BAFMANIA! The Irresistible Lure of Build-A-Figures

Back in the early 90’s when I started collecting action figures Build-A-Figures weren’t a thing. When you bought a figure you got the toy, a stand and maybe a couple of accessories. This meant that if a wave of figures was released and you were only interested in half of them, you only bought half of them.

Then, in 2005, Toy Biz changed the game. Starting with Galactus, the company started including parts of oversized figures across the wave. Other BAFs in this line included Apocalypse, a Sentinel, Mojo and MODOK, spread out between from 6 to 9 individual figures. This meant that to build the entire Galactus figure (currently selling for about $100 on eBay) you had to buy 7 separate figures including Professor X and Doctor Strange. And what kid doesn’t want an action figure that’s basically a senior citizen in a wheelchair?

When Hasbro took over the Marvel licence in 2007 they continued the Build-A-Figure approach, with characters like Annihilus, Blob (!), Fin Fang Foom and Ronan the Accuser, otherwise known as the boring-ass villain in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. While some of these BAFs sell for hundreds of dollars online (search for Fin Fang Foom), you can pick up others for the cost of a couple of regular figures, which beats the hell out of buying a bunch of characters you don’t want to complete a BAF.

Of course, the toy companies are willing to bet on the collector in all of us. When I picked up the new Ms Marvel figure, I had no intention of buying the rest of the wave. Then I saw Shocker and Spidey 2099 on sale for less than $20 and picked them up on impulse. At that point I had almost half the wave, so I was able to justify buying Green Goblin and Jackal for my villain shelf. For reference, the Jackal figure looks like a giant green rat.

By this point my Sandman BAF had everything but a left arm. He sat like that for weeks, incomplete and surrounded by the hundreds of BAF parts that I’ve chosen not to complete. It has to be pointed out at this point that I don’t care for the Sandman as a character. I think he’s a boring villain with wildly inconsistent powers, but somehow I wanted the BAF to be complete. So I went out and bought Spiderman UK.

Spiderman UK! He’s like Spiderman, but British. Did anyone anywhere ask for this figure?

Fortunately, there are other options. You can pick up individual BAF pieces on eBay for a few bucks, or you can get on Reddit or message boards and see if you can find a like-minded nerd to trade with. Most action figure collectors have tens if not hundreds of random arms, heads and torsos, and unless they’re of the particular mindset to create a realistic battle scene with WWII accurate carnage then they’ll probably be willing to trade.

Another option is to realise that BAFs are a marketing gimmick, and there are probably other ways to get the figure you want. Take for example the new Thor: Ragnarok line with the Gladiator Hulk BAF. While Gladiator Hulk is undeniably a cool figure, the BAF included with this set is… sorta puny. If you want to recreate scenes from the movie, having a Hulk that is only slightly taller than Thor sort of defeats the purpose of the whole thing. Hulk is awesome because he’s massive. Like this guy…

Now he looks like he could kick the crap out of Chris Hemsworth.

At the end of the day, if you’re a collector you can probably justify buying an entire wave to have the Build A Figure sitting on your shelf. Unless you’re one of those weirdos who keeps their toys in their boxes…

Tags: ,