Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blast from the Past

When I was 7 years old, the big excitement was to bike over to the Quik Trip or the Git-N-Go to buy a pack of Topps Wacky Packages -- stickers that lampooned various national brands of consumer products. The baseball-card company sold these hilarious stickers with pink rectangles of their brittle, tasteless chewing gum. The bad attitude was right on the money for television-addled kids our age.

A couple months ago I found a picture book at Counter Media showing all seven series of Wacky Packages stickers published in 1973 and 1974. Turns out that the instigator of the Wacky Package project at Topps was Art Spiegelman, who went on to more intellectual glory as the author of the graphic novel Maus. In the preface to the Wacky Packages book, Spiegelman reveals that he recruited other comics authors to make up gags for the stickers, including Bill Griffith, the author of Zippy the Pinhead.

The only beer Wacky Package that came out in the 70s was the Blast Blew Ribbon sticker pictured here. Today it would be surprising if collectors cards for kids had even one joke about alcohol, but the reason I'm surprised there is only one is that there were no fewer than nineteen stickers mocking brands of cigarettes or cigars -- not to mention a breakfast cereal called Super Cigar Crisp, with a cartoon bear puffing away on the box. It looks like Topps has been selling Wacky Packages again the last few years, but I'll bet the alcohol and tobacco references are now taboo. The book does come with a Schmutz Beer sticker from back in the day that was never released, as well as a variant of the Blast Blew Ribbon one shown here.

It's one of the ironies of Portland that Pabst is so popular here. Do you suppose the sticker is correct, that the original flavor used to taste different?

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