Today we have an interview with a good friend of mine, Rustin Parr of OAFE. Rustin and I first met through OAFE in the early 1990s, and despite living on separate coasts, we’ve met in person many times since then. An passionate if idiosyncratic movie buff, Haunted Mansion enthusiast, and King Leonidas look-alike (well, maybe not the abs, but the face, anyway), Rustin has agreed to bare just a bit of his soul to us here at PGPoA.
Code name: Scott McEachen, alias Rustin Parr, alias Gunstas von Artlefuasdensein, D.D.S.
Specialty: Dreaming Big and Accomplishing Small
Base of Operations: Monterey, CA
History: Began the adventure in gorgeous Hermosa Beach, California, whence an egregious lust for action figuring took hold. A lack of sculpting ability and painting prowess propelled him into the world of Motion Picture production whose frivolities spat the man into the cutting edge of Neuro Marketing during which a healthy imbibing of toys and movies keeps the life juices flowing. It was a hot and sunny day when a close personal friend, the self-titled Lord of the Nazgul, brought together Rustin with Yo Go Re and Poe Ghostal, all posters at the formerly awesome and important/relevant spawn.com message boards, the latter two being founding members of oafe.net. After one particularly long and laugh-riddled evening in which Rustin performed his then-constant desperate rage upon the unprepared Yo’n’Poe towards falsely accused inept waitresses and rightfully, if not righteously accused George Lucas and his modern films, Poe’n’Yo dragged the Froce’o’da’nature into the fold at OAFE where on Rustin continues to this day to be less entertaining than that first eve and less consistent in producing reviews than his editor would prefer. Rustin is survived by his collection projected to consist of over 2,000 individual action figures, 500 hundred vehicle and location replicas 9in varying scales) and hundreds of plus-sized and resin collectibles, not to mention a DVD collection of some 1200 discs.
1.) What’s the first toy you remember loving?
I actually have more childhood memories that are toy-related than not. I remember buying the Super Powers Wonder Woman, I remember losing super powers Darkseid’s cape in a mall, loosing original Leia Boushh’s staff, also at a mall, desperately wanting the Tydirium, even more desperately wanting Han in Carbonite but my dad refusing to buy it because it was a single piece of plastic and was not an articulated figure, therefore not being fun (the Han figure was actually packaged behind the carbonite, as I gladly showed my father when I found it at a collector’s store priced at $200 used–thanks, pop), and of course having to buy 3 1989 Jokers because I kept having Batman throw him from the second floor balcony causing the J-man’s head to break off. And so much more.
But I’ll go with pirates – I can’t remember what age I was but the only thing in the world I wanted was a real pirate ship, and asked Santa for such, knowing I would likely get it as he hadn’t failed me yet. However, on Christmas morning there was a large package by the fireplace but certainly not schooner-sized. Was it keys to the ship, a surprise leading up to the ship like a sword or pistol? No. It was a Playmobil pirate ship. What a goddamned gip!!! A TOY Pirate Ship, what a joke, that barely approximated what I wanted and boy did I pout about it. But the day wore one and it became time to go over to the grandparent’s house for the family portion of the day. My parents strongly urged me to bring the ship since it was “so neat” and I did, and likewise did my best to put on a happy face for my grandparents and not betray how disappointed I was to them. But, as I did, a strange thing began to happen – by pretending to like the toy I grew to love it, and by the time we left that thing was my favorite toy. That ship and that day began a lifelong passion for Playmobil still raging strong today.
2.) What toyline(s) did you collect as a kid?
Star Wars (Kenner), Star Trek (Playmates), TMNT (playmates) and Batman (Kenner) were the big ones, well and the whole Toybiz Marvel thing. But I got lots of things, but never really got into G.I. Joes, Transformers or He-Man that much–I had friends who would visit and would play with their collections. Exosquad (Playmates), Micro Machines/Action Fleet (Galoob), and Spawn/McFarlane were also heavy hitters in my world.
TMNT and its cutout character bios was the first step into my O.C.D. keeping of all non-plastic packaging that comes from my toys (I open virtually all of my toys, like any good and decent, red-blooded citizen of the world), but I can recall the exact moment I became a collector. I had finally found and bought the Borg figure from the first series of Playmates’ Star Trek: The Next Generation figures, and after playing the heck out of him, I consulted the back of the card to read his bio and to look at all of the other exciting figures I had yet to buy, and you know what…I had them all. For the first time in my cognitive life, there was no longer anything available that I did not have. They had to make more, right? What would they be, when would they come out, what do i do until then? And in that very moment I was hit with the knowledge that my life would forever then rotate around collecting; around completing.
3.) What are your most prized pieces in your collection?
Well, thats a toughy…some stuff is valuable and/or rare (Sideshow’s 8″ Universal Movie Monsters, the Gentle Giant Boba Fett Bust, some Bowen items, various SDCC exclusives like Vanishing Fozzie, 501st Clone Bust, Bronze King Grayskull, and so forth), some stuff is eccentric and cool (“Last Action Hero,” “Seaquest,” ‘Coneheads” movie figures), some stuff were grails (Playmates’ red uniform Data, Spider-Smith from the “Lost in Space” movie, the Playmobil Pirate Island), but as far as “prized” …
I’m just not sure. What has specific value above the rest of the collection to me as a human being? The Super Powers Aquaman, Firestorm and Martian Manhunter come to mind for some reason, something about those figures capture the style in both color and sculpt of eighties and of what intagibly defines the DCU for me. But really, there’s no individual piece that I point to and say that I “prize’ that beyond all others, which is both bad and good. Bad in that I feel I missing something from having one or a few select items that can alone give me happiness; good in that its confirmation to me that I am in fact a ‘collector’ and that the personal value I have in my collection is derived from its entirety.
It’s the groupings, collections within collections, that excite me. My display of Art Asylum, Playmates and Minimates Star Trek: The Original Series crews, my arrangement of 3.75” Indiana Jones and Star Wars figures, my Silver Age DCUC setup, my Bowen Fantastic Four team and villains Busts, my range of Alien Resin pieces from Palisades. And balanced equally against all of that are the experiences that collecting have brought to me. The adventures, hunts, frustrations and successes shared with friends, conversations with Ken Lilly at SDCC and having pizza with Steve Hamady and Jean St. Jean by the San Diego Hilton pool, all of the wild and funky comic and toy shops that I’ve visited and return to just to view the collections that have for sale. To be perfectly sappy about it, the most prized thing in my collection is everything about it.
4.) What’s your Holy Grail toy? (Real or fictional)
The concept of the Holy Grail has lessened for me as I’ve gotten older and more, well, not cynical, but at peace with how the industry works and how my money is in play. I’ve purchased two of my biggest Holy Grails in the last few years and nothing has really moved in to take their place. I found Spider-Smith (from the Lost in Space movie) mint-in-package completely randomly at collector’s store I frequent semi-regularly for only $15, but much cooler was a chance encounter for an equally MIP “Redemption Data” from Playmates at a now-closed Monterey Comic Shop purchased for a paltry $7. There is my all-but-“Enchantment Under the Sea Marty” complete collection of Back to the Future Kubricks obtained at near-disgusting prices, but now there is nothing that I will “stop at nothing” to get. My Playmates Trek collection is very close to complete and is not there yet, older Playmobil has skyrocketed on the after-market and current-release variants are just a pain in the ass. But, if I had to pick something…
- “REAL GRAIL” – Zizzle’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” 3.75″ Series 3 and Play Along’s “Prince Caspian” 3.75″ Series 2 would be awesome to get and I’d probably pay a premium to get them. Despite the movies being incredibly disappointing, I like the figures enough and am, moreover, just that dedicated to the 3.75″ scale.
- “FICTIONAL GRAIL” – There’s a lot of fun possibilities, but I will ultimately narrow it down to just the simple and classic – Back to the Future I, II and III action figures. Preferably in the Four Horsemen/Movie Masters style and, for some reason I have never been able to explain, in 5″ scale.
But wait, I’ve got it! I know what my true Holy Grail is:
- “MY HOLY GRAIL” – My very own toy company, meant to be subsidized by my career directing feature films and preferably operating as a non-profit as a further incentive to sign ‘unsignable’ likenesses. But that is my Holy Grail, not just in my collection but in my whole life, that is what I am working toward and my greatest desire – to own, run and manage my own Action Figure company.
5.) What are your thoughts on the state of the action figure industry right now?
I feel an odd brotherhood with the industry in that we more-or-less grew up at the time. I’ve had action figures for as long as I can remember, but my lust for them really kicked in during the early nineties, blossoming and booming at the same as TMNT, Trek, G.I.Joe and so on were on the scene. McFarlane rolled out his whole industry-changing deal at just the same time was I hitting puberty and looking to grow up myself.
By the time I was wrapping up high school, Movie Maniacs and Tortured Souls were all the rage, and adult-oriented product really became the cool thing; by the same token, video games had begun to cut into the industry in a palpable way. By the new century I was off to college and the industry was past its peak and beginning to recede quickly and painfully. Now that the industry is a very comparable split between kids and collectors, I am able to pursue the more expensive product marketed toward me.
But, the question is for how things are right now. I think they’re not great, but not bad either. I like the 3.75″ scale a great deal and am pleased that everyone is pursuing that now, but quality is always the biggest problem. Hasbro’s 3.75″ Star Wars stuff is some of the best on the market, and while the first line of Indiana Jones had a lot of problems, the final, Temple of Doom wave is fantastic. While not as good as Hasbro, Zizzle and Playalong did very admirably with Pirates of the Carribbean and Prince Caspian, respectively. Yet, things like the high price and frequently reused bodies in the Marvel line from Hasbro and laughably generic sculpts in Playmates’ new Star Trek line and Mattel’s DC Infinite Heroes are hurting, if not killing, the possibilities. I enjoy the 6″+ scales for my more collector-oriented figures from DST and NECA, but do prefer the smaller scales because the size opens up more opportunities for character variation, vehicles and playsets. The eternal debate over scale aside, the biggest issue as I see it right now is the prominence of the online market.
I personally very much don’t like purchasing toys online (there’s the added cost of shipping & handling and the problem and not being able to check paint jobs) and try desperately to avoid it. Yet one has little choice any longer when Mattel produces stuff for online only and consciously underproduces DCUC for retail (as detailed in my first “Rustin’s Rant”) and when every other Star Trek item from DST gets canceled due to low pre-orders. Yes, I am a person who gets more of a ‘thrill’ out of a retail haul than and USPS or FEDEX box on my doorstep, but I do believe that brick-and-mortar purchasing is better for the industry, and once somewhat “got into it” with a consultant featured in a previous “5 Questions.”
My general stance is that by buying in stores one helps perpetuate sales in a larger volume, but, to be perfectly honest, I’m at a point in collecting where I find very difficult to get really worked up about the whole thing. In the modern economy, purchasing is voting and I would liken buying a figure, wave or line is akin to voting for a political party (you just want that ideology to survive) but the format (B’n’M vs. Online) in which you purchase is like voting for an individual candidate. I have my strong personal preference, but see where the ‘party’ is headed and ultimately must decide where to compromise my practices to support my ideals. It’s really a personal choice, so me proselytizing one method or the other won’t do a whole lot in the big scheme other than express why I’m voting for the underdog.
In reality, the core issue in the industry these days is the same it has always been: quality. I will buy just about anything Star Trek because it is a veyr important franchise to me and I want it to succeed as much as possible, but frankly, both licencees are making remarkably sub-par product considering what else is on the market these days–virtually making the conscious decision to be less than their competitors. I again have to point out the quality difference in both design and production between Mattel’s DCIH and Hasbro’s Marvel Universe lines; Playmates’ Star Trek and Playalong’s Prince Caspian (and don’t even get me started on the horrific but completely-owned-by-me 6″ Trek line). It’s shocking and laughable that they even release stuff like that, and man while I do appreciate not having to start all over, I would do just about anything for DST to dump the schlockly “Art Asylum style” of their Trek figures and have Jean St. Jean Studios sculpt that range.
But “settling” is what we do best these days, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on movies the vast majority of viewers dislike but still going for the next one because “that one fight was cool.” If we held Hollywood to the standards of large-scale films like Forrest Gump and The Dark Knight (which satisfy the mindless entertainment and intelligent drama needs equally well, as opposed to focusing too heavily on one or the other), then we would be getting a lot better movies that we would all enjoy a great deal more and be all the happier for it. Alas, we gobble up the crap too, readily perpetuating its production. So, I must ask I myself, am I really helping or hurting by buying all this Trek stuff from Playmates? Ultimately I can only hope that they follow the trend of Hasbro’s Indiana Jones line and improve everything all around with each successive wave because I just love character variety and I love having large collections. The only way, though, to sustain that will be to significantly improve the overall quality of the figures–because if the pegs I’ve been seeing are any indication, rational and non-Trekkie people just aren’t having it.