For Joe Simko, Imagination and Artistic Freedom Is Everything



Since his younger years—indulging in Saturday morning cartoons and getting lost within his bowl of cereal—Simko has dabbled in just about every realm of the art world. He has branched off on his own journey and embarked upon a career that has not only led his work into the hands of collectors worldwide, but one that has also turned defeat into victory.

In retrospect, it all began with a little hardcover black sketchbook and a belief in manifest destiny.

Sitting in front of the television as a kid and having those vibrant characters and colors jump out of the screen into his imagination have taken him farther than he ever thought possible. As far back as he could remember, his father would always come home with bags of computer paper for him to draw on. Whatever he saw on television is what he drew (even the Disney stuff). The concept for creating the Cereal Killers trading cards wasn’t something he thought of until a few years ago, while studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

“I’ve pulled all of my inspiration from the really early years of growing up,” says Simko. “Sitting there, staring at the television and glaring at the cereal boxes. I’ve taken the ideas of the punk rock aspect, rock and roll, and horror films and combined them to produce this vision of Cereal Killers.”

Cereal Killers are pretty much exactly what you’d think: cereal-themed Wacky packages with a cute, horror twist to them. The cards come in a neat package of three mini boxes and each include eyeball gum, a surprise toy, and special, limited-edition sketch cards, black light cards, magnets, temporary tattoos, and other fun stuff. These cards blend what we all know and loved about trading cards as kids with Simko’s uncanny artistry.

A set of three boxes at Wax Eye, the company Simko and his wife, June, started that reaches “for the edge of untamed ideas,” contain 55 cards and will run you about $25. There’s even nutritional information located on the side of each box. With names like Zomb’a Crunch, Frosted Freeks, Eye Pops, and Night of the Krispies Dead, how could you not want to see them all?

Two years before pitching his ideas to Topps, Simko remembers having a Garbage Pail Kid as the background on his cell phone. You know, those mid-1980s gross-out phenomenon trading cards designed to parody the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls? Well, this image stuck with him and somehow always brought Simko closer to his destiny.

“Speaking about something doesn’t always mean it’s going to be jinxed, but then again, your words don’t always have to be heard by others for you yourself to believe them and make them come true,” explains Simko.

When it came time to pitch his Cereal Killers concept to Topps, he nailed it. Two weeks later they called him back and asked Simko to put his own spin on their Wacky Packages “spoof products” and Garbage Pail Kids cards as part of a trial run before being inducted into the Topps Family.

But after joining on as an artist, his Cereal Killers project kept getting put on the backburner, so he took matters into his own hands.

“You can’t push one thing for so long if it’s not working out,” Simko enlightens. “Try something else. You don’t have to completely give up on that idea or only work on that one idea forever, just try something else. My wife and I have branded our own name with Wax Eye and constantly ensure that we’re not ripping companies off. Spoofs make it a completely different entity. We don’t need anyone’s permission. We market and advertise by our own rules.”

The company’s first product, Cereal Killers, has been the perfect outlet to showcase their company, especially to serious, die-hard trading card fans.

“The plan is to not only put out this one product, but to bring multiple ideas to the table, everything from toys to a combination of candy and toys,” says Simko. “Keeping in mind that the primary focus of all of our ventures is to create art, to work with other artists and have our ideas and visions be brought to life.”

Wax Eye is looking forward to making 99 cent to $1.99 packs that will be affordable to kids who aren’t collectors.

“We’ve already got collectors on top of it,” he adds. “Now if only kids could go to a Target store and grab a couple packs cheap! I wanted to generate something that kids could enjoy and connect with other kids about. That’s how people come together, by sharing common interests. That’s how I made connections in my youth. Our fingers are crossed.”

Aside from recently landing a licensing deal with a T-shirt company, another plan of theirs is to produce their own cereal with all original concepts and characters. Twisted sensibility cereal. The next phase of Wax Eye will also be coming full throttle with the release of their second book, Raiders of the Los Art.

“I remember going on vacation as a kid with my grandfather and burying all of my toys in the sand, only to dig them all back up again. One day, my Smurf-sized Mickey Mouse toy got lost,” Simko reminisces. “Then, one day, my grandfather came over and brought me a huge Mickey Mouse stuffed animal and told me it magically grew. This cartoon-based character connected with me in some way. That moment in time enlightened my mind when it came to believing anything was possible.”

Cereal Killers are available for purchase through Wax Eye. Check them out!


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