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One Man's Obsession Is Another Man's Treasure

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Yesterday was New Comics Day (new comic books are released on Wednesdays, so if you have a friend or loved one who disappears for a few hours each Wednesday, chances are that they're a closet geek), which took us to one of our favorite local comic book haunts. Yes, we're geeky, and we admit it.

Meltdown Comics on Sunset Blvd. (and with two "Mini-Melt" locations in Los Feliz and Eagle Rock) is hands down the best comic book experience this town has to offer. Friendly clerks, tons of funky stuff, baby clothes (courtesy of "Baby Melt"), dozens of comic book t-shirts, and a wall stocked with more action figures than a Toy Story sequel (and not a single copy of "A Million Little Pieces" in sight).

We noticed that they had several Simpsons figures on sale, and began wondering whatever happens to all of these things once people buy them and take 'em home. Chances are one of your coworkers and/or cubemates has one of them stuck on their monitor/workspace/wall divider right now. Can you look up and see Monty Burns staring down at you? Our money is on yes.

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From 2000 until 2004, Playmates Toys pumped out enough of these toys to fill up the interior of the moon if it was hollow. (Okay, we made that up, but come on...it has to be a ton of them). Simpsons fans around the world began obsessively collecting these toys en masse, and Playmates struggled to keep up with the demand. At one point, store employees would put down a new shipment, still in box, and people would literally be tearing the cardboard to shreds looking for a certain figure before the price tag could even touch the precious packaging. Certain "chase figures" are only packed one or two to a carton, so obsessed Simpsonites (Simpsies? Simpletons? Simpsonians? Is there a term for hardcore Springfieldians?) would show up before stores would open, searching high and low for their exclusive Ralph Wiggum variant figure.

Now, the scary part here is that for every Bowling Homer you see on someone's hard drive at work, there are about ten unopened ones stored in a dark closet somewhere at home. You see, in the world of collecting action figures (funny how they're called "action" when they only stand there) you have to learn the lingo. "MOC" is mint on card. Meaning, still in the packaging it was hanging in. "MIB" isn't Men in Black, it's "Mint In Box". They don't like creased corners, and if part of the "bubble" packaging over the figure is dented or torn, forget about it. The value goes down the drain.

To make things even worse, Playmates upped the ante by introducing "Intelli-Tronic" Simpsons figures. These figures would, when placed on an appropriate "World of Springfield Environment" sound off with classic quotes from the show, in the appropriate voice of their namesake. We'll admit, we fell victim to this new technology and picked up the "Lionel Hutz" (Phil Hartman) and "Brad Goodman" (Albert Brooks) two-pack. Who could pass that up? The trouble is, all of those itchy and desirous collectors now wanted more than ever to rip open their "Moe's Tavern" playset, plop their "Barney" figure down on it, and hear him belch in his Barney-like fashion. Perhaps this drove them even more insane, the world may never know.

Complicating things even further, Playmates started releasing mail away figures, comic book convention exclusive figures, Toys R Us exclusive playsets, and truly bizarre figures (like the glow in the dark Radioactive Homer...a very hard to find item). And the Simpson fans stayed with them in lockstep. Greedily buying up anything emblazoned with "WORLD OF SPRINGFIELD" on the front of it. That is until 2004, when Playmates announced that they would be discontinuing the WoS series. A sad day for Springfield collectors.

Well, after seeing the figures hanging on pegs in Meltdown, we began to wonder, did anyone actually collect the entire series? Where would you house such a collection? Are they all MIB and MOC? A quick search on America's Garage Sale, eBay, not only led us to the answer (which was yes), but imagine our surprise when we found out that this man is located right here in good old Los Angeles. This guy has EVERY figure. EVERY environment. EVERY mail away figure. It's truly staggering. We're still not sure that it isn't Matt Groening himself, getting rid of some leftovers, but this collection really takes the cake. In his own words, "It's sad for me, but an amazing opportunity for you if you never got on the WoS bandwagon when Playmates was manufacturing these toys. They are, in a word, amazing." There is literally so much here that he could film his own live-action Simpsons film, complete with sets, characters, and props. Heck, the characters will even say the lines for him. In fact, if this is Matt Groening, someone needs to tell him to rethink parting with this stuff.

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What secret obsession collection are YOU hiding?