It’s tempting to suppose that Basil Wolverton never drew even a single doodle that couldn’t elicit a “WTF?” from a random passerby. Wolverton’s manic and aggressively cracked images found a natural home at MAD Magazine, where he executed the notable May 1954 cover of the run, featuring the “Beautiful Girl of the Month,” with predictable results. An extreme approach such as Wolverton’s was bound to spark a passionate cult of admirers, but no less an authority than Jules Feiffer bluntly stated, “I don’t like his work. I think it’s ugly.”
In addition to MAD, Wolverton also found a patron in the Topps Company in the 1960s, which was primarily known for sports trading cards but also produced the Bazooka Joe strips and a wide variety of movie tie-ins and humorous products. Wolverton’s best-known series for Topps was the Ugly Stickers line, which looked like this:
It will be noted that the very name of the line seemed to embrace Feiffer’s critique as a positive good.
In 1968 Wolverton worked on a test project called “Hang-Ups,” which was to be a full-color gallery of grotesques in his scarcely imitable style. The project was overseen by a Topps manager named Bhob Stewart (sic), who later reviewed movies in the pages of Heavy Metal.
According to a Flickr user named Joey Anuff, the project was killed when it was tested by a focus group of Brooklyn schoolchildren. They loved them, of course, but swore up and down that there was no earthly way their parents would ever let the kids have them. And so Topps passed…...
Below you can see the original test group of 12 as well as a glimpse of the packaging.