Popularity comes with a price tag, and an increasingly hefty one at that, a fact you'd be aware of if you have been following the meteoric rise in the prices of action figures since the days when we went, ‘Wow, GI Joe!’ every time the Real American Hero was on air (Coming to think of it, I still go, ‘Wow, GI Joe!’ every time he’s on TV but that’s a different story altogether) While I do enjoy giving myself a mental pat-on-the-back every time one of the twenty billion progeny of my ten billion cousins insists on singing Glory Glory Man United even during the Euro 2008 or throws up a fuss about combing his/her hair, my huge kindergarten fan base coerces me into doing many things I’d rather not- like attend their birthday parties.
One of my favourite videos of my extensively photographed childhood is that of Bird Brain’s tenth birthday. The spoilt son that I was, not getting the first slice of the cake and being allowed as much camera-time as my grandmother weren’t situations I faced every other day. Exasperated, ‘I hate all birthdays,’ I exclaimed, adding, ‘except for my own’, almost as an afterthought. Fifteen years hence, there is just one aspect of birthdays that I find just as abhorrent as I did then- gifts.
The days of waking up at six in the morning and ripping open the twenty odd boxes on the coffee table seem as distant a memory as my diapers. The other side of the transaction, sadly, isn’t one bit as much fun. I never have a problem with girls – the simple creatures that they are, Barbie and Candy will be the most happening things in their world even ten generations down the line. Buying gifts for boys is quite another thing though. What do boys play with these days? Are Hot Wheels still as popular as they were in our time? Are Batman figurines still in production?
The fact that my favourite nephew’s big night was merely an hour away didn’t help either. Nor did the fact that I had to turn up in a costume.
45 minutes. Putting off Kaley Cuoco and the rest of the story on Nerdmabelia Scattering for later in the evening, I made my way to Landmark, unsure and annoyed. I was back in the car-park five minutes later, poorer by a grand but armed with the most powerful man in the universe (and, more importantly, the cheapest superhero figure in the store- Spidey cost a whopping 1500 bucks.)
I reached ten minutes late, but I was left hoping I’d taken longer. ‘Musical Chairs’ was followed by ‘What’s the good word?” (which I won, by the way) and the latter by an absurd spoon-game with an equally absurd name. As the evening drew to a long awaited climax, Birthday Boy was curious to know what his beloved Uncle Dela had got him. “I’ve brought you the most powerful man in the universe,” I announced, in the most dramatic baritone I could manage. His eyes lit up instantly. “Superman?” he enquired. "Try again", I replied reassuringly. “Wolverine?” he tried, half hopefully. “Wrong again, this is HE-MAN”, I declared at a pitch that made the hall shudder and the entire audience gape with what I believed was a stunned silence. It wasn’t, as I would realize a couple of minutes later. “Who the heck is this guy?” enquired Birthday Boy.
Is DC Comics’ marketing division listening?