Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Men of action and plastic

My friend Sydney, as you might recall (or have gathered from her pseudonym), is a big fan of the television show Alias (whose protagonist is Sydney Bristow). As such, I thought it was relatively safe to give her the book Authorized Personnel Only (a tie-in to the TV show with all sorts of information about the characters, storyline, and background) for Christmas. What I should have seen coming is that as a devoted fan, she owns virtually every piece of Alias paraphernalia worth owning - including said book, which she bought virtually on the day it came out.

In light of this, I made the trek last Wednesday to Toys "R" Us to try and pick out something new and exciting for her. I had my radar set on some of the pretty nifty looking Heroes action figures, since rampant fanboyism is one thing that Syd and I have in common. The Sylar action figure seemed pretty intimidating by the looks of the online photos.

Unfortunately, my local Toys "R" Us did not carry Heroes action figures, despite them being listed in the online catalogue. Still, I thought that there should be something sufficiently cool in the store to satiate Syd's sensibilities. Cute, collectible items seemed right up her alley. It was then that I spotted an irresistibly super-deformed version of Ewan McGregor's bearded Obi-Wan Kenobi, from Star Wars Episodes II & III. "Mighty Muggs," it was labelled, "The Trendy Side of the Force." I stared at it a long time, pondering the purchase of such a useless but amusing looking item. In the end I bought it, and it now sits, I am told, guarding the "Trendy Side of the Force" beside Syd's computer.

Being in a toy store looking at action figures sure made me nostalgic. I was a huge action figure aficionado when I was little, and Toys "R" Us was by far my favourite store. There was one summer around Grade 5 when I went there almost every week just to gawk. Walking down the isles and inhaling the smell of molded plastic sure brought be back. Like a Pavlovian dog, it incited in me a conditioned desire to buy - though what I would do with an action figure at this age is beyond me... would I play with it?

It was encouraging to see that some of the great action figures of my youth were making a comeback. The Marvel Comics action figures looked great once again. The Star Wars action figures looked... well, the same. And then there was Spawn, probably the most heinous and adult of comic book heroes, but he always had to most incredibly detailed and imposing looking figures. Even G.I. Joe action figures had swung back around, although those didn't look nearly as good as they did in their glory days. I almost wished I had a child right then and there, so that I could buy amazing action figures for them. (Getting a sense of deja vu? It's not just you)

Above: A selection from my childhood action figure collection. Can you name all the characters? There are a total of 5 visible.

I really started to miss my action figures, packed away with care in the basement. I swear, I had the greatest collection of any child - all carefully preserved with all their parts (and sometimes, their original packaging... opened, of course) - not a missing plastic projectile in the bunch. There were the Marvel heroes, bristling with weaponry and muscle. There were gaming figures such as the late and great Duke Nukem (sporting dual sub-machine guns and a Devastator rocket launcher) and the StarCraft marine. There were even classic has-beens like Ziv Zulander from Bots Master (if you're interested in a blast from the past, you can actually watch this cartoon on YouTube... but I warn you, it's not quite as amazing as it seemed when we were young).

Above: Ballistic from G.I. Joe Extreme came with armor, weapons, and shot foam rockets... foam... rockets!

What remain by and far my favourite action figures were the burly looking and outstandingly equipped characters from the short running series G.I. Joe Extreme. Sure, G.I. Joe purists complain that they have limited articulation... but when you can shoot foam rockets, who needs to move? Recalling these, my interest was piqued as to what kind of G.I. Joe figures were being pumped out these days. On visiting Hasbro's (the toy company that manufactures the G.I. Joe brand) website, I discovered three things:
  1. Today's G.I. Joe action figures suck bollocks.
  2. You can watch G.I. Joe webisodes online.
  3. A live action G.I. Joe movie is coming out in 211 days.
Webisodes consist of the original 25 minute G.I. Joe cartoon episodes cut and compressed into 10 minute flings. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've watched at least half a dozen in the last couple of days (but then, I guess I can't really embarrass myself any more having openly revealed my infatuation with childhood toys).

The really exciting item, however, was the G.I. Joe movie. I know our hopes for such a film have been dashed by countless other half-hearted failures (e.g. Street Fighter), but I couldn't help but be excited by the prospect of this one. After all, it sports such notables as Denis Quaid (Dragonheart) as General Hawk, Brendan Fraser (The Mummy trilogy) as Gung Ho, and Christopher Eccleston (Heroes, Doctor Who) as Destro. But what thrilled me the most was that Ray Park, the acrobatic talent that played Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Toad in X-Men, would be taking on the role of Snake Eyes, G.I. Joe's enigmatic and silent ninja.

To top it all off, the costumes look fantastic - I feel like they are actually taking this movie a little bit seriously. Sure I am a little bit miffed that Destro seems to be lacking his iconic steel-plated head and that film version of Baroness looks less authentic than the cosplay one that I met at Fan Expo (where's the red cobra emblem across her chest?), but overall, this movie looks like it could be a winner.


sandlot said...

There have been articles written regarding G.I Joe's increase in muscle size over the years.

It's pretty interesting.

Oh and this guy at my uni looks like sylar.

a_ndy said...

Though I probably fall into the negative body image for being "weak" category of that article, I still enjoy having superheroes be burly as can be. :)