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John's Action Figure Column 04/10/97


     You've probably heard the expression "a Pride of Lions," or
maybe "a Gaggle of Geese."  Those are collective figures of
speech, terms that refer to groups of like creatures in
figurative and descriptive language all in one shot.  There are a
plethora of such expressions, dating back to the fifteenth
century's Books of Venery wherein any species of animal that was
hunted rather than herded was given a special group modifier
("nouns of multitude" or "company terms").  New modern versions
of these expressions are coined every day (philologists have a
lot of time on their hands, I guess), such as a "Tantrum of
Decorators," or a "Bale of Bondsmen" (the punster in me just
loves that one).  But to date, I don't think anyone has extended
this nominative process to action figures.
     And I must ask, why not?
     There's no point in exploring the reasons for such neglect. 
Rather than curse the linguistic darkness of such disregard, I
think it's much better to kindle a candle of appellation and
start the ball rolling on making up for the oversights.  With
this in mind, I think the first stop needs must be the general --
to wit, what would a basic assemblage of our lovely loved icons
     That one's easy:  "A Stand of Action Figures."
     It's simple, clear, and to the point.
     However, as we all learn, not all action figures maintain
their vertical orientation with the same aplomb (or any aplomb at
all, for that matter).  The protestations of such industry
luminaries at the estimable Chet Jacques aside, then, I suggest
the following:
     "A Topple of McMonsters."  I know, I know, I love 'em, too. 
But the darned things do fall over a lot.  What can you do?  (Use
lots of clay and glue, I suppose....)
     Then of course there's the inevitable and ubiquitous "Peg of
Wolverines" in every TRU in the land.
     Ahem.  Moving right along...
     All of these terms reflect the Venereal Order family known
as Characteristic.  But there are five other such "families."
     Rather than behavior, some of these descriptive terms relate
to the _appearance_ of group members (or figures), like a "Knot
of Toads" or a "Parliament of Owls."  Hence, we get "An Agony of
Total Justices," or "A Splash of new Spider-Men."  "An
Enlargement of Hulks" would fit this group, as would "A Crouch of
Robot Fighters."
     Then there are the group names that refer to the Habitat of
the members ("A Shoal of Bass," "A Nest of Rabbits").  In action
figure parlance, that would lead to "A Dioramance of Marvels," or
perhaps "A Shelf of Shortpacks" (hmmm...perhaps not, since that
would require the 'packs be _opened_....maybe make that "A Wall
of Shortpacks").
     Others reflect the Opinion of the observer, such as "A
Cowardice of Curs."  In action figure terms, this would give us
"A Bother of Accessories," "A Clutter of Vehicles," "A Nausea of
Bat-Variations," or "A Travesty of 1,701s."
     Further editorializing produces such evocative labellings as
"An Investment of POTF2 Variations," "An Articulation of GI
Joes," "A Gawk of Lukes," "A Chortle of Ticks," and even "A
Fracture of Scourges."
     (Incidentally, the other two groups are "error" namings,
such as when transcription mistakes changed "Shoal of Fish" into
"School of Fish," and onomatopoeic, such as the above-mentioned
gaggling geese.  And now you can rest easy....)
     Obviously there are plenty more figure-ative expressions
crying to be minted... what are you waiting for?
     Heck, in no time at all, we can consider ourselves proudly
as "A Scurry of Philologists!"
     _That'll_ wow the idlers over on soc.lang.english.wit, you

     Rta-f's own (and illustrious) Jon Hendy recently posed the
question of where McFarlane Toys should go on the 10-inch
platform heels of their upcoming KISS figures.  And with the
promised glories of those steadfast rock 'n rollers in mind (uh,
KISS, not...never mind), he proposed that McToys' next foray into
the world of the musical flesh made plastic should be Journey.
     Sigh.  Maybe it's a generational thing, but I just can't
board that particular bus of enthusiasm (or should that be
"buss"?  Never mind).  Journey never did it for me.  Maybe they
had their share of lightshows and splendiferous costumes, but I
don't think I could name a single Journey tune.  For that matter,
I don't think I could even tell you the year they burst into
fame, or come up with a single album title.
     No, for me, Journey is just not a focus of attention or
     But there is another rock group who I think would be the
_perfect_ departure point for a new set of figures.  And it's not
Zeppelin, the Who, the Stones, the Dead (oh, I can just see it --
they'd use the Sam mold for Jerry Garcia, and I'd be disconsolate
for weeks), or even Genesis (who used to perform in bizarre
costumes, way back when in the Peter Gabriel days).

     Think Skies filled with Lucine diamonds, lovely Meters
waiting on the attentions of even lovelier Maids, Fixed Holes and
Kited Benefits...
     ...I'm talking about the BEATLES, those Gearest Guys, the
Cuddly UK Moptops, of course!  Resplendent in their Sergeant
Pepper day-glo silk costumes, standing amidst a playset
consisting of more famous (and infamous) celebrities and pundits
than you could shake a baton at, these things would remake
marketing _history_!
     "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Figures" -- who
wouldn't go ape for a set!  My god, if you think the action
figure fan base is large, it's *nothing* compared to the
worldwide Beatles fan base!  You can't even compare the two!  How
many hundreds of thousands of copies did the recent Anthology
series discs sell?  And that was just old product revamped and
rehashed for a desperate and loving public.  Imagine (so to
speak) what the frenzy for brand-new, never-before-seen seven-
inch super-detailed FIGURES of the Fab Four would be like.
     It would be like the first time you heard the chilling chord
that initiates "A Hard Day's Night," like the sound of ten pianos
being crashed together at the end of "A Day in the Life."  Like
the last ten seconds of Abbey Road's "The End" but poured into
solid form and lasting as long as your eyes would want to feast. 
We're talking amazing-beyond-amazing.
     There's John Lennon in his lurid lime-green uniform, orange
epaulets blazing under a downturned moustache and signature
granny glasses.  His guitar would unfurl into a banner which read
"Hair Peace, Bed Peace" on one side, and on the other, in plain
black-on-white letters, "Imagine."
     Then Paul McCartney in shiny baby-blue with the still-
enigmatic "O.P.D." patch on his left shoulder, armed with a left-
strung bass that would convert into a vegetarian barbecue set.
     Next, George Harrison in rich red with his silly garden
party hat over a Fu Manchu half-'stache and big funky square
Indian medallion; his guitar shifts into a blissfully smiling
     And then there's Ringo Starr, pretty in pink and looking
devilish in his insouciant conductor's cap, sitting astride a
Ludwig drum kit-into-hair-salon and sporting a set of rings that
would make the Mandarin green with envy (well, greener).
     Oh, man.  Oh, woman!  These figures would sell out before
they were even _shipped_!
     And once they vanished at lightspeed in country after
country, McToys would correctly read their mandate to pour forth
ongoing series upon series of further Beatle figures, to the joy
and satisfaction of millions upon millions of music and figure
fans alike.

     They could start with "Album Cover" sets -- figures of the
loveable Liverpudlian's as they appear on each sleeve's photo
art, complete with appropriate accouterments from street
crossings to steamer trunks, umbrellas and baby carriages, heck,
even butcher's aprons and slabs of raw meat.
     From there, they could do "period" sets -- the Hamburg
Beatles (comes with a "Steve the Drunk" figure the boys can roll
after a late night set at the Star Club).  The US Tour Beatles. 
Even a special limited edition of "Ed Sullivan Show" figures
(complete with ol' Ed himself, of course).  Or figures from the
movies -- heck, "Help!" toys alone would give new meaning to the
term "chase figures."  They could do a "Hard Day's Night" set
with a "Bag o' Beatlemaniacs" for McFarlane Toy Club members! 
And of course, we'd _have_ to have appropriately cartoony "Yellow
Submarine" figures, along with Blue Meanies, the Lord Mayor,
Young Fred and Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D.  And a Glove, of
     And no Beatles figure collection would be complete without
the FAO Schwarz exclusive "Lysergic Acid, 1966" set: Beatles in
fur vests, hip boots, tinted glasses and too-mod op-art prints --
like, Groovy, man!
     Oh, I love this idea....

     "THROOM!"  Unfortunately, that's the sound of reality
crashing down around our heads (well, my head).  Because Beatles'
licensing rights are mired in a labyrinthine tangle that Theseus
himself couldn't thread.  Or even Todd McFarlane.  Sob.
     So it'll never happen.  Not ever.  Such are dreams returned
to the spectral dust from whence they derive.  Sigh.
     I'm down.  This particular long and winding road will go
untraveled.  These figures are for no one, not a first, time, not
a second time.  I'm a loser, a nowhere man.  Can't buy me
figures, and I'll cry instead.  Baby's in black, and I'm feelin'
blue.  My guitar is gently weeping, and yer blues.  Cry, baby,
     C'mon, McToys -- there must be an offer that would secure
even these rights -- you know the name, look up the number! 
Ahhh, never mind.
     Hey, Chet -- could we settle on George Martin?  Or maybe the

     On the other hand, with my luck, we'll end up with Kenner
jumping on the, er, bandwagon -- with nothing less than *Elvis*
figures!  And they'd be the perfect company to roll these things
out, in crazy variant after crazy variant.  Dozens, hundreds of
Elvi, and a side line of impersonators.  With a mail-in Colonel
Tom Parker offer and a special 10" King with expanding belly
     Sigh.  Or maybe they will do The least all those
smashed instruments would be easy for McToys to pull off --
they'd just make 'em normal, and by the time you found 'em in 
the stores, all the accessories would be broken anyway....
     Heck, it could even get worse.  How, you ask?
     I have two words for you:
     "Village People."  Because it _almost_ makes sense.
     Oh, the ignominy of it all....

     By the way, congratulate me.  Or congratulate yourself:  if
you've been here all along since I started this peripatetic dog
'n pony show back in early February 1996, and counting a few
guest shots (and _not_ counting one or two reposts that went over
like lead balloons), you've just endured your 50th "John's Action
Figure Column."  Hoo-hah!  Virtual cake and ice cream for all --
to paraphrase the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing, "it's celebratin'
     And (shameless plug), if you _haven't_ read all 50 columns,
well, what's the delay?  They're all archived in glorious black
and grey on my quiet little web site (no pictures, no crowds, no
Have you hit me today? Isn't it about time....?  (I know, the line 
forms here....<grin>)
     Thanks as ever for listening.  Well, reading....  A guy
could not ask for a better audience.  Here's writin' to ya!
Copyright (c) 1997 by John Gersten. All rights reserved.

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