By way of concluding coverage of the pleasantly chaotic Toy Fair, I think that’s it’s really important to mention some of the stuff that people generally don’t get to see. There are three enormous floors worth of toys and games and ideas in the Javits Center alone. That’s without even taking the free shuttle bus to the Toy District, which has two towers interconnected by a bridge, with each floor full of showrooms and offices, all dedicated to the pursuit of innocent pleasure. Far too much flies under the media radar, some of it exciting and innovative, and some of it hopeless and bound to crash and burn and give off highly toxic fumes.
By way of ‘collectability’, Spin Master has two different Marvel Comics items planned for this year. The first of these is a series of super-tiny comic books that can only be read with a magnifying glass, to be packaged in groups of seven, reprinting both recent and classic Marvel comics. Reprinting comics in teensy form isn’t a new idea, and DC Direct did it exceptionally well when they packed mini-comics in with their ‘First Appearances’ line of action figures, but these… seriously tiny. Eye-strain tiny. ‘Secret cabal with the optometrists of the world’ tiny. And presumably, one can also play games with these tiny comics.
The second innovative collectible idea from them is individually packaged Marvel chess pieces, representing a wide array of superheroes and bad guys in mini form. I remarked that I was surprised to see Red Skull among the characters, given the fact that he has serious Nazi leanings and most companies shy away from using him, but Captain America DOES need someone’s butt to kick. These chess pieces will be sold at your local toy store for around 2 bucks. It may take a lot to fill up a chess board, but when you’re done, it really looks like a lot of double-nerd fun. They’re more like miniature statues than actual chess pieces, but they’re an interesting concept.
LEGO will be expanding their Star Wars line of products to include more mini-figures (arguably the best part of collecting LEGOs) and scenarios. I practically squealed with delight when I noticed that they’d finally made a Boba Fett in a little LEGO Sarlacc Pit. You know, the sand-hole-with-teeth that he fell into on Tatooine? Like a total goober? THAT pit, in blocky LEGO form. LEGO will also be rolling out the first in a Batman themed set of products, ranging from ten dollar vehicles to high priced playsets like the Batcave. Mini-figures will include Batman, Robin, Catwoman, Penguin, the Joker and Killer Croc, among others. There are no plans to release these separately, but if you get those late night Batman minifigure pangs like I do, you can always look up Art Asylum’s C3 line of construction kits, which include minifigures of many DC characters at a cheap price. Be warned that many of these C3 sets had missing and malformed piece issues which can no longer be resolved with the company, as the line has been discontinued. You can’t beat Lego anyhow, and if you tried, you’d probably totally cut up your hands on their sharp corners. It can just about kill you if you step on a LEGO in the dark; I care not to fathom what one could do should you engage it in fisticuffs.
My number one favorite Toy of the Year [non-mainstream category] is by far Product Enterprise’s prototype ‘Space Vixens of Galaxy Vega’ line. Call it a love of retro-space-chicness (or ‘chickness’), or call it a simple appreciation of women in all of their spacebound forms, but Captain Peggy Rider took my breath away. She’s but the first 12” figure in a line of many that are planned, and while Product Enterprise (a European company who has previously focused on sci-fi vehicle reproductions) is searching for wide distribution on these, I’ll be dreaming of what could come next. If the final product is anything like the prototype, this will be one of the rare instances that an original intellectual toy property completely takes the market by storm. Keep an eye out for this: I predict great things.
Mimobot presents a completely useful functionality to the world of collectible minifigures. Not only are these little figures very indie-art stylish, but you can pop open their heads and store a considerable amount of data on them via a USB port! Some people might call them flash drives. I call them ingenious. The ‘urban vinyl / designer toy’ market is burning up right now, merging pop surrealist artistry with toy culture, and now with computer culture and functionality. Right now, these start at about 60 bucks and work their way up in price as data storage increases. And it’s a lot more fun to store your term paper on a ninja.
One of the more literally rewarding items we found is ‘Perplexcity‘, and by ‘rewarding’ I mean ‘solve a series of puzzles and get $200,000 in real cash money’ rewarding. Worldwide puzzle games with actual buried treasure are nothing new, but Perplexcity adds a new spin on the genre of real-live adventure by incorporating it into a trading card game. Collect packs of cards, solve the increasingly difficult puzzles on each card, trade them with other puzzle solvers and tally your points online to unlock deeper and deeper clues. Eventually, these clues will lead you to finding ‘the Cube’ somewhere in the actual world. I’ve played games like this before, and they’re HIGHLY addictive. Subcultures are formed around them, and the earlier you get in on them, the better off you fare in the game. The second wave of cards is coming out now, and many of the players have almost 7000 points, so you’d better hurry.
I found myself wishing that I’d had a few more days just to take in the sites, see more costumed characters, and pick up another sack full of free goodies and samples, but the highly inclement weather and fatigue (and a lack of traveling companion) prevented me from visiting the event on a second day. We sampled milkshakes and played drums and suffered through barely-English presentations of completely bizarre board games that promoted unhealthy lifestyles. Last year, I got in trouble for my lambasting of certain items by name, so I’ll avoid those strings of diplomatic e-mails this year by being polite. Poke around through the photo gallery and see what we saw.
There are dreams and aspirations packed into the halls of the Javits Center during Toy Fair. Sometimes, you recognize dreams from last year and you’re pleased that the dreams are still alive, no matter how crazy. Some dreams you never see again, and some blossom into incredible things. And some dreams are spandex-clad girls who giant metal helmets with Jimmy Durante noses on them (ahem, ZARBIE), and you sigh and wander to the next booth.
I can’t wait to do it again next year.