Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Remember "Wacky Packages"?

Do you remember Wacky Packages?   They were illustrated trading cards that parodied consumer products, mostly with Mad magazine-style juvenile irreverence. ("Crest" toothpaste became "Crust.")  They were for kids and were sold in convenience stores in the 1970s and 1980s, like baseball cards.  

Wacky Packages created a collective frenzy at my elementary school around 1979 or so.  Certain cards were quickly deemed to be more rare than others.  And a usurious (and ultimately disruptive) aftermarket sprung up, centered around a suddenly compassionless fourth grader from a  rich family who could produce a shoebox of the things from his desk if asked, but only for "serious buyers."   Suddenly, all the surrounding convenience stores in the area were totally sold out of them.  I can remember dashing off the school bus one afternoon and sprinting home,  breathlessly begging my mother, with the desperation of a junkie, to drive me to some random liquor store in a sketchy part of town about 10 miles away, based solely on a rumor which had swept the school that a new shipment of Wacky Packages was on sale there.

As it turns out, there was more artistic merit behind them than anyone might have thought.  They were actually created by a young man in his 20s named Art Spiegelman, the same Art Spiegelman who 20 years later won a Pulitzer prize for his illustrated Holocaust memoir Maus, and then went on to become the art director of the New Yorker magazine for 10 years. 

If you remember Wacky Packages too, then you might enjoy the 4 minute video embedded below, which features some of them, one after another, set to dance/trance music.

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