Saturday, November 18, 2017

Toy Story.

For whatever reason, a substantial part of being a geek involves toy ownership. Toys have always been associated with being a fan - it's tempting to blame it on Star Wars, but as far back as 1934, fans of Buck Rogers mobbed Macy's Department Store in New York to buy the Daisy-produced XZ-31 Rocket Pistol.

My modest personal toy collection reflects my broad interests in the genre.  It's an idiosyncratic collection, based on entirely on whimsy and contributions from other people, which still manages to cover quite a wide range of fandom.

Scopedog, Defender, Warpig
I don't own the XZ-31 Rocket Pistol: my Buck Rogers sidearm of choice is a vintage XZ-38 Disintegrator pistol.  I also have a phaser, a communicator, a Halo UNSC M6 blaster, and a sonic screwdriver.  My treasured 09-ST Scopedog figure from the 1983 Armoured Trooper VOTOMS anime was a surprise stag gift: I had commented to my best man that it seemed unfair that there was a bridal shower but no tradition for pre-wedding gifts for the groom, and he was kind enough to get me something as a consolation prize.

My Spock bust and Dalek were also gifts, and my Major Matt Mason and matching Supernaut Power Limbs were impulse buys, based on childhood ownership.  I have a plastic Defender and a cast metal M.A.C. II Monster from the 1985 Robotech series but sadly, my GBP-1 VF-1J Veritech fighter came to an unhappy end many years ago.  There's a Starcraft Terran Marine "War Pig" figure that I believe was never sold in stores, but was instead a bagged promotional item of some sort, as well as a Batman toy, a Halo sniper that Colin gave me, 10th and 11th Doctor Who bobbleheads that were also from Colin, a wind-up Lost In Space robot, a GoBot, a Gundam figure of unknown origin, and of course, the classic 12 inch toy robot that I received as a fiftieth birthday gift at work.

Oddly enough, I have no Star Wars representation, other than a set of light saber chopsticks from Japan that Karli gave me - great souvenirs, but not toys as such.

Because my status as a geek and collector is a somewhat known phenomenon, one of Karli's co-workers suggested that if I was interested in that sort of thing, we should pay a visit to Toy Traders, located in Langley.  Recent weekend plans took us in that direction, so we decided to make a stop at the store.

For whatever reason, I had pictured a small collector's shop, a few hundred square feet with locked glass displays and so on, and I had hopes of possibly adding to my little Major Matt Mason collection.  When it came to the actual location, I was overwhelmed.


Toy Traders is an epic 17,000 square feet of toys, featuring an incredible selection of action figures, vehicles, busts, statuettes, models, games and accessories from virtually every part of the geek and fan spectrum. In addition to its massive and comprehensive inventory, the store is decorated with an astonishing collection of props and collectables: statues, masks, helmets, weapons, and costumes.

Photo by KT
The upper level of the store's warehouse space also showcases toys from Marvel Comics, Star Wars, the Muppets and other franchises in an amazing array of dioramas.

Photo by KT
I suspect that it would be easy for a fan who was obsessed, impulsive, rich (or all of the above) to blow ten grand in Toy Traders without even breaking a sweat - or or having to shop in more than one aisle. As an example, the 21 inch Skeletor statue shown below is characteristic of the pricing for the gorgeously detailed collectibles available at the store.


Rare and vintage collectables can be found in the Darkside section, located in a small upstairs mezzanine. I was surprised to see that a lot of the upstairs stock was loose, rather than Mint On Card or Mint In Package - I tend to associate serious toy collecting with toys still in sealed packaging.

I was a little tempted by the Captain Power action figures in the upstairs displays, both MOC and loose.  Not terribly pricey, and an unexpected trip down memory lane to the short-lived Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future series from 1987.*

Impressive though Toy Traders is, it's actually possible to find a few gaps in their inventory. For example, I didn't see any of Blizzard Entertainment's Heroes of the Storm action figures (my main interest is in the Starcraft characters) or any of the Fallout Legacy Collection. However, in the interests of fairness, it's 17,000 square feet of toys, I may well have just missed the right shelf.

After much thought, I decided to buy a Marvel Select Avenging Captain America action figure in the World War II costume from the movies.  I've always been fond of the character, and Marvel is completely unrepresented in my current lineup.  It's a well detailed and constructed figure, although there were a couple of rogue paint marks on his shield, which could either be mistakes or attempts to create the look of field repairs to the shield's finish.  Either way, I find the shield's red to be a bit dull, and may consider repainting it in a more vibrant scarlet.

As I was paying for my purchase, the young woman at the till asked me the pro forma "Did you find everything that you were looking for?" question. I initially delivered the equally pro forma, "Yes, thank you", but then decided to perjure myself, and replied, "Actually, to tell the truth, I was hoping to find some Major Matt Mason toys."

She frowned in a slightly puzzled fashion, but then from my right, a baritone voice replied, "We don't get a lot of Matt Mason toys, when we do , they go upstairs. Did you see the upstairs?  We had his Space Bubble come in recently, but it's gone now."

It turned out that I had attracted the attention of Matthew Purdy, the affable and knowledgeable owner of Toy Traders.  Sensing an opportunity, I mentioned to him that I had a co-worker who had inherited what might well be a quite rare selection of first generation Star Wars toys.  Purdy, who confessed to being a Star Wars collector himself, was obviously intrigued, and suggested that my co-worker contact his assistant to set up a possible meeting. So there may yet be a happy ending to Damon's search for a home for his Star Wars collectables.

Who knows, if all goes well, he might even get me something like a Toy Traders gift certificate by way of thanks - hint, hint.

- Sid

* Weregeek moment:  does anyone else remember Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future? It was an American-Canadian series that ran for one season in 1987.  It was an ambitious but not completely successful attempt to create an interactive TV program - viewers could buy toys that allowed them to shoot at the onscreen villains during combat scenes, and the villain's weapons would produce bright flashes of light that would be picked up by the toys and register as hits. (At one point, someone gave me one of the interactive toy/guns, a Captain Power Powerjet XT-7. I wonder where that ended up?) It was also ahead of its time in integrating computer graphic characters with the live action footage. 

The show had some surprisingly adult themes for a children's show, and the first (and only) season ended on a dark note with the death of a major character.  J. Michael Straczynski, who went on to create the Babylon 5 series, was the show's story editor and a contributing script writer and Jessica Steen, who played the role of Corporal Jennifer "Pilot" Chase, later appeared briefly as Doctor Elizabeth Weir on Stargate Atlantis before Torri Higginson took over the role.

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