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.