Best Childhood Toy: Action Figures or LEGOs?

Our “Versus” poll this week is going in a different direction, focusing not on battles between characters but rather cherished childhood memories. Specifically:

The graphic shows my personal childhood action figure (the MEGO collection of fully articulated, actual clothing-clad super heroes), but it’s just a placeholder. If you were a GI Joe or Star Wars or Micronauts person, then visualize that instead.

I had so many of those dolls when I was a kid, and I played with them till they fell apart. Which wasn’t all that long, as they were plastic bits literally held together with rubber bands. The thin plastic boots and accessories were usually lost within minutes, though the record probably goes to Green Arrow’s hat for Fastest Disappearance. In the Seventies the words “choking hazard” had not yet entered the national conversation.

Green Arrow was also my greatest modeling triumph. Having lost all of his extra bits and replaced them with such outstanding bits of household flotsam like Scotch tape, it occurred to me that his beard was too distinctive. So I heated up a butter knife on the electric stove and commenced my career as a would-be barber. Unfortunately I was not smart enough to use the non-serrated edge of the knife, and as a result Oliver Queen became Scarface, huge gouges removed from his delicate plastic face. He looked pretty tough, though.

The best part of the MEGO figures was that they were fully posable at all joints. You could turn their heads; rotate their arms at shoulder, elbow, and wrist; twist their waists all around; and bend the legs at hip, knee, and ankle. After a few years Star Wars started the trend of micro-figures that only twisted at the waist, shoulders, and hips, which was a huge step backwards. I found them impossible to play with, despite having circled every single one in the Sears catalog.

I waged epic battles in my room with Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Superman, Batman, and Kid Flash. I think those toys were responsible for a lot of my creativity and imagination as an adult, and I miss them.

However, LEGOs are also a great spur to a life of imagination! When I was a kid we didn’t have the fancy pre-generated kits that could make flying helicopters and fully functional nuclear engines. We just got a bucket of random parts, including the giant green slabs that I can only imagine were to supply the massive desire of children to make fields of grass. If that’s what the LEGO folks meant them for, I missed the point entirely. Instead my friend Louis and I would use them as the base for building hulking dreadnoughts, towering bricks of bristling weaponry that we would then hurl across his long tile hallway to smash into each other until one finally disintegrated.

I’m sure that’s just one reason I was his mother’s least favorite childhood friend.

But with a bucket of LEGOs you could entertain yourself for hours, building all sorts of awesome stuff. They are still great toys to this day, as evidenced by their massive worldwide popularity. And in theory, at least, they’re totally non-violent. I support a world where violence does not exist, because then I could take over the whole stinking planet with just a butter knife.

That’s a Scott Adams Dilbert joke, I must confess. Although as only the second butter knife reference in this post, I think I can claim some sort of moral superiority. And if not, back off, I’ve got a knife!

For me, though, I’m going to go with my action figures as my favorite childhood toy. Because my action figures never laid in wait in the deep shag carpet, pointy bits up, to stab me in the bottom of the foot like urban punji sticks. I’m pretty sure that’s why I am flat-footed today. In fact, it would not surprise me if in fact LEGOs are advanced sabotage weapons Denmark has inflicted on us to prepare us for their ultimate invasion. Oh sure, you might say, Denmark is a peaceful country too small to threaten the world, but once everyone else is crippled from stepping on LEGOs you’ll be singing a different story, pal!

What about you, what was your favorite childhood toy? Do you still have some of them and do you still play with them? I say this, of course, while looking at my Justice League action figures. Though on second thought, Weather Wizard looks suspiciously like he’s getting ready to stab my foot … I bet he’s made in Denmark, the little bastard.

29 Responses to Best Childhood Toy: Action Figures or LEGOs?

  1. Action figures all the way. Masters of the Universe, Micronauts, Star Wars–between me and my brother both wanting him, and both losing him, my parents must have bought us half a dozen Yodas–and, of course, GI Joe, which became about a thousand times better with the kung-fu grip.

    I confess I never had the patience for legos. (I am thinking about getting some legos now, though, because I need better walls in my action figure bar.)

  2. I chose action figures for this one, even though I didn’t have that many when I was a kid. The only action figure I can really recall having was “Major Matt Mason,” a rubber guy in a space suit. I think I also had an alien figure that was supposed to be a Martian or Venusian or something, and could be his sidekick or his adversary depending on your preference. Neil Armstrong landed on the moon on my sixth birthday, and pop culture was fascinated with astronauts and space travel. I loved Tang (“Astronauts drink it!”) when I was growing up too.

    Lego, on the other hand just frustrated me. I never did that well with building toys in general, and I just couldn’t see how all those little blocks could go together to make all that cool stuff. My best childhood friend however was a whiz with Lego and could build an astonishing array of boats, airplanes, and space ships all without directions or the special sets. I could only be amazed by his talent.

  3. My big bro got a set of Legos one Christmas, but I never got enough to ever build anything other than a square tower.

    I got Transformers I loved them, they were literally action figures!

  4. In the 80’s when I was a kid, it was all about the action figure. With so many to pick from, it’s hard to throw my vote to Lego, as much as I did love them. I’d say if I was voting from being a kid now, Lego would win hands down, because of all the great licensed Lego sets they have. I used to dream of having Lego Star Wars sets, or Lego Marvel, Lego Lord Of The Rings. I can’t wait for my son to get some for Christmas so I can play…uh, help him with them. :)

  5. I have to go with Action Figures, because I just started collecting them again. You can display them a little more proudly than your latest LEGO building. Also, it’s been about 15 years since the last time I bought LEGOs and two weeks since the last action figure.

  6. I can’t choose! As the little girl in the Old El Paso commercial says, “Why don’t we have both?”

  7. I would say LEGO if we’re talking about the semi-older ones, around just before they made the licensed LEGOs tan skinned. The newer LEGOs are just too easy to build, and don’t allow as much creativity since a lot of the pieces are several pieces glued together. And also the newer LEGOs are so expensive.

    I can’t say action figures either since I never played with them other than a few G.I. Joes.

  8. @Mark we can have both. They were called Bionicle and they were brilliant. I was especially fond of the Baraki ball-like thing.

  9. Lego! I still have my last lego building whole in my parents’ attick…

  10. I’m going with action figures on this one. I never had that much patience to sit and build anything significantly cool with Lego, but I could spend hours having an action figure war between figures of various franchises.
    I still collect a little, but I don’t play with them. I did use a few Marvel figures to create a little video, and had hopes to do more, but I never got around to doing it.
    Also, I agree with Jeff about Lego in reality being colorful little Danish foot traps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hobbled by stepping on random bricks in my past.

  11. From my childhood, it would be Action Figures, 100%. All the geek kid buttons firmly pressed; even the most generic Action Man/GI Joe figure had an infinite amount of add-ons and accessories you could buy/trade/scrounge. Then there were the most desirable of all – the Star Wars figures. Little known in the UK at the time, only available to those with parents who travelled up to the big cities or (even more exotic) to other countries… (gasp)

    These days, though, Lego wins hands down. My son (he’s seven) won’t look at anything else (well, anything that isn’t a Transformer, and even those come in fake Lego). Action figures are a bit passe – down to their being a bit dowdy and too obviously collectables. Lego stuff is just brilliantly well thought out and comes in all the necessary flavours – Star Wars, Marvel and DC Heroes, Lord of the Rings; all top stuff. And if they do it traditionally, mini-figure size, it’s just so cute…

    (we still make stuff out of your traditional brick shaped Lego, too. Currently under construction: The Batcave ™)

  12. Before LEGOS became a line of model kits designed to stifle children’s imaginations they were a good time guarantee.

    Guess you can tell I’m kind of bitter.

  13. In terms of quantity, LEGO, to me, wins easily. Not because of how many individual bricks there were, but because of how many models I got and made with them.

    In terms of the amount of fun I had, action figures win. Power Rangers, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Toy Story, Dragon Ball Z, Max Steel, Action Man, GI-Joes, and much much more led to many fun days and nights.

  14. I loved my GI Joes. My sister and I had vast hordes of them, until in a moment of weakness, our parents talked us into selling them to a place in Denver. I really regret that now. I really want that GI Joe base back. I enjoyed LEGOs, but never really had the patience to do anything interesting with them.

    I’m slowly building a new set of GI Joe toys, within certain limits.

  15. The Atomic Punk

    X-stacy:
    Micronauts

    Thank you for making me purr.

  16. I always had more fun with action figures. I was the kid in the corner going pew, pew, pew while they floated about in space. I had all kinds of figures, though my favorite were the 3.5 in. GI-Joes.

    I would turn these figures into entirely different characters and through years of playing with them, entire universes were created and expanded upon. Their little flaws like missing limbs became character traits, in fact one Hobgoblin figure that was missing an arm was my inspiration for Anarchy, whom I entered into the Big Bad contest. They incited my creativity which eventually led me to make my own characters on paper, then on Heromachine. This will always make them dear to my heart.

    I also did the same with Lego Figurines with the blocks mainly became warships, but the deciding factor between the two is that stepping on an action figure may hurt a bit, stepping on a Lego Brick is excruciating. Those things hurt.

  17. Um, as an 80’s toy, Legos were versatile and cheaper. I actually BUILT ACTION FIGURES OUT OF THEM. And made cyborg parts for broken Barbies borrowed from my sister. Of course, I actually did build things out of my action figures too . . . an upside-down $6mil man from a model kit made a perfect treehouse perch that I made out of legos, tinkertoys, lincoln logs, cardboard tubes, and — yarn, I think. This may explain my current usages of hm3. . .

  18. No time to answer now! I’ve got to gather my butter knives to repel the Danish horde!

  19. I don’t think I had Legos at all. I moved straight from Loc-blocks to Construx. Now my son has a bunch, but the kits (with multiple hundreds of pieces) take quite a while to put together and then fall apart if you put any pressure on them.
    But action figures are what got me into comics–literally. The Super Powers figures came with mini-comic books, containing mail-in subscription forms, and that’s how I came to collect Action Comics just before Crisis. I loved He-Man, MASK, Transformers, Thundercats–even the silly Battle Beasts. But I drew the line at TMNT!

  20. The only Action Figure I ever had was the original Captain Action, who you could kind of dress up like Captain America. Nicely articulated, didn’t fall apart too fast, but too expensive to get very many of…
    While I’m a big fan of Lego, I was first introduced to Lincoln Logs (Make your own Log Cabin!), and Tinkertoys…
    Those were way cool, and even today, I prefer the kind of video game where you get to build a bunch of stuff!
    So, put me down for Legos!

  21. Patriot_Missile

    Although my first action figure was a Big Jim Lone Ranger, I voted Lego’s because I (still) get to adventure my way. My favorite action figures are the Japanese Microman series, but Legos allow me to think outside everyone else’s brainbox. The hiiiillls are aliiive… with the sound of plaaastiiic…

  22. I voted Action figures, I had way more of those and put in a lot of hours with them. However, I did build a lot of accessories for my action figures with legos.

  23. Haxxx5:
    @Mark we can have both. They were called Bionicle and they were brilliant. I was especially fond of the Baraki ball-like thing.

    YES! I loved Bionicles. I still have a bunch of them. They win my vote, but since the choice was between action figures as opposed to legos, I sad action figures, mainly because I’ve always been more into really cool characters with awesome powers as opposed to cool detailed settings or ships etc.

  24. I can’t decide; I grew up on the crossover between the two: Bionicles! Granted I came onto it a generation late (the nova sets), but I have now made it my personal collecting mission to collect every Toa! (I’ve long since given up on the Rahi, Matoran/Turaga, Bohrok/Kal, Rakshi, Vahki, Visorak, and the like. I just want the heroes). Mostly because of the masks, and mix-and-matching the parts to make new characters. And those blasters! Every set had a different version!

  25. Legos all the way, as a kid Legos fueled most of my childhood imagination. Now I had plenty of Action figures that I played with, but lacked in imagination like Legos. I could fight and wage battles with my GI Joes in my back yard, but I could create whole fortresses and wage full scale wars with my legos.

    I actually made up a game like Risk with my legos, we would several regular characters (use to have a surplus of the default lego people) put color peices on them and take turns moving a certian amount into an area and would attack each others fortresses with them.

  26. Also I have all the original Toas from Bionicle and All the Bohrok

  27. Action Figures! I never had Lego’s as a Kid but I had plenty of Action figures. G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man and the Master of the Universe, as well as Star Wars figures.

  28. I’m a LEGO boy. If they had you for the ten first years of your life, they’ll have you for life. Action figures are nice too, but they are always limited in their role to the characters they portray. LEGOs have no other limits, except how much of them you have and how much imagination you have. I made an observation about previous commentators. When they expressed dislike of LEGOs, they accompany a remark that the commentator lacked patience/skill/dexterity/imagination/spacial awareness to make use of them. That’s right. LEGOs are the toys for a genius in the making. Scientists even made a study about LEGOs and other building toys and concluded that they develope child’s spacial awareness. Action figures are for dummer kids, who can’t hack it with LEGOs.

  29. I just have to throw this out there.I think it’s more ironic that we the majority liked figures created for you,and did not like to create as much as with LEGOs,and here we all are CREATING our own ACTION FIGURES or characters whatever….just funny.