1. Hey Neil! The first time your
work caught my eye was for Topps' all-new Wacky Packages sets around 2005,
or so. Can you give us a little background on how you found yourself working
as a freelance artist for the Topps Company?
Sure thing! I've been a non-stop fan of Wacky Packages since their inception in the late 1960's. Needless to say, it was easy to get hooked! The early sets featured a kind of political satire from irreverent minds like Jay Lynch, Art Speigelman, and Bill Griffith and artistic magic from Norm Saunders that we rarely see nowadays. And thanks to people like Les Davis (The Wrapper magazine), Mark Macaluso and Roxanne Toser (Non-Sport Update), I was able to feed my interest throughout the 1980's and 90's and find a community of fans that still goes strong today. By the time the new millenium rolled out, I decided the time was right to create my own parody set called Pranky Products [Ed. note: this was an excellent 32 card test set from 2001]. It was this set that brought me to John Pound, who suggested I show these to Topps and get their feedback. Call it serendipity, but it was at this exact time when Topps surprised everyone by announcing All New Series 1! So, I drew up a handful of my new concepts and viola! I was now working with Topps.
2. Prior to working on any Topps projects, what did your education and work résumé include?
Joe Kubert's School of Art, CU (BFA), Rocky Mountain News and Estes Rockets (in that order).
3. Can you believe it's already
been more than 10 years working with Topps? What were your initial responsibilities
with the Wacky Packages franchise, and what other Topps projects have you
June 9, 2004. That's the day I submitted my first work. My first gig was ANS2 Wackys, painting and writing as well as creating the website backs for the set (now at over 300 and counting!). Since then, I've worked on a slew of Topps brands (GPK, Mars Attacks, Star Wars and a variety of sports properties). I've been with Topps digital since 2007, when I was introduced to Mike Jaspersen (The Topps Vault) who offered to help get a side project of mine off the ground: Wacky Packages Postcards (Artist and Project Coordinator, Series 1-9 and Halloween editions). Thereafter, I was able to launch a number of projects with his help: Wacky Packages Comics (co-editor), the Artists On Demand program (Digital Specialist), as well as a number of sports-related products and promotions. More recently, I've spent time focusing on the GPK and Mars Attacks brands. Latest project: creating a fun Wacky-themed subset for the new Mars Attacks Occupation release. I call them "Attacky Packages".
4. As for Garbage Pail Kids, you made a transition over to this property in 2007 for the ANS7 GPK set and became not only a Wacky Package artist, but also a GPK artist, creating the 'WANTED' and 'ID' back-side artwork for several cards - along with concepts and writing by legendary Jay Lynch (listed below). Are you foremost, a Wacky or GPK fan, or both?
2b, 4, 6a, 9b, 10b, 11a, 12b, 14b, 17a, 19a, 20b, 23b, 25b, 31b, 36, 39a,
42a, 43a, 51b, 53a, 54b
Nothing like putting me on the spot Aaron! Well, if I must answer, I'd have to say "Wacky fan". But I blame my parents. If they had just waited 10 more years to have me, I'd probably be a rabid GPK fan.
5. You've also been instrumental
with submitting concepts for GPK and later supplying sensational sketch card
artwork for many of Topps' licenses. It's very easy for a GPK collector to
lump artists into categories, like sketch card artist, concept artist, et
in reality, you're an artist, period. Why haven't you made the
leap to creating any GPK front-side final artwork?
Honestly, I'm a very private person. I don't maintain a website (too lazy), I post sporadically online (for Facebook fans) and most of my friends have only a passing knowledge that I even work for Topps. I find that keeping the Topps label at arm's length is essential to keeping a balance in my life. There's so many other parts to the whole.
6. You worked on some Motion cards for the Flashback and Brand New Series sets and really hit your GPK stride with the Brand New Series card backs, being the sole writer and artist for the complete card (listed below), are you extra proud of these pieces that are 'all' yours?
BNS1: Motion cards
BNS2: 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115
BNS3: 174, 175b, 176, 177, 178, 179b, 180, 181, 182, 183b, 184a
The motion cards were a ton of fun!
If there was ever a set I'd like to see Topps do more of, that's the one.
Interesting factoid #1: I was also doing Wacky motion cards around this time
and I'm still feeling the vertigo!
7. You are hands-down one of the leading contributors to quality sketch cards for the GPK line; the 'Return' cards that surface on eBay are downright breathtaking. I think for this reason; a lot of collectors refer to you as a GPK sketch artist because your so darn great. Do you see yourself contributing to GPK sketch cards for years to come?
Very glad to hear my sketch cards are so well received! I think I may have inherited the sketch card moniker by accident. I enjoy painting on a very small canvas, even when it comes to final paintings (usually no larger than 5x7) and so when I first started doing sketch cards for Topps, it was a really natural fit. Interesting factoid #2: I'm credited with the very first Wacky Packages sketch card for Postcards Series 1! Additionally, I find a lot of freedom in creating unusual content in the characters and designs that you can't do in a final painting (like thought balloons). One of the more memorable GPK sketch cards I've done was for the Flashback set, where Topps graciously permitted me to paint one for a charity auction for the Tsunami victims in Japan in 2011. Not sure what the future holds for GPK sketch cards, but as long as Topps keeps producing them, I'm likely to dive in whenever I can.
8. Minus many GPK concepts you've
submitted for the 'Yearly' and online exclusive sets, your artwork is sadly
missing from these sets. What's keeping you away from working on more?
9. Over the last decade working
on Topps projects, is there original Camera material out that that been released
- any personal artwork? Where can collectors find your work online? I'm a
huge fan of your annual 'New Years' cards.
As mentioned previously, I don't maintain a website and I'm not very good about keeping an online portfolio. Luckily, there are a few fan sites that fill the void (lostwackys.com keeps some of my earliest Wacky work). Someday, when I have an assistant who's willing to rummage and sort through 35 years worth of accumulated paper scraps, I'll have them create a virtual museum. And everyone will be rewarded for their patience!
10. Remember we had plans to meet-up
in Denver (years back; 2007?) for a coffee?
but then you moved - I
wasn't sure how to take that. Haha! I'm the proud owner of the final artwork
of the 'Tusky TIFFANY' character you completed for the ANS7 card backs, the
side profile really cracks me up for that 'WANTED' image. Looking forward
to seeing and finally meeting you in person at the Super Toy Con / GPK-Con
in Vegas in August!
Agreed! Finally meeting you in person will be one of the great highlights of the show! And this time, I'll be sure to make time for that cup of coffee!
UPDATE: THAT CUP OF COFFEE WAS GRABBED!