There was a point in my life right around the second wave of Disney’s Infinity figurines when I became something of a completionist. I’d picked up an action figure or two over the years before, sure, but there was something about the Infinity line’s clean, cartoonish depictions of Marvel characters that spoke to me.
After they were canceled, my newfound passion for toy collecting began to fade because there wasn’t really anything else that interested me—that is, until Hasbro announced a new series of Marvel Legends figures tied to Thor: Ragnarok and I saw Hela for the first time.
Just from her brief appearances in the trailers and teasers for Ragnarok, Hela’s already in the running for being one of the MCU’s most interesting villains—if for no other reason than she’s got the most insane headpiece ever and, from the looks of it, her primary power is projecting volleys of swords out of her body. Add to that the fact that Cate Blanchett can chew the hell out of scenery like it’s made out of spun sugar and you’re left with the very strong sense that Hela’s going to be freaking awesome on screen.
The moment I saw her action figure, I knew that it was the only piece of Thor: Ragnarok merchandise I’d ever care to own and immediately committed myself to tracking one of the figures down. There’s always a bit of lag time between when a new line of action figures is announced and when they’re actually available in stores to purchase, so in the waning weeks of summer, I got into the habit of wandering through toy aisles whenever I happened to be in a big box shopping center. Every trip to get laundry detergent inevitably led to my picking through piles of Marvel heroes in a desperate search for she who would bring about the end of Asgard.
In those first few weeks when stores were still fully in Guardians of the Galaxy mode, you could just walk down the toy aisles and see that nothing but piles and piles of Star-Lord and Gamora dolls encased in purple, Guardians-themed boxes. But as August drew to a close, I found myself in Target one evening looking at a pair of blue boxes with Thor: Ragnarok emblazoned on them. One of the boxes contained a Thor and the other a Loki—neither of interest—but their presence suggested that Hela might be lurking elsewhere in the store.
Nearly an hour later after turning the store upside down and badgering multiple employees into plugging the toy’s UPC number into their consoles to see if they had any more in stock in the back or maybe hiding in stores across the city, I left the Target empty-handed, but inspired. If Ragnarok toys were on the street, there it was only a matter of time before I came across Hela. I just had to be patient and wait.
And so I waited and searched and waited and searched and, two weeks, ended up in a local branch of Forbidden Planet Comics begrudgingly asking one of the cashiers if he’d ever actually seen one of the Hela figures in person. After guiding me over to a stack of cute, but creepy Hela Funkos, the guy realized that he did know of the figure I was talking about, but that their store’d been sold out for weeks. No matter how many the store ordered, the cashier explained, they sold out almost immediately. It was heartening to know that I wasn’t the only one passionately searching for Hela, but there was an annoying sting to the idea that there were other people out there just snatching up the toy that I was so diligently hunting for whenever I got a chance.
I could feel my hobby turning into something of an obsession as I scanned through toy-focused message boards and subreddits discussing when certain stores got shipments of items in hopes of lucking upon a freshly stocked toy aisle. On more than one occasion, I briefly considered dropping more than double the toy’s retail price for the couple that popped up onto eBay. But I told myself that it had to happen organically. If I was meant to meet Hela, she would come to me in her own time, I told myself. I just had to have faith.
There’s been a lot of buzz about Thor: Ragnarok being, in a way, a reboot of the Thor franchise itself given the drastically different tone director Taika Waititi’s seemingly brought to the film. It’s a brighter, more colorful sort of adventure compared to the other Thors and it’ll be the first MCU movie to feature a major female villain. Though she isn’t the protagonist, there’s something to be said for the fact that Marvel and Hasbro put their merchandising muscle behind a female character, something that other companies have failed at spectacularly.
Eventually, I resigned myself to the idea that I might not find Hela before I got a chance to see Ragnarok later this November. Not a single Target or toy store in New York City seemed to have them in stock and I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy one off the internet and so, I made my peace with the situation. Some day, Hela and I would finally be together and I’d regale her with wondrous stories about my epic quest to find her. If only, I lamented while getting on the subway, I knew exactly where to look.
And then, as luck would have it, I got an ominous text message from my boyfriend containing only an image of a hammer symbol. Before I could text back and ask what I was looking at, another image popped onto my phone screen—a photo of Hela, freshly purchased from an out of the way Walgreens somewhere in New Jersey. It wasn’t quite how I envisioned finally meeting the goddess of death, but that’s just how fate works out sometimes.
As I headed home on the subway that evening, I looked forward to all of the entirely serious photo shoots I’ll need to arrange for Hela in the coming weeks. Vacation Hela by the pool, forlorn Hela at the bar, pensive Hela by the piano—the options were endless. The ideas came to me fast and quick and soon, it dawned on me the whole process of looking for the action figure and dipping my toe into the toy hunting community had reminded me how much fun it is to really be into toys like these again. Which, if you think about it, is exactly what a toy’s supposed to do.