by The Press and Standard | September 20, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: September 18, 2018 at 3:39 pm
Omar Jeter and his life-long friends have made Walterboro their home for 20 years.
“I have always been one of those odd kids,” Jeter said.
“Every Christmas, I got a G.I. Joe or a He-man or a Transformer. Half the neighborhood was tearing them out of the boxes and doing God knows what with them. Throwing them against the wall or whatnot,” he said.
“I was one of the kids that just kept them in the package, left it in the box and stared at it for hours — and officially became the weirdest kid in the neighborhood.”
And the neighborhood changed a lot. Jeter grew up in New York and Colorado. “We moved around a lot. It was a good experience, I got to see the world that way.”
His parents retired to the Walterboro area about two decades ago while Omar was still in high school.
“These guys (his waving arms and taking in the action figures that populate his home) always have been the ones that followed me around,” Jeter said. “I did different schools, had different friends, but these guys always stayed by my side.”
Collecting toys crosses paths a lot. “Some people will do it for monetary value; they will buy it for five dollars, sell it for $15 or $20. Some people collect just to relive that childhood,” Jeter said.
“I do it because I have a particular love for this particular genre — Sci-Fi fantasy,” he explained.
“I have always loved the majesty of it, how limitless these things can become. Super-powered, military soldiers, space ninjas from Planet Krypton, what have you,” Jeter said.
“The amount of story and depth that can be invested into a particular character or story line has always been fascinating to me,” Jeter said.
The story telling that comes with a character, he said, “traces back to the old G.I. Combat comics or the True Detective magazines you could find back in the 40’s —great storytelling, great characters. I have always a love for that, the vastness of how far these characters can stretch.”
Gene Rodenberry printed out a couple of stories about the Starship Enterprise. Now there are encyclopedias about the atmosphere of different planets that from Star Trek universe, the different animals and species on multiple worlds in the Star Wars universe. There are even people that learned to read and write and speak Klingon.
“It is something that came from somebody’s head and it just burst like a dam. I think that is wild.”
“From typewriter to print to people’s houses, to people having yearly conventions and celebrations over something you created — that is majestic, absolutely wonderful,” he said.
The narratives have changed over years, keeping up with the events happening around the world.
“Take Stan Lee, who created such amazing characters such as the Incredible Hulk, which was kind of like preaching about the dangers of atomic weapons and their uses.
“The X-Men is obviously a story surrounded by controversy, a reflection of how things were back in the 1960’s, about how people who were different were treated differently. X-men band of heroes were born with super powers, were persecuted, but still fought the good fight. They saved the very people who despised and hated them, he said. The X-men’s narrative was a reflection of racial tensions in the 60’s.
Spiderman’s narrative, he said, showed that great power brings great responsibilities. Spiderman, “tried to use his powers for fame — wrestling for $100 buck a night. He let a criminal go because he wasn’t paid to do that. That criminal then murdered Spiderman’s Uncle Ben and he “learned to use his powers for good.”
The narratives of the super heroes, Jeter said, contained morals, “not unlike old-time Greek mythology. There was always a morale to the story.”
“If you get emotionally invested in a character, you want to collect it more. Anyone who knows me, knows the Beast is my all-time favorite character,” Jeter said. The Beast’s narrative is that appearances can be deceiving. “I can resonate with that,” Jeter offers.
At first glance the Beast seems very broodish, very strong, and very monstrous in appearance. In reality he is a pacifist, soft-spoken and extremely brilliant.
“But you would not know that because all you see is a 400-pound monster with claws and blue fur,” Jeter said. “People look at me they think I am a football player, a linebacker. They don’t know I graduated with a business degree, collect toys. If you don’t know me, you would not put that together.”
“Most collectors have rooms like mine: nothing but G.I. Joes, nothing but wrestling, nothing but Matchbox cars. I have a love of everything, I try to collect everything.”
The hunt for collectables continues. “Every year I come up with a scavenger list (a couple of collectables that have not yet made it into his collection). It is a way of keeping my hunting skills sharp,” Jeter said. “I try to avoid what some people might consider the low road, just ordering it off Amazon or E-bay.”
“There is something victorious about finding it in what we call ‘the wild,’” he said. “Me and my best friend call going on a toy hunt a ‘bug hunt,’ just like from the movie ‘Alien’.”
He will check out yard sales, scour flea markets. “If a new figure comes out, we want to go hunting for it,” he said.
A successful hunt brings Jeter a sense of pride. “You found it on your own without any help from the World Wide Web or social media. There is nothing wrong with using those tools, but for me it is finding it out there.”
“The search becomes tougher every year,” Jeter said. The older the items, the less likely it is to find them. “Age is always the adversary of any collector.”
“After 40 years on this planet, I finally, just this year, got a hold of a Castle Greyskull from the He-man and the Masters of the Universe. This piece has always eluded me for some odd reason. This was like Moby **** — this was my great white whale.”
Castles Greyskull came out about 1983 and was one of the first major play sets during the modern age of collecting. “A play set is a big deal for collectors.”