?John Cleese’s three rules of comedy are as follows: One, no puns. Two, no puns. Three, no puns. But if it weren’t for those time honored comedic staples, the world would be deprived of the existence of such laughgetters as Wacky Packages. Also known as Wacky Packs, Topps’ venerable card line has been around since the very first stickers appeared back in 1967. Their popularity has ebbed and flowed throughout the decades, but the endless desire to stick it to the Don Drapers of the world has made Wacky Packages a consistent source of advertising satire.
There have been hundreds of the cards over the years, and with the exception of some early entries that decried hippies and made draft-dodging jokes most Wacky Packages have stood the test of time. In an effort to remain hip, cards released since the 2004 relaunch of the line have spoofed everything from men’s hair dye to file-sharing. Not that kids collecting the things care about timeliness, they just like the funny names of the fake products and the occasional gross picture. In celebration of the enduring popularity of the cards, here’s a look at the 25 greatest Wacky Packages ever made — now with 100% more dead dog, poop and murder jokes!
25) Kong Fu
In recent years, Topps has made custom-sized decals of various Wacky Packages available through LTL Prints. Sadly the above parody of Kung Fu trading cards is not yet available for decorating your walls. Which is a shame because there is something indescribably satisfying about a judo-chopping ape.
24) Hawaiian Punks
Who knew that an image of a man beaten to death by gangsters could be so entertaining? The Wacky Packages line attempted to go back to the Hawaiian Punch well in the 1980s with a punk rock-themed updating of this card. It didn’t match the brilliance that you see above and was therefore shelved.
23) Gravestones Unchewable Vitamins
Flintstones vitamins were an entire generation’s first dalliance with substance abuse. These probably aren’t nearly anywhere as tasty. That said, I think a zombie makeover for Fred, Barney and the gang would make one hell of a spin-off series…
22) Big Muc
Come to think of it, this doesn’t look too far removed from some actual Big Macs I’ve eaten.
There are two things about this Spam spoof that exemplify the care that was put into the early Wacky Packages cards: The teeth flying from the kids mouth in a manner that defies physics and the fact that the demonic mother is still civilized enough to wear pearls. It’s subtle nuances like these that cause me to obsess over these cards some 30 years after I bought my first pack.
20) Freetoes Corn Chips
Gross out humor, thy name is Freetoes.
19) Playskull Monster Building Parts
Although not especially funny, this card is worthy of appearing on this list because it would actually be a great toy for monster-loving kids everywhere.
18) Choke Wagon
It’s hard to imagine anyone not getting a chuckle out of this Chuck Wagon spoof. Well, unless you just had a dog die, in which case I can see how this card wouldn’t bring the lolz.
17) Satan Wrap
?To quote Homer Simpson before he got amazingly lame, “it’s funny cause it’s true.” Sometimes it’s a bitch getting plastic wrap to cooperate with you. This frustration is perfectly replicated on the woman’s face in the illustration. Well played, Wacky Packages. Well played indeed.
16) Dr. Pooper
Kids everywhere love the word poop. Therefore this card would be a home run even without the illustration of the gross nerd.
It’s nice to see that Jaws was such a pop culture juggernaut that it even merited its own Wacky Pack.
14) Hostile Thinkies
The perfect snack for the zombie on the go.
13) Brandy Land
Having played way too much Candy Land while growing up I can say that being sloshed out of my prepubescent mind on brandy would have made the game way more tolerable.
12) Goodbye Kitty
Pure wish fulfillment for anyone who loathes Sanrio’s merchandising juggernaut. Of course, the sad truth about Hello Kitty is that death just makes her more unstoppable.
11) Creature Crackers
Much like the aforementioned Playskull Monster Building Parts, this is an item that really should be available at stores everywhere. Think of the endless hours of fun you could have dipping the Gill Man into Tomato Soup. Unfortunately, the closest we ever got to this snack euphoria was back in 1998 when Nabisco released their short-lived Universal Monsters Cookies.
“Rubbish in Disguise” is also a perfect three-word review of Michael Bay’s Transformers flicks.
9) Run-A-Way Monster Vitamins
The Harryhausean monster and some amazing illustration work on the vitamins themselves allow this 1974 entry to creep its way into the top 10.
8) Wormy Packages
Wait, a Wacky Packages spoof of Wacky Packages? That’s so meta!
7) Slaytex Living Gloves
Strangulation equals laughs for kids of all ages. Wait, wha?
Topps first came to prominence with their baseball cards, so it’s nice to see them biting the hand that feeds. The Beastball card was first seen in 1975. It was re-released a decade later and has gone on to become one of the defining images of the Wacky Packages brand. Why? Because monkeys in baseball hats are a license to print money.
Before True Blood, Fang was the beverage choice of vampires. Well, that or Bloodweiser.
4) G.I. Toe
G.I. Joe is such an enduring toy line that it has been parodied twice by Wacky Packages, first in 1974 for the large Joes and then again in 1985 for the 3 ? figures. Your choice for which card you prefer is probably directly related to what era of G.I. Joe you are the fondest for. The gags on both are equally amusing, if not a wee bit obvious.
3) Hostage Cupcakes
Hostage crises were so commonplace back in 1973 that they became comedic fodder for kids’ trading cards. This Hostess spoof is a both a reminder of how grim the ’70s were and a prime example of how delightfully subversive Wacky Packages could be.
2) Yeti Wip
With the exception of the Jack Links Sasquatch Big Stick beef jerky, there are no Bigfoot-related foodstuffs on the market today. This Yeti Wip card doesn’t exactly fill the hominid-shaped hole in my hungry heart, but it’s a start.
1) Cap’n Crud
After first gaining attention with his work on the Mars Attacks trading cards, Norman Saunders turned his attentions to the then-new Wacky Packages line. One of his earliest efforts was this revision of Tom Sutton’s Cap’n Crud card from Topps’ Wacky Ads card line that was done for the second series of Wacky Packages in 1973. Highlighted by a re-envisioning of the iconic cereal box and featuring a painting of an addled Captain Horatio Magellan Crunch, this card caught the eye of kids and helped the Wackys become schoolyard status symbols across the country. Nearly 40 years later and the good Cap’n Crud is still finding new fans. This card is so popular that it has been made into a miniature cereal box that you can buy from Topps’ website (it comes in a three-pack with Triks and Crookie Crisp, natch). Goofy and colorful, this is the greatest entry point for anyone looking to enter the weird and wondrous world of Wacky Packages. For the rest of us, it is a reminder of how comforting the nostalgia of these cards can be.