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Thursday, February 1, 2018

MY TOP 10 GREATEST TOY LINES EVER


TALES FROM THE TOY CHEST

Stories of Childhood Toy Triumph and Tragedy



By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino

CASE NUMBER:447743
MY TOP 10 GREATEST TOY LINES EVER


In another write up on TALES FROM THE TOY CHEST, I wrote about "My Top 15 Greatest Toys Ever." But in this article I wanted to expand more on just those "single" toys that I loved. This time I'm going to go a step further and rank my favorite toy lines as a whole. The toy lines that continually kept me asking my mom to go back to the toy store so I could get another figure or accessory to keep the adventures going with that particular group of characters. Basically, the whole enchilada when it comes to fun! 

I was born in 1973, but the years I had the most fun in (that I can remember clearly) are from 1978 to 1989. Many of those toys that I got into during that time are kind of what defined me as the person I am today (for better or worse). So, I always had a serious stake in toys. But sadly, after those prime years, toys were never really the same for me and I basically lost interest in collecting and playing with them. 

Now, while I do respect the quality and technology of the toys today, all of them seem to lack a certain amount of charm than the ones I grew up with. Today, you get perfect art on the packages and perfect articulation on the figures. And with all the accessories and electronics they come with, all the imagination falls by the wayside. Back in my day we were lucky if the head on the figure moved. But did we care? No way, because we still had hours of fun regardless.  

Who knows, maybe some of these toy lines that I have listed here will take you back to your youth. Maybe you'll even agree at their rankings and maybe some you won't. Maybe you'll think I left out some of your favorites and maybe you'll let me know about it. But either way, it was a fun write up to compile and I hope you enjoy it. So, without further delay, I give you my top 15 greatest toy lines ever.



10.) SHOGUN WARRIORS (1978-1980)

  
The Shogun Warriors, like the Micronauts before them, and the Transformers after them, was a toy line that consisted entirely of Japanese toys and characters repackaged for the US market. Originally manufactured by a toy company named Popy (which was an off-shoot of Bandai), the "Shogun Warriors," as they were renamed by the toy company Mattel, were launched in the US in 1978.

Most children in the US had no idea who these characters were. Mattel simply put them all in the same "universe" and labeled the line "Shogun Warriors." But most of these characters did not actually cross over with one another and each had their own cartoon and comic books in Japan.

The Shogun Warriors line consisted of a few different types of figures. The most popular were the 24" vinyl figures that featured shooting fists and missiles and had wheels on their feet. These figures were like a kid's dream. They were simply massive -- and were full of cool action features. In Japan, they were called "Jumbo Machinders," and there were over a dozen characters produced for the Japanese market. For the US and Mattel's line, their were seven figures: Great Mazinga, Raydeen, Gaiking, Diamos, Dragun, Godzilla and Rodan. Sadly, a few changes were made to some of the figures for the US market as we received "dumbed down" versions of the figures to keep things within budget for Mattel to produce. In essence, these were not direct imports, since Mattel even went so far as to change the molds on some of the figures. It would seem that they licensed the molds and then produced the figures from themselves.

But the 24" figures were not the only ones to be changed. There was also a 5" die-cast line that were made from the original, popular and classic Popy molds. These figures were what Popy was known for in Japan. There, the figures were called "Chogokins" after the fictional metal that Great Mazinga was made of in the cartoons. These figures also featured shooting fists and missiles. The first issue of these figures featured the articulation of the original's, but in the second releases, Mattel took away some features in order to keep costs low by reducing the articulation and sticker detailing.

The smallest figures in the line were 3" and featured the most characters, consisting of 10 different figures. These were small and poseable, but didn't have any of the action features of their larger counter-parts. They were also made of mostly plastic, unlike the heavy die-cast figures in the 5" line. There was also a line of different vehicles -- most of which were the ones that combined to create the different giant robots in their respective cartoons (although they didn't actually have this feature as toys).

One of the most popular vehicles at the time was the "Solar Saucer" which featured a launching 3" Grendizer robot. Grendizer was another hugely popular cartoon character in Japan (and my personal favorite of all).  The European market, however, received the larger version of the "Solar Saucer" with the fully-poseable, die-cast 5" Grendizer (known as Goldrake in Europe) from the original Popy line. Also the 24" Grendizer was only available there and not in the US. Both toys are highly sought after by US Shogun collectors and they carry a hefty price tag in good condition.

Finally, there was the holy grail of the Shogun line: the Shogun Combatra Deluxe Set which is tough to find. Again, like most toys lines of the time, Shogun Warriors only lasted a few years, but it's still beloved by toy collectors worldwide for its obvious nostalgia, amazing designs and awesome action features. If you grew up in the '70s, there's no doubt that you owned at least one of these figures in one form or another.


9.) M.U.S.C.L.E. (1985-1988)


The M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were based on the Japanese toy line called Kinkeshi. Kinkeshi were based on a manga and anime called "Kinnikuman," and some figures were based on anime-only characters. The main hero was Kinnikuman, who, in the US, was called "Muscleman" and was the leader of the "Thug Busters." He was described as the "greatest wrestling champion." The only other named figure in the US line was Buffaloman, who was renamed "Terri-Bull," and was said to be the leader of the "Cosmic Crunchers."

Although the bread and butter for Mattel were the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, they naturally had accessories to offer, too. The Hard Knockin’ Rockin’ Ring Wrestling Arena, which let you and a friend stick your M.U.S.C.L.E. figures into plastic clamps and bash them back and forth like Rock’em, Sock’em Robots. There was also the Battlin’ Belt carrying case, modeled after the WWF’s World Championship belt, which held 10 figures and could be worn around your waist. This being 1986, there was, of course, a Nintendo game (though it’s generally considered to be one of the worst video games ever made). One of the more unusual offers for the M.U.S.C.L.E. line was the Mega-Match board game, where matches were played by twirling the arrow of a cardboard spinner. The one must-have item for any serious fan of M.U.S.C.L.E. was the mail-away poster. By sending in two proofs of purchase, kids could receive a 23 inch by 35 inch full-color poster that showed all 233 M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Not only did it look cool hanging on your wall, it was the only official index of figures available for the toy line.

Later in the series, Mattel tried shaking things up by offering the same figures in different colors other than the standard flesh tone plastic. In all, there were nine additional colors used, including dark blue, neon green, orange, and even pink. 

M.U.S.C.L.E. was an immediate success, with industry magazine "Playthings" naming them one of the 10 Best-Selling toy lines of 1986. However, its heyday was short-lived. According to Martin Arriola, a former lead designer at Mattel, the company never completely owned the M.U.S.C.L.E. property; some percentage of M.U.S.C.L.E. revenues had to be paid to the original Kinkeshi toy company, Bandai. Therefore, even though sales were strong, Mattel always considered M.U.S.C.L.E. a second-tier product, behind lines they did own, like Masters of the Universe. So when the toy industry was completely turned on its head in 1987 by the explosive popularity of the Nintendo Entertainment System, most toy companies were left scratching their heads and scrambling to make up for lost revenues. This meant that many weaker toy lines got the axe, including secondary lines that came with licensing baggage like M.U.S.C.L.E. By 1988, the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were unceremoniously discontinued.


8.) THE SUPER POWERS COLLECTION (1984-1986)


In 1984, DC Comics awarded the master toy license of their characters to Kenner, hot on the heels of Mattel's Masters of the Universe toy line. The initial pitch seemed to be heavily influenced by Kenner's popular Star Wars line with multiple playsets, vehicles and accessories for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Teen Titans, and many others. Darkseid and his minions were the main adversary for the heroes to battle against. Although classic villains such as the Joker, Lex Luthor, Penquin, Brianiac and the Riddler (an Argentinian import figure) were included in the line.

Winning the DC Comics license away from Mego Corporation and Mattel with their emphasis on action and art, Kenner devised hidden mechanisms within the figures that would trigger an action when the figure's legs or arms were squeezed. This emphasis on each figure's "super power" led to the naming of the line -- The Super Powers Collection! Each figure in the first two series were also packaged with a mini-comic featuring that character's adventures. In all, three series of figures and accessories were released, but after three years of production the line collapsed. Regardless, this line was always better than Mattle's Marvel Comics Secret Wars line that went toe-to-toe with it. POW!! Take that Jim Shooter!!!


7.) MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1982-1988)


Masters of the Universe (commonly abbreviated MOTU and sometimes referred to as "He-Man," after the lead hero) is a media franchise created by Mattel. The main premise revolves around the conflict between the heroic He-Man, real name Prince Adam, and the evil Skeletor on the planet Eternia, with a vast line-up of supporting characters in a hybrid setting of medieval sword and sorcery and sci-fi technology. Later spin-offs, especially She-Ra, Princess Of Power, also featured He-Man's sister She-Ra and her struggle against the Evil Horde, along with other planets/settings; however the main premise usually remained the same. Since its initial launch, the franchise became a pop culture phenomenon, spawning action figures, cartoons, movies, comic books, and newspaper strips. This toy line was so popular that they defeated Kenner's Star Wars line on toy shelves and cancelled it.Yeah, He-Man really was the most powerful man in the universe at this time.

Created by Mattel in 1981, the MOTU line was first released as 5 1/2" action figures in 1982 (as opposed to the 3 3/4" size used by Kenner's Star Wars and Hasbro's G.I. Joe). Brief descriptions of the characters would appear on the toy line's unique packaging and box art (with illustrations by Errol McCarthy, William George and others); however, the lore of Masters of the Universe would really first be explored through mini-comics that accompanied the toys through the duration line. He-Man and his arch-enemy Skeletor were the first released in action figure form, along with other core characters of the entire series; Man-At-Arms, Beast Man and Battle Cat.

Later on that year, first wave of action figures in 1982 would also include Teela, Mer-Man, Stratos and Zodac. Also alongside the first wave of figures were the Battle Ram and Wind Raider vehicles and the Castle Grayskull playset. Additional waves of action figures, creatures, vehicles and playsets were released every year until 1987, with the final two oversea releases from the original line coming from Italy in 1988.


6.) ELASTIC (1979-1980)


In 1979, Mego Corporation was enjoying their 25th anniversary. But despite reaching such a milestone, the time for celebrating was not on their radar. A year earlier in 1978, Star Wars toys came along and dominated the entire industry like never before. It was bad enough that Mego passed on the Star Wars license in 1976, because now, along with every other toy company, they were playing catch up.

During the last three years, another toy manufacturer, Kenner, who had the Star Wars license was doing well with another toy called Stretch Armstrong. He was a 12" corn syrup filled latex figure that could stretch into many different positions. By 1979, the toy proved to be so popular that Kenner introduced a variety of new figures into the line including the Stretch Monster and Stretch X-Ray. All the Stretch Armstrong figures remained unchallenged on the toy shelves because no other toy did what they did. Mego recognized this and wanted to do something similar. Already owning the licenses for the Marvel Comics and DC Comics characters since 1972, Mego knew they could challenge Stretch Armstrong's market share with more well known properties possessing a stretching gimmick. I mean, who wouldn't want a stretching Superman or Batman figure even though it had nothing to do with their superpowers?

With Mego obtaining "insider information" on how to make these figures, they went about creating a stretch line of their own. Basically all Mego did was swap the wording of "stretch" to "elastic" on the box, designed a similar type of latex figure, but made it a little bigger and transformed them from generic characters into world famous comic book superheroes. Spider-man, Hulk, Superman, Batman and Plastic Man (which was the first toy ever of the character). And for the youngsters, Mickey Mouse, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and Donald Duck were added in early 1980.

Sadly, by the Spring of 1980, the Elastics proved to be more trouble than they were worth for Mego and sales quickly declined. And after losing a lawsuit to Kenner a few months later for gaining that "insider information," the entire Elastics line was cancelled and fell into toy obscurity.


5.) G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO (1982-1994)


G.I. Joe was originally a line of figures produced from 1964-1969 by Hasbro. They were 12" figures that represented all branches of the U.S. armed forces. The development of these figures led to the coining of the term "action figure." From 1970-1976 Hasbro renamed this line to "Adventure Team G.I. Joe" and added a host of comic-like characters and villains. While these lines did well with children of the day, they quickly fell into obscurity as other, more colorful action figures began to hit the toy market.

But it was in 1982, that saw the highly successful relaunch of this toy line. Now renamed to "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" with new figure molds scaled down to 3.75" (to mimic the Star Wars figures) and with new characters, vehicles, playsets, and a complex background story involving an ongoing struggle between the G.I. Joe Team and the evil COBRA Command which seeks to take over the world through terrorism, this toy line quickly became a pop culture phenomenon. It was so big in fact, that in 1985, both "Toy Lamp" and "Hobby World" ranked G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero as the top selling American toy. "YOOO JOE!"


4.) WWF WRESTLING SUPERSTARS (1985-1989)


One of the most popular products during the WWF's massive growth in becoming a pop culture phenomenon was their LJN "WWF Wrestling Superstar Figures." While Star Wars and G.I. Joe led the charge for small action figures, LJN's wrestling figures went BIG (standing about 8" tall). Also, most action figures had articulation and came with a growing number of accessories. These wrestling figures are as stiff as a King Kong Bundy punch. And most of them came without accessories save for maybe a hat, belt or cane.

Despite their shortcomings in the articulation department, these figures were actually a lot of fun to play with and could seriously pound on each other. LJN also did an excellent job of capturing the likenesses of the wrestlers and WWF personalities. They might not have the same level of detail as today's wrestling figures, but it's still easy to tell who the wrestlers were with all the charm the '80s characters had to offer.

Each figure was packaged with small posters. They were rolled up and stored at the base of the packaging. Also, the packages had a file card on the back, similar to those found on G.I. Joe figures from the same period. 

Today, LJN WWF figures can command big money on the secondary market, particularly for unopened mint figures. Some of the most valuable figures came at the end of the line's run, which is often the case for figures and toys as the decreased popularity which means smaller print runs. The final series came out in 1989, and were made by Grand Toy in Canada and not LJN. The figures switched to a new black card and were a mix of a few new figures and several repackaged wrestlers from earlier lines. These black cards are much tougher to find than figures from previous series as the series declined in popularity. As a result, they are generally much more expensive.


3.) CAPTAIN ACTION (1967-1968)


In 1964, Stanley Weston (1933-2017) went to Hasbro with the idea of an articulated doll in the form of a soldier with accessories. Hasbro took his concept and came up with G.I. Joe, the first modern action figure for boys and the first to carry the action figure moniker, which was an attempt to remove the term "doll" from a boy's toy. Being well school in the importance of licensing fan favorite properties based on television and comic characters, Weston founded his own company called American Leisure Concepts (ALC). He was so good at licensing big names in pop culture, that he would come to represent an impressive list of clients and properties including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and King Features Syndicate.

Weston couldn't have predicted a better time to capture the license to the DC and Marvel heroes because beginning in January of 1966, the live-action Adam West Batman series hit television and nearly every kid in America wanted to be a costumed crime-fighter. Weston (who was a big comic fan) took note and brought the idea of a new, articulated, twelve-inch action figure to Ideal executive (and G.I. Joe co-conspirator) Larry Reiner. Weston first proposed Captain Magic, a many-in-one hero, who could adopt the guise of several heroes. The name was eventually changed to Captain Action, and Ideal released the first super hero action figure to retailers in 1966, just in time to cash in on the super hero craze.

The original Ideal base figure for the line was Captain Action that came with a blue and black uniform, lightning sword, belt, ray gun and mini-poster. Separate costume kits of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Lone Ranger, The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Captain America, Sgt Fury and Steve Canyon  were available. Each costume kit came with accessories to complement each character. The next wave in 1967, added Spider-Man, Buck Rogers, the Green Hornet, and Tonto with collectible flicker rings in each box. The flicker rings were also added to the first wave of Captain Action character costume kits in updated boxes.

In 1967, Captain Action proved popular enough to expand the line, adding a partner called Action Boy, who could change into costumes of Robin, Superboy and Aqualad (for some reason these costumes didn't come with flicker rings). An arch-enemy was introduced called Dr. Evil, who was a blue-skinned alien. And a line of four female figures called the Super Queens which featured Batgirl, Mera, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman (they were individually based on singular characters and didn't change into outfits).

More accessories and playsets came along but unfortunately by 1968, the Captain Action line declined in sales and Ideal discontinued it. Even with DC Comics releasing a comic book that year couldn't bring back interest in the character and the series was cancelled after only five issues.


2.) AWA ALL STAR WRESTLING (1985-1986)


The Remco AWA All Star Wrestling toy line was an action figure line based on the wrestlers of the American Wrestling Association Promotion (known as the AWA). The toys were made of a solid plastic pose, with movable waists, legs, arms, and heads. Most came with accessories, from outfits to championship belts. This was actually the first line of wrestling figures available for sale in the United States, preceding the very popular LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line which also debuted in 1985 (ranked at number 4 on this list).

This set is unique for releasing figures in 2 or 3 packs as opposed to single figure packs. The only figures available in single figure packs was the final series in the collection, the highly collectible Mat Mania series released in 1986.

By today's postmodern sculpting standards, the AWA figures were ugly, some even uglier than their real life AWA namesakes, and that's probably why I love them so much. And they were basically the same size as the Masters of the Universe figures which the Road Warriors beat the shit out of for fun on a regular basis. Come to think of it, the Road Warriors beat the shit out of all the action figures I had and still remain tag team champions to this day -- Oohhh, What a Rushhhh!!!.


Although collecting wrestling figures are popular, these figures are some of the toughest to obtain due to their scarcity and sky-high value. Getting a complete set is almost impossible and will most likely cost you a fortune. But hey, that's the fun of toy collecting.


1.) WORLD'S GREATEST SUPER-HEROES! (1972-1983)

 

If there was ever a toy line that defined the word "charm" when it came to pure awesomeness, it has to be Mego Corporation's "World's Greatest Super-Heroes!" that came to toy shelves in 1972. The popularity of this line of 8" figures created the standard scale for the 1970s and featured several popular superhero and villain figures from both DC and Marvel Comics. 

Earliest figures of Batman (with removable mask), Robin (with removable mask), Aquaman and Superman were released in a solid box. The design was quickly changed to a window style box along with blister cards and "Kresge" cards and Spider-man, Captain America, and Tarzan figures would quickly follow. The next year saw the Supergals Assortment which included Supergirl, Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Catwoman and the Superfoes Assortment featuring Riddler, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Joker and Penguin. Shazam! also arrives to the line with the release of vehicles and playsets.

More heroes were eventually introduced; the Hulk, Iron Man, Lizard, Falcon, Green Goblin, Green Arrow, Mighty Isis, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Conan, the Teen Titans and the exclusive Alter Ego figures of Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Peter Parker. Also the Fist Fighters figures of Batman, Robin, Joker, and Riddler were launched along with more vehicles, accessories and playsets.

While the art on the packages got updated and changed throughout the years, it still couldn't prevent the line from ending in 1983 with the entire Mego toy company soon to follow. Regardless, the legend and spirit of the "World's Greatest Super-Heroes!" toy line still lingers on today with a ton of knock offs and reproductions that continually get released. They are also highly collectible with some figures reaching astronomical numbers to acquire them on the secondary market. There is no doubt in my mind that they will always be one of the most influential toy lines ever created and without a doubt my favorite of all time.




Other Tales From the Toy Chest:

THE HULK ROLLER SKATES DEBACLE
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/hulk-roller-skates-debacle.html

THE STEALING OF THE SUPERHERO STAND-UPS
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/stealing-of-superhero-stand-ups.html 

BATMAN COLORFORMS AND MY DAD

MY TOP 15 GREATEST TOYS EVER
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-top-15-greatest-toys-ever.html

THE MANGLOR MESS UP
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-manglor-mess-up.html 

SUPER MARKET SKIRMISH: THE PDQ INCIDENT
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/05/super-market-skirmish-pdq-incident.html 

THE TOP 10 GREATEST G.I. JOE FIGURES EVER
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-top-10-greatest-gi-joe-figures-ever.html 

HULK OR HOLOCAUST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/07/hulk-or-holocaust.html 

THE WRANGLING OF WRESTLEFEST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-wrangling-of-wrestlefest.html  
 

CAPTAIN ACTION


   John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, BACK ISSUE, RETRO FAN and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John still thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.


 www.heroenvy.com

Friday, December 1, 2017

CAPTAIN ACTION: THE FIRST AND GREATEST SUPER HERO ACTION FIGURE


TALES FROM THE TOY CHEST

Stories of Childhood Toy Triumph and Tragedy



By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino
with special guests:
Michael Eury
Joe Ahearn
Ed Catto
and
Wes McCue


CAPTAIN ACTION:
THE FIRST AND GREATEST SUPER HERO ACTION FIGURE
 


In 1964, Stanley Weston (1933-2017) went to Hasbro with the idea of an articulated doll in the form of a soldier with accessories. Hasbro took his concept and came up with G.I. Joe, the first modern action figure for boys and the first to carry the action figure moniker, which was an attempt to remove the term "doll" from a boy's toy. Being well school in the importance of licensing fan favorite properties based on television and comic characters, Weston founded his own company called American Leisure Concepts (ALC). He was so good at licensing big names in pop culture, that he would come to represent an impressive list of clients and properties including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and King Features Syndicate.


The late-great Stanley Weston with his creation; a G.I. Joe "action figure" that started it all.

Weston couldn't have predicted a better time to capture the license to the DC and Marvel heroes because beginning in January of 1966, the live-action Adam West Batman series hit television and nearly every kid in America wanted to be a costumed crime-fighter. Weston (who was a big comic fan) took note and brought the idea of a new, articulated, twelve-inch action figure to Ideal executive (and G.I. Joe co-conspirator) Larry Reiner. Weston first proposed Captain Magic, a many-in-one hero, who could adopt the guise of several heroes. The name was eventually changed to Captain Action, and Ideal released the first super hero action figure to retailers in 1966, just in time to cash in on the super hero craze.


Captain Action 1966 comic ad

The original Ideal base figure for the line was Captain Action that came with a blue and black uniform, lightning sword, belt, ray gun and mini-poster. Separate costume kits of Superman (two different cape variations), Batman (two different cape and brief variations), Aquaman (two different color variations on outfit), Lone Ranger (four different colored outfit variations), The Phantom (two different gun variations), Flash Gordon (variations to costume and gun holster), Captain America, Sgt Fury (three face mask variations) and Steve Canyon (two different green colored outfits) were available. Each costume kit came with accessories to complement each character. The next wave in 1967, added Spider-Man, Buck Rogers, the Green Hornet (two different variations of slacks), and Tonto (two colors to his outfit and weapon variations) with collectible flicker rings in each box. The flicker rings were also added to the first wave of Captain Action character costume kits in updated boxes.















In 1967, Captain Action proved popular enough to expand the line, adding three more box variations of the original character with accessories including a parachute, mini comic and a flicker ring. As well as a partner called Action Boy (which had a second variation that came with a spacesuit), who could change into costumes of Robin, Superboy and Aqualad (for some reason these costumes didn't come with flicker rings). An arch-enemy was introduced called Dr. Evil, who was a blue-skinned alien that came in two variation boxes. Also a line of four female figures called the Super Queens which featured Batgirl, Mera, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman (they were individually based on singular characters and didn't change into outfits).

More accessories came along; a vehicle called the "Silver Streak," that could fit both Captain Action and Action Boy in it and had actual firing missiles. Accessory packs including: a four foot working parachute, a jet mortar, a directional communicator, a power pack, a survival vest and a weapons arsenal. Several playset/carry cases were designed as well: the Silver Streak Hideout, the Action Headquarters (which was a Sears exclusive and came with a Captain Action figure and Batman costume kit), the Action Cave and the Dr. Evil's Sanctuary. Not to mention a Ben Cooper costume, a swim ring float, a swim raft (which is said to be the rarest of all Captain Action collectibles), and a promotion with Kool Pops that had a mail-away Captain Action card game. All this was an attempt by Ideal to build up the toy-line and focus on Captain Action as a hero in his own right, rather than just a base figure for other heroes.












Unfortunately by 1968, the Captain Action line declined in sales and Ideal discontinued it. Even with DC Comics releasing a comic book that year couldn't bring back interest in the character and the series was cancelled after only five total issues. Although the Captain Action line was produced for only two and a half years, it's still a cult favorite among toy collectors today. The figures, costume kits and accessories (many of which are very delicate) have become incredibly expensive and are pretty hard to obtain in the collector's market.


Captain Action 1968 comic ad

Throughout the 1970s, Captain Action leftover uniforms and boots were used on knock-off; blow-molded figures from China (where the original was cast and assembled). Ideal itself also reused the original body molds of Captain Action to rush a Star Wars-like toy to the market called the Knight of Darkness in 1977. As expected, that figure didn't fair well and was quickly discontinued.

After 30 years off the market, Captain Action was revived in 1998, by retro toy company Playing Mantis. In addition to Captain Action and Dr. Evil, costume kits that were released boxed with Captain Action figures were The Lone Ranger (in red and black outfit), Tonto, Flash Gordon, Ming the Merciless (with a new flesh-tone Dr. Evil figure), The Green Hornet, and Kato. More boxed costume kits were issued separately: Green Hornet, Kato, Lone Ranger (in blue outfit), Tonto, The Phantom, and Kabai Singh. Also revived was Action Boy (now called Kid Action, due to Hasbro owning the rights to the name Action Man) and retro long box packaging for Captain Action and Dr. Evil. The changes made little difference in overall sales and the second coming of Captain Action ended in 2000.

Since 2005, Ed Catto and Joe Ahearn formed Captain Action Enterprises (they were joined by Michael Polis in 2017). Together they have been producing new Captain Action figures and costume kits, including statues, toys, comics, trading cards, books, collectibles and apparel for a new generation. No matter how tough the challenge, you can never keep a good hero (and toy property) down.


Captain Action Enterprises brings back the Captain Action fun to a new generation.


AND THE EXPERTS SHALL SPEAK CAPTAIN ACTION UNTO THE EARTH

Today, the Captain Action community is bigger than ever. While there are many fans of all ages within the it, there are a select few "older guys" that have become the voices of authority on all things Captain Action (or is it -- Dr. Evil?). These guys grew up during the super hero boom of the '60s and took Captain Action on spectacular adventures when it was the cool new toy on the shelves. Now as adults, they each brought the legend of Captain Action to new generations in their own unique way. If you're interested in Captain Action today, I'm betting at least one of these guys is the reason you're here (including myself). As a special HERO ENVY treat, four of those Captain Action masters are coming out of their "Quick Change Chambers" to titillate you with their words of wisdom. Let them tell you why they love Captain Action and Action Boy so much, why it's a toy line that will never go away and what are their favorite outfits ever!   

And while I'm no expert (actually, I wasn't even born anywhere near the time Captain Action came out), I just want to throw in my two-cents for my favorite Captain Action costume kit. It's none other than the Amazing Spider-man -- the wall-crawlers very first and greatest action figure! It's not only the coolest outfit of the bunch (with the best accessories), but I love it so much that once Captain Action dawns the suit, he instantly becomes my best friend. THWIPP!!!


Captain Action Spider-man and I like to read comics...

...discuss politics on strolls through the city...

...and hang out with his older brother; the 1964 Roy Thomas Spider-man costume.


CAPTAIN ACTION CAME TO MY RESCUE

By Michael Eury

I repeatedly lost my eight-year-old mind in 1966. It was if the Pop Culture Gods smiled upon me time and time again, blessing me with Adam West as Batman, the Monkees, Filmation’s Superman cartoons, Space Ghost, the Green Hornet, and my favorite childhood toy, Ideal’s Captain Action. Whereas my other childhood heroes only visited once a week (twice, in Batman’s case), Captain Action was not limited to a “same Bat-time” period—he was always there for me, to rescue me from boredom or loneliness (or homework). Sometimes he fought evil with his lightning sword, other times he subbed for Superman or Batman or Aquaman. His greatest power, though, was his ability to pique my imagination, teaching me to create a plot and develop its potential—all through play. Decades later, during a bout of career floundering after a stretch as a comic-book editor and writer, the Captain Action history book I wrote for TwoMorrows Publishing helped me reinvent myself as a comics historian. Thanks, Captain Action, for coming to my rescue time and time again.  

My Top Captain Action/Action Boy Costume Kits:
1.     Batman
2.     Robin (the mask looks like a Dick Sprang drawing)
3.     Superman
4.     Superboy (what a goofy array of accessories)
5.     Spider-Man



Michael Eury is the editor-in-chief of the Eisner Award-nominated Back Issue magazine and the author of numerous comics history books including Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure. In some circles he's considered to be the living and breathing embodiment of Captain Action (it's a small circle).



MY LOVE FOR ALL THINGS RETRO

By Joe Ahearn

My love for all things retro lead me to a hobby which has turned into a successful business venture. In the mid 1990s, I began recollecting some of the original action figure sets I had as a boy from both G.I. JOE and Captain Action. When Hasbro began to reissue the original G.I. JOE's as collectibles, it lead me to the idea of doing the same for Captain Action.

My Top Captain Action/Action Boy Costume Kits:
1. Batman
2. Superman
3. Captain America (2012 reissue)
4. Spider-Man (2012 reissue)
5. Iron Man (2013 reissue)





Joe spearheaded the Captain’s return to toy shelves in 1998 after a two year battle, brokering the concept to a mid-west toy and collectibles company called Playing Mantis. They had recently had success reviving the Johnny Lightning brand of die cast cars from the 60s and also reissuing all of the old monster and figural hobby kits made by Aurora in the 60s and 70s.  Joe was hired as a product development consultant to the line during its run.  There’s something to be said for being at the right place at the right time and Joe was, allowing him to acquire the rights to Captain Action in 2005, partner with Ed Catto and establish Captain Action Enterprises which continues to grow and flourish most recently adding on Michael Polis in 2017, as a new partner and CAE's Entertainment Brand Manager.


 
TRADITIONAL ITALIAN DINNER

By Ed Catto

My fascination with TV’s Batman was magnified every Sunday. After my family’s traditional Italian dinner, my dad took me to Pauline’s Newsstand, where I could buy one comic each week. I was soon surrounded by superheroes, in comics and in Hanna Barbera and Filmation cartoons. And when Santa Claus left a Captain Action, and several costume sets, under the Christmas tree, there was no turning back for "little" Ed Catto.

 My Top Captain Action/Action Boy Costume Kits (as a kid): 
1. Batman 
2. Aquaman 
3. Superman 
4. The Phantom 
5. Aqualad

My Top Captain Action/Action Boy Costume Kits (as an adult):
1. Buck Rogers
2. The Phantom
3. Lone Ranger
And all the ones Joe Ahearn and I did recently, of course.
 



RETROPRENEUR • SENIOR STRATEGIST BRAND BUILDER • MARKETING INNOVATOR 
Ed loves building brands and helping them find their true potential. With 20+ years total spanning the agency/consulting side, solid, classic CPG grounding and an entrepreneurial stint, Ed possesses a unique, proven blend of marketing, strategy, and business leadership skills. Throughout his career, Ed has always steered his activities to the “fun stuff” – including kids marketing and entertainment, in both the B2C and B2B arenas. Ed is also co-founder and partner at Bonfire Agency, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping brands navigate the geek-infested waters that comprise a universe of passionate pop culture consumers, creators, publishers, retailers, distributors, organizers and advocates – in ways that embrace, not exploit, these passions. Part of being a brand builder is finding new life for old brands. As a self-styled “retropreneur”, Ed brings back old toy and entertainment brands for today’s audiences. Most recently, Ed’s shepherded the rebirth of Captain Action, the original super-hero action figure in comics, collectibles and even a national toy line launching in fall of 2011 at major retailers such as Toys R Us.



DO YOU REMEMBER THIS GUY?

By Wes McCue 

My earliest 'toy memories' are of my grandmother's gift of a set of Bonanza 'Full Action Man' dolls. The term 'action figure' was not yet part of my vocabulary or my Dad's, who was more than a little dismayed that his sons were playing with dolls! Then came Johnny West and the next year- in the wake of Batmania inspired by Adam West's TV portrayal -was all about a new doll that could become Batman... and Superman... and a whole gaggle of comic book heroes! Captain Action! I remember having Batman, Captain America and Tonto sets as a wee lad and when I'd played out their outfits to rags and lost or broken the fragile accessories, a scrap of red fabric became a loincloth and Captain Action changed into Tarzan! 

Flash forward 20 odd years: I'd collected comics including Batman for a few years, 'full-blown adult onset Batmania' for the TV version was reignited by a Starlog magazine interview with Adam West. Then, during an afternoon spent poring over comics and toy talk with an old school chum, he intoned: "You've got a lot of Batman toys but do you remember THIS GUY???" There, swinging at the end of a thin, white Batrope, dressed in gray and blue plastic, twirling in slow motion was... CAPTAIN ACTION!!! It was like stepping back in time to 1966! Immediately Captain Action became the focus of my collecting efforts and, later, the jumping off place for a whole new segment of the action figure milieu: customizing. 

Flash forward another 20... okay, 30 years: I've bought, sold and traded three respectable Captain Action collections, made hundreds of custom rubber gloves, masks and doodads for that stalwart plastic hero and connected with Captain Action aficionados from around the globe. And still I get a thrill from seeking a piece or part for my latest Captain Action collection or crafting a new accessory and hearing from another 'grownup kid', "I love it! It's just like Ideal should have made!" 

My Top Captain Action/Action Boy Costume Kits:
1. Captain Action (the man himself, he's the centerpiece of an Ideal collection)
2. Batman (of course)
3. The Phantom (because 'purple')
4. Space Ghost (I had to make it because Ideal never did)  
5. Ultraman (excited by the Japanese prototype, I made my own) 



Wes was born to William and Mary in December during the Swingin' 60s. Sharing a birth date with Jonathan Frid of 'Dark Shadows', Rick Savage of Def Leppard, 'Charlie's Angels' Lucy Liu and pop sensation Britney Spears. He was enamored early in life with cowboys, spacemen and superheroes by the magic of television and comic books. An idyllic childhood in rural Pennsylvania was followed by a stint of illustration studies under Donald R. Klopp and Robert A. Nelson. A series of mundane occupations have been intertwined with rock 'n' roll, wine, women & song. At this writing, Wes resides in a mountain cabin in West Virginia where he crafts Captain Action accessories from thin air, chewing gum and melted crayon wax. If you're inclined toward popular culture in general and Captain Action in particular, you can find his group, Classic Plastick, on Facebook




Other Tales From the Toy Chest:

THE HULK ROLLER SKATES DEBACLE
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/hulk-roller-skates-debacle.html

THE STEALING OF THE SUPERHERO STAND-UPS
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2011/11/stealing-of-superhero-stand-ups.html 

BATMAN COLORFORMS AND MY DAD

MY TOP 15 GREATEST TOYS EVER
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-top-15-greatest-toys-ever.html

THE MANGLOR MESS UP
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-manglor-mess-up.html 

SUPER MARKET SKIRMISH: THE PDQ INCIDENT
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/05/super-market-skirmish-pdq-incident.html 

THE TOP 10 GREATEST G.I. JOE FIGURES EVER
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-top-10-greatest-gi-joe-figures-ever.html 

HULK OR HOLOCAUST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/07/hulk-or-holocaust.html

THE WRANGLING OF WRESTLEFEST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-wrangling-of-wrestlefest.html  
 

MY TOP 10 GREATEST TOY LINES EVER

 

   John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, BACK ISSUE, RETRO FAN and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John still thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.

 www.heroenvy.com