December 11, 2008

I think its safe to assume that most of us here relate pretty well with kids. So its fairly typical that I’ve got a good rapport with my employer’s son, age 5, who we’ll call D.E. Whenever D.E. comes to the office we spend time talking about comic books, cartoons, super heroes, toys, and whatever figures I happen to have at my desk. D.E. loves these things in a way that gives older geeks like me hope for the future. Recently, D.E. was named star student of the week in his kindergarten class and, as such, was allowed to invite a special guest to come in as a kind of super-show-n-tell. D.E. asked his parents if "Dan the Collector" would be available. I cleared my schedule.


Yes, it was kindergartners but we still felt it necessary to create a PowerPoint presentation. I mean, kids now-a-days are pretty savvy. I started out by asking if anyone could guess what I collect. One answered: "toys." Not specific enough. Another guessed: "good guys and bad guys." That was a pretty good answer. I launched into this first series of slides. As each of the action figure examples came up I would say: "This is an example of an action figure." The kids yelled out who it was or what it was from: "Star Wars!" "Wonder Woman!" "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!" When we got to the Cabbage Patch Doll the room went awkwardly silent. "That . . . is definitely NOT an action figure," I said. They laughed.


Well, the kids were interested now. I failed to realize, however, that the rapt attention of a 5 year old is a fleeting thing. I ploughed ahead with the presentation.


Next I narrowed down what, exactly, "Dan the Collector" actually collects. When I showed the vintage Star Wars figures slide I made a point of telling them that these were the very figures I played with when I was their age. During the last 3 slides I said: "I collect old action figures, funny action figures, and action figures with lots of muscles!"


Now D.E. likes lots of things but he can be pretty partial to super heroes, especially the Justice League. A few weeks ago he came to the office with a collection of Johnny DC Justice League comics he got from the library. Out of all the characters in those comics he was only having trouble identifying one: "the guy who smiles all the time." He rifled through the pages and found the hero in question: the Creeper. Anyway, when we got to the slide of the Justice League figures, D.E. went up to the screen and rattled off the names in seconds.

I wrapped up the slide presentation with some questions. I asked: "What is the first thing you do when you get a new toy?" I was expecting someone to say: "open it." But a cute little girl raised her hand with a better answer: "Thank your parents."



After the slides I pulled out a couple visual aids. I pointed to the Spiderman face on my shirt and asked if anyone knew who he was. They all did. I asked if anyone has a Spiderman toy. Most did. So I told them when I was their age there wasn’t many choices if you wanted a Spiderman action figure. We then passed around my old MEGO Comic Action Hero Spiderman, one of the oldest toys I still have from my childhood.


The luster of this 30 year old action figure hasn’t worn off.

As I reached into my bag I commented: "Some action figures are really big," and pulled out a Lord of the Rings Treebeard. Then I pulled out a MEGO Eagle Force Turk figure as a comparison and said: "and some action figures are really small." I brought this years MOTUC San Diego exclusive King Greyskull and told them that sometimes toy companies make figures especially for collectors. King Greyskull wasn’t exactly going to be a "hands-on" visual aid. You try telling that to a mob of kindergartners. This is where I lost all control.


I wanted to say a little something at the end like a G.I. Joe public service announcement. I had this prepared:

"Even though I have collected a lot of action figures I have learned that just HAVING lots of toys is not important, and HAVING a lot of toys is not what will make you happy. What is important is appreciating the things you do have. If your friend has ten toys and you only have one – enjoy the one. Be thankful for the one. OK?"

But, alas, it was the end of the day on a Friday and toys were passed around. A mere mortal can not overcome that kind of mayhem. They’ll just have to learn that lesson the hard way!

Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.





  • bambam says:

    Dan, you spoiled these kids with a PowerPoint presentation. 😉 I remember when a overhead projector starting displacing blackboards as a classroom… gosh, I feel old. Great blog, anyway.

  • bnjmnrlyr says:

    I still use overheads when I teach instead of powerpoint. Although I may be getting a smartboard soon so that will jsut throw everythign else out the window ….

    But I agree, those kids were extremely lucky to have a visitor like you. When my art students find out we will be wroking on toys they jsut seem to groan. Ah, high schoolers….

  • j1h15233 says:

    Great blog! And bnjmnrlyr, an art class with toys? I would have taken that every year!

  • Chip Cataldo says:

    Dan, I really enjoyed this read. It’s a great thing you’ve done, and I wish all of us had that type of opportunity. Great work!



  • Daniel Pickett JuliusMarx says:

    This blog is every kind of awesome! Thanks for posting.

  • Hourman says:

    (a) that was adorably cute
    (b) I have that t-shirt
    (c) anybody with a collection of Mattel Flash Gordon action figures needs to be my friend.
    Can we be friends, Dan?

  • Brian MIller says:

    Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

    Go Joe… err, Dan!

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Too cute for words, Dan. It’s a great thing that you did for these kids. Beautiful article!

    The sight of a child in 2008 holding a 70’s Comic Action Spidey is simply priceless.

  • The Superfly says:

    haha this was awesome, nice work D! Can you come to my office and do the same presentation?

  • Scott Rogers Scott Rogers says:

    Fantastic presentation and a good message at the end.

    You could also do a “scared straight” version for when they’re older and talk about the horrors of scalpers, storage unit costs and the dangers of compulsive buying! 🙂

  • Dusty says:

    Freaking awesome Dude! You’re a good man, I would have killed for a show and tell like that back when I was in Kindergarten, Nice job on the presentation, I can tell from the pics that the kids were satisfied, 🙂


  • UncleMarsellus says:

    You. Rock. This whole post fills me with Yoda-like warm feelings.

    Good work!

  • Arsenio3 says:

    “What is the first thing you do when you get a new toy?” I was expecting someone to say: “open it.” But a cute little girl raised her hand with a better answer: “Thank your parents.”

    That is the sweetest thing ever.

  • Robiwan says:

    Fun stuff! Teach them well and let them lead the way…..


  • Hourman says:

    By the way, why are the kids all throwing gang signs in that pic toward the end?

  • Jim Abell says:

    Great story! You should really post the whole Power Point file for those of us who weren’t lucky enough to attend… >_>

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