Sunday, January 20, 2008
To paraphrase Michael Crawford, action figures are used to act out a child's own future, the figures represent them self. So why does an adult collect action figures? Is it an attempt to stay connected with their childhood? To an extent perhaps, but I don't believe anyone really wants to relive their childhood. Those who claim to actually want a "neverland" existence where they still have their acquired adult wisdom coupled with a lack of adult responsibility are essentially feeling nostalgia for a person that never was.
Is it the colorful universe that superheroes live in; where black and white questions of right and wrong are answered by larger than life heroes? Maybe, but I think it is more accurate to say there is "power" in the symbolism of comic books. The real world holds symbols in high esteem; a cross, a flag, a badge, all these and more evoke strong reactions. When someone wears a red "S" on their shirt or a green ring on their finger, they are responding to the meaning of those symbols; truth, justice, goodness, and light.
I know the symbols also represent fictional characters but I believe for the most part it's to the ideals of the characters that people are responding. Action figures are a way of bring these symbols and ideals closer to home. Sure they're fun to pose in different action stances, that's the fun of play you should never lose, but a collection of action figures is a declaration of who a person is, even those who collect entire figure runs and teams.
Different figures and characters will also communicate different traits about different people. So, what I see in one character another will respond to something else entirely. I have a Deluxe Movie version Daredevil figure, complete with pleather outfit and weaponry. Do I openly support the blind? Am I a big Affleck fan? Truth is the Matt Murdock character is Catholic, and so am I.
My Superman collection is fairly self explanatory; he is the goal to which we all reach. I have a Marvel Legends Hulk, he is my need for strength, to be able to take on the world as an unpopular underdog if need be. I have a Kingdom Come Aquaman; he is my connection to the ocean and my attempt to deal with growing older (as I've posted before). I have DC Direct's Black Adam and Captain Marvel, to be honest this is pure childhood fantasy; I was keenly aware of Captain Marvel as a child and thought no one else was.
There is also an extensive horror collection of figures but I won't focus on that here, I qualify that as the need to overcome fear and the "monsters" of the world and not an ideal in which to aspire.
As grandiose as all this sounds, a modicum of adult sensibility should be interjected. During my childhood in the eighties action figures were largely made in the 6", or near to, scale. I have bought many figures in this scale over the years, and have sold almost as much back on ebay. They are easier to come by (for the most part) and easier to let go apparently. My wife has suggested, and I have agreed to, moving on to the larger and more expensive 12-13" scale.
To be honest, the problems with this are threefold; first, I wasn't weaned on this scale so it was more of an adjustment; second, they are indeed more expensive; and three, they are almost exclusively an online purchase and thus not as easily acquired. However, as I found myself clamoring for Mattel's new DC Universe collection I realize the last thing I need is to get back in the purchase-sell routine of the past. I have drawn some conclusions and some lines in the sand.
There is no going back and while keeping to the hobbies of my youth is fine there is no reason to adhere to form those hobbies took. I also used to collect monthly books and have ceased that activity; it's time to move on. I will use the following days and weeks to thin out my "stuff" and from here on out swear off the small plastic toys of my youth for the larger plastic toys of my adulthood......more of a step sideways I suppose.