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Iron Man and the Iron Can
Why are collectibles so much cooler today?

All we had in the old days were the Slurpee™ Cups.

It was back in the day when you could get a whole month’s worth of comics off the giant spinner rack at the 7-11. Well, it was giant to me because I was 8 years old, and everything looked gigantic to me, but you know what I’m talking about. About $5 would get an armload of comics, and if I got really good grades on my report card, my dad would spring for the Slurpee so I could get that week’s collectible cup.

Back then, it was the only other thing you could get with a super-hero on it that wasn’t a printed comic book. I remember the summer when I was 10 years old, I had a collection of cups that was considered epic, if we had used “epic” as a descriptor back then. I had all the icons like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman (although I never used that one -- I let my sisters, though), and they even made a set for the Legion of Super Heroes.

Back then, you didn’t have your choice of flavors, so if you wanted the cup, you had to take whatever flavor they had in the machine that day. I loved the cherry and the banana Slurpees, but every so often they’d have a cup I REALLY wanted -- like the Neal Adams version of Superman breaking the chain across his chest -- but they’d only be serving Cola flavor that day.

Now, this was the worst tasting Slurpee ever created, but I’d drink it anyway, because my dad grew up in the depression eating soap for dinner, so no consumable we ever bought could be allowed to go to waste.

These days, however, I defy you to try and escape the comics collectibles. It’s gratifying that all my childhood heroes are now considered mainstream, but it’s still a bit annoying. I bought a 12-pack of Dr. Pepper the other day, and got a cool collection of Iron Man cans, and the look of Iron Man’s helmet on a shiny metal can is way cooler than the cheap ink they used on the Slurpee cups. Heck, I even had to hand wash my old cups because the dishwasher would have stripped the ink right off them.

And you don’t have to hunt all over the place for collectibles, either. Today, there are Web sites like Things From Another World (www.tfaw.com) that carry every kind of collectible you can imagine, from statues to stickers to posters to paintings to skins for your laptop and even meticulously created action figures.

I remember the Mego action figures from when I was a kid -- cheap hollow plastic connected by the rubber band on the inside. But they were hard to find, since no one really thought action figures -- “dolls for boys” is what my dad called them -- would be very popular. So, when I’d find them in the odd place, like an airport gift shop or a street vendor, I’d pledge to clean the table for a week to get my parents to snatch them up.

And they were crap, really. But it was the only crap we could get, so we bought them and played with them until the rubber bands snapped.

Now, you can get comics collectibles at Burger King, McDonald’s and even Subway from time to time. I had to resist getting the kid’s meal at Taco Bell last week, because I didn’t feel like explaining away the Green Lantern poster that came with it to my office mates.

So, for those of you just getting in on the amazing wave of collectibles coming your way from Iron Man 2 and all the other comics movies on the way, take heart. You live in a platinum age of collectibles, and you should bask in your geekitude, because back when I was a kid, all we had was the Slurpee.

Which, by the way, comes in an Iron Man, a War Machine or a Black Widow cup this week while supplies last. I’ll take a cherry, thank you.

Tony Panaccio, Senior Campaign Strategist for EMSI Public Relations www.emsincorporated.com , is a 25-year veteran writer, marketer and producer in the entertainment industry, having worked with luminaries such as William Shatner, Stan Lee and Michael Uslan. He has been a journalist and a senior executive with several of the world’s largest PR firms, and first befriended Fanboy Planet as a managing director at CrossGen Comics.

Tony Panaccio


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