Tagged: Exo-Squad

Marc Alan Fishman’s Toy Story

In front of me stands Kyle Rayner, Saint Walker, and Guy Gardner, each behind their impenetrable clamshell wall. Next to them, Alan Scott’s power battery. It doesn’t grant me the power of the Starheart, but when we lost power last week it provided enough ambient light to get me to the staircase. Beside that, a 6” Orion and a 10” Sandman.

To be honest, I sit here, in my man cave a veritable kid in a toy store. The entire Ultraforce sits to my right. Behind me, a cache of Nerf weaponry that would be illegal in ten out of ten office wars. And sitting over my TV, in front of my faux mantle, is my prized possession: the mini replica of Kyle Rayner’s power battery. How coveted is it? It’s out of box and totally played with.

It seemingly goes hand-in-hand with our shared brand of nerditry, does it not? This compulsion to collect. As a child, it started simply enough. He-Man begat the Transformers, the Transformers begat the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Turtles begat Exo-Squad and a deluge of Legos. When I reached junior high and began my love affair with comic books, soon the toys of my youth gave way to the collectables attained at the comic shop. They were, of course, the same damned toys. But it mattered not. For a toy in the hands of a comic book aficionado (carefully kept in the packaging that held it) became an investment. Or so the counter-jockeys told us.

What is it about our love affair with pulp and ink that leads us to waste our disposable income on trinkets, props, and replicas? Why do we need to surround ourselves with the relics of our favorite heroes and villains? When we were children – and we all still are in one way or another – action figures and their ilk were there to coax our imagination. Perhaps I’ve grown up too much, but the figures that stand on the chair rail in front of me offer no inspiration. They were purchases on the compulsion to own one example of each of the DC cosmic color spectrum. And when I nabbed that coveted Atrocitus and Larfleeze… did I feel like a more complete human being? Did some icon appear over my head declare “Achievement Unlocked: Poorer Nerd +5”? No. The figures were purchased, put on display, and left for dead.

I admit in between bouts of writers block, or a bad-art-making day I might be tempted to slice open every last one of their plastic prisons and pose them in epic battle. But that thought is stamped out at the siren’s song of Netflix, my DVR, or my Xbox as they pull me away like a cartoon cat lured by window-sill pie.

Some might stick to their guns and cite the collector’s market, eBay, and the like as reason to surround themselves in the mélange of rare molded plastic. But to what end? It’s rare to hear of a collector living a life of leisure through the simple resale of mint-in-box bric-a-brac. Is it because so few of us can really avoid the temptation to create lavish dioramas? I doubt it. If I were to feign a more realistic guess, it would be that the mass manufactured toys released to Wal-Mart alongside the chase figures sold at twice the cost to your local comic shop are only specifically special to a segment of people that already own them in the first place. A snake eating its own tail is never really full, kiddos.

It leads me back to beginning. Why do we buy these hollow treasures? Is it any better, say, then those who buy NASCAR models, commemorative plates, or sports memorabilia? Ahh, that’s the ticket! The golden calves we fill our tombs with are simply extensions of self. I am Marc Alan Fishman, and within that name there are many footnotes. Aside from a loving father, a dedicated husband, a comic book creator, a graphic designer, and Diet Coke consumer, there is also a collection of aforementioned action figures, Nerf guns, and more DVDs than one needs to own – particularly in this day and age of streaming media. These are the items of my id. These are the tactile representations of my singularly unique fandom. As a whole, these relics resolve who I am, if only to myself.

And when I leave this mortal coil, I have complete faith that those I leave behind will take my mountain of useless crap, and donate it to the nearest nerd that will take it. In a perfect world, some snot-nosed punk will use his lightsaber to unearth my Batman: Brave and the Bold Green Arrow (with unusable bow) and place him at odds with a Stealth Mode Iron Man missing most of his extra snap-on armor. Perhaps he’ll have a few fleeting moments of glee before he’s booting up the Playstation X-5000. Maybe later in his life, he’ll remember those toys and seek out a digital copy of The Longbow Hunters or Demon in a Bottle. And when he does, I can only hope he’s old enough to afford that boxing glove arrow replica prop set awaiting him on Amazon.


Marc Alan Fishman: Sex & Drugs & Rock N’ Roll & Child Raising!

The other evening I was frequenting my Facebook parents group and a post caught my eye. A mother had introduced her four year old to Batman. “Good for her!” I thought. She went on to say she was “horrified” by her son now calling her “stupid,” and to “zip her lip,” and he was becoming more prone to poking and fighting. She was fearful what she’d started in her son, and at any request to remove the Dark Knight from her kid’s clutches was met with tantrums a’ plenty. She turned to the group for support and advice. I couldn’t help myself…

What this mother faces with her tot is what I think many creators of all ages material – myself included – fear the most: parental disapproval. When the gatekeeper that stands between you and your target audience deems you inappropriate, the likelihood of a sale diminishes exponentially. It’s a fine line to skate.

Much like a stand-up making the promise to not work blue, an all ages creator is tasked with entertaining without crossing the ever-creeping line of acceptable limitations. That entails language, violence, adult themes, and sexual activity. Show a drop of blood, a hint of boob, a mention of drug usage, or a slander on any deity being honored today? Get out, and don’t let the door hit you on the keester on the way!

That being said, as a creator, I am first and foremost about the quality and maturity of the finished product, blind and deaf parents be damned.

When I think to my childhood – likely between the ages of perhaps seven or eigth through to 12 or 13 – the media that stands out as the most beloved all contained shades of brilliance beyond the bright colors and fart jokes. Shows like Exo-Squad, the Transformers, and Disney’s Gargoyles all layered mature themes between the animated lines. And while my parents weren’t apt to purchase comics for me, no doubt any number of titles published at that time dealt in the same sandbox with aplomb. Ultimately as a creator, my responsibility is always to the book, as I said abov because if a scene demands brutality, it’s my choice as a creator to show it. How I choose to do so is what separates me from someone unrestricted.

In far too many cases, it’s often those creators who think beyond the predictable who end up elevating themselves to a better class of creation. Forgive me for reaching high, but like Seinfeld has said “…working blue is easy. Telling the same joke without having to swear doesn’t make you better. It just makes you that more appealing to more people. And how is that bad?” At the end of the day, as a creator, I see it as my duty to seek that balance, to make a book where a thirty year old and an eight year old can find common ground. To layer bits of mature themes in between the action, in an attempt to elevate the prose to exist with depth beyond the Photoshopped effects. To ultimately entertain the widest audience possible, not for profit in the monetary sense, but the spiritual one.

On the flip side to this argument comes my parental side. You see, I’m not just a creator of books. I’m a creator of life. My two and a half year old is just starting to shape his personality. With it, come those pieces of media he loves so much that he can’t live a day (truth: one hour) without re-consuming ad nauseam. Sometimes, he has impeccable taste – like his love of Peter Gabriel and They Might Be Giants. And yes, he also loves things I just can’t seem to understand – for example, videos where they repeat the same sing-songy chant about the alphabet until I want to jam a finger straight through my brainstem. But with all of it, I can’t help but put myself in the shoes of that aforementioned mother. When my boy eventually catches a love for Batman (or any comic related property) and he begins to emulate the sights and sounds, do I panic? Simply put… not one bit.

My personal parenting motto (thankfully shared by my wife) is that it’s not the fault of the media, it’s the fault of the parent. Now, let’s be clear: I’m not a dunce. It’s inevitable that my child will emulate something I don’t want him to. And when I will eventually explain that to him, his kneejerk reaction will be to repeat the undesired action until I’m yanking my beard out in anger. But the fact remains that as the parent it’s my responsibility to consume what my child consumes and to then interject perspective before, during, and after the consumption.

I’m a firm believer that children are smarter than the world at large deems them to be. I’ve come to this firm belief every time I’ve told my son that an apple is actually a french fry and he hurls said fruit back at me at terminal velocity. When Bennett eventually stumbles upon something that would otherwise scar him emotionally, that’s the time Dad needs to be there to explain that the zombie werewolves on the moon were only computer made monsters. And he’ll then soon learn that The Doctor will outsmart them too. Natch.

The reality is that we can’t shield our children from the world at large. And thanks in large part to how easily media can be obtained and consumed now, there’s no fighting the tide. As both a creator and a father, I think I know how to sail through choppy waters. By being honest, by communicating in terms my son will understand, and by helping him sift through the silt to find the best pearls to enjo, I’m doing the job I was meant to do.

For the poor mother whose kid is storming throughout the house declaring a personal vendetta on crime? The response I left her on Facebook stands: It’s a phase that you’ll have to deal with. Next time, stick to Superman. Your son will have a much harder time flying.

(Editor’s note: the story about the kid who wrapped a towel around his neck, shouted “I’m Superman” and jumped out the window is apocryphal.)