Page not found | Raving Toy Maniac

Page not found

The requested page could not be found.

John's Action Figure Column 2/29/96


    So we get back from our Florida vacation.  So my mother-in-
law calls.  So my wife is telling her about the trip, about
Western Florida, about Disney World, and about "being dragged
from one end of the state to the other into every K-Mart and TRU
and Target we could find...."
    "Target?!?"  My mother-in-law shrieks.  "I LOVE Target!  I go
to Target every day or so!"  More shrieking; it's kind of her
natural speaking voice.  She's about five feet tall (on a good
day, with heels), kind of round, has more life in her at 65 than
most thirty year olds I know, and a strength of character I can
only describe as a bona fide mutant power.  But back to our
   "...why's John dragging you to Targets?!?"
    "Well, mom," says Tracey, "he collects these toys...."  And
proceeds to explain my mania, er, hobby, to my mother-in-law, aka
her mother.  Well, to make what's guaranteed to be a long story
anyway somewhat shorter, my mother-in-law does *not* have the
expected reaction, which would be something along the lines of
"why is John wasting his time and money with that junk?!?"  Nope. 
To our collective (and collecting) surprise, my mother-in-law's
reaction is more guarded.
    "Are these toys...worth anything?" she asks.
    "Well, sure, some of them become collectibles, but John
doesn't --"
    "I'm in Target every other day!  I'm there anyway!  If he
can't find the ones he wants, LET ME LOOK FOR THEM!"  (My mother-
in-law *loves* a project).
    Tracey tries to head this one off at the proverbial pass. 
"No, mom, really, you don't want to be bothered --"
    "Don't be ridiculous!  I *love* a project!"  (See, I told
    Tracey remains firm.  "Mom, no.  There's really no need. 
John enjoys looking for these things."
    "Well, did you find any in Florida?"  (And sharp, did I
mention how sharp my mother-in-law is?)
   "Well, no."
    "Then let ME hunt for them!"
    At this point, Tracey is shooting looks at me that make Ninja
Spawn's daggers seem puny by comparison.  Me, I'm trying to look
as innocent as possible.  After all, *I* didn't say anything.
    On the other hand, I am doing a l-e-e-t-l-e thinking.  Fact: 
I have not been able to find the new Spawn figures no matter how
I try.  The toy world of San Francisco is just too competitive
(not to mention the fact that as of last weekend, when this all
went down, these toys had yet to make an appearance).
    Now, Michigan, on the other hand -- why, that's *thousands*
of miles away from the scalper/hoarder sharks of Northern
California.  And while I know there are collectors, etc., there,
and while my recent Florida experience should demonstrate that
things are pretty much the same all over, the fantasizing-portion
of my brain takes over.  Two of us looking for Spawn!  And one of
us in far-off, toy-friendly Michigan!  The wheels are spinning,
and there's a voice shrieking in my mind:  Norton, I think I know
a way we can get RICH....
    This might not be such a bad idea after all.
    Tracey is still on the phone with my potential colleague. 
And, persistent as my mother-in-law is, Tracey being her
daughter, she's managing to hold her ground.  "Mom, look.  You
are not going to do John's toy hunting for him.  It's not
necessary, and it would only get you crazy anyway."  (And for her
part, Tracey is a bit of a psychic, but I'm getting way ahead of
    "Oh, alright.  (Pause)  How was the flight home...."  Thus
their conversation continued, and if you think that was the end
of it, you're as mistaken as I was.

    About fifteen minutes later, Tracey ended the call and went
off to shower.  And about five minutes after that, the phone rang
    "John?  It's your mother-in-law!  I go to Target almost every
day!  There are five of them within ten miles of me!  I *love*
shopping!  I *love* a project!  What are these figures you
    Now, I really do know better.  I know that Tracey doesn't
want my mother-in-law, her mother, draying around Detroit and
environs, hopping from Target to Target on a wild Cy-Gor hunt in
her huge, bright yellow 1976 Cadillac (a monster of a vehicle
custom made by the "boys" on the line, for whom she used to do
the Union books, with a seat that slides wayyyy far forward so
that her somewhat diminutive legs can reach the gas pedal, and
occasionally the brake).  But at the same time, her mother is
*very* decisive, and forceful, and who am *I* to deprive the
lovely woman of a project?  Soooo, after a moment's hesitation,
and indeed a good faith effort to dissuade her ("but I go there
*anyway*," she keeps insisting), I break down.
    "The series is called 'Spawn IV,' or sometimes 'Ultra Spawn
III', only they're not the actual Spawn figures, he's someone
else..." I start saying (realizing that this couldn't be more
complicated if the CIA were in charge of distributing the
figures...which, on second thought, might actually be the case,
hmmm....), "and the figures I need are the Cy-Gor, which is like
a big gorilla with armor, and something called 'The Maxx,' which
is a big purple monster with yellow claw hands...."
    At this point, I realize how ridiculous the whole thing
sounds.  "But really, you shouldn't, you don't have to --"
    "Don't be ridiculous!  Your mother-in-law is on the case...."
    By the time Tracey is out of the shower, I'm back on-line
catching up on rtm.  I look up as she exits the bathroom.  "Hi,
sweetie!  How was your shower...."
    She squints at me while drying her hair.  "What's going on?"
Psychic, like I told you.
    "Why, nothing, honey."
    "Ralph Kramden, if this is another one of your hare-brained
    "Really, Trace, it's nothing.  It's just that, well, your
mother called back, and, well, shemademetellherwhichfiguresIwas
    Tracey stops toweling.  She tilts her head to one side and
raises one eyebrow in her best Spock imitation.  Except I'm the
one with the green complexion.  Oh boy, am I in hot water now....
    "You have a 65-year-old woman schlepping out in the SNOW to
find you action figures?!?  My mother is actually going to say
the words 'Cy-Gor' out loud to another human being?"
    "Well, actually, Tracey, it's a hyphenate, more like one
word...."  (What can I say?  I was scrambling....)
    "How COULD you?!?  How could you force her to do this?  My
mother, of all people...."
    Now, gentle readers, you were there with me (at least in
retrospect); no forcing was done, unless you count my mother-in-
law's getting the names of the figures out of me.  But Tracey
didn't exactly see it this way.  Things looked bad for our
    Thank god, my mother-in-law chose that exact moment to call
back again.  Tracey got the phone, and started insisting that she
not get involved in this, but my mother-in-law changed Tracey's
tune right quick (I *told* you, it's a mutant power).  She was
happy to do it, she was there every couple of days anyway,
scoping out electronics (don't ask, really), and -- everybody now
-- she *loves* a project.  After a few minutes of this, Tracey
became a convert to the Greater Detroit Cy-Gor Hunt.  And that
was the start of that.
   Now, mind you, I adore my mother-in-law.  Always have.  Truly. 
I know, it doesn't fit the stereotype, but what can I say?  Even
before she signed on as Our Spawn Hunter In The Field, we always
got along beautifully.  Of course, this brought us even closer

    About two days later, we're eating dinner when the phone
rings.  It's my mother-in-law.  And she's...not happy.  Tracey
takes the call, but as I noted above, my mother-in-law's voice is
rather powerful, and I could hear both sides of the conversation
without straining at all.
    "What kind of meshuginah wild goose chase have you set me
on?!?  I went to every Target within twenty miles of Detroit and
none of them have those crazy figures!"
    My mother-in-law proceeds to tell a story of her
peregrinations from Target to Target (and Target to Target, and
then some) in search of Spawn IV.
    At first, it's fun.  Exciting.  She rushes to the toy aisle
in the first Target, but no Spawns.  No problem -- there's more
than one place to skin an ape -- or something like that.
    And on to the second Target.  Same story -- or lack of story.
    And a third.  And a fourth.  A fifth.
    And the snow keeps falling.  And my mother-in-law keeps
moving, heading that boat of a cadillac down the highway, always
onward -- Neal Cassady would have been proud.
    At some indeterminate point in the late afternoon, at some
indeterminate Target, she encounters two young men she describes
as "biker types."  Big black boots, leather jackets, big guys,
tough looking.  My mother-in-law isn't the least bit scared
(though if either of those plucky lads had happened to have a Cy-
Gor in his hands, I wouldn't have given you odds on his walking
out of the Target with it, or with his leather and boots intact). 
And for their part, they think it's hysterical that she's there,
giving the clerk the third-degree.  They get closer, and then
    "Hey, lady -- whatcha looking for?"
    "Spawn IV."
    They eye one another suspiciously.  "Which figures?"
    "The big monkey -- and the purple monster."
    "Are...are you a dealer?"  Could this be what dealers truly
look like?  They exchange another wary glance.  "Incredulous" is
probably not too strong a word for their thoughts.
    "No!  My son-in-law collects them, and he can't find these
    The bikers relax, smile, and start talking excitedly.  "We've
been hunting for those figures all day!  Can't find them
anywhere.  We came down from Flint, hittin' every store we could
find.  Where have you looked?"
    After she tells them, they let out a mutual whistle.  "Lady -
- you're covering more ground than WE are!"
    They share a hearty laugh, and then continue.  "But you're
*never* gonna find those figures...."
    And that was the exact moment mother-in-law gave up the hunt. 
And she didn't say so, but I have a feeling she and the bikers
all headed off together for a tall, cold one, together to assuage
their unrequited yearning for big monkeys, and purple monsters. 
Probably on her dime.  She's like that....  (And I bet she could
out-drink those guys, too, but that's definitely another story).
    The upshot was, she told us, she emerged from the experience
frustrated, angry and enormously disappointed.  All her early
excitement had gone sour and turned to dismay.  No enthusiasm
remained.  And all after one day's trying.  I leapt in to the
    "That's *exactly* what it's like for me!  In one day you've
had the entire range of experience I've gone through over these
things in the last month!"  (What can I say?  Her emphatic nature
is, well, contagious.  Don't worry; I get the exclamation points
wholesale, along with the ellipses....).
    The discussion continued, but the bottom line was, my mother-
in-law is out of the Spawn-hunting business.  Just too much
strain.  And I think the bikers are calling it quits as well.
    Which set me to thinking:  maybe it was time to throw in the
panties, er, towel.  Leave the shortpacks to the pros and content
myself with finding things a little less, well, maddening.  You
know, limit the hunt to one day a week, one or two stores, and
content myself with whatever turns up.
    It's a thought, anyway.

    It wasn't three days later that I found myself ignoring all
such thoughts of surrender.  I'd had a feeling that Spawn IV just
*had* to be arriving in San Francisco, and had spent my afternoon
break calling all the local TRUs to see if anything new was in. 
I'd made the rounds Monday, and it was only Wednesday, but
something inside me clamored for an update.
    "TRU Geary Street, Virginia speaking; how can I direct your
    "Have the new Spawn figures come in at --"
    "All sold out.  Two cases sold in about an hour this morning. 
Sorry."  Thud.
    Another glance at the rolodex, another call.
    "TRU Harrison Street, Virginia speaking; how can I direct
your call?"
    "Did you happen to get in any new Spawn figures since --"
    "All sold out, sorry.  Oh, I think we have a She-Spawn, and
one of those runty little clowns...."  Ker-plunk.
    Now I was getting a little frantic.  Time to pull out my ace-
in-the-hole, such as it is.
    "TRU in Secret Location, Fabio speaking.  How can I direct
your call?"
    "Fabio???"  Despite my agenda, I was nonplussed.
    "Virginia's on a break.  How may I direct your call?"
    "Oh.  Uh, I'm calling to see if you've got in any new Spawn
    "Spawn figures?  I think so.  Yeah, we got 'em, tons of 'em. 
What are you looking for?"
    My heart was pounding in my chest.  "Are you sure we're
talking about Spawn figures?  New Spawn figures?"
    "Yeah, $7.99 each, we got tons of 'em.  Which one do you
    "Uh, the big ape, the Gorilla...."
    "Let me check...," he must have had one of those headsets,
because he didn't put me on hold, and I heard him a moment later. 
"Yep, $7.99, I got plenty."
    Plenty?  Of the Cy-Gor?  That made no sense.  "Look, are you
sure you have more than one?  Of the Gorilla?  They're packed
one-per-case, completely sold out in the city...."
    "Sir, I have a bunch of them.  $7.99."
    Think fast, John; even if Fabio's got a few now, they surely
won't last very long.  "Well, I've tried three of your other
stores and they're all sold out of these figures; would you be
willing to hold one for me?"
    "Sir, we have a *lot* of these; I'm sure they won't sell out
any time soon...."
    This guy was obviously new, and didn't understand the demand. 
Couldn't understand.  Let's face it:  until you're in the thick
of trying to out-second-guess the scalping hordes on Mad Todd's
distribution strategies, you just can't comprehend the lunacy of
the whole situation.  Then again...could they have gotten in 20
cases or something?  Was it possible?  "Listen, I'd really
appreciate it if you could hang onto one for me, you know, put it
    "Well, I guess so.  Until we close."  Ahhh!  Success!  I gave
Fabio my name, told him to give my regards to Virginia, and began
to panic.
    What if I got there too late?  I work a 12-hour day, and
would be cutting it a bit close trying to go home, eat, and then
get up there by 9:30.  I paced in circles for a while, and then
called Tracey.
    "Honey, I'm taking you out to dinner tonight!"
    Did I mention that she is psychic?  I heard a sigh.  "Where
did you find the Cy-Gors, John?"
    I didn't miss a beat -- you get used to this sort of thing. 
"At one of the TRUs.  They'll hold it for me through tonight. 
Can we get up there by 9:30?"
    "I don't see how.  And I've already got dinner going."  This,
after herself working a ten-hour day.  "Why don't you leave work
    Psychic, *and* brilliant.  Here was the answer!
    "Great idea, my love!  I'll be home by 8:00 and we can have
dinner then -- no later than we would normally."
    "Okay....see you later."  A sublime combination of
resignation and tolerance packed into those few syllables, topped
by the head-shaking and eye-rolling I could hear (yes, actually
hear) going on behind them.
    And with that, I shifted into fast motion.  I typed out a
last-minute one-hour vacation request, submitted same, checked
the workload on both floors, logged out, found Jeff, told him of
my good fortune, asked which figures he'd want if I could find
any dupes, got his answer, notified the night people that I had a
personal emergency (well, what would YOU call it?) and raced out
into the night.
    I don't think I injured anyone on my drive out there.  I also
don't think the wheels touched the ground more than five or six
times.  It felt like I was moving the car along by will power
alone.  Had I a power battery, I could have beaten Sinestro with
one lobe tied behind my skull.
    As fast as I was going, it seemed to take forever to get
there.  I think I must have started hitting relativistic effects. 
Everything inside the car started slowing down, the voices on the
radio doppler-shifting into basso profundo (and you haven't lived
until you've heard the incomparable Alannis Morissette singing
"You Ought To Know" in a voice one register lower than
Leadbelly's).  Would I ever get there?
    Finally, finally, the TRU loomed before me.  I slammed on the
brakes, turned off the ignition, leaped out of the car, stomped
out the flames behind each wheel, and raced into the land of
    ...or rather, nightmares.  I ran to the action figure aisle,
my footspeed causing my tie to fly out parallel to the ground
behind me.  No Spawn figures.  That is, no *new* Spawn figures. 
Oh, well, lots of Youngbloods, lots of Clown I's, lots of Curses
(oh boy, *lots* of curses, but things were just starting).  I
moved forward to the customer service counter, a perfectly
horrible doubt beginning to form in my mind.  But perhaps, the
delicate touch of reason feathered my mind, perhaps the others
had all just sold out -- foolish clerk -- and my Cy-Gor was the
only one remaining.
    There was a young lady standing behind the counter.  "Can I
help you?"
    Breathlessly, I explained.  Called all stores...all sold
out...can't find Spawn...called here (I must have sounded like
William Shatner, gnawing the scenery at the climax of any of a
dozen Star Trek episodes), holding one for me...must
    Smiling indulgently, she asked my name, then looked below the
counter.  "Oh yes, here it is...."  The blood soaring in my veins--
    And she pulled out a $7.99 Godzilla figure with my name on
    I got very cold, all of a sudden, and everything started to
seem dreamy.  Of course it was a Godzilla figure.  That explained
the absence of any other Spawn IV figures -- there *were* no
Spawn IV figures here, never had been.
    As it turned out, this was indeed the case.  Fabio, while
meaning well, had misunderstood.  Sure -- my diction is always
awful.  Anyone hearing me say "Gorilla" would think "Godzilla." 
Happens all the time.  I go to the zoo, ask about the gorillas,
they tell me, c'mon, pal, Godzilla's just a movie monster, we
don't have no Godzilla habitat....
    You know what?  I couldn't get angry.  Disappointed, sure. 
Shamed, for my mania, dismayed at my luck, but angry?  Nah.  The
whole thing made too much sense.  And had overtones of the
hubris-nemesis dynamic.  "Look, let me call Fabio over, see if we
can find what you're looking for...."
    But we all know what I was looking for would not be found. 
And we're right -- they had not gotten the Spawn IV figures at
all.  And Fabio, when he came over, turned out to be very young,
very sweet, very eager...just not very, well, let's say
"precise."  And let it go at that.
    I walked out feeling awfully stupid.  I knew just how my
mother-in-law had felt the other night, how all too many of us
feel in this Todd-created economy of scarcity.
    And feeling that much closer to drawing a new line of toy
trip limits.
    That, or a standard prescription for Thorazine.
Copyright (c) 1996 by John Gersten. All rights reserved.

Comments? Drop me a line....
Return to John's Action Figure Column Home Page