Thursday, December 09, 2010
  Topps #9: Wacky Packages
I have a memory lapse when I try to recall which Wacky Packages and Wacky Ads I devised over 35 to 40 years ago. I know one of them was the dog shaving with Rabid Shave and another was the Mustard Charge card. (See below.)

Of course, all the Wackys were much smaller than the actual products, and the main reason I did the Mustard Charge sticker was because I wanted to do a Wacky Package that could fool the eye by being the exact same size as the product being satirized.

A news story today is about the cyber attacks on Visa and MasterCard. So far as I know, no one has ever hacked into Mustard Charge.

The 1973 New York cover story is headlined Wacky Packs. I never quite understood why Topps didn't change the name to the more euphonic Wacky Packs, since that's what kids called the cards and stickers.

The usual procedure was to first go to a store, buy some products and study each until a gag came to mind. Then it was a matter of embellishing the main premise with related gags.

Working on a layout pad, one could sketch out the gag and then put the rough under another layout sheet to tighten the drawing. After inking with a Rapidograph, the rough was then colored with markers. If the color rough were accepted, editorial changes might or might not be written on it, and it would then be used as a color guide for the final art.

Back then, Topps was still in Brookyn at the Bush Terminal in Sunset Park (the setting for the new Paul Auster novel, Sunset Park). The Bush Terminal is a huge complex, used during World War II for the shipping of troop supplies to Europe. There was a plan during the 1990s to turn it into Silicon Valley East, but that never got underway.

In Topps' Product Development Department, there was a central area where secretary Faye Fleischer sat near banks of file cabinets. Creative director Woody Gelman used these to file away all rough gags, possible ideas, clippings and even various kinds of paper stocks, along with tricks, gimmicks, pop-up oddities, lenticular images and cardboard novelty items.

Gelman and writer-editor Len Brown had adjacent offices that opened into Faye's area, as did my office, which was near the offices of the imaginative Art Spiegelman, designer Rick Varesi and gagwriter Stan Hart, who had married into the company and came in only one day a week. Hart wrote the Mad movie satires and later was a two-time Emmy-winner as a scripter for The Carol Burnett Show. A door on the other side of Gelman's room led to the office of the clever cartoonist and entertaining raconteur Larry Riley, whom I described in the third installment of this series about Topps. Sometimes Jay Lynch came to New York and worked periodically in the Product Development Dept.

Each day when I entered the building, as I recall, I went past a small sign that read, "Uneeda Doll Co." The floor of my office could get quite hot, and one day I peered into the ground floor area occupied by the Uneeda company and saw fumes rising from giant boiling vats. Later I began to wonder if seepage from those fumes is why we were all going wacky in Product Development.

One day in the summer of 1968, I told Woody I was going out, left the overheated office, exited the Bush Terminal and turned on 3rd Avenue toward Bay Ridge, perspiring as I walked through the broiling Brooklyn heat to a distant supermarket. At that time of day, the place was almost deserted. I wandered the aisles, sometimes just standing and reading the copy on containers to see what might be twisted into something goofy.

I looked up and noticed the store manager at the end of an aisle, staring at me. Since my actions were not those of a usual grocery shopper, he thought I was getting ready to steal something. After making my purchases, I headed back to Topps, carrying a paper bag filled with parody potentials, including a can of frozen orange juice concentrate.

I set these up near my drawing table, locked up and took the train back to Manhattan. When I opened the office door on Monday morning, there was a surprise. With the heat rising to a bake oven temperature during the weekend, the orange juice had exploded, leaving an orangey stickiness scattered over the drawing table and the wall. It was still stuck to the wall when I left New York and moved to Boston.

Google Street View screenshot at right shows where Topps was located at 254 36th Street in Brooklyn. At left is corner of 36th Street and 3rd Avenue where Woody Gelman and Len Brown would park their cars beneath the Gowanus Expressway.

Labels: , , , , , ,

I'm impressed with your involvement with Wacky Packs and thankful for the stories you share about days at the office. They are simply GREAT!

I was wondering, do you still find yourself reading labels and devising goofy parodies?

Dragana, they invited me to contribute sketch cards to Wacky Packages Old School 2 which goes on sale this month or next. See the poster.
Thanks for keeping me informed! I'm excited to see the wacky tradition continued!!
Awesome article! Thanks for the insight and the photos
Post a Comment

<< Home
Masquerade of the albino axolotls

My Photo

is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / June 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / December 2010 / January 2011 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / December 2011 / January 2012 / February 2012 / March 2012 / April 2012 / May 2012 / June 2012 / July 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012 / December 2012 / January 2013 / February 2013 / March 2013 / April 2013 / May 2013 / June 2013 / July 2013 / August 2013 / September 2013 / October 2013 / December 2013 /

Powered by Blogger