Mer-Man is Gonna Be My Gateway Drug

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on January 21, 2013

in Nerd Culture, The 80s

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

Shawn Robare January 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

This article made my day, thanks for sharing those memories and I hope you find some of those classics figures for super cheap! I just recently started doing something similar, only with the MOTU Commemorative line from 2001. Merman was my first as well…

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 11:39 am

Thanks Shawn! I realized that I don’t share many personal memories and stories on here as I’d like to, and I saw Count Marzo’s act of kindness as a good opportunity to change that. As I typed it I wasn’t sure if it would be enjoyable for anyone to read, so thank you for the comment and feedback!

Engineernerd January 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

I just realized what bugs me about this version of Mer Man. He has Simpsons eyes.

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 11:41 am

But here’s the best part – it comes with two heads!! I actually like the non-pictured one better, it’s an exact reproduction of the original figure’s head. I just put this less intimidating head on for when my 3 year old plays with it!

Engineernerd January 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm

You can’t let a 3 year old play with action figures! That’s crazy talk!

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm

sometimes you gotta roll the dice, John. Live on the edge!

Jason "SockofFleagulls" Gross January 21, 2013 at 11:09 am

I wish I would’ve had your luck with recovering long-lost action figures. Mine were passed down by my mother to one of her friend’s children while I was at college. At the time, I wasn’t too upset but since becoming the father of two boys I wish I would’ve stopped her and been selfish.

I never had one toyline that I liked to collect. I had a mixed bag of MOTU, G.I. Joe, Transformers, M.A.S.K., and Thundercats. Seemed better to have a few from each depending on what mood I was in. My boys picked up on my increasing obsession with collecting the M.A.S.K. toys about 2 years ago now. I sadly don’t have a proper place to display them, but I do get the boxes down when the boys ask to play with them. I’ve pretty much collected everything I wanted and then some, going into the comics and merchandise type stuff. I was so obsessed that I pretty much have become a M.A.S.K. dealer on eBay, piecing together figure/vehicle sets to resell and feed my passion for my collection.

Now, that I’ve come to the point of pretty much completing my collection…I’m almost afraid. I need something to fill my collective needs and not sure where to begin. Buying mixed lots on eBay, I’ve acquired the MOTU Battle Ram. I luckily still have my G.I. Joe Skystriker that I’d love to restore with fresh stickers. And I gave the boys some of the new Thundercats figures and the Thundertank for Christmas that that I found on the clearance shelves.


ShezCrafti January 21, 2013 at 11:28 am


Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 11:49 am

Good point. That’s a line that has gotten a lot more available since the latest reboot, and there aren’t astronomical numbers of figures like G.I. Joe.

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 11:44 am

Man, that’s a conundrum. You don’t want to force something just for the sake of collecting. I like that you are able to sell on eBay so that satisfies the ‘hunt’ aspect as you look for pieces to complete sets. G.I. Joe seems to be the deepest of all of the quintessential 80s properties. It’s the one I’m focusing on now (with the little resources I can dedicate to it), but I do have small shelves set aside for MASK, MOTU, Star Wars, and the 2 Silverhawks I have. I never recovered any of my Thundercats or the tons of LJN WWF Wrestlers (which were easily my favorite to play with for a long time).

Jason Gross (@SockOfFleagulls) January 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I appreciate the turtles but never got into any of the figures. Most of my collecting shifted to video games by the time they became popular. I can see my youngest requesting some of the new ones for his birthday though.
I might head deeper into the comic realm. Between m.a.s.k., a few thunder cats, the short a- team series, and the short GI joe- transformers combo series that I own, my interest in comics is peaked. I like the “new” stories that are in the same realm yet didn’t appear in the cartoons/shows that I mainly remember. Plus comics are a helluva lot cheaper than figs or vehicles!

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 10:09 am

Good call. Keep us posted on that – I love people’s stories of collecting things, and I love comics!

Jay (@JCorduroy) January 21, 2013 at 11:24 am

I’ve somehow dodged the MOTUC drug, even though I lived temporarily with a friend who had nearly the entire line on shelves right outside of my room. I REALLY want to get Hordak and Grizzlor, but I know if that happens I’m fucked – I’ll be buying the whole line. So I resist.

I couldn’t resist the siren song of Club Infinite Earths, though. They started with Golden Age Flash, Howie! Jay Garrick! They kicked me in the stones and stole my money, all while laughing about it!

And I let them do it month after month after month…

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 11:46 am

oh man you HAD to tell me about that. Ever since Toyfare stopped existing I have been relatively in the dark about toy news, clubs and things like that. I only knew about the GI Joe figure subscription by association. I just see what hits the shelves typically. Now I’m screwed.

Jay (@JCorduroy) January 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Eventually I’ll sign up for the Joe club. The fact that I’ve avoided it for years is something I’m actually kind of proud of. 🙂

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 2:42 pm

If I had the scratch, I’d have jumped on last year, which was the first I learned of it. And someday I WILL go to a JoeCon. Maybe when my kids are in collge. (Hey, who’s the 60 year old at JoeCon?)

ShezCrafti January 21, 2013 at 11:26 am

What a great post. The most interesting stories about collecting are those born out of personal experiences like yours–thanks for sharing them with us, and giving us more of a glimpse into both your physical AND mental “happy place.” 🙂

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 11:47 am

Thanks Jaime! If I could get better lighting in there, I’d take more pics of the happy place, but alas, it IS a closet.

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 11:47 am

wait, I just realized I keep mentioning being in the closet as my happy place. Ah well, maybe I’ll get some new readers.

Corey Chapman January 21, 2013 at 11:35 am

Mer Man’s sword would make a kick ass back scratcher.

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 11:52 am

They did make a Power Sword letter opener:

why not a Mer-Man sword back scratcher? Next: a Skeltor’s Havoc Staff shoe horn

Mr. Serious January 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I love how every post is replied to.

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

You just put that so I’d have to reply again, didn’t you? Running up the numbers!

Count Marzo January 22, 2013 at 8:09 pm

When I was a youngin, I always thought of it as “Mer-Man’s corn sword”. Don’t ask me why. It was corn to my 4 year old brain. lol

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 8:29 pm


Lamar the Revenger January 21, 2013 at 11:58 am

Beautiful post Howie. I hope you bought dinner for your sister after that super act!

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Ya know, I probably haven’t show proper appreciation – I know she knows I was really surprised and excited about it, but probably not aware that it borders on obsession!

Jon January 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Growing up, I was more Transformers, GI JOE, Thundercats & TMNT. But I did have to MOTU figures growing up: Battle Armor He-Man & Battle Armor Skeletor and they had many adventures with the Thundercats. I stayed away from the MOTUC line in general until a couple of years ago when they re-released He-Man for the first time … and I couldn’t help myself I had to buy him. And then inevitably they came out with BA He-Man & Skeletor shortly thereafter. Luckily, I’ve been able to just keep that one figure on my shelf, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to hold out.

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

Jon, if worse comes to worse, you can buy me a regular Skeletor and I will buy you a BA Skeletor or He-Man. Then neither of us feel guilt because they were a gift! (See, I got it all worked out!) (says the guy shivering in the corner suffering from toy withdrawal like a crack addict)

More0_0Than January 21, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Great story Howie! It’s so amazing that you were able to recollect some of your stuff like that, big props to your friend and your sister. And then the part about Count just sending you something like that out of the blue, brings a tear to my eye thinking about how nice us nerds can be (when we aren’t at each others throats about important things like Trek or Wars, Who shot first, best Bond etc.) I have been on the receiving end of random nerd kindness a time or two and have tried to pay it forward when I can.

All that aside, isn’t Mer-Man the Aquaman of MOTU??

Howie Decker January 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm

He IS kinda the villain version of Aquaman and by now everyone knows how I feel about Aquaman!

Count Marzo January 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Wow. Amazing post and I’m proud to be a part of it. I do feel a bit like a crack dealer after reading all of it though… 😀

I love hearing stories, memories, and personal experiences like this. Everyone has their own unique backstory.

I salvaged many of my original toys from my Dad’s attic many years ago. Back in the day when I was still a single digit aged kid, my Mom was babysitting and tried to let younger kids play with my box of toys. I came out to find some of them smashed, broken, and all sorts of fucked up (my ORIGINAL He-Man figure was a casualty 🙁 ). I lost my shit. And so began my toy problem.

Don’t get me wrong, I played the shit outta my figures but I always took care of them. I cried when they broke. I had the folks super glue fragile pieces back on countless times when battles became too violent, but I never purposely taped M-80s to them or just smashed them for the hell of it.

Since that somewhat traumatic experience, I’ve proudly displayed random figures throughout my life. I used Stonedar and Rokkon as paperweights on my desk. Webstor was always hanging around my room throughout high school. I STILL have my original Castle Grayskull proudly displayed on a shelf. I want to be buried with it. 🙂

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 10:16 am

Proud to have you as not only a part of it, but the reason for me writing this post in the first place. I always wanted to share some of those personal stories, but felt like it would seem self-involved to just blog about them. Then when you sent me that figure it just all seemed to fall into place. I started typing furiously about 2 hours after it arrived and my son and I played with it. You really did make our weekend.

It was perfectly timed, too. He was stuck inside at home sick with a fever and cough, nothing like a new toy arriving in the mail to brighten the spirits!

That’s a funny story about the kids playing w your toys. I would have had the same anxiety about that. You should write your will asap to insure you are buried with CG. I can hear the local news teaser now:

“Man Buried with Kick-Ass Vintage Playset” story at 11.

Count Marzo January 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm

That is awesome that it was perfect timing. It warms my cold, black heart on this single digit temperature winter’s day. Better than a can of Campbell’s soup. 🙂

Again, it was no big deal. I already have several Mer-Man MOTUC figures. When I got another Mer-Man as a bonus figure for subscribing to Mattel’s MOTUC line, I was kinda like “meh” even though he’s one of the best overall figures. This post is worth so much more than whatever selling it would have given me. I just wanted to give you a token of my appreciation for all the entertainment you have provided via podcasts and posts on here and that perfect timing struck for me when I saw the picture of your vintage MOTU figures that your boy was playin with. As awesome as they are, those things are goddamn antiques to him! lol 😉

AG January 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Man this is a really good post. A lot of great insight. I’m sorry to hear about your dad, one thing about being a father means you think about your dad a lot more when you see him coming out in yourself. I had a good time reading this. Thank you.

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

Thank you very much. I can’t get started on the “dad feelings” or else this comment might be longer than the blog post. SOmeday I might explore everything in writing, but to make a long story short: I agree.

T2H January 22, 2013 at 3:54 am

This is a great, great story. I can definately relate. I am glad I still have most of my MOTU, Joe, and Superpowers figures. Not sure what happened to most of my STWR though 🙁
Magnificent storytelling my good man.

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

Oh man those Superpowers are the hot line amongst collectors right now- they go for big bucks. That’s one collection I wish I still had. I saved my Green Lantern (he was in the drawer with the four gijoes in the picture above), but I had Superman, Flash, Darkseid and Lex Luthor too. Thing is, I didn’t have any of the capes or accessories for any of them so I think I got them in trades with my friends. The only one I actually got from a store was Darkseid. I loved that he was so much bigger than the others.

Brian (Cool and Collected) January 22, 2013 at 10:15 am

Great stuff Howie! I am envious of your ability to reclaim the toys you played with as a kid. I was an Army brat and moved many times as a kid, and my toys seemed to have fallen off the truck every time we arrived in a new place.

I have tried to get my kids interested in the 80’s toys I have scraped together, but they don’t care for them one bit! I’ve really been enjoying watching them find their own way with new toy lines though. Right now, my kids are all about Skylanders, and the little one is also obsessed with his “Big Boots” toys, despite my efforts to steer them into the action figure aisles! When they outgrow these things, you can bet I’ll be carefully boxing them up and storing them away for the days they become nostalgic for those old toys they had as kids.

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 10:20 am

Absolutely Brian- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been about to get rid of one of Charlie’s toys and I’ll think “I wish my parents had saved every single toy I ever had” and I’ll keep it instead. There are so many random toys that I had that weren’t a part of any line that would be nice to have as well! Knock off Radio Shack toys, little KMart clearance things, etc.

Thanks for the comment!

SharePointJoe January 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Great story.

Amazing in all the years that we all hung out/knew each other, we didn’t get the idea of all getting together and having one big rumble with our favorite action figures.

Picture it, Omega Drive 1993. The 5 of us just sitting around setting up and playing with our toys in the middle of Googs’ living room. That would have been so friggin’ bad ass.

They could have been our other version of baseball cards. Trading, wheeling, dealing..etc.

I love stories like this..and I miss the age of innocence.

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm

You’re right, in hindsight from where we are now this would have been awesome. Problem is, we lost ourselves for a while- tried to be cool- tried to act like typical high schoolers instead of just doing what we all enjoyed. Actually we did what we enjoyed at the time (play hoops, video games, and troll the mall everyday). But yeah, a huge spread of action figures up for trade would have been amazing. If we would have all met 6 years sooner, that would have definitely been the case, or if we all lived in the same city now. SOMEONE would have a USS Flagg, and THAT would be the house to hang out at.

Kevin Hellions January 22, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Put you took a picture of Mer-Man in front of the article, that the picture is in…. my brain exploded!

Howie Decker January 22, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I wondered when someone was gonna notice that!

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