid gets eaten, other times it's the Kid itself who's doing the eating.
  • Facial Horror: Mugged Marcus/Kayo'd Cody is a good example of this, his face being battered to a gruesome degree.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: The number of fingers on the Kids' hands went down from five to four due to Topps losing the lawsuit with Original Appalachian Works. This was kept from OS 10 to some of the Flashback series' Where Are They Now? cards.
  • Ghost in the Machine: Eyeball Evan/Re Tina has a smaller Kid living in their eye.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Some characters with ambiguous gender will have male and female names, especially baby Kids in the All-New Series.
  • Gorn: In a fantasized sense, so it looks less bloody.
    • Played much more straight in the All-New Series, and to a lesser degree in the series that follows.
  • Grave Humor: Ashley to Ashes/Dustin to Dust is a gravestone with an engraving of a Garbage Pail Kid and the message “Rest In Pieces GPK”.
  • Greaser Delinquents: Greaser Greg/Chris Hiss is a greaser punk.
  • Grim Reaper: Grim Jim/Beth Death is a Garbage Pail Kid of the Grim Reaper.
  • Groin Attack: Door Knox/Knocked Nolan is a sentient doorknocker reacting to the pain of his handle hitting him in the delicate parts.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Starting with the 2nd OS series, cards like Ghastly Ashley/Acne Amy, which focus on the character's face and are typically much more detailed.
  • Gun Nut: Mean Gene/Joltin' Joel and Warrin' Warren/Brett Vet are psychos armed to the teeth.
  • Hairy Girl: Armpit Britt/Shaggy Aggie is a girl with hairy armpits.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: See More Seymour/Coy Roy covers his groin with his hands as his pants fall down to reveal the skeleton of his lower half.
  • Hand Puppet: Chopped Susie/Shana Saw, using a chainsaw to cut herself free... hand and all.
  • A Head at Each End: Poop Head Paul/Turd Face Trace... sort of.
  • Healing Factor: Seen in the animations of the website's interactive "street" during the ANS era.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Leather Heather/Chained Shane.
  • Helicopter Parents: Helicopter Heather/Obsessed Olga is a literal one: a Sentient Vehicle helicopter hovering over a sleeping baby and panicking.
  • Human Pincushion: The Kid on the "Have A Nice Day" poster.
  • Humongous Mecha: Hot-Headed Harvey/Roy Bot, and no wonder - he's based on a Macross mech.
  • Inept Mage: Misfired Merlin/Spell Castor has accidentally zapped himself in the face with his own magic wand.
  • Mirror-Cracking Ugly: Creepy Carol/Scary Carrie is a hideous monster puzzled that the mirror she's looking in is shattering.
  • Notzilla: Fryin' Ryan/Charred Chad.
  • Nose Shove: Most, if not all cases of a character getting something shoved up their nose have the object penetrate through the back of their heads.
    • Drillin' Dylan/Explorin' Norman with his entire finger.
    • Trim Jim/Groomin' Trumannote  with a pair of scissors.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. Lots of common names are reused for different characters.
  • Only Six Faces: Make that about one.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Fatty Maddie/Cora Corset is an obese girl trying to squeeze herself in a corset. Judging from the look on her face, it’s not a pleasant experience.
  • Rainbows and Unicorns: Seen in the card of Impaled Gail/Magic Wanda, with the Kid as a fairy impaled on the unicorn's horn.
  • Reference Overdosed: Themed series such as "Oh the Horror-ible" will have plenty of them.
  • Retcon: Several cards' names were changed in later runs of the same series for some reason or another.
    • Schizo Fran was renamed to Fran Fran due to "schizo" being considered offensive, although later appearances occasionally still use Schizo Fran.
    • OS4 had four names changed out of fear of potential legal action. These names were Woody Alan, Crystal Gale, Reese Pieces, and Salvatore Dolly.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars:
    • Heavy Meryl/One-Night Stan is a guitar Garbage Pail Kid who’s just been smashed by a mostly-unseen metal musician.
    • Pained Pete/Smashing Smith is trying to break his guitar, but it’s unharmed and he’s cracking apart instead.
  • Satire/Parody/Pastiche: Mostly of Cabbage Patch Kids... plus everything else like televisions shows, video games, celebrities, etc.
  • Self-Parody:
    • There have been some parodies of Garbage Pail Kids featured in Topps' other flagship product Wacky Packages, including Garbage Pail Geezers (whose mascot is an elderly version of Adam Bomb only able to make a tiny mushroom cloud come out of his head when he presses his detonator button), Garbage Pail Kidders (where Adam Bomb's head instead functions as a jack-in-the-box) and Gentle Plain Kids (consisting of a mundane set of class photos of normal children, the mascot being named A+ Adam and featuring a "100% Parent-Approved" label as a dig at the parental backlash the cards have been notorious for receiving).
    • The early 1990s had Topps try to cash in on the Troll Dolls craze by releasing a trading card series called Trash Can Trolls, essentially Garbage Pail Kids spoofing Troll Dolls rather than Cabbage Patch Kids. The first card Joel Troll/Fall-Out Paul is even a Troll Doll version of Adam Bomb, depicting kicking away his inspiration as if to signal that Garbage Pail Kids are yesterday's trend and that Trash Can Trolls are where it's at.
  • Sentient Vehicle: Rusty Heap/Rustin' Justin, an old rusted-out automobile. Notably appears in the cartoon as well.
  • Series Mascot: Adam Bomb/Blasted Billy, to the point that he was on the wrapper for the first five series.
  • She Is All Grown Up: The "Where Are They Now?" Ghastly Ashley/Acne Amy from FB2. Me-ow.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Many cards reference Bazooka gum, Topps' brand. There's also Joe Blow/Rod Wad, based on the Bazooka Joe mascot (and wearing a Bazooka Joe shirt).
    • Cootie Cody/Buggin' Brandon of ANS1note  is based on the "Trilobyte Terror" card of another Topps series, 1988's Dinosaurs Attack!
  • Sigil Spam: The "GPK" abbreviation appears on a lot of cards.
  • Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: Some characters like Ali Gator/Marshy Marshall are kids with animal heads, while others like Mark Bark/Kennel Kenny are just straight-up animals.
  • Sticky Situation: Glooey Gabe/Sticky Rick has a lot of stuff glued to his body.
  • Suicide as Comedy: There are some cards where the joke revolves around the Kid killing themselves.
    • Cliff Hanger/Neck Ty has hung himself and is somehow hoisting his own body in the air by his noose.
    • Lynched Lyndon/Bruce Noose depicts a Kid attempting to hang himself, only for his body to detach and leave his head looking down while still tied to the noose.
    • Some concepts that were deemed unfit to print include a scrapped 10th series card named Hole in Juan/Louie Kablooey (where a Kid shoots himself in the head while holding the gun with his prehensile tongue) and two drawings that were intended for the cancelled 16th series (one where a Kid has shot himself in the back of his head by firing at his backwards reflection in the mirror and one of a Kid with a tiny head, a long neck and rows of arms that have every right arm holding a report card graded "F" and every left arm preparing to fire a gun at oneself). Louie Kablooey would later be featured as a bonus card included in the Abrams book on Garbage Pail Kids, while the second of the two rejected 16th series Kids would see the light of day as a bonus card named Failed Phil included with the 2013 Garbage Pail Kids calender, albeit edited to remove the guns.
  • Sweet Tooth: Junkfood John/Jay Decay is surrounded by sweets.
  • Two-Faced: Split Kit/Mixed-Up Mitch looks like a normal boy on one half, but is a filthy punk on the other half of his body.
  • Uncle Sam Wants You: Snooty Sam/U.S. Arnie is a spoof of the classic recruitment poster depicting Uncle Sam picking his nose.
  • Urine Trouble: Smelly Kelly/Doug Plug is a sentient fire hydrant expressing shock at a dog coming toward their way.
  • Vomit Chain Reaction: Repeatin' Pete/Round Robyns even features a yin-yang vomit forever vomiting itself!
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: A huge number of cards have characters visibly vomiting, some of the more noteworthy examples being Up Chuck/Heavin' Steven, Luke Puke/Richie Retch and Valerie Vomit/Barfin' Barbara.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Sort of done with the Where Are They Now? sub-set of the Flashback series, which depicts the current whereabouts and adult lives of several of the original Garbage Pail Kids. One example is Adam Bomb/Blasted Billy, who is shown to have married and had a lot of children with Ada Bomb/Blasted Betty.
  • Wicked Witch: Weird Wendy/Haggy Maggie, although she falls fairly close to Cute Witch as well.
  • William Telling: Split Cord/William Won't Tell, split in half by the arrow and shown to have wood-patterned innards.
  • Your Head Asplode: Newly Dead Ed/Dyna Mike explodes his head.