This nerd did something he hadn’t done in a long time recently. I bought myself some toys!
Sure, I still buy toys now and then, but these days they’re for my friends’ children. Just this past weekend, my wife and I were at the neighborhood toy store picking out something for a 3-year-old’s birthday party.
(We’re the cool adults without kids who show up, drink all the beer and wine, draw all the parents’ envy, look cute as hell holding everyone else’s kids, and then ROLL OUT.)
But earlier that same weekend, I found myself in the Toys R Us around the corner from my mother’s house, walking the aisles just because, and there were action figures for the new Ghostbusters movie. Only two were left on the display: Melissa McCarthy, and Leslie Jones.
I thought to myself, “Hell YEAH I’m buying a Leslie Jones action figure!”
Even though I’m not collecting a lot of toys at the moment, I am down for acquiring as many quality action figures of black people and characters as I can get my hands on.
After all, there are so few black characters in mainstream TV shows, cartoons, movies, etc., to begin with. Growing up, maybe a show had one main black character. Or, in the case of Panthro on Thundercats and Jazz on Transformers, characters coded as black.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero had Roadblock, who was awesome despite always speaking in rhymes.
Between my brother and I, we had Stalker (not the best name) and Heavy Duty as well. And Snake-Eyes.
Yeah, I know he’s white, but in the ’hood he was black in that all-black getup studying ninjitsu.
So, yeah, once again representation matters.
If a black figure is made, it’s often in short supply, because they’re usually not the main character. It’s important for me to see at least a little bit of myself in the pop culture I consume, given the wildly unfair playing ground we operate on both in life and art. With so few black characters and resulting paucity of toys, I have to consider any one that I find.
My hobby of collecting black action figures often hits a bump in the road regarding movies and any real-world people, though. Too many times, the figures look nothing like the person in question. It can look like any generic face, just painted one shade of brown. And I mean one shade. These factories couldn’t figure out that black people have a wide range of skin tones, from light-bright and high-yellow to deep brown and coal-black. If you mess up the skin tone, I’m not buying.
But these past 20 years have led to an amazing fantasy future of where childhood me hoped action figures would go. Todd McFarlane staked out the territory of figures looking like mini-statues using high technology. And we’re deep in a time of digitally scanning actors’ faces, building 3D models, and studios shipping those scans to toy makers.
So when I saw that figure for Patty Tolan of Ghostbusters, and that it looked exactly like Leslie Jones, I knew it had to come home with me. I bought the Abby Yates figure too. Just as I wanted to see a bit of myself reflected in these toys, my wife sees herself in Melissa McCarthy and other fat female celebrities just doing their thing.
And here it is, an action figure of a fat woman in glasses. I had to.
So now Patty Tolan will join up in my collection with Green Lantern John Stewart. They’ll sidle up to Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft. She can cross her proton pack stream with the lightsaber of Jackson’s Mace Windu. Compare technology with Cyborg.
There’s a good chance my collection can grow more, soon.
Occasionally, I find one of those Marvel Select figures of Storm. Ororo will join the team when I find the one I like best. I’m lining up a Michonne, whether from The Walking Dead comic or TV show. And why not another Samuel L. Jackson action figure, by picking up Nick Fury?
I saw a Misty Knight action figure at a Target a little while ago, and I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t pick it up immediately. There she was, Afro, catsuit and all, looking every bit the Pam Grier-inspired powerhouse that she is. Gonna have to go back for her.
Walking through the other aisles at Toys R Us with my mother, I did find some more of the Star Wars Black Series figures of Finn still hanging. I’ll pick up one of those sometime, too.
But just like folks were asking “Where’s Rey?” in the Star Wars line, another Disney-held property has me looking for T’Challa.
The Black Panther figures from Captain America: Civil War are few and far between. I want one so I can have him whup Bucky’s behind all day erry day.
Sure, I can buy one online for $65 and up, but why are they so freakin’ rare?
Damn. We already know why, don’t we?