Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pee Wee's Madhouse

As many of you know, I like to keep most matters on the blog to 1980 and before.  However, there are times when something is interesting enough that I will break through this cardboard ceiling and "go recent".  This is one of those times.

In 1988 Topps came up with one of the most innovative sets they ever produced, right up there with Pak O'Fun and Laugh-In. Pee Wee's Playhouse must have been a risk as the show was mid-run in 1988 but that did not stop the creative team from going bonkers. The full checklist is a doozy and takes a bit of concentration to determine; certainly many eBay sellers have no idea how full "full" really is but no matter.

There are 33 "regular" standard-sized cards, all numbered on the front, with full bleed borders; this is just the start of a condition sensitivity nightmare, compounded with a variations hangover:

According to Jeff Allender's House of Checklists (an invaluable site) there are two backs to these cards but that's not where the variations come in (hang tight, we'll get to them). They all have illustrated backs, which can best be described as either "non-puzzle" or "puzzle". Here is a "non" that also pokes fun and pays homage to Bazooka Joe. The colors on the other backs are in alignment, so I think this mish-mosh was done on purpose to skewer the propensity of the actual comics to be out of registration (look at the blues as they are "off left" in panel one, then "off right" in panel two, a sign of intent I think):

There are 15 "nons" and 18 "puzzle" backs. Here is one of the latter:

There are some crazy designs on this set, which mirror those of the show.  I am not sure if he was in charge but an artist, puppet master and set designer named Wayne White had something to do with the quirky look of the show and presumably the design of the cards.

OK, now the variations (part 1)-from what I can find, these involve the borders on the front of the card, specifically the backgrounds thereon.  I only have a run of 33 so I don't know what each variant is; even if I did, how would I describe it?!

Next up are the stickers, printed on card stock, also standard-sized....and confusing.  While there are 44 stickers, there are only 22 subjects as each front repeats exactly (and exactly) once...and then it gets weird (more in a sec on that). Dig those copyright disclaimers!

The lovely Miss Yvonne, the Most Beautiful Woman in Puppet Land is not actually #3, that is merely her sub-series number; a total of six represent various characters . Another sub-series is the multi-sticker, of which there are eight:

And my favorite, a partial reissue (there are eight) of 1967 Nutty Initials! Is this set nuts or what?!

Her overall number in the sticker set in this instance is #10.  She is also #9 but no matter what number is on the back, she is always #3 on the front; I suspect because there were two flip movies on each sticker back that Topps felt justified handing out the repeats.  It's a little hard to tell because none of the subset numbering is in order.  It's also hard to tell because  the final four stickers contain one of four checklists, each of which has checklist sub-series numbering on the back (but no overall numbering).

So 20 repeated subjects plus four non-repeaters on the checklists. Have you ever seen so many different ways to destroy bubble gum cards?  And we're not even getting halfway through all the subsets yet.

I'll give you all a breather here as we look at the Wiggle Toys, which are just small (1 3/4" x 2") lenticular cards, twelve in number.  I guess since the images moved, there was no need for further variation!

The tattoo sheets are even more placid.  There are twelve, each with similar arrays and they measure 3 3/16" x 5 1/4":

OK break's over!  Rounding out the set and staying large at 3 3/16" x 5 1/4" are a number of Activity Cards.  There are five sub-series of these. Five Puppet Cards, for fingers (mostly) and nose:

Sub-series number and indicia on the front, only more yuks on the back:

Then there are five Opening Doors cards, which borrowed from 1970 Topps Funny Doors, although they are not an exact limn. Same as the last sub-series in respect of numbering:

Next up are four "flying things" although they are not at all like their namesakes. Sub-series numbering only once again...whose idea was it to mar the fronts with all that tiny print?

You want Playhouse Foldies?  You got 'em, five of 'em, hearkening back to almost the very beginning of Topps:

And last but certainly not least, there are three Disguise cards...except there are actually six.  Three different front designs:

Quite the homage to the 1967 and '70 Disgusting Disguises, the Get Smart Secret Agent kits and the like, no? There are said to be mirror images of each Disguise but I can't find any scans to show this (I am still putting my own set together and have gaps).

As you can imagine, the packs were elongated to allow for the larger objects:

 Pretty good haul for one pack. I guess one final homage to Fun Packs was in order!

What then is our final tally? Lessee...

33 regular cards plus 33 variations
44 stickers
12 wigglers
12 tattoos
 5 puppets
 5 doors
 4 flying things
 5 foldies
 3 disguises plus 3 variations

Some folks just collect the 12 sticker fronts but that's Nowheresville man so I make it 123 for something akin to a complete set, plus another 36 if you count variations, or 159 in a master set.



Diane Wanek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
toppcat said...

Thanks for the clarifcation.