Welcome back to Collectors Showcase, an ongoing series at SYFY WIRE highlighting the biggest and best collections of geek memorabilia accumulated by fans everywhere.
This time, it's all about action figures as we talk to Jason Lajter, a husband, father, and frontman of the band Dead Air Disco. After his childhood toys went the way of hand-me-downs over the years, Jason began collecting again in earnest about 15 years ago, and he's never looked back. His collection stretches into the hundreds (he estimates between 2,000 and 2,500 pieces, but even he's not sure), with action figures ranging from countless incarnations of DC Comics superheroes to his favorite horror characters and beyond. After discovering his army of toys on a collectors' forum, we reached out to Jason to talk about how he got into serious collecting, what he looks for in a figure, and more.
How long have you been collecting?
JASON: My current collection started in 2003. Before that, as a kid, I collected G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats, and a few others. Of course, through the years, those had all disappeared in the sands of time.
What was the spark that lit the collecting fire for you?
Throughout my life, I have always collected something. Toys, comic books, CDs, movies, guitars … it has never really stopped.
What got me back into toys this time around was McFarlane's second series of Tortured Souls. It was the Tortured Souls, with the extreme amount of detail and terrific creepiness, that I JUST HAD TO HAVE. Once I had those, the floodgates opened. Soon after, I was hooked on everything McFarlane, DC Direct, and this new company, NECA. DC Direct snuck up on me in an odd way. I had stopped collecting comics at this point, but saw in an issue of ToyFare a Jason Todd exclusive figure from their "Hush" line. That led me to buying comics again, to find out why Jason Todd was back, which led me to buying the figures, which led to getting WAY back into comics, which led to … hundreds and hundreds of DC Direct/ DC Collectibles figures. Sigh …
When you’re looking for a new piece, what does it take to make you say, “I have to have that”?
I don't look for stuff to buy. It just finds me! Basically, if it says NECA, DC Collectibles, or McFarlane on the box, and it's in the 7" scale, I'm likely to at least think about getting it. There are a few exceptions, but I get just about everything from NECA and DCC. They are doing such awesome stuff with all their lines that there's really no way I won't get them. The only DC Collectibles I didn't buy were the Icons, because they were just too small.
I think, and I've been told, that I'm very OCD when it comes to collecting, so every figure is an "I have to have that" piece. I'm very much a completionist. I actually look for reasons to NOT buy figures, such as really noticeable articulation. I'm not a collector that needs 30 points of articulation. I'm good with 7-9 points.
I know it may not seem like it, but I do limit my purchases. I try to just stick to the companies I've talked about. I do buy the occasional Mezco, Amok Time, Diamond Select, Funko, or Super 7 figure, though.
Do you ever think about stopping the collection where it is?
I know how my wife would like me to answer that! I don't see ever stopping completely. As long as NECA keeps going, anyway. I quit collecting comics (again) in 2011, so I have thought about ending my DC Collectibles collection. The designs and characters are becoming unfamiliar to me, so the attachment I have towards them is fading. Though I do have almost every figure they've released as DC Direct and as DC Collectibles, so it seems a shame to quit, right? Darn OCD …
What’s the most trouble you’ve ever gone to in order to get a particular piece?
It's the age of the internet. Collecting figures is almost TOO easy.
Back in '03, when I first began, I didn't have steady access to a computer. That meant a lot of driving around looking for figures. Then I realized I could preorder everything I wanted through my local comic shop. It's been very easy since then.
When my son was first born, money got really tight, so I missed a whole slew of releases. I ended up selling off a guitar that meant a lot to me in order to catch up on figures.
If you have a crown jewel in your collection, what would it be and why?
That's a really tough one. I think the collection as a whole is the crown jewel. Even though it has many, many different faces, it is one entity. I'm not sure that my Munsters figures would be the same without my Super Friends collection. Would all of my Predators be the same without the Teen Titans? There's probably something philosophical involved here. Or several therapy sessions …
What’s your Holy Grail of Collecting?
I had a fairly long "Grail" list that I've been slowly chipping away at. There's not much on it anymore. I do still need Mezco's 14" Cheetara and Panthro from ThunderCats. The one I kick myself for not getting when it came out was NECA's 18" Kurt Cobain figure. I bought the 7" version, so I passed on the bigger one. As a huge Nirvana fan, I'm really feeling its absence.
What does collecting mean to you?
I've always been drawn to toys. As a kid, I would spend hours and hours playing with them, creating little movies with them. They made me feel safe. When you're really young, living in the really bad part of a really big city, it's good to have your own personal army of soldiers and warriors from other worlds at your back. Even if they are only 4 or 5 inches tall. I would immerse myself in toys to drown out the urban cacophony around me.
When I walk in my room and am literally surrounded by toys, I feel warm, safe, content, and happy. I may be 40 years old now, but I'm still the same kid. The army at my back has just gotten a lot bigger ...
This interview has been edited and condensed.
All photos courtesy of Jason Lajter.