Friday, October 14, 2005

Action Figures Redux

Hey there - I'm not alone, the only adult (sorta...) collecting movie/tv-tie-in action figures. My Thursday Retro-Toy Flashback this week was on this very subject, and it's nice to see that others also share this madness/passion for 'em. This week, two of my cool new friends from Chesapeake, VA, are busy blogging about action figures and their personal memories of 'em. They battled over Serenity earlier, but they're on the same page here.

I grieve for Tony, in particular, and his great purge of action figures in the 1980s. Man, that is painful. If you ever feel like you need someone to talk to about that, Tony - I know a really good therapist! Damn, and I thought I had suffered because my Mother threw away my Battlestar Galactica thermos...

And Chris's blog, Wat Tambor's War Journal, focuses on a couple of real treasures (like the Legend of the Lone Ranger figures! Holy Cow!, I own those too! They're not carded or anything, but I've got 'em!) and the Star Trek Playmates Era. My office is filled with Star Trek Playmates figures. I have literally hundreds. We probably could have had a new car or two in the 1990s, but now, what the hell, I have a legion of these figures instead...

Here's two excerpts about action figures! (Visit these blogs for more from these articles...)

I have loved action figures for as long as I can remember. I am a part of the generation that grew up with Star Wars, so almost from birth I have been sucking on the merchandising tit of Lucasfilm. There was something about growing up that way that cemented the connection in my mind between enjoying a film and owning the corresponding action figures. Lots of movies are fun and enjoyable, but you know you loved a movie when you come out of the theater with an overwhelming desire to go to the toy store and buy figures of your favourite characters.

I have heard cultural critics bemoaning this style of marketing as a bad thing that indoctrinates children into a consumer mentality and robs them of their imagination. Real toys, these critics say, allow children to use their imaginations, not simply provide them with establish characters and scenarios to recreate. I could not disagree more. Can you think of anything more inspiring to a child's imagination than Star Wars?

Action figures allowed us to fully explore a world that fired our imaginations like no other.The first figures I remember owning were from Star Wars. I am lucky enough to still have all of my Star Wars figures from when I was a kid. I don't have any of the extremely rare figures like Blue Snaggletooth, Yakface, of Amanaman but I do have a pretty complete collection of figures from Star Wars to Return of the Jedi. Sadly, I missed out of The Power of the Force figures when they came out. I remember how shocked I was when I found out that there had been a figure of Han Solo that you could put in and take out of the carbonite! How on Earth did I miss that? But that was 1985 and I was fully immersed into my other great love, Transformers, by that point.

I was too old for toys. I had a growing infatuation with heavy metal music, and punk rock was just around the corner. My parents didn’t understand me. Sometimes when I looked at girls, they actually looked right back. I didn’t need toys. I had just turned thirteen. I was primarily concerned with ‘cool’. The cool kids of the junior high school set, we of the black t-shirts and leather wristbands, did not have toys in our bedrooms, or so I thought. For God’s sake, what if a girl saw them?

Throughout my young life, before that fateful thirteenth year, action figures had been the very definition of cool. In my earliest days it would be something from Mego’s World Famous Superheroes line awaiting me beneath the Christmas tree. I believe the Mego Batman was my very first action figure. Then came Star Wars, and nothing would ever be the same.

Like so many kids of my generation, I had an absolute passion for toys based on my favorite movies and television shows.In addition to the forces of the Rebel Alliance and the Evil Galactic Empire, my toy chest contained characters and vehicles from Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I owned action figures based on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Clash of the Titans and The Black Hole. Remco’s Universal Monsters line was an instant favorite after I discovered the Frankenstein Monster himself on the shelf at Rose’s.

As the 80’s hit full stride, a paradigm shift occurred that would forever change the way that toys were marketed to children. Instead of manufacturing toys based on a popular TV show or movie, TV shows and movies were now being manufactured for the sole purpose of promoting new toys. This was the era of GI Joe (the little ones), The Transformers and the Masters of the Universe. I loved all three, but I was especially fond of Transformers. I mean, come on: it’s a robot and it’s a jet. How cool is that?

So come on, I know you're out there! Who else has the love for these little hunks of plastics and their fun little accessories? One of my favorite accessories comes from the Playmates Deep Space Nine collection. Vedek Bareil comes equipped with a group of "snakes" for snake handling. I think somebody at Playmates misinterpreted that episode. I think the good Vedek was haunted by images of snakes, I don't think that snake handling is part of the Bajoran religion. But that's a blog for another day.

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