A mound of dirt was like Nirvana for the little guys. At my prodding, they could wrassle, fistfight & generally cause each other great bodily harm at the top of a pile of mud or gravel that was to us a few feet high, but to them a mountain as grand as Everest or Fuji, & woe to the loser of that epic battle who would tumble down that treacherous slope to the merciless pavement below.
The little guys were so called because of the lack of a better name. My eight-year-old world would literally be torn asunder & my very character would be shaken to its core if somebody dared to call them dolls. They were, at the very least, action figures: six & a half inches of plastic (fully poseable, mind you) molded & clothed to resemble heroes & villains such as Spider-Man, Batman, that bug-eyed alien from Star Trek, & my personal favorite, The Lizard. They had cars & helicopters, guns & swords, headquarters & halls of justice &, of course, cool outfits- costumes, actually.
I had one person with whom I played with the little guys, but not very often. The fantasy of maneuvering these superheroes & the tenuous reality it created was best achieved alone. Group consensus was a hindrance to the very process of imagining this mini-universe. There were two huge advantages to having a playmate though. The first being the fact that he was younger than me & therefore easily manipulated, so I got the pick of the best toys (“No, no, really, trust me… The Falcon is much cooler than Shazam!”) & I could dictate the course of action for our little guys like an action figure-hoarding Naploeon. The second advantage & it was a much bigger one, believe me, was that he actually had Batgirl.
At the pre-pubescent age of eight, I knew I had a certain interest in Batgirl, & although I didn't quite understand it, quite a curiosity as well. I also knew, but again without knowing why, that having her as part of my collection was inherently wrong. I'd like to think that it was simply that she was female & her so-called "action figure", because of her gender, strayed much closer to "doll" territory. But, alas & alack, I know now, as I had an inkling then, Batgirl was simply verboten. My younger playmate must've had this unrecognized knowledge as well~ he always brought her over in a brown paper bag, unlike the other toys he would carry willy-nilly in a bundle-ful the long five house walk from his to mine.
We never did anything remotely untoward with Batgirl. Perhaps she may have innocently paired up with Shazam or Superman, but our fingers never wandered & we never explored what was under her bat-symbol. Her honor was maintained & her costume stayed on. But she certainly changed the dynamic with her high-heeled boots & red billowing hair. Simply her presence in that musty previously boys-only little club made the whole experience just a little bit better. I look back to those basement battles with great affection & just a little bit of confusion.
In high school, I would have a different kind of playdate in that same basement with real live actual girls. I look back on those experiences with the same affection & confusion.
But that's a different post entirely...