What Is Happening to the Action Figure?

The action figure world seems to be a victim of its own collectibility.

Image via Mike Albo

This past weekend, New York City’s Javitz Center housed the 113th North American International Toy Fair, “the largest toy and youth entertainment product marketplace in the Western Hemisphere,” where an estimated 30,000 “play professionals”—including international buyers from more than 7,000 retail outlets—come to show their newest robots, slime, slides, board games, hover boards, and more.

The space was organized into sections like outdoor toys, action figures, educational, board games, and puzzles. This helped attendees get a good, overall sense of what's happening in each genre. The action figure section at the Toy Fair, for example, seemed to be gearing up for the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. One location had a pewter-hued large figurine of Wonder Woman and an armored Batman from the film, $149.99 each, displayed in glass boxes like ancient Sumerian necklaces. In fact, most of the figurines were behind glass, encased and precious, among them a Freddie Mercury figurine.

Image via Mike Albo

Comic book merchandise is booming. Sales of graphic novels in 2015 were up by 22 percent. According to Diamond Inc., the top-selling comic-related figurine this year is Erick Sosa's sculpture of the character Harley Quinn, who will be played by Margot Robbie in the much-anticipated DC Comics antihero feature Suicide Squad, hitting theaters this August.

The figurines were all detailed and worthy of a prominent place on a superfan’s shelf. But—where were the Micronauts? The Transformers? It was difficult to find toys that kids could actually play with in the dirt, outside, or even in a makeshift fort made of sofa cushions. The action figure world seems to be a victim of its own collectibility. Maybe because half the reps here have scuffed-up Chewbaccas that they wish they’d kept in the box.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

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