When I was a kid, most action figures had the same articulation: swivel joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips, and maybe a twist at the waist. That’s what you got with Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, Super Powers and Secret Wars, and later, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (though MOTU and the Turtles featured somewhat ball-jointed hips). Some lines were an exception; the 3 3/4″ G.I. Joe figures were heavily articulated, with the aforementioned articulation plus ball joints at the shoulders, head, waist, and hips, and swivels at the biceps in the later figures. But usually, you were stuck with the basic joints.
Category: Poe’s Point
In this post, I’d like to pay tribute to what I fondly call “the Magic Toys ‘R Us.”First, a bit of background. Back in ye old dayes of the 1980s, action figures were relatively plentiful. You could walk into Child World or Caldor’s and find a rack of C3PO, R2D2, He-Man, Skeletor, Trapjaw, and any other popular figure you were looking for. Some figures were a bit harder to find than others, but eventually you’d be able to find just about anything at retail.
That began to change in the late 1990s, when action figure collecting became an adult collector’s hobby as much as a kids’ childhood rite.
But scalping was taken to a whole new level–and not just in action figure collecting, but in pretty much any collector’s hobby you can imagine–by the advent of eBay. In the early days of eBay, there were plenty of deals to be had. I was able to amass quite a collection of old 1980s toys from my childhood for relatively reasonable prices. By the early 2000s, savvy eBay sellers had started to use the power of the Internets to make better profits. With a few clicks of a keyboard, a Midwestern grandmother can hit a toy website and find out those old G.I. Joe dolls her son left in the attic are worth $100 or more. Soon, prices for the action figure after-market went up as a whole.
Mrs. Ghostal-to-Be and I are often amused by the promo spots for Jon Keller, a Boston TV news personality. He’s sort of a cross between John Stossel and a daytime talk show host; every promo follows a formula whereby something seemingly positive is revealed to possibly be negative. “Doctors say regular exercise is good for you. But some people say that may not be true–find out why at 11!”
Now Keller has turned the burning focus of his scrutiny upon a true scourge of the modern world: toy packaging. In this special report, Keller argues that when it comes to toy shopping for Christmas, “the cost and the crowds are nothing compared with the agony of getting the darn things open.” He’s even created an online petition telling toy companies “Our children want to be able to play with the toys they open Christmas morning–or for Hanukkah or their birthday–without watching their parents fight, fumble, cut themselves, and curse at the packaging.”
My parents were usually able to do all that independent of any toy packaging in the vicinity (especially Mumma Ghostal–she has the vocabulary of a drunken sailor). But I have to admit, toy packaging is a big pain in the ass these days. I’ve cut myself more than once on clamshell cases.
And yet, I do think clamshells make for the best collector’s packaging. Many collectors keep their toys in the package, and plastic clamshells don’t wear the way cardboard boxes and backing cards do. I suspect the rise of clamshell packaging has much to do with the rise of toy collecting as an adult hobby. As someone who opens all of his toys, I’m not too fond of having to tear my way into clamshells, but frankly, I find the innumerable wire twist-ties far more irritating than getting the package open.
So will you sign the petition? Clamshells–yea or nay?
I suggested yesterday that McFarlane Toys create a second series of Twisted Xmas toys, this time based on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Given that it’s a ghost story featuring supernatural creatures, graveyards, corpses, and Victorian-era values ripe for the perverting, I think this is a no-brainer for McToys–and a sure-seller.
Here’s how I envision the line:
Ebeneezer Scrooge — a grotesque, hunchbacked miser, carrying a sack of filthy lucre and leaning on a cane with a death’s head knob.
The Ghost of Jacob Marley — a horrific, zombie-like corpse, completely buried in huge chains, padlocks, safes, shackles and other heavy iron objects. His jaw-wrappings would be in shreds, and his rotten jaw would be dangling by a thread of cartilage over his chest.
The Ghost of Christmas Past — the obligatory hot chick of the line. In the novel this ghost is actually a kind of young/old male spirit, but enough movie versions have made it a woman to make it work in the public imagination. This figure would just be a scantily-clad fairy, probably carrying a big candle extinguisher.
The Ghost of Christmas Present — described as a “giant” in the book, I envision McFarlane’s version as a huge, gluttonous ogre. His base would be covered with half-eaten food and his magic torch would be more like a monstrous flaming club.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come — C’mon, this one’s easy. Personally I’d love something that looked like the thing from Scrooged, but I have faith that McFarlane would come up with something suitably monstrous.
Tiny Tim — This one would probably be the most tasteless (and there’s always one in these Monsters lines). In the novel he wears those Forrest Gump-style leg braces and carries a crutch. I envision McFarlane’s Tiny Tim as a hulking, deformed teenager with giant robotic braces on his legs–and a crutch like a claymore.