Musings on anything and everything from a middle-aged comic book geek, father, husband, and sufferer of chronic illness. What does the title mean? In DC Comics, Oa is the planet at the center of the Universe where the Guardians pursue justice and order through their intergalactic police force, the Green Lanterns. To be a Green Lantern you must be capable of overcoming fear. You don't have to be from Krypton or be an orphaned billionaire, you just have to be The Right Person.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Boys & Their Toys
For about twenty years, now, I've been collecting toys. I have mostly concentrated on toys related to the comics superhero Green Lantern and the other heroes at DC Comics. I've always been a Batman/Superman guy more than a Spider-Man/X-Men guy. But there has been other stuff along the way that caught my eye (and my wallet.) Actually, now that I think about it, it was a Marvel toy that got me into the hobby, not a DC toy. I was shopping for my newborn daughter and on a whim took a turn down the action figure aisle. I spotted a Green Goblin toy (he's one of Spider-Man's arch-enemies) that was a perfect rendering in 3-D of how Gil Kane drew the character in the late 1960's. Gil Kane was also the definitive artist on Green Lantern and is far and away my favorite comics artist. So I picked it up. Later on I learned that it was a bit of a rare find. Knowing nothing about the hobby, as I did then, I had no idea that villain figures and female figures are few and far between -- the thinking is that moms want to buy their kids the hero, and that boys don't buy female figures at all. So finding an actual bad guy on the shelf was second only to finding Spidey's girlfriend. I took the Goblin home, opened it up, and played around with it. (I've always been an opener of my toys, not one of the guys who keeps everything mint in its original packaging. The only unopened toys I have are the ones that I have no place to display yet!)
The hobby of collecting action figures has changed tremendously over the intervening years, though, and not, I think, for the better. Back then the Internet was a younger place and message boards for toy collectors were primarily used to stay informed about what was out there. It was the era of the "toy run" -- going out to make the rounds of Target, Hill's, K-Mart, Toys 'r' Us, etc., and seeing what was new on the shelves. There were few internet merchants selling toys, and there was a bit of an addiction to the thrill of the hunt -- hoping that today was the day I'd find the rare one-per-case villain or villainess figure. I belonged to a couple of message boards linking like-minded collectors and we often helped each other out, trading figures and sharing info on who had what. It was tremendous fun. Toys were cheap -- the little 4" and 5" figures were around $5 and the larger 6" figures with more articulation and accessories were $9-$10.
Enter eBay. The scalpers who had already made a mess of collecting Hot Wheels tipped to the fact that there was money to maybe be made off of action figures. They started lining up outside the toy departments the moment the store opened, bribed clerks to hide stuff for them or bring new unopened cases of toys out of the back, and pretty soon any hope dried up completely of the average collector walking into a store on his lunch hour and finding a hot toy. I have tried to never buy anything off of eBay, but I'm in the minority and to this day, the toy scalpers flourish there. And in the stores, toys have increased tremendously in price. Those $5 Star Wars figures are now $10-$14. The 6" figures -- when anyone even bothers to manufacture them -- run $21-$27. Larger special toys run even more; DC last year made a $50 Mr. Freeze and a Darkseid figure that cost $90.
I think the passion, the collector's fire feels like it’s been burning lower and lower. I just don’t have it for the hobby like I did, and as the prices are getting higher and higher, I find myself getting closer and closer to the Fixed Income Portion of My Life. (And yet, the Super Alloy Green Lantern figure, $270.00 or not, still lights a spark, so who knows?)
Too much stuff was in the basement, and I recently took steps to do something about it. All my Star Wars stuff that remained in its packaging — not because I keep it that way, but simply because I never got around to opening the toys and never had the space to display them; as I mentioned, I AM an opener — all of my unopened SW stuff, about 300 pieces, is going to the 501st Legion this week. They are a charity group that dresses up in screen-accurate Star Wars costumes and visit children in the hospital. Let my stuff go out with them and be in the hands of a kid somewhere. The other stuff that was never opened is going to either Toys for Tots or a local charity auction, and again, if something can give somebody some pleasure and do some good, well, that’s way better than having it in my basement.
I’ll probably hang on to my Shrine of Oa -- all my Green Lantern toys -- for a while yet. I recently capped it off with the latest DC Collectibles green Power Battery as a centerpiece, and I want to keep my GL stuff for a while yet. I’m also hanging on to my Justice League Unlimited collection — pretty much complete except for Holiday Hal Jordan (a rare Green Lantern figure, although I have a pretty good copy of him in The Shrine) because my daughter wants it, and it was a favorite to collect. All the prominent DC characters were made in cartoon style, and they are awesome. I will also keep some favorite DC characters from the Mattel "DC Universe" line — usually GL-related but not always; Hawkman and Hawkgirl are fine, fine figures — so those toys will probably stick around for a while too. But I think I’m getting to the point where I’m feeling like I might be done.