They are everywhere you look.
Peering down from shelves. Climbing pipes and stanchions. Suspended from ceilings and the tops of display cases.
Action figures….in action.
“Sometimes he [museum curator Kevin Stark] will come in late at night, once we’re closed, to move them around and rearrange things. I never know what I’ll find in the morning!” said the friendly, knowledgeable woman at the front desk.
Similar to the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures in Kansas City, it is best enjoyed by older kids, nostalgic adults, and collectors, but I was impressed by its large open play area for keeping little ones occupied, complete with costumes and “yes you can touch these” toys.
There are inside jokes to make the grown-ups smile, too, like clocks with times from comic capitals Gotham City, Metropolis, Central City, and Atlantis.
Appropriate attire is recommended, of course….
Displays are roughly grouped by type or manufacturer, and there are plenty of opportunities to discover characters that are new to you. Detailed information about the artisans behind the figures gives context to what would otherwise be just random plastic figurines.
I learned that the 1984 Iron Man “sported five points of articulation and no removable armor,” the 1990s versions had some armor quality issues, and Iron Man 2002 had “an excellent sculpt and over 34 points of articulation.”
Different versions of the Caped Crusader….
Interest in Star Wars action figures remains strong, and there are tons of them on display, but I was surprised by how long it took me to find one of Princess Leia.
This reminded me of the #WheresRey furor in early 2016, when the lack of a Rey action figure made people question why toy manufacturers did not put more focus on the person who was, you know, pretty much the LEAD CHARACTER in the latest Star Wars movies.
The museum staff says that they and their gift shop are ready for the rush that’s coming with the release of the new Wonder Woman movie, though.
I’m certainly tired of hearing that female action figures don’t interest the boys, when plenty of girls like me played with a male Spiderman, Batman, etc. My reactions are:
- That “we hold up half the sky….” thing, and,
- Maybe some boys need an attitude adjustment.
Here, have a pony….
You’ll find plenty of oddities in the museum if you look closely. A JAKKS Pacific 1976 side of beef action figure called “The Meat” for a Rocky Balboa action figure to pound while training (!)
A denim-clad John Lennon 18″ action figure, “The New York Years….Motion Activated Sound.”
A bag of Batman tortilla chips shaped like bat wings, along with an extraordinary array of other vintage Batman merchandise like these slippers:
The museum’s most eye-watering display, however, is the imaginary bedroom of a quite fanatical action figure collector.
You’ll stare at it for quite awhile, because there are all kinds of things going on with the figures, but you have to pay attention. Every once in awhile there’s a hint of the human that sleeps here, like a random sock on the floor, crushed beneath a Batmobile and contemplated by several versions of The Thing.
The museum looks like a fairly basic storefront from the street, but walk inside to a giant room where every square inch celebrates imagination, superpowers, and your childhood.
Pssst: I hear the local BBQ joint Bob’s Pig Shop is pretty good, if you’re hungry.
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