This post is a continuation from Summer 2021 Part 1.
I really wanted to have an Anansi toy like this custom one that I saw online (created by Double Thwip Customs). It is based on a Marvel comic where they reimagine a bunch of classic Marvel characters in different cultural settings than the one in which they were created in the Marvel universe. So, this was Spider-man imagined in West African folklore as Anansi. I loved the art from that comic, and Double Thwip Customs made it come alive as a toy. But I’m not much of a collector, so I’d never spend the type of money that it costs to get a custom toy like that. But I still liked the idea of my little ones learning about Anansi, so I made my own bootleg custom action figure.
I took pieces from four different action figures with the head as the distinguishing feature meant to show this is an anthropomorphic spider person, and I named him Anansi. My nephew really enjoyed playing with Anansi. I told him that Anansi is a trickster, and that he has powers to change people’s perception. He had fun with those powers, but it was also an opening to help him (a person with a small stature compared to adults but a keen intellect) to understand the role of the trickster across cultures. I got him interested in a book called Mouse Soup where a little Mouse tricks his captor in order to escape. And I started feeding him the idea that he could be like that clever mouse in terms of using his mind to navigate situations and turn circumstances toward his favor. It was a fun little theme to keep up across the summer.
I went back and forth about whether to share Deadpool with my little ones or not. I really enjoyed the way the movies satirize the whole superhero genre, but I wasn’t sure how (or how valuable) it would be to try and share that with my nephew. And for characters that aren’t Black, indigenous, or people of color, there’s got to be a good reason for me to keep them. In this case, I decided to use Deadpool to teach my nephew about breaking the fourth wall. It also turned out to be a fun way to make him laugh while we were playing.
My nephew became a real fan of playing with Apocalypse because of how unfair his powers are: he can manipulate any form of matter. I had to do something about it, because there was no way for anyone to fight him. When I learned more about Apocalypse, his background made for an interesting lesson. I taught my nephew about how Apocalypse believes in the survival of the fittest, so he pits people against each other and forces them to fight. Obviously, I was able to talk to my nephew about valuing the opposite, community and cooperative living, as ways to relate to people. And, in terms of playing with toys, it made for a predictable–but fun–series of friends fighting one another because Apocalypse set things up.
Nightcrawler was one of my favorite toys when I was a kid. My nephew and I played with him in the summer of 2020 and 2021. (I know he’s not Black, but I decided to keep him with this Black Toys Matter project.) I told my nephew about how Nightcrawler was abused and abandoned because of the way he looks. I also told him about how Nightcrawler’s sense of humor is something that helps him have joy in life. More than anything else, he loved Nightcrawler’s powers. So we played with him a lot.
With Cloak, I basically focused on just his powers. He can teleport, like Nightcrawler, and he also can make people imagine their worst fears when he wraps them up in his cloak. We played with him a lot and it became an interesting chance for me to see my nephew’s imagination at work–what does he think is scary in the world or would be scary to one of these characters?
With some of the toys he played with, I did not do much to share an underlying message. He already loved Teen Titans Go!, so he easily gravitated toward Cyborg. (He actually preferred just about any other character from that show, but I’m betting on Black anyway.) I think Ahsoka Tano looks cool, but I hadn’t gotten to research her background enough before he picked her. So I didn’t have an angle to spin for that; I just explained her powers and tried to get him to value a powerful woman. I’m not a big fan of Steel (sorry Shaq), but that’s one my nephew picked a few times. I had a background ready to explain, but I didn’t get around to it. I really like Bishop, and we had played with him before. I emphasized his powers–being able to absorb energy used against him and then transfer it back out against others–but I didn’t make any connections for my nephew. At one point he asked what Jiu Jitsu is, and I used Bishop’s powers as an analogy… but I don’t think that explanation worked very well. Eventually, I want to use Bishop to help him think about Black resilience… and maybe hypothetical questions about time travel.
Aside from these toys, he played with Black Manta and Aqualad, who I mentioned in another post.
If you want an Anansi action figure, you can try something creative like I did. Another idea I did not try is to just use a spider toy. Deadpool toys are easy to find used on eBay. The same is true for Apocalypse, but the most recent versions of him cost too much, I think. Older versions of Nightcrawler toys can be found used pretty easily. I got several from Goodwill online. Newer ones come once in awhile. Cloak action figures are not common. I only know of two versions. The one I got was very cheap on eBay. Bishop and Cyborg each have been made in a lot of versions and can be found for a good price used. Ahsoka Tano is becoming more popular. New versions of her have been released several times over the past few years, and I imagine more are coming. Steel is not a common action figure. I got mine when I was a kid, but I’ve seen some of them on eBay. They and other versions were overpriced.