How to kick butt without breaking a nail

I have this idea for a female-action-figures line. It includes such high-power babes as Betsey Johnson (with changeable floral body suits), Mother Teresa (her habit would second as a cape) and German heroine Lola from Run Lola Run. Not to harp on the need for positive female role models, but Barbie is hardly an action figure — unless you count what she and Ken are doing in that Dream House.

Luckily, collector Neil St. Clair has amassed an impressive group of she-champions, all flexing their secret powers and sporting lycra, weaponry and posable limbs.

St. Clair is a professor of theater arts at Mars Hill College (his figures are on display at the college’s Renfro Library) who began his collection in the mid-1970s — around the time he himself was a student on the Madison County campus.

The professor claims he “went into action” as a collector with the release of the Star Wars movie in 1977 — which is probably around the time he picked up his first female figurine: Princess Leia.

The Female Action Figures Exhibit comprises 100 of St. Clair’s 1500-piece (male and female) stockpile, which runs the gamut from comic book favorites and G.I. Joes (and Janes) to Olympic athletes and aliens. All the usual suspects are here, including Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince. Of course, the downside of being a superhero of her caliber is she could never return to her pedestrian life as an Amazon princess, and was forever relegated to cellulite-revealing briefs. Here are a few more-unlikely action figures who deserve a look:

Wardrobe Malfunction


Fembot from the Austin Powers movie is a frothy dream in her pink baby-doll dress and blond bouffant. Just steer clear of her more lethal attributes: a bullet-spewing bra that makes Janet Jackson’s undergarments look tame.

That’s right — not all action figures are on the side of good. Some, like the wrestling-series ladies from Sunday Night Heat, would rather perform body slams than heroic saves.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun


Obviously Madonna is a superhero: three decades of hits and a multitude of disguises proves that. Here she is in miniature, recalling her early days as an actress where she basically played, um, herself. The Susan doll (from Desperately Seeking Susan) wears fishnets, gloves and attitude.

Other exhibited heroines from the big screen include Harry Potter‘s Hermione and Marion Ravenwood from Indiana Jones.

Bongos Included


Janice was by far the coolest Muppet, fer sure. She’s blond, she’s hip, and she comes with enough instruments to front a band. (Oh, and Janice could actually play her instruments — eat your heart out, Britney.)

By the way, this Muppet is the not-quite-namesake of another action-figure-worthy Janis. I’ll include Ms. Joplin in my line — when I get around to designing it — complete with tambourine and whiskey bottle, of course.

Visit the free Female Action Figures display at Mars Hill College’s Renfro Library through the end of the semester. Hours are 7:45 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7:45 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; and 6-11 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 689-1244.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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