The View from Sherlock Peoria (120)
September 19, 2004
At Last, A Sherlock Action Figure!
Back in the day, as they say, the world's most well-known Sherlockian collector always liked to mention the chocolate Sherlock Holmes Easter bunnies in his freezer. In his exuberant gathering of Holmes-related products, he had collected Holmes dolls, Holmes statuary, Holmes pewter figurines, Holmes in ceramic . . . everything Sherlock. Well, almost everything.
The action figure is a very commercial art form that only came along in the last few decades. They aren't really dolls and they aren't really figurines. Made of molded plastic or vinyl, they have their clothes sculpted right on them, which in the case of muscle-bound superheroes, is a handy thing. While the superhero is a staple of action figure themes, movie characters are where the little guys really took off, coming on the scene along with the original Star Wars movies and appearing with every movie that might appeal to kids ever since.
They're very collectable, and the sheer quality of the action figure has improved dramatically since their crude beginnings. Current action figure technology includes not only artist-sculpting but computerized laser techniques that can exactly reproduce the contours of a celebrity's face . . . any celebrity except Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett, that is. Because somehow, Sherlock Holmes has eluded the action figure industry for a very long time.
Had the movie Young Sherlock Holmes been just a little more popular, if Todd McFarlane's movie monsters series had considered the Hound of the Baskervilles, if only, if only, if only . . . yet no Sherlock Holmes action figures. Which was ironic, as I'd picked up hundreds of other action figures over the years of characters I'd liked. It seemed strange that I could have a Snake Plissken (Escape from New York, Escape from L.A.) or Marv (Sin City -- the ultimate hardboiled comic book, soon to be a movie), and not a Sherlock Holmes. What was wrong with the world? Could such injustice continue? It sure seemed like it could.
Well, until now. Somebody got the idea to start doing historical characters -- Ben Franklin, Einstein, Edgar Allen Poe, Beethoven, Moses, etc. And somehow, Sherlock Holmes fell in with that crowd. Novelty company Archie McPhee started selling them on their web site (www.mcphee.com), Ken Lanza saw this and reported it to Peter Blau, who mentioned it in his newsletter, Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press, and . . . Voila! . . . I finally got my hands on a Sherlock Holmes action figure.
With many a collectable, that would be the end of the story. Put it on a shelf. Done.
But in the course of my action figure experience, I ran across a little magazine called Toyfare that specialized in action figure collecting. Not a subject that really requires a monthly magazine, but due to the fact they had to fill up their pages with something, Toyfare started running a feature called "Twisted Mego Theater," based on the fact that they used old Mego superhero dolls in their photo-cartoons. (Later to be called "Twisted Toyfare Theater" as whoever still held the rights to the defunct Mego name piped up.) Twisted Toyfare Theater is an odd little corner of the humor universe that's not for everyone, but if you get it, it's hysterical. So, of course, I had to wonder . . . would that sort of thing work with a Sherlock Holmes action figure?
I've always admired Sherlockian miniaturists, and their ability to build a dollhouse-sized replica of 221B Baker Street, but never wanted to commit myself to such a project. Yet still it always seemed like fun, and a whole lot easier than building an actual life-sized replica of Holmes's sitting room as a few really energetic Sherlockians have done. And once I had my Sherlock Holmes action figure and had remembered Twisted Toyfare Theater, it was like set-building just started happening, as did casting Dr. Watson from available action figures.
The results can be seen on the website this week, as "Action Sherlock Brain Theater." Will this be a continuing feature? Well, I've got at least one more little skit that I just have to shoot, but after that, we'll see. And when you see what that next skit is, you'll know why I just had to shoot it. Let's just say it's a sequel to one of our most well-known modern Sherlock Holmes tales, and my neighbor will love it. Hope you have a little fun with these things as well.
Your humble correspondent,