The first figure that I can recall ever owning was a solid rubber Hulk Hogan figure from LJN. (Yes, I was a wrestling fan. No, I will not apologize.)
The first "non-lame" figures that I remember having were from a long forgotten line of toys called Sectaurs. These didn't sell very well, despite their very badass nature. They were figures that rode on giant insects. The insects themselves were actually a hybrid of a ridable animal figure and a hand puppet. You would put your hand into a modified glove under the giant bug to control the legs and an additional motion like flapping wings or grasping pincers.
Growing up, I was always obsessed with figures in general. I wasn't so much loyal to a particular line of toys. I was addicted to having a toy representative of anything that I was into. Some of my favorites growing up included: He-Man (obvious for anyone of my generation), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (likewise), Robocop (which was half figure/half capgun) and the amazing ED-209 (one of my prized possessions until it broke), and Chuck Norris (I even had his Karate Korvette with the blades that would slash out from both sides of the car knocking over any nemesis of the Karate Kommandos)
This was never something that I outgrew. I was still picking up Star Wars figures (like Body-Builder Darth Vader or Downs Syndrome Luke Skywalker) and Marvel Comics figures well after high school and beyond. I had long since stopped playing with them, effectively making them actionless figures or articulated statues. My toys now collected dust while they were meticulously arranged on dressers and shelves. Not played with so much as lovingly displayed.
In my early twenties, my girlfriend at the time was very supportive, though slightly freaked out at my collection. The spare bedroom in our apartment was the ultimate shrine to my geek nature. It's where we kept my Super Nintendo, my Lone Wolf and Cub graphic novels, a futon with Batman sheets and comforter, and shelves loaded with my toys. She was happy to keep all of my figures safely locked away in a room that she seldom visited. She would often tell people how creepy it was to walk in there and feel all of those eyes watching her. Understandable as most of them were far from cute. I was all about McFarlane toys, specifically the Movie Maniacs line.
It's always been a rule for me that if I own a toy, it nearly always must come out of its packaging. The only real exception is the rare occasions where I'll buy a 2nd figure just to keep in its box. Even then, it's not because I care about it's mint value. It's more about how cool it looks in its blister pack. I'll always be an enthusiast and not a real collector. To me, a figure in packaging isn't serving out the ultimate purpose for which it was designed.
The great thing about figures is that they're a tangible version of my obsessions. It's a way of interacting with an idea. A figure takes what was once only a drawing or a photograph of a person or even just words on a page and makes it physically real. Being able to view it from any angle, and even to reach out and touch it, makes these fictional characters and their worlds seem that much closer to reality. They are physically existing in my world, which makes it that much easier to imagine existing in theirs.
Most of my toys are packed up in boxes these days, patiently waiting for the day when I finally have a house large enough to put them all in. That wait is close to an end. In the meantime, I continue to add to my collection when something particularly awesome strikes my fancy. I've been buying toys all of my life. It's something that I think that I'm good at, and I certainly don't see any reason to stop. It's not something that I feel I will ever outgrow, nor is it something that I would ever want to.
All of the pictures in this blog were photographed by Thomas Ruffo. Super special thanks go out to him for taking my ideas and fantastically painting them with light.