Monthly Archives: May 2010

Geeksville or Bust

20 Odd or Obscure Collectible Busts That, Should You Ever Find Them in the Home of a Potential Paramour’s Shelf, Ought to Give You Cause to Reconsider Your Evening Plans

1. The Collector

Look, I’m probably the last guy to make fun of someone else’s decisions regarding their disposable income or what they choose to display in their curio cabinet. I mean, just ask my ever-patient wife about my complete collection of Kenner Super Powers action figures, including the ultra-rare Mister Miracle figure that I somehow ended up paying triple digits for in an eBay auction. But… come on, people.  There’s “trying to recapture your childhood” and there’s “buying crap you will end up dusting for the rest of eternity,” and limited-edition busts — fragile, expensive, inert– are items I’ve just never understood as comic collectibles. Especially when extremely obscure or odd characters are involved, as they can say a lot more about a person’s inner psyche than clinically advisable. Exhibit A: this bust of “The Collector,” a character based on Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons that appeared in exactly one “Treehouse of Horror” episode. Even better, it was an episode lampooning the nerdish collecting obsessions of people like Comic Book Guy.
What this bust is actually saying: “My owner has no idea how many levels of irony were involved in my purchase.”

2. Multi-Armed Spider-Man
Then again, I’m not a diehard absolutist about this. If you’re a huge fan of, say, Heath Ledger’s body of work, then sure — feel free to show the love and stick a Dark Knight Joker bust up on the mantle. Similarly, if you’re really into Batman or Spider-Man and want to buy piece of art to prove it — OK, still not my cup of chai, but whatever: they’re big-name heroes and your houseguests will likely think you’re just a really fervid comic-book fan, which isn’t the worst thing you can say about a grown adult. But let’s suppose you’ve invited someone over to your place for the first time and they see this bust, an homage to the, er, “classic” Spider-Man story arc that saw him gain four extra limbs for about three issues in the early ’70s. Assuming they’re not as big a Spider-fan as you, which of these do you think will be their more natural response: (A) “Wow, what a clever shout-out to the camp sensibilities that often pervade the Spider-Man mythos!” or (B) “Well, that’s… interesting. Whoa, look at the time. I have to go somewhere else now.”
What this bust is actually saying: “Please, just shatter me… shatter me, dammit!

3. Triton

Optimal placement for this one? Right at the front door, where his unwavering glare can offer a proper reception to one and all. Triton is a minor character within the Inhumans, a separate, super-powered branch of humanity first introduced during the legendary Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four run (he’s the aquatic one in the group, if the fishies on his pedestal didn’t tip you off — a handy talent, come to think, for someone living on the frickin’ moon). So if you’re keeping track at home, he’s a supporting player within a super-team that plays an occasional guest-starring role in a book starring another super-team. It’s kind of like finding out someone is a big Kevin Bacon fan, but instead of getting a bust of Kevin Bacon they instead get a bust of the guy whose cousin’s college roommate once did Kevin Bacon’s taxes, just to show how devoted they are to Kevin Bacon. Which is to say: huh?
What this bust is actually saying: “Get out. Now. Before my owner starts screeching about how Kirby got royally screwed over by Lee. God, I just hate him so much…”

4-5. Starfire & Phantom Lady
Oh, I agree. It’s totally unfair how people still believe that silly stereotype about superhero comic fans. You know, the one about how all comic fans are immature nerds obsessed with sex but couldn’t talk to a real girl to save their lives. I just don’t know where people get those kinds of ideas.
What these busts (ha!) are actually saying: “BOOBIES!”

6. Bi-Beast

And now, introducing the title holder in the Marvel Comics Snicker-Inducing Name Sweepstakes, Marvel Division (well, at least until they published Steelgrip Starkey and his All-Purpose Power Tool). To no one’s shock or surprise, the Bi-Beast (stop that!) first appeared in a Hulk story from the early ’70s; created by an alien race, he’s an android that keeps functioning (and raging) long after his masters died out. He was given two heads to represent the two bodies of knowledge (warfare tactics and his master race’s culture, whatever the hell that means) programmed into him, though I wouldn’t rule out a drunken late-night dare in the android factory, either. Number of faces: 2. Total non-ironic appearances since his introduction: 9. The looks on your guests’ faces when you tell them his name: priceless.
What this bust is actually saying: “Oh, I get it now! I’m a ‘bi’-beast. Heh heh heh.” “Shut up.” “No, you shut up.”

7. The Crow

The Crow: The Comic Book is a pretty good read, offering a dark and gothic tale of loss and revenge. The Crow: The Movie (at least the first one) is a visually stylistic and faithful adaptation of James O’Barr’s cult-hit creation (RIP, Brandon Lee). The Crow: The Leering Life-Sized Bust That’s Only Missing Some Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti to Complete the Effect is… just damned creepy, people.
What this bust is actually saying: “Oh, but you must stay for dinner. The rest of the gang is just dying to meet you. MWHA HA HA HA HA…”

8. Batroc the Leaper

Seriously, now: Batroc the LEAPER…??? Just so we’re perfectly clear: this is a likeness of a member of Captain America’s rogues gallery whose major claim to fame is leaping. OK, technically, he’s a martial-arts master, but still: it’s right there in his name. His actual name is Georges Batroc, which is derived from Batrachia, the animal order to which frogs belong. Which wouldn’t be that big a deal except for the small matter of him being French!! And let’s not even mention the ridiculous Salvador Dali moustache and the worst French accent since Pepe Le Pew. Displaying this one is a classic no-win situation: trot it out for your liberal friends and you’re a gross perpetrator of national stereotypes; show it to your conservative guests and they’ll harrumph about how a real American wouldn’t dare let a cheese-loving surrender monkey in the house.
What this bust is actually saying: “Ah, ma petite cherie. You think I am without le spring in mon step because I have no legs? Au contraire! Come a leetle closer and I will show you ze ways of l’amour…”

9. Doop

The upside about resembling a floating spheroid of snot? When they make a bust out of you, they use your entire body. Doop was a member of Marvel’s X-Statix, a team of mutant media stars that first appeared in the early ’00s (their short-lived book’s biggest claim to fame was its abortive attempt to include a resurrected Princess Diana as one of the team members — classy!). Doop, who spoke in his own “Doopspeak” language, was cast as the cameraman capturing the team’s heroic exploits, though it was often hinted he may have been manipulating the team for his own purposes. I mention this on the off chance you’re among the 99.999999999999% of the Earth’s population that has never, ever heard of this character, and will never hear of him again.
What this bust is actually saying: “Did you know someone actually wrote a comic about how my brain exploded and parts of it landed all over the world, but that was OK because the back-up brain in my butt kicked in? True story. And now I’m sitting here on this guy’s shelf. Yep.”

10. Puck
This fellow, in case you didn’t know, was a member of the original Alpha Flight, the super-team patrolling Canadian shores in the Marvel universe. Well, “super” except for him; while his teammates could do things like shape-shift into Arctic animals or shine as bright as the Northern Lights, he… cartwheeled. (Later, there was some later back story nonsense about ancient curses and immortality, but his original writer once confirmed Puck was intended to be just a well-trained acrobatic dwarf.) Now, far be it for me, a loyal Canadian who bleeds maple syrup and reveres SCTV, to question someone’s decision to place a Canadian hero on their shelf, but… the dude named after the thing that gets smacked around by hockey sticks? Really?
What this bust is actually saying: “You know what’s funny? This pedestal is just as long as what my legs would have been if someone had bothered to give me some. Life’s pretty crazy, eh?”

11-12. Ulik & Mangog
“Let’s see now. Loki? Nah, too predictable. Enchantress? Tempting, but I don’t want the ladies to think I’m only interested in art when it shows a hot bod. Absorbing Man? Nice, but he’s the only super-villain who fights without a shirt on, and I’m not sure a bust of a beefy bald guy with a naked torso sets the right mood. I know! I’ll get a bust of the meanest rock troll to ever challenge Thor and a bust of the physical embodiment of a billion billion beings out for revenge against Asgard. That’ll show everyone who’s Thor’s No. 1 fan!”
What these busts are actually saying: That someone else should be given power of attorney over your affairs before it’s too late.

13. Tiger Shark
So you know how, every time Marvel is mentioned in the media, the reporter invariably says the company owns the rights to more than 5,000 characters? Keep in mind that number includes Doop, Puck, Ulik, Bi-Beast, Batroc the Leaper… and this fellow. Quoth Wikipedia: “The character’s first appearance in the title Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner [in 1968] establishes he is a selfish Olympic swimmer who, seeking public acclaim, attempts to rescue a drowning man and damages his spinal cord when waves push him into a ship. Desperate to regain his swimming ability, he willingly participates in an experiment by the scientist Doctor Dorcas, who cures his injured back by blending his DNA with that of hero Namor the Sub-Mariner and a tiger shark.” Oh, and he once escaped a microscopic prison for super-villains by hitching a ride on She-Hulk’s hand. Hell, who hasn’t these days?
What this bust is actually saying: “Really? You want to buy me? When Ghost Rider and Catwoman are both standing right here next to me on the shelf? Cripes, even I forgot who I was for the better part of the ’90s.”

14-15. Unspecified agents of A.I.M. and HYDRA

So this is what unfettered capitalism and an epidemic of arrested adolescence has wrought: not content with merely offering busts of every identifiable character it’s ever produced, Marvel has decided to tap into the market for its unidentifiable characters. I know, I know: the draw here are the standard-issue uniforms worn by agents of these two terrorist organizations, not the identities of the shmoes wearing them. Still: busts of menacing beekeepers and oddly dressed soccer fans celebrating Brazil’s latest World Cup goal are going to generate more looks of confusion than adulation the second you step outside the comic shop door with them.
What these busts are actually saying: “Our owner apparently feels comfortable surrounded by statues of fanatical cult members with fashion issues. Weird, huh?”

16. Guardians of the Galaxy
Martinex! Yondu! Starhawk! Major Victory! Charlie-27! Together, they are… well, you know. What, still not ringing any bells? These figures represent the original members of a 31st-century team that fought for the freedom of our solar system against evil reptilian alien invaders (as opposed to the snuggly, gregarious kind of alien invaders, one assumes). They also live in an alternate-timeline Marvel universe, just in case a 31st-century super-team from the “real” Marvel universe wasn’t obscure enough.
What these busts are actually saying: “So, are you a fan of that Big Bang Theory show? No? Too bad, because thanks to your host, you’re about to live it.”

17. Kurse
Kurse! The Kurse-man! Of course! You remember him from his… um, seven or so appearances in the ’80s. OK, long story short: started out as a Dark Elf named Algrim the Strong but betrayed by his master during a battle with Thor. Turned into an unstoppable juggernaut by the Beyonder, and proved his toughness by battling Thor and a team of prepubescent superheroes. Returns to Asgard and kills his betrayer, then is granted a pardon by Odin and is named guardian of Asgard’s children. This is how badass the Asgardians are, people: they nominated this guy as the head of their local daycare. Touching and all, but still: don’t hold your breath waiting to see his picture on a Burger King glass.
What this bust is actually saying: “The store was all out of Ulik and Mangog busts, so…”

18. Despair

Now, I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, having discovered it during my college years and therefore inclined to dig all its allusions and allegories and half-dozen other literary terms I’ve forgotten from my first-year English Lit class. So I can get behind a bust of, say, Morpheus or Death, or even Destiny if the occasion called for it. But Despair? As in, a character who’s literally the embodiment of hopelessness, a pale-skinned, pointy-toothed being who lives in a fog-shrouded dimension populated solely by her pet rats and filled with floating mirrors that allow her to look silently into the faces of all those who are touched by her cold, unfeeling hand? That Despair? Well, that should perk up your bachelor pad quite nicely.
What this bust is actually saying: [Blank, unending gaze into the abyss]

19-20. Cable & Omega Red
No. Just… no, goddammit.
What these busts are actually saying: “If the bedroom in his parent’s basement, the complete and double-bagged run of every Marvel title from the 1990s, and lack of basic hygiene didn’t set off any alarms, then our scowling faces should send you running for the hills. Really, ma’am, we’re only doing this for your own good.”