Archive for the ‘Toys’ Category


Posted: May 9, 2017 in Toys

Picked up a couple Marvel Legends over the weekend, so just feeling like sharing this rhapsody about toys, from last year’s Daily Grindhouse group article on the subject

Guess I should start by noting I have always loved superhero comic books, so I would grab the Marvel characters — and Batman — in action figure form at any chance I could get. I also loved G.I. Joes, because what else were those guys but superhero versions of Army men? DC’s Super Powers line in the 1980s, and then the BATMAN toys based on the movie in 1989, those were huge for me, but I especially loved Marvel’s Secret Wars figures. This two-pack containing Captain America and Doctor Doom is one of my favorite things I ever bought. Still remember the day I saw that thing in the store.


But if you’d asked me back then, I’d have told you my cousins Andrew (two years younger than me) and Charlie (four years younger) had all the very best toys. I grew up just outside New York City and they grew up just outside Boston, so we were only separated by a couple hours’ drive and my family would head up to their place almost once a month for most of my childhood. I would take my action figures along with me, and then almost as soon as we got through the door, Andrew and Charlie and I would go off to stage epic action-figure battles across their bedrooms, down the stairways, and all the way down to the basement. Since I knew the comics best, I’d supply the characterization, while my cousins supplied a devil-may-care attitude, the two best senses of humor I’ve ever encountered, and a happy commitment to whichever stories I’d invent with them that day. (My little sister — Andrew’s age — really had to endure a lot of activities against her personal interests back then. If only I’d been born a Brony. And that’s the first and last time I’ll ever use that sentence.)


There were always leading characters in any of the widescreen adventures we imagined up, but really, the cast was massive — Transformers, Visionaries, Thundercats, Real Ghostbusters,  STAR WARS (Andrew and Charlie had a Millenium Falcon, and Aquaman got to ride in it!), POLICE ACADEMY, He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe, the Ninja Turtles, Army Ants, Food Fighters, Barnyard Commandos, C.O.P.S., M.U.S.C.L.E., M.A.S.K., Spiral Zone, Captain Power, Bionic Six, Sky Commanders, Silverhawks, Centurions, Care Bears, Battle Beasts, Supernaturals, Starriors, Wheeled Warriors, and sure, even the Monchhichis and the Madballs and the Boglins and the Get Along Gang — anybody and everybody was conscripted into service. It was wartime, and everyone earned their seat in Valhalla.  They were all plastic and metal, meaning no one was ever down for the count for long, even at the loss of weapon or limb. Our armies transcended conventional notions of mortality. Our enjoyment transcended quantifiable measurement.


I haven’t played with toys since before my early teens kicked in, but I think the aura of that joy remains as a part of me. Beyond the cloudier moments, there’s something sufficiently childlike and enthusiastic about my personality that has prompted friends and family to bring me toys over the years, even though I wouldn’t do much with them besides put them on a shelf. This trend skyrocketed when I started becoming known as “the movie guy” in any group I was in, beyond already being “the comic book guy.” A college friend brought me a Mister Stay-Puft he found at a yard sale in Scotland. Another brought me one of those Kenner Yoda puppets back from Jersey after winter break. A friend who has worked for years in the toy industry still generously brings me various collectibles, perks of his job. I literally cannot tell you how many people have given me Spider-Man paraphernalia. (I think that one’s on Sam Raimi for casting Tobey Maguire.)

People see action figures and they think of me, for whatever reason.


Charlie knew how I loved the Secret Wars guys best of all. He was eight or nine when he gave me three Secret Wars figures I didn’t have — The Falcon, Baron Zemo, and Spider-Man in his black costume (who we always pretended was Venom, since we already had a Spider-Man on our side). This was some time after the Secret Wars toys left the shelves. There was no eBay back then, no way to get replacement figures for himself. I was struck by his generosity then, and the gesture continues to remain impressive to me, particularly coming from an eight-year-old kid. He gave me toys he loved because he figured I might love them a little more. Turns out that sort of generosity would be characteristic of Charlie for the rest of his life. Over the years he gave me all sorts of nifty gag gifts and tchotchkes and funny-looking figurines, maybe just as a kind of tangible signature he was thinking about me when he saw them. I didn’t always know what to do with a pen shaped like a poo, but I always knew how much the gesture meant.


It’s nearing on six months since Charlie died. He was my cousin, but really, he was a brother to me. For a guy who identifies himself a writer, I haven’t been able to put down more than a sentence or two at a time regarding my feelings about losing a person whose soul is such a part of my own. This is as close as I’ve come so far. One of the more arcane ways I’ve been coping with the grief, an unusual behavior pattern I’ve only recently begun to understand as such, is that I’ve been actively picking up action figures. The selection is better than ever nowadays. I’ve got a Creature From The Black Lagoon now (it came with a Julie Adams!), and a Jason Voorhees, and a Winston Zeddemore. Due to CIVIL WAR, I’ve finally got a Black Panther, one of my all-time favorite comic book characters and something I could have only dreamed about as a kid. I’ve got a Deadpool, since he’s Charlie’s very favorite character. (The movie came out a few days before he died, and it breaks my damn heart daily that he didn’t get to see it.)  I’ve got a Wolfman and a Hawkeye and a Ray Stantz and I’ve got all kinds of skeletons, just because my cousins and I always thought skeletons were hilarious.


I don’t play with these toys. I’ve just been amassing them. Barring the appearance of children of my own, I doubt I’ll ever play with them. I’m racing towards forty, and Andrew is already a husband and father, and both of us are constantly busy, and most of all, we don’t have Charlie anymore and so it wouldn’t be the same.


Nevertheless, I keep buying random figures when I see them — either when it’s something of interest to me, or something that would have been of interest to Charlie, or else something he might have thought would have been of interest to me. I put them with my Secret Wars Spidey, and my Baron Zemo and my The Falcon. I guess in a way I’m trying to keep Charlie’s characteristic thoughtfulness alive, to provide myself with tangible proof that, in the midst of all the darkness of a very scary world, he could continue to be that playful and spirited and that considerate, and that maybe one day, sooner or later, so can I.