They're baaaack. If you've somehow missed it, Topps' "Garbage Pail Kids" cards have returned in style -- each pack, some of which containing obnoxious green bubble gum, contains trading card stickers that perfectly resurrect the crass, rude style of the originals. They seem to shy away from caricatures of bloodied children a bit more than the first batch did, but there's enough toilet humor and drawings of dog crap to keep old fans smiling and new collectors wondering why they're spending money on "Harry Potty" stickers.

Sadly, I don't believe they're catching on quite as viciously as the originals -- most of the big chains had 'em in abundance for a while, but they seem to be slinking down to mall novelty shops and comic stores exclusively. I'd attribute this mainly to the fact that kids today have so many different things available to collect; between Yu-Gi-Oh and Mini-Mates and Game Boy games and Tang proof-of-purchases, the new Garbage Pail Kids are fighting a losing battle. Oh well -- we can still reflect on the collection's golden era, where they'd become popular enough to spinoff and out with a full-length feature film, weird action figures, school supplies and a cartoon show that aired just once on three Sony Watchmans in Guatemala. The best piece of Garbage Pail Kids merchandise is an easy choice for me -- what could beat a thick strand of toy slime attached to a plastic Garbage Pail Kid? Really, try to name something that beats that.

Garbage Pail Kids "Tacky Snappers," made by Imperial in 1985, consisted of sticker-covered black handles and a gruesome trail of slime. Kept on the cheap side, there were few kids who would've passed up on such a gloriously gross item -- especially one based on the same stupid cards everyone on the planet was trading lungs and kidneys for. Fetchingly packaged on a blistercard featuring the one and only "Adam Bomb," the only things keeping kids from a slimy triumph were the forces of nature and about a buck forty-nine.

There were six different Tacky Snappers, each with a handle in the shape of a different Garbage Pail Kid. The slime itself was modified for each Snapper to correspond with the characters: "Slimy Sam," a half-lizard boy, had a slime strand shaped like a forked tongue; "Messy Tessie" came with a puddle of snot slime; "Up Chuck's" looked like vomit -- oh boy what fun. Heightening the desirability, the strands of slime arrived in all sorts of colors. The toys came and went in a flash, so if you missed 'em last time, here's a step-by-step inspection of the only Garbage Pail Kids item that really felt icky.

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For those curious, I got the "Marty Mouthful" Tacky Snapper. Pretty lame and tame in comparison to the others. Marty's gimmick is his ridiculously long, knotted tongue, so the slime strand gets by without having to shape itself like vomit or snot or explosions or any of those other cool shapes every other Snapper in the collection except this one had. I'm very upset about this.

Amazingly, even after nearly twenty years of dormancy, the slime was still soft, sticky and completely vital. I've had sealed cans of toy slime die out in less than six months, but Imperial spared no expense in nailing the mega high-end super slime for their stupid Tacky Snappers. Course, now that it's out of the package, I give it about sixteen minutes before it dries to a crisp.

The use for the toy should be obvious -- you just kinda whip the handle around, sending the slime strand into various convulsions and fits until it hits something and gets covered in dust and cat hair. Then you cry to Mommy and beg for a toy that doesn't die as soon as it hits carpet. She says no. You still love her, but now just a little less.

I'd assume most kids used the things recklessly, swinging the slime around without a care or intent in the world. There was more to it than a mere quenching of the proverbial slime-slinging drive, though. With a Tacky Snapper, you could play games!

Nothing beats a tutorial on something as inexplicable as a Tacky Snapper. The back of the blistercard features various directions -- with illustrations -- that explain away the hidden nuances of a plastic slime whipper shaped like kids throwing up or defecating from their ears. They kick off with some obvious notes: the product is made of "sticky material," it can be stretched, yadda yadda yadda.

Imperial ran out of things to talk about by the third bullet, then opting to urge kids into using the toy to swat at flies and bugs. I'm serious. I won't even get into the sheer and total impossibility of catching a fly with a Tacky Snapper, but focusing on this as a selling point is a whole different can of gross slime worms. Check out the bottom of the pic -- they even doodled it for us! The final bullet keeps up the old wives' tale about ruined toy slime regaining life after a quick wash, an unproven theory than seems less and less legit anytime someone tries it.

A small caution box near the bottom warns that the slime could stain or ruin just about anything -- walls, clothes and even "valuable articles." I'm guessing kids took that last one to mean that they shouldn't whip a Tacky Snapper towards their collection of Weekly Reader clippings about sea otters in the zoo. Nah...nobody reads this stuff.

Aside from maiming insects, Imperial included another game for Tacky Snapper owners to play. This time without dead bugs.

Each slimy stick was packaged with a dozen of these Garbage Pail Kids "tacky targets," which are essentially mini-sized versions of the actual cards. Ah, something else for kids to collect. Marty Mouthful's assortment is only a handful of what was available -- they didn't make every GPK card into a target, but there were certainly enough to make repeat buyers out of obsessively completist children.

Of the twelve shown here, "Ashcan Andy" was always one of my faves. Most of the characters are appropriately disgusting, save for "Cranky Frankie" in the second row. His gimmick was grinding up school books. Cough. In a world full of half-rotted, bloodied and mutated kids, a guy who shreds books must've been pretty low on the social totem pole. More importantly, "Brainy Janie" in Row #1 looks like an upside-down pair of testicles with serious health problems. A lot of Garbage Pail Kids looked like that.

Flinging the Tacky Snapper like a fishing rod, players ventured to snag as many cardboard targets as possible. It's about as fun as it sounds. I'll give 'em this, though -- of the four things I aimed the slime strand at, the included targets were easily the most adhesive. I'm not telling you what the three other things were. It'll change your life forever and I'm not sure you're ready for it.

Man, is that picture straight out of the Sears Wishbook or what? The technology used in Tacky Snappers wasn't exclusive to Garbage Pail Kids -- there were zillions of similar toys, not to mention the gamut of sticky slime hands sold in vending machines worldwide. As a society, we're mad for slime. As human beings, we've failed miserably. GPK had a number of interesting toys and novelties out there, but I'll give the nod to these goo whips as the best of the lot.

What other toys were there, you ask? Hmmm...there was a series of "Pop-Up Figures" where plastic characters would pull a jack-in-the-box and flip out of a toy garbage pail, ten trillion pinback buttons, Halloween costumes and another personal favorite of mine, Garbage Pail Kids "Cheap Toys & Crummy Candy." I smell a bonus section.

Singularly sold in cashier-side boxes, "Cheap Toys & Crummy Candy" consisted of a shamelessly low-end bunch of shitty figurines and inedible candy. What was inside the bags made little difference -- with packaging as cool as a tiny green trash bag with GPK logos all over it, no kids was gonna resist. Trying to capture lightning in a bottle, Topps sought to make kids collect each and every figure in the line. To do this, children had to blow their allowance and eat an awful lot of really bad candy.

I've gotta admit, these were a neat idea. I used to make my parents and older siblings drive me to nearby delis all the time on the hunt for more Garbage Pail Kids cards, and had I seen these weird little bags of GPK goodness right beside 'em, there's no way I wouldn't have begged for twice as many presents. And Twizzlers. Wondering what's inside the bags? Wonder no more...

There were at least ten different figures -- this particular bag came with the classic "Messy Tessie" figurine, featuring a young girl holding an accordion made entirely of snot. Yup. The candy is hideous -- envision oversized "Smarties" dipped in a magic potion that eradicates flavor entirely. Each piece has the GPK logo on one side, while assorted character names adorn the other. Not only is the candy terrible, but it's got appetite-ruining gross words printed on the sides. Picture eating a dime with the term "ass juice" scribbled over it. Don't let the varied and vibrant colors fool you -- they all share the same monkey hair flavor.

You know what sucks? The slaughter of poor innocent whales. Know what else? The fact that I opened up this suave green trash bag -- a perfect conversational piece -- and all I got out of it was a crappy 1" figurine and edible tokens to Hell. Now what? I tore the bag to slivers and shreds, there's no going back. I guess Messy Tessie will have to join all of those other figures that are too small to do anything cool with, while the tokens are reserved for making conversations between Bossk and a Jawa a little more balanced. That's all folks.

-- Matt (3/19/04)