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The Cubes
by Poe Ghostal

I once spent a year as a temp at a large corporation. Prior to that, I hadn't found movies like Office Space or Clockwatchers very funny or interesting. But once you've been there, man, you can empathize (and laugh). Personally, I hate cubicles and the whole cubicle-corporate environment. Cubicles seem to designed to concentrate feelings of isolation, paranoia, helplessness, and rage.

I've been there, so it was with plenty of ironic pleasure that I came across the Cubes, an ingenious series of toys by Accoutrements, the pop culture-oriented manufacturer whose other products include those action figures of Einstein, Edgar Allan Poe, Jesus, and the Albino Bowler you see in highly off-brand stores (like book stores, used-CD places and other unlikely Market Six locations).

This is Ted. Everyday he goes to work and sits at a desk surrounded by four grey walls and stares at a computer monitor for 8 long hours with a half hour unpaid lunch break. It may notbe the most exciting job, but it pays the bills. But things are changing in upper management. There's a new boss in charge: you. That means you control the fate of Ted. Will you make his job satisfying, boring or unbearable? Will he be your lackey, your fall guy or your best pal? It's all up to you, because in this office, you're the boss.

The Cubes are a distinct entry in the mini-figure market. Similar to Kubricks, Minimates, or Palisades' defunct PALz, the Cubes are descendants of the Lego figures of yesteryear (and today, for that matter). In keeping with the "cube" theme, the Cubes' heads are even blockier than the other brands.

I got Ted. Ted, according to the stickers I chose from the sticker sheet, is a Regional Marketing Associate - just like my old friend Andy, actually. Ted wears glasses, has a bit of a paunch, and - don't tell the ladies! - he's thinning a bit on top. But don't worry, Tedmeister, that comb-over really hides it. Ted also wears a bowtie, proving himself to be up-to-the-minute in the fashions of Victorian-era England.

As a figure, Ted stacks up pretty well against the rest of the block-figure market. He's about 3" tall, and he moves at the neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, hips, knees, and feet. Of course, all he'll really need to do is sit at the desk. For hours. And hours. AND HOURS! THE HORROR! THE BOREDOM! THE-- Ahem, excuse me. Little flashback there. Anyway, the real selling point with the Cubes are the accessories. Ted comes with: 3 full cubicle walls and 1 half-wall; 1 desk; 1 chair; 1 computer; 1 phone; 1 In/Out box; 1 file cabinet; and 2 sticker sheets.

All these accessories will allow you to create Ted's little slice of corporate hell. Though small, the accessories are well-made and, when put together, they convey a great sense of having your own teeny-weeny carbon blob in Sector 7G. The real fun is deciding which stickers to use. And if you visit the official Cubes website, you'll find downloadable expansion sticker sets. The set also includes a ton of connectors, so you can build your own cubicle-filled "office" in which to torment - I mean, "supervise" your wage-slaves.

Accoutrements has made a whole range of Cubes figures - they began with four different characters (men and women) who come with cubical pieces, and a four-figure expansion pack. Also, the figures' bodies can be taken apart and swapped, so you can create entirely new characters. While I'm amused by my single Ted, sitting in his lonely cubicle on a shelf (he's doing my taxes), I can certainly see the appeal of getting three or four of these things hooked together. They're essentially pre-designed dioramas.

The sets sell for about $12-$14 in retail stories - or would, if anyone had ever carried them. These originally came out just before a lot of retailers cut back their toy selection, so not even pop culture places like Hot Topic or Spencer's stocked them reliably. You could cut out the middleman and order directly from Archie McPhee, Accoutrements' official distributor.

The Cubes are a brilliant idea. They can work as amusing desk baubles for particularly insensitive executive officers and as targets for therapeutic projection for those who are stuck in real cubicles.

-- 09/18/10

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