Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hey Mommy! Leave My Toys Alone

The store was impossibly far. Too far for a young boy to get on his bike and ride to the store with his hard earned money to get the superhero action figure they sold there. I had labored under the hot sun, pushing a lawnmower in diagonals across the older resident's lawns for months trying to scrape enough together to make the purchase happen.  I had hoped that Wolverine was still waiting for me.

Three months earlier, I had spotted Wolverine with the black claws, a rare variant in the Marvel Secret Wars line while in a Ben Franklin store with my mom. This was before the general stores and Five & Dime everything stores were replaced by The Dollar Generals and a CVS on every corner.

It wasn't our usual store, my mom had stopped by on a whim to get something random and to me it seemed like an impossible place to ever get back to on my own. I begged my mom to buy it for me before we left to no avail so I rushed back and hid it behind other figures on a way back shelf behind some tube socks.  Hopefully Wolverine would wait for me.

I decided one summer after my mom had left for work, my younger brother and I left to our own devices, to bike all the way back to that store if it killed me. Wolverine, I hoped, was still waiting there for me. I counted the money and some extra for rations and secured it in my velcro wallet and jumped on my dirtbike to traverse those 3.3 miles to superhero action figure glory.

It was slow going. Ten minutes in a car seemed doable but on a bike I underestimated the lack of sidewalks and traversing streets full of traffic. The road was full of commuters plowing through their second cup of coffee not interested in why some kid with a Huffy was walking it through a culvert red faced and sweaty.

I eventually made it there ready to collapse only buoyed by the nervous energy of my brain that had been imagining Wolverine tucked back on that shelf, nice and cozy away from all the store riff-raff. I burst into the door, setting the door chime off in an awkwardly loud way and made a beeline for the toy. At first, I didn't see him and thought that a villain who have been tailing me had certainly exacted his revenge by snatching him up as soon as I left the store the last time I was here. But there he was nestled among some Five and Dime underwear crying out to be taken home. Here is where my love for toys and collecting really began. It was always Wolverine.

I attended Comic Cons, I collected comic books, I played everything Star Wars. I was the nerdiest of nerds. In 1992, I went to the Wizard World in Rosemont, Illinois and I met my favorite artist of all time Todd MacFarlane who signed an original page I purchased from a Wolverine issue I owned. Creator of Spawn and eventually his own toy line McFarlane Toys. Todd created action figures that transcended what characters in movies and comic books would be as if they were real. These figures were immortalized three dimensionally from his own characters to horror movies, sports figures, and rock stars. Todd's toy line captured characters from pop culture in a new and interesting way and adult collectors like myself, took notice and started collecting action figures again only for adults.

Recently, following a mom's discovery of a Mezco Toyz Breaking Bad action figures being sold in a toy store, a Florida mom wants Toys R Us to pull Breaking Bad action figures from its shelf because she was offended that they were sold in stores. I'd like to say to that mom, Settle down. Move away from the adult collector's toy section and go about your shopping for everything cute and cuddly.

You are worried about your kids knowing what exactly is going on with those figures but you don't have to tell them.  Do the same thing I tell my kids when they ask me about a show I am watching after they have gotten up for the fourteenth time since being put to bed "It's for Daddy and not appropriate for you." That's all they need to know.

How would they even know what Breaking Bad is about? These figures are clearly marked on the packaging, Ages 15 and Up, so why punish those collectors who may be at a Toys R Us with their family, and deny an adult of such an item? Why should I have to go to a "specialty shop" just because you are uncomfortable? In a statement, Toys 'R Us told NBC News that "the product packaging clearly notes that the items are intended for ages 15 and up" and "are located in the adult action figure area of our stores." I am glad that they are sticking to their guns for all of our sakes.

Is your worry that seeing an action figure will make them drug addicts because they see the figures? She mentions in a CNN interview that "Kids mimic their action figures, if you will," she told the station. "Do you want your child in an orange jumpsuit?" Clearly she doesn't know what she is talking about because the hazmat suit is yellow and the orange jumpsuit is from Orange is the New Black. It seems that this mom loves these kinds of shows but doesn't want anyone else to enjoy what might be their passion and for the people this toy is targeting, that is adult collecting.

Unless you are letting your child watch the show and buying it for them, how are they going to emulate those figures? By her reasoning, all action figures should be wiped from shelves including The Hulk who has a propensity for violence, all Power Rangers because they are trained assassins, and every GI Joe, Skylander, or Jack Sparrow figure because of war, fighting, and pillaging. The Breaking Bad toys are not marketed towards children but should be available for collectors in toy stores because they are toys but for adults. If you really want to target something that is marketed towards kids which is inappropriate, try Spongebob Squarepants.

If you like toys and want to let me know or if  you agree or disagree, head to my Facebook page to keep the discussion going!


  1. Great trip down memory lane with your story of saving up to buy Wolverine. I'm so glad you managed to figure out how to live with love, kindness and compassion despite growing up with such violent toy action figures. This lady is so completely wrong. I'm guessing that she doesn't understand the concepts of "play" and "imagination". Even if they were marketed to children, I'm guessing that the fact that most children would play with them in a different manner. My son had used his sisters' Barbie dolls as passengers on toy cars ride and as targets for his Nerf toy guns. My four year old daughter uses her Iron Man toy figure to play in her doll house. My point is that the hangup is with this mom, not the toys themselves. By her way of thinking ALL toys should be banned since they could be used as weapons or to promote violence. Let's hope her kids never "pretend shoot" at someone with their pretend finger gun.

  2. Don't mess with Spongebob!
    You are serious about your toys, sir and you make a good point.