Sunday, September 16, 2007

Another actor for the toy stage

Good news to follow up on a previous post about 12-inch action figures: the new issue of ToyFare magazine reports that the forthcoming Indiana Jones movie will see Hasbro bring back their 12-inch action figures.

This picture suggests that the new toys will have the gripping hands rather than hinged hands.

All the parts except for the fedora and the head sculpt look like they were off-the-shelf, cobbled together from previous G.I. Joe characters. It will be easy to get an extra one of these guys and put him up in a Star Wars outfit, and bang, you have an older, more grizzled Han Solo, too.

This is great because more characters can be thrown together in the spontaneous, miniature drama that kids produce when they play. Toys are just actors in a story that kids make up as they go. They're little plastic thespians on a stage of imagination.

Can you remember making up stories like that? Adults do the same thing -- make up a story -- when they play role-playing games, either the D&D tabletop variety or video games like Oblivion or Knights of the Old Republic. Grown-ups often need a little help to invigorate our imaginations, so we have structure for our storytelling: Rules and grids on the tabletop impose some order on the chaos of tiny toys and ideas, and a story emerges.

But I can remember when I was a boy with a nimble imagination, and I didn't need any rules to come up with story on the fly with my friends. Whether it was with plastic dinosaurs in a creek, or Matchbox cars driving in roads laced around the roots of a shade tree, or a G.I. Joe about to skydive off a roof, the stories just happened. I find myself collecting toys because they tend to remind me of my childhood when the stories came easily.

When I survey a collection of action figures on the shelf, I see them as a cast of characters. They're the foot soldiers of creativity. Put a few of those characters together, and maybe they'll inspire a new plot that takes shape in the theater of my mind. That's what happened here, when I customized some Star Wars toys to suit a story idea. As long as the kid inside me is still alive and having fun, he'll keep playing with characters and stories.

Maybe one day I'll write something really important. But most of the time, these toys just seem to make up their own stories, and usually they make me laugh ...

I Say Thee Nay

Click the preview, and you can see the full-resolution comic pages in my photo gallery. With the larger view, you can read the writing.

Jango Fett toy review

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