A Tour of Xulik - Guatemala's Action Figure Museum
By Shane Turgeon
If you've ever been to a museum full of olde tymey things that didn't interest you in the slightest or were dragged through an art gallery featuring room after room of art you just didn't get or care to understand, then surely, as an action figure collector or comic book fan, your mind started to wander, wondering just how sweet it would be if someone, somewhere, would make a museum of stuff that you like...
Well wonder no more as Guatemalan super collector Ricardo Alejos has done just that! Located in the heart of the small Guatemalan city of Retalhuleu (pronounced ray-tal-huay-lay-oo) lies Xulik (pronounced shoo-leak); a theme park unlike any other. Opened by Ricardo approximately three years ago, Xulik currently features one large building which houses a huge collection of superhero-themed toys, statues, original movie props, autographs, and cafes all tastefully showcased alongside informative displays detailing comic book history.
Upon entering the lobby of the park, visitors are greeted by a scene from Spider-man 3 on the right and original movie props and autographs from the Batman franchise on the left. After passing through the lobby, the museum opens up into the main hall where the building is thematically split in two with Marvel on one side and DC on the other. The main floor is dotted with large displays housing original and replica props and costumes from several of the biggest superhero movies of all time.
The walls of the main level consist of large showcases featuring virtually ever action figure ever produced under license by the two companies. Mego, Kenner, Toy Biz, Mattel and more, they're all here and on display in fun-tastic dioramas. A number of other non-superhero related toy lines such as Barbie, GI Joe, Hanna Barbara characters, rock stars, Michael Jackson and more are similarly displayed. On the opposite side of the cases are two cafes, one themed to Metropolis and the other to New York, both featuring original autographs and props from even more superhero movies.
The second level is also split between the two big comic companies and tastefully features more original movie props, licensed statues, licensed superhero prop replicas and incredible full-sized (and often locally built custom) statues of Superman, the Hall of Justice, Iron Man, the Hulk, Silver Surfer and more. The walls are lined with enlarged reproductions of comic book pages from some of the biggest historical comic book moments and first appearances, allowing guests to completely immerse themselves in the exhibits.
The attention to detail in each and every display at Xulik cannot be understated. Just one example of the amazing detail one will find in the museum is the Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer exhibit. Designed to resemble a high rise, the display features the full-sized theatrical Silver Surfer statue swooping in overhead, shattering the glass windows behind him while inside there are props from the movie, an interactive screen showing the props as they were used in the film and a recreation of the scene where the Surfer was strapped down in the movie.
What's incredible about Xulik is that because of the political and economic instability of the country, the toys we grew up with and currently collect were never and still aren't readily available in Guatemala. There were no Guatemalan licensees, hardly any importation and no infrastructure for local "entrepreneurs" to bootleg licensed product, which was common in bordering Mexico and many other Central and South American countries. The first comic book store ever in Guatemala just opened a few short months ago. Yet despite all of this, the park has attracted over 65,000 people since it opened and if my reaction to the park was any indication, you can be sure that everyone left with a smile on their faces.
This amazing building is but one of seventeen that Ricardo hopes to eventually build at Xulik, eleven of which will be similarly themed museums housing even more toys from everything from classic TV series, cartoons, movies, and some of the biggest toy brands ever to be played with by kids or coveted by collectors. When completed, the museum hopes to employ over 600 people and all of the profits from the park will go directly to the local community to help boost the struggling Guatemalan economy. The great thing for people interested in visiting Xulik is that Retalhuleu is home to two other world class theme parks, one of which is one of the largest water parks in the world and the other so incredibly well-built and fun, it easily rivals Disneyland.
We here at Cool Toy Review wish Ricardo nothing but the best of luck in bringing his dream not only to Guatemala but to fans around the world as well.