As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. No, wait, that’s not right. Sorry, start over. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been collecting. Without even knowing it, I had the gene. I kept my vinyl record albums and singles lined up straight, in the order I bought them in, with each artist grouped together. I’d play with my toys, then put them back in their respective cases or boxes when done with them. And I kept movie and football gum cards in a tin I kept on the dresser, in numbered order, and even kept my movie ticket stubs from all the films I went to in there as well. This was when I was about nine, so what hope did I have of escaping this as an adult?
In one way or another, I’ve been a bit of a completist my whole life. If I was into a band, I had to get everything, all the singles, B sides, live cuts and import only tracks. If I dug an author, I had to get all of his or her past works as soon as I’d devoured the one I was reading. I used to keep lists of all the films I still had to see, having already spent a good few months going through a big, fat movie review book and highlighting all the movies I HAD seen. When I was younger, if I was into the new Bond film, let’s say, I had to track down the Official Movie Poster Book, the Official Movie Magazine, and of course, the new Corgi model that came out for that release. I’d then have them all lined up on the dresser with past Corgis, in order of Bond film appearance.
I don’t want to give the impression I was or am some kind of a pack rat. Far from it. I’m good at rotating stock, getting rid of stuff, purging and re evaluating all of my goods, and am proud to say I’ve never been even close to being tied to a storage facility of any kind. Thankfully, with technology being as advanced as it is, the sheer ‘bulk’ of a musical collection’s expansion isn’t much of a problem anymore. Same goes for movies, those damn DVDs are a helluva lot easier to cart around than VHS or, ahem, Laser Discs.
The collector’s line of thinking even became an inherent part of Bif Bang Pow! and our action figure philosophy, too. For once, we were on the other side, and asked ourselves, ‘Who would we want to collect in the line up? What would WE like the variants to be? What would look coolest on OUR shelves? And, oh yeah, should we try and make a ‘Build a Spikey Rotating Battle Platform Thing’ for the “Flash Gordon” figures, or have we gone too far?”
Now, I’m not sure just WHY I’ve always felt so compelled to, as they say in the toy world, “collect them all”. Is it the innate curiosity in me? Is it the ‘thrill of the hunt’? Is it the need to always expand my mind, body and soul with new sights and sounds? Or is it some deeper, more psychological disorder that some day will see me flicking light switches on and off as I enter and exit rooms and counting toothpicks as they spill out onto the kitchen floor? Whatever the reasons are, and we all have them, one thing’s for sure. The men outweigh the women in the collecting department.
Ok, ladies, if you’re reading, let me clarify. There are humans of the female persuasion out there that collect things, get obsessive about musical acts, and even buy the occasional toy. Any trip to Comic Con will very clearly show just how much of fandom and geekdom is occupied by women. I just want to be clear, that this article isn’t about women NOT collecting, nor is it saying they DON’T collect. I’m merely making an observation, as I would about the ratio of men to women who own cats. (That generally seems to be a female thing, no? And I’ve never gotten a straight answer on that one either).
So why is collecting or being a completist such a male dominated field? I mean, an argument can be made for sci fi/comicdom/etc catering mainly to men and boys for years and years, but for at least the past 20-25 years, the female fan base has grown. But I’m not really referring to just going to the films, watching the shows and once in a while picking up a copy of the ‘Buffy’ comic. I’m talking about collecting. Completing. Making lists, for god’s sake. I mean, I bet the average male has a thousand or so cds, at least, and probably ten times that on a hard drive. I’m guessing most of the men reading this right now have over 200 DVDs, right? (And let me point out, rather obviously, this blog IS called ‘Men of Action’ after all). And as for toys, if , say, a particular man DOES collect them, I’ll bet the average collection is in the couple hundreds of characters category.
To get back to my theory about nostalgia, I’ll also wager that a lot of the habits or things that we were into as kids have stayed with us to this day, as collectors. The first vinyl album I ever bought was The Beatles ‘Red’ double album (’62-’66), and I was about seven. The second one? The ‘Star Wars’ soundtrack. But only because I screwed up, and bought it by mistake when I meant to get ‘The Story of Star Wars’. (I’ll never forget sitting down with it when I got home and going from track to track, waiting to hear dialogue, wondering if I needed to take the record back because it was defective). So, today, when I look at the CD spine of ‘The Beatles ’62-‘66’, I think about my bedroom as a kid, the little record player I had, and sitting down whilst listening to it and studying the black and white gatefold picture inside. Playing it over and over again, I knew immediately, of course, that I HAD to get the ‘Blue’ album, ’67-’70.
That list I made a while back, the ‘Portal of Lost Toys’, I still have a mental list of odds and sods that I want back from my childhood, and recently it was those ‘Power’ book and record sets. My intention was to JUST get the Captain America and Spider Man/Man Wolf ones, and MAYBE the Star Trek one. Well, I found them all, and while paging through them it was as if no time had passed at all, each panel came flooding back to me. And then I looked at the list on the back of all the other titles they produced, and started popping onto ebay now and then looking for them. But why? I never had them way back then, so why should I care?
I can’t think of any females I know that would do the same thing. My girlfriend, for example. She’s a major ‘foodie’, and loves getting new gadgets for the kitchen, food magazines, etc.. That’s about as close as she gets to collecting, but I DO try. Last year for Halloween, I bought her a cute little stuffed figure of Domo, dressed like a pumpkin. She had no idea who he was, but she loved it. Then I got her one for Easter, and she loved it too. Then I got her a SDCC exclusive Domo Qee this summer, which, again, she thought was really cool. When I bought her a couple of Slurpee straws of the little guy at 7 Eleven, she very kindly said to me, “Honey, I’m good on the Domo stuff for a while’.
I do see more and more change on the horizon, all up and down the pop culture dial. More women are the driving force behind various web series, comic books, tv shows and video game sites than ever before, and with those ‘Twilight’ books and movies so popular, females seem to be the core audience collecting all of it’s memorabilia. But on the whole, I think collecting, whatever we choose, will always remain a club for boys. Which means what, exactly? We need to keep things in some sort of definable ‘order’? We have an inherent need to be surrounded by pop culture material? Or do we just like having the bragging rights, being able to point at the book shelf and it’s complete collection of Will Eisner’s work and saying, “Yeah, (sniifffff), (pulling pants up at the waist) I’ve read all of those. Took me 17 months. Grisham’s next”.
So, I ask you, oh wise Toy Gods (and Goddesses, if you’re tuning in), why do most women not care about getting the Limited Edition Box Set of ‘The Mighty Boosh’’s Future Sailors Tour DVD set (with exclusive card game and belt buckle)? Are they too busy planning for their futures and TiVo-ing Lifetime movies and anything John Hamm shows up in? Why WOULDN’T they want the Blu Ray ‘Watchmen’ DVD set that comes in the Owl Ship replica that lights up and makes noise? Is it just a question of shelf space, or did the Leonard Cohen backed sex scene just annoy them as much as everyone else? The forum is open people, and I’ve already done the hard work of pointing out an ugly truth that no corporate owned news network would dare chime in on. This needs to be dissected, mainly because I’m hoping to finally get the cat question wrapped up. Answers on a postcard, please. Or below, in case you don’t collect postcards.