Last Post for 2018?

While I always have the best intentions to post more frequently, I do have to admit that this will probably be the last of the batch of 5 posts for 2018. Hope springs eternal, but the academic year is filled with exciting research and writing, conference attendance, teaching, and other professional projects. Also, my daughter is now 3 years old,  taller than ever, absolutely infatuated with He-Man and MOTU, and most of my free time is now devoted to watching He-Man with her and building Castle Grayskull out of playdough.

Also, we are embarking on a cross-state move in just a few short days. What this means is that the Library of Babel of Action Figures (the enormous Expedit) is no more.

Moving photo

It is hard to imagine, but approximately 35 plastic bins of action figures (labeled “figs, basement”) will soon be headed down the interstate toward our brand new home. While we are overjoyed with the new house, new town, and new job, this feels like the end of an era.

What is worse is that for the foreseeable future (until we can one day finish the basement,) there is no clear place for the Expedit. There is not clear place for the Shelves of Babel, with their complicated flying scenes.

Shelves of Babel Flyers

This does not mean it is the end of “action figures my husband collects,” because it will MOST CERTAINLY not be the end of the action figures my husband collects, but it will be a really big change.

As much as I have joked, teased, and harassed Justin for carpeting the walls of our bedroom in thousands of action figures, (all of which seem to watch us while we sleep!) a larger part of me is sad. I will truly miss the Expedit.

However, I have to imagine that just like Cthulhu (Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming,”) the Expedit will rise up from its disassembled pile and rule our rooms again.

Until that time, I hope you will look forward to singular action figures peeking out from the nooks and crannies of our new house, on stairs, on bookshelves, and posed against small appliances. Though I’d never admit it to Justin, I know I will look forward to it, too!

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This Alien is Giant

Although I have made many posts about the Alien figures in my husband’s collection, they never cease to amaze me.

For instance, this is a really big Alien:

Giant Alien Mother

The photo quality is kind of bad here, and the scale is a bit harder to see, but if you remember the aliens from previous posts (such as An Alien and A Predator and An Alien Exercise), the Alien figures in the foreground are already big, so this Alien is REALLY big. In fact, her little spiny antennae-like things at the back of her head caused me to do a double take. (This display is from the top of the Expedit and I thought a real bug was hiding behind the action figures.) (Also, that is not so weird since we had some extremely smart roaches in our past apartment in Raleigh.)

I think this figure must be the Alien Mother. (I know true collectors and movie fans will know for sure.) Much has been written about Alien and the Monsterous, Othered mother and even the role of motherhood for Ripley, but as a still relatively new mother myself, I think what is striking is not so much the aspects of the grotesque (though I did think it was a real, legit bug,) but just the sense of size– the sublime. In the previous post I noted how scale plays out in my husband’s sense of care for the art of collecting and arranging action figures, but I also appreciate how action figures can confront us with a sense of the sublime in their scale relative to us (as opposed to each other.)

My impression of this figure is that motherhood is simply, overwhelmingly large. Also, this may not even be the Alien Mother after all.

Action Figure Arcade

In the last post I thought a bit about how the performance of care enters into collecting action figures in the way that my husband collects. I don’t think anything exemplifies that sense of care and arrangement more than . . . ACTION FIGURE ARCADE:

Arcade

I have no idea who that red suited guy is, but he is enjoying the most perfect and lovingly scaled little action figure arcade. To the side are red vinyl seats and a chrome table, just like you would expect in a bar-cade. For my husband arranging this block of the Expedit was all about the accomplishments of getting the scale correct. I imagine this is how miniaturists feel when completing a room or diorama.

Also, this is like the cleanest arcade floor I have ever seen.

Also, also, I wish I could remember who the guy in the red suit is.

These Metallic Figures

Somewhere in a block of the Expedit nearby is this scene:

metalic 80s figs

If you remember Ed-209 (and all the other action figures I would rather have than Ed-209– see E290,) here Ed-209 appears to be joined by a bunch of other metallic guys, like Robocop, the Terminator with and without skin, and Rambo. Also, maybe that robot from Futurama? It doesn’t look like him, but maybe.

What I like about this setup is that like the previous “ready to go” figures there is a sense of coherence, dramatic action, and maybe a theme, but this also follows a kind of grey and silver color scheme. These silver figures feel much more serious in their monochromatic corporate greys, even as their movies critique some aspects of corporate culture.

This brings me back to a perennial question, perhaps THE only question, about why my husband collects action figures. Though many of my blog posts have been concerned with memory, nostalgia, and childhood, I also know there is the careful concern of the adult world that enters into collecting, as much as there is a childlike joy and delight in unboxing a figure and getting it “ready to go.” In other words, adult people collect action figures for many different reasons. For many it is simply an investment, for others they are curators or archivists of different lines, franchises, or collections.

My husband certainly appreciates those forms of collecting, but I wouldn’t say he is driven by any of those impulses primarily. Unboxing figures decreases their value, and my husband has never been a completist, looking for every figure in a line. However, in looking at Ed-209 looming behind the shoulder of Robocop, there is also something not  childlike, not nostalgic, but plagued by the care for the art of action figures. The care of “getting something just right.” It isn’t just about the sculpt or the points of articulation or the pose, (getting the figures away from “vanilla poses” like the heroic stance with arms to the side and down.) Instead, there is a kind of celebration for detail, complexity, and a meticulous performance of care itself. When I think of Justin’s collection, it isn’t a set of figures boxed and catalogued or preserved, but a set of figures arranged, in thoughtful, expressive, communicative detail. Even if no one is looking, listening, or paying attention.

Nostalgia for Last Year?

After over a year of time dedicated pretty much solely to research, teaching, service, and parenting, I thought it would be fitting to make another semi-annual batch of blog posts.

It has not escaped pretty much anyone’s notice that many things have happened in the past year. Yet, or maybe because of this, my husband’s action figure collecting continues to seemingly center on 80s nostalgia. While the Netflix miniseries The Toys that Made Us and my daughter’s increasing love of He-Man, Skeletor, Battlecat, and everything MOTU has inescapably made me more knowledgeable, I will continue along the vein of half-truths in wondering about the action figures my husband collects. (But seriously, I can now recite the main Skeletor henchmen, like Evilyne, Beastman, Merman, and Trap Jaw.)

The first action figure I noticed is a tribute piece for Rowdy Roddy Piper and a block of the “Library of Babel of Action Figures” seemingly devoted to the 80s.

Roddy Piper

Here Roddy Piper is surrounded by Andre the Giant, another Roddy Piper, Superman, and drunk E.T. In the background I imagine Optimus Prime offers a comforting form. (I have been told MANY times what make and model this Optimus Prime is, but I cannot remember.) Beyond being able to identify these characters and real-life folks, I’m not exactly sure the significance of this block.

Also, to the best of my knowledge my husband has no action figures for Roddy Piper in They Live, complete with sunglasses and chewing gum, and none of the figures of the creatures hiding as people. I think this definitely represents a missed opportunity Neca, Four Horsemen, or whatever.

Addendum to Nostalgia

So, I really don’t like to do this and don’t plan to make corrections often, but this is a rough transcript from my conversation with my husband last night:

Justin: “It’s Ed-209. Ed. 209. And he’s from Robocop and not Terminator.”

Me: “Well, you can’t make these things up.”

Justin: “Apparently you can. Also, that’s not the playable mini arcade figure. It’s a coin bank we got from Nerd Block.”

Me: “Oh. I wondered where the on switch was.”

So, only in honor of the fact I don’t want people trying to play a coin bank, here are photos of the actual playable figure, which, true to form, as it turns out, is actually Centipede, and not Space Invaders:

Centipede mini arcade game offCentipede start screen onCentipede playable on screen gameWell, I guess I messed that up, though to be fair the actual mini arcade figure was hidden behind my husband’s laptop. It just goes to show that positioning and arrangement in the Expedit (“Library of Babel of Action Figures”) is not always telling. Also, perhaps I should listen to my husband more closely.

Space Invaders and Nostalgia

Garbage Pail Kid and Space Invaders arcade mini figureFor my final post of the evening, I offer you this tiny unassuming action “figure” to the left of the feral looking Garbage Pail Kid. It is super hard to make out, but that is a tiny/mini PLAYABLE arcade figure for Space Invaders. I have to be impressed. I saw both Wreck It Ralph and Fist Full of Quarters. (Also, we recently watched Tommy, which I had never seen before, but is really really sad.)

However, the reason why I wanted to end with this post is that for me the mini arcade classic game figure also captures something about the nostalgia of action figures and probably action figure collectors of my husband’s approximate age, specifically. While probably too young to have actually played Space Invaders at an arcade (though maybe perhaps not??) I think this particular game activates a kind of false nostalgia, a kind of screen memory of what childhood was like. (For some reason I can believe Donkey Kong more than Space Invaders.) Even I have this feeling when it comes to classic video games or the scene of childhood.

I don’t think I have ever actually played a video game (though I’ve spent hours watching people play, for research on video game soundscapes.) In fact, the closest I’ve probably come to playing a video game was trying to watch my friend Liz play 13th Guest, putting Myst into my computer for a second, getting scared and then turning it off, and “playing” Sonic the Hedgehog on demo by accident. (For. An. Hour.) However, when I see a tiny PLAYABLE Space Invaders figure, it brings me back to particular moments that may not have been important or have really happened– going to Pizza Hut for the Book It! promotion, drinking from red plastic cups and pretending to eat salad from the salad bar or the ice-cold air conditioning all while magical black, purple, and blue arcade games whizzed and whirled on the periphery. (Apparently Pizza Hut was my only exposure to the presence of arcade games.)

In a much larger and more important sense, for my husband, this seems to be what is at stake for him as a collector– revisiting his childhood (some real, some invoked or imagined) and remembering each of those moments a bit sweeter than perhaps they ever were. There are certainly other ways to spend time and money, and it is definitely a hobby I do not really share, but I also think to say that the action figures my husband collects are just “things” or “material possessions” and not an experience, is to be missing part of the point.

Also, I refuse to comment further on GPK, which I hate. :)

Until next time! (Hopefully July or August!) Happy collecting/reading/researching/working/relaxing from me and the action figures my husband collects.

Another Labor of Love for My Husband

Many Marvel characters arranged based on a comic coverAll I can say about this display is that it has been a labor of love for my husband. I know it was arranged to mirror some Marvel comic book cover, but I do not know which one. I also only know/remember this detail and the significance of this arrangement because there were a few nights a couple weeks ago where action figures were falling from the shelf and Expedit. (You do not know the thrill of living until you wake up at 3am to the sound of thudding plastic feet from your bed.)

Also, on a side note, though our Boston terrier, Melvin (of #MelvinWatchesMovies,) is very keenly aware of people entering our space–like our friends, family, landlords–he appears totally indifferent to falling plastic at 3am, just feet from his face. I’m just saying, in a creepy reanimated doll movie scenario (where we would surely die, because have you SEEN “this totally inappropriate skull guy??”) we would have no help from our dog.

So yes, my husband is an artist. If you know the cover this display was based off, that’s cool for you. I just know this display is one of the main reasons why I use a ladder or sweet parkour moves to photograph his figures, even though my husband has generously told me that it is okay to take them down to photograph. Can you imagine? This kind of carefully articulated arrangement goes far beyond “getting them ready to go.”

MOTUC Disco Dancer

yellow and blue MOTUC female figure in disco poseHere is a MOTUC (Masters of the Universe Classics) figure. She appears to be female and is dressed in yellow and blue. Also, she is maybe a disco dancer.

I am sure Justin would have been happier with a post on Wonder Woman, who is both identifiable and has a good head sculpt. (See what I did there, Justin? I heard you approximately 2 days ago.) However, I’m still hoping to perhaps see Wonder Woman, or else think about that post a bit further. I’ve read a bunch of tweets on Wonder Woman, but as of yet am not sure what to say. All I know is that she’s a DC character and that there are, like, two guys with the same name (maybe Steve?) in the movie.

So, in the absence of a fully-formed post on Wonder Woman (and mostly based on the proximity of these figures and not really their female-ness) you must instead enjoy this disco dancer.

Also, it seems like most of my posts tonight involve dancing.

E290

This post is one I can be a bit more confident about since it is about an action figure procured MUCH more recently.

Here is what I am about 92% confident is E-290 from the Terminator movie:

E290 killer robot from TerminatorHe looks super cute, but this is the weird old robot in the Terminator movie that starts killing people during a demo of his capabilities. I am not sure why this was such an important figure for my husband, but he described it as a “unicorn figure.”

I am guessing that means it is rare and he derives particular enjoyment from having found it/bought it? I am not sure why. It looks sort of like the homicidal ineffectual demo robot from the movie, if I were to remember that particular scene a bit better. Also, he is pretty big. I gather that is what makes him attractive as well. However, E-290 is no Monsters of Winnipeg.

I do not have a “unicorn figure” (anymore– see “Monsters of Winnipeg.) However, I have compiled a list of action figures I would rather own than E-290:

District 9 action figures

-Deleuze and Guattari action figures

Rubber action figure with background TV accessory showing jazzercise video (or whatever)

-Gem and the Holograms vs Josie and the Pussycats Battle of the Bands expansion set

-Babadook– but he is NOT going in our bedroom, I repeat NOT

Berbarian Sound Studio action figures

-action figures from any comic by Jason, but preferably Left Bank Gang

I would like to own these all much more than E-290. I’m sorry E-290. Also, I do not know who that teal robot is that is dancing next to E-290.