FALL 2005—SPRING 2006

1. What Topps projects are you currently working on?

Right now, I am working on... or at least, I should be working on the Garbage Pail Kids All-New Series 5. These days, I am a bit slow due to the chemotherapy and its unpleasant side effects. For the last Wacky Package series I didn't get to do any work for the same reasons. I was slow and weak, and when I could have started, the whole thing was already over and done with.

2. How many pieces of art, per project, do you hope to have completed for the release(s)?

I hope to paint at least 4-5 pieces, depending on the deadline. As usual, I have many different jobs and things going on at the same time, though Topps is one of my priorities. Jeff Zapata (art director at Topps) is very understanding of my situation and gives me a lot of leeway... but deadlines are deadlines. I hope I can do more paintings than mentioned above.


3. What did you think of the Sketch cards commemorating the 20th GPK anniversary for the All-New Series 4 set? That's twenty sets in twenty years you've worked on for Topps.

The sketch cards were a nice idea for the fans, so they could get their greedy, collector fingers on some original art. It was also good for Topps to sell more boxes, but for me, it was additional work (for minimal compensation), and because it was shortly after my surgery, radiation, and chemo, I had a really hard time even climbing up the stairs to my studio and holding a pencil. That's why I did only some cards, I don't even know how many I did. The remaining blank sketch cards I had to send back for somebody else to do their sketches. The 20 years commemorating part didn't really enter my mind very much at the time, but now I do think more about time flying away rapidly, and my mind with it!

4. How does working on Garbage Pail Kids now differ from twenty years ago?

Twenty years ago, it was much more exciting to work on the GPK. I had a studio in Brooklyn, not far from Topps. They were in an industrial part of Brooklyn, near the port, a very romantic area... it looked like some great background for Mafia movies, where they get rid of their victims by putting them into cement blocks and dumping them into the water. Well, I went there once or twice a week to meet Art Spiegelman and Mark Newgarden (and other nice people who were involved, like Len Brown and Stan Hart). With the 3rd Series GPK, I started to work on the fronts, but I also did a lot of work on the backs... partly complete series and partly with other artists. I was actually so busy and stressed-out that I didn't realize that the GPK had become a phenomenal rage all over the globe. I remember Art asking me whether I knew that I was involved in something really big... I didn't, but then I started to see all of the newspaper articles about the GPKs crazy fame, and everywhere I went I saw GPK wrappers on the floor, on the streets, and in the subways. I was excited... thrilled... and amazed!

Today, things are just different - calmer, and more professional. In the beginning, I was still learning how to render the work realistically with Acrylic and airbrush. Though it's not as exciting and nerve-wrecking because I am technically more experienced and I feel more experienced, and I feel more confident. But now I do enjoy it very much in another way, for example, I am now getting recognition for the work I do and did for the GPK (and many of the other Topps projects I did). The collectors are now more knowledgeable about the artists behind the stickers, thanks to the fabulous people like you Aaron, who kept the GPK flame on the front burner all of these years - I wasn't even aware of it until Jay Lynch told me about two years ago to check the internet in this regard. Well, in the 80's, the fans were little kids, there was no internet and typically, kids don't really care very much who does what, as long as it's really disgusting - and the most important thing was that their parents and teachers and other grown-ups hated them nasty, naughty stickers.

The other very nice side of the development now-a-days is that because of the increased interest in the art itself, I am starting to sell my sketches and roughs to collectors and fans. Fortunately, I have kept all of my sketches (not because I thought I would sell them one day, but because I can't throw anything out!). Now I'm glad I stuffed every piece of paper into my drawer and left it there all of these years.

5. What is/were your favorite Garbage Pail Kids that you drew in the Eighties?

My favorites are still the first ones: #89 (Hurt CURT/PAT Splat), #91 (BLAKE Flake/Hippie SKIPPY), #95 (Grim JIM/BETH Death), #115 (Warmin' NORMAN/Well Done SHELDON), especially #178 (EARL Painting/Blue Boy GEORGE), #263 (VINCENT Van Gone/Modern ART) and many others. Because they are all somehow like my children, it's hard to choose just one favorite - actually, I wouldn't like to have the GPK as my own children, they would totally destroy my already unstable state of mind! - but I still love them.

6. Do you have a favorite Garbage Pail Kids for the All-New Series releases?

ANS1 - # 18 (Rodent ROB), #23 (Sushi SUSIE) and #28 (Duped DAVID). [editor's note: also from the unpublished 16th series set]
ANS2 - #5 (Fat CHANCE) and #16 (Dandruff DAN).
ANS3 - #14 (BOB Gnarly), #10 (Astro NAT) and # 31 (Poopdeck PETE).
ANS4 - #12 (Brainwashed BRIAN) and #30 (Turdking TRAVIS).

7. With the Care Bears being popular again, any hopes that Topps will come out with a card release for the Gross Bears buttons you worked on in the 80's?

I don't know anything about Topps' plans in this regard, but I'll ask Jeff Zapata. It would be about time to take on these cute bears and tear them apart!


8. How was it working on the Gross Bears set?

When I got the job in June of 1985 to create a complete Barf Bears series (that's what they were called then), I thought, "Oh, my - that's going to be a major headache!". It was the same time that John Pound was already working on the Garbage Pail Kids, and Topps, Art Spiegelman, and Mark Newgarden had me already drawing the cartoons for the reverse side of the complete 1st and 2nd GPK sticker sets. And, on top of it all, my first child was just about to be born. My wife and I lived in a one room apartment in Manhattan, and I had to do the airbrushing (it's kind of toxic) in our tiny, windowless bathroom! Also, I didn't know anything about airbrushing and had to teach it to myself the nerve-wrecking way! So I had to find a studio somewhere else where I would have the space, the peace, and the light for the work... which happened to be in Brooklyn at my inlaws house not far from Topps. There I completed in September, the whole Gross Bears Buttons series, including the box artwork, "wrappers", and lettering... warts and all!

Unfortunately, the Bears didn't have much of a chance to get very far, because the GPK craze took all of the attention away from Topps, the candy store sellers, the american youth, and the nation in general. Then immediately after I finished the Bears, I started to work on the Garbage Pail Kids, this time not only continuing to do work on the backs, but now also on the fronts (starting with the 3rd series). Because the GPK rage started to really take off and we had to produce sets fast and furious, soon James Warhola joined the crazy club with his art. It became a very stressful time for me for a couple of years (without getting even one additional penny from the multi-million dollar profit Topps ended up making - we didn't even get the originals back - Topps later sold these in auctions making even more profit without giving the artists any compensation as recognition of their contribution -- which I thought really sucked). After that, Art Spiegelman left Topps and made comic history by finishing his Maus books.

9. Where else can we find Bunk art? And what other personal projects have you recently been working on?

I have worked quite regularly for MAD magazine since 1990, and I'm doing a lot of other jobs for children books, science magazines, and illustrations for high school textbooks (physics, chemistry, earth science, etc.). I'm just now having an art exhibition in the Hall of Science in Queens, NY where almost 60 of my metaphysical illustrations for Quantum, a science magaizine, are being shown. There is also a wonderful book, called Quantoons, with all of the illustrations that is published by NSTA. When I have some time inbetween, and I wish I had more, I work for my own plain pleasure on larger size oil paintings. That's what I really would like to do in the future, whatever future there is in store for me. But to survive, I have to do all of these jobs, after all, somebody has to put the tofu on the table! I actually love to do them, too.

10. What other Topps projects, other then Garbage Pail Kids and Gross Bears, have you worked on?

There were jobs to do all of the time besides GPK that Topps wanted me to do. I worked on complete projects (with wrapper and box art, etc.) like Stupid Smiles Stickers or Pick'N Chews Bubble Gum. I illustrated two, very funny, little books called The Nursery Crimes (parody of Nursery Rhymes) and My Pal the Pit Bull, both have been finished but they never made it to the stores. I also created art for a whole bunch of boxes: Dino (toys with candy eggs), Wacky Packages (1985), Mutant Eggs, Funny Farm (my first job in 1984), Cheap Toys (GPK toy figurines), T-Shirt Factory, Thumb Sucker, et cetera.

I also worked on various projects like Toxic High, Gruesome Greeting Cards, Iron-Ons, Wacky Packs, Trash Can Trolls, Bathroom Buddies, and there were projects that were created, worked on, but never finished or published - like the Loco Motion cards, with crazy images of x-treme sports, like skating, snow boarding, dirtbiking, surfing, etc. There were also projects that were started, and I don't even remember what they were about! I did practically all the odds and ends stuff that needed to be done at Topps, and I was always around. It seems I was Topps' multi-talented, all-around, resident artist... and when I look back, I wonder how I even had the time to take a breath, let alone live!


This interview is republished by permission from Sybil Ferro and the Garbage Pail Kids Misfits Facebook group, © 2020. Interview was conducted by longtime GPK collectors Sybil Ferro, Will Marston, Slippa Chervascus, Roddy Francisco Fell, and Alicia Forrest in Sept. 2020.

This is the interview that EVERYONE wanted to happen but no one believed was possible. An interview so momentous that you’ll need to pinch yourself in the eyeball to know for sure you’re not dreaming…and then even THEN, you might not believe it. Well BELIEVE IT BUSTER! In years to come they’ll ask, “Where were you when Tomas Bunk joined the Misfits for a chin wag?” And you can say, “Right here, in my happy place, with my Misfits.”

Roddy Francisco Fell (RFF) – Tom, firstly, thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of our artist interview series. We call you the Godfather of the Misfits, so it feels so right to be able to discuss your career. Your art often captures the atmosphere of the 1970s New York slums. Can you explain why this is so prevalent in your art?

Tom Bunk (TB) – I came to NY in 1983, and was very impressed by the leftover 70ies, especially Harlem. A very desolate city display, pleasantly anarchic…

RFF – Can you tell us about some of your most memorable fan experiences? Maybe a fan letter, photo, or in-person moment.

TB – I am getting many letters over the years, from fans who grew up with collecting the GPK, and it was a very crucial time in their lives, and they write to me stories of how much it meant to them buying and collecting and trading the cards. Some write that my work has started their artistic career. I also get to hear great stories when I meet the fans at conventions, not only here in the USA but also in Europe, Italy and Holland. It makes me feel good to know how much my work meant to them growing up.

RFF – What is your favourite art utensil? Is there a certain brand piece you swear by?

TB – I don’t work on the computer, so I have tons of brushes, water- and acrylic colors, pens, scissors, knives, coffee, etc… I love the chaos around me when I work.

RFF – Which piece of art equipment has served you the longest?

TB – My brain, so far. Especially my sense of humor, dark, bizarre, mad, bloody, cute or brute.

RFF – GPK aside, your work as a ‘Mad’ magazine cartoonist is legendary, you’ve created some of the best large scale “busy” pieces that the magazine has ever seen, what's your favourite and why?

TB – They are all different and I like them all. Some are more my own characters (the Beach), some are more quotations (Disney), some are more gruesome (Halloween) and some more innocent (PS Lunchroom).

RFF – On the “busy” theme, I have a friend that says it was really YOU that invented Where’s Waldo? and should be due all of the royalties – what do you say to that?

TB – The crowded scenes go back for centuries. One can find crowded pictures from the 14th &15th century. There is also Bosh and Breughel, Hogarth and his contemporaries etc….it's an old tradition to fill up pages with silly mortal fools. I am just continuing the Wimmel tradition…

RFF – Do you maintain contact with Mr John Pound and do you have any interesting/funny stories about your time when you two were the main artists for GPK during OS3?

TB – John Pound lived in California and I lived in New York, (actually I had a studio in Brooklyn, not far from Topps) and we didn't meet until 15 years later at the Comicon in San Diego, together with Jay Lynch.

RFF – You were involved with the artwork on the backs of OS1 and 2 but not the fronts, is there a story behind this?

TB – At the time when I was working on the backs I was also working on a whole other series- The Gross Bears & Big Bad Buttons. When the GPKs started to take off, John could not work fast enough, so they hired me. I think John didn’t like it because I would paint more stuff around the GPKs characters, and also tried to create some atmosphere. He felt he had to keep up and work more on details. Next to the GPKs I was working on many other series like Wacky Packs, etc… Topps kept me busy around the clock. I was something like a House artist until 1990 when I switched to MAD. This was creativitywise more interesting for me.

RFF – Outside of art… What’s your guilty pleasures? What are some of your favorite music genres and favorite films?

TB – No guilt here, I went through many stages of favorite music, from French chansons to Frank Zappa in the 60ies, post punk stuff, new wave British bands (Joy Division, New Order, etc). Then in NY, I was listening a lot to WFMU, a great university station (they still exist), a wide ranging mix of crazy stuff, European progressive rock, gong, and soft machine. For a while electronic stuff (Thievery Corporation, Air, etc) then back to French Ye-Ye retro music, and now mostly easy Jazz…and everything else…

RFF – Seeing first hand GPK start from its humble beginnings and knowing where it is at today, did you ever imagine that it would have the cult status it has?

TB – When I did the GPK I was not aware that it was such a worldwide phenomenon. I was so busy working, day in day out, only when I started to see everywhere the thrown away wrappers and the stickers on walls, I kind of figured it out. I am still surprised by the worldwide influence they had on innocent kids. They were for little kids who grew up in the 80ies what MAD was for the previous generation. They were a Wake-Up Call….it was like saying: don't believe what society is telling you!! Grown ups are lying.

RFF – What was the first GPK final you handed over to Topps and what was their reaction?

TB – My first job was a design for a Funny Farm Box, Bubble Gum Eggs, a big chicken blowing a bubble and sitting on colorful eggs…they must have liked it because they used it.

RFF – You and AJ Boot, of the legendary GPK reference site gpkworld.com, are very close buddies… Can you tell us a little on how this friendship came about?

TB – Aaron wrote to me many years ago for some information and we became good friends. I had at that time somebody else selling my GPK sketches, but that didn’t work out and Aaron was nice enough to offer me a place on his great website. And that's wonderful, because I have so many sketches and finals to show and sell.

RFF – With all the bootleg sets and fan sets doing the rounds, have you ever thought that you should get the “old band” back together for one final gig? To sit down with Pound, Newgarden and just create something new, fun, edgy and dangerous again? Go on!!!! I dare you!

TB – You cant repeat something like the GPK craziness, and in the meantime we all moved forward, doing other things.

RFF – Only one last thing to say here and that’s cheerio from bunk and cheerio from me! But before you go – Cheerio is such an old fashioned British saying and is now almost your catchphrase! Is there a story there? Where did it come from and when did you start using it?

TB – I stayed once in a hostel in Portland Oregon and in the Bathroom was a sign, “Please keep the toilet clean, Cheerio!” I just loved the uplifting sound of it. CHEERIO! I still don't know what it means.