By AL KRATINA, Special to the Montreal Gazette
To some, collecting action figures might seem a childish pursuit. Disclosing that this article is being typed in full view of an Edgar Allan Poe toy and an entire shelf of Batman villains will likely not change such people’s minds. But Montrealers can discover for themselves how grown-up toy collecting can be by visiting one of many local toy stores, or by checking out Toycon tomorrow at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel near Trudeau airport.
“(There’s) a little bit of something for everyone,” says David Mark, the organizer of the convention and owner of Outremont’s Toys on Fire retail store. The convention will feature 30 local action figure dealers selling everything from Hot Wheels to Spider-Man toys, as well as six tables dedicated to creations from the Montreal LEGO Club.
But as Mark explains, action figures don’t always revolve around comics and Saturday morning cartoons. Subjects range from hockey players to William Shakespeare to a semi-flayed man hanging from hooks and birthing what appears to be a boil of maggots, designed by horror author Clive Barker.
In fact, Steve Bonanno finds that his Montreal store, Legends Action Figures on St. Hubert St., attracts mainly the male 18-35 demographic.
Like Mark, Bonanno is passionate about action figures, and estimates he has more than 4,000 toys in his personal collection. “I opened the store, because my collection was getting too expensive,” he laughs, as I shop for Marvel Zombies Minimates, tiny undead comic characters that make my bookshelves resemble a decaying landscape of LEGO figures.
Bonanno and Mark agree the more popular toys are generally tied to new movies or TV shows, but nostalgic throwbacks are also well-liked.
“Everything from the ’80s properties, like GI Joe, Transformers, they all made a comeback in the last couple of years,” Bonanno says. “(But) Star Wars (toys) outsell everything else.”
But even those not particularly interested in pitting Cobra Commander and Starscream against a mob of Tuskan Raiders might be interested in “art toys.”
“An art toy is a (figure) that’s not based on a cartoon or a game,” says Olivier Petitpas, who opened his camiondepompiers store on Ontario St. in 2007. “It’s more of an art object than a product advertising a different (medium).”
Some art toys feature paint designs and accessories created by various artists, often noted for work in other media. Popular art toy creators include U.S.-based Frank Kozic, who once designed posters for the grunge movement, and Italian artist/clothing designer Simone Legno, whose Tokidoki brand makes everything look like the result of Hello Kitty mating with a robot.
But other toys are simply sold as blank figurines, and used as a canvas to create a one-of-a-kind art by the new owner. These are often displayed at contests or exhibitions, like the ones Petitpas occasionally holds at his store.
Art toys, Petitpas says, tend to attract a different crowd than other action figures, which is why Petitpas won’t be exhibiting at Toycon. But though the world of art toys might not overlap with other action figures, both can be equally appreciated by a mature audience. Or so I keep telling myself, and my Minimates.
Toycon was held Sunday, May 3rd, 2009 at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel, 7000 Place Robert-Joncas, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission $4. Call 514-948-2627 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on the next show.
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