Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Halloween Day 4: You'll Die Laughing

Showcasing creatures from the imagination of Jack Davis, of EC Comics and MAD magazine fame, these pasteboards sparked controversy upon initial release. Worried that the card images would traumatize their children, a group of mothers in Racine, Wis., reportedly protested against Topps and its advertisers.

"The art on the cards was really in the tradition of MAD magazine," explained Bill Bengen, who owns the top set on the PSA Set Registry, "and I remember my mother's reaction to MAD magazine, she wouldn't let me buy it. She said, 'You can buy Superman, but you can't buy MAD.' Today this set wouldn't even get a reaction. They would probably call it mild."

With this series, however, Topps discovered that negative publicity could be good for business. Fueled by their parents' disapproval, kids hoarded these cards and packs sold out across the country.

"The idea of the forbidden, the taboo, that definitely enhanced the sales," said Bengen.

Now this is a bubblegum I could get into. In fact, I did. No, not the originals. I was only 4 years old at the time, but some of them were reissued in 1969. Those I did have, had to have. I can even remember how bad the bubblegum tasted. Maybe that's why I dislike gum so much today.

For the rest of the story try these links:

Topps 1959 You'll Die Laughing story
Scans of all the cards
Scans from the 1973 set (these used movie stills instead of artwork)

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