Reminder: 'Maus' Author Art Spiegelman Also Invented The Garbage Pail Kids
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Anyone who didn't already know about Maus, the acclaimed comic that retells some of the horrors of the Holocaust via funny cartoon animals, probably learned about it last month when a school board in Tennessee voted to ban the book from their district. Why? For using words like "goddamn," showing mild nudity while recounting important historical facts, and because (according to one board member) the educational system shouldn't "promote" stuff like "people hanging" or "killing kids." Presumably, he also wants to ban Star Wars for promoting the destruction of planets and slicing your son's hand off.
But this isn't the first time the work of Maus author Art Spiegelman makes the news due to scandalized parents. Here's a 1986 news report about another creation of his that was deemed ban-worthy by educators:
Yes, the artist behind one of the most thought-provoking graphic novels ever published is also responsible for the most puke-inducing trading cards ever printed. The Garbage Pail Kids introduced a whole generation to the concept of gross-out humor via characters like Potty Scotty, Gooey Huey, Marcus Mucus, Len Phlegm, Richie Retch, and Moist Joyce.
And this isn't something Spiegelman came up with long before he decided to peer into the darkest depths of the human soul with his serious work -- he created the Garbage Pail Kids right in the middle of working on Maus, which took him 13 years. In fact, he has called The Topps Company "my Medici" because, by paying him to design stupid trading cards, they ended up bankrolling his groundbreaking narrative work (he couldn't just go up to his landlord and hand him some Holocaust pages in lieu of rent).
Of course, any cultural karma Garbage Pail Kids might have earned by indirectly leading to Maus was immediately negated when it also spawned ... this:
That atrocity is from The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987), which was rushed into production at the height of Garbagemania. It's about a regular kid befriending seven hideous little bastards who come out of a trash can that fell from outer space, including Valerie Vomit, Foul Phil, and Windy Winston. Try to guess what Winston is known for.
The movie is like the exact opposite of Maus in that it was reviled by critics, made no money (even before the recent publicity push given by Tennessee, the collected edition has always been a good seller), and the horrible acts depicted within it offer no insights into the human condition. It's also extremely unfunny, which is the one thing a movie about garbage children from outer space can't afford to be.
A Garbage Pail Kids cartoon show was also supposed to come out in '87, but concerned citizens managed to get it off the air in the U.S. before the first episode even came out. By the next year, sales of the trading cards weren't so hot anymore, and a successful lawsuit by the Cabbage Patch Kids didn't help. Topps pulled the plug on the series and didn't bring it back until the 2000s, but nobody outside of hardcore fans seems to care anymore; probably they're missing the most important ingredient: no, not Spiegelman, but the fact that stuffy parents and teachers aren't terrified of this stuff anymore. Hmm, maybe if they did a series teaching kids that racism exists or something?
Top image: Art Spiegelman/Pantheon Books, The Topps Company