Hi, and welcome to another instalment of What I Miss About The 80s, a chance for me to bitch and moan like a cantankerous old sh#t about what I miss from my 80s childhood. A place where I can lament about how everything's changed now, what with all these modern video-games blah, blah, blah and say how it was much better and more innocent back then, while failing to remember the paranoia, anguish, violence and general air of malaise that pervaded the decade. Ah, to be older, more narrow-minded, and hypocritical. Feels good, I must say. So for this week's funfest I'm going to be getting all dewy-eyed about those harbingers of fond, nostalgic memories...children's toys and trading cards. Now, you may say what can this reject know about anything that's fun, he wouldn't know fun if it leaped up, pole danced on his face, bought a round of tequilas, then sucked on his balls. Well it's true, but that's only occurred because the watery passage of time has condensed to create a lasting fog so thick that it clouds it from my memory. Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with anecdotes of my mint condition Star Wars collection, or how I've got the old school Megatron and Optimus Prime still in their original packaging. Hell no, I'm going to bore you with something more surreal, and gruesome. Let's start with a bizarre toy called Madballs. Remember those? They were these weird, ugly looking rubber balls, which were sort of like the Mr Hyde to a normal sports ball's Dr Jekyll. Basically it's what would happen if a baseball & his chums went out on a week long, acid-crazed, crystal-meth snorting bender, were hunted down and killed like rabid wildebeest, and then arose like the cursed army of some loathsome sports store located in the 7th circle of hell - all varicose veined eyeballs, overstitched scars and oozing puss-faced repulsiveness. You might now be thinking, so what? There's crazier sh#t than that now. But you must understand that 1) this was the 80s, so the truly gross-out nature of the internet age hadn't been ushered in, 2) I was very young and 3) It was mainly to gross-out the girls with their Barbie dolls and My Little Pony. So, to me, they were subversive toy genius. Sublime in their simplicity but also, annoyingly, a bit sh#t in the fact that you couldn't really do much with them, other than chuck them against a wall, only for them to elicit a half-hearted rebound that you couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed with. Ah well, they still looked pretty cool. There were even some bigger versions called Super Madballs, which, if I remember, were a soccer ball, American football and basketball. They were fantastic. At the time I found it all quite exciting, because I was basically a terrible bore, and not a crack addicted, murdering, machine gun-wielding degenerate rapist like your average 10 year old is these days. No, back then we still had some of our innocence. Or maybe I was just a slow developer. Everyone else was probably out getting drunk and shagging their way through early tweenhood, and there was me, limply throwing a madball at a wall, alone... There was also something else from the 1980s that was the Madballs' equal in the gross-out stakes; in fact it was probably superior, and could probably beat it into a scabby abscess-filled pulp if they had some grisly fight to the death. They went by the name of Garbage Pail Kids and were the brainchild of Art Spiegelman - does that get those memory cells vibrating with nostalgic joyful energy? They were stupendous and for those that can't remember, or were too young, they were trading cards released by the Topps Company, around the mid-80s, and they were essentially a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids, which were the sort of toy that are so cutesy it produces in me an involuntary retch, a retch so visceral and violent that I'll end up throwing up my own excrement or turning myself inside out, spewing forth my body's vital mucus-coated, blood-strewn organs in nauseous repugnance. As repellent and distasteful as that last sentence, the Garbage Pail Kids featured all sorts of disturbingly ghoulish designs, with a twisted sense of humour that kids could lap right up. Each card featured a character suffering some hideous fortune or being brutally wounded and each piece of artwork had two names (a and b) with an amusing word-play, e.g. (a) Adam Bomb and (b) Blasted Billy - this particular card featured a child pushing a detonator, causing a mushroom cloud of burnt brains and scorched fiery flesh to erupt. It was one of the most iconic images from the series and featured on the front of the sticker packets, and if you were a collector who hasn't seen it in a while, you'll look at it and the vivid memories will come flooding back so forcibly, they'll cause the top of your head to explode too, spewing forth pent up memories of mutilated kids and repulsive runts. The general rule of thumb was the sicker the better. One of my grisly faves was of a kid in a meat grinder, his top half was fine, but his lower half was stodgily inching out from the grinder, his hand turning the handle, in a thick stringy meaty mess of chunky flesh - yum! His name was the inspired Ground Chuck and he was macabre genius. I often wonder - with a lack of anything more exciting to do - what happened to these two fads, and have discovered that the lurid but compelling Garbage Pail Kids are, praise be, modestly alive and unwell in the All New Series (ANS) - they were revived in 2003, with recent additions like Sarah Palin parody, Sarah Cuda, who's shown riding a giant drilling machine in the snowbound climes of Alaska, toting a machine gun. As for Madballs, well it looks like they were revived as well, in 2007. Who'd a thought it? The marketing departments must've realised that those 80s kids had now grown up and were rich CEOs or Head of Departments or Chief Head Givers, so now a whole new generation can get acquainted with these, or older geeks can relive their childhoods - either way the toy companies bath in the lucrative profits. Nice one. As cynical as all fads are, these seemed, at the time, a mark above, an 11, something unique, and I delude myself, with Garbage Pail Kids at least, that the creators genuinely wanted to create something different, and cultish, that kids would love, which they did, but they also created something that was strangely subversive in its inappropriate vulgar way, and also imaginative, exciting and inventive. And perhaps, if I delude myself even further, I can believe they may well've acted like a refuse truck of the mind, clearing the stagnant waste of cultural censorship and conservatism from the consciousness of the young to make way for today's gross out humour, found so abundantly online. But, then again, I could just be talking garbage.

Uploaded 12/21/2008
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