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John's Action Figure Column 12/05/96


     I've seen the Marvel/Toy Biz "Heavy Hitter" figures for
several weeks now.  They just didn't, uh, strike me as
particularly appealing, and so I never really gave them a second
glance.  Oh, I don't mind Toy Biz making some toys that are first
and only-most for kids; they just didn't pique my questionably
adult fancy.
     So it wasn't until Tracey and I chanced upon a television
advertisement for the Heavy Hitters that the wheels in my head
began to spin (it's a faulty old action feature, but if you whack
it just right sometimes sparks start flying).  Actually, and to
be fair, it was Tracey's sagacious comment that started things
rolling -- watching two kids coming to blows in effigy with Heavy
Hitter Spider-Man and Heavy Hitter Wolverine, she asked, "do they
always only have heroes fighting heroes?  What about all those
villains that can be so hard to find?"
     What indeed.  So there I am staring at Spider-Man kicking
Wolverine, Wolverine swinging those lethal adamantium claws at
Spider-Man (and look, despite Toy Biz' sculptors' best efforts,
the fighting style still looks like Lou Costello vs. Stinky, just
with more colorful costumes), and I realize that something just
ain't right.  (As an aside, does anyone else get a silly kick out
of the package copy every time Toy Biz bills a Wolverine as
having "adamantium claws?"  They do that with the "Weapon X
Adamantium Skeleton chamber" playset, which contains "enough for
10 adamantium skeletons," hee hee hee....).
     Look, it doesn't take a moralist with a Ph.D to figure out
that _heroes_ should fight _villains_.  Oh, sure, Marvel in
particular of all the 60s and 70s comic companies had their
heroes duking it out "by mistake" with unwavering regularity, but
those battles were mostly for comic relief.  And even when they
were more serious, and not just predicated upon impersonators
snarling things up, it was usually Hero X (or Hero Team X) versus
the Hulk, the big green misunderstood animus incarnate of
civilization's collective ego.  (That Stan Lee, wotta
     Oh, sure, nowadays _Image_ heroes (and their creators) fight
each other far more often than they battle anything so pedestrian
as _villains_, but for one thing, I didn't grow up loving Image
heroes (putting aside the question of functional impossibility
there), and for another, the few companies that manufacture
Image-based heroes aren't making "Big Shots" or "Heavy Hitter"
type toys.
     Okay, I know it's just a sop for the kiddies, but would it
have _killed_ Toy Biz to make an Abomination for the Hulk to kick
and pinch?  A Magneto for Wolvie to tussle with?  A Sandman for
Spidey to attack?  ("Hey, you kicked sand in my face, fella....")
     No, we get only "Hero Battles Hero."  I mean, what's the

THE THING:  Here I am, mindin' my own business, waitin' in line
            at Walgreen's, just trying ta pick up Alicia's birth
            control prescription, and along comes that Spider-Man
            jerk, cuttin' in front of me whinin' about some heart
            pills fer "Aunt May!"  Well, I had enuf a'
            little lady's waitin' out, Spider-punk, it's
            pesticide time!

Or maybe

THE HULK:   Hulk am usually as friendly as the next big lug, but
            Hulk not like feeling little kid's fingers in Hulk's
            back... Hulk not know where those fingers have
            been... Hulk must smash nearest figure with some
            other kid's messy fingers in its back, no matter who
            figure is...

            ...then Hulk smash little kid....

And c'mon, Toy Biz, of all heroes to include in such a set --
Wolverine?!?  I know he's the kiddies' favorite (and the
significance behind _that_ little piece o' modern psychoto-drama
could fill several columns all by itself), and has been
bowdlerized significantly for the tv set, but even so, the guy's
a wanton, vicious, irrepressible, sociopathic _killer_!  It's his
glory and his signature, his freakin' _nature_ -- hardly fodder
for sleepover fisticuffs and the honorable combat of playroom
sweet science.
     I think Toy Biz really missed a bet here.  After all, Marvel
has lots of heroes who wear team costumes -- the Fantastic Four
and the X-Men come immediately to mind.  And even if Colossus and
the Thing, for instance, wouldn't quite fit the mold, it would
have been, uh, child's play to design "Heavy Hitters" with
generic X-Men and FF costumes, and then just give them
interchangeable heads (a la the Chameleon, or Morph).  Voila --
two-in-one (or five-in-one) combatants!  Your blue and white FF
uniform could be Mr. Fantastic or the Human Torch (hey, add
falsies and you've got the Invisible Woman as well)!  That blue
and yellow figure could be Cyclops, or -- pop out that head --
Wolverine!  Pop it out again, and boom, you've got Gambit!  Or
the Original Beast!  Forge!  Cannonball!  Heck, if you make a
villain head for Morph and Chameleon, or even the Super-Skrull or
the Super-Adaptoid, you can sell a hero that's instantly a
villain as well!  It's a no-brainer (yeah, exactly).
     I just don't see the extended play value in Wolverine and
Spider-Man having a perpetual boxing match, even a kick-boxing
match.  Besides, in real life, Spider-Sense or no Spider-Sense, I
expect the battle would be all-too brief:

     "Spider-Man leaps in to stop Wolverine from buying the last
ticket to 'Showgirls,' and Wolverine reacts with a feral snarl
and the popping of his claws.  As Spider-Man flips his wrists to
let fly a senses-shattering cage of webbing...Wolverine reaches
in unpredictably with all the savagery of his namesake...
     "...and slices Spider-Man's head off.
     "Well, folks, thanks for comin' to the Garden, please don't
hurt yourselves on the way out...."

     Which leaves me with only one option:  buy two Wolverines,
and have the "parallel universe" slasher fight to end all slasher
     But that gets boring so quickly....

     I saw it, with my own two eyes.  Just the other day.  And it
was before me, plain as sunlight, incontestable, unavoidable. 
Praise Todd and pass the ammunition, for the apocalypse is nigh
upon us... was just a short one-card ad on the television -- you
know, that part of the news toward the end where they display
"Community Service" messages.  I looked up from my December
Tomart's and my blood chilled as I saw the fateful words on the

          Collecting Action Figures: A Public Workshop
        How to find, collect, and preserve action figures
                  San Francisco Public Library
                Saturday, December 7th, 1:00 p.m.

It couldn't be...but it _was_.  No joke -- it's the end of life
as we know it.
     My pulse raced as my mind whirled.  Who could be presenting
this?  And _why_?  Was it some covert profiteer hoping Fagen-
like to create an army of unwitting young providers?  Or some
well-meaning collector, thoughtlessly seeking to share her hobby,
only to add insult to the ongoing injury of this over-collector-
populated area?  Whatever the explanation, there was no way I
could convince myself this was a good thing.
     Shaking my head (and murmuring, but the wife's used to that
by now) I turned off the television and went out to the deck to
look out toward the ocean.
     After all, someone's got to be the first to see that dragon
coming up out of the sea....

     Well, I don't get regular newspaper delivery (who's got the
time, and, frankly, who isn't depressed enough without it?), but
I chanced upon the following articlets in the post-Thanksgiving
trash downstairs and thought they might be worth sharing.  Due to
their deteriorated condition, I'm afraid I cannot quote the
sources; there was just too much dried up sweet potato mash and
drippy cranberry sauce to glimpse much more than a few
tantalizing snatches of remarkable information....
     Don't fret overmuch about reality.  Think of them as
"verisimilitude lite."

     Plymouth, Michigan, Dec. 1, 1996
     Well, toy fans, you'll finally get a chance to see "Oscar
The Grouch" as he was meant to be, in all his gory glory!  Yes,
it's true, in a valiant attempt to diversify its productions,
McFarlane Toys announced today that a heated bidding war for the
merchandising rights to the much-loved Sesame Street characters
had gone its way.  The company plans a line of toys under the
"Sesame Alley" imprint -- Watch out, Sam and Twitch:  Bloody Bert
and Eviscerated Ernie are comin' at ya!
     McFarlane Toys spokesspawn Chet "I Love Five" Jacques
explained the method behind the madness.  "Kids today are more
sophisticated then their parents were.  Given what they see all
around them on television and in the movies, you can't blame them
for wanting to cuddle up with The Freak or Gore.  So 'Splatter Me
Elmo!' should come as no surprise.  We expect it to be big with
     Other projected Sesame Alley toys include Big Bird Spawn and
Snuffakidagus, as well as a "When Consonants Go Bad" Playset
predicated upon a horrible four-character tragedy:  When the
numbers Three and Five are slain in a bizarre ritual killing, the
letters "I" and "U" are suspected of vowel play....
     Expect these toys to receive a heavy push at Toy Fair '97,
with shipping to commence around Summer.

     Cincinnati, Ohio, Nov. 29, 1996
     Spokesdrones at Kenner announced today that in an attempt to
spark some excitement, the two divisions which oversee the Star
Wars license and Batman: The Animated Series toys respectively
are *switching* offices and lines.  This unprecedented transfer
of personnel is expected to have big ramifications for the toy
     Toy lovers can now expect an outpouring of more than 200
obscure characters from various properties in the Batman mythos,
from Aunt Harriet to Bat-Mite to the Blockbuster, while the Star
Wars license will from here on out consist of multicolored
variants of Luke, Han and R2D2.  Darth Vader will never be
manufactured again, nor should consumers expect to see any
figures based on Imperial characters ever again.  "The kids just
don't like 'em," said marketing vp Ima Putz.

     New York, NY, Dec. 1, 1996
     Industry pundits were shaken up today when Toy Biz announced
the creation of an offshoot company that will market "adult" toys
for "adult" collectors.  Following on the unprecedented success
of outrageously overproportioned female action figures, "Joy Biz"
is being financed by a capitalization of nearly $500 million
(purported to be the revenues from sales of She-Hulk and Black
Cat figures alone).  The company will manufacture clothing-
optional toys and toys with a level of sculpting unimaginable in
today's market.
     To put it mildly, this is *not* your father's Spider-Man. 
"Our slogan is 'anatomically correct...but not politically
correct,'" joked spokespimp Harry Hardon.
     Figures are expected to range in size from 5" to 62" and
specific action features "have yet to be determined.  But we're
working on all kinds of interesting things...."
     Holly Erdendau, President of Mothers Against Denuded Dolls,
said, "We shall fight them on the she's...we shall fight them on
the bitches, we shall fight on the glanding grounds, we shall
fight in the feels and in the sheets, we shall fight in the
frills; we shall never surrender."
     Ms. Erdendau's psychotherapist could not be reached for
     Joy Biz products are expected to hit the sheets, er,
streets, just before Valentine's day 1998.

     Don't trust everything you read, folks.  Then again, don't
read only things you trust.  Actually, forget both of those
     Just read.
     And I'll see you on the other side.
Copyright (c) 1996 by John Gersten. All rights reserved.

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