THE GPK INTERVIEW
1. What type of art background (schooling, projects, et cetera) did you have before taking on assignments at Topps? What attracted you to your earlier work with 'underground comix' and how did work find you at Topps? Was Wacky Packages your first project for the company? One of many run-on-questions...
My art background before Topps went in roughly this order: drawing comics for high school and college newspapers, volunteer work for San Diego Comic-Cons while in college, two semesters at Art Center College of Design, underground comix stories and covers, early experimental paintings, various freelance art jobs in San Diego, limited edition fantasy art portfolios for Schanes and Schanes, and some fantasy and science-fiction book covers.
I loved cartooning and comics. My dream was to do cartooning for a living, somehow. And avoid having to get a real job. Underground comix offered a way to get my early work published -- an open door. Ken Krueger, a science-fiction fan and bookstore owner, put out a little fanzine, Gory Stories Quarterly #2, with Scott Shaw! (http://www.shawcartoons.com/) and myself doing comics for it. He later took out the text pages, added more comics, and printed it as an underground comic, Gory Stories Quarterly #2 1/2. Denis Kitchen invited me to do more underground comix work for his company, Kitchen Sink, in Death Rattle, Snarf, etc. And I also did some really fun covers for Last Gasp -- No Ducks, Commies From Mars, etc. Most artists doing undergrounds were 5 to 10 years older than I was. Some, like Crumb, Rick Griffin and Robert Williams had a very personal approach, and were doing comics and art with great depth and intensity. It took me a long time to grasp how important that personal vision is for an artist.
In late 1984 Art Spiegelman called from Topps, asking if I wanted to do some Wacky Packages paintings. That sounded great, as I had realized a couple of months earlier that I wanted to do more humor art, less fantasy art. I got to do 9 Wackys for that series... they didn't print one of them.
2. Because of one unpublished Wacky
Packages final artwork piece completed by you -- a parody poking fun at
the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, Topps chose your concept artwork out of
three potential artists ,to create a whole new card product called the Garbage
Pail Kids -- in which Arthur Shorin has been stated as saying "is the
craziest thing that has ever happened at Topps". Taking on a complete series
by yourself, how daunting was this task -- and how surreal was this period in
your life once the card series craze took off?
From doing fantasy art covers and underground covers, I was used to paintings taking weeks or sometimes months to complete. Spiegelman said he wanted one artist, myself, to do all 44 cards, so that the set would have a consistent style and feeling. He asked if I thought I could do it. Topps had a 2-month deadline. I had done a sample piece, Baby Barfy, to show Topps what these little kids could look like. I realized I would have to do a painting a day to meet their deadline. I gulped and said "OK, I'll see if I can do it". I was nervous about whether I could keep up with the schedule.
(See Original Series 1 "GPK HISTORY" Section #6 For More Information)
The strategy I found for doing the first series GPKs was to break each painting down into little 1-hour tasks. I started with the layout, pencilling, and color rough. Then the painting: flesh, clothing, props, and airbrush background. Having 1 hour for each part, it was like a jigsaw puzzle, finishing one section at a time -- I had painted differently on my fantasy art pieces. I worked all over the painting at the same time, intuitively, but not methodically, in a very confusing process. Having a simple system for painting each GPK allowed me to stay sane. But sometimes revisions were needed, and a revision here or there pushed all the remaining pieces an hour or so further behind the original schedule. So the days got longer and longer toward the end of those 2 months.
The newer GPKs take much longer to draw and paint. The pencilling sometimes has to be redone, until the picture feels right. The backgrounds have more details, and the art is painted more carefully, with more blending.
AFTER THE RELEASE:
After the series 1 deadline, all went quiet from Topps. I painted a couple fantasy book cover jobs that turned out awful. Like I could no
longer paint in my older fantasy style. The main problem was, I was all worn out, from that 2-month GPK marathon. About the begining of summer, 1985, Topps called again and said that GPK sales were taking off, like a rocket, which I had never expected. They asked about starting on Series 2. By then I was glad to do it again. Making GPKs was hard work, but it was so darn fun, and so subversive!
Topps sent me all these clippings about
GPKs and the uproar they caused. They wanted to preserve their artist's
anonymity, which I was
thankful for, as I could only imagine the hundreds of calls I could have gotten from angry parents and conservative groups. And there was the lawsuit from Cabbage Patch Kids, in which I had to do a deposition, and later fly to Atlanta to wait for the court case. It was settled out of court, and Topps kept on making GPKs.
3. Fast forward to 1998. To bring
up another amazing parody card set by Comic Images, you created a wonderful
set titled Meanie Babies - a humorous approach to the popular Beanie
Babies animals at the time. Were you approached for this project based on
the GPK success? - and how different was this experience developing 61
images (including one bonus card) for the entire set, compared to the work you
did for the original 1st and 2nd series GPK for Topps in the '80's?
Meanie Babies was just like GPKs.
I knew Dave Scroggy from Pacific Comics -- They published comics and fantasy art portfolios, and pioneered new distribution methods for comics. And he was an artists' agent for several years -- I was one of the artists he found art jobs for. Dave Scroggy joined Dark Horse Comics in Portland. One day Dave called me, and said the owner of Dark Horse had the idea to do a Meanie Babies card series, like Garbage Pail Kids, only based on Beanie Babies. They knew of my work with GPKs. It sounded like a perfect card series idea. I was all for it. It turned out to be some really fun work. And another tight deadline situation, too.
One difference in making the Meanie Babies was that I came up with all the character ideas and names (except ROTO ROOSTER). I'd fax in my idea sketches, and Dave would go over them, and pick out the best ones. Whereas with the GPKs, about half the ideas I painted up came from other Topps artists, like Art Spiegelman and Mark Newgarden.
On Meanie Babies, I recommended Jay Lynch as the writer for the card backs. I love the stuff he came up with. Dark Horse then had Jay and I do a 3-page Meanie Babies comic strip for their new GUFF comic. Jay's storyboard for that was so good, so detailed, that there was nothing you could change without ruining it. I just redrew it in my style, staying as close as I could. I found that true with Jay's Wacky ideas, too -- they were so clear and well-thought out.
(See "Iron-Jaw AARON's PARODY PAGES" Meanie Babies and TCT Sections For More Information On These Sets)
4. I always hoped for another Meanie Babies card set not to mention another Trash Can Trolls or Bathroom Buddies set. Though, there exists finished pieces for the unpublished 2nd series Bathroom Buddies set, are there any unpublished Meanie Babies, TCT or other pieces of art you worked on that the public hasn't seen?
All the Meanie Babies painting
were printed. Of those three projects, only the Bathroom Buddies had
some unpublished paintings.
But when Mark Newgarden was art directing at Topps, in the early 1990's, there were several projects that never got published. Loco
Motion was one. A few of those were used in MadCaps, a pog series. And some other unpublished jobs under Mark Newgarden had Drew Friedman drawings made into paintings, by Bunk, Piggott, and myself. Besides Toxic High, which was eventually published.
(See "Iron-Jaw AARON's PARODY PAGES" Bathroom Buddies Section For Additional Unpublished Pieces)
5. Starting with the original 3rd series Garbage Pail Kids, artist Tom Bunk helped out with some of the card fronts was this help welcomed, or rather, did the workload for this franchise become too demanding where extra help was needed? Were you able to work on any non-Topps projects at the time?
I didn't know Topps had any other artists working on paintings until I saw the 3rd Series printed. At first I was a little taken aback. My ego liked the idea of being able to say I had done all the paintings. And Spiegelman had said they wanted paintings all done by one artist. But I also quickly saw that Topps needed more art, as fast as possible. And they also needed a backup plan in case I became difficult, sick, or dead. I later met Tom Bunk at a Silly CDs signing, and I liked him a lot. He's done some really amazing work, with great detail and wild humor.
During the GPK years, I did a few side jobs -- a couple comic covers, a poster (1986 Festival Of Animation), and the GROUND POUND comic collection of some of my old underground comix work. And maybe a couple personal paintings. But the GPK schedule was pretty demanding.
6. Speaking of the original 3rd series GPK -- I was able to purchase the final artwork for card 104 "silent Sandy / barren Aaron" from the Topps Vault via eBay and the pencil / ink and color rough artwork for this piece directly from you from your website (http://www.poundart.com). While I was in New York in the Fall of 2005, I had the opportunity to sift through Mark Newgarden's filing cabinet of GPK nostalgia from the time that he worked at Topps. He told me a very interesting story about this piece how the piece was accepted, but afterwards the art department made some touch-up "improvements" to lighten up the face. Do you remember this incident and has any other pieces of artwork of yours been defaced or manipulated that you're aware of?
Maybe Topps thought the GPK "receding chin" was too dark for printing, so they repainted the chin and face on the sphinx lighter. I don't like how they repainted it, but that's how it goes. Here's how it looked when I turned it in:
(Pound 'Original' and Final Artwork)
There may be other GPKs that were changed, but I can't recall just now. The one I do remember is ANS5 #34 "eye-candy Mandy / Molly pop". I did a nice hot-pink summery sky. Jeff Zapata wanted a blue sky, and had it changed in Photoshop. I prefer my version, but I can also see how the face flesh blends into the sky, which bothered Jeff.
(Pound 'Original' Background and Final Artwork on Card)
7. There exists two "approved" artwork pieces that were not published that you painted (not including unpublished "unapproved" concepts / finals) - an original 3rd series final art for 118 "glandular Angela / half-Nelson" and an original 6th series final artwork piece for cards 248 "Hector collector / G.P. Kay" (which hangs in the house of Mark Newgarden) both pieces were redone by other artists for the two sets. Are there any other Pound pieces that met the same fate? - and can you shed any light on the story of these two pieces?
I think Topps used my version of 118 glandular Angela / half-Nelson as reference, for a "training piece", for another GPK artist to try out on. Changes were made -- a "split" background color, and arm up for a muscle -- which improved the piece. But the paint handling feels weaker on the 2nd version.
(Pound 'Original' and Mai Final Artwork)
And on 248 Hector collector / G.P. Kay, I had the GPK facing away from the viewer, looking back over a shoulder. Maybe that angle felt odd to someone at Topps. A reverse situation was with #346 (original 9th series "peeled Paul / skin Les"), a kid peels off his skin. They sent me someone's painting, to do another version of.
(Pound 'Original' and Warhola Final Artwork)
8. Were you surprised to find yourself working on GPK again in 2001? How did Topps approach you for this second GPK incarnation?
In spring 2003, John Williams at Topps called Tom Bunk and myself about each of us doing 6 new pieces to go with the unpublished Series 16 art. Topps wanted to test out GPKs. I was glad to hear from Topps again. It's great to work on a job as fun as GPKs. Who would have thought it could happen again?
Topps had to scan Series 16 color proof
sheets for the older ANS1 art, as the unpublished originals were not found at
Topps (except a
rejected "Gun and Mirror" piece, which was sold on Ebay, by Topps Vault). I'd be curious to know what happened to the other Series 16 art. I was really glad to hear the new GPKs sold well enough that Topps wanted to do more All New Series kids. John Williams had Jeff Zapata take over the art directing, I think starting with the ANS2 GPKs.
9. Like with Jeff Zapata, as previously with Mark Newgarden, your method of bouncing ideas back and forth with the art director on concepts seem to be the beginning process of you creating GPK. How different is it working on the All-New Series GPK compared to the characters you worked on in the eighties (minus the obvious lawsuit restrictions - or with)?
Actually, it was not too different. In both cases, I started by drawing up pages of rough idea sketches -- I like to do several on a page -- and send them in to Topps. They pick some of them for me to paint. And they also give me other ideas that they want me to paint. The ideas I have painted have been about half from my sketches, and half from others' ideas.
As with Spiegelman and Newgarden, working with Jeff has been a lot of fun -- great sense of humor, and his comments for revisions have been right on. One thing Jeff has said repeatedly is: let's go for gags with a story. Something that has a kind of twisted sense, as opposed to just nonsense.
One of my favorite comments from Jeff
was on revising (ANS6 #1) "orange Julius" (and "peeled Neal").
I showed Jeff a scan. It had the grass and clouds. He said it needs something
-- how about some orange trees. When I added those, it took it to another level.
It usually helps to collaborate with an editor or art director. We're both working
to make the piece stronger, and often one sees something the other one missed.
Like using two eyes instead of one.
10. At the recent Philly show in Allentown , PA - ran by the Toser's of Non-Sport Update, a question was raised during the Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids Topps panel about sketch cards being a possibility for the hopefully planned All-New Series 8 set. I know the ANS4 sketch cards, which celebrated the 20th GPK anniversary, was a tedious 'side project' for you but would you consider doing sketch cards again, maybe a lower number of cards for an upcoming set?
With ANS4, at first I didn't like the idea of doing sketch cards. I prefer to do art that will be printed. But in talking with someone, they pointed out that a sketch card could be really quick, like doing an autograph, rather than an illustration. That idea got me over my initial resistance, and then I found it was pretty easy to do them. I worked out a few basic images that I liked, and just had fun with it. I had to make sure to stop every so often, to not trash my arms. I wouldn't mind doing more sketch cards for Topps for ANS8.
One little thing I wonder is why nobody seems to have the "green barf" sketch cards I did. I did 250. You'd think some would show up on Ebay. Unless those cards were never put into the GPK boxes in the first place? (author's note : Pound's "green barf" sketches along with Jay Lynch's unreleased "Adam bomb" sketches were intended to be placed in later hobby boxes for ANS4 during further printing; the cards have either been destroyed per contract with manufacturer, since no future sketch card series was planned; or if the cards survived, they could be saved for the potential ANS8 sketch card inserts -- only three "green barf" cards exist, sold outside of the hobby boxes from the artist -- who received a small stack of consolation sketches from Topps to sell on eBay, etc.) They were like this one:
(See ANS 4 "Sketch Card Page" Section For More Information)
11. What other types of work has kept you busy over the years? What future work can we anticipate?
I've been doing some panorama paintings for Monte Beauchamp's annual BLAB! magazine, featuring WOO-WOO eyeball characters, in difficult situations. And I'm working on a 32-page storybook project also, with Eyewiz, who is one of the main WOO-WOO characters. That may take a year or two more to get everything done.
12. Do you have a favorite Garbage Pail Kids character? Old or new? Or more than one?
I like some more than others, but it's
so hard to narrow it down. It'd be fun to see them all in a book on Garbage