There’s treasure in trash…
Art is where you find it. Art is in the mundane. Art is in the disposable. Art is everywhere.
The things you take for granted at one age can be recalled with a particular fondess decades later. Not just because of nostalgia but because of a certain sensibility that speaks to our notions of colorful popular culture.
Now, most of us collected trading cards when we were kids, whether it was the more typical baseball cards or cards that highlighted movies and TV shows. For me, it was almost ritualistic to buy a few wax packs, open them up, stick that terrible gum in my mouth and see what treasures were inside. Naturally, I’d just throw the wrapper out.
But those wrappers were jewels in and of themselves — diamonds in the rough. Cartoonist Karl Heitmueller has a particular talent for recognizing such things and he has spent part of the lockdown illustrating gorgeous recreations of these gems of commercial art.
I’ve selected 13 of my favorites — and Karl has helpfully provided commentary.
As I mentioned in the 13th Dimension piece spotlighting some of my comics Panels Out of Context pieces (click here), during the Coronavirus quarantine I’ve spent a lot of time doing artwork that has not exactly been mentally taxing. In addition to redrawing comic book covers and comic book and strip panels, I also did two series (26 in all) of hand-drawn recreations of vintage trading card and sticker wax wrappers (mostly but not all Topps products).
Not everything in this series is something for which I have fanboy affection. I know it’s heresy, but I’ve pretty much lost all affinity for most things Star Wars related (with exceptions being the soundtrack, the Marvel adaptation, a few figures, and these trading cards). I also was a punk rock kid who didn’t gain any appreciation for Saturday Night Fever until middle age.
As with my panel redux, almost all of these are mostly literal translations. And with most of these pieces, I extended the canvas to include elements from the flaps of the wrappers: ads for other products, copyright info, and gum ingredients (including BHT “to maintain freshness,” which apparently doesn’t work well, as anyone whoever almost broke a tooth or cut a cheek on a brittle stick of that bubble gum can attest!). I felt like it added to the nostalgia aspect of these things, which, let’s face it, is the point.
To that end, I dearly wish that someone would publish an extensive coffee table book about the history of Topps’ non-sports trading cards. There are so many amazing series with such incredible art that it would seem to be a no-brainer… if, of course, it weren’t for the undoubtably labyrinthian rights nightmare required for such a book. At the very least, I would love it if Abrams ComicArts would continue their series of hardcover reprints of old cards (especially Superman, Batman, Comic Book Foldees, and the Ugly Stickers, to name just a few)… Sigh. It is to dream. (Abrams did recently reprint the ’60s and ’70s runs of Marvel Comics stickers. Click here. — Dan)
I’m not sure if I’m going to do another series of these or not… I’ve already done most of the major ones that called to me, but, as with the panel recreations, they do seem to hit a sweet spot with the nostalgiacs, and are likewise an awful lot of fun to do.
Here are more for you to peruse:
— ART FROM ART: 13 Brilliant Comics Panel Recreations to Make Your Day. Click here.
— FAR OUT! MARVEL Reprints Classic Vintage Stickers From ’60s and ’70s. Click here.