Tehee: Never too old for a trip down the toy aisle

March 28, 2013 

It's a Sunday evening and I'm a grown man blocking the toy aisle at Target. Thankfully, I'm not alone. There are two other men there, rifling through the products and debating the merits of the Avengers vs. the Justice league.

Not that I noticed. I was enthralled by this Red Ninja action figure that's part of Hasbro's line being released in conjunction with the "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" movie (in theaters today).

And it is cool. That's not just the 12-year-old boy inside me talking, either.

OK, maybe it is. Somewhere, packed away at my parents' house, are several hundred G.I. Joe figures (the 33/4-inch version, so there is no confusion). There are also a number of vehicle sets, which my snarkier friends liked to make fun of when I had them on display.

While I don't buy toys (much) anymore, my fan-boy tendencies run deep. I can't go to a Target (or Walgreens or CVS) without peeking at the toys.

This is the modern world of toys: Companies market toys to adult men for the sake of nostalgia.

These are guys my age, buying figures that are sold as "exclusive" in specific retailers such as Target. The most popular lines are often not even in stores and are available only through mail-in offers or at comic conventions.

Collectors chronicle it all in stunning detail on dedicated blogs. My favorite is Online Action Figure Entertainment (oafe.net).

The focus is on pop-culture franchises from the mid-1980s on and comic books and video games.

Star Wars is the most obvious and everyone has at least one friend who still collects Star Wars stuff. (I have several. Looking at you, Mike Seay).

G.I. Joe has seen its resurgence thanks to movie tie-ins and an updated animated series, while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a new animated series on Nickelodeon -- and a toy line. Transformers never really disappeared.

Even Ghostbusters, which hasn't been a thing for 20 years, has a whole line of toys, including an almost 2-foot tall Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that's a coin bank and "perfect for displaying your entire Ghostbusters collection!"

I know this because I recently visited the Mattel store in Pomona. I was with my toy-freak friends. They entered with wide eyes and left with a full shopping cart, including that Marshmallow Man.

They should have read the online reviews first. Apparently the soft white foam turns yellow at the slightest hint of sunlight, then gets hard and cracks.

So they have theirs on display -- facing a wall.

This is my generation. We're grown ups out in the working world with discretionary income to blow on toys. As a bonus, we're now the ones designing and marketing the things, and we know what we want -- a Red Ninja figure with lots of articulation and some cool accessories.

That, and a giant Marshmallow man that won't crack.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6470, jtehee@fresnobee.com or @JoshuaTehee on Twitter. Read his blog at Fresnobeehive.com

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