Coming from a non-American childhood, action toys are a novelty for me. Back in the country where my childhood passed we had totally different toys – including action toys. Most of the toys were based either on cartoons or on imagination of an artists in the doll factory. There were plush animals making squeaky noises, remote-controlled tanks and lunar vehicles (Lunohod-1 was the hit); there were dolls with really strange facial expressions that could close and open their eyes and smaller dolls that couldn’t do anything but were a good throwing material.
We didn’t really have that much of action toys selection. There were tons of other stuff, but specifically action toys – like figures from Halo, Aliens or even hockey players – no one actually thought it would be a good idea to produce. Of course, there were no Halo, neither Gears of War, nor even a single action figure of a hockey or soccer player. And forget about Elvis, that guy was outright banned while he was still alive.
So what kids did was made action toys themselves. There was a scrapyard nearby my school with all kinds of telephone wire cuts and pieces scattered around. We collected the wires and weave action figures from those wires as we saw fit. We had built armies of foot swordsmen, squadrons of horse raiders, platoons of riflemen, machine gunners and sub-machine gunners. Battles that raged on our floors were rival only to those of ancient China and its terracotta armies. The best part of all of this (at least our parents appreciated this the most) the whole enterprise was absolutely free. There was, however, an incentive, since all died soldiers (or rather materials they were made of) would be divided by the winner and the looser of the battle. Called that spoils of war.
These days, obviously, aren’t the days of toy soldier conscription. The action toys, to paraphrase a well-known motto, are few, are proud and are very expensive – at least to be bought in similar quantities. Oh, and the fun part of scouting a scrap yard for wires of necessary colors and actually building your action figure are long gone. Instead, the action figures – whether produced by McFarlane or Neca – are almost photo realistic representations of the original, no matter be it a NFL football player or a Halo 3 Master Chief. Even more so, manufactured action figures have more accessories, more movements, look better and overall, probably more fun to play with.
In all honesty, sometimes I miss the childhood with self-made action toys, armies of wire soldiers and all the fun associated with it. On the other hand, when I see how toddlers, teenagers, and sometimes very much grown-ups are happy when they get their hands on one of the latest action figures – or an old one they’ve been dreaming about for so long, I think it’s a small price to pay.