Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Compulsive Collection: HeroClix

After many years of collecting action figures, I have become pretty good at staying "in focus," that is, I have defined two or three collection "topics" (Star Wars, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) and have tried pretty successfully to stick only to certain items that seem to fit those topics. It is with some embarrassment that I admit this discipline has taken a long time to achieve (and it is with even greater embarrassment that I call it "discipline"). Still, I am prone to lapses. My eye strays. I sometimes look "outside the topic" for satisfaction.

I am most prone to this in two situations. First, when I am all "caught up" — that is, when I have found and purchased everything on my current "want list." This is usually a welcomed break, but if boredom sets in I get weak. Second is when I am hunting for a very difficult-to-find item and in frustration turn to something else. (My collection of die-cast 1957 Corvettes is the direct result of not being able to track down Ephant Mon from Hasbro's 2002 Star Wars line.) This happened recently while looking for the new Funko Pop Wonder Woman, which in my area is only available in one chain of stores, and there are only three such stores in my immediate area. After striking out at all three, I found myself at a local comic/collector shop browsing through HeroClix figures with my sons, helping them locate among the shelves of loose figures the ones they needed to expand their own collections. I had never collected HeroClix figures before, because I have never been interested in gaming so much as collecting. But I sensed something about these tiny game tokens.

That's when it happened. Fuelled by the urge to buy, and frustrated by my failing Wonder Woman quest, my rationalization engine kicked in full-force. A pack of Batman HeroClix figures could be considered relevant to my Batman action figure collection. It would also give me my own army that I could use to join my sons' games. Relevant-ish item. Quality time activity with the kids. Done deal.

I bought one pack, along with the items my sons had chosen, and we left the store. When we got to the car, I opened the box and was happy to find cool characters — the Batman featured in the box's cut-out window, of course, but also Penguin, Commissioner Gordon, and Bane! Holding them close to my eyes, I was impressed by the relative detail for figures this small. I was happy about this purchase. My sons were happy for me. We were all happy.

That's when it happened. We ran back into the store, and scrounging up enough coins from my loose change jar, I bought two more sets. Back in the car, I opened them to find Mad Hatter, Riddler, Robin, Oracle, Alfred, and — wow! — Batgirl! I was psyched. All cool characters, not one double! I was amassing an entire Batman min-collection right there in my car! Back into the store, bought the last set, back to the car. Scarecrow, Nightwing, Ra's Al-Ghul!

Days later, I still don't have buyer's remorse. The figures look nice in their little cluster on the shelf, still impressing me with their detail and colors. It would be a little nicer, I guess, if I enjoyed playing the game, but after a few tries with my sons walking me through it, I still don't get it — so many rules and counter-rules that in the end it's just a semi-structured way to play with toys, but maybe that's all it needs to be.

Today I caved and bought Wonder Woman on-line (just as I had eventually caved and bought Ephant Mon on the secondary market). So in the end, my HeroClix excursion didn't take the place of another, it just appeased me during a moment of frustration. But this is partly how collections grow, leapfrogging over compulsion and reason alike.

Which oft our stage hath shown; and for their sake,
In your fair minds let this acceptance take.

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