Austin Collectors Show Off Their Toys

Lights, camera, action figures!

Toys are for kids, right? Think again. Play inspires; it kick-starts the brain and hurls it out of every rut. That's why a work desk without some plaything is never to be trusted, whether it's a Newton's Cradle or a Star Wars Rey action figure. But for these four Austin artists and creators, these childish things are a lot more than just a distraction.

Marta Pelrine-Bacon

Marta Pelrine-Bacon and her collection of Doctor Who toys

If you see someone sharing their coffee with a Dalek, don't panic. It may be Marta Pelrine-Bacon, snapping one of her collection of action figures in strange locations for her Twitter feed.

It's a world away from her other artistic endeavors: delicate but complicated ink line drawings, or collages painstakingly crafted from shreds of her own novels. It started when she bought her husband a Shakespeare action figure and took a photo of it against a picture of the Globe Theatre. "I said, 'This is kind of funny,' and then I had Dickens and Shakespeare, and made another scene, and just shared them as a joke, and it just spiraled from there. People thought it looked funny, and then I just kept doing it."

Marta Pelrine-Bacon's collection of Doctor Who toys (Photos by John Anderson)

The biggest misconception she faces is the assumption they're her son's toys ("I think there's some element that action figures are supposed to be a guy-collecting thing"), but she relishes the confusion she causes. "It became fun to be out and taking pictures, and see people going, 'What are you doing?' Although a lot of people don't notice. Either they're not noticing, or they're noticing, and choosing to pretend they're not noticing."

Marta Pelrine-Bacon's debut novel, The Blue Jar, is available through Plum Tree Books. Follow her on Twitter @mapelba.

C. Robert Cargill

C. Robert Cargill and his Warhammer 40K collection

Novelists build worlds. In his downtime, C. Robert Cargill builds armies. In between writing novels (Dreams and Shadows) and screenplays (Sinister), he assembles and paints miniature figures for the epic battles of Warhammer 40K, a hobby he describes as "like cranking Megadeth while watching random snippets of Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties science fiction, while playing a game."

The game originated in 1983 as a mix of Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop battle re-creations. Over time, it evolved into its own complicated mythology, which appeals to Cargill as a writer and genre fan. "They took stuff from Dune and Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and stuck it through the lens of 2000 AD, and all of a sudden it just got weird."

Like all the best games, there is an obsessive element. When he was in London, watching his Doctor Strange script become Marvel's next blockbuster, he had one day off. So, naturally, he took the five-hour round trip by train to Warhammer World in Nottingham. Yet there's also a real psychological benefit to the tactile experience. Cargill said, "Warhammer is one of the few things I can do that completely distracts my brain from writing. ... You can put together models, you can paint models, you can build terrain, you can put together army lists, you can actively play a game, depending on what you're into at the moment."

C. Robert Cargill's next film, Marvel's Doctor Strange, will be released on Nov. 4.

Matt Frank

Matt Frank and his Godzilla toy collection

Some artists have shelves stacked with art books. Not Matt Frank. His studio is covered with kaiju, the mighty rubber suit monsters of Japanese cinema, but it's not just because he loves Asian monster flicks. As the go-to American comic artist for Godzilla, they are his muses.

His grandmother bought him his first Godzilla toys because, like every kid, he loved dinosaurs, and he's been collecting ever since. "It used to be, 'I don't have that, I need it.' Now I'm an adult, and I have responsibilities, like saving up for expensive figures. Now it's either something that's caught my eye, or something I can use as a reference."

Since his 1954 debut to the upcoming Godzilla Resurgence, the mighty gorilla whale grew, shrank, walked erect, and changed his face, tail, and spines. In each panel he draws, Frank uses his collection to stay on model for each particular mutation. Then there's King Ghidorah, Rodan, Biollante, and dozens more, all of which end up on Frank's page.

So what if there was a fire? What would Frank save first? He pointed straight to the 1994 Trendmasters line. "These were toys that my grandmother gave me when I was a child."

Matt Frank's Godzilla: Complete Rulers of Earth, Vol. 1, is available now from IDW Comics.

Rooster Teeth

(l-r): Michael Jones, Burnie Burns, and Gavin Free with their Lazer Team character figures

Like every Eighties kid, Rooster Teeth co-founder and Lazer Team star Burnie Burns played with his Kenner Star Wars action figures. He never expected to ever be a toy – not even when a 6-inch plastic version of himself turned up on the desk of Lazer Team director Matt Hullum. "He had the action figures on his desk, and I was like, 'These are really cool. What are they, some kind of prototype?' He said, 'No, no, no, these just came in. They're part of the first shipment.' 'First shipment of what?' 'Action figures for the movie.'"

Burns and the rest of the cast still aren't quite sure what happened, but suspect that McFarlane Toys used the body scans done for the film's CG sequences to create their plastic doppelgängers. Co-star Gavin Free's figure character may come with the strangest accessory in toy history – a corn dog – and, as fellow Teamster Michael Jones gleefully noted, the mustache he grew for the part is now immortalized in plastic. Free said, "They were secretly trying to fulfill all our childhood dreams at once, by putting us in a movie and making us action figures." That said, he added, "My toy looks way more like my stunt double than me."

Burns examined his own mini-me closely. "My character looks like he's sucking it in. Do they make Spanx for men?"

Lazer Team hits DVD and Blu-ray on Aug. 2. The McFarlane action figures are available via

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Marta Pelrine-Bacon, C. Robert Cargill, Matt Frank, Rooster Teeth, Warhammer 40K, Godzilla, Lazer Team, Adult Play 2016

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