A year ago, Art Spiegelman recounted in Slate how Garbage Pail Kids came to be. Back when the satirical card collection was created, the award-winning artist behind Maus was not credited: Topps, Spiegelman says, probably wanted the artists to be easily replaceable, while the publisher of Maus wanted to promote “a serious work about the Holocaust in comic-book form without having to reveal that the artist also created those notorious stickers for the prepubescent set.”
But if the card on the left is any indication, perhaps Garbage Pail Kids are getting a little more serious? The franchise has been revived occasionally since its ’80s heyday, most recently this past fall, and Jason Weisberger came across a new pack at a Dollar Store in Marin City. In it, he found “Ray Spray,” an obvious nod to John Pike—who, you may recall, was a member of the U.C. Davis police when, during the height of the Occupy movement, he pepper sprayed a group of students protesting inequities at the university. It was later reported that he had left his job. In the meantime, his casual-seeming pepper-spraying inspired a meme.
If you don’t want to hunt down new packs in dollar stores, you can head straight to eBay and purchase the no doubt highly collectible “Ray Spray” individually. But then you won’t learn whether other entries in the new collection—Infested Ian, Airsick Vick, Gooey Hughie, and so on—are similarly shrewd send-ups of contemporary affairs. If you’ve spotted other politically charged or otherwise memorable Garbage Pail kids in the new packs, let us know in the comments.