Journal

The Geekiest Things I Own

Funko Pops are so boring. If you’re going to gather ludicrous geek-tat, go large. That’s what I say, if admittedly mostly because I have the space and nobody to stop me from purchasing, say, a fluffy Sam from Sam and Max, a Borg teddy-bear (Teddy Borg?) from the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas, maps of fictional worlds, and plushie versions of the patron spirits of criticism, Statler and Waldorf, to sit on my mantlepiece like modern day lares and penates.

But what are the most ridiculous that I own? Glad you asked.

#3) The Maltese Falcon

Filmed on location in Twin Peaks

I’m putting this one at #3 because it’s one of the most stock prop replicas people think of. It still makes #3 because while it’s resin, it’s actually full of lead, just to give people a shock when they try to pick it up. It amuses me to have ‘the stuff dreams are made of’ as a paperweight.

If you know anything about prop replicas - and I’m not expert - you’ll know that the Falcon has quite a history. Most replicas - dinguses - aren’t actually cast from the original, but based on the Black Bird from 1975. There also isn’t really an ‘original’. Like most movies, there were several versions made, including a hero prop to get up close, plastic props for Bogart to handle, and a version to be scratched to reveal the golden center. All are slightly different.

 

Nevertheless, making the ‘perfect’ Falcon has long been a stock prop-builder obsession. Mythbusters’s Adam Savage did a great talk on his attempt to create one. The best one I’ve seen, and one I’d love to own, comes from a prop-maker on the RPF called Ozymandias. Check it out here. What makes this one extra-cool is that in making a limited run, he offered them in a variety of different materials - including gold, like the ‘real’ Falcon. However, for the true connie-sewer, he also sold golden Falcons covered in other stuff, to get that effect of scratching through to the gold. And some of the early ones he sent out were supposedly secretly his gold experiments covered in other materials. In short, there are literally golden Maltese Falcons out there, their owners none the wiser about it. I really love that story.

Personally, I was okay with one that looked good enough. Part of the charm of the prop for me is that it’s not actually all that interesting in itself, but becomes so as a result of all the stuff swirling around it. It’s a Haunted Studios prop, which you can get alone or with some nonsensical crap. The differences between the two are notable - the big one being that the 1941 one actually looks like the damn Falcon for anyone who’s watched the movie at any point in their lives. To be sure, it’s not a perfect casting. There’s a little distortion on the back, and as said, it’s resin. Mention the HS dingus to any serious prop collector and they’ll probably head into their house, dig out a cross from The Exorcist, and stick it in your face while yelling “Back, Pazuzu, back!” But it’s close enough for me, at least for now. And definitely an eye-catching desk ornament/synthetic avian weight training tool.

#2) Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot

“I’m not different!”

I got into MST3K incredibly late. It was never really shown in the UK, though I’m told that very occasionally an episode would appear on some of the more low-rent satellite channels. I actually heard about it through online fan-fiction MSTing, and in particular the text adventure game MST3K Presents: Detective. This was in the early 2000s, and it wasn’t even possible to download episodes from the internet. The likes of Kazaa had a few clips, and a couple of the shorts. Supposedly eDonkey offered access to most of them, if you could figure out how it worked. (I couldn’t. Not for want of trying REALLY hard on my 56k modem….)

 

Basically, it wasn’t until around 2002/2003 that I ever got to see the show, and that was only they finally started to come out on DVDs that I was able to import for a crazy amount of money. But of course, I loved it. My only regret was that my first episode was Mitchell. A high bar for all future episodes to jump, even the selected DVD re-releases at the time.

Anyway, of course I backed the recent Kickstarter revival. In one of the newsletters though they mentioned they were getting into merchandising. Yay? Nay. Funko fucking Pops again. The Coke Zero of fandom. Out of sheer interest, I did a Google to see if anyone had anything better… and found that you could both get full-size replicas of the bots, and have them made by a guy who was brought in to help make them for the new show. His eBay site is here, on break right now, but usually selling both kits for home builders and complete bots.

I really can’t say enough good things about this guy’s work. Not only are the bots screen accurate, albeit with a few casted parts rather than using the original junk, they’re functional puppets. Crow is on quite a heavy stand, controlled by wire. Tom is controlled by fiddling around in his hoverskirt until you get slapped with a lawsuit. They’re so cool, it’s almost disappointing when they don’t start actually riffing on bad movies with you.

And at number 1… currently sitting in pride of place on my desk…

#1) The Brain Gremlin

What we want is, I think, what everyone wants, and what you and your viewers have: civilization…

I love Gremlins 2 so much. It’s one of my favourite films, and a template for so much of what I love in movies - practical effects, subverted expectations, drama, comedy, character… this video that I still think should have played when Trump got elected... and of course, the Brain Gremlin, longing to see Broadway shows, but unsure of how to get tickets. Fun fact, in the novel version (yes, I’ve read the Gremlins novels!) they do the ‘Gremlins take over the movie theatre’ bit by having the Brain Gremlin abduct the author and write his own chapter. I quote.

The novelizer, Mr. David Bischoff, Esq., has been successfully waylaid and is now tied up in the bathroom of his Los Angeles apartment. Do not attempt to adjust your book. We have control of the programming. I want to take this opportunity to talk to you about our philosophy toward life, so that we will not be misunderstood and branded as “monsters.” Yes, but faithful novel readers, I do not intend to cheat you. In the movie presentation, Gremlins take over the movie theater (ah, what a delicious conceit - excellent, Joe - was that you?) and Hulk Hogan comes to the rescue. I do believe that Kenneth Tobey of THE THING is somewhere in there. However, let us deal with more intellectual matters.

Yeah. The novels are weird. Not quite Worlds of Power: Castlevania 2 weird, but…

Anyway. My Brain Gremlin is based on a cast of the model, though it’s made of rubber and latex and sadly can’t actually be used as a puppet. It’s beautifully hand-painted with basically no splotches or over-work, and just for good measure they supplied the glasses and basic clothes. There were only a thousand of them, so finding one that’s not stupidly expensive was a bit of a challenge (my love of geek stuff only goes so far; my cats need to eat).

NECA also made several others, including Greta the lady Gremlin and the flashing gremlin, presumably because they just had to take the stock Gremlin model and put a coat on it. I’d have considered them, but after seeing there was a life-size Brain Gremlin I could put on my desk, a life-size Brain Gremlin I had to have. My cat Humbug is terrified of him, incidentally.

And that’s what I’d put as my top three. I’m not a prop replica collector by any means, but just occasionally I do like to take advantage of the space to put something cool. I aspire to one day match my favourite prop story of all time, H. R. Giger putting the original Alien behind his door to scare the pants off his visitors. I’m not sure how you could put a price on something like that, though I suspect NECA and friends would definitely be able to. And it would be high.

Just remember that Funko Pops are for Loot Crates, not your shelves.

If only Nendoroids were cheaper and more plentiful.

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Hello, I'm Richard! I'm a freelance writer, journalist, narrative designer and veteran producer of many other exciting things with words. Interested in hiring me to write things for you, or just saying hello? Drop me a line here.