Wacky Packages or Wacky Packs, as they are also called, were trading cards produced by Topps beginning in 1967 (Wacky Packages were distributed in Canada by OPC starting in 1973). The cards usually served as the backing for stickers, whose satirical, humorous, gross-out images were part of the genre that gave the world characters like Rat Fink by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and magazines like “Mad.” Artist Art Spiegelman designed most of the early cards, most of which were painted by Norman Saunders.
The first year of Wacky Packages saw 44 designs, each composed of a die-cut, lickable sticker. All were parodies of consumer products. For example Gravy Train dog food became Grave Train, illustrated by a picture of a Dalmatian who has apparently died from eating the Grave Train in its dish (the tagline reads “Your dog will never eat anything else”). Wheaties became Weakies, the Jolly Green Giant morphed into the Jolly Mean Giant, and Ritz became Ratz, complete with a picture of a rodent eating the “moldy crackers.”
Needless to say, these images did not endear Topps to many of the top brands in the United States, which is why numerous cease-and-desist letters caused Topps to pull some of the most offending parodies, including one for a brand called Band-Ache made by Jerkson & Jerkson, which depicts a bandage ripping the flesh off the arm of a user as it is removed.
A series of Wacky Ads followed in 1969, while cloth stickers were produced in 1973. That was the same year Topps and OPC released the so-called 1st series of Wacky Packages, even though all 30 designs had been released in the die-cuts of 1967 and ’68. The difference was that now the stickers were self-adhesive. In addition, 24 of the titles from that year were also published as posters, which were folded so they could fit into the product’s card-size packaging, and some Wacky Packages were even distributed in loaves of Wonder Bread.
By the mid-1970s, the Wacky Packages fad had waned, so much so that the 16th series for 1976 was produced in a very small run, making cards from that year among the most difficult to come by. Even so, cards continued to be released, usually as reissues of series from previous years. In 1985, Topps launched a new brand, the Garbage Pail Kids, which were biting parodies of the saccharine-sweet Cabbage Patch dolls.