A Tale of Two Action Figures

When Mego first introduced the World's Greatest Superheroes
Obviously not my figure!
line, I wanted nothing more than a Batman figure. If you've followed me at all, you've read me writing about how Batman and Robin were my first words, and about the impact that the television show, the cartoon, and the comic book had on me as a young child. Well, for Christmas 1973, my Grandma Blowers came close to making my dream come true. She got me Mego Superman.
Although I was upset for about 15 seconds that it wasn't Batman in the package, I was still pretty okay with having a Superman figure, and I played with it endlessly. My stepfather despised action figures, and well, pretty much anything that made me happy.
"Boys don't play with dolls!"  
I pointed to the box label and said, "It's not a doll. It's an action figure." That cost me a good backhand to the face, but it was worth it, as so many times before it had been. That was not the end of it, of course. He was merciless in his emasculation of anything to do with "dolls." He made fun of me. He called me names. And yes, it was abusive. If you're surprised by this, you must be new friends that I've made recently. Welcome! I sometimes revisit dark times so I can feel good about where and who I am now.
So, Superman was relegated to the toy box after a while. where GI Joe also lived. I would play with him when my stepfather wasn't around, but it seemed like he was always around. Then one day in 1974, a miracle happened. He got a job that required him to travel most of the week. Now my mom, at that time, was pretty happy too. She was able to do whatever she wanted as well. She was under his oppressive thumb just as much as we were, but without the violence.  With Steve gone, Mom didn't feel the need to prepare full meals for everyone, which she did every night after she got home from working a full day, just like he had. So when my stepfather wasn't around, we often just ate fried potatoes for dinner. My mom would chop some onions, saute them, and then add potatoes. End of recipe. We would actually request them for dinner. It was good stuff!

This is where Mom got a little subversive. The Batman figure in the photo has seen better days, right? That IS my original Batman figure. Mom went to Ben Franklin in Hastings, Michigan and bought each of us small, inexpensive figures that we could play with whenever we wanted. I got Batman, my brother Jeff got Robin, and my sister Wendy got Superman. Mom didn't mind us playing with action figures. In fact, I think she enjoyed seeing us happy and playing together. But then the weekend would come and the cloud would be over us again when Steve (NEVER "Dad"; not even once) came home. Here's the subversive part: The difference between figures is that our little vinyl Chemtoys figures could slide right into our pockets when Steve came around. It was like our little conspiracy. That the figures had no articulation was unimportant. It was the freedom to imagine that kept us going.
When my mother died three years ago and I found out that she was living just three blocks from one of our former homes, my Aunt Coleen and Uncle Mike told me that Mom had said that she moved back to Hastings at the end of her life because that's where she had been the happiest in her life. I didn't understand why. I think I do now.
That's where we lived when she bought us those toys.

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