While I always have the best intentions to post more frequently, I do have to admit that this will probably be the last of the batch of 5 posts for 2018. Hope springs eternal, but the academic year is filled with exciting research and writing, conference attendance, teaching, and other professional projects. Also, my daughter is now 3 years old, taller than ever, absolutely infatuated with He-Man and MOTU, and most of my free time is now devoted to watching He-Man with her and building Castle Grayskull out of playdough.
Also, we are embarking on a cross-state move in just a few short days. What this means is that the Library of Babel of Action Figures (the enormous Expedit) is no more.
It is hard to imagine, but approximately 35 plastic bins of action figures (labeled “figs, basement”) will soon be headed down the interstate toward our brand new home. While we are overjoyed with the new house, new town, and new job, this feels like the end of an era.
What is worse is that for the foreseeable future (until we can one day finish the basement,) there is no clear place for the Expedit. There is not clear place for the Shelves of Babel, with their complicated flying scenes.
This does not mean it is the end of “action figures my husband collects,” because it will MOST CERTAINLY not be the end of the action figures my husband collects, but it will be a really big change.
As much as I have joked, teased, and harassed Justin for carpeting the walls of our bedroom in thousands of action figures, (all of which seem to watch us while we sleep!) a larger part of me is sad. I will truly miss the Expedit.
However, I have to imagine that just like Cthulhu (Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming,”) the Expedit will rise up from its disassembled pile and rule our rooms again.
Until that time, I hope you will look forward to singular action figures peeking out from the nooks and crannies of our new house, on stairs, on bookshelves, and posed against small appliances. Though I’d never admit it to Justin, I know I will look forward to it, too!
Although I have made many posts about the Alien figures in my husband’s collection, they never cease to amaze me.
For instance, this is a really big Alien:
The photo quality is kind of bad here, and the scale is a bit harder to see, but if you remember the aliens from previous posts (such as An Alien and A Predator and An Alien Exercise), the Alien figures in the foreground are already big, so this Alien is REALLY big. In fact, her little spiny antennae-like things at the back of her head caused me to do a double take. (This display is from the top of the Expedit and I thought a real bug was hiding behind the action figures.) (Also, that is not so weird since we had some extremely smart roaches in our past apartment in Raleigh.)
I think this figure must be the Alien Mother. (I know true collectors and movie fans will know for sure.) Much has been written about Alien and the Monsterous, Othered mother and even the role of motherhood for Ripley, but as a still relatively new mother myself, I think what is striking is not so much the aspects of the grotesque (though I did think it was a real, legit bug,) but just the sense of size– the sublime. In the previous post I noted how scale plays out in my husband’s sense of care for the art of collecting and arranging action figures, but I also appreciate how action figures can confront us with a sense of the sublime in their scale relative to us (as opposed to each other.)
My impression of this figure is that motherhood is simply, overwhelmingly large. Also, this may not even be the Alien Mother after all.
In the last post I thought a bit about how the performance of care enters into collecting action figures in the way that my husband collects. I don’t think anything exemplifies that sense of care and arrangement more than . . . ACTION FIGURE ARCADE:
I have no idea who that red suited guy is, but he is enjoying the most perfect and lovingly scaled little action figure arcade. To the side are red vinyl seats and a chrome table, just like you would expect in a bar-cade. For my husband arranging this block of the Expedit was all about the accomplishments of getting the scale correct. I imagine this is how miniaturists feel when completing a room or diorama.
Also, this is like the cleanest arcade floor I have ever seen.
Also, also, I wish I could remember who the guy in the red suit is.
Somewhere in a block of the Expedit nearby is this scene:
If you remember Ed-209 (and all the other action figures I would rather have than Ed-209– see E290,) here Ed-209 appears to be joined by a bunch of other metallic guys, like Robocop, the Terminator with and without skin, and Rambo. Also, maybe that robot from Futurama? It doesn’t look like him, but maybe.
What I like about this setup is that like the previous “ready to go” figures there is a sense of coherence, dramatic action, and maybe a theme, but this also follows a kind of grey and silver color scheme. These silver figures feel much more serious in their monochromatic corporate greys, even as their movies critique some aspects of corporate culture.
This brings me back to a perennial question, perhaps THE only question, about why my husband collects action figures. Though many of my blog posts have been concerned with memory, nostalgia, and childhood, I also know there is the careful concern of the adult world that enters into collecting, as much as there is a childlike joy and delight in unboxing a figure and getting it “ready to go.” In other words, adult people collect action figures for many different reasons. For many it is simply an investment, for others they are curators or archivists of different lines, franchises, or collections.
My husband certainly appreciates those forms of collecting, but I wouldn’t say he is driven by any of those impulses primarily. Unboxing figures decreases their value, and my husband has never been a completist, looking for every figure in a line. However, in looking at Ed-209 looming behind the shoulder of Robocop, there is also something not childlike, not nostalgic, but plagued by the care for the art of action figures. The care of “getting something just right.” It isn’t just about the sculpt or the points of articulation or the pose, (getting the figures away from “vanilla poses” like the heroic stance with arms to the side and down.) Instead, there is a kind of celebration for detail, complexity, and a meticulous performance of care itself. When I think of Justin’s collection, it isn’t a set of figures boxed and catalogued or preserved, but a set of figures arranged, in thoughtful, expressive, communicative detail. Even if no one is looking, listening, or paying attention.
After over a year of time dedicated pretty much solely to research, teaching, service, and parenting, I thought it would be fitting to make another semi-annual batch of blog posts.
It has not escaped pretty much anyone’s notice that many things have happened in the past year. Yet, or maybe because of this, my husband’s action figure collecting continues to seemingly center on 80s nostalgia. While the Netflix miniseries The Toys that Made Us and my daughter’s increasing love of He-Man, Skeletor, Battlecat, and everything MOTU has inescapably made me more knowledgeable, I will continue along the vein of half-truths in wondering about the action figures my husband collects. (But seriously, I can now recite the main Skeletor henchmen, like Evilyne, Beastman, Merman, and Trap Jaw.)
The first action figure I noticed is a tribute piece for Rowdy Roddy Piper and a block of the “Library of Babel of Action Figures” seemingly devoted to the 80s.
Here Roddy Piper is surrounded by Andre the Giant, another Roddy Piper, Superman, and drunk E.T. In the background I imagine Optimus Prime offers a comforting form. (I have been told MANY times what make and model this Optimus Prime is, but I cannot remember.) Beyond being able to identify these characters and real-life folks, I’m not exactly sure the significance of this block.
Also, to the best of my knowledge my husband has no action figures for Roddy Piper in They Live, complete with sunglasses and chewing gum, and none of the figures of the creatures hiding as people. I think this definitely represents a missed opportunity Neca, Four Horsemen, or whatever.