Sunday, September 2, 2012

Some holiday wacky

Satire. It's everywhere.

Even in the 1970s, it was everywhere. In newspaper editorial cartoons. On Johnny Carson. In a new late-night comedy show called "Saturday Night Live."

But as a kid, who didn't understand newspapers yet and who couldn't stay up that late (who even knew that a TV worked at midnight?), there were only two places where we could find satirical content.

At the corner store and at my grandmother's house.

My grandmother's was a haven for satire and parody in the form of the high holy trinity of humor magazines in the '70s:

Mad, Cracked and Crazy. I believe Mad is the only one left standing.

Now if you knew my grandmother, you'd know she didn't have a satirical bone in her body. She was a pleasant, quiet-spoken woman who baked cookies, watched birds and grew up on a farm.

But her son -- my uncle -- operated a music studio in her home, providing piano and organ lessons to just about everyone musically inclined in town. Most of his students were youngsters and teenagers, so there was loads of reading material for them as they waited for their lesson. Peanuts paperbacks everywhere (some dating back to the '50s). Comic books galore. Little kiddie books. Time and Life magazines. Even hard-back books of 200-plus pages, which I can't imagine anyone reading while they waited for their lesson. They'd have to arrive two days early.

When we were young, we weren't allowed to go into the studio. But eventually some of the magazines and comic books would filter back into our playroom that was set-up for our visits. When we got too old for blocks and toy cars, there were items like this for us to read. I think my grandmother would transfer some of the older periodicals to the playroom to clear out the music studio.

(I can't imagine what my kindly grandmother thought as she carried a stack of Cracked into the playroom).

This would be the only place where I'd see these humor magazines, which we regarded as strangely fascinating, worldly, and pretty much over our heads. I never looked for comic books in stores when I was a kid.

I was too enthralled with trading cards.

And that brings me to the other satirical moment of my young childhood. Wacky Packages.

In the beginning, there was 1975 Topps and Wacky Packages. I collected each side-by-side. Both my brother and I did.

The Wacky Packages stickers never survived. They either got stuck on something (kids would stick them everywhere -- undersides of desks, on textbooks, on skateboards) or I threw them out. I don't have any of those great old stickers to which Topps paid tribute about four years ago.

Fortunately, I pulled the "Beanball" sticker, a spoof of Topps baseball cards, when I bought a pack of Wacky Packages Flashback 2 cards back in '08 and I still have it.

But a few weeks ago, I saw that Topps had put out another edition of Wacky Packages. This is its ninth series apparently.

I'm a sucker for these. But I guess I'm the only one. Because I've seen these stickers in Target for like two months and there hasn't been a mention of them on any card blog.

So, I bought a pack and I'll show a handful of the stickers here.

That's your basic sticker and a good example of your fundamental Wacky Packages concept. They haven't changed much since the first Wacky P's back in the early '70s. Gracious, we loved these things.

I have an unnatural aversion to anything that is of questionable cheese content. I will not eat Cheese Whiz or anything that has the appearance of cheese but you cannot tell whether it is or is not, in fact, cheese. I will eat my nachos plain at the ballpark, and I do not prefer my cheese individually wrapped.

So this sticker is not only a parody, but it is 100 percent true.

More "fake cheese" humor. I won't eat Velveeta either.

The border for this sticker is orange (although it scanned pink). This means there is a puzzle piece on the back, unlike the other cards that have more advertising spoofs on the back. So your chances of getting a puzzle piece are like one per pack and I don't know how many different puzzles there are, but it seems like a cynical thing to have in a product like Wacky Packages. We just want to stick the fake products, man!

Here is Topps making fun of itself with a riff on the Mars Attacks set. I love this card. I have no interest in Mars Attacks or any of that sci-fi art stuff. But an angry moose with a space gun? That is high comedy excellence.

Oh, if this would only happen to some of the people who carry this goop around and apply it every 10 minutes. I start to think I'm working in a medical ward.

This is what is known as an "awful app" insert sticker. Whatever.

All I know is it made me laugh out loud when I saw it. I'm sure this resonates with many an eBay buyer or seller.

Laughing out loud is what Wacky Packages made us do back in the day, and I'm sure it helped develop the sense of humor that I have today. They're not quite as amusing as I remember them, but I can never stop being fascinated by them.

Wacky P's kick Garbage Pail booty in terms of cleverness and content.

I wish I had kept those old Wacky Packages stickers I collected in the '70s. I wish I had asked my grandmother if I could bring home the Mad magazines. I wish I asked my uncle if he really need some of those 1950s Peanuts books. Neither of them are around anymore to ask whatever happened to them.

Just as well. I've got enough junk in my collection.


  1. I never heard of Crazy, but I was a big reader of Mad and Cracked.

    Also, Cracked isn't around in comic form, but their website is INSANELY AWESOME! They do lots of lists that are crazy interesting -

  2. My wife still has the Wacky Packages she collected as a kid. She even has one from the first series issued that is probably worth $300-$500 today. In my weaker moments, I have considered selling them off on EBay for baseball card money. But, I'd like our marriage to last another 20 years, so I haven't.

  3. I was a huge fan of Wacky Packages. The 1979-80 versions would come out during my early hobby days and promptly warped my sense of humor for all eternity. I was collecting the first three series of the "new" Wacky Packs when they came out...I still have them around.

    As for the originals...they were stuck to my Trapper Keepers.

  4. I collected the "original" wackys in the mid 70s. I think I was collecting them from 5th series through 12th series. I think they got different artists sometime toward the end of the run and the wackys weren't as good.

  5. Wacky Packages were big in my neighborhood. I filled most of a brown lunch bag and tried to make sets. We brought our cards and stickers to school so much that they finally banned both sometime in 4th grade.

  6. Mad and Cracked were staples in my house thanks to an older brother. My son saw these in the store and thought they were funny. I'll have to get him a pack. The Obey one was funny.

  7. I still have a ton of mad mags and books. In fact, I had a letter published in an issue circa 1982.

  8. Someone always beats me to posting things. I have a few of those packs I picked up from Target too. 99 cents? I'll post mine sometime. I still have my MAD magazines from the 1970's and my Peanuts books from the 1960's and 70's.

  9. My first two collections were Mad Magazines and Peanuts paperbacks. Many were purged by mom, but I still have a healthy collection of both.

    I just missed the Wacky Packages thing when I was a kid. As a Mad Magazine fan they would have been right up my alley.

  10. Trippy.

    In the late 70s my brother bought a box full of Mad magazines from the 50s and 60s at a garage sale and we read every single one. It was really my education in pop culture history. Long live Alfred E.

    Wacky Packages were my first collecting obsession. It seems to me that packs were a nickel in the mid-70s. I split my hard earned (read "begged") money between Wacky Packages and baseball cards in 1975, but by 1976 I was all baseball.

    I remember frequently walking to a corner drug store in campus town with my next door neighbor Tom. In 1975 I would have been 9 and he would have been 7. We bought tons of Wacky Packages that summer.

    Now Tom is an admiral in the Navy and I'm ...

    "Crap, I've wasted my life!"