Jay Lynch, the Mastermind Behind the Garbage Pail Kids, Dies at 72

Photo: Cartoonist Jay Lynch at a discussion panel on Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, Day 3 of the 2014 New York Comic Con.  © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

American cartoonist Jay Lynch, who played a major role in the underground comix movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, died on March 5 at his Candor, NY, home at the age of 72. His cousin, Valerie Snowden, informed The New York Times that the cause was lung cancer.


Lynch is best known for the Garbage Pail Kids, a series of trading cards produced by Topps, which first released in 1985. A clever parody of the homely Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, whose popularity had reached insane levels within consumer culture, Garbage Pail Kids were the perfect antidote, becoming an obsession in their own right. Invented by fellow underground comix pioneers Art Spiegelman and Mark Newgarden, Lynch came on board the project as it took off to stratospheric levels.

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Lynch was a legend on the scene in his own right, with the creation of Bijou Funnies in 1968, which spawned the comic strip Nard n’ Pat featuring a middle-aged bald man who was frequently having words with his talking cat.


Cover of Bijou Funnies #1 (Bijou Publishing Empire, Summer 1968). Artwork by Jay Lynch. Source: Wikipedia.

But you may know him best as the writer for Bazooka Joe, as he penned the comics that came with each piece of hard gum from 1967 to 1990.

Although the underground comix movement poked fun at the establishment, today copies of early books are valued at thousands of dollars. The Times quotes Lynch as writing, “It’s all quite ironic: Rebellious cartoonists mocking consumer culture were inadvertently producing collectible artifacts for the same consumer culture 40 years down the road.”

Lynch, who was born in Orange, N.J., in 1945, attended the Art Institute of Chicago. But it was reading The Realist, a satirical journal, that made him realize where his passions lay. As a member of the underground comix movement, Lynch moved in and out of the mainstream, working with clients including Playboy and Mad magazines. And while Bazooka Joe got around, it was the Garbage Pail Kids that made Lynch a legend that pop culture will never forget.

Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.