Crazy Times w/ Package Parodies!
By Kurt Kuersteiner (© 2001 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine
If you're a wacky pack collector and regular Wrapper reader, chances are you've seen the ads for the new Wacky spin off series by Newhamm. The folks who created the new Package Parodies Stickers are Mark Newlon and Mark Hammel. I spoke with Mark Newlon and asked for some background on this nifty new series.
KK: Why don't you start out by telling us how you got interested in Wackys?
MN: I got into them around 1973 or 1974. It was the end of the 4th series when I found out about them. Some kids at school had series 3 all over their bedroom walls, and I thought they were pretty cool.
KK: Where were you then?
MN: The D.C. area, I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I only found a couple packs of series 4 and never did complete that set back then. After that, I was nuts about it. I had series 5, a whole box and opened them all up. I collected everything up to series 15, with the exception of a few missing 14th stickers. But I collected about everything from 5 through 15.
KK: Were these the first non-sports cards you had seen? Had you ever collected any others until then?
MN: Nothing before then. It was the very first thing I collected.
KK: Did the Wackys get you started collecting other cards afterwards?
MN: After that, we had Planet of the Apes (TV) cards, and stuff like that. My grand parents tried to buy us baseball cards, but I wasn't really a sports fan. They were kinda cool, but I didn't really care about them that much. Then of course, Star Wars came out and from then on, I was mainly interested in Sci-fi card sets.
KK: Did you keep any of those after you grew up?
MN: I kept everything.
KK: Your mom didn't toss them all out?
MN: No, not those. She stopped doing that so I still have all that stuff.
KK: You were indeed lucky. And how did you happen to meet Mark Hammel, your partner in this venture?
MN: I went to a collectible show about 2 1/2 years ago looking for wackys. I found one dealer who had them but I couldn't get to them because there was a guy looking at them in my way. I figured, 'that guy is going to get all the good ones and I'm not going to have any thing left to pick from.' It was this guy named Mark. I made a comment that we both collected them and for some reason, we wound up trading numbers and calling each other up. We hooked up and did some trading with each other. Between the two of us and the internet connection, we completed our entire collections within three months. Both of us.
MN: Not including the 1967 Die Cuts series, but 1 through 16, everything, including variations. It was pretty cool and we did it very fast.
KK: Did you spend a lot?
MN: I didn't spend that much because I had tons of doubles from series 13 and 15, and that went a long way in trade. For 1 to 16, I probably spent an additional $400-$500.
KK: It's a neat feeling to finish, isn't it?
MN: Yeah. And within a year, I had all the Die-cuts (except the two rare ones). I now have all the Wacky Ads as well. I don't want to know how much I spent on all of that stuff, it's probably too much. But it's great having them.
KK: Was the Philly show where you two met?
MN: No, it was in the Baltimore area near where we both live. It was fate that we happen to hook up because we both got into this thing. It's funny, because how Package Parodies got started was I told Mark I wanted to do realistic parodies using actual photos and manipulating it with Photoshop. But during these talks, Mark mentioned he was an artist, so one day it hit me, 'forget this picture stuff, let's make our own, just for ourselves.'
KK: Now how many days did it take for you to realize, 'hey, maybe I can get the artist to do it' because that seems kind of obvious (laughs).
MN: It just didn't occur to me to do our artwork at that point. But it was only 2 months after meeting, November of '98, I said 'Mark, why don't you just paint them?' He said, 'wait a minute. That's my life long dream to make Wacky Packages!' Because when he was a kid, he used to draw them and try to copy them. He said he's always wanted to do it but never thought of it.
We were both nuts about them. We've had them since we were kids. We'd lose them, then find them again, we both loved them. So we came up with a bunch of ideas. Sketches and stuff to make. Mark painted a couple of them. I work in priting pre-press, he's an artist, I figured we could save a lot of money. We looked into it, but we really underestimated all the costs. But by the time we got into it, we figured, 'Who cares? Let's do it anyway!'
KK: I have to say that the ideas for these products are very humorous. You must have spent quite a lot of time too, weeding out the weaker concepts.
MN: We made about 80 or 90 and wound up with just 30 that we were really happy with. It was a lot of fun. Some were just throw away ideas but then the other guy would say, 'Wait! I have an angle, this could be really good!', and it was funny how that would happen. One would have the idea, the other would have a whole different perspective and change the entire thing that we had been laughing about. It was really fun to do it, and fun is what it's all about. We're not going to get rich off this, it's to have fun and make people laugh.
KK: It sounds like you two have a great repartee, and I bet you have some future projects in mind.
MN: We have a couple of things in mind. We want to do more of these if the fans want them. People ask for series two and Mark is painting it, but we can't afford to produce it yet. We also have a trilogy story we would like to do, all original, very retro and really cool, it's just a matter of having the money to do it.
KK: Can you go into a little detail about the paintings, both size and medium?
MN: They did it originally painting 5 x 7s using acrylic and gouache, and Mark is doing the same thing.
KK: Another thing that's impressive about these is the degree in which you recreated the original Wacky format. There are 30 die-cut stickers (and I know that's expensive), nine puzzle checklists, a custom designed box made to look very reminiscent of the original, and hand glued wrappers (instead of foil). Plus ten of what you call 'Lie-cuts'.
MN: We did that for fun. We figured to do the dies for ten cardboard cards would be really expensive so we thought we'd just draw them in place. People seem to think it's funny because like Wackys, the die cuts had the same art as the first series and so do these.
KK: How are you managing with hand wrapping all the orders? Are you keeping up?
MN: So far, so good. We haven't been in a back order situation yet. We each do them at our own apartments because we have different work shifts.
KK: Now I feel like I can ask this somewhat personal question because the answer in my case is obviously a resounding 'no', but do you have a life outside this? (laughs.)
MN: No! (laughs.) Neither one of us is married or anything. That gave us the ability to risk the money since we had no house or marriage to lose. So we could afford to be stupid with our money!
KK: (laughs.) Well it's pretty obvious seeing the gags and all the effort that you went through, that you two are still kids at heart.
MN: That's for sure.
KK: The juvenile sense of innocence yet irreverence, sarcasm and cynicism is still alive and well.
KK: What's the maximum series number you would want to take this to if you could afford it?
MN: It depends what the public would want, we wouldn't want to run it into the ground.
KK: That never stopped Topps! (laughs.)
MN: We see it as a three series set. Although the ideas are original, the concept isn't and I want to get on to something that's really original from us entirely.
KK: This first series has limited production.
MN: Only 1500 numbered boxes. But each box has 48 packs, and that's a lot of packing, almost a half hour per box!
KK: That's a lot of hours. I bet that's good girl-friend repellent.
MN: (laughs) Sometimes we think this will take years! Mark said, 'Hey, something's wrong here. We should be opening these, not sealing them. This isn't fun at all!' So we're going to seal one and save it to open in a few years for fun.
KK: That's a neat idea. And what about the Crud-lows?
MN: We decided to spoof the first series to the enth degree, so instead of the Lud-low camel backs, we created 'Crud-lows'. Our camel design is beat up and kinda scruffy looking, with a beard and cigarette. One box in every case has Crud-low paper on the back. It's completely random, we role dice to determine which one gets it but don't mark it in any way. So the ratio is just 1 in 10 boxes.
KK: Cool. And your packs have 2 stickers and one check list per pack, just like the Wackys?
MN: Correct. But if you get a Crud-low box, the entire box has the same backs so you'll get a complete set.
KK: I see. It was certainly enjoyable opening them up and laughing at the jokes. It will be interesting to see what happens with your projects and Newhamm productions in the future.
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