A few weeks ago I wrote about not meeting Adam West and mentioned that one of the times that I could have paid to meet him I instead spent $40 on an action figure that shot me in the eye on the way home. A friend was catching up on my blog yesterday, and sent me a note to ask what the rest of that story was.
Since you asked...
Allow me to introduce Tyr:
Tyr is an action figure from the third wave of Kenner's "Super Powers" toy line, and was produced in 1986. In the spring of 1996, when I was a junior in college, Tyr was the action figure that I wanted most of all, because Tyr was the only action figure out there that was based on a character from "The Legion of Superheroes".
Tyr has always been a slightly baffling choice for the "Super Powers" line, as he is the only character out of the 34 figures released that was from the Legion of Superheroes comics, and he's not really that big a name. You see Tyr a lot in the Legion as a member of crowd scenes. He shows up with the Legion of Supervillains a lot, or with a bunch of criminals breaking out of Takron Galtos (the prison planet), but rarely solo. It's like the "Super Powers" designers looked at the whole roster of Legion characters and decided to pick a backup singer, rather than a headliner. As a matter of fact, Tyr only had two solo appearances: he fought the Legion (and was defeated by them) in "Superboy" #197, and then his semi-sentient gun-arm returned two issues later to fight the Legion and try to break him out of jail:
I hate to call him a one-shot character, since it seems like a bad pun given that we're discussing his gun-arm, but really the only memorable scene out of his entire two issues is when the gun locks them all inside their headquarters and Princess Projectra melts down into hysterics and gives Brainiac 5 what could charitably be referred to as an "anti-pep-talk":
"WE'RE THE WEAKEST MEMBERS!"
This coming from a woman who, a few years later, would snap Nemesis Kid's neck with her bare hands and then tell the rest of the Legion that if they had a problem with it they were welcome to some of what he got.
Anyway, back to the Tyr figure itself, I wanted one. The mid-1990's were a booming time in action figure collecting, with variant figures, special editions, and everyone convinced they were going to make a fortune on them someday. Action figure collecting was so popular that once or twice a year the New York State Fairgrounds hosted a toy and collectible show and filled a giant building, normally used to host livestock or exhibits, with dealers and vendors and, occasionally, Adam West. I'd already been to a show there in the fall and had come away without Tyr, but I had a good, lucky feeling about the spring, and convinced my hall director, Vicki, to drive me to the show and spend the day walking around looking at toys.
I don't know if Vicki remembers this, but there was a lot of walking. A lot. There were somewhere around two hundred vendors, and I was determined that we were going to look at every table because I wanted to find that figure and, possibly, an Ice Man figure from the "Secret Wars" collection, which had only been released in Europe. To this day, I have never seen that figure in person, and do not own one. There was no sign of Ice Man at the Toy Show, but at the very last table Vicki and I stopped at, three hours after enterng, I saw a loose Tyr figure in a locked case, pretty much just like he looked at the beginning of this entry.
"THERE IT IS!" I shrieked, grabbing Vicki's arm. I might as well have just handed the dealer my opened wallet. I jabbed a finger at the case, eyes wide. "HOW MUCH IS TYR? HOW MUCH?"
PLEASE, SIR. PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY.
No attempt at negotiating, no talking him down, nothing. I handed him $40, he handed me a Tyr figure, and I announced to Vicki that we could now go home.
(Side point: I have never seen another Tyr figure besides the one that I own. While I should have negotiated, I would not have left that show without that toy.)
In the car, I cradled my Tyr figure in both hands, babbling excitedly to Vicki about how rare it was, how there were no other Legion of Superheroes figures (there are now), and how I had no idea of what my figure's power was. As I explained to Vicki, every figure in the "Super Powers" line had a power action. I had several of them, having been the exact target market age in the 1980's when they came out, so I knew that if you squeezed Green Lantern's legs together he raised the fist that his power ring was on. Squeeze Parademon's legs and he flapped his wings. Squeeze Flash's arms and his legs moved back and forth, running. Brainiac kicked, Dr. Fate raised his arms to cast a spell, Hawkman swung an arm to swing his mace, Aquaman had a deep sea kick, Firestorm a nuclear punch, Darkseid raised his arms in a fit of omega rage, Lex Luthor raised his to shoot death rays from his power armor, but I had no idea what Tyr did.
The internet was of no help to me, as the internet of 1996 and the internet of now are very different places. I knew that a Tyr figure existed, but couldn't find any information in the limited online resources to tell me what it was supposed to do, and since I'd bought a loose figure without packaging I had no hints.
Terrified of breaking a figure that I'd just spent $40 on, as this was a rather large chunk of my Resident Assistant paycheck for the semester, I gave Tyr's arms an extremely tentative gentle squeeze, but nothing happened.
I tugged the arm, ever so slightly, wondering if it came off since I knew that the character's arm did in the comics, but it seemed rather sturdily attached.
I checked his back for a button. Finding none, I ever so gently pressed his knees together... and his gun arm raised!
"Look! I figured it out! His arm goes up and down!"
Enamored with my achievement, I continued to squeeze: arm goes up, arm goes down, arm goes up, arm goes down, arm goes up a little higher each time you squeeze a little more, arm goes down, arm goes up parallel to the floor...
ARM SHOOTS OFF OF FIGURE AND INTO MY FACE.
ARM FALLS DOWN THE SIDE OF THE SEAT SOMEWHERE, LOST IN THE CAR.
"Oh my God, did you break it?"
"IT SHOT ME IN THE EYE!"
"IT SHOT ME IN THE EYE!"
Vicki started laughing so hard that she almost ran off the road, and in a minute, after I had retrieved the stray arm from the side of my seat, I did, too.