Dec. 10 2014 12:00 AM

Auction of female action figures will benefit The Womens Center

Nancy Lombardi vigorously shook a heavy crystal globe with Wonder Woman inside, fists akimbo. The fluid swirled with sparkly pain from freshly punched enemies. Or maybe it was Amazon magic.

Isn't that cool?

Lombardi, 68, had to summon up super strength to lift the globe's base, as massive as the Temple of Minerva, let alone shake it. She admitted to ordering it by mistake from a nowdefunct comic store on Michigan Avenue.NancyLombardiWonderWoman.JPG

I thought it was a little snow globe for $7.50 but it was a big one for $75.00, she said. She didn't sound too disappointed.

Lombardi, a white-haired Quaker and feminist, loves to collect female action figures. Her collection of some 100 figures from videos, TV, movies and comics is a cross-section of American pop culture and sexual politics.

This Saturday, Xena, Princess Leia, Seven of Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the lady LEGO firefighter and all the others will team up to do some serious good. Lombardi is auctioning most of her collection off, with proceeds to benefit The Women's Center of Greater Lansing.

She and her partner of almost 33 years, Ann Francis, are moving to a smaller home and won't have room for the figures.

Lombardi started collecting female action figures about 15 years ago, inspired by the late- 90s TV series Xena: Warrior Princess.

She was impressed, not by a lethal blow or daring attack, but a scene in the episode Been There, Done That, where Xena protectively cuddles up on a blanket with her sidekick, Gabrielle, after a hard day of battle.

She couldn't believe what she was seeing on TV.

A relationship between two strong women, traveling the world and having adventures, she said. I was hooked.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Lombardi came to Michigan and began working at Lansing Community College in the mid- 1970s. She headed the art program for 14 years. She started the computer graphics program and served as a dean.

It was extremely male dominated when I first got there, she said. It was a fantasy for me to see Xena and think of many of the administrators who were giving me a hard time as the villains.

At an early job interview, a department chairperson told Lombardi she was not suited to the job because she was divorced and couldn't get along with men.

I have to work with them, not live with them, she replied.

Before long, she found other women with an interest in female action figures. One of them worked in a male-dominated IT firm. To help get her through the day, the woman collected female characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation and set them up with a little conference table in her office.

For Lombardi, prowling the aisles of Meijer or Toys R Us became an exercise in cultural observation.

I never collected the kinds of figures that were male fantasy figures, she said. There are some characters in comics that are very buxom, with very skimpy clothing. I look more for women who are strong, independent, truly a hero.

The eons-long run of masculine-driven rapine and destruction also known as history has no jurisdiction in Lombardi's collection. Lombardi loves the blithe mix of period costumes and myths in Xena.

There's nothing real about it at all, she said. It's totally chop-socky. Xena fought off the entire Persian invasion force by herself. Not very realistic, but fun.

Lombardi's figures range widely in target age and rendering style. All of the female Power Rangers and Fisher-Price Rescue Heroes are here, including Wendy Waters, wielding a massive water cannon that could cap an offshore oil rig. Two Wrestlemania stars of the ‘90s, Ivory and Chyna, bristle with polyurethane abs, ready for a rematch.ClayLombardi.JPG

In Lombardi's view, the heyday of female action figures peaked in the late 1990s, when even Wrestlemania got in on the action. After 9/11, she noticed fewer female action figures on the shelves, or even advertised.

The games, the action figures, were all male, and that stuck until the Hunger Games figures started coming out, she said.

Even now, there are fewer female action figures than there were when she started collecting.

Iron Man's got a girlfriend that's nice, but we don't get an action figure, she said.

Patrons at Saturday's silent auction may have to outbid a few local therapists along with collectors. In sand tray therapy, patients build a miniature world to encourage self-knowledge and work out problems. Several local therapists use the technique and have already asked Lombardi about her collection.

The most compelling figure in the collection is a silver-haired, broadaxe-wielding powerhouse version of Lombardi only three inches high. It's not for sale. Her neighbor across the street, Matt Smar, made it out of clay and gave it to her as a birthday present.

He really put a lot of work into it, Lombardi said, laughing. Even my eyebrows are gray.

Female Action Figures & Memorabilia

Auction benefitting the Women's Center of Greater Lansing 1-4 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 13 Red Cedar Friends Meeting House 1400 Turner St.,