Memories are funny things. The passage of time can cause them to change or even be completely forgotten. There are some memories that don’t fade. They act as tent poles to the story of our life. These memories are called “flashbulb memories.” They are vivid and can seem like they happened only moments ago. For Tyler Larkins finding a #153 figure as a child is a flashbulb memory.
“As a kid, I collected them to play with them. It became an obsession to find the claw that my brother and I saw on the commercial. I still remember the day vividly when I was looking through the blurred packaging of all the flesh 10 packs at the ZCMI toy store. I finally found one with a claw at the bottom and screamed out loud – one of the most vivid memories of my childhood! I think my mom bought the thing for me just so I would shut up.”
Tyler was mesmerized by the number of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures as wells as the wonderful variety of figures. His love of WWF wrestling only increased his infatuation with the intergalactic wrestlers. However, Tyler was not alone in his love of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. He remembers the figures permeating the entire neighborhood. Even today when Tyler looks at some figures he will get a rush of memories about specific childhood friends and their various sandboxes or basements.
As a child, the experience of trading M.U.S.C.L.E. figures is often a central part. Because Tyler’s neighborhood was completely infiltrated by M.U.S.C.L.E. figures he vividly remembers the trading with other kids. One particular instance was especially noteworthy:
“When the color versions were released, my brother and I had a makeshift yard sale to unload all of our flesh figures to raise money to buy the new colorful ones. Most of the neighborhood kids had no idea about the exciting, blue, green and red MUSCLEs awaiting them in stores, and I remember thinking that we were really pulling one over on everyone. How times change! Today, the flesh versions are by far my favorite, and I regret selling those first ones.”Tyler’s collecting, trading, and freezing M.U.S.C.L.E. figures in water with his brother may have started when he was eight or nine years old, but M.U.S.C.L.E. has been a consistent part of Tyler’s life. When Tyler started dating his future wife in college, M.U.S.C.L.E. was a part of it. She is originally from Tokyo and knew more about the origins of his M.U.S.C.L.E. collection than he did.
“I was floored that each of those little pink guys actually had names!”Tyler believes that having his wife come from such a toy, anime and manga filled culture helped her in being very open to and supportive of his collecting. With the help of his wife Tyler’s M.U.S.C.L.E. collecting grew to include Kinnikuman collecting. And while the scope of his collecting grew, the focus is forever evolving.
“Over the past few years, I have gravitated more towards only picking up a new figure or item if it looks good and fits well into my existing collection. I have never felt compelled to collect all 233/236 MUSCLE, because I am not crazy about all the figures. I have quite a few MUSCLE and Kinkeshi hidden away in a box under the stairs because displaying all of them does not appeal to me.”
With such a diverse collection it might be hard for some collectors to select one piece of their collection which they love above all others. Tyler is not like other collectors in that regard. He knows exactly which piece is his favorite part of his collection.
“I have MIB Flesh 28 packs that I picked up from Plastic Dreams in NJ back in 1998. They were case fresh, and I only opened them once to verify once and for all the correct numbering of which figures were included in the 28 pack sets. That information was sent to Nathan way back when, and has been used ever since on his site.”Even with such a unique and important part of M.U.S.C.L.E. history in his collection Tyler still has pieces he would like to discover. The first is the Flesh version of the M.U.S.C.L.E. poster, but even more desirable for Tyler would be a 10-pack with an easily observable #153 figure. He would also love to find a complete, Flesh 10-pack display.
Tyler’s collection may grow, contract, and almost continually change but there are some constant aspects to it. The first is that Tyler is very particular about his figures. Broken and/or dirty figures have no place in his collection. Especially frustrating to him are figures with writing on them or figures that have been damaged by a child biting on them.
Because his collection has a certain fluidity to it Tyler has a rather interesting approach to tracking his collection. He simply takes a picture of his collection every time he adds a new piece. While he sometimes has a box or two hidden away, the pictures are actually quite easy for him to take. His collection resides on two seven foot display shelves, and a glass display case.
Tyler’s collection may be well organized, but it does not preclude him from injecting M.U.S.C.L.E. into other aspects of his life. He has M.U.S.C.L.E. figures in his office and a figure hanging from his rear view mirror. These few additional figures provide him a wonderful connection to anyone that feels some connection to M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.
“I am reminded on a daily basis that I am part of the community. It amazes me how many times people come up to me at work, and say, ‘hey, I remember those guys!’ I find it a great segue to bring others back into the community. I say ‘back,’ because I think for the most part, all current MUSCLE collectors were also once collectors back in the 80s.And while these figures provide Tyler a connection to other M.U.S.C.L.E. loving individuals, he recognizes that he does not always play an active role in the online M.U.S.C.L.E. community. He sometimes disappears for months at a time and rarely engages other collectors, but he admits he constantly lurks and reads most everything. Tyler said, “I love the community and wish I had more of a connection.”
Thanks to Kinnikuman, M.U.S.C.L.E. will never fade away from Tyler’s consciousness. However he sees some things being necessary to keeping M.U.S.C.L.E. alive for other collectors.
“I would like to see more of what you [the University of M.U.S.C.L.E.] are doing – reaching out to others, making them feel welcome and giving them a chance to be a noted part of the community. I also like the idea of people sharing finds and resources.”
“While I love all the other MUSCLE sites out there, UoM, makes me think and remember like no other site can. MUSCLE is what started it all for me.”
Tyler is certainly a devoted and experienced M.U.S.C.L.E. collector. With such a focused and disciplined collection it is not surprising that his advice to other collectors is succinct, “Collect what makes you happy.”
Tyler’s suggested LRG websites:
The entire M.U.S.C.L.E. community thanks Tyler for sharing his story!
If you would like to be a featured collector, please complete a questionnaire and provide photojournalistic pictures of your collection. Again, the focus of the pictures are not to solely highlight M.U.S.C.L.E. pieces, but rather how those pieces actually exist within the collector’s life. If you: (1) have any questions about the questionnaire or pictures; or (2) would like to submit your questionnaire and pictures, please email the University of M.U.S.C.L.E..