As I think I’ve made abundantly clear on this site, I collect action figures. I started doing so as a wee tyke, beginning with a little plastic totem of Mighty Mouse, then on into He-Man, Star Wars and the original Transformers and finally Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After TMNT, I had a brief period where I read comics and bought a few figures; then a Transformers renaissance in which I produced a fan fiction novel; and then the money that had been previously funneled into action figures was redirected to Magic: the Gathering for most of my high school career.
In my freshman year of college, for whatever reason, I started buying action figures again. At the time it didn’t seem that strange to me–after all, I’d been buying toys all my life–but in retrospect, that was obviously a turning point. I had become an adult (more or less), but I still wanted toys. And yes, I’ve had a few of the more grown-up toys over the years, such as videogames and Ipods and PCs and such, but I still spend a good amount of my income on little plastic men.
Why? I have no idea.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the epic storylines I created with my toys back in the day were my earliest attempts at writing, and even today I think the way I write is largely a form of play. With that idea in mind, I eventually came up with my idea of the perfect action figure line.
My inspiration for this idea was a little guy called Weed Killer from an action figure line based on the short-lived Swamp Thing cartoon. To my knowledge, Weed Killer was created for the show/toyline and had no history in the DC comic. I had a very brief interest in the cartoon and line when it came out, but soon tossed my Swamp Thing figure aside. Weed Killer, however, I found fascinating. I knew nothing about him, so I was free to imagine whatever background for him I wanted. He was like some weird mutant janitor. In any event, Weed Killer became a henchman to whatever villain I happened to be playing with that day. Over time he fought the Ninja Turtles, Robocop, Wolverine, and I think Bart Simpson.
My ideal action figure line would feature six-inch, well-sculpted, highly-articulated characters from all sorts of genres: robots, spacemen, aliens, cowboys, superheroes, cops, spies, wizards, trolls, mobsters, soldiers, and so forth. But here’s the thing: none of them would have bio cards or even names. It would be entirely up to the child (or collector) to create the character.
Sadly, it seems that today the costs of creating a highly-articulated, six-inch action figure line are too high to risk on an unproven or original property. Without at least a cartoon to back it up, a toy line usually doesn’t stand a chance these days (or at the very least, toy companies aren’t willing to risk it). So almost all action figure lines are based on licensed characters from cartoons, comic books, or movies.
The new line I’d like to plug, Legendary Comic Book Heroes, is no exception. The characters are all based on independent comic books (that is, comics that aren’t published by Marvel or DC). So yes, these characters all have names and histories. But aside from that, LCBH certainly looks like my ideal toy line.
Unlike Marvel Legends or DC Universe, these “comic book heroes” aren’t just your typical spandex-wearing superhero types. The capes are well-represented by the likes of Madman, the Savage Dragon and SuperPatriot. But you’ve also got Judge Dredd, a science fiction character if I ever saw one; Witchblade and the Darkness, who are as much fantasy/horror characters as they are superheroes; Marv from Sin City, a gritty pulp noir; and Conan the barbarian, one of the best-known fantasy characters of all time.
And these are great toys, excellently sculpted, well-engineered and highly articulated. I bought [correction: got, via some very generous parties who may or may not be related to me] the entire first wave; each one comes with a piece of a much larger character, Pitt. Once you’ve got all the pieces, you can just snap him together (Marvel Toys invented this idea back when they were still making Marvel Legends under the name Toy Biz; previous Build-A-Figures [BAFs] include Galactus and a Sentinel from X-Men).
Okay, so a few of these characters had their halcyon days back in 1992, particularly Ripclaw and Pitt. But Judge Dredd, Sin City, and the Savage Dragon have all had their own toy lines over the years. Madman is a great, popular indie comic. And Conan is huge right now, with a popular comic and a slew of videogames and films on the way.
But what I love most about the line is the way it gives us all these characters in the same scale. I’ve always loved being able to display figures from one line next to another. Now, thanks to Marvel Legends, DC Universe Classics and Legendary Heroes, I can display Wolverine, Batman and Marv next to one another. Though I’m not sure what they’d have to say to one another…