The First Action Hero


I will admit that this may be a touch on the sacrilegiously side (OK, a LOT on the sacrilegiously side), but I would LOVE to have a full set of the toys I have just heard about so I can wage the most awesome cubical wars in history…biblical action figures!

Just think of the massive battles that could be staged between the forces of the Empire and Jesus and the apostles (“I find your lack of faith…disturbing, Darth” says Jesus as he lowers the holy smackdown on the Sith Lord.)

The only part that confuses me is why Jewish and Christian figures are all sort of mixed up together. Moses I can see, I suppose, even Samson…but Esther? ESTHER?? What would she and Jesus have to talk about at dinner?

Also, I can’t wait for them to start making Saint figures. Will you be able to split the St. Bartholomew figure into four quarters?

God I hope so.

The following report is from the NYT.

Jesus Christ Superhero

one2believe Figures

David Socha had a problem with the toy aisle: Too many dolls for girls promoted promiscuity, and too many action-figure collections for boys included villainous demon types — or “spawns of Satan,” as he puts it. “The bigger subject is that evil is glorified,” he says. “Like it’s kind of cool to break the Ten Commandments and do things that even 20 years ago people wouldn’t think about promoting — just being as violent and overt as possible.” Socha, who happens to be in the toy business himself, figured that enough parents felt this way to make up a market. And among the retailers with some faith in that notion was Wal-Mart, which this summer began selling Biblical figures made by Socha’s company in more than 400 of its stores.

At the moment, the one2believe line includes about 20 figures in several styles. The $15-to-$20 “Messengers of Faith” series is the brand’s centerpiece (Jesus, Mary, Moses, Esther and others), each rigged with an audio chip that delivers a brief autobiography and some Scripture. “Jesus is the runaway best seller,” Socha says. “It’s going to be sold out well before Christmas.” (Isn’t a yuletide Jesus shortage kind of bad planning? “It’s caught us completely by surprise,” Socha confesses. “We had picked other ones to sell out first.”) Recently the toys have been picked up by and other online retailers, and at the Fall Toy Preview trade show this month, one2believe will show an expanded line of more than 75 products.

But it’s the Wal-Mart connection that has caught attention from the press — and Christian retailers. A recent cover story in the trade journal Christian Retailing noted smaller stores’ “longstanding complaints of being undercut” by big-box chains as the track record of faith-based entertainment products has become more widely known. Wal-Mart is already a major seller of Christian music, books and DVDs, and a version of the faith-market favorite “VeggieTales” is part of NBC’s Saturday-morning cartoon block. So perhaps a mainstream retail experiment with another religious product category is a natural evolution. Peter Maresco, an assistant professor at Sacred Heart University, is currently writing a book called “The Business of Christianity,” which addresses toys and games, as well as Christian gyms, Christian theme parks and Christian chick-lit. “Toys may just be the tip of the Christian iceberg,” he says.

Socha says he is distributing through smaller and more explicitly Christian retailers too, but that toys have not been a big part of faith retail. Moreover, he is particularly interested in reaching a broader market — “parents who want an alternative” and kids drawn to the “underdog factor” in the stories of Esther or David. Socha is the C.E.O. of the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company, which makes toys connected to entertainment properties (Shrek, for instance — who is an ogre, not a demon). “I came to my faith,” he says, about nine years ago and came up with the first version of the one2believe project in 2004. That original five-doll release was basically a false start that turned into a de facto round of test products. The company worked with Focus on the Family and various ministries to improve the educational material that comes with the dolls, reworked the packaging and completely redesigned the toys. When a Wal-Mart buyer became interested, the mega-retailer also had some input on issues like price, variety and quality.

The company created more kinds of dolls and introduced sets of three-inch figurines for younger kids. Socha says that the firm is now using top toy sculptors and packagers to match their secular toy-shelf rivals. Of course figures with “18 points of articulation” — toy jargon for lots of bendable joints — and gripper hands and whatnot raise the possibility of the child who’s heard enough voice-chip Scripture deciding to pit Jesus against Spider-Man or Shrek in an action-figure rumble. “Hopefully the parents are involved, and they’ll put this doll in a different place,” Socha says.

But he has made a concession to the smackdown factor with muscle-bound “Spirit Warriors” figures of Samson and Biblical bad guy Goliath to join the battle of the toy box. (On the company’s Web site, there’s a Quicktime video of Samson whopping Goliath in the jaw.) In other words, Socha is aware that appealing to parents isn’t enough. “This is going up against the biggest toy names in the world,” he says. “If it’s cheesy, it ends up in the bottom of the toy box. Even if it’s Moses.”



  1. ooh, ooh! I want a Lilith action figure! Probably I will just have to make her myself, by dyeing a Barbie doll’s hair and armpits black, and painting a Barerose-inspired outfit onto her skin.

    What should I use to make her hundreds of demonic offspring? Lego guys? GIJoe dudes? Hallowe’en spiders?


  2. Weebles perhaps?

    After all, they wobble but they don’t fall down. A usefull trait for demonic offspring.

  3. I’d recommend using Gummi Worms and such for dæmonic offspring. Then, as the Demiurge, you are free to destroy your creations by eating them!

    And as for Lilith Barbie … I suspect I’ll never look at a Barbie the same way again!

  4. I’d best stick with the weebles. Eating that many gummis a day would send me on a sugar high that might never come down.

    Might now be a good time to mention that I have, on my (virtual) desk, some of my own dear heroes? :
    the Dread Baron
    Evil Des
    the Kilted Librarian, and
    a small vicious Tiny

    Sometimes I make them fight. But mostly they just keep me company.

  5. Evil Des? That’s a scary though.

    *Land? what land?* (presses autoreturn button for all your non copy items). *Mwaaaahahahahahahaaaa!!*

  6. Drat, Miss Darkling, you kept the Vicious Tiny cutout! Argh!

    All I have on my (virtual) desk is a stuffed bunny, an oil lamp one of my loves loathes, and my apple mailbox.

    I might have to reinvent the Weeble…several single prims of wobbly Caledonian individuals of note, muaha!

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