Mer-Man is Gonna Be My Gateway Drug

Damn you Mer-man.


Since my full-on toy renaissance in 2010, I’ve immersed myself in many of the old toy lines I grew up playing with. I’ve collected and re-collected some of the lines I loved, the figures I used to have and the ones I wanted but never got.

I grew up in the 80s, went to high school and college in the 90s, and then the 00s were a bit of a blur. I went through many jobs and many cities. As many moves as I made, I never gathered everything from my childhood home. My parents weren’t going anywhere, so there would always be a safe place for the things I hadn’t taken with me to college- like Ewok Village, G.I. Joe Headquarters, Castle Greyskull, and the hordes of action figures that inhabited them.

In 2005, my father passed away unexpectedly. He was the primary caregiver for my mom, who has MS. The only option to provide her the full time care she needed was for her to move into a residential hospital (like a nursing home). The quick sale of my parents’ home was one of the many things that happened in the whirlwind that followed.

As you’d expect, the last thing on my mind at the time was my basement full of childhood belongings. Not only for the obvious reasons, but somewhere along the way I had lost my appreciation for it. I hadn’t thought about Storm Shadow, He-Man or Lion-O in what seemed like forever.

Years earlier, on a brief stop home I grabbed a cigar box full of my old Star Wars figures. It was all I could fit in my suitcase for the trip back south, but with Episode I on the horizon I knew I’d want to bust out the old Kenner figures once more.

Those were the only figures I’d ever make a conscious effort to save.

Years passed, and now I have a little guy of my own. I don’t know if it was nostalgic feelings stirred by having a son, meeting an online community of enthusiastic toy collectors, or a combination of both- but in the last 18 months I’ve gotten more into toy collecting than I’ve ever been.

It also recently occurred to me just how much money my parents spent keeping me happy as a kid. I will never get the chance to thank my dad for spending such a large chunk of an honest cop’s salary on action figures for a 9 year old.

The first property I revisited was G.I. Joe. Somehow, the only figures that had traveled with me over the years were Cobra Commander (hooded & chrome dome), Jinx, and a broken Storm Shadow (whom I’ve since repaired).

I scooped up a few vintage Joes via eBay and the occasional local toy & collectible show (and bought a few off a fellow UnderScoopFire podcaster). I’d love to reach Joe A Day or Generals Joes’ status some day (as far as owning every or nearly every figure), the passion for the property is certainly there; but collecting more than just my absolute favorite figures is just not in the budget right now. Amazing how student loans from two (count ’em, TWO) (THREE if you count my wife’s) unused degrees as well as a child and another on the way will cut into that toy budget!

So what does Mer-Man have to do with all of this?

I’m gettin’ there!

Last summer, the most amazing thing happened for this avid toy collector who had been separated from his childhood stash. My sister approached me at a 4th of July party and said something to the effect of:

“By the way, we have some of your old action figures in the car. Thought you might like to have them to give to your son one day.”

I swear all I heard was “We have your G.I. Joes, WE FUCKING HAVE YOUR G.I. JOES in the car”. It could have been any figures from any line that I had as a kid, but that’s what my mind immediately went to; wishful thinking I guess.

Turns out, it was my old G.I. Joes. She had scooped them up before the sale of my parents’ house for my nephew to play with.

Going through that box brought back a flood of memories of a care free time (the opposite of now). Besides a few that were missing in action, I had my collection back! To make matters even better, (I know, how could things get better??) a friend of mine had given me some boxes a few years back- boxes he said we salvaged last minute from a temporary storage unit housing a bunch of stuff from my parents’ old home. I didn’t even remember saving any boxes from that unit, as I said- it was all a blur. One of the boxes had all of my Masters of the Universe figures in it! No Greyskull, but all of my figures. Amazing.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve got all of my Joes, MOTU and Star Wars figures on shelves in a closet (my happy place). One day when we leave this cramped apartment I’ll have a room for myself. A room to write, a room to record podcasts, but most importantly a room to proudly display all of my most precious (non-living) treasures.

It’s great watching my son get into these old toys of mine. Masters of the Universe are his new obsession, and I recently tweeted a pic of him playing with my old figures. As you’d expect, it got a response from our Twitter circle’s resident MOTU buff, Count Marzo. {Check out Count Marzo talking MOTU on the eclectic discussion Podcast!} What happened next is an example of why I’m blessed to be a part of this amazing online community of like-minded friends, all coming of age in the great 80s, sharing great nostalgic memories and observations on the world today.

A couple days after our MOTU conversation, this came in the mail:

Count Marzo had sent me an MOTU Classics Mer-Man. One of my favorite characters from the line, and my first MOTU Classics figure. And damn if this figure isn’t amazing.

The package was sent to me as ‘something for me and my son to play with’. I gotta admit, at first sight I thought “no damn way I’m lettin’ my 3 1/2 year old get his paws on this baby”. But, like Kool-Aid Man to a brick wall, he was drawn to the sound of a toy opening, and Mer-Man went from ‘mine’ to ‘ours’. That said, I was extremely impressed with how durable this figure is for being tailored to adult collectors.

The only other toys that I feel comfortable letting my son ‘do his worst’ to are the Nickelodeon Ninja Turtles. Those things can take a beating. Current Star Wars or G.I. Joe figures would not stand up to that type of rough play. Not to turn this into a toy review, but I can’t stress enough how impressed I am with the construction of MOTU Classics.

Hit the comments and caption this

So here we are. A toy line that has called to me over the years, as Masters of the Universe was actually the first toy I ever ‘collected’ as a kid. I read people’s blog posts and tweets about Mattel’s figure subscription (and what seems like questionable customer service?) and I resist- knowing that I’ve been very lucky to this point to collect what I have and to have had people look out for me in the ways they have.

But holding this Mer-Man is like taking the first sip of beer. The first puff of smoke. The first Pringle from a new can.

A gateway drug. I want more. Must have more.

I begin to kick myself for all those Toys R Us trips where I picked up and stared at the MOTU/DC two-packs, with combos like Skeletor & Lex Luthor, Zodac & Green Lantern, Stratos & Hawkman, Mer-Man & Aquaman and more. I had wanted so badly to pull the trigger on those, but knew it wasn’t in the budget. I’m the kind of guy who buys a graphic novel that I’ve been wanting to read, reads it, then sells it on Amazon to generate the funds to buy the next volume. I’d love to have a Congressional Library with shelves full of trade paperbacks I’ve read, but it ain’t happening.

So, like a typical freshly-hooked addict I immediately report to Amazon. “I’ll just see how much some of the others are going for” I say to myself as I click furiously. Surprisingly, a lot of the main characters that came out in the early days of the MOTU Classics line are not sky high on the secondary market. A He-Man can be scored for 31.95. Skeltor is available for $34.95. Costly, but if you’re into MOTU these are amazing figures.

For now, I bide my time and hope these prices don’t continue to rise as the line gets older. I resist the urge to buy just my absolute favorite few characters from the line (the broke toy collector’s version of playing “Just the Tip”). If I did, I think I’d look for Beast Man, Hordak, He-Man, Skeletor and Trap Jaw.

Before you hardcores jump into the comments, keep in mind that I have absolutely no experience with the last 25 years of MOTU collecting. I’m sure some or most of those figures are near impossible to get.

Wait, there’s an MOTU character named Dekker? How had I missed this over all these years? Shit, I’m hooked.


Can’t thank you enough, Count!


Howie Decker (@HowardtheDeck) is the chief blogger & editor of UnderScoopFire. He likes fantasy baseball & taco night. You can read his Letter from the Editor here.

[Click here for all articles written by Howie Decker]




Top image by Nate Baertsch

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