Friday, December 14, 2012

The M.U.S.C.L.E. Tree

Side Note: I wrote this last week when I thought I would be over this crappy illness by now.
I usually try to maintain a 1,000 word minimum here on Needless Things. It’s the standard I requested of my Guest Stars last week and I adhere to it myself as best I can. Sometimes when I have a lot of particularly good photos or I have drawn stuff I don’t worry about it. Other times I feel like there’s something I just really need to comment on and want to post even though I may not have my minimum to say about it.
This time what I have is so awesome I felt like it didn’t matter how many words I got out of it because I knew everybody would be like, “Holy shit – that’s awesome.”
            It all started when one of the Phantomaniacs posted a picture on Facebook of an Action League Hal Jordan. That in and of itself is nothing special. We probably have 7,638 Hal Jordan action figures in the playroom alone and at least two hundred of those are Action League. What made this Green Lantern special was that it had an eyelet screwed into its head and was hanging from a hook hung on a tree. Not just any old tree, mind you. A Christmas tree.
Genius. When I saw that picture I had one of those moments where you see an idea so good and so simple you’re ashamed of yourself for not doing it. I’ve got so many loose toys boxed up that it’s absolutely shameful I’ve ever spent a dime on a Christmas ornament.
My first thought was to do what that guy had and screw eyelets into all of Lil’ Troublemaker’s Action League figures. I realized that would probably not go over too well with Lil’ Troublemaker and that it would be prohibitively expensive to replace all of those figures, so I started thinking about the old toys I had and what might be appropriate. That’s when I remembered the Ziploc bag full of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures that had been languishing in my bottom drawer for the past five (or more) years. Those would be perfect. Not only are they a nice, soft plastic; they’re also iconic enough to be significant hanging on a tree.
I knew I could probably get small eyelet screws at Walmart, but I don’t go to Walmart anymore so I went to Hobby Lobby.
We haven’t always had the best luck with that place. Much like Joann Fabrics, the employees tend to be rude almost to the point of hostility. This time was different. Well, a little different. I found an employee and asked her where to find the eyelets. She didn’t actually speak to me and definitely gave me the stinkeye, but she did take me directly to the correct aisle and even handed me a packet of eyelets. I didn’t have time to thank her before she ran off, but I am thankful.
I am somewhat delirious as I write this. I’ve been sick all week, but I didn’t totally realize I was sick until Tuesday morning. I actually stayed home from work. I don’t like doing that, but I will if I feel I am sick enough that it could affect my job. This is the first time I’ve called in sick this year. I slept fourteen hours Tuesday and probably almost twenty on Wednesday. I drank fruit juice, ate cough drops, and did nothing. I didn’t even feel like reading comics. I felt better on Thursday and today (Friday) felt good enough to come into work, though I still feel kind of shitty and foggy.
Anyway, I still feel crappy but it’s manageable. I have not, however, managed to get much of anything done on the writing project that I was supposed to be working on this week. Between being abnormally busy at work and feeling pretty shitty I just haven’t been productive. I also don’t know if I’m going to be able to manage a special project that I was supposed to be doing the evening of the tenth. And then there’s the annual Christmas party at the Monkeys’ place. I need to come up with two outstanding gifts. They have to be funny, but also cool. I want whatever me and Mrs. Troublemaker bring to be the ones that get traded until they can’t be traded anymore. I don’t want the first person that gets them to end up with them. We’ll see. My energy levels are super low and I’m also hungry right now so everything seems bleaker than it should.
Cut to five hours after that last paragraph and I have to say I’m feeling a lot better. So let’s talk about M.U.S.C.L.E. (heretofore referred to as “MUSCLE” because it’s a pain in the ass to type the proper way).
I’ve mentioned the MUSCLE toys before. They’re these wonderful little Caucasian-colored Japanese figures. They’re modeled after a combination of crazy Manga-inspired designs and for-real, actual wrestlers. There’s one of Terry Funk. The acronym is “Millions of Unusual Creatures Living Everywhere” and these guys are probably the height of minifigure popularity in America. Yeah, the Battle Beasts came after but I don’t feel like they were ever quite as big as MUSCLE. Everybody had a bunch of MUSCLE figures. We used to stick them all over a room or an outside wall or whatever. Just seeing how many we could jam into every available architectural crevice. We barely even waged any kind of wars with them because I was the only one who had the MUSCLE ring and it broke the first time we played with it.
The MUSCLE wrestling ring was a little plastic wrestling ring with elastic ropes. There were two clips inside the ring that were attached to handles on the outside. The handles made the clips move so you could clip figures on and make them fight. The problem was that the clips were hard plastic and non-adjustable. The MUSCLE figures were made in many different sizes. So naturally I had to jam one of the larger figures into the clip and fight with him. The first time the other figure-holding clip bashed it, my clip snapped off. It was a rare instance of me not being upset when a toy broke because I knew darn well that the square guy with the tiles all over him was too big for the clip.
Eventually MUSCLE figures came in other colors – blue, green, purple, and red. To me these new colors always felt like posers. True MUSCLES were that not-quite-flesh-tone pink. I don’t know why. You’d think I would have been all over the green and purple ones. But no – even to this day I still feel like the pink MUSCLES are the real deal. Which is why I only used those for my MUSCLE tree, despite not having enough to cover the whole tree and having plenty of the multi-colored figures left:
That’s right. I covered a little tree with MUSCLES. And I love it. I was so entranced with the idea that I sat on the floor at 2 AM and got blisters on my fingers from screwing eyelets into those little pink heads:
This MUSCLE tree may well end up being one of our presents for the Christmas party. I’m also considering finding a smaller tree and using the multi-colored figures. After all, those aren’t legit.


  1. Ha ha, sweet man! I had actually bought several packs of the Green Lantern Action League 3-packs and each and every frigging one came with a Hal-Jordan. So I gave one away, kept one for display, and used the clear green one for our Christmas tree! I really like how your tree turned out. MUSCLE figures are dope, I may just have to make a few of these myself!
    As for the eyelets, what I found worked really well is heating up a small nail with a lighter, then poking a hole in the top of the figures head. Then the eyelet goes in much easier with no finger blisters! Thanks for sharing man!

    1. The MUSCLES are a bit softer than the Action League guys, so they weren't any trouble to screw into (ahem). It was just the repetition that killed my fingers. I'll use a lever of some sort next time. Actually, I've got some new pieces I'm working on now...