A few blogs ago I wrote about my method of playing with action figures. Recently, I was in my garage, and I stumbled across the box of action figures I used to play with. I was never too picky when it came to playing with these guys. I had a hodge podge of G.I. Joes, Super Friends, Ghostbusters, and He-Man figures, and all of them would get mixed up, the good guys teaming up to fight the bad guys, G.I. Joes forging an alliance with Superman and Batman, Cobra merging with Lex Luthor and the Council of Doom to rule the known universe. Every night in my bedroom countless wars were fought to determine the very nature of existence. I was not your typical kid playing out your typical action figure scenarios. It wasn't just about good guys and bad guys meeting on a battlefield to settle a mutual score. My stories integrated politics into the leadership structure of each side. Torture and mass destruction was practiced without mercy by the bad guys to assert their dominance. The good guys knew the meaning of mercy, kindness, and personal sacrifice. My stories even included deep relationships - deep seeded friendships, family dynamics in the face of war, even romance and love.
Politics, especially on the side of evil, played a huge role in my story lines. One of the main reason evil was always trumped by good was because the bad guys couldn't keep their shit straight. Early on Cobra Commander would be overthrown by a more qualified and liked leader. He would be taken prisoner and made to service the new harder-lined regime. This knew commander would be just the man to forge the alliance with the Council of Doom, but his harsh discipline would cause widescale defection. Cobra Commander would always escape to service the side of good, followed by Stormshadow, and Brainiac. With these three pieces the good guys were unstoppable in bringing down the side of evil. Politics weren't as important with the good guys, but they still had their place. The leadership was always assumed, and never questioned. Superman was the supreme leader, and his authority was never questioned. The problem came in the few instances where Lex Luthor's experimental Kryptonite gun was successfully used against the Man of Steel, and he ended up dying. The order of succession meant Batman would lead the good guys, but there were always those who felt Batman wasn't the right man for the job. As long as Superman was in control, the good guys had a huge advantage, but if you removed him then there was no telling who would win.
I killed Superman a few times, yes I did. Men frequently died in my stories. It was war, after all. If defeating the opponent meant losing your life then you lost it. No one was excluded from this truth. Funerals took place after every war. The casket was always this little wooden bank I got from a roadside gift store. It looked like a small treasure chest, and was the perfect size for a superhero's final resting place. Someone always spoke, giving some moving eulogy about the person they were, and the sacrifice they'd made. One of my favorite characters to kill off was Batman. I liked the drama this caused for Robin, as he had to face a life without his friend and mentor. He would grow old, as you might expect, eventually assuming the role of Batman, and training someone else to be Robin. He wouldn't be as good a Batman as the original, but he would put his own stamp on the role.
My characters always had deep relationships with each other. Batman and Superman were always best friends (even though this is contrary to their comicn book relationship) and each would seek each other's guidance when advice was needed. Several of the G.I. Joes were actually brothers serving with each other to fight the menace that threatened the universe. And Robin would always fall in love with Wonder Woman. I chose Robin to court Wonder Woman because Superman was always too concerned with duty, Batman wasn't interested in love, and Robin was young and had the boyish good looks. Robin and Wonder Woman's relationship was more than just a title. It was real, going beyond a kiss and hug here and there, and even breaching the lip of sexual experience. Well, as sexual as a ten year old could make it out to be. These were, after all, the days before I really understood the intricate curves and folds of a woman's form and function, the rigidity of my own anatomy, the motions and chemistry of it all.
It was in these ways that I poured reality into my stories with my action figures. In a way I was trying to role play my own life experience through these toys. When some young G.I. Joe threw himself on a bomb it was me yearning to show that kind of sacrifice. I'd be scarred, yes, but at least my scars would mean something. When I thought about death, always trying to explore the depths and mysteries of it, I killed off Super Friends. When Robin and Wonder Woman made love, or said meaningful loving words to each other, they were the words and things I yearned to do with the girls I'd see in everyday life. I breathed my own life through them.
There is a scene from the film Clash of the Titans where the gods have a model of the world where the play with clay representations of mortals. I sometimes wonder if this situation is an actuality, if I, myself, am controlled in the same way by some unseen hand, an extension of someone else's ideal vision, bended and contorted around five points of articulation. If so, would they throw me in the path of some stray bullet? Will they let me touch Wonder Woman? Is my destiny so totally fused in their hands? I may never know...but just the same, and more than anything, I hope their imagination creates stories deeper than mine.