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February 9: The Bubblegum-Card Maestro

February 9, 2016

Mars AttacksWoody Gelman, co-creator of Bazooka Joe for Bazooka Bubble Gum, the Mars Attacks card series of 1962, and numerous other cartoons, comics, and other collectibles, died at 62 on this date in 1978. Gelman was a Brooklyn boy who attended City College, Cooper Union, and Pratt Institute, then worked with Max Fleischer’s studio, DC comics, and Paramount Studios in the 1940s. He ran his own art studio for eight years before becoming head of Topps’s Product Development Department, where such notables as Art Spiegelman, Jack Kirby, John Severin, and Wallace Wood worked under his direction. In 1952, Gelman teamed with Sy Berger to create the 1952 Topps Baseball Card set, the prototype of the post-war baseball card. Gelman was also responsible for the Wacky Packages fad of the 1970s (cartoon parodies of North American consumer products) and ran Nostalgia Press and Triple Nickel Books, successful publishing houses, over the course of three decades.

“He left Paramount after he got involved with trying to unionize the animators and the studio got wind of it and fired whoever was involved.” —Len Brown, Topps writer/editor