In the new issue of the New Yorker, there is an article about the "New Bazooka Joe." It seems that the Bazooka brand "had lost its cache." So Topps went to their consumer base and asked focus groups of gum chewing kids what Joe should be like. The kids wanted him to be fun & free spirited but goofy like Ashton Kutcher. Well the artists at Topps went right to work and voila the New Bazooka Joe was born. The new Joe has tousled hair, his cap is turned backwards (the sign of rebellion) and torn jeans and sneakers. His gang was updated with Pesty and Butch gone and in were Cindy Lewis (environmentalist), DJ Chang (I think you can guess his interest) and Wolfgang Spreckles (foreign exchange student and lover of McDonald's ?!?!?!).
This whole thing reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Poochie was created to revitialize the languishing Itchy and Scratchy Show. The kids of Springfield are brought in to tell the animation studio what they wanted to see. Thus was created Poochie, a dog with tousled hair, turned back hat and attitude (are you beginning to see the parallels). Poochie of course turns out to be the worst character ever and has to be be given the axe when kids realize how lame and boring he is.
With all the great talent at Topps, past and present, it makes you wonder why this very boring and predictable tact was taken. Topps has given kids some of the most memorable gum related items from Mars Attacks to the Garbage Pail Kids. These card issues were made by real artists with original ideas. So why not give Joe some real attitude and visual character. That is the only way he will ever stand out again and be popular.
So in honor of the old Joe, I have assembled a few items showing the classic Joe in all his glory. The first item may be the first comic appearance of Joe from 1953. Enjoy.