Topps #1: Dick Tracy wallpaper
wallpaper? Yes, this was marketed in 1950 by the Niagara Wallpaper Company. It was intended for a children's room, which explains why none of the strip's famed villains are evident.
During the time I was doing product development at Topps Chewing Gum in the late 1960s, I was also working on the Nostalgia Press book collection of EC Comics, prompting visits to the Mad
offices for several meetings with publisher Bill Gaines. The more conspicuous item among the oddities in his office was a fake window. It contained a life-size head of King Kong (sculpted by Sergio Aragones) looking through the window frame at Gaines.
Back at Topps in Brooklyn, I thought about the Kong window and wondered how something similar could be done as a Topps product. For its humorous posters, Topps used a newsprint paper stock that folded several times down to their standard small trading card package size. The visual concept I pitched was King Kong Wallpaper
, a product which would use such newsprint posters to make giant-size b/w jigsaw puzzle pieces that could be collected and assembled to fill one entire wall of a kid's room. A single image of Kong could then loom in an immense fashion to give nightmares. Kids would love it; it would be the mothers who had the nightmares of Elmer's Glue
all over the wall.
At Topps, puzzle pieces were considered the "B" side on a trading card, on the theory that no one wants to purchase individual jigsaw puzzle pieces. So my idea was shot down with the somewhat illogical question, "What's on the other side?" In retrospect, the solution would have been to simply package the folded newsprint puzzle posters with some colorful trading card item.
Maybe something similar happened at the Niagara Wallpaper Company. Someone thought how cool it would be to see a roomful of weird and outrageous Dick Tracy villains. Then some executive stepped in to get rid of the villains, making the final wallpaper bland and banal.
Labels: aragones, bill gaines, brooklyn, chester gould, dick tracy, king kong, mad, topps