Last time, I told you about the criminal lack of super hero action figures back when I was a kid. Of course these days every super hero, no matter how obscure, has their own action figure (except for Static Shock, which I may have mentioned. I forget). This week, I’m going to tell you the embarrassing lengths I went to in order to have my very own super hero play toys.
It all started with Marvel Comics corner boxes. I suppose I should explain, some of you weren’t born yet.
For many years, a standard part of Marvel’s trade dress was a picture of the title character in a cool action pose. This “corner box” was found in the upper left of the cover, right next to the logo. Now here’s the part I don’t quite remember, at some point, I got the idea to cut out the corner boxes (that’s right, I used scissors to cut up comics. Also I wrote on them with ball-point pen, wanna make something of it?). I’d take my precious rectangle with a picture of say, Spider-Man on it, glue it to an equal-sized piece of shirt cardboard and presto! My very own Spider-Man (in)action figure.
There were a number of obvious drawbacks to my fledgling technology. For instance, I wanted the whole Fantastic Four. Unfortunately, they took turns being featured in the corner box. Worse, my collection of comics didn’t include a single cover with The Invisible Girl in the corner box. Eventually, I broke down and pasted a head shot of her that they used to pad the letters page onto a piece of shirt cardboard cut to match the others. Over time I amassed quite a collection of heroes. But what about villains? There were no villains with there own corner box, except for Doctor Doom once, I don’t remember where. Maybe in MARVEL SUPER HEROES? Anyway, I got tired of my characters fighting Doctor Doom all the time. And there was another problem. Even as a child, I leaned towards characterization over mindless action. I needed supporting characters.
So I started looking for good head shots to cut out of my comics. Even today I’ll occasionally pull out an old copy of DAREDEVIL, only to discover a hole where I assume there was once a really good head shot of Foggy Nelson.
Then the next step of evolution. I pasted the heads to a piece of cardboard and drew a matching body beneath them, arms shoulder high and spread. Then I cut out the whole thing and made folds where the joints went. Later I’d reinforce the joints with cellophane tape, so they wouldn’t wear through from rough play (don’t use Scotch Magic Tape, even though its better-looking than cellophane, Magic Tape cracks when you bend it).
I went back and made new versions of all my old corner box men. From this point the technological improvements came at a blistering pace. I switched from crayons to water color markers. I started drawing the front and backs of the characters (possible now, because I had abandoned shirt cardboard for poster board. Poster board was white on both sides). Rather than just taping the joints, I covered the entire figure in cellophane tape, creating a plastic action figure. Then I discovered clear contact paper, I could coat the front and back sides in a tough, clear, seamless protective plastic sheath. Also, I was becoming a better artist, so you could tell who the characters were supposed to be. I stopped cutting faces out of my comics and drew them myself.
Over a four-year period, my brother and I made hundreds of these things. We also expanded into building stage sets and vehicles to play with them in, Fantasti-Cars, Quinjets, Reed Richard’s Laboratory. The Avengers conference table. Remembering all this, I can’t help but think, “Damn I wish someone had invented Playstation back then.”
And now you know my terrible secret: I used to make paper dollies.
TORTURE THE COLUMNIST CONTEST
I have capriciously extended the deadline of the Name The Most Obscure Character To Have Their Own Action Figure, Even Though Static, Who Is On TV Every Damned Week, Has Nothing, Nothing I Tell You! contest. As previously explained, the reader who submits the winning entry (to be judged entirely by my whim) gets a fabulous prize, although I still haven’t yet decided what. I might give you a trade paperback, I might make an original, one-of-a-kind Static paper doll, just so it looks like there’s some kind of theme going here. Click the link above or look below for a handy submission form. Multiple entries are okay but my friends say I already bitch too much about Aquaman’s horse, Streaky the Supercat and Ace The Bat Hound, so those toys are disqualified.
DWAYNE PLUGS HIMSELF
"Fury, Part One," my third JUSTICE LEAGUE script for this season, airs Sunday, April 7 at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on Cartoon Network. This episode focuses on Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl but there's a big helping of Batman and Superman too.
On Saturday, April 13 at 8:30 AM Eastern Standard Time on the Kids WB “Junior,” one of my STATIC SHOCK scripts from last season, gets dusted off for another showing. The episode features an animated appearance by Milestone Comics villain Edwin Alva (of HARDWARE infamy. For best results, pretend he sounds like Peter O’Toole instead of Peter Fonda. Long story).
An anthology called PANEL ONE: COMIC BOOK SCRIPTS BY TOP WRITERS is now on sale. It includes work by Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, Kevin Smith, Marv Wolfman, Trina Robbins, Greg Rucka, Nat Gertler, Jeff Smith and, unaccountably, me. My full script for “Deus Ex Machina,” an issue of Marvel Comics’ DEATHLOK that I wrote as a young child, is right in there with the good stuff.
I always forget to plug the Milestone e-group that includes several milestone writers and artists who lurk and think I don’t know they are there. Join us and draw them out of hiding.
NEXT WEEK, A VERY SPECIAL WEBSTER
Okay, it’s not an episode of WEBSTER at all. It’s a guest column, reproduced from a thoughtful and heartfelt essay by a young writer concerned about the images of blacks in American comic books. She’s got a lot to say and I think it’s important that she’s heard, so be here early next week, you’ll want a good seat for the fireworks.
Dwayne McDuffie is the co-creator of STATIC SHOCK and DAMAGE CONTROL and a co-founder of Milestone Media. He contributes scripts to the Kids WB series STATIC SHOCK and Cartoon Network’s JUSTICE LEAGUE. Dwayne’s investigating whether any of his paper dolls still exist. If they do, he’ll scan and post a couple here.
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