Editorial: The B-sides of M.U.S.C.L.E.


What's 'REAL?'

Last week I was taking pictures of my Non-Poster Kinnikuman figures. I enjoyed reexamining the figures and thinking about their place in M.U.S.C.L.E. history. Then I came across my Ramenman with Dragon. It put an end to my enjoyment. I wondered, “What makes this special? Why do I even care?”

I hesitated to write about my experience. I worried that people would interpret my feelings the wrong way or that they would say, “That’s easy for you to say – you have an Alpha figure.”

Then I came across this article by Bill Wyman: Lester Bangs’ Basement: What it means to have all music instantly available.

I was initially interested in the article as a former music snob. I had been a collector of rarities, B-sides, and imports. However, as I read the article I was brought back to M.U.S.C.L.E. and my Non-Poster Kinnikuman figures. It felt as if the two hobbies could be perfectly analogous – if the collector allowed it.

The article explored the idea that rarity with music, and most digital media, was gone. Everything is available to everyone. From a certain perspective, the same is true for M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors. Many of the Non-Poster figures are lusted after by collectors, but why? Is it the rarity of the figure or the quality of the figure?

Fake?
Depends on your point of view!

If it is the latter, then a Flesh Kinnikuman figure fills that need. The Non-Poster M.U.S.C.L.E. figures are readily available as Kinnikuman figures, many of them at a minimal price. And if M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors are particular about a color or texture there are more and more people within the M.U.S.C.L.E. community that can provide a custom version of the Non-Poster M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.

As I sat looking through my Non-Poster figures there was no less enjoyment because they were not cast in M.U.S.C.L.E. plastic. Of course, other collectors may disagree – and I thought Bill Wyman’s article did a nice job acknowledging the other perspective.

For some, the enjoyment of art or culture has fetishistic aspects. To them, being a fan is about something more than just experiencing the art. There will always be collectors, fixating on the physical objects, like the great LP jackets from the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1990s, in the underground and alternative-rock worlds, labels like Sub Pop, exploiting their brand, played to this side of their fans’ nature with innovations like the singles club, convincing people to shell out serious money for nonalbum Nirvana and Mudhoney 45s. (Their descendants today are coughing up for old-fashioned LPs of hep new releases.) And there will always be people who can’t be happy unless they have something regular fans don’t. Indeed, a friend of Bangs’, long after he died, said to me that the unspoken corollary in Bangs’ mind to his fantasy was that no one else would have access to it.

There is certainly not a “best” way to collect. Each collector needs to take their own path. Nonetheless, it does appear that if collectors step back and focus on what they truly enjoy about their hobby, then it provides many more opportunities for fun and enjoyment.

Save your money and have fun!

And if you want to have some fun, then talk to Sherrie and/or Tyler. They’ll be able to help you in one way or another.

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  1. #1 by vette88 on April 25th, 2011

    I like the rares because they’re part of the story of M.U.S.C.L.E. Yea, they’re rare, that is cool, but it’s the unstory of why they were made that makes them more appealing to me.

  2. #2 by Chad Perry on April 25th, 2011

    Exactly.

    If you enjoy the backstory and the wonderment that the figures provide, then why should collectors feel pressure to own the figure? Nothing changes by physically having the figure. A collector should still enjoy the figures without the actual figures.

  3. #3 by vette88 on April 25th, 2011

    Yup, agree, but owning a piece of the unknown story is cooler 🙂 In my first post I meant unknown story, not unstory.

  4. #4 by Chad Perry on April 25th, 2011

    I’m not trying to be combative or obstinate when I ask, “Why? Why is it ‘cooler’ to have a ‘piece of the unknown story’?”

    I think an analogy works best at illustrating my point. If I asked why a Corvette was cooler than a Mini-Van most people would be able suggest several reasons; things like, acceleration, design, history, persona, etc.

    I don’t think it is as easy with the Non-Poster figures – especially when you really explore the “why.” If collectors enjoy the sculpt, then why wouldn’t you want a keshi version? It is 100% the same sculpt at a tiny fraction of the price.

    I can’t imagine it’s the texture of the figure, because how often do collectors handle their figures? And how often have you ever heard the texture of the figure as a desirable/heralded trait? It’s been my experience that the texture is only mentioned when it starts to break down (like slimy vintage Star Wars figures).

    If, as the original article suggested, the attraction is simply having something that others don’t have, that’s fine too.

    I simply believe if you can move away from that thinking, then the hobby of collecting M.U.S.C.L.E. figures can be much more fun.

  5. #5 by Johnny on April 26th, 2011

    For me it’s two-fold. Completeness and rarity. It’s a huge draw to be able to have every figure from the line. which is why if it was made in M.U.S.C.L.E. plastic, then I would want to own it in M.U.S.C.L.E. plastic. The other part is owning a piece of M.U.S.C.L.E. lore that is rare or hard to acquire. More so the completist bit though. Regardless, at $500-$1800 each, I won’t be owning any super rares in the foreseeable future, ha ha! If I could only find another 11 for $200…..

  6. #6 by vette88 on April 26th, 2011

    I don’t think you’re being combative. We’re just sharing our opinions respectfully.

    It’s about owning a piece of the history/story of the toy line. In a small comparison, it’s like the piece of the Berlin Wall and the piece of the DMZ fence that I have. Of course both have a more meaningful history than the toy figure. I like them all because of the history, and it’s that history that draws me to own the real thing. I guess I’m weird that way. 🙂

    It’s not about having an item that others don’t. If people collect that way, well, they’re just dumb. They’re not collecting to have fun. They’re collecting to showoff/thumb their nose at other people.

    Yes, if I couldn’t afford the figures, Keshi would be the next best thing.

  7. #7 by Chad Perry on April 26th, 2011

    Interesting opinions guys, I truly understand both of your perspectives. I still feel like my “why question” applies, but pushing it further really starts to take the conversation and idea in a “why do we collect” direction.

    I will add one note, for me there is an important distinction between a reason and why.

    For example, consider a person who uses an inhaler for their asthma. I see the reason they use the inhaler as being asthma. However, why do they use it? Because it opens up the airways in their lungs allowing them to breathe easier.

    I think the same is true here.

  8. #8 by Strontium Dan on April 26th, 2011

    I think anyone who owns a rare item is kidding themselves if they think it’s not about owning something that other people don’t.

    Competition is hardwired into human beings, and collecting incorporates huge elements of competition. Super-rare figures give collectors the chance to one-up their fellow collectors, to out-compete their neighbours for the opportunity to own one.

    Outbidding everyone else to get a super-rare is the metaphorical equivalent of a dog pissing on a lamp post: “this is mine, not yours”.

  9. #9 by vette88 on April 26th, 2011

    I don’t, but some might. I didn’t bid on Super Rares to “one up” other people. Yes, not everybody can own a Super Rare, but it’s the unknown reason(s)/story why they’re Super Rare that draws my attention.

  10. #10 by Chad Perry on April 26th, 2011

    Actually, I think Strontium Dan is mostly right. Of course admitting and acknowledging it takes a great degree of introspection and self-awareness – which, based on my experience, not many people have. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (and I’m not suggesting that you can’t), but it does make examining why very difficult.

    However, I should add that I believe the intensity of that feeling probably varies by person.

  11. #11 by vette88 on April 26th, 2011

    Some might think that posting collection pictures on LRG as a way to “ah ha, I have it and youuuuuu don’tttttt.” That is a child’s game. I guess it could be seen that way, but others post pictures on LRG/other sites to share their collection. What fun is collecting if you can’t share it with others? Others will be able to see the figures, track who has what, make trades, ….. so on and so forth.

  12. #12 by Chad Perry on April 26th, 2011

    I don’t think anyone was suggesting that sharing collection pictures is spiteful. Sure it could be done in a spiteful way, but I don’t think that was being suggested by anyone.

    As the original article suggested, for some people the enjoyment of having a rare item is simply having something another person can’t have. That competitiveness probably weighs in as a factor, consciously or subconsciously, for many collectors – M.U.S.C.L.E. or otherwise.

    I think it may be a much more important factor for collectors than they would like to admit – which is a bit scary for me.

    I struggled to think of a healthy, well-adjusted example where the idea “I want it so no one else can have it” worked. Children often exhibit that thinking as they grow-up and learn to think of others.

    The most prominent example of that behavior that came to my mind was unhealthy relationships. It seems like such a common theme in abusive relationships for one partner to hold a belief like, “If I can’t have them, then nobody can have them.”

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