Recently, I caught a post on this very site for a toy so cool, it literally took my breath away for a moment. Super 7 announced they’re making a ‘Star Wars’ Stormtrooper Super Shogun figure, reminiscent of the great Shogun Warriors from the 70’s. Right down to it’s shooting fist action! The moment was bittersweet, however, when I immediately recalled my own M.I.A. Dragun Shogun Warrior, which mysteriously vanished from my childhood home some time in the past 25 years. (See earlier traumatic post from me). But it did get me thinking…..
….what would you save from the fire? Toy wise, I mean. You know, the age old question: if the house was burning down and you only had a minute to grab material items, what would you nearly risk life and limb for? ‘Cause I promise you, if that Shogun was in the house, it’d make it out alive. Now, I should clarify immediately, this is assuming all family members, pets, heirlooms, photo albums, Beatles ‘Yesterday and Today’ “butcher” cover, original DaVinci blueprints and grandma have all been safely taken to the boulevard already.
And to clarify further, let’s limit it to FIVE items. That’s right, only 5. And let’s make this even more specific: claiming ‘my entire G.I. Joe collection from 1962 onwards’ doesn’t count as ONE item, ya greedy bastards. If you want to make it, say, ‘the first wave of G.I. Joe figures from ‘82’, however many that is, then ok, we’ll let that pass. I’m kind of curious to see what people hold dear, and whether they do because of rarity, or sentimental value. Shall I start? Are you sitting comfortably? Ok, then, let’s begin.
With no particular order or worry for my well being:
INDIANA JONES 12” ACTION FIGURE by KENNER
I ask my mother often, especially when we’re out in public and we see some kid having a brain aneurism because he’s not getting what he wants, whether I was spoiled and ever did the same thing. She always says no, that I was a well behaved kid that was always grateful for what he got, and never bugged her for stuff. Except on two occasions: once, when I was about 4 and grabbed ahold of a stuffed Snoopy at Target and wouldn’t let go until my mother thought I’d pass out from screaming if I didn’t get it, and once when the Indiana Jones 12” action figure was about to come out. I started seeing television commercials on Saturday mornings, and would not let it go. I think I must have been like the kid in ‘A Christmas Story’, dropping hints when ever I could, calling her in from the other room to try and catch the commercial, agreeing to go with her to the store ANYTIME, in the hopes that she might need to stop by Target or someplace else in the vicinity of a toy store, where I could do recon work. We finally found the figure, and for the first time, the cracks started to show in Christmas. My mother, bless her heart, didn’t always get it right when it came to requests, but she did her best and we never were brats when it was wrong. But this, this was important. I actually remember insisting she get it there, on the spot, in case they sold out. It was the first time I knew in advance what was going under the tree. I still have him, box and all, and he’s in perfect shape. I was always great about putting things away when I was done with ‘em and keeping everything nice, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I would have kept the box for this toy. But I did, and it makes me smile every time I think of the Christmas of ’81.
BALTAN DIE CAST FIGURE by ARK
This was from a double whammy of a birthday box from my dad, circa 1978. He got me a collected Marvel volume of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (with intro by Stan Lee, ‘natch) that capitalized on the success of the CBS tv series, and this amazing figure from Japan. I still have no idea where he found this thing, but man, it got a lot of love. It’s mostly made of die cast metal, is about 6 inches tall, and all of the joints are plastic, connecting pieces. So with all the extra pieces and accessories, you could mix and match this guy every which way you wanted. His ‘crab claws’ are die cast as well, and endlessly fun to play with when menacing all the other action figures that got in his way. Best of all, he came with those tiny yellow missiles from the 70’s, that A., shot out of his chest, and B., shot out of his gatling gun. Yes, that’s right, I said gatling gun. It’s a red plastic ‘cannon’ looking thing, and you load the missiles into it, then turn the knob on the back, and it shoots ‘em out in rapid succession! What? Only the Japanese could have come up with such genius technology for a child’s toy, and I’m proud to say I still have every last missile that came with it. The packaging is entirely in Japanese (yes, I kept the box, sensing a trend?), so I had (and still have) no idea what the hell was going on, but I knew I wanted the rest of the characters shown on the back. I never got ‘em, but many years later, I DID find the Mecha Kong, in completely different, English speaking packaging, which I subsequently lost in a move. Baltan is safe and sound in his cardboard home, waiting to emerge again one day and terrorize 3 ¾” action figures everywhere.
STAR WARS ORIGINAL 12 FIGURES IN CARRYING CASE by KENNER
Do I really need to elaborate on this choice? Like most kids of the 70’s, for the three years after ‘Star Wars’ there wasn’t much else that interested me. I kept the original 12 figures in the plastic Kenner carrying case, took them out for a round of extended universe play, and put them right back into their tray when I was finished. Never lost a weapon, never lost a figure, and they’re all still box fresh. And they got played with nearly every, single day. I never understood those kids who took their figures outside or let the dog run around with them in their mouths. I was happy to visit them and put their Jawas in a windstorm in the sand box, but never brought my stuff down to play with. No matter what came after, and I did get all the ‘Empire’ figures as well, nothing compares to the glory days of ’77-’79, when that galaxy far, far away was still fresh and uncomplicated. Sculpts may have improved, names have been given and history revised, but I’ll take my Greedo in a bright green jumpsuit and my Walrusman mono-monikered any day, thank you very much. Kenner, we miss you.
THE AVENGERS JOHN STEED SWORD STICK by LONE STAR
The British tv series ‘The Avengers’ is one of my all time favorites. I love it’s look, it’s attitude, and John Steed and Emma Peel’s unflappable cool. The thing is, you can count the number of collectibles ever made for the show on one hand. In the sixties, there was a U.K. company that was the Kenner/Mego of it’s day. Lone Star were mostly known for making die cast cars and trucks, and cowboy pistol cap guns. When the 60’s spy craze hit, they started to snap up licenses. And man, they had everything: James Bond 007, ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’, ‘The Saint’, ‘Burke’s Law’, ‘Dr. Who’, ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Captain Scarlet’, and many more. They mostly made cap pistols, or variations of them, for all of those titles. When they got ‘The Avengers’, there wasn’t much they could do, since Steed never carried a pistol. Emma did occasionally, but it was gold, and maybe there were paint issues? Regardless, what they did for Steed was make his trademark bowler hat, and his ‘swordstick’, which was a plastic cane, that pulled out of it’s ‘sheath’ and became a plastic sword. You could also stick plastic pellets in the end of the ‘sheath’, and by pushing the sword into it, air would force the pellets out like mini missiles. These things are like gold dust, and I managed to track one down about 15 years ago, from a guy in England that found a case of them in a warehouse….in Sri Lanka. The header card would have had holes punched in it, for the cane to slip through, and to hang on the racks. Mine’s pristine and un punched, and it’s a beauty. They’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. (Or hot, crispy ones, if I don’t get out in time).
PAUL MCCARTNEY FIGURE by REMCO
Everyone, even non Beatles fans, must know what the Remco figures look like, right? Tiny, non poseable bodies with removable instruments, and giant heads with rooted hair. They’re hideous, and ridiculous, but they’re also fantastic. I got Paul when I went to an extended family picnic once when I was a kid, and some cousins would always bring gear to trade with. When it was trading time, I remember going over to the picnic table and making a b line for the McCartney figure. I thought, surely there’s been some mistake? I mean, even in the 70’s I knew how rare Beatles toys were. This was made BEFORE I WAS BORN, for god’s sake! Calming down and keeping my cool, I casually held the figure in my tiny hands and asked what my cousin wanted for it. ‘Don’t show too much interest’, I thought, ‘he’s gonna go for the jugular’. I always used to have loads of extra gum cards around, for just such occasions, and the stack I brought that day was about three inches thick of all sorts of movie and tv series goodness. I held it up, like it was the Hope Diamond, and without saying a word, handed it off. “For THAT thing?”, my cousin said disdainfully, pointing to mini Macca. “Sure, it’s yours”. “Cool”, I said, and picked Paul up and walked back to where the adults were, to where I belonged that day, where my prize would be better appreciated. And where my mother’s purse was, so I could stash the figure immediately before some smart ass kid came to his senses and told my cousin that he’d been grifted. The con’s held, because Paul’s been proudly displayed in every home I’ve ever lived in. I’ve often vowed to get the other three, but somehow, it just wouldn’t be as special.
Ok, and that’s my list of five. But before I wrap things up, I’d like to add a couple of runner ups. What? What do you mean that’s cheating?? Surely you must have expected this, no? I mean, no one makes a list of ‘Best Ever’ or ‘Top Five’ without having overspill. No? Well, it’s my blog entry, so I can do what I like. So there.
DOCTOR WHO FIGURE by DENYS FISHER
Not a great figure, but the only classic DW merchandise I have, and finally getting him some 25 yeas ago was like finding Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamster ring. And yes, he’s boxed. Duh!
ALL BIF BANG POW! PROTOTYPES
Well! YOU would, wouldn’t you??
So, what does all of this prove? Nothing, really. Except that sentimental value has a strong pull. Is it wrong to be so attached to things that are, after all, replaceable material items? Would life be that different if those things were taken away from me? No, probably not. A little sadder, maybe, and I’d certainly have occasional pangs of guilt if I lost them. I mean, in the end, we’re all gonna die, and as the man always said, you can’t take it with you. But by god, I’ll make a Jim Brown-like run through the flames if I have the time. And for all the years of looking after these gems, I’d like to think they’d do the same for me.