The Collector

Chaos in Print

‘Having’ is not so pleasing a thing as ‘wanting.’ It is not logical, but it is often true. – Commander Spock

Here I sit, in my room, surrounded by my vast action figure collection. I often laugh and dream of having my own house someday, and dedicating one room to this collection. It may seem a little haphazard and disorganized, with no connecting themes, but there is a theme to it all. It’s a theme I put in place when I bought my first-ever action figure. It’s the prime directive of my collection, as it were.

People have many themes to their collections. Star Wars geeks may choose to collect nothing but Star Wars figures, or you may collect nothing but 1980s-G.I. Joes in an effort to recapture your youth. I’ve toyed with adopting some kind of theme like that. There was a time when I thought, “Yeah…nothing but Luke Skywalkers!” But I ditched that. No…I decided that I would only buy figures of characters I liked.

And I’ve been able to keep that up. You know my tastes, so there are a lot of Star Wars and Star Trek figures, but more obscure ones, too, like Daniel Jackson from Stargate or Lucas from seaQuest. It’s also led me to collect a few multiples of some characters (e.g. Two Luke Skywalkers and three Spider-Men). But, in the end, I can look back and say, “I love all these characters.”

Sadly, though, I’ve reached a point where it’s not hard to get caught up in the hype. 10 years ago or so, comic book collecting had become a rather mainstream hobby, and the comic publishers starting finding ways to cash in on the fad. They started doing things like “variant covers” and “limited runs.” And, accompanying it all were ads in magazines like Wizard telling you that this is the next big thing and that it’ll be worth big money some day, so buy, buy, buy! And now, in the present day, many collectors are feeling stung, when they take their collections down to the comic book store and Comic Book Guy says, “I’ll give you $50 for you three boxes of ‘collector’s items.’”

One word of caution I read was, “The next big thing is rarely what Wizard hypes. People don’t realize what the next big thing is until it’s been out for three months.”

Comic book collecting kind of imploded, and action figures somehow rose up to fill the void. Action figure collecting is now a rather mainstream hobby, and the manufacturers are finding ways to cash in on the fad. They’re doing things like “variant figures” and “chase figures” and “convention exclusive.” And, in the accompanying ads in magazines like ToyFare, we’re constantly told that this is the next big thing so buy, buy, buy!

I’ve been going through these feeling quite a bit lately. It all came to a head when I was in Superstore a few weeks ago, and they were stocking the shelves with Fantastic Four figures. Now, I hadn’t seen the movie by that point, and I’ve never been a big reader of the FF comics, but I couldn’t help but look over the display because, as ToyFare told me, these figures will be the next big thing! So I started looking over the figures, and I totally geeked out at the figure I found: the Invisible Woman.

Oh my God! The line’s chase figure, right there! I started looking through the shelves, and not only did they have the chase figure, they had all three variants: visible, invisible (made of clear plastic), and “turning invisible” (invisible from the waist down). Wow! This was a find! A collector like myself could really clean up with this! I was about to swoop in and buy all three figures, but I stopped myself.

I hadn’t seen the movie. I’d never read the comics. I knew squat about the character of the Invisible Woman. I was about to violate my prime directive. And while I do love Jessica Alba (for her hotness, not her acting ability), I didn’t need her in triplicate. Here I was, about to buy three Invisible Woman action figures, because ToyFare was telling me to. I put the figures back on the shelf, and left the store. I realized that, I wanted them, but I didn’t want them on my terms.

About two weeks later, I finally did get to see Fantastic Four. I returned to Superstore to see if Sue Storm had sold yet. And yes, she did, and the Fantastic Four figures were completely picked over. I felt sad, like I’d missed out on something. But was it because I missed out on a chance to make an investment, or because I missed a chance to buy a cool character I really liked? I didn’t know.

I still feel a longing for that figure, but I’m unsure as to how genuine my feelings are. I sit here. I look at my figures. I feel as though there’s an empty spot on my wall that’s perfect for an Invisible Woman. And I think there’s really one thing I can do so I’ll never feel this way again.

I’m going to quit reading ToyFare.

Granted, I’ll miss out on their previews of upcoming figures, meaning I’ll be on my own. I’ll just have to keep my eyes peeled on the action figure aisle to see if one of my favourite characters has been made. But you know what? That’s OK. It’ll be old-school, just like it was when I started collecting.

There is a theme to my collection; it’s one that’s become a struggle to maintain. But, at the end of the day, I can lean back and say, “I adore all these characters.”

And, you know, if you just happen to find an Invisible Woman at your local store, could you pick her up for me?

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