Saturday, November 26, 2016

Poppin' Flesh

Topps was really rolling out the impressive artwork on some of its more esoteric sets by the time 1971 rolled around.  This was the last calendar and fiscal year before the Shorin's took the company public and it was definitely the tail end of both a mainstream artist and  underground comix artistic wave that had kicked off with R. Crumb and Monster Greeting Cards in 1965, or maybe even Jack Davis with Funny Valentines in 1959. I'm starting to really examine the underground artist-Woody Gelman-Topps connection (which looks to have been greatly facilitated by Harvey Kurtzman) and found a serendipitous set of scans on eBay recently highlighting one of the true gems of the era, namely Pop Guns.

Pop Guns hit the market, I am sure quite briefly, in 1971, after being manufactured in Japan and were considered a toy by Topps (no gum in the packs).  This was also getting near the end of a stretch where Topps was issuing other toy-like products such as Flying Things, although the idea survived a few more years past the IPO in 1972.  I had never seen more than maybe a single color scan of the packaging or even the guns before (Chris Benjamin had some black-and-white illustrations in one of his Sport-America guides several decades ago) so here we go...

The set consisted of twelve "guns" that looked like this:

The artwork is very involved for a ten cent novelty toy I would say.  The "pop" was provided by a wedge of paper glued and folded in between both sides of the cardboard handle of course.  I remember making versions of these as a kid, which was surely Woody's inspiration as well:

As you can imagine, most of these were destroyed by their intended use; I can't see a long life for them once they came out of the packs.  Speaking of which, the Made in Japan indicia is discreetly placed on the front of the pack:

The "Captain Kidd" would turn out to be the fist subject in the set:

It's a little hard to see but the product code/commodity number ends in a "1" for 1971.  Here is a closer look just at the checklist:

While the checklist looks pretty obvious, I'd like to take a stab at a descriptive one:

1) Capt. Kidd
2) Tire Pressure
3) Bop
4) Firing Squad
5) Spring Top
6) Ah-choo
7) Cannon
8) Champagne Cork
9) Mad Bomber
10) Yanking A Tooth
11) Girl Kissing
12) Loaded Cigar

I can't make out the pithy comment being made by the guy being executed though, I'm sure it was quite droll.  The artwork in general is quite similar to that of Flying Things, the hand of Wally Wood is pretty obvious, he likely did the initial artwork which was then supplemented along the way in typical Topps fashion.  Iterations of six or twelve subjects are common with these type sets from the era.

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