Posts Tagged ‘toys


The Christmas Special Day 16: The Christmas Toy (1986)

ChristmasToyDirector: Eric Till

Writer: Laura Phillips

Cast: Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Kathryn Mullen, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Camille Bonora, Brian Henson, Marsha Moreau, Zachary Bennett, Jim Henson

Plot: Rugby the Tiger (Dave Goelz) and the rest of the toys in Jesse and Jamie’s playroom (Zachary Bennett and Marsha Moreau, respectively) have an active existence, coming to life and playing whenever their children leave the room. They have to be careful to be in the same spot where the humans left them, though, for if they’re found out of place, they’re frozen forever. When the toys learn it’s Christmas Eve, Rugby is astonished. He remembers last Christmas, when Jamie found him in his brilliant box beneath the tree and he became the center of her world… he never imagined it would happen again. The old teddy bear Balthazar (Jerry Nelson) tells the toys to be ready to welcome the new toys into their midst, pointing out how the doll named Apple (Kathryn Mullen) was upset when Rugby stole her spotlight the year before. As Bathlazar tries to talk to Rugby about what’s about to happen, the catnip mouse named Mew (Steve Whitmire) tells them Rugby has left the playroom to get back under the Christmas Tree, where he believes he belongs. A clown doll named Ditz (Goelz again) steps out of the room to call Rugby back, but he’s found by the children’s mother, who tosses him back into the playroom. Ditz is now “frozen” – unable to move, unable to speak… essentially dead. The rest of the toys sadly bring him to a sort of graveyard in the closet for other frozen toys. As the rest of the toys grieve, Mew sneaks out alone to try to save Rugby.

Mew finds Rugby trapped in the linen closet, locked in after he got mixed up with some clothes. When he tells Mew how spectacular Christmas is (for Rugby, that is), Mew decides to help him back under the tree, showing him the real cat’s trick for opening the door. Back in the playroom Apple assembles a rescue party to go after Rugby and Mew. Rugby makes it to the Christmas tree, where a lovely box for Jamie is waiting to be opened. Mew gets the ribbon off just as Apple and the others find them. She implores him to leave the box alone, but Rugby ignores her. When he opens the box, instead of it being empty, he finds a new doll, a beautiful warrior woman who proclaims herself to be “Meteora, queen of the asteroids (Camille Bonora)!” Meteora rushes off and Rugby tries to seal himself inside her box, but Apple re-tells him the story of last Christmas from her own perspective, when Rugby took her place as Jamie’s favorite toy. As Rugby finally realizes the truth, he still tries to get in the box, and Apple and Mew remind him that he’ll be frozen if the humans find him. Meteora knocks over a chess set, and the noise summons Jamie and Jesse’s father. Before he sees the toys, Mew lets out a very convincing “meow.” Believing it’s just the cat, father goes back to bed. The other toys convince Meteora to return to her box by singing her praises and telling her how she’ll be recognized as a star come Christmas morning. Once she’s wrapped again, they head back towards the playroom. Just as most of them make it back, though, Mew slips from Rugby’s tail and is caught in the hall as the children’s mother opens the door. Rugby rushes to try to save him, but he gets trapped in the linen closet again when mother finds Mew and takes him downstairs to the cat. Heartbroken, Rugby retrieves his friend’s frozen body and tearfully sings him a song to tell him he loves him. Miraculously, Mew begins twitching, and wakes up. In the playroom, the rest of the toys take up the song as the frozen toys in the closet pick themselves up and stumble back to life. The next morning, Jamie and Jesse bring their new toys to the playroom (while the cat, Luigi, drops off a new mouse), and the rest of the toys welcome them. Rugby feels a moment of sorrow while Jamie tells Meteora she loves her, but spirits are lifted all around as she says the same to Apple, and to Rugby himself.

Thoughts: Once more to the Jim Henson company, friends, and to one of my favorite lesser-known Henson productions. The Christmas Toy, from 1986, was one of these specials that led into a (sadly short-lived) TV series, The Secret Life of Toys, about toys that come to life and play whenever their humans leave the room. Nine years later, of course, Pixar Animation would take the basic plot of this special and turn it into a billion-dollar franchise for Disney. And I’m not just talking about the “toys coming to life” part – let’s be fair here, everyone who has ever been a child has imagined that their toys come to life and have adventures of their own when they aren’t around. Of course, there’s also the notion of the comfortable favorite toy suddenly having his prominence threatened by the introduction of a cool new space toy… who doesn’t realize she IS a toy and thinks she’s really in… outer… space… Okay, look, I love Pixar as much as anybody, but if Jim Henson’s ghost had started haunting the crap out of their studio after the first Toy Story came out, he would have been entirely within his rights.

I remember watching this special as a child (I would have been nine the year it came out, so it’s likely I was part of the audience for the premiere) and loving it immediately, even wearing out a VHS copy taped from ABC. Looking back at it as an adult, it’s impressive to me how dark Henson and company were willing to get with these characters. Rugby, at the beginning of the special, is terribly arrogant and unlikable. When he starts singing that he was “the greatest Christmas toy of all,” you kind of hope he does get frozen.

Then there’s the “frozen” concept itself – for a small child, this could be terrifying. Think about it here… you’re little, you’re just starting to gain a comprehension about what death actually is and what it actually means… and then you watch a Muppet special where the lovable mouse drops dead because somebody looks at it. I don’t actually remember the spin-off TV show very well, but I’m pretty sure they dropped this particular aspect when it went to series, and that’s probably a good thing. It definitely adds a note of suspense and danger to the story, but it may have been too difficult to deal with on a weekly basis. (If you really want to be a stickler for continuity, you can probably argue that whatever Rugby did to bring Mew back at the end of this special broke that spell forever, but if you’re thinking that hard about it you’re probably thinking too much about this. Yes, I am speaking from experience.)

Like any good Christmas special, of course, the unlikable character finds redemption in the end. And like any good Jim Henson production, that redemption comes with the help of his friends. The relationship between Rugby and Mew is wonderfully constructed. They’re not buddy-buddy like Kermit and Fozzie or Bert and Ernie. Instead, at the beginning, Mew hangs out with Rugby mainly because all of the toys reject him (he’s “just a cat toy”), but Rugby gives him slightly more attention than the others. It’s not even good attention – Rugby mocks and degrades him more than anyone, but Mew latches on to him anyway. When Mew saves him, twice, we see Rugby’s attitude shift, becoming more accepting not only of Mew, but of Meteora as well. And all of it is part of his true education – the growing knowledge that he isn’t the center of the universe after all, but merely an important part of it for one child. Once again, Henson is teaching children a lesson: “It ain’t all about you, kid.”

The music is okay here, but the final number is fantastic. “Together at Christmas,” Rugby’s song to Mew, briefly became something of a Henson anthem, and we in fact will hear it once more a few days from now, when we pay our fourth and final visit to the Henson workshop, and look in on his most famous creations.

Speaking of those creations, like Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, this film sadly isn’t available uncut. Both Emmet and the Toys are still owned by the Jim Henson Company, but a few years back they sold the Muppet Show characters to Disney, which means they had to trim the introduction for both of these films, starring Kermit the Frog, to put on DVD. (Sesame Workshop got special permission from Disney to use Kermit in some of the DVDs of their older shows. I don’t know if Henson even asked…) The special is lovely in its own right, but the beginning is terribly abrupt, you feel like you’ve turned it on after it already began, and that’s why. The DVD itself is horribly barebones, not even taking you to a menu before starting the film. If they ever decide to dress this up and do a better home video release, I hope they come to some sort of agreement to give us Kermit’s welcome back again.

Don’t forget, The Christmas Special is the third Reel to Reel movie study. The first, Mutants, Monsters and Madmen, is now available as a $2.99 eBook in the Amazon Kindle store and bookstore. And you can find links to all of my novels, collections, and short stories, in their assorted print, eBook and audio forms, at the Now Available page!


I just love that this exists… Green Lantern Toys!

Not long ago, while hanging with the great Kenny “The Fan Guy” Fanguy, I happened upon the local Toys R Us. While there, I took this picture of their shelves.  It made me ridiculously happy to see it then, and I’m still happy about it now.

Green Lantern toys. An entire line of them, right there in the store.

I have to explain myself a bit, I suppose. If you’re not a comic book fan, you may not understand the loyalty we nerds often have to the characters we first fell in love with. Not long after I started reading, my Uncle Todd gave me a bunch of old Green Lantern and Legion of Super-Heroes comics he didn’t want anymore. Not coincidentally, I’m still a fervent fan of both those venerable franchises. But for the longest time, they remained pretty niche. Sure, everyone knew who Superman and the Hulk were, but when I was a kid, Green Lantern may as well have been Brother Voodoo in terms of superhero obscurity. It got a little better a few years ago when the Justice League cartoon hit big, because there was a Green Lantern in that book. Not Hal Jordan, or Kyle Rayner, but John Stewart — a worthy member of the corps, indeed, and he helped to spread the awareness of the property.

Now though, thanks to the movie hitting next week, it’s everywhere. There are Green Lantern toys in the store, Hal Jordan (as portrayed by Ryan Reynolds) is appearing in Subway ads, on packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, in “Got Milk” ads. There are two direct-to-DVD Green Lantern movies and a cartoon on the way, not to mention a video game available on several platforms. And if that wasn’t enough, there is a Krispie Kreme doughnut. A Green Lantern Doughnut. And based just on the picture, it is the doughnut all other doughnuts want to grow up to be.

I know a few people — friends of mine, even — who treat the mainstream exposure of something like Green Lantern as a bad thing. They seem to think there’s merit in being into something that the bulk of popular culture hasn’t discovered. Honestly, I don’t get that attitude at all. For me, this is validation. This is something I’ve been into forever, and the rest of the universe is finally starting to see how awesome it is.

So yes, I’m very excited for the movie next week. I feel good about it, and I’ve got high hopes that it will spawn a franchise. And as far as I’m concerned, the more people realize how incredible a story that of the Green Lantern Corps is, the better.


Toyetic: A new tale for Christmas 2010

As I’ve mentioned here before (like this past Saturday), for many years now it’s been a tradition for me to compose a new short story every Christmas. I love doing it every year. I look forward to it. And I find it interesting to see what, exactly, inspires each one. Sometimes it’s a song, a conversation, a lingering “what if?”-type question. This year, I won’t lie to you, is inspired in part by my new little niece, but also in part by a desire to point out there’s still good, even in a world full of bad. Here’s my gift to you, friends. Please, enjoy…


The thing inside Lucas Melish’s closet had been there since Easter, at least. That was the first time he heard it, shuffling around in the night. The next morning, he told his father he’d heard something moving around when the lights were out, quivering as he said it but trying to appear brave. He was six years old, still young enough to be frightened of the Night Noises but just old enough not to want to let his dad know he was scared. He padded into the kitchen that morning, tugged on Daddy’s pants, and told him he heard something moving in his closet the night before.

It was Mommy who reacted, though. “Oh, Pierce, don’t tell me we have a mouse.”

“It’ll be fine, Lori. I’ll put some traps out, the whole thing will be over with by the weekend.” He squeezed Lucas’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, buddy, I’ll take care of everything.”

Lucas nodded, because Daddy said he would take care of it, and Daddy wouldn’t lie. But the next weekend, he was still hearing the noises. He knew Daddy’s traps hadn’t captured a mouse yet, because Mommy asked him every morning if he’d caught anything yet. So far, he hadn’t, and he was starting to get irritated. That actually made Lucas feel a little better. Daddy got irritated at little things – when he spilled his coffee, when Mommy took too long in the bathroom, when the phone rang and it played “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,” because Lucas knew that meant Grandma was calling. But none of the things that made Daddy irritated were bad or scary, just little problems. So if Daddy wasn’t scared, even if he kept hearing the sounds, it was nothing to be worried about.

Around Mother’s Day, though, the noises started to get louder. It was really late, and a crashing sound inside the closet woke Lucas up. He shot straight up in his bed and shouted. A second later, Daddy and Mommy came into the room, both of them looking really tired, and Daddy looked irritated again. He turned on the light and opened the closet, where they found a blue shoebox on the floor. Lucas recognized it – it was usually up on the top shelf, too high for him to reach it, and he never even knew what was in it before. Now he could see, because the top had come off in the crash. The things that came out of it were the size of Mommy’s phone, but they were mostly white and they all had two holes in them, and writing.

That’s where my cassettes went,” Mommy said. She stood on tiptoe to look onto the shelf. “It looks like it was nudged off the shelf. Didn’t you ever catch that mouse?”

“The box is kind of heavy,” Daddy said, as he picked up Mommy’s “cassettes” and put them back in place. “I don’t know if a mouse could have done it.”

“No, not a rat. Pierce–”

“I’ll get bigger traps. And some of those glue traps from Lowe’s. I’ll put them all in the garage and the shed. We’ll get it.”

The glue traps got lots of things – bugs, spiders, and even a mouse, but nothing that Lucas thought was big enough to have made the sounds inside his closet. But it was no big deal. Daddy wasn’t worried. Not about the thing in Lucas’s closet, at least. He was worried about WORK. Lucas wasn’t sure what WORK was, but he knew Daddy and Mommy both went there every day while he went to school, and Daddy always was flustered when he came back.

Sometimes Daddy brought WORK home with him. He’d sit at the kitchen table and draw pictures of different heroes and monsters and cars. Lucas didn’t understand why WORK was bothering Daddy so much – it seemed like fun – but Daddy kept complaining that his drawings weren’t “toyetic” enough.

“What’s ‘toyetic’ mean, Daddy?”

“It means that my job is to draw characters that would make good toys, buddy. You know, like the toys you play with? But I can’t seem to come up with toys that are good enough.”

Lucas was astonished. That was WORK? Drawing toys? It was a major realization for him. It had never occurred to him before that somebody actually had to make toys, they always just seemed to happen, but when he went to school the next day he told all of his friends what Daddy’s WORK was. They seemed impressed. Their Daddies went to WORK too, but they all did boring things, like PLUMBING or COMPUTERING or TAX ATTORNEY-ING. Lucas didn’t know what any of those things meant, but none of them sounded as cool as making toys.

He asked Daddy if he’d made Lucas’s favorite toy, Captain Cosmos. Captain Cosmos was the best – he flew around the galaxy in his spaceship with his friends (there were toys of them too, Lucas knew, but Mommy said he may have to wait for his birthday or Christmas for those), and he destroyed all the bad monsters and kept the galaxy safe. Daddy didn’t have anything to do with Captain Cosmos, but “I wish to hell I did,” he said. “Those little suckers sell like Cabbage Patch Kids back in the day.”

Lucas didn’t know what “Cabbage Patch Kids” were either, but Daddy had the irritated voice back, so he decided not to ask.

The noises started to fade, but around the time school let out for summer the sound came back, louder than ever. This time there was no crashing sound, but there was a definite scraping, like the sound of Daddy shoveling snow during the winter. Lucas didn’t say anything, didn’t want to sound scared, but he grabbed the covers and pulled them up over his head until the sun came up. When the light was out, he climbed out of bed and walked up to the closet door. It was easier to be brave when the sun was shining, but it wasn’t impossible to be scared. He reminded himself that Daddy wasn’t scared, that he was only irritated, so he put on his own irritated face and opened the door.

There was a hole in the wall.

It wasn’t big – not yet, at least – but Lucas could easily slip his hand into if it he wanted to. It wasn’t down low, either, by the floor like mouse holes in the cartoons always were. It was higher up, almost at the level of Lucas’s waist. He went straight to Daddy again, telling him that the Thing in his closet had picked out a hole, and Mommy and Daddy ran right in to look at it.

“Pierce, did that thing get through the drywall?” Mommy asked.

“I don’t see how… Lucas, buddy, are you sure you didn’t do this? You didn’t maybe fall down or knock something over that punched the hole in the wall?”

“No, Daddy, it wasn’t me.”

Daddy frowned at Lucas, and he suddenly realized that Daddy thought he was lying. But he wasn’t. That wasn’t fair. “Daddy, I didn’t–”

“It’s all right, Lucas. I’ve got some spackle in the garage, I’ll fix this up.”

“Should I stay away from it?” Mommy asked, touching her tummy. For the first time, Lucas noticed that she was getting bigger there. Was she eating too much?

“No, don’t worry, Lori. It’s no big deal. Come on, Lucas, let’s get ready to go down to Grandma’s.”

With school out, Lucas was spending the day at Grandma’s house while Mommy and Daddy WORKED. Mommy picked him up every day after she came home, and Lucas was always excited to see her. When she walked in the door today, though, she was holding her back like she was in pain and stumbled into Grandma’s rocking chair.

“How are you sweetie?” Grandma asked.

“I’m fine. It’s just starting to show, you know?”

“Show what, Mommy?” Lucas asked.

Mommy and Grandma looked at each other, nervous. “Nothing, Lucas sweetie. It’s… nothing.”

But it wasn’t nothing. That night after dinner, Mommy and Daddy brought Lucas to the living room and sat him down on the couch.

“We’ve got something to tell you, buddy,” Daddy said. “It’s really good news.”


“Well… well, Mommy is going to have a baby. You’re going to have a little brother or sister.”

“Oh.” He thought about it for a moment. “I want a brother.”

Mommy and Daddy laughed at that, which Lucas thought was somewhat rude. Daddy explained, though, “I’m afraid you don’t get to choose, pal. You just… get whatever you get.”

“Oh. I guess that’s okay.”

“So there are going to be some changes around here. I’m going to be working a lot harder, because we need more money, and we’re going to rearrange things. We’re going to move your bedroom.”

“Move it where?”

Mommy laughed at that one. “No, sweetheart, we’re going to move you into a different room. Your bedroom is the closest one to ours, and we need to put the baby there, so we’re going to move you into the room next to it.”

“The guess room?”

“Guest room. But it won’t be a guest room anymore, it’ll be yours. And it’ll be bigger. Won’t that be fun?”

Lucas looked down at his shoes. “I guess so,” he said, but secretly, he was starting to think this new baby wasn’t going to be much fun at all. “When will we have the baby?”

“Not for a while yet,” Daddy said. “Mommy is due around the end of November. We may not have the baby yet by Thanksgiving, but we’ll have her for Christmas.”

“Her?” Mommy said.

Daddy shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Gut feeling.”

Daddy’s feeling, Lucas discovered a few months later, was right. Mommy’s doctor used a machine to take a picture inside of her, and the picture told them that the new baby would be a little girl. Lucas kind of wished it had been a brother instead, but Mommy and Daddy were clearly happy about the news, so he didn’t say anything. Still, it bothered him a little when they started to paint the baby’s room – his old room – in light pink and green colors. Daddy also patched up the hole in the closet, again blaming it on mice or rats, even though Lucas wasn’t really sure about that anymore.

His new room was the next one over, and his new closet was right on the other side of the wall from his old one, and for some time, it was all fine. Then, sometime near the Fourth of July, the scratching sounds returned, louder than ever.

Earlier that day, Lucas and Daddy had been in his new room. They’d painted the walls blue for him and put in a new carpet, and Daddy was working on something special – a life-size drawing of Captain Cosmos. Daddy was carefully painting in the picture of the spaceman, standing on an alien landscape with bizarre stars and planets in the background. Lucas loved it – none of his friends had anything this cool in their bedrooms.

“It looks great, Daddy!”

“Thanks, Lucas.” He sighed as he stepped back, having put the finishing touches on Captain Cosmos’s space helmet. “Man, what a great design. I wish I could make something as toyetic as this.”

“Why do you want that, Daddy?”

“It’s my job, son. I need to design good toys so I can make money.”

“Why do you need money?”

“So I can take care of you, and your mom, and your sister. We need money for food and clothes and all kinds of things. That’s why grown-ups need jobs, to get the money we need to take care of the people we love.”

“Should I get a job?”

Daddy laughed. “No, buddy, you’re a little too young for that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do your part. You’re going to be a big brother soon. That means you’re going to have to help take care of your sister. Look out for her, make sure she doesn’t get hurt… protect her from anything that could hurt her.”

“I have to do all that?”

“I know it sounds like work, but it’s really not. When you love somebody it’s just something you do, without even thinking about it.” Lucas told Daddy he didn’t understand, and Daddy said that was okay – he would someday. Daddy said things like that a lot.

That night, the scratching came back. Lucas almost got up to go get Daddy again, but he thought better of it. The “protecting” thing sounded like something grown-ups did, and Lucas didn’t want to be a baby. He got up and, trying to keep from shaking, opened the closet door. Inside was a very small hole, barely the size of a dime, but pieces of the wall were crumbling away from it from the inside. He saw a little black claw scraping at the sides, making it bigger, and his mouth was suddenly very dry, his throat full of a sour taste. Mice didn’t have claws like that, did they? He ran to his nightstand, where Daddy kept a flashlight for him in case of a power outage, and flicked the flashlight on. The batteries still worked, good. He took the flashlight to the closet and shined it into the hole.

There was a different sound this time, a sort of squealing, and through the small hole he saw a flurry of movement. The Thing behind the wall moved quickly, very quickly, but he could tell it was covered with fur, and bigger than a mouse. Probably bigger than a rat, too.

The next day, as Daddy stoked the coals in the barbecue pit, he thought about telling him. He decided not to.

The noises again started to grow progressively louder, and Lucas started to wonder if the Thing simply hadn’t been able to find him after he switched rooms. If that was the case, it wasn’t very smart. He had only moved a few feet. But smart or stupid, the Thing scared Lucas very much. That was why, on the night of his birthday in early August, he decided to do something about it. Lucas was really excited when he got his birthday presents from Mommy and Daddy – a box with several Captain Cosmos action figures. The Galaxy Gang included the Solar Sergeant, Lance Asteroid, Jenna Jupiter (“A girl?” Lucas had moaned when he opened the box) and the crew’s pilot, the Navigator, a mysterious hooded figure who never talked but always knew exactly where to go.

That night, before he went to bed, Lucas opened up his closet and looked at the hole. It had slowly grown over the last month, and was now again about the size of a baseball. The Thing made him nervous, the Thing was something bad, but maybe there was room back there for something good, too. He took Captain Cosmos and the entire Galaxy Gang, strapped their weapons into their hands (usually with the aid of tiny pegs in the plastic) and lined them up facing the hole. Maybe if the Thing came out in the night, he thought, they could protect him.

But early the next morning, he heard the scraping again. After a few minutes, it stopped, replaced by another sound… a slurping sound. Lucas grabbed the flashlight (which had moved to a permanent spot next to his pillow since the incident on the Fourth of July), threw open the closet, and hit the light.

The beam fell upon the Thing, and for the first time Lucas could see it clearly. It was big, about two feet tall, and covered in fur. Although it looked like an animal, it stood on two legs and had a short stub of a tail dragging behind it. Its head was wrapped in fur, except for a pair of horns that curved away from its forehead and came to fine points up above his ears. Its teeth were jagged, sharp, and there were entirely too many of them for his mouth. Currently, those teeth had Captain Cosmos’s head clenched between them. When Lucas hit it with the light, it looked up at him and its eyes flashed a horrible red color. It dropped the toy, a strand of drool coming from its mouth down to Captain Cosmos’s head, and hissed at Lucas, then turned and jumped backwards through the hole. It was bigger now, but not so big that it should have been able to leap through it so easily, but it twisted its body, slipping through one part at a time, while still moving terribly quickly, and then it was gone.

Lucas didn’t go back to sleep that night.

In the morning, in the protective light of the sun, he tried to tell Daddy about the Thing.

“It was big, Daddy! Way bigger than a rat!”

“Don’t tell me we have a raccoon in the house,” Mommy groaned.

“It’s okay, Lori, Lucas just had a bad dream.”

“It wasn’t a dream, Daddy! Look!” He held up Captain Cosmos so Daddy could see the tooth mark scratched into the toy’s head. Daddy took the figure, examined it for a minute, then handed it to Mommy. She shook her head.

“Lucas, have you been chewing your toys?”


“Is this about your new room?” Daddy asked. “Are you afraid to be so far away from us? We’re just a little bit further down the hall.”

“No, Daddy, it’s real.”

Daddy tousled Lucas’s hair. “I love your imagination, buddy, but you’ve got to be able to tell the truth between real and make-believe.”

They didn’t believe him. Lucas was stunned, he’d always told them the truth, but they thought he was making it up. Daddy went off to WORK that day, and Mommy dropped him off at Grandma’s, where he was spending his days until school began again. He thought about telling Grandma his story, but something told him that she would be on Mommy and Daddy’s side. Instead, he decided to try a different strategy.

“Grandma, can I draw some pictures today?”

“Of course, sweetheart!” They had their routines – he kept some toys at her house, some books and movies, but like his father, Lucas loved drawing pictures. Grandma loved watching him draw pictures. But the picture he drew today didn’t please her at all.

That night, he came to Daddy with his latest drawing. It was, of course, of a black fur-covered creature with a short tail, horns, jagged teeth, and red eyes. Daddy took the picture and smiled. “Lucas, you drew this?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

“This is wonderful.”

“I think it’s ugly,” Mommy said. “Why can’t you draw something cute, Lucas?”

“Oh, sure, it’s kind of a dark subject, but look at his craft, Lori. Look at the detail he put into the fur and the teeth. And he’s only seven. Lucas, you keep drawing and keep learning, you could be a great artist. Maybe when Christmas comes you should ask Santa Claus for an art set – some colored pencils and a few sketchbooks.”

Lucas would actually like that quite a bit, but it wasn’t exactly the point. “That’s the Thing in my closet, Daddy.”

“This is what your monster looks like?”


“Very imaginative.”

Imaginative? Lucas’s heart fell. Daddy didn’t believe him after all, he just liked the drawing. Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t listen, Captain Cosmos was no good… even Santa Claus would probably ignore him.

Lucas was on his own.

“Lucas, can I take this picture to WORK? It’s giving me some ideas.”

“Sure, Daddy,” he said, barely paying attention. If he was by himself, if he had to fight this Thing without any of the grown-ups, he needed to figure out a way to do it. And soon.

Things continued to be hectic in the weeks before Halloween. The thing in Lucas’s dream was bad enough, but one day there were a lot of stories on the news about people reporting monsters – real monsters – showing up all over the place. Daddy called it “foolishness,” but as Lucas thought about the thing scratching the hole in his closet, he didn’t know if he agreed. The stories tapered off a little over the next few weeks, but they continued. Daddy ignored the stories, just like he ignored the hole in Lucas’s closet. Lucas could ignore neither.

On Halloween, Mommy wore a shirt with a big, smiling pumpkin on her ever-growing belly, and stayed home to hand out the candy with Grandma while Lucas and Daddy, dressed like Frankenstein and a vampire respectively, went trick-or-treating. Two blocks from home, they approached a garage with a curtain of black plastic sheets over the front. Daddy smiled. “A Haunted House. What do you say, pal?”

Lucas nodded, but felt his heart racing. He hadn’t been sleeping lately. The hole in his closet was getting bigger and bigger. He tried to get Daddy to look at it, but he was at WORK later and later each day now, and often seemed excited when he came home, wanting nothing more than to talk about some big project that didn’t really make sense to Lucas. He could tell Daddy was excited, that maybe he had finally made something “toyetic,” but it was small comfort to Lucas as he listened to the sound of the hole getting bigger each night. He’d tried looking again, wondering why the creature needed to keep making the hole bigger if it could already get through, and when he shined the light in he saw that it had grown. It was getting bigger, it was too big now to fit through the hole, and as Halloween approached its growth spiked up enormously. It always looked hungry, too, like it wanted to eat. Lucas didn’t think it was eating normal food, though. As he looked at the thing, as the fear inside of him became intense, the Thing shot up another three inches before his eyes. His fear was making it bigger. And that just made him more afraid. With the stories on the news now, it seemed to Lucas that everybody was afraid of something these days. He wondered, growing more scared as he went, just how big the Thing could get.

As they stepped into the Haunted House, Lucas heard creepy sounds, screams, creaking doors, rattling chains… and somewhere in the background, a scraping. As they stepped through, past dancing skeletons and a creepy old witch stirring a pot full of smoke, the scraping was what stayed in Lucas’s mind. Scrape… scrape… scrape… Louder… Louder…

Then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

He turned to see the Thing from his closet, as tall as Daddy, teeth just as long, snarling and growling at him. Lucas began to scream, unable to control himself, and grabbed onto Daddy’s leg in a panic. Daddy laughed, but only for a moment. As Lucas’s screams continued, Daddy picked him up and started to talk to him.

“Lucas, it’s okay. Calm down, buddy, it’s just a guy in a mask. It’s okay!”

“Yeah, little guy.” Lucas looked up to see that the Thing wasn’t the Thing at all – it was Mr. Ellisar from down the street. He was holding the furry mask in his hand, and he looked like he felt terrible. “Pierce, I’m so sorry–”

“Don’t worry about it, Ray, you didn’t do anything wrong. I think I need to get this guy home. We’ve had enough Halloween for this year.”

Privately, Lucas thought he’d been going through Halloween ever since Easter, and it was just getting worse. By the time his sister, Dana, was born on the day before Thanksgiving, he was on the verge of going crazy. The noises were getting louder, the hole was getting bigger, and Captain Cosmos was worthless for protection. Mommy and Daddy were happier than he’d ever seen them when they brought Dana home, and he tried to be happy with them. He looked at her – so small and soft, with just a wisp of blond hair on the top of her head over her big, wide eyes that rolled everywhere after she was a few weeks old, as if everything she saw was brand new (which, now that he thought about it, was true for her) and she had to take it all in before it went away. But he couldn’t feel happy they way that they did.

After the first few weeks were over and the endless parade of friends and relatives cycling through the house finally began to subside, it was just him and Mommy home with Dana whenever he wasn’t at school. Daddy seemed to be spending even more time at WORK, getting more excited, and promising Lucas that all of it was going to “pay off big-time.” Two weeks before Christmas, as he sat at the kitchen table reading one of his books, Mommy came in holding the baby. She sat down next to him, turning the baby so she could see him, and held up her hand, making her “wave.”

“Say hello to your big brother, baby,” she said. Lucas sort of halfheartedly waved back, and Mommy sighed. She kissed Dana on the head and then pulled her chair closer to his. “This has been hard on you, hasn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Having a little sister. Being a big brother. Having everybody paying attention to her and not really paying much attention to you.”

“I guess,” he said.

“I thought so. You’ve been so quiet lately, and Daddy and I have been afraid that you don’t even feel like you’re part of the family. I’m sorry, sweetheart. I need you to understand something, though – just because we’re giving Dana so much attention doesn’t mean we don’t love you. She’s little, she needs more attention. But you’re a big boy, you can do more things for yourself. You don’t need us as much as she does. We love you just as much. Do you understand that?”

He nodded and she smiled. “I hope you do. And you know what? Once you get just a little bigger, and once she gets a little bigger, you’ll be able to help out. You’ll be able to give her some of that attention she needs, and you know what? When you do that, guess where all of her attention will be?”


“Right on you.” She put her free arm – the one that wasn’t cradling Dana – around him and pulled him in for a hug. “I promise you, sweetheart, you two are going to love each other more than you can even imagine right now.”

“Okay mommy,” he said, but he said it because he knew that’s what she wanted to hear. Maybe she was right, maybe she wasn’t. She didn’t understand his problem, that was the big thing. She thought he was jealous of the baby. The truth was, he was scared for her. The Thing in the closet was getting closer, the hole in his closet was almost big enough for a grown man to crawl through now. And once it took care of Lucas, he knew that Dana was going to be next. And if it wasn’t that, there were the other monsters, the ones on the news that still kept showing up and that most of the grownups still said were fakes. The kids at school believed in them, though. Lucas believed in them too.

On Christmas Eve, everyone else in the house was joyful. The tree was up, the countertop had been taken over by Mommy’s Christmas Village, a nativity scene enjoyed a place on honor on the front table, and pinned to the bookshelves  (they had no fireplace, but Mommy swore to him a few years ago that made no difference to Santa Claus) were their stockings – Pierce, Lori, Lucas, and brand new this year, Dana. Lucas couldn’t feel himself getting excited at all.

Daddy came home from WORK that day with a huge smile on his face and a box in his hands. “I know that Christmas is tomorrow, Lori, but I just can’t wait. Lucas! Come over here, buddy, I’ve got something to show you!”

Lucas put down his book – a nature book, he’d given up on stories about Captain Cosmos – and padded over to Daddy in his socks. Daddy smiled at him, beaming almost like he’d done on the day Dana was born, and patted the box. “You know how I’ve been working for months to come up with a new toy?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

“Well, buddy, you helped me out. I’ve been trying and trying to come up with characters and designs and ideas and… well… anything that was toyetic enough to present, but you’re the one who helped me find something. You and that fantastic imagination of yours. Feast your eyes!”

He opened the box and pulled out Lucas’s nightmare. It was a stuffed animal, about as tall as Dana was long, and covered in fur. His fur was white, though, not black, and the too-many teeth had been rounded and turned into a broad smile rather than a hideous snarl. His horns were still there, but they too were rounded and smooth. His eyes, in Lucas’s drawing a pair of simmering red coals, here crystal blue and smiling, even cast in plastic.

“I know this isn’t exactly the drawing you made for me, Lucas, but this is much better for the kind of toy my boss was looking for. Meet Yardley the Yeti. He’s the playful polar pal that every kid in America is going to want under his tree next Christmas, but now that we’ve got the prototype perfected, I wanted you to have the first one.”

“Yardley?” Lucas said.

“Yeah… I know, it’s not great, but do you know how hard it is to find a name that starts with ‘Y’? It was that or ‘Yancy’.”

“I don’t get it.”

Daddy’s voice changed and got deeper, like he was talking in a commercial. “Yardley the Yeti is the friendly beast from the north. He’ll play with you all day and protect you from the bad things at night!” He chuckled and looked at mommy. “That last bit was my idea – if Yardley does well I’m thinking we may be able to take Lucas’s original drawing and use it as the basis for a bad guy in the toy line. And with the way things have been going in the news lately, my boss thinks there’s going to be a real demand for kids to have a sort of guardian in their bedrooms.”

“It’s adorable,” Mommy said.

“It’s stupid,” Lucas declared.

“Lucas! Your father has worked really hard on this! Be polite!”

“It doesn’t make sense. A toy can’t protect you from the Bad Things.”

Daddy put the toy down. “Is this about all that stuff you’ve been seeing on the news, pal? I told you, it’s not anything you need to be worried about.” He picked up Yardley and handed it to Lucas. “This one is yours. It’s a thank-you for giving me the idea. I hope you’ll be able to appreciate it for that, even if the story doesn’t work for you.”


“What do you we say, Lucas?” Mommy asked.

“Thank you.” Then, without prompting, Lucas got up and hugged his father. “I’m sorry I said your toy was stupid.”

“That’s okay. Love you, buddy.”

“I love you too, daddy.”

That night, the scratching stopped. Somehow, the absence of the sound was far worse than hearing it ever was. He lay awake, staring at the Yardley doll that he’d placed on his nightstand, not far from the baseball bat he’d taken to sleeping next to. Yardley smiled down at him, wearing a big, doofy grin that Lucas knew wasn’t worth anything in the face of the Bad Thing in his closet. Mommy and Daddy had told him to get to bed early, because Santa Claus was supposed to come, but that didn’t really matter to him either. Would Santa get rid of the Bad Thing? Could he get rid of the Bad Thing? If he couldn’t, what good was he?

He was still looking at the doll when he heard his closet door open.

Lucas turned his head, slowly, in the direction of his closet. It was only cracked, but it was gliding open as he looked, that black crack turning into a gap, and then into an opening. And then the Thing stepped out. It looked just like the Thing in his drawing, with its hideous mouth full of teeth pulled back into a grotesque smile. Its red eyes burned in their sockets, illuminating the mane of fur that dangled from his head, and accentuating the needle-tipped points of his horns. It was looking at Lucas.

And it was smiling.

“Get away from me,” Lucas said. He reached off to the side of his bed and grabbed the baseball bat, lifting it as though he was ready to swing.  “Get away!”

The Thing made a terrible, guttural sound, like something in his throat was being churned through a meat grinder. With revulsion, Lucas realized that was the sound of the Thing laughing at him. It began to walk towards Lucas slowly, purposefully, drool beginning to dribble from the huge gaps between his pointed teeth. A trail formed from the closet door and started to dribble towards Lucas’s bed. He grabbed the flashlight and turned it on the thing, and it blanched for a moment when the light hit it in the face. Then, it started to laugh again, pushing forward. Behind it, Lucas saw the hole, enormous now, big enough that even Daddy could have slipped through it into the darkness on the other side. There was a smaller hole behind the big one, Lucas noticed, and realized he was looking through the hole the creature had carved into his old closet, in his old room, where Dana now lay asleep.

“Get away!” Lucas shouted this time, swinging the bat at hard as he could and colliding with the monster’s face. The beast didn’t appear to be hurt at all. Instead, he reached up and yanked the bat from Lucas’s hands, tossing it back behind him through the hole. It struck the wall on the other side with a loud thud, and a few more chunks of wall fell away from the tiny hole. It turned back to Lucas, approaching slowly, smiling broadly.

Then, from the hole, they heard the sound. It was a loud, unhappy sound, one that Lucas had learned to recognize as an alarm of the most basic sort. It was Dana, crying, probably woken up by the sound of the bat hitting the inside of the closet. As she started to cry, the Dark Thing turned back towards the hole. Its eyes were wider, amazed, looking like a child who had been reaching for a vanilla ice cream cone, only to discover that there was chocolate available from the next soft-serve spigot. It didn’t even look back at Lucas this time, but instead opened the door to his bedroom and rushed into the hall. Lucas ran after it, but it was so much faster. He got to Dana’s room and saw the thing standing over her bed. She was screaming, but it didn’t sound like fear so much as discomfort. At her age, she hadn’t yet learned to be afraid of anything. Lucas was jealous.

He ran in and hit the Thing with his fists, shouting at it, telling it to get away from his sister. It ignored him until Lucas grabbed hold of its fur and started to yank out tufts of it in big, bloody clumps. The whole time, he was screaming. “Daddy! Daddy, Mommy, help! It’s in Dana’s room! It’s trying to get her!”

But Daddy and Mommy didn’t come, and as he pulled out the fur one chunk at a time and the monster grabbed his baby sister by the feet, Lucas had never felt more alone. This was what the Dark Things were for, the Bad Things, the Things he couldn’t stop because he was too small and too scared, and…

But Dana was smaller than he was, wasn’t she? And because of that, she needed him.

Lucas tugged on the thing’s fur again, but this time he used it to pull himself up. He climbed the beast, holding on as it started to buck against him, reaching around and trying to get hold. Lucas rolled in front of its face and onto the baby’s crib. She was still crying, her eyes wide and glaring up at him, when he landed over her. He was careful to put his arms and legs out, stopping himself so that he was shielding her instead of crushing her. He could feel the beast’s hands on his back, its breath blasting his neck like a stream of air from a furnace, and he began to shout again.

“Daddy! Mommy! Santa, Jesus, anybody, HELP!

The Thing’s hands wrapped around his arms.

“Please! There has to be somebody!”

Dana looked up at him, and it occurred to him in that moment. She had been screaming, too, screaming for somebody. And her somebody was him.

He looked up at the thing. “You don’t get to hurt her,” he said. “I’ll stop you. I swear, I’ll stop you.”

He didn’t know how, though, and when the thing’s long, pink tongue snaked out of its mouth and towards Lucas’s face, it seemed like his proclamation would be in vain.

Then another hand grabbed the monster’s tongue and pulled it away. Pulled the entire beast aside, to be honest, away from Lucas and the baby and off to the other end of the room. Lucas looked down at Dana to be sure she wasn’t hurt, then looked back up at where the Thing was locked in a deathgrip with something else – something even bigger than it was. Something covered in white.

It was Yardley. The doll was huge now, bigger than Daddy, so big Lucas didn’t even know how it could have gotten into the room, and it was holding the Thing around the neck. Yardley’s big, happy smile was gone, replaced by a raging snarl that didn’t make Lucas feel any fear at all. It was all reserved for the Thing.

“You don’t get to hurt them,” Yardley said. His voice was deep and resonant, echoing through Dana’s room like he was using a megaphone. His blue eyes were glowing now, and the crystal light overwhelmed the red of the Dark Thing. “You go and you tell all of them, this house is protected. You don’t get to hurt them.”

He squeezed his hand and the Thing squealed, clutching its neck like it was being choked. Yardley threw it aside and it scampered out of the door. He opened the closet and Lucas could see in through the tiny hole that was there on this side – light was spilling in from his own room, and for a second he could see the Thing clambering back into the hole it had carved. Its red eyes flashed, and it was gone.

“Is she okay?” Yardley said. Lucas nodded.

“How did you do that? How are you real?”

“I’m real because you called me. Because you needed me. Because you needed  a someone.”

Lucas smiled and rushed to Yardley, grabbing its fur in an embrace. The Yeti’s face changed again, turning back into a smile, and it lifted Lucas with one arm so he could wrap his arms around the thick, white fur of Yardley’s neck. Yardley walked over to where Dana was crying and looked down at the girl, smiling. She stopped immediately, and he picked her up in his other arm, bringing Lucas and Dana together and sitting down on the floor next to her crib.

“There are so many Bad Things,” Lucas said. “I didn’t think anybody would come.”

“Yes, there are a lot of Bad Things,” Yardley agreed. “But if you can believe in them, can’t you believe in the Good Things too?”

Lucas smiled, understanding for the first time.

In the morning, Mommy and Daddy were surprised that they woke up on their own, and not thanks to the efforts of an exuberant Lucas bouncing on their bed at five a.m. Once seven rolled around, Mommy went to get the baby – it was time to feed her anyway — while Daddy decided to wake up Lucas.  When he opened the door to his son’s room, though, he wasn’t there.

“Lucas? Lucas, where’d you go?”

“It’s okay, Pierce, he’s in the baby’s room. Come here, you’ve got to see this.”

Daddy walked to the door to Dana’s room, and hugged Mommy when he saw what was there. Lucas was on the floor next to the crib, fast asleep. Dana was lying on her big brother’s chest, dozing peacefully, and next to her Lucas was clutching the Yardley doll. The three of them together like that was the most peaceful scene Daddy could ever remember seeing.

“Beautiful,” Mommy said.

“See?” Daddy replied. “I told you it was toyetic.”


Time Travel Tuesdays: The Marvel Zombies Mini-Mates Present… Themselves!

It’s a new Time Travel Tuesdays, friends, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the end of October to show this one off. We’re traveling back to Oct. 20, 2007, when I decided to do my first-ever toy review column over at the As I started to present the Mini-Mates figures based on the Marvel Zombies, though… well… things got a little out of hand. Even now, three years later, this is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written. I do, however, think my photography skills have gotten at least a tad better since then. I hope you all enjoy it!

The Marvel Zombie Mini-Mates Present… Themeslves!

Hey, friends. I’d promised you all a sort of photo-intensive examination of a new toy line to go along with my frequent and expansive Halloween celebration. The thing with these toys is… well… they sort of have brains of their own… and they want to eat yours, while we’re on the subject. So in the interest of keeping my own cerebellum intact, I agreed to step back behind the camera and let the guys speak for themselves. Oh – and you can click on every picture for a bigger one. Luke Cage made sure I told you that. So, without further ado, allow me to present…


ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Greetings, meatbags! I am Colonel America, one-time leader of the Avengers, and now leader of this dandy little band of flesh-eaters. Y’see, when our Earth started to get overrun by a zombie plague—

ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN: Thank you very much, Quicksilver!

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: –Ahem. Yes. Well, when our world got overrun, at first we fought against infection, but when we got bit ourselves… well…

ZOMBIE POWER MAN: It was awesome.

ZOMBIE HULK: Zombie Hulk hungry! Zombie Hulk eat Fuzzy Man With Camera?

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Not yet, Hulk. So anyway, we decided to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves to you. To show you just what we’re capable of. And most importantly, to make you realize…

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: There is no escape!

ZOMBIE GIANT-MAN: Hi! I’m Zombie Giant-Man.
ZOMBIE DAREDEVIL: And I’m Zombie Daredevil. The first MARVEL ZOMBIES MINI-MATES set included five figures… and we weren’t among them. We came in this exclusive two-pack you could only get at the San Diego Comic Con… or, like Blake, from a guy who owns a comic shop and attended the San Diego Comic Con.  

ZOMBIE DAREDEVIL: You will discover, however, that this does nothing to decrease our general level of Awesometude. If you look closely, you’ll see that the chunks that have been taken out of my flesh are represented by clear plastic. At least that’s what they tell me – even as a zombie, I’m blind. I also come with these two handy fighting staffs that I can hold thusly or stuck in the little pouch on my belt, where they will almost immediately fall out. Oh – and I got trained by a Ninja.

ZOMBIE GIANT-MAN: Hey, gang! I’m Zombie Giant-Man, and with me today is the zombified head of my ex-wife, the Wasp.

ZOMBIE WASP: Hello, snookums!
ZOMBIE GIANT-MAN: Jan here actually came in the box set with the other guys, but since we don’t have too much quality time together these days, we thought we’d do this together. You can tell we’re zombies, of course, by the cold, dead glare in our eyes and the huge, ravenous teeth painted onto our interchangeable plastic Mini-Mate heads. 
ZOMBIE WASP: Zombies or Rosie O’Donnell. RIMSHOT!


ZOMBIE WASP: You’d think being reduced to a starving, undead, disembodied head would strain a relationship, but aside from not being able to change my costume as much as I used to, things are pretty much the same. 

ZOMBIE POWER-MAN: Well, now that the bit players are out of the way, it’s time for the big boys to step up, and we’re starting with me! SWEET HALLOWEEN!

Get it? Because I used to say “Sweet Christmas” when I was alive and it was the 70s and… ah, never mind.

Anyway, I’m Luke Cage, sometimes called Power Man, and I’m still the baddest chunk of plastic in the toy chest. Daredevil thinks he’s tough ‘cause he has a couple of holes? Check me out! My whole left side is missin’, and I’ll still whip anyone tries to get between me… and lunch. Heh heh heh… 

ZOMBIE WOLVERINE: Hey, bub – Wolverine here, the most popular mutant in all comicdom. When I was alive, I had ultra-heightened senses, nifty retractable claws, unbreakable bones, an awesome healing factor and the ability to appear in 74 comic books a week! Now that I’m dead, the healing factor seems to have gone on the fritz, but the rest of the stuff works just dandy. I may not know how me turning into a zombie jives with what Marc Guggenheim is writing about me fightin’ death over in my own comic, but I have learned one other thing these claws of mine are great for… shish-ke-bob!  


ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN: Um… thanks, Hulk.

ZOMBIE HULK: Stupid Brain-Head Man tells Hulk he can’t eat Fuzzy Man With Camera… Hulk need meat… Hulk misses Doritos…
ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN: Hello, gang. I’m your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man! Well… I guess I’m not all that friendly anymore. I was one of the first guys to encounter the whole zombie plague. Unfortunately, after I got infected, I didn’t turn right away, but managed to get home first where I… um… well, I ate my wife and my Aunt May.

I know, I’m still kinda torn up about that.

But… but it’s still better than what Joe Quesada is doing to ‘em over in One More Day! Right?

GHOST RIDER: I am the Ghost Rider! Spirit of vengeance! Keeper of the eternal Hellfire and my blazing—

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: For the last time, you are not a zombie! Now get out of our pumpkin patch!

GHOST RIDER: Fine, fine… didn’t want to be in your stupid article anyway…

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: And you better not be Nicolas Cage under there, either!!!

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: And that leaves me, folks, Colonel America. Once the Sentinel of Liberty, now I’m the leader of this motley bunch of brain-eaters. Even having my own brain exposed hasn’t gotten me down, though – I’m undead and lovin’ every minute of it! Some people have asked me why I’m a colonel while most of my counterparts throughout the multiverse have achieved the rank of Captain. Well, what can I say? I’d hate for it to be seen as unprofessional when I… have lunch with the enlisted men! Bwaa-haha!!

The zombie virus also gives us all terrible senses of humor.

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: So that’s us, folks, the Marvel Zombie Mini-Mates! We hope you’ve enjoyed this little look into our lives, and if we show up for dinner some night, we hope you’ll have us!
…cause you know we’d be eager to have you! Hahahaha! Hahahaha! HAHAHA—




CAPTAIN AMERICA: Look out, you disgusting ghouls!

POWER MAN: The real Marvel Mini-Mates are here to show you who’s boss!

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN: Hey, how come you have to take off your hand when you wear your shield?


CAPTAIN AMERICA: Avengers Assemble!

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Zombie Avengers… um… Get ‘em!

POWER MAN: “Sweet Halloween?” “SWEET HALLOWEEN?” You know how long it took me to get them to stop writing “Sweet Christmas?”
ZOMBIE POWER MAN: Aw, c’mon, don’t treat a brother this way!

POWER MAN: “Brother?” Well look out, “Brother,” I’m gonna use your plastic guts to decorate my Haunted House!

DAREDEVIL: I may be “Battle-Damaged,” but I can still whip YOUR lousy—OW! OW! Can somebody get the Zombie Wasp off my ankle, please?
ZOMBIE WASP: Nom nom nom…



DAREDEVIL: Whammo! Double Boot To Da Head!


ZOMBIE WASP: Hey, sweetie.



ZOMBIE WOLVERINE: Ow! Hey! You cut me in half!

WOLVERINE: That’s right! Now you can make twice as many guest appearances a month! Heh… heh…

KILOWOG: Bring it on, ya Poozer! I’ll rip ya limb from—

ZOMBIE HULK: Hey, wait. You not not-dead version of Zombie Hulk. You Pink Green Lantern!
KILOWOG: Yyyyeah, about that… Blake doesn’t have a Hulk Mini-Mate toy. I volunteered to fill in.

ZOMBIE HULK: Zombie Hulk been reading Sinestro Corps War! Zombie Hulk think you da MAN!

KILOWOG: Really? Aw, shucks, that’s sweet of you to say…

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN: I mean, you ate Mary Jane and Aunt May? How sick are you?
ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN: I know, I know! :sob: Oh, kick me again! I deserve it! :sob:

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN: And another thing – knock it off with all the variant covers! It was cute at first, but how many times are you gonna reprint the hardcover with different covers before you put out a paperback?

ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN: Oh, God, it’s all my fault! I’m a terrible – hey, why don’t you have any webs on your costume?


ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Looks like it’s down to me and you, you pansy.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Ready when you are, you psychopath.

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Time to show you how we do things in my America.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: America? America isn’t your country, monster, it’s HELL!

ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Haven’t you given that speech before?

CAPTAIN AMERICA: That was an issue of What If? , it doesn’t count.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: You know why you’re going to lose, monster?

CAPTAIN AMERICA: Because we’re fighting for truth! Because we’re fighting for JUSTICE!


CAPTAIN AMERICA: Because real Americans don’t eat other Americans!*

*Editor’s Note-Captain America considers all known cannibals to be de facto Canadians, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Alferd Packer, and of course, Rosie O’Donnell.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: Okay, let’s get these monsters back into their box.

KILOWOG: Bye, ya Poozer! Y’know, he wasn’t so bad…

CAPTAIN AMERICA: Close it, Logan!

CHARLIE BROWN: Mr… Um… Captain? Sir? Can we have our Pumpkin Patch back now?
SNOOPY: Ah, the Captain! So good to see him again. Why, I remember that time in occupied France when we met those saucy waitresses…

CAPTAIN AMERICA: Why, sure, kids! The zombies are all defeated, and back in the box. It’s perfectly safe here now. Why…

CAPTAIN AMERICA: What else could possibly happen?


Toy Stories: Nola Comic-Con 2010

You didn’t think I was done with posts about Nola Comic-Con, did you? Aside from meeting pros and fellow fans, the best thing about a comic convention is trying to get your hands on some sweet deals. In my case, that meant some miniature plastic buddies that I’d like to share with you guys now…

To boldly go... into three different time periods at once, evidently...

First up, I got my hands on three separate Star Trek Mini-Mates Series 4 packages, each with a couple of figures from three different time periods in the Star Trek universe. From the left you see a Borg Drone and Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Admiral James T. Kirk and “Duty Uniform” Scotty from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Dr. Leonard McCoy and Nurse Christine Chapel circa Star Trek: The Original Series. These guys will look just dandy next to the Star Trek Mini-Mates I’ve already got.

But were those the only Mini-Mates I got? Don’t be ridiculous…

"So, guys, do you think they're gonna bust us?"

This creepy quartet comes courtesy of the Ghostbusters Mini-Mate line, and I believe the four ghosts you see here were all bad guys from the Real Ghostbusters cartoon show. Here we see Chef DeMassi, Alzetor, the Architect and a Black Slime Monster. These guys are just waiting for the boys to come in and bust ’em up.

"Just smile, boys. Nobody knows who we are now, but wait until May 7..."

These three guys, each sold separately, are part of the line for the upcoming Iron Man 2 film. In the center we have arms dealer Justin Hammer, bane of Tony Stark. To his left is a battle-damaged Hammer Drone, to the right a Tactical Assault Drone. Hammer is big on drones, you see.

"Slashie slashie!" "..."

And finally, for me at least, it’s our old pals Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, courtesy of the “Cinema of Fear” toy line. The line also features Leatherface, from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but as I’ve never really been a fan of that series, I passed on his figure. These two figures, in my beloved 3.75-inch scale, look really good, but they do illustrate something toymakers really need to consider. Accessories are awesome, but they have to be practical. Jason’s hands are unsuitable to hold either his axe or machete, and Freddy’s garbage can lid is just pointless.

Also at the con, I got some reading material. The entire run of the Power of the Atom series for a dollar each, several issues of Marvel’s old humor magazine Not Brand Ecch, Essential volumes of Marvel Two-In-One, Nova and X-Men, and a little goodie for Erin that I’m not prepared to show anybody yet, because her birthday is coming up. I did, however, get one thing for her that I am willing to share:


"Hiya, puddin'!"

Erin loves collecting original sketches from comic artists she likes, so she commissioned me to get a sketch for her from Chew artist Rob Guillory. As I didn’t know what character she wanted, I went with her favorite, Harley Quinn.

So the Nola-Comic Con was great. What’s next?

Why FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, of course! It’s the ninth annual Free Comic Book Day, tomorrow, May 1, and the 2 in 1 Showcase crew will be at BSI Comics in Metairie, Louisiana all day. If you’re in southern Louisiana, drop on by to chat with us, meet the rest of BSI’s awesome panel of guests, and get your hands on some free comics. If you’re not in southern Louisiana, then find a store in your own area that’s participating. Don’t know where any local comic shops are? We’ve got you covered. Go to and use the free comic shop locator service. Just punch in your ZIP code and the locator will give you a list of participating stores in your area.

And one last plea, friends — the comic books are free to the reader, but not to the retailer. So while you’re out there tomorrow getting your goodies, please, find something to buy, too. It’s the least you can do.


Toy Stories: Avengers Two

With the new Iron Man movie brewing up a lot of attention, let’s not forget that two other Avengers are scheduled to get films of their own next year. I recently managed to get my hands on figures of the other members of the Avengers Trinity, Thor and Captain America.

"Let's see what we can throw further. My hammer or your mighty shield."

"Let's see what we can throw farther -- my hammer or your 'mighty shield'."

Both of these figures are part of the Marvel Universe Series 2 line of 3.75-inch action figures, and they’re both pretty good. Thor (on the left, if you weren’t sure) is Marvel’s version of the Norwegian god of thunder. Really, he doesn’t look anything like the classic Thor, but this version (in his current costume, designed by artist Olivier Coipel) is one I really like. The chain armor may not be necessary for Marvel’s closest equivalent to Superman, but it looks pretty sharp. In his hand there we have Mjolnir, the impossible to pronounce Uru hammer with which he summons the storm. Because he’s a god and he can do that sort of thing. Next to him is Steve Rogers, Captain America, in his original uniform that we wore waaaay back in Captain America Comics #1 and designed by Jack Kirby. It’s not really substantially different from the uniform he’s worn for most of the last 70 years or so. The biggest difference is that today, his neck is covered as well. More noticeably, shortly after his first appearance the shield he holds here was replaced by the more familiar disc-shaped shield he still uses today. (Well, his former sidekick, the NEW Captain America, uses it today, but that’s neither here nor there.) While this isn’t as sharp as the classic Cap look, I do like it and appreciate its place in Marvel History.

With both of these guys getting movies next year, I expect we’ll see many more action figures of their assorted looks in the not-too-distant future.


Toy Stories: Infinite Calamity

I have had terrible luck trying to find the new DC Comics 75th Anniversary Infinite Heroes figures in stores near me. I’ve been looking just about everywhere (I say just about because there is, in fact, one place I haven’t had an opportunity to look yet), but no luck. I have, however, had a modicum of luck snagging a few of the leftovers of the previous lines that are still available, including these two six-packs I got my hands on not long ago.

"Get 'em, Clark! GET 'EM!"

"Get 'em, Clark! GET 'EM!"

This first pack, OMAC Attack, is based on the OMAC Project storyline that DC ran a few years ago in the run-up to Infinite Crisis. In that story it was revealed that Maxwell Lord, one time benefactor of the Justice League, had gone bad and was running the anti-metahuman police force called Checkmate, and that he had created an army of OMAC cyborgs to do his bidding. If that wasn’t bad enough, he used his mind-control powers to use Superman as a weapon, an attack that was stopped only when Wonder Woman snapped Lord’s neck like dry spaghetti. It was awesome.

The two OMAC figures included in this set are identical to the single-packed figure I got some time ago. But as they’re “minions,” I’m okay with this. This figure marks the umpteenth Superman in my collection, but again, Mattel managed to get at least a little diversity. If you look close, you can see that his eyes are red, apparently signifying Lord’s mind-control. Either that or he popped over to the Batcave for dinner on the night Alfred made his Spicy Chili Surprise. Wonder Woman is a slightly different paint job than the single packed figure as well.

The two main reasons I wanted this set, though, were Max and Booster Gold. The Max figure is a good representation of the character from that storyline, and Booster is a character I’ve been dying to get in an Infinite Heroes form. Although why they couldn’t have included Booster’s best bud, the Blue Beetle, instead of one of the OMACs, is beyond me.

"Just don't look at them, guys. Just... just don't look."

Next up is the “Mallah’s Revenge” six-pack, featuring six Teen Titans and two of their more bizarre foes. Let’s get the bad guys out of the way first. Monsieur Mallah and the Brain (I’m sure you can figure which is which) are two old enemies of the Doom Patrol who found love with one another during Grant Morrison‘s truly freakadelic run on that title. On the other side, we have Cyborg, Robin, Raven, and Arsenal. One thing I like about this pack is that there are virtually no “stock” bodies. The Brain and Mallah obvious required totally original sculpts, and the Robin figure is a bit smaller than the usual males. It’s about time we had one to go with the 37 different Batman figures, even if Tim Drake is no longer Robin and the current Robin has a different costume.

Cyborg and Arsenal (also in a different costume these days) both look pretty good, with enough bits and pieces to make them stand out among the army of 3.75-inchers. The only disappointment in this set is Raven, an identical figure to the one that came with Starfire and Captain Boomerang in an earlier 3-pack.


Toy Stories: Back in the Armor Again

Been a while since we had a Toy Stories feature here, and now that the toys for this summer’s Iron Man 2 are trickling out, it seemed time to give you a new photoblog. Like last year’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Marvel’s deal with Hasbro includes a line of 3.75-inch toys for this film (my preferred scale). Also like that movie, the toy line features a few subcategories, the “Movie Series” (based on the designs from the film) and the “comic series” (based on — wait for it — designs from the comic books) carry over from the Wolverine line. I like this idea a lot, it’ll put the classic comic book designs (and you’ll see just how classic I mean in a few paragraphs) in front of a lot of people who’ve never been exposed to Iron Man outside of the movie. There’s also, however, a third line… more on that in a minute.

"Wait, I figured out a way to fit this into a SUITCASE? Damn, I'm awesome..."

First up is the Iron Man Mark VI armor, which I imagine will be the main movie design. The armor will no doubt go through a few different looks in the film. I’m pretty sure the last movie only made it to Mark III, so there are at least three more awaiting us. The toy line, in fact, also includes Mark II (the pre-painted, silver armor from the first film) and Mark IV (which, honestly, doesn’t look any different from the first movie armor to me). There are various versions of this armor already available. This is the version that lights up if you push down on his head, but I just couldn’t get a decent photo of that, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Also, all of the Iron Man 2 toys come with a base and three “armor cards.” The armor cards include a cardboard backing and two transparent cards. Each of the three displays a different part of the armor, so when you overlay them, you get the full picture, and they look really cool when placed in their designated slots in the base.

Before Tony Stark discovered ARMOR-ALL...

From the “Comic Series,” comes this bad boy, Tony Stark’s original armor from his first appearance waaaaay back in  Tales of Suspense #39. By his second appearance, in the next issue, he’d painted the armor gold, where he stayed for eight issues before his first major redesign and adopting the classic red-and-gold color scheme. I love the design of this armor in general, it’s very tough-looking. Sure, the current armors are very sleek and high-tech, but this is something you wear to kick ass. And I especially like the paint job, making it look a bit rusted, like it was cobbled together from scrap metal (as it, in fact, was).

"I make this look good."

Like I said, the Iron Man 2 toys include not one, not two, but three separate lines. This third series is the “concept” line, featuring armors that have never actually been used in the comic or the movie, but were basically just designed by someone who thought they’d look cool. Usually, I don’t like this sort of variant. If you look back at the Batman: The Animated Series toys of the 90s, you had about 175 different versions of Batman wearing snowsuits, camo, paisley, neon, a tutu… it got ridiculous. My usual stance is that I want my figures to be “official,” defined as “based on a design used in the comics, movies, or TV shows.” But labeling this as a “concept” line somehow makes me far more accepting of the idea. It doesn’t hurt that this “Hypervelocity Armor” just looks cool. While the red-and-golds belong to Iron Man as much as green and purple belong to the Hulk, I like the muted colors on display here.

I’m very much enjoying this line so far, and I intend to hunt down some of the other figures (War Machine in particular). I just hope the movie is as good as these toys.


Toy Stories: Ring-slingers, Kryptonians, and Public Enemies

Next week, Erin and I will be winging our way to Las Vegas to spend Mardi Gras week away from the lunacy of New Orleans. (She likes it more than I do.) So I thought maybe I should get around to showing you guys the Infinite Heroes action figures she got me at Christmas before we went. I think that’s fair…

"Fear me!" "Love me!" "Fear me!" "Love me!"

It seemed natural to pair up Sinestro and Star Sapphire. With all the different colored Lanterns running around in Blackest Night, these were the two preexisting “other Lanterns” that Geoff Johns included in the mix. I’m a little disappointed that Mattel didn’t put Sinestro in his current, far superior costume, but the classic costume is okay. Both of these are fairly standard figures for the now-finished Crisis wave of Infinite Heroes. Neither is sporting the new body sculpt that the 70th Anniversary figures that we’re getting this year have. But they’re decent enough figures, and I’m always impressed when they can paint a tiny little ring on someone’s finger.

"Wait, how does THIS schmuck get to wear the 'S' while I still have a hole in my costume?"

Power Girl and Superboy-Prime (I know he was calling himself Superman-Prime when he wore this costume, but he’ll never earn that name) are paired off since they’re both Kryptonians, of a sort, from alternate universes. PG is one of my favorite DC characters, and star of one of their best comics right now. The figure does her justice, even if she does need the stand to stay on her feet like every other Infinite Heroes female. Prime is just a repainted Superman figure. Nothing to say about the sculpt, but the paint job looks good, and I’m glad they didn’t subject us to the mullet.

Animated Coolness

These two three-packs actually didn’t come from Erin, but from her mother. Thanks! I looked all over southern Louisiana, but came up short looking for the action figures that accompanied last fall’s Superman/Batman: Public Enemies direct-to-DVD movie. There’s another six-pack out there, which I would like to get as it includes such characters as Major Force and Gorilla Grodd, but the pack also includes duplicates of Superman and Batman. If you’re going to duplicate a character in the same line, is it too much to ask that you at least do a variant? After all, this is the movie in which those two disguised themselves as Captain Marvel and Hawkman. Those would have been great figures. But I digress.

These six figures are all movie versions of characters I already have in the standard DCU edition, so I thought it would be interesting to compare.

"Okay, so I'll stop that metor from hitting Africa and you put on the suit and glasses and show up at the Daily Planet this week..."

Let’s compare the Supermen first. The original Superman figure is on the left, the animated figure (as it will be in all these pictures) is on the right. At first, I didn’t really see much difference, then I realized the Public Enemies figures are sporting the new body types. In the male figures, the big differences are at the hip and shoulders, both of which are now ball joints which allow for greater posabilty. This I like. What I’m not as happy about is that the torso is a bit skinnier now. If you look at the two, you’ll see that the first Superman has more of the classic barrel chest. This goes for all the male figures in this line, except (for obvious reasons) Lex Luthor.

"What's that, Lex? Didn't hear you. Suffering from a little rocket envy there? Heh. That's okay, you can say it..."

The sculpts of the two Lexington Q. Luthor figures is almost identical, except for the center chest-emblem. Oh, and the big honkin’ rockets on the shoulder of the Lex on the left. Other than that, the onyl difference is in the paint job. Visually, I much prefer the Public Enemies figure — much more colorful, vibrant paint job. But I wouldn’t say that in front of the guy on the left.

"Wasn't I already in this article once?"

Fortunately, Erin gave me the “classic” Power Girl just in time to compare her to her Public Enemies counterpart. Unlike the male figures, it doesn’t seem the females got any change in sculpt for the new series. But they’d already made a small change a while back, making the legs thicker and sturdier. Still not enough to stand up without a base, though. Again, just in terms of the vibrancy of the colors, I think I prefer the animated figure. Probably has something to do with trying to imitate the animation.

"Oh, so you were still on Earth at the end of the movie, huh? Well lemme tell you what happened in the COMICS..."

The new Captain Atom really shows how the change to the leg sculpt will help pose these figures. You can spread the legs wider and make them a bit more stable with this sculpt. In terms of color, it’s hard to pick a favorite. The DCU Cap has more of a silver color, but PE Cap has kind of this blue steel thing going on that also looks really good.

"So neither of us is Dick Grayson? Man, this is awkward..."

Batman is the only hero to come out of Public Enemies with a darker figure than his DCU look. Again, he’s sporting the new sculp, and if you look closely, you see that the shape of the utility belt and the bat-symbol on his chest are a little different. The cape sculpt, I believe, is identical between the two figures.

"So do you think we have any 'electricity'? Huh? Heh? Do ya? Heh, heh..."

"So do you think we have any 'electricity' together? Huh? Heh? Do ya?"

Last but certainly not least, we end up with Black Lightning, the role for which Levar Burton must have cashed the smallest paycheck of his career. Seriously, why would you cast such a great actor and only give him one line in the movie? Sheesh. Anyway, PE Lightning has the new sculpt, and a very different costume from his comic book counterpart. And again, I prefer the Public Enemies look. I just think it’s a better costume, and I think Black Lightning looks better with hair. Just sayin’.


Toy Stories: Who You Gonna Call Part 2

I’m always interested to see just which of my little articles here at the ‘Realms manage to find an audience. Some things I expect to take off never do. Some things I throw out without a thought become big hits, at least relative to the rest of my stuff. Back during the Halloween Party, I presented a set of Ghostbusters Mini-Mates I’d taken into my possession. Somehow, that quick review has consistently gotten a lot of online attention. Well, never let it be said I’m above pandering for page hits! Because you demanded it! Because we all love the Ghostbusters! Because I have another Mini-Mate set! I present: Who You Gonna Call Part 2?

"Ray... when someone asks you if you're a god... YOU SAY YES!"

With this set and the previous figures, I’ve officially got at least one figure of each of the Ghostbusters. Here Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddmore face Gozer the Carpathian (as the bubble-covered chick) and a totally not-to-scale Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The figures themselves are very nicely made, especially the Marshmallow Man. One thing I just don’t understand, though, is why the Mini-Mates people both including the particle streams from the proton packs if they don’t make a way to attach them. Right now, they’re superfluous accessories with no potential for poseability or playability. Jerks.

"They show was named after WHO in the last season?"

This two-pack was a comic shop exclusive. It includes our boy Ray in his darker Ghostbusters II-era jumpsuit, complete with a look of abject terror on his face. With him comes the scene-stealing fan favorite, Slimer. Slimer is a bit different from most Mini-Mates, as far as body type goes, but the cool ectoplasm base he comes with makes up for it. You may wonder why ol’ Slimer here is sort of pale instead of the bright green he was in the movies. It’s simple: this bad boy glows in the dark. I wish I could show you what that looks like, but I just couldn’t get a decent picture of him with my camera. Take my word for it, though, he looks pretty sweet in the dark.

There are a few more Ghostbusters sets out there, and while I’m not going to make it a plastic Holy Grail or anything, I definitely want to try to get them. If there are plans for any future releases, though, I’ve got a suggestion for the toy company: The Real Ghostbusters cartoon designs. C’mon. We want ’em.

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