Thursday, February 21, 2019

…An Arm and a Leg

Part of the loss of the “thrill of the hunt” comes from early announcements of assortments. 

I knew the Venom wave was coming out months before it’s seaborne invasion of the West Coast.  The only figure that was a definite (here’s that word again) “need” was Typhoid Mary.  As a lifelong Daredevil fan, continuing to build his rogues gallery was a given.  I found the figure discounted as a "buy it now" auction well before the rest of the wave slowly oozed their way East.

On a rather uneventful day, smack dab in the middle of the psychotic levels of stress period, my wife asked me to stop in Kmart to trade in some expiring Cashback points on an extra account we somehow generated.

As per usual with any of our plans, the item she ordered online wasn’t in.  This is odd, as “in” based on the way she ordered it would have meant they found it in their own store, and brought it to the front counter.

This is the first of many pieces of evidence about why they were filing for bankruptcy.

I couldn’t find it in the store.  Then again, I can’t find stuff on the pantry shelf when I’m staring right at it, but let’s not get into that now.

I easily exceeded the soon to be vanishing credits with a Christmas gift and commemorative Stan Lee magazine.  Before paying I checked out the toy aisle, because addictions cling to me like jungle burrs to a monkey in a Velcro track suit.  Noting what must be most if not all of the Venom wave was on the racks, along with chunks of an X-men wave, (none on sale) I went up to pay.

Due to a combination of the holidays and the threat of the chain vanishing in a puff of their downward spiraling customer service, they ran a one for one Cashback promotion that would go live in two days for a short period of time.

Due to a long span between learning of the Venom wave and it releasing, I had
A) Seen the Venom film, reminding me how much I like the visuals of the character.
B) Read a bunch of old and new Venom comics introducing me to other characters.
C) Seen the trailers for Into the Spider-Verse and both my daughter and I got excited by it.

I consulted with my two main addiction enablers. Rosa informed me we didn’t need (the actual word) anything at Kmart, meaning the vanishing Cashback equaled a sale of two half price figures.  Then Anabelle helped identify two individuals we “needed.” (my definition again)  They were: Spider-Ham, soon to be appearing in Into the Spider-Verse and Poison, already appearing in the Venomverse comics I read and - more importantly from my daughter’s perspective- was “shiny and pretty, with squggly bits!”

Two days after the first (of what became an ever growing chain) of Kmart stops, I returned on the way home from work again and picked up the symbiote eater, and Peter Porker.    Poison was as shiny as expected and immediately got a role in the year’s Marvel nativity play. 
Anabelle fell in love with Spider-ham even before seeing him in the movie, and he moved into her room for a while with her special action figures.  That big yellow dude of hers is "Ex Nihilo" a character I (amazingly) hadn't heard of, and expected to auction off after grabbing him cheap for his accompanied limb in the Guardians of the Galaxy wave acquisition wars the previous year.  Anabelle decided he was really cool looking and uses him as a dance partner for Nico Minoru, another character I didn't know but she thought was pretty.  
It must be genetic.

Spider-Ham, oddly, came with an extra head.  While to normal people that might seem odd all on its own, the extraness wasn’t where the oddness came from.  It has now become easier and cheaper to supply extra heads and hands than to create reliable articulation.  Maybe they learned that from stop motion effects artists?  We popped off Mr. Porker’s red noggin and tried to replace it with the black Venomized looking one. 

It didn’t fit. 

We figured it was an option for the build-a-figure, which not only didn't make sense, but also didn’t connect with the massive two part torso that came in his package.  While Anabelle instantly had him doing poses from Hamlet with the strange accessory I wondered if there was another reason.

A little internet digging turned up an explanation.  In his original comic run Spider-Ham faced off against a porcine version of Venom based on Arnold Schwarzenegger called “Pork Grind.”  The head didn’t fit on the figure it came with, but was built to be used with an entirely different figure in the wave. 

Of course, with those extra head and extra hands that they pack in, instead of articulation, I get stuck with body parts that aren’t auctionable, end up in little groups in bags, and don't look creepy at all.

One of my early addiction acquisitions was the Spider-Man Classics line excellently sculpted and painted, roaring, tongue wagging Venom figure back in 2003. 

Yes, that means there are chunks of addiction fueled figures older than my child.

Yes, this is an embarrasingly long harbored addiction.

That old Venom is way cool. The new one was less cool but still fairly impressive approximation of Venom’s first, Todd McFarlane drawn, big leering at Mary Jane grin, pre-tongue appearance.  

However, even including an extra Eddie Brock head didn’t make the figure tempting.  

However, the hysterical idea of an Austrian Anthropomorphic Pig Symbiote certainly did.

It should be pretty clear how badly I need help by this point.

While this well beyond marginally insane revelation was going on I found myself often distracted by the huge arm that came packed with Poison.   An oversized torso can be deceptive, but that arm…man, it was more massive than the body of a regular figure.

That’s how they get you. 

My brain started on justifications to get all the parts.  I didn’t have any version of Scream, and the bright yellow female symbiote would certainly stand out proudly on the villain shelf.  Plus Anabelle is excellent at adding “justifications” to any “need” for a female figure. (Definitions, once again, are highly variable.)

However, the “need” didn’t extend to all of the remaining figures.  I already had Carnage from the 2005 Fearsome Foes of Spider-man box set.  Those arrived when my daughter was a tiny tot, meaning I often came home to find the Fearsome Foes of Spider-man Tea Party in her dollhouse.
The set was where I got a classic costume Spider-man. Naturally the Spider-man Classics Black Costume Spidey was one of my first figures, to make up for the old Secret Wars figure I never found in the Eighties. (I have had my own definition of “need” for a ridiculously long time.)  

The main reason I got the set (outside of my own insanity) was the fantastic detail on the exclusive Vulture and rereleased Lizard, with the jewel being the massive and also exclusive Rhino. 

Anyone sense a trend for “need” being connected to massive figures here?

As for Carnage…well they can’t all be fantastically detailed, and sometimes truly stressful moments can allow upgrades.

On the previous Kmart trip I was told I was earning a chunk of more quick dissolving Cashback.   This sent me back there on the way home from work yet again.  The stop was around the same time as the whole magically transporting appliance thing happened, so I was far from my most stable.

Kmart was a major department store running a huge promotion shortly before Christmas.  Whether it was a cause or effect of the bankruptcy, they only had one cashier working.

Their computer system sensed everyone’s stress, panicked and shut down.  The manager kept telling everyone it would only take a couple of minutes to reboot.  He also told someone to open another register.  Instead of shifting the whole line, he sent people mid line to the new register, while telling the front of the line to wait for the reboot.  Needless to say, the front of the line got ugly in ways that had very little to do with the Holiday Spirit.  Worrying for my own safety and curious to see if a cart full of wrapping paper could be shoved up the manager, I stayed exactly where I was until everything calmed down. The first woman in line took one of her cart items, threw ten bucks at the manager, and walked out. Shortly thereafter the system came back.

The cashier checked the rebate points after ringing everything up.  It was then I was told the extra account I had been using for all these transactions had a whopping twenty seven cents in Cashback.  Close to openly weeping at that point, I shuffled over to the extended customer service line to return the three figures, since the stress overwhelmed the addiction and I flat out refused to pay full price.

That night, my wife, in a combination of enabling my addiction and more importantly preserving my sanity, let me know the Cashback on our regular account was also expiring.

The next morning, instead of oatmeal at work, I had it at McDonalds while checking my email and prepping for the day. Then I left my fast food office to arrive at Kmart, and enter it shortly before the registers opened.  Since they only had one wave left of the figures, I went to customer service to ask about returns.  Everything got restocked overnight. They must have more night shift shelf handlers than cashiers.

I scared people at work all day by popping the creatures over cubicle walls, because why should I be the only one with stress? Then I brought the gang home, and went downstairs to the auction storage pile of packaging and body parts.  Digging through a huge collection of limbs and heads, I came up empty. After checking a couple of other closets and bins, I found every container of every figure bought in the last year, except for Typhoid Mary and the final symbiote leg.

Yes, in the horrendous depths of stress I was wallowing in, I had forgotten I purchased Mary at a major discount because she came unboxed with no build a figure part.  My wife saved me from bludgeoning myself to death with a garbage bag full of action figure packaging by saying, “Just buy the leg separately.”

I looked at the typical third party auction sites.  Then I did a double take and looked again.  The leg on its own was selling for five bucks above the standard figure price.  If I wasn't paying full price for a figure, there was no way I’d blow that on a limb.  Ready to flagellate myself with the bag o’ boxes again while playing with Hopping Mad Venom, I paused momentarily to check a normal retail site…and found the whole figure, bonus leg and all, for four dollars less than normal price.

Action figure scalpers are apparently both inconsiderate, and stupid.

With an extra Typhoid Mary now in the auction pile, all the parts were available, and the MONSTER VENOM is AWESOMELY MASSIVE.

The advantage of having far too much comic book crap in my head is I can say my old Venom is Eddie Brock, while the giant one is Flash Thompson when he loses control.


My original Typhoid Mary went back downstairs after coming up with the “all girls” group my wife picked for her birthday month.  Of course she’s more than an enabler, we're a together family.

As for the rest of the gang, they had a regular symbiote party!!

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