I have these two Marvel Comics action figures on my desk. They’re from when I was a little kid. For some reason, out of all of the toys that I had growing up, these little plastic Wolverine and Deadpool figures are really the only ones that made it, to still being a part of my life, even if they only exist in a background kind of way. You think about Toy Story, right, you think about Buzz and Woody having to deal with the inevitability of getting tossed to the curb. But not these two. They’re right here on this desk.
I think I got them when I was in the second or third grade, and twenty-two years later, these guys look pretty good. It’s not like I’ve taken special care of them or anything. As soon as I got them, for Christmas, a birthday, I can’t even remember, they were torn out of the packaging, whatever tiny guns and knives that fit into their molded plastic hands were almost immediately lost.
I never really understood action figures, even as a little kid. I knew that I was supposed to want them. Every commercial on TV told me so. But I never knew what to do with them. Like, are you supposed to hold one in each hand and make them interact?
They’re cool decorations I guess. But that’s about it. Although I didn’t have the biggest collection out of all of my friends, I definitely wasn’t lacking. I had a bunch of superhero stuff. I remember one time I went to the comic book store and saw this Mr. Fantastic action figure. “With fantastic stretching powers!” the box read, and in my mind I imagined some sort of a cool bendable Gumby-like guy. But when I finally got to pick out a toy for whatever reason you let a little kid pick out a twelve-dollar toy at a comic book store, I was really disappointed that it wasn’t really a stretching toy at all. The limbs just kind of clicked out by maybe a centimeter or two, giving him a weird stick-figure appearance.
I didn’t really enjoy playing with action figures, but it was the only real currency that boys in my class dealt with. Not that you’d ever exchange them. But just having the most, a big collection. It was important. In addition to super hero action figures I also had wrestling action figures, Ghost Busters actions figures, Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles.
It’s all pretty dumb, all of the stuff I valued as a little kid. Pogs were fucking stupid. Let’s get a bunch of kids to beg their parents for a dollar so they can buy a bunch of cardboard chips at Seven-Eleven. And again, a part of me knew that these were stupid too, that I was forcing myself to have fun presenting my pog collection for the approval of my ten-year-old peers. But everybody was faking the same excitement, what would I have done, just sat it out? What else would I have had? Nothing.
In addition to the Wolverine and Deadpool, I definitely had a Spider-Man figure that lasted all the way past college. In my first apartment after I graduated, I definitely remember stringing a thread through his plastic hands and taping it to the ceiling, making it look like he was in mid-swing. And then, I don’t know, somewhere along the line, packing my stuff into boxes, unpacking everything, I have no idea what happened to that Spider-Man.
So now it’s just the two, that’s all that I have left of my action figures. Recently Wolverine’s arm snapped off below the elbow, and that kind of sucked, but I reattached it with duct tape, and so, I don’t know, now he looks battle-hardened.
I’ve always kept them standing up at the back of the desk, but these are old toys, there’s a little bit of play in the joints. It’s hard to get them on really firm footing. I’d stand them up, and not right away, but definitely by the end of the day, they’d just fall over. It was getting to be a distraction, the constantly trying to find the right balance, positioning their limbs in such a way to try and foster some stability. Finally I tried wedging one of Wolverine’s claws inside of Deadpool’s hands, like where one his knives used to go.
And it worked. They look like they’re holding hands, yeah, but they haven’t fallen over in weeks. It’s like four legs of a table, ultimate stability. And yeah, the positioning is awkward, but now that I don’t have to fiddle with them every day, it’s easier for my brain to have them just melt into the background. They only pop out once in a while, and it looks like they’re holding on to each other. Or they’re fighting. They’re seeing which one is going to outlast the other. Because I think about myself as an old man, fifty, sixty years from now. Maybe I’ll have one. That would be cool. Holding on to both would be really cool, but it’s just realistically not going to happen. If I could make a chart, the number of action figures I’ve had, over time, and I graphed it out to the present day, there’d be a clear line pointing down. And I really don’t have any reason to think that the decline is over. So no, I’ll probably be lucky to wind up with just one.