Why the uncharacteristic impulse buying? Here's why: Although I was far too young to enjoy the 1967 debut of Topp's Wacky Packages stickers, I was the perfect age for their hugely successful revival in 1973. Featuring gross-out parodies of familiar consumer products, I can't emphasize enough how insanely popular these stickers were with my friends and I as we collected 'em, traded 'em, and (most of all) laughed at their clever humor. Well, clever to eight year-old boys, that is.
In the thirty-five years since then, "Wacky Pack" stickers have occasionally reappeared to crack-up and gross-out new generations...most recently in 2007...so with this kind of enduring popularity, a book celebrating their nostalgic nuttiness was a no-brainer addition to my bookshelf.
Well, the book finally arrived yesterday (as it turned out, the same day my copy of Kirby: King of Comics hit my mailbox), and Wacky Packages was exactly what I was hoping it would be.
Weighing in at an impressive 240 pages, this 5" x 7" volume features all of the stickers from series one through seven (for a total of 223 Wacky Packages), many of them incredibly rare and hard to find. Outside of a written introduction by artist Art Spiegelman and an afterward by humor writer Jay Lynch (both of whom helped create them back in the day), the pages are blessedly free of additional commentary and, instead, let the full-page Wacky Packages do all the talking.
As if large reproductions of these delightfully demented stickers weren't enough, the book has a few more pleasant surprises. The first one is the dust jacket. Printed on a paper stock with a curiously waxy texture, the jacket evokes the wax packets the original stickers were packaged in (along with those brittle slabs of bubble gum). The other nice surprise is a packet of four "lost" Wacky Package stickers that were produced but never included with the original sticker runs (perhaps because the humor was a little much for even Wacky Package standards). Throw in a handy alphabetized index and you've got yourself a thoroughly enjoyable survey of these mildly subversive classics.
Sure, there were a few negative points that bear mentioning. While the artists who illustrated the Wacky Packs were mentioned in Spiegelman's introduction, none of the sticker pages included art credits...which is kind of a shame. I was also disappointed that the horizontally-oriented packages were printed horizontally on the page, which naturally made them smaller in appearance than the vertically-oriented packages. Rotating the horizontal packages 90º would have allowed them to be the same size as the vertical packages, thus making the illustration details easier to see. Sure, the reader would have to rotate the book to view the rotated horizontal packages, but I wouldn't have minded performing the extra "work" to see them larger.
Still, those are some pretty minor glitches in an otherwise fantastic experience. If you're a fellow Wacky Pack fan, an aficionado of gross-out humor, or even a casual pop cultural observer (or know one), I highly recommend nabbing a copy of Wacky Packages (especially since the "lost" stickers are only included with the book's first printing).