Specialty: Educator. Father. Amateur Photographer. Geek.
Base of Operations: Geek Creek
History: In the early ’90s, Monte Williams sold all his G.I. Joe toys to his uncle Ronnie for twenty bucks, so he could drop acid with his best friend, Poptart. Today, he is a columnist for Popmatters.com, a hopeless Sigma 6 nerd, and arguably the only Atheist teacher in all of Idaho.
POE: First off, let’s establish some groundwork. What was the heyday of your childhood toy collecting–i.e., what were your favorite toy lines as a youth?
Like you, Poe, I was a child of the ’80s, and so my favorite toys should surprise no one: G.I. Joe (A Real American Hero), Transformers (I liked Go-Bots, too; their corniness was part of their charm), Thundercats, Masters of the Universe… The heavy hitters, basically, but supplemented with obligatory weirdness like Inhumanoids, Centurions, M.U.S.C.L.E. Things, Rock Lords…
The last series of toys that I became obsessed with before temporarily “outgrowing” toys altogether was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Indeed, I blame that property for all my eccentric personality defects; a lawsuit is in the works.
I guess the only really notable quirks of my childhood toymania are that I was never a Star Wars enthusiast, and I really loved me some Marshall Bravestarr.
You’re probably the world’s biggest fan of G.I. Joe: Sigma 6. Why, and how did it come about?
Where the beginnings of my all-consuming Sigma 6 hobby are concerned, I never tire of blaming that no-account enabling bastard, Michael Crawford; I was curious about the Sigma 6 figures from the start, but they were simply too different from the G.I. Joe toys I’d known and loved as a kid. But then Crawford had to review the initial Snake Eyes figure and, persuasive fellow that he is, he convinced me to give the series a try. And now here we are: a hundred-plus Sigma 6 figures and untold dollars later. (In this case, I suspect that my wife probably has a lawsuit in the works.)
In truth, though, while Michael Crawford is responsible for pushing me past my initial skepticism, the enthusiastic geeks at Sigma 6 Central are the reason I’ve stuck with Sigma 6; there has been speculation that we adult fans represented a paltry one percent of the Sigma 6 consumer base, but damn it, we’re loyal.
When I first stumbled into the disarmingly odd hobby of outdoor toy photography, my fellow Sigmaphiles at Sigma 6 Central greeted the decidedly uneven results with encouragement and support. Further, the customs some of those talented folks have put together only added fuel to my already-burning obsession; I neither paint nor sculpt, but I love switching parts and gear betwixt my many Sigma figures, and I’d have never developed this habit were it not for Sigma 6 Central, and as even my tentative style of customizing has added immeasurable versatility to my collection, I again have to credit Sigma 6 Central for the sad, strange, Sigma-obsessed man-child I am today.
What do you think of the way Hasbro handled Sigma Six (the toys, the marketing, the cartoon, and so forth)?
Now that it’s been canceled, my knee-jerk reaction is of course, “How could you do this to me, you cold-hearted corporate demons!?!?”
But stepping back a bit, I have to concede that my knowledge of the toy industry is minimal, at best; ultimately, I’m a fan, and nothing more.
While I suspect that certain missteps may have ended the Sigma 6 line prematurely (too many Duke and Snake Eyes figures, a superfluous and uninviting sister line of small vehicles, a cartoon that looked pretty but which could only be enjoyed with the aid of the remote control’s MUTE button), I have to believe that Hasbro, with its focus groups and design teams and decades of experience, probably knows what they’re doing to a further extent than internet nerds give them credit for.
Perhaps the eight-inch scale will return someday, but it’s equally likely that it was doomed to fail from the start. For my part, I am reminded of Bret Hart’s induction speech at the WWE Hall of Fame, where he said something along the lines of, “I’ll never forget what the WWE took from me… but I’ll also never forget what it gave to me.” Likewise, while I’m still saddened, a year later, that such a bold, daring series of toys appears destined to become little more than a footnote in the history of action figures, I’ll forever be grateful to Hasbro for producing what I consider to be easily the greatest toys of the twenty-first century.
Your blog tends to be a bit…harsh toward the 3 3/4″ G.I. Joe figures. What’s your beef?
As I noted before, I was a huge fan of the Real American Hero figures back in their 1980s heyday. I even maintain some slight stirring of affection for the figures today, although I don’t own any of them. The fact of the matter is, I have no beef with those figures, ’cause ultimately, I would probably have to call them the greatest toys of all time.
My angst is directed not at the 3.75-inch figures, but rather at the fans of those figures. Right around the time the live-action Transformers movie hit theaters, I wrote an article for PopMatters, entitled “Autobotic Asphyxiation.”
It concerned the tendency on the part of fanboys to smother, through a desperate, unwavering breed of nostalgia, any property’s chances at going in new or daring directions.
Sigma 6 represents one of the great casualties of Autobotic Asphyxiation; had a larger number of fans of the Real American Hero era been more open-minded and willing to embrace a new take on an old premise, then perhaps Sigma 6 would still be on the shelf. Instead, the majority of Joe fans (predictably) latched onto the nostalgic 25th Anniversary series, instead. It’s my opinion that aging fanboys adore the 25th Anniversary latest series mostly because it’s safe and comforting.
While we’re on the topic, I’ll admit it: I do in fact have a beef, as you say, with the 25th Anniversary G.I. Joe figures. Some of them, admittedly, are quite aesthetically pleasing (I have something of a man-crush on that Nemesis Enforcer Immortal figure, for example), but a majority of them look wrong, somehow. Or just plain crappy, in some cases. And having purchased a few 25th Anniversary figures for anthropological purposes, I can also attest to the fact that they are nowhere near as durable or sturdy or poseable as, to cite a completely random example…Sigma 6 figures!
Seriously, though, the 25th Anniversary figures are delicate, fragile toys of startlingly low quality, and it frustrates me that the desperate nostalgia of a bunch of thumb-sucking nerds has made these wobbly, misshapen toys a raging success while Sigma 6 becomes quickly forgotten.
It also amuses me that the 25th Anniversary figures boast what are ostensibly realistic sculpts, and yet something as hyper-stylized and exaggerated as a Sigma 6 figure looks so much more natural in most any given pose.
I hear there may be some sort of documentary follow-up to the news article about your action figure photography a few months ago. Anything to report?
Director Pat Santos tells me that she’s hoping Stunted Man-Nerd will be completely edited a few months hence. It’s tentatively scheduled to be fifteen minutes in length, and Pat’s hoping to enter it in film festivals and the like.
I can’t speak to whether it will make its way to YouTube or whatever, and really, I can only address specifics with uninformed speculation, ’cause at the end of the day, I kept my expectations low: I saw the film as an opportunity to spend a day at the Snake River Canyon, photographing toys and hanging out with a film crew that turned out be at least as geeky as me.
Anything beyond that will just be gravy, ya know?
That said, I have a feeling Stunted Man-Nerd will be a kickass little film, and as the project nears its next steps (whatever those prove to be), you can expect many a self-indulgent update at Geek Creek.