The 90s were a wonderful, exciting, and liberating time to be a kid. Youngsters still played outside for most of the daylight hours, dial-up internet was in its infancy, and pop culture was taking everything great about the 80s and expanding on it. Life was simply radical.
I think that’s why so much of my time is spent thinking about the past. It’s not to say that adulthood is a bad thing, as my weekly allowance and level of interaction with girls has grown exponentially, but there are some great things about being a kid that just cannot be replicated.
Childhood and adulthood are vastly different experiences to most of society, and I definitely understand that unfortunate fact, but I suppose my man-child perspective lends itself to believing that there are parts of your younger, more imaginative and curious self that can remain and even flourish well into adult life.
A big part of my kid self that I continue to cling to desperately is an appreciation for toys. My desk, bookshelf, drawers, and closets are brimming with not only nostalgic playthings and artifacts of youth, but also newer toys that I walked by at conventions or yard sales or checkout lines that I simply couldn’t pass up.
The difference now, however, is that while I admire and love these little sculpted pieces of plastic for their artistic value and their innate link to fond latent memories, I can never appreciate them like I once did. I can never reach that part of myself that could plant little me on my bedroom carpet for hours, thinking up complex scenarios in which all of my favorite heroic toys would battle all of my favorite villainous toys in an epic melee. Today I’d like to pay an honest tribute to the forgotten art of action figure wars.
I don’t know if everyone did things the same way I did when it came to pitting their favorite toys against each other in a battle to the death, but I know I had a pretty complex ranking system.
As is my well-known bias, I usually placed my Ninja Turtle figures at the head of the pack. Raphael was usually the leader of the good guys and would always face off against the lead bad guy in the main event bout. Michelangelo and Donatello would also be thrown in the mix as his cronies, but I always left Leonardo behind like the black sheep bitch that he is. Despite dual katanas being the most formidable weapon of the turtle team, Leonardo’s goody good attitude and insistence on being the levelheaded leader character always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m drinking that Leo Haterade.
Some of my other favorite hero characters were the rollerblading Street Shark, Earthworm Jim, the original Megazord, Inspector Gadget, Lego cowboys, Slimer, Spiderman, Wolverine, Homer Simpson, Beetlejuice, Aladdin and Raja, R2D2, a Philly Phanatic figurine, and a generic T-Rex. This motley group of ragtag vigilantes did their best to clean up the trash and rid my toy box of the stench of evil.
Much like the heroes, my cavalcade of villains was also biased toward Ninja Turtle inclusion. The second TMNT movie’s Super Shredder and the TMNT cartoon’s Krang in his robotic fat baby body were most often the top nemeses featured in the battles. Not only was this because of my affinity for all things Ninja Turtle, but also because I already had the perfect hideout to claim as their base of nefarious operation: the Technodrome.
Alongside the aforementioned Shredder and Krang, my evil supergroup consisted of Creepy Crawlers scorpions, the Trollminator, a brontosaurus, The evil mutant puppy from Earthworm Jim, Jafar, Omega Red, the Green Goblin, an alien from Independence Day, Goldar, Xanatos from Gargoyles, Cyclops (I’ve always hated Cyclops), Vac-Man, Boba Fett, and a generic, orange, one-eyed Ghostbusters monster shaped like a lounge chair.
I was never the type of kid who always wanted the good guys to win, however, and I recognized that many villains possessed far more depth and intrigue than their do-gooder counterparts. Often times, I would let the villains take a sizable lead in victories before bringing out Raphael and T-Rex to fuck up their plans. I must admit that I often felt a great inner conflict when I allowed Boba Fett to lose because, honestly, that dude could mop the floor with any of these chumps.
It wasn’t all mutants and testosterone, however. As for female figures, my personal crush was Jasmine from Disney’s Aladdin. Please don’t make fun of me for having this figure, as she came with Raja in a two pack and who didn’t want a fucking tiger toy to play with? My second go-to female figure was the yellow-clad, freckled April O’Neil. She spent most of her day hanging with humanoid turtles who eat pizza and skateboard, so you know she was fucking cool.
Part of me wishes I could go back to that golden period in human development where unique stories flow from your young mind like Ecto Cooler through a tiny plastic straw. It was so satisfying to spend hours in your room alone with your toys, not bored for a single second.
Like any good scientist, artist, writer or dreamer, I find solace in this quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I stand before you now because I never stopped dawdling like an eight-year-old on a spring morning on his way to school. Anything can make me stop and look and wonder, and sometimes learn. I am a very happy man. Thank you.”
Never forget the carefree beauty of a good daydream.