Minifigure Potpourri – Part 2


Part 1 of the Minifigure Potpourri was more Art 200-focused. This second part doesn’t have any custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. In fact, this grouping has both modern minifigures and, at least, two older minifigures. In an effort to organize the website content we’ll just call it Art 300 and move on.

As I was photographing these figures I wasn’t overly excited, but I couldn’t pinpoint the reason. As I started writing Part 1 it started to become more clear to me.

I don’t like minifigures.

That statement is a gross oversimplification, but it helped me to start figuring out some things about the minifigures I react to positively and negatively.

Front

Back

For example, take a look at this figure from TRU:TEK. I couldn’t track any details down about it (but I didn’t exactly kill myself looking). It feels like it must have come out around 2012 because the packaging syncs up with the stuff being done around that time.

I think the packaging is ultimately the star here. The figure is fine, but it pales in comparison to the packaging. If the figure was off of the packaging, then I would be largely indifferent towards the figure. I’m not a MOTU fan nor a Man-E-Faces fan. I started to realize I could acknowledge a good figure, but that didn’t automatically mean that I liked it. And equally important that didn’t mean I didn’t like it. What made me connect with a minifigure?

Thor

Thor from Neclos Fortress helped me to start zeroing in.

I like a difficult-to-define ambiguity with my minifigures. I wasn’t really fond of him when I knew he was a Viking. I liked him even less when I learned he was Thor.

If that is true, then shouldn’t I dislike the Bigfoot- and Tiki-like figures? I loved those figures. So what is the difference?

I think it might be a razor thin, completely subjective, line between being something and being inspired by something. For example, this figure wasn’t exactly a butt – even though you could see the butt. I like that.

I also realized there is another balancing act that is important to me and a minifigure. A minifigure cannot be only a piece of art. The figure needs to also be a toy. I believe a toy inspires the imagination.

Brocotal

The Brocotal figure helped me further understand the minifigure art/toy balance.

The figure was designed by Joe Whiteford and sculpted by George Gaspar. Two guys with far more talent than I could ever dream of having.

Brocotal doesn’t feel like a toy to me. He feels like a cool piece of minifigure art. I can appreciate the technical acumen that went into this figure, but it just doesn’t feel like a toy to me. Because I can be overly cynical I showed the boys all of the figures. I asked them, “If you could save two and throwaway two, then what would you pick?”

Both boys picked the Witch Finger Puppet and Brocotal to throwaway. I asked them why and the answers were basically, “The witch is a dumb finger puppet and I don’t like the brain.” My interpretation was that the brain didn’t feel like a toy to them.

Witch Finger Puppet

As for the dumb finger puppet, the boys were correct.

Finger puppets are such a weird toy. We had some plush finger puppets when the boys were babies. That makes sense to me. A finger puppet seems to have a very specific target – babies and very young kids. It made me wonder why plastic finger puppets even exist?

Sure, plastic finger puppets are a low cost alternative to cloth finger puppets. But who is the target audience? Four- and five-year-olds?

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t effortless to find historical information on finger puppets. So I took a look at the present – $0.19 per figure. Then it dawned on me, finger puppets aren’t toys. Finger puppets are filler. They are classroom prizes; gift bag filler; they’re disposable.

Unknown Robot

Switching from a disposable toy to a very cool piece of art.

There’s nothing toy, or even minifigure about it, but who cares? This thing looks very cool. The boys thought it looked like something from Star Wars, which is probably their highest compliment to a robot.

I wish I knew a little bit more about it.

If I try to unpack why I like this figure, then I think there are three main reasons: (1) technical acumen; (2) looks cool; and (3) inspires imagination. I still wouldn’t have bought it on its own. Why?

No nostalgia. I have to have an emotional connection to the figure. It has to trigger something inside of me. When I look at the Art 300 figures I feel that connection. But making a nostalgic connection is impossibly subjective.

Goliath

The Goliath figure from Mystical Warriors of the Ring seems to be the result of quite a few people.

There’s no question that the figure looks nice. It is also Gloys compatible – which is a negative for me. I like my minifigures unarticulated. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I do have a certain preference.

I don’t dislike this figure. In fact, this seems like a figure I should love. What is my problem? It looks cool and is a monument to technical acumen. It does a good job of balancing art and toy too.

I know that the figure fails to make a nostalgic connection for me – which may seem shocking because M.U.S.C.L.E. was a wrestling toy. But M.U.S.C.L.E. was never exclusively a wrestling toy to me. They could be used as monsters and villains for GI Joe or Star Wars; pink villainous Ewok-like adversaries.

Goliath is a crocodile wrestler. He shares the same problem as Thor above. He is too specific.

Crayboth

The last figures, to the left and below, are the figures that started my reflection on minifigures. I didn’t like any of them. I started trying to find some information on the Cat and Crayboth, but I stopped. It felt like work.

I started examining the other figures; trying to perfectly decode my preferences. Maybe I accomplished that? But when I came back to these figures I just didn’t like them. And it dawned on me that sometimes its just a matter of taste. My wife swears cilantro tastes like soap to her. It ruins any food that includes it. Sometimes things just don’t work for a person.

The rest of the world may like a song, food, view, piece of art, or toy – but it just doesn’t appeal to you. I’m glad I made my $15.50 mistake. It was a fun self-examination.

At a minimum I hope people liked the pictures. If they found the write-up interesting, then that’s even better. And if I dare to dream, then I hope people examine their own collecting too. It was an interesting exercise that I hope other people enjoy too.

8-Bit Figures and Something Else

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  1. #1 by plasticfiend on June 19th, 2018

    I know you have mentioned this point before, but I’ll reiterate. One of the key successes of the MUSCLE line was the ambiguity. There was no books, cartoons… not even a list of proper names for the characters. Who was good? Who was Evil? With the exception of MUSCLE MAN and TERI-BULL … it was left up to the child! Sometimes when you put a label on something – it looses it’s magic. When you mentioned that you liked Thor even less once you knew who he was, this was the first thing that popped into my head.

  2. #2 by Johnny on June 23rd, 2018

    That is Brain Wave, not Brocotal. George has it mislisted on his site. If you go to the link, you can see the actual Brocotal figures above the Brain Wave figures.

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