My Spin on “Oliver Twisted”

The great John Pound is the artist responsible for establishing the look and painting most of the images that made the Topps Company‘s Garbage Pail Kids a sensation back in the ’80s. While I can’t swear that John painted the "Oliver Twisted" image on the left below, since Topps wouldn’t let any of its contributing cartoonists sign their commissioned work, it sure looks like his style.

Whereas the rendition of the same character on the right below is obviously drawn in my style, not John’s.

All of the Garbage Pail Kid images, of course, are trademarked and owned lock, stock, and barrel by Topps (including the few that I myself drew back in the day), so they wouldn’t normally be fodder for my Rapidograph unless Topps itself was assigning me to render them. Topps has proven to be indulgent with its large universe of GPK fans, however, by allowing them to contact cartoonists with any connection to the original series with requests for custom renditions of the characters produced for their home enjoyment. Topps even provides blank GPK cards on which the drawings can be rendered that are the same size as "real" Garbage Pail Kid trading cards.

That’s how I came to be approached months ago by the father of a young GPK enthusiast named Oliver for a Cruse version of Pound’s "Oliver Twisted," which the dad wanted to give his son as a birthday gift. And now that the son’s August birthday has come and gone, I can share it with you beloved blog-followers without worrying that I’ll accidentally spoil the surprise.

Sometime during the 1970s I drew the above illustration for Crawdaddy magazine. If I had had better foresight, I would have kept more exact records about when that was and what the subject was of the article it was illustrating. For now I can only offer it as yet another of my stray artifacts from a time when my cartooning career was just beginning to get a little traction.
Here’s a photo of me when I was seven, standing next to my mother’s mother. Her given name was Nellie, but all we ever called her was Grandmother Russell. To my kid’s eye she looked remarkably like Charles Kuhn‘s comic strip character Grandma (see inset). And actually, to my adult’s eye she still does! (It’s that prominent chin of hers that seals the deal.)
Solomita’s Back

I’ve mentioned books by my crime novelist friend Steve Solomita before and, by George, nobody’s gonna stop me from doing so again pretty much any time my author pal lobs a new one into bookstores.

The weird thing about the pleasure I take in Solomita’s mayhem-packed chronicles is that I generally shrink from violence in literature. But Steve always pulls me into his stories because he spins his tales so entertainingly.

His new book this time around is called Angel Face. Be warned that a reader may well get some blood spatters and even bits of exploded brain matter on his shirt just from reading it — but the suspense is worth it and it all comes out in the wash.

How "Mom" Almost Saved Me

Writing and drawing my 1995 graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby was one of the most rewarding creative experiences of my life, but it also left me in a scary amount of debt, with no obvious way to recoup my losses in the short term.

My anxiety over this development was alleviated unexpectedly by a freelance assignment that materialized out of the blue just when things seemed most dire. An advertising agency approached me about creating a cartoon mascot character for Mail Order Meds, an outfit that sold HIV drugs by mail. Mail Order Meds (M.O.M.—get it?) wanted a humorous, motherly character that could be featured not only in a whole series of the client’s print ads but would also appear on calendars, posters, and all kinds of other promotional merchandise. It sounded like a great gig, perfectly timed to get my wobbly finances back on track.

The agency liked the image I came up with (see above), and I had visions of my "Mom" mascot becoming a lucrative, economically stabilizing cash cow of the sort that the Exxon "tiger-in-your-tank" character had obviously been for whichever lucky cartoonist came up with that classic advertising icon.

My cartoon "Mom" was launched with a handsome ad, the first of many, presumably. I deposited the check the agency handed me and waited excitedly for the succession of follow-up assignments that I had been assured would follow. But I guess the campaign didn’t attract as many customers as the client had hoped, because I never heard from anyone connected to M.O.M. again.

So goes the life of a freelancer.

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About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
This entry was posted in A Tip o' the Hat, Artifacts, Books in my Bookcase, Life & Art, Yesterday & Today. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to My Spin on “Oliver Twisted”

  1. Perhaps MOM could be re-configured for a knitting site.