FAIRFIELD, OH–Ron Pelinka, a designer at Cincinnati's K&G Media Concepts, sets his cubicle apart from those of coworkers with an impressive collection of action figures.
"Here's The Creech," said Pelinka, 33, picking up one of the 57-and-counting toy figures that adorn his workspace. "This guy is from Spawn, series 12. Pretty creepy, huh? Roar! Seriously, though, this one is one of my favorites."
Pelinka said the creative nature of his work–designing instruction booklets for clock radios and other household electronics–demands a casual, free-thinking environment.
"I'd go crazy working in a sterile cubicle all day," Pelinka said. "Just take a look around this place. Desk, computer, chair. Wall, wall, door, wall. Management might as well drop us in a sensory-deprivation tank and say, 'Get to work.' Now, my cubicle, on the other hand–nobody's going to mistake it for any other around here, that's for sure."
Most of Pelinka's coworkers personalize their cubicles in some way, adorning them with items ranging from pictures of loved ones to humorous cartoon calendars. Few, however, have gone to the lengths that Pelinka has.
"Whenever someone new starts here, they inevitably come up and ask me about my collection of Dragonball Z series five mini-figures," Pelinka said. "I guess they really make my cubicle stand out, don't they?"
Pelinka's action figures lean against his phone, sit atop his computer's CPU tower and monitor, and litter his desk. A shelf to the right of Pelinka's computer is reserved for action figures that are valuable or otherwise irreplaceable.
"This is an Ultraman in its original packaging that I ordered through the mail," Pelinka said. "And this is a very collectible Aquaman figure from 1976. And Boba Fett. No one gets to touch the Boba Fett. That's why he's in that bag."
Pelinka's action figures reveal his wide range of interests, from comic books to science-fiction films. Included in his collection are Tomb Raider's Lara Croft, Lieutenant Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Trixie from Speed Racer, Morpheus and Cypher from The Matrix, and two different poses of Austin Powers from The Spy Who Shagged Me.
The collection even contains a figure of John Lennon from Yellow Submarine.
"I'm not into The Beatles all that much," Pelinka said, "but I saw this and I thought, 'Hey, an action figure of a musician. That's pretty cool.'"
Pointing to Battlefield Earth's Terl slow-dancing with Princess Leia atop his Zip drive, Pelinka said he sometimes likes to pose the figures in humorous positions. He is also fond of creating accessories for them, such as when he recently teased coworker Angela Rachert by fashioning a tiny sign for Austin Powers that read, "Angie is shaggadelic [sic], baby!"
Though some might assume that such antics result in decreased productivity, Pelinka said the exact opposite is true.
"Working in an environment where I'm free to express myself really helps me get into my zone," Pelinka said. "I look at these figures, and it reminds me of all the cool adventures these characters have had. That really fires me up to design brochures. Otherwise, half the time, I'm about ready to drop off to sleep."
Not everyone is so enthusiastic about Pelinka's cubicle collection, however.
"I keep telling Ron to tone it down with the action figures," design supervisor Lisa Mendes said. "But no matter how many times I've told him, he just keeps adding new ones, so now it's kind of a joke around the office. Still, I just hope no one from corporate ever swings by unannounced, or he might get written up or put on probation."
"That's the price you pay for being a rebel," said Pelinka, leaning back in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head.
Pelinka said he has no intention of scaling back the collection anytime soon.
"I gotta be me," he said. "I gotta be me."