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R.L. Stine heads to a puke-tastic theme park in first look at Garbage Pail Kids: Thrills and Chills

By Josh Weiss
Garbage Pail Kids Welcome to Smellville #2

Get ready to barf up your recently-eaten cotton candy and corn dogs — we're heading back into the gross-out world of the Garbage Pail Kids. SYFY WIRE can exclusively reveal the cover and plot synopsis for Garbage Pail Kids: Thrills and Chills, R.L. Stine's second book based on the iconic Topps trading card series (itself a parody of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls). Following the events of Welcome to Smellville (the first entry, on sale as of yesterday), the revolting youngsters gear up for an animal-based showdown with their well-kept nemeses: the Perfect Kids.

"The second book starts out with a pet contest and, of course, Patty and Peter Perfect have the perfect dog. They have a chihuahua that speaks three languages and does math problems and plays the violin," the famed Goosebumps writer tells SYFY WIRE. "And so, the Garbage Pail Kids have to figure out how they’re going to defeat them in the pet show ... Then the grand prize for the pet show is a trip to Six Thrills amusement park. They all end up going, and there’s a contest to see who has the best time."

While he didn't collect the cards when they first debuted back in the 1980s, Stine admits that the Garbage Pail Kids franchise (known for its grotesque and unsettling imagery) appeals to his brand of dark and "crazy-type humor," which began with his work on the now-defunct joke magazine known as Bananas. His penchant for mixing laughs with the idea of being "sort of gross, not terribly gross, but a little gross [and] a little disgusting" then carried over into Goosebumps.

"I never really wanted to be scary. I never planned to be scary. I was always funny. I wrote joke books for kids [and] I actually wrote Bazooka Joe cartoons for the bubblegum," he says. "I’ve done all this kind of stuff, so I always put a lot of humor in Goosebumps. I did a series for kids fairly recently called Rotten School and that was about a really rotten boarding school with rotten kids and the teachers were rotten. That was just funny, so this is very similar to that. It’s my kind of thing."

Garbage Pail Kids Thrills and Chills cover

"I think it’s just the naughtiness of it. I mean, the fact that the kids really are disgusting. They’re horrible kids," Stine says, when asked about the enduring nature of the rather repugnant IP. "In the cards, their brains are falling out and they’re made out of snot. They’re hideous! When [publisher Abrams Books] came to me and said, ‘Do you think you could get a book series from these kids?’ I said, ‘Well, let me take a look and try to figure out what we could do.’"

Looking at all of the cards throughout Series 1 - 5, the prolific YA writer decided to hone in on 10 children "living in an old house together, no parents, no supervision, and they’re going to have the Perfect Twins living across the street and they’ll be their archenemies. I picked out 10 kids that I thought were fairly human that I could turn into real characters that people would want to read about ... Topps have been great. They pretty much let me do what I want. This is their valuable property, but they pretty much gave me free reign to create a Garbage Pail Kids universe."

Stine adds that he needed to be a little more cautious when it came to playing up the more abhorrent aspects of the franchise: 

"A lot has changed from the ‘80s. People are a lot more sensitive about things now. There’s much less you can do, funny-wise, than you could [back then]," he explains. "You have to be a lot more careful and I think a lot of people would find a lot of those cards really offensive. I had to find ways to make them funny and gross, but not offensive. Also, I wanted to have an equal number of boys and girls. I can’t believe Topps let me do it, but they let me change two of the characters from boys to girls. Andy Sandy and Wacky Jacky were boys in the old days, and I changed them to girls to give it a nice balance."

Stine still has one more Garbage Pail book to go, but hasn't nailed down the plot yet. Still, he hopes it won't be his last. "Don’t ask me about the third one because I don’t have a clue," he admits. "I haven’t even started to think about it yet. I don’t have an idea yet, but I hope maybe there’ll be more than three."

He continues: "It’ll be very interesting to see because 10-year-olds don’t really know these kids yet and I think the hope is that their parents will say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember those!’ And buy the books for their kids."

Clocking in at 208 pages, Garbage Pail Kids: Thrills and Chills goes on sale from Abrams Books for $14.99 Mar 23, 2021. In terms of pre-orders, Stine says the book is outpacing Goosebumps on Amazon. "That’s a little disturbing," he concludes.