Smiling, I take the Retro Action DC Heroes Superman from my insistent two-year-old daughter. I fly him up into the air, in a circle around our heads, and then set him down upon her knee.
“Hello, citizen. I’m Superman.”
She laughs hysterically and I chuckle as well; it may be the most fun anyone has ever had with this crappy figure. Superman, benevolently smiling, asks my daughter how she’s doing today.
“I’m okay, Supaman. But I tired — I take a nap!”
So the Metropolis Marvel and I help my daughter up the steps to her room, where she snuggles into her new “big girl” bed. I give her a milk and tell her I’ll see her in a little while.
“Okay, Dada, I go to sleep now. Bye!”
I leave her with the action figure and step out of the room; moments later, I hear her leap out of bed and begin to animatedly talk to “Supaman” about dragons, castles, and juice (her three favorite topics). In spite of the fact she’s been up for hours and needs a rest, I have to say I’m in a good mood. When Wife-in-the-Anthill first told me we were expecting a new addition almost three years ago, I had no idea what to expect. Well, obviously I expected a baby, but after that it was pretty open. We opted not to know the gender ahead of time; as long as our child was healthy, we’d be pleased. That said, I must confess there was a big part of me that wanted a boy. Having been one once myself, I felt I at least knew what I’d be in for. But what could a 40-something dad who still plays with action figures possibly have to offer a little girl?
Plenty, it turns out. Flash forward to today. The tousle-haired roustabout leaping about her bedroom with the Superman figure informs me she’s not tired; after a half-hour of telling her it’s nap-time and putting her back in bed, I give up and we go back downstairs for more play. She finds a Fisher-Price Marvel Rescue Heroes Lizard figure in her pile of toys and brings it over to me.
“Talk-a da dragon, Dada!”
“I’m not a dragon; I’m the Lizzzzard!”
Delighted, she takes the Lizard and Superman over to her toy castle, where the two comic characters chat about yogurt and the merits of Yo Gabba Gabba. I watch her and find myself traveling back in time, to when I was young. In my case, it was the Mego Superman and Lizard, and they talked about flying-saucer candy and The Six Million Dollar Man, but the tone was the same. Play wasn’t just fun, it was inspiring — while I wasn’t capable of doing the things adults did, thanks to my toys I could imagine myself doing them. I couldn’t climb a wall like a spider, or save the Princess from the Death Star, but pretending with action figures was just as much fun. I never grew out of this need to play; these days I do it with a camera and the excuse “I’m working,” but come on — if I can’t be honest with you, dear Fwooshers, who can I be honest with?
I wanted to pass the joy of collecting on, but in my daughter’s case, I wasn’t sure if it would take. I’m not being sexist here — I know girls have their own interests and play-patterns that are just as important and valid as their counterparts. But as I said, I wanted to share my hobby with a little person; I wanted to be the cool adult that gave them the latest action figure or playset. Happily, this silly little girl loves toys and play as much as I do. And while she still has the requisite pile of stuffed animals, baby dolls, and Dora the Explorer merchandise, she also has a decent-sized collection of trains, dinosaurs, and (most importantly!) action figures. Her Spider-Man collection alone would be enough to send any self-respecting two-year-old boy into paroxysms. Add in her growing collection of Marvel Legends, Batman, and Universal Monsters figures and, girl or boy, I may just have the coolest kid on the block.
Will my daughter eventually grow up and out of her desire to play with action figures? Probably. Girls mature a lot faster than boys, and eventually she’ll move on to more personal interests. In the meantime, you can bet we’ll enjoy our daily viewings of Batman: Brave and the Bold on Netflix in between me filling her head with comic-book minutiae… at least, when we’re not playing princess and dragon.
Back at the castle, the need for sleep eventually surpasses my daughter’s desire for fun. I pick her up from the floor and begin to carry her upstairs, then pause to retrieve her fallen toy. Tucking her into bed, I make sure he is there beside her when she wakes up. He smiles up at me and I nod. Crappy figure or not, my daughter loves Superman. I guess I must be doing something right.
Jason R Mink is the Dad in the Anthill!