Friday, January 11, 2013

McFARLANE TOYS - THE WALKING DEAD - DEPUTY RICK GRIMES & BICYCLE GIRL ZOMBIE

I originally wasn't going to pick up any of the Walking Dead figures, but this pair just makes the perfect representation of figures from this show in my collection.

I had always been tempted to buy a few-- but you have to say no to some things. There's only so much room to display stuff. But when I saw how Rick was packaged (with his revolver aimed down and his head tilted), and then saw this zombie girl figure on the peg behind him, the scene of how to display these two together just popped in my head and I though that if I was going to have any Walking Dead figures in my collection, these are the two I want. They just work so well together...

McFarlane Toys The Walking Dead - Rick Grimes and Bicycle Girl Zombie figures

McFarlane Toys The Walking Dead - Rick Grimes and Bicycle Girl Zombie figures

McFarlane Toys The Walking Dead - Rick Grimes and Bicycle Girl Zombie figures

McFarlane Toys The Walking Dead - Rick Grimes and Bicycle Girl Zombie figures

McFarlane Toys The Walking Dead - Rick Grimes and Bicycle Girl Zombie figures

McFarlane Toys The Walking Dead - Rick Grimes and Bicycle Girl Zombie figures

McFarlane Toys The Walking Dead - Rick Grimes and Bicycle Girl Zombie figures

McFarlane Toys The Walking Dead - Rick Grimes and Bicycle Girl Zombie figures

McFarlane Toys The Walking Dead - Rick Grimes and Bicycle Girl Zombie figures

For now they sit on my art desk, but I'll find a more permanent spot for them eventually.

There's a lever on the base of the zombie that makes her "crawl"-- which is actually a neat feature-- but when it's not pressed, it lays kinda flat. So, I wedged something into the lever so that it stays pressed and the zombie keeps the pose shown here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

MY FAVORITE TOYS OF 2012

I know it's a week late for this kind of list, but I wanted to get my thoughts on some of the toys and action figures of 2012 out there into the blogosphere . (I didn't actually just use that word.)

Now, I'm not some professional reviewer who gets tons of free stuff sent to him by companies, so I don't have access to everything that was put out last year. I'm just a guy with a lot of passion for collecting toys who decided to share that passion with like-minded people here on these little blogs of mine.

That being said, I don't think that my list would be too different even if I did have access to everything that was released last year.

This will just simply be my list of toys that I've personally collected and can attest to the fact that they are indeed my "best of the best" for 2012.

And so, in no particular order, here they are...........

NECA - PREDATORS

I think that 2012 was NECA's best year to date. They are what the best toy companies of the 80's used to be. They constantly improve their articulation and paint apps and quality control. They want to be the best action figure company out there and all of their efforts show.

To that end, their Predators line-- this year, with all the above improvements made-- was by far the most quality toy line you could find at retail in 2012. And best of all, with a price of $18 per figure, it was the most bang for your buck as well. (A lot better than those crap 3.75" Hasbro Avengers figures for $10!)

NECA Predators Series 5
Predators Series 5 -Guardian, Snake and Stalker Predators

NECA Predators Series 6
Predators Series 6 - Lost, Scout and Warrior Predators

The other addition to NECA's already amazing 7" Predators figure line is the addition of the 18" Predators that they began in 2011.

This year saw the release of the "City Hunter" from Predator 2 as well as the "Warrior" Predator.

NECA 18" 1/4 Scale City Hunter Predator
18" "City Hunter" Predator (masked version)


HOT TOYS - AVENGERS - STAR WARS

If you collect 12" figures, then you probably know that Hot Toys is the Roles Royce of 1/6 scale action figures. They set the standard in the 1/6 scale that every other company tries to keep up with. (Except American toy companies who are fine with putting out shit 12" figures that sell for $25 at Walmart and Toys R Us and are aimed squarely at children. And I can only say this because NECA has not entered into the 12" figure market yet.)

The most anticipated of Hot Toys' announced figures for 2012-- and will continue into 2013-- are their Avengers movie figures. This year we saw Nick Fury, Hawkeye and Captain America. Each one of these figures seemed to set an even higher standard then Hot Toys' already near-perfect figures. 

Featuring dead-on likenesses of the actors, 100% accurate costumes, tailoring and materials, along with a slew of amazing and highly-detailed weapons and accessories (well, maybe except for the crap rifle that came with Captain America), these are the action figures to have if you're looking to represent this film among your toy collection.

Hot Toys - Avengers Nick Fury figure
Nick Fury

Hot Toys - Avengers Hawkeye figure
Hawkeye

Hot Toys - Avengers Captain America figure
Captain America

The other stand out figure from Hot Toys this past year was Hot Toys' Luke Skywalker figure.

This is by far the best 1/6 scale representation we've ever had of any Star Wars character, and I think that Hot Toys kicking off the line with Bespin Luke was a great choice.

Aside from the great head sculpt likeness(es) on this figure(s)-- it actually turned out to be two figures complete in one box!

With this set, you were able to create two full figures of Luke Skywalker-- pre and post Vader battle. It also included the huge weathervane that Luke caught himself on before he would have otherwise plummeted into the clouds beneath Cloud City.

This figure was handled with complete care and respect for both this character and the Star Wars line. (Although it still doesn't make up for the off-sculpt of the Indiana Jones figure... grumble, grumble...) While no new Star Wars figures have yet to be announced, every collector who has this figure is certainly waiting with anticipation to see what Hot Toys does next with the Star Wars license.

Hot Toys - Star Wars Bespin Luke figure
Bespin Luke Skywalker


PLAYMATES - TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES "CLASSICS"

Aside from NECA's comic book version of the Turtles, these are the best versions of Leo, Don, Ralph and Mikey that we've ever had. Playmates knocked these figure out of the park, and they were a total gift to long time Turtle fans and collectors.

Based on the original cartoon designs, these are the ultimate representation of the classic figures from the show. 

A few things made these some serious stand-out figures. First, the scale was more in line with larger collector-oriented figures. The second is the head sculpts, which are not happy or goofy, but have a slight aggressiveness to them without staying too far from the original cartoon designs. It's like Playmates understood that we've grown up, and so have those Turtles of our youth, too. And the last thing that made these figures so amazing is the insane amount of intricate articulation that Playmates put into them-- which is very unlike the original 1987 figure upon which they are based.

Word is that these figures did so well for Playmates that more "classic" style figures are planned for this year. I guess we'll see at Toy Fair next month is that's true or not, but I'd sure love a Splinter, Shredder, April and Foot Soldier! Just give me those and I'll be 100% happy!

Playmates Classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures
"Classic" style Ninja Turtles - Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Rapheal


HASBRO - MASTERPIECE OPTIMUS PRIME

This was a Toys R Us exclusive and a bitch to find!

If you wanted the TRU exclusive Thundercracker, well, that you can still find-- and it came out before Prime. But Optimus? I think it's safe to say that Toys R Us underestimated his popularity-- even at this price point-- at retail. And in an unprecedented move, Toys R Us even jacked the price up on this figure not once, but twice! Originally 99.99, he then went up to 119.99 and finally 129.99!

But, even at his final price point, he's still worth every dollar. (Especially when you consider the fact the Takara version from Japan costs 300.00 for the same figure!)

There was a previous import of the original Masterpiece Prime (completely different from this figure) about 10 years ago, and at the time, it was the best G1 based Transformer ever made, and the ultimate version of their leader, Optimus Prime. But, it had it's issues...

It had a decent amount of die-cast content-- which is almost always a huge plus in a robot figure. But this time out, it made the figure somewhat top-heavy and cumbersome, especially with the 12" size of the figure.

With this new version, Takara (the Japanese company that makes Transformers in Japan as well as these "Masterpiece" Transformers that Hasbro imports and sells as Toys R Us exclusives at a much lower price point than the original Japanese releases) made quite a few improvements from the original Prime.

This one is smaller-- which is actually a good thing! This means less floppy joints and more posability. They also removed all the die-cast content except for his feet which also added to the figure's over-all balance and displayablity.

Also, this version features more an even more cartoon accurate sculpt and colors-- and a little figure of "Spike" from the cartoon!

Complete with his trailer and little "Roller" vehicle, this is the most ultimate Optimus Prime that I can ever conceive of! This figures is an amazing mix of quality, engineering and pure Transformers love!

Hasbro - Takara - Masterpiece MP-10 Optimus Prime figure Toys R Us Exclusive


BANDAI - SOUL OF CHOGOKIN DX MAZINGER Z

Making it just under the wire for 2012 is the crown jewel of Chogokin and Mazinger Z collectors-- the DX (deluxe) Chogokin Mazinger Z!

This thing is amazing! Complete with hangar and working LED lights to illuminate the it and Mazinger once he's placed inside, this 12" tall semi-die-cast robot is-- like Optimus-- the ultimate (so far) version of Go Nagi's creation. 

He also can be displayed in his fully assembled robot form, or without his armor "plates" to reveal all the faux inner mechanisms of the robot.

Also, via a wireless remote (this is the way to go with lights, Hot Toys!!!), you can activate several lights and sounds hidden inside the figure, all recreating the sounds (and theme songs) from the 70's animated TV show!

To add to the awesomeness of this figure, Bandai will also be releasing his Scrander winged jetpack (also with removable panels to see the inner mechanisms) later this year for added displayability.

Bandai Soul of Chogokin DX Mazinger Z
Mazinger Z without his panels and inside his hanger (L) and fully assembled (R)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

TOP TEN TOY LINES OF ALL TIME (ACCORDING TO ME THAT IS!)

#10

SUPER POWERS COLLECTION

Kenner Super Powers Collection Logo
KENNER

1984 - 86

As a company, Kenner hit an amazing new height of action figure design and quality with the Super Powers Collection line. They had already had unprecedented success with their Star Wars line, but those figures had begun to look dated both in design and paint application by the time that series was coming to a close.

With Super Powers, Kenner hoped to find a new license in which to help fill the void left by the demise of Star Wars. DC Comics was certainly a good choice, after all, they had some of the most recognizable super heroes of all time with the likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

The Super Powers figures were a strong departure from the Star Wars figure design. They were slightly larger, standing at around 5", and featured crisp, refined sculpting and tight, vibrant paint apps.

While the characters themselves were enough to sell the figures to their target audience, Kenner went a step further to create something that became a defining element for the line.

Each figure had an "action feature" that in some way represented their individual super power. Superman had a "Power Action Punch", Aquaman had a "Power Action Deep Sea Kick", Hawkman had "Power Action Flight Wings" and so on.

Another reason that this line was so great was, along side all of the incredibly popular characters, DC and Kenner chose some less popular characters that were created for DC by Jack "The King" Kirby (after he exited Mavel for the very first time since he began working there in the 1950's) known as The New Gods. These characters consisted of some of the best of the line, such as Mantis, Kalibak and the massive Darkseid.

Even though Super Powers was a hit for Kenner-- and had it's own comic book mini-series (three in fact) and cartoon series-- the line still only lasted three brief years before dying out. Regardless of this fact, the Super Powers Collection remains highly sought after and regarded by collectors for its faithfulness to the original comic book character designs as well as the quality of the figures themselves which hold up to even some of today's toy standards.

FAVORITE FIGURE: Cyborg
LEAST FAVORITE FIGURE: Cyclotron


#9

TOYBIZ MARVEL FIGURES

Toy Biz Marvel Figures Logo

TOY BIZ

1990 - 2006

Looking at the overall history of Toy Biz's action figure production, you can witness a company's evolution from some fairly weak and uninspired action figures to the height of cutting-edge action figure design and execution.
In 1990, after the success of their Batman movie line (which was probably due more to the movies than the figures themselves), Toy Biz was then able to acquire the master license to create Marvel Comics action figures.

While their sculpting and paint apps were behind some of the larger companies of the time, like Hasbro and Kenner, Toy Biz took notes from Kenner's Super Powers line and incorporated "action features" and gimmicks to their super hero figures. While some were better executed than others (like Cyclops' light-up visor vs. Nightcrawler's giant sucker-cups) they were a big part of the original success of Toy Biz's early figures.

From the very beginning, one of Toy Biz's strengths was in having a massive output of figures, eventually creating several sub-lines (Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Silver Surfer) under the umbrella of the Marvel Universe. Within the first few years however, one line stood out among the others: The X-Men.

The X-Men and X-related comics had reached an all-time sales high in the comic book market, and Toy Biz capitalized on this in spades. During the height of the "X-Craze" Toy Biz produced close to 100 different figures from the various X-Men titles. 

These factors coupled with the fact that the early mid-1990's were the height of the "toy boom", Toy Biz was an unstoppable juggernaut with new figures flying off shelves and commanding top dollar at conventions.

With their continued success, Toy Biz seemed able to put more money into their toys as the sculpting and paint apps began to improve in leaps and bounds in the following years.

In 2002, Toy Biz hit their creative stride with the introduction of their Marvel Legends line. These figures all featured highly detailed sculpts and articulation-- even down to the individual fingers. They also included some form of a display base, each individually unique and specific to that figure.

The line was a huge hit with collectors and finally brought Toy Biz the respect they'd needed from the collecting community after making so many uninspired "cash in" figures through-out the 90's.

However, in 2006, much to the woe of many fans, Toy Biz lost the Marvel license to Hasbro and thus an abrupt end to a major era in toy history.

BEST/WORST FIGURES: No way I'm attempting this one!


#8

M.A.S.K.

Kenner MASK Logo
KENNER

1985 - 88

In the 1980s', the former king of the toy isle, Kenner, was getting beaten left and right by one-two punch of Habro's GI Joe and Transformers lines. Perhaps brilliantly, Kenner had the idea of taking their competitor's ideas and merge them into one concept: a team of secret agents who fought a terrorist organization with transforming cars and vehicles. And thus M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) was born.

The figures themselves, while small, still featured some highly detailed sculpts and paint apps, but where Kenner really flexed their muscle was with the design and execution of the various vehicles and playsets-- the true stars of this series.

To back up Kenner's newly created line, a cartoon also aired on television alongside the first few years of its release. The cartoons featured slick animation by DIC, rivaling that of Habro's partner Sunbow. This quickly sent kids rushing to the to isle to find all these cool vehicles and characters.

The line quickly became a huge success, but after the second year, Kenner switched the line's focus from "spys vs terrorist" to...a racing theme. While the new racing theme still featured some awesome characters and vehicles, interest in this new direction wasn't nearly as high as previous years. Also, after its second year, the M.A.S.K. cartoon went off the air and Kenner lost all of its much needed television support for the line. And so, in 1988, Kenner brought M.A.S.K. to an end.

Fast-forward 25 years later and it seems that Kenner made a huge impression on many kids in the three short years that the line existed as M.A.S.K. is huge on the current collector's market, with many rare MIB items commanding huge prices.

FAVORITE VEHICLE: Rhino
LEAST FAVORITE VEHICLE: Dynamo


7

G.I. JOE (VINTAGE)/ADVENTURE TEAM

Hasbro 60's GI Joe & Adventure Team Logos
HASBRO

1964 - 1976

The amount of information that could be said about Hasbro's ground-breaking line is practically infinite. After all, this is the toy line that started it all-- at least as far as action figures go. In fact, Hasbro was the company to coin the term "action figure" in describing its GI Joe line to kids. After all, these certainly weren't "dolls"!

The 12" version of GI Joe lasted well over a decade (before it was morphed into the smaller Super Joe line in order to save costs on plastic in 1977) and crossed generations of kids and adults alike. In fact, the toy line was even promoted as something that kids and dads could play with together.

When it was initially launched, the idea was simple: buy one (or more) of the four 12" "basic" figures that came with a simple uniform and cap and gear him up with the dozens and dozens of uniform and weapon sets that were available. The four figures represented the four branches of the military (Army, Navy. Air Force, Marines) and the uniform and weapon sets fell into the same categories. This made for literally endless combinations of unique adventures for kids and their Joes. There were even a few vehicles and playsets made available for the initial military line.

In the late 60's however, there was a large anti-war swell growing in America due to the war in Vietnam, so in order to keep sales brisk and avoid any backlash of the line, Hasbro switched the focus of GI Joe from military to "adventure".

In time, GI Joe became all about adventure (although they still carried military weapons) as Hasbro officially created the "Adventure Team". These figures were all about exploration of various hazardous environments and missions to far off lands.

As mentioned earlier, eventually cost-saving measures forced a change in the toy market as oil prices began to rise and Hasbro switched to a smaller format with the creation of the "Super Joe" line. This saw the end of the original 12" GI Joe format of buying 12" clothed figures and swapping them out with different uniform and accessory sets. 

For well over a decade, the 12" GI Joe was absent from toy isles until, in 1991, nostalgia was coupled with success as Hasbro introduced the 12" Joe once again with a limited production 12" GI Joe: A Real American Hero "Duke" figure. Originally released at a Target exclusive, the figure did so well that Hasbro quickly began production on more A Real American Hero based 12" figures and dubbed the line GI Joe: Hall of Fame.

This was then followed by a 30th Anniversary 12" line in 1994 featuring the four military branch themed figures originally introduced in 1964. (Including a limited African American version of the 30th Anniversary "Action Soldier".) These new figures came in box sets that included weapons and accessories found in some of the original '64 sets. They also used the newer Hall of Fame bodies and new head sculpts that were sculpted as an homage to the originals.

In the following years, GI Joe saw a fairly major resurgence, complete with a new line at retail featuring all new sculpts and figures, as well as a collector's line that were near-exact reproductions of many of the popular sets and figures of the 1960's.

In 2007, even the Adventure Team saw a re-release using the original molds-- as well as boxes that were reproductions of the originals-- in limited release at Walmart.

GI Joe has gone through many changes over the years since its inception, but can still be found in 12" form on toy shelves even to this day. While Hasbro has never achieved the success of the original line when it comes to the 12" figures, they still try to stay true to their roots when they can. And as long as there are fans of the classics yearning to relive the Joe adventures of their youth, you can bet that you'll always see the 12" Joe rise again to take it's rightful place once again in your local toy isle.
FAVORITE FIGURE: Green BeretLEAST FAVORITE FIGURE: Honestly, none.


6

WORLD'S GREATEST SUPER-HEROES

MEGO World's Greatest Super-Heroes Logo

MEGO

1972 - 1983

Aside from Captain Action, this was the first major toy line that featured comic book superheroes.

 In 1972, Mego-- a company that dominated the action figure scene during the 1970's as well as setting the standard for the 8" action figure-- was able to secure the rights to both Marvel Comics and DC Comics (then called National Periodical Publications) superheroes and characters.

In the fall of that year, Mego introduced four figures for the holiday season at the "5 & Dime" store EJ Korvettes in New York. The four original figures were Superman, Batman (with the now very rare removable cowl), Robin (with the equally rare removable mask) and Aquaman. Sales were so brisk that the line was expanded into the following year and added the Marvel-owned heroes Spider-Man, Captain American as well as Tarzan.

The original figures were released in boxes where the figure was not actually shown, but later changed to a "window style" box due to many customers opening the boxes in the store wanting to see what was actually inside.

As the line expanded, with new characters being added each year, the demand for Mego's World's Greatest Super-Heroes figures grew higher and higher.

In 1973, another major change occurred with the packaging as the retailer known as Kresege (now known as K-Mart) asked Mego to create something that could fit into their preferred "peg system" of displaying toys. Mego gave them a special "carded" style figure packaging that could be hung on pegs rather than sitting on the shelves in boxes. This style of packaged Mego figures are now some of the rarest MOC (mint on card) Megos due to the fact that the blister was in the center of the card and then switched to the right side once Mego made this their standard packaging for all retailers.

The World's Greatest Super-Heroes continued to featured a roster of heroes like no other toy line, including all the heavy hitters from both Marvel and DC, along with characters like Isis, Conan and Tarzan.

The figures themselves were highly poseable and featured all of their character-defining weapons and accessories. Mego also created vehicles and playsets like the Batmobile, Batcave, Spider-Car, Hall of Justice and the multi-tiered Wayne Foundation.

This toy line was so vast and successful that it ran a staggering 10 years before it it finally ended in 1983.

To this day, it remains very popular among both toy and comic book collectors alike. The figures are not too hard to find on the secondary market, but still demand a high dollar for collector's quality loose examples due to the fact that most of these figure were played with and Mego's costumes and plastics were not made to stand the test of time (or an 8 year old's afternoon adventures in the back yard with his favorite superhero!) Carded samples will easily run in the hundreds of dollars with boxed figure being generally more rare-- although certain characters are more rare boxed than carded and vice versa.

The format of the "Mego-Styled" retro-figure still endures to this day as a sort of throw-back with figures that toy companies specifically want to give a to a nostalgic or "vintage" look to.

FAVORITE FIGURE: Conan
LEAST FAVORITE FIGURE: Mr. Mxyzptlk

5

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Logo
PLAYMATES

1987 - 1996

Most people don't know what the Ninja Turtles first started out as a comic book in the summer of 1984. And most people also don't know that the Turtles were not pizza-eating, partying, "Cowabunga Dude"-ing half-wits. They are actually dark, gritty, ass-kicking ninja badasses. Granted, they were also Turtles, which was part of the farcical nature of the book, but it was definitely not a comic book intended for children.

In fact, all the well-known signature phrases and attitudes came from Playmates Toys and animation house Murakami-Wolf-Swenson and not from [Kevin] Eastman and [Peter] Laird's original comic vision. But, ultimately, it was this shift in tone from the original concept that has allowed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to remain a household name for 25 years.

Once the thrice-aired original cartoon series finally caught on in 1987, Playmates Toys began their assault of constant Ninja Turtles figures, vehicles and playsets that kids and collectors alike ate up at retail.

Aside from their popularity, the line also got collectors buzzing thanks to a recalled version of the April O'Neil figure who was part of the first assortment. The character was a news reporter and had a white label across the breast pocket of her jumpsuit that said "PRESS", meaning she was part of the Associated Press. However, is was considered that children might think that they were being encouraged to actually press the female figure's breasts, so that version was pulled from shelves and replaced with a second version sans lettering.

This sent the after-market value of "Press Version" of April O'Neil skyrocketing and helped generate collector interest in the line alongside the already growing kid's market.

While the first Turtles figures were a bit simplistic, over the years, Playmetes continually improved the line with better sculpting, detail and some of the best character designs ever seen in a toy line.

 Thanks to these great figures, supported by cartoons, movies and other merchandise, the Turtles line continued for almost a decade straight. Not a very easy feat for any toy line.

After the eventual demise of the original toy line1996, Playmates continued to bring the Turtles back from time to time, but they never quite caught like they originally had. That was, until now.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have once again rocketed to the top of toy isle success! Thanks to a successful cartoon series on Nickelodeon, the Turtles have become a huge hit with a brand new generation of fans. And Playmates has also rejuvenated themselves as a action figure company with fantastic sculpts, design and articulation-- including a "collector's line" featuring the four Turtles in 8", highly-articulated, retro inspired sculpts.

FAVORITE FIGURE: Mutagen Man
LEAST FAVORITE FIGURE(S): Any of the "goofy" Turtle variants


4

HE-MAN & THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

Mattel He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Logo
MATTEL

1982 - 1988

What happens when you mix science fiction, swords & sorcery, and muscle-bound men in loincloths?

Well, if you're Mattel, you get one of the most beloved and successful toy lines of all time!

After passing on the Star Wars license in 1977 (one of two companies to do so, the other being Mego), Mattel ate many years of "bad decision" as Kenner trounced them at retail with the very license they passed on.

In the early 80's Mattel designer Roger Sweet brought the "higher up's" at Mattel a very simple concept in the form of three different, fully built prototype figures. One was a barbarian, another a space man, and the last figure was dressed as an armored military machine-- but they were all the same character: He-Man.

The idea was that he was a hero who could be dressed to face any situation. Mattel liked the idea... sort of. They thought the concept of a muscle bound warrior might lend itself to the possibility of a great toy line, but they removed the idea of a "man for ever situation" and instead chose the barbarian design to move forward with.

[At the time, there was an accusation that He-Man was actually the prototype figure for a planned line of Conan figures that Mattel was working on, and while there was a lawsuit against Mattel by the owners of Conan, Mattel won and He-Man carried on.]

As the rest of the line was conceptualized, a mix of sci-fi was added to the barbarian theme, creating something inspired by the John Carter novels, Conan the Barbarian and Frank Frazetta's paintings, all in one similar but very unique property.

When the line was launched it was named Masters of the Universe and did fairly well for Mattel. While the articulation was rather simplistic, the larger size of the figures along with the inspired designs and "punching" feature (activated by pulling the figure to one side at the waits and letting go while a mechanism inside the figure caused it to swing back) sparked many children's interest.

Knowing that it needed a little extra push to take their toy line over the top, Mattel enlisted animation studio Filmation to create a television series featuring He-Man and his pals. Once the series aired,  He-Man and The Master of the Universe became a full-fledged phenomenon and had every kid running through the house screaming "I have the power!"

The toy line grew as it introduced many new heroes and villains as well as vehicles and playsets, including the famous Castle Grayskull.

While children simply loved the toys and cartoon, a huge debate was going on in the legal system as to the morality of using cartoons to essentially "market" toys to children without their full understanding of what the "true" purpose of such cartoons are.

The debate went round and round, but ultimately got forgotten in the shuffle of other legal matters and nothing changed. Kids kept on watching the Masters of the Universe cartoons and parents kept buying their kids Masters of the Universe figures.

In 1985, the He-Man series was so successful that Mattel decided to cash in on the female audience that the cartoon had generated by creating a more girl-friendly line of figures featuring He-Man's sister-- She-Ra, the Princess of Power-- as its main protagonist. While not as successful as her big brother, She-Ra none the less stayed at retail for several years and even get her own cartoon spin-off.

At the height of the line's success, a Master of the Universe feature film was produced but ended up being a flop as it deviated too far from the original feel and concept featured for so many years in the cartoons.

Soon after, He-Man's muscle at retail began to weaken and the line inevitably ended in 1988.

There were two major attempts by Mattel to capture that old "lightning in a bottle" effect that was the MOTU (Maters of the Universe) magic. Once, in 1990, with the New Adventures of He-Man-- which featured He-Man as an intergalactic sci-fi hero with a futuristic sword and villains-- and the other in 2002 with a "stylized" redesign of all the original characters (now referred to as the "200X" line.)

Neither of these "re-brandings" worked well enough at retail to allow them a life-span of more than a year or so, although the 200X line was a hit with He-Man's hard-core fans, who were now all grown up and enjoyed the nostalgia of their youth as well as the edgy designs of the sculpting super-team known as the "Four Horsemen".

In 2008 Mattel made another attempt to resurrect He-Man, this time trying something completely new and different by marketing the figures directly to MOTU's hard-core fans via direct sale on the internet.

This new approach seemed to be exactly what Mattel needed to keep the He-Man name alive and the MOTU license moving forward. While not nearing the sale of the 80's-- or anything that would survive long-term at retail-- Mattel's "direct market" sell to fans has worked well enough to have kept the new line still going with many years still planned ahead. The third time did seem to be the charm this time for Mattel, once again thanks to the masterful skills of the Four Horsmen's designs and sculpting and the decision to make the figures look like their classic designs, but this time with modern day sculpting, articulation and paint applications.

After 25 years-- and with a massive $250 new Castle Grayskull playset on the way-- the Masters of the Universe still rule toy shelves across the globe and have fans once again screaming "I have the power!"

FAVORITE FIGURE: Two-Bad
LEAST FAVORITE FIGURE: Orko


3

TRANSFORMERS

Hasbro Transformers G1 Logo
HASBRO

1984 - 1990

Of all the toy lines of the last 30 years, almost none have endured with the continued strength of the Transformers franchise. 

In some form or another, Transformers toys have been consistently produced by Hasbro (or sister company Takara) regularly since 1984. And, as hard as it may be to image, the Transformers brand may be even stronger now then it was in the 80's when it began.

The brand was originally created by Hasbro, but the figures themselves were not. For the first two years of its existence, the entire line of Transformers toys were actually from one of two Takara toy lines in Japan-- Microman or Diaclone. Both of these brands were not doing well in Japan and so they licensed the molds to US toy company Hasbro.

Like all good toy lines, these toys-- this group of Transforming robots-- needed as story. Something that would capture children's imagination. And they needed to not just be robots-- but characters. Characters that were battling an epic war of good vs. evil.

To do this, Hasbro turned to Marvel Comics head honcho Jim Shooter who gave the assignment to fellow editor (and then future Transformers comic book series writer) Bob Budiansky who ended up completing the task of creating the world of the Transformers as we know it. In Budiansky's story, after battling for eons on their home world of Cybertron and eventually crash landing on Earth, the benevolent "Autobots" fought tirelessly to defeat their foes, the evil "Decepticons" and prominently featured their respective leaders "Optimus Prime" and "Megatron".

With the concept fully realized, Hasbro began to work with Marvel (who produced the comic book series) and animation studio Sunbow Productions to create a rich universe full of unique characters and compelling stories.

When the line hit retail in 1984, kids were immediately captivated. Robots from outer space that transformed into cars and guns and cassette players was a concept that simply could not be resisted. Also helping to move things along was the animated series that also began airing in 1984, introducing kids to the world of Autobots and Decpticons.

Before long, the Transformers ended up on every kid's Christmas Wish List and, by the end of the year, the Transformers were a massive hit. Of course, this meant that all manner of knock-off's and other transforming robots were being imported and produced by small, fly-by-night toy companies. (Including the store Radio Shack who obtained the rights to one of ToyCo's transforming robot characters in the form of the figure that was also used by Hasbro as "Shockwave". The Radio Shack version was later humorously named "Shackwave" by Transformers fans.) While this meant some easy "cash in" sales for these companies, it never hindered the success of Hasbro's juggernaut line. The only things Hasbro did in retaliation to these knock-off's was to incorporate a special decal on all of their figures called a "rub sign" that would change from a blacked out face into either an Autobot or Decepticon symbol once the heat from your fingertip was applied.

Adding to the fun of the line was the fact that parents seemed completely mystified as to how transform these figures. This was something that made kids feel like they were a part of something even more special. A secret club that parents just didn't understand.

In its second year of production, the line expanded to include mail-in figures, "Triple-Changers" (figures that could transform into two vehicles and a robot form), "sub-set" lines like the Insecticons, and also one of the biggest hit toys of all time: Devastator-- a group of six individual Transformers that could be combined to form one giant robot.

1986 was the first year that Hasbro began to produce their own figures for the line, no longer using the old Diaclone and Micoman molds to create characters from.

As the line moved forward, it only grew in popularity. So much so, in fact, that a feature-length animated film was produced for theaters that year. Set in the year 2005, Hasbro took the Transformers characters from modern vehicles and objects to sleek, futuristic ones.

In the film, Hasbro decided that it needed to "kill off" a lot of the old characters so that kids would show a greater interest in the new characters (i.e. figures) that the film featured. While this was probably a very necessary step for Hasbro, it did not go over well with the kids who adored the original characters that they'd been watching for two years on TV each day.

None the less, the line still continued to do well for Hasbro who reenforced the new characters in Season 3 of the cartoon, which also took place in the "futuristic" 2005 and right after the events seen in the film.

In 1987, Hasbro began to add new gimmicks to the brand with the advent of the "Headmasters" and "Targetmasters". These figures features heads and/or weapons that could transform into small figures that would pilot the figure's "alt. mode" (the term used to describe a Transformers' non-robot form).

This was also the last year that the original G1 (Generation 1 is the term used to describe the Transformers mythology, characters and figures coming between the years of 1984 - 1990) cartoon series aired. A special mini-series was produced that introduced the new Headmasters and Targetmasters characters into the already existing Transformers universe.

Even without the cartoon series, the Transformers still continued to sell extremely well for Hasbro, with 1987 possibly being the most massive and creatively diverse year the brand had had experienced thus far. This included the largest Transformer ever made: the 3-foot tall Fortress Maximus, who was also a Headmaster.

By 1988, like with all their toy lines around this time, Hasbro was trying to keep Transformers "new and fresh" for the next generation of kids and collectors, and the line began to take some strange turns...

1988 saw the creation of the "Power Masters", which were similar to the "Headmasters" and "Targetmasters" before them, only this time the mini-characters came in the form of an engine that "powered" the figure in its robot mode. (By way of  imagination only.) Then there were the "Pretenders", figures were mere shells shaped like a humanoid, animal or monster that housed a Transformer inside. No longer content to transform to hide in pain sight, Hasbro decided upon this route for the characters to take. An additional level of the Transformers' tag line "More Than Meets the Eye".

Many of the figures also began to be produced in strange and garish colors, such a bright oranges, yellows or neon. The plastic was also not of the same caliber as the originals and the die-cast metal that was once a big part of the Transformers line in the beginning was completely abandoned by now.

In 1989, the line took an even stranger turn with the figures being shrunk down to about 2" and being sold with transforming vehicles and playsets instead of transforming themselves. Hasbro continued to change the line in 1990 with the addition of popular early year character like Grimlock and Bumblebee, but this time as non-transforming blister-carded action figures. With the original concept and glimmer of the line completely lost by this point, the G1 line saw its demise by the year's end.

Hasbro tried to resurrect the line in 1993 by slightly rebooting the concept and using the original molds-- along with a few new ones-- with Transformers Generation 2. This line contained a lot of the original favorite figures/characters in new colors, although most were not as realistic as the originals. Much of the G2 line was mired with ugly paint apps and hideous colors. It also saw Megatron go from transforming into a Walther P38 pistol into a green and purple(?) tank. Optimus Prime also got a "make over" as his original trailer was replaced with a tanker.

Not having the charm and sincerity of the original line, Hasbro ended up trying to make the Transformers too "hip" and colorful. They also aimed them too squarely at children with their bright colors and huge sticker logos. None of Hasbro's efforts had the desired effect and, in 1995, the line died once again.

In Japan however, the Transformers brand continued to stay fairly strong as Hasbro's partner company Takara continued their own line of Transformers figures throughout the 80's and 90's, and a cartoon series continued to air throughout.

Many of the Japanese figures were unique to the Takara Transformers line and are now highly sought after by today's US "vintage" G1 collectors.

Both Hasbro and Takara (many time in conjunction with one another) continued to keep the Transformers brand alive with re-issues of the original figures over the years, something that Takara continues to do to this day. In the US however, the Transformers have hit a major resurgence with the Transformers movies once again capturing children's imaginations, much like other original cartoon series did back in 1984.

Today the Transforms franchise is one of the strongest toy lines in the world and with more movies in the works, an animated series currently running on television, and a pair of mega-hit video games, these transforming robots from outer space show no signs of stopping again any time soon.


FAVORITE FIGURE: Optimus Prime
LEAST FAVORITE FIGURE: Any of the Throttlebots


2

STAR WARS

Kenner Star Wars Logo
KENNER

1977 - 1984

The Star Wars figure line changed the entire landscape of toys and action figures forever.

Starting way back in the Christmas season of 1977, no other action figure line has endured with the consistency and popularity of the Star Wars brand.

At that time, when a budding young director named George Lucas wanted a toy tie-in for his new and untested sci-fi space epic, things didn't go as easily as you might think. Both Mego and Mattel-- two action figure powerhouses at the time-- passed on the license, a regret that is probably still felt to this very day (at least by Mattel since Mego is long gone.)

However, a company named Kenner saw the potential in Lucas' vision and film and decided to pair up with the filmmaker to create a line of action figures, playsets and vehicles-- a decision that they would not regret.

When the film opened in 1977, it was a smash hit, especially among that all-important target audience: kids. Since Kenner had only recently acquired the license, they didn't have any product available at the time of the film's release and wouldn't until early 1978.

Because Kenner wanted to let both kids and parents know that the toys were on their way, that Christmas season they offered what was called the "early bird kit" which was simply a package you could purchase containing a certificate you would mail in to Kenner with their promise of sending you four action figures from the film (Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2) in the mail.

Once the toys finally hit stores in 1978, there was no keeping them on the shelf.

Aside from the popularity of the source material, there was something else about the Star Wars toys that made them stand out from all the action figure lines that came before them. Prior to Kenner's Star Wars line, the standard in action figures was a 12" or 8" format. This made the creation of accompanying vehicles and playsets difficult at times, with varying results. (Often times vehicles were "catoonish" and undersized compared to the scale of the figures.)

Knowing that much of the Star Wars universe consisted of various planets, locations and spaceships, Kenner made the decision to shrink action figures down to a 3.75" format to allow for the creation of larger and more accurate vehicles and playsets. (Although a limited 12" figure line was also produced featuring the main characters from the film, including two from Empire Strikes Back.)

This also allowed Kenner to create more of the individual characters that existed in the Star Wars universe for an affordable price that made both parents and retailers happy.

With the success of this format, many other companies would follow suit (most notably and successfully Hasbro with it's GI Joe: A Real American Hero line) with 3.75" action figure becoming the majority of the industry standard-- even to this day--, especially for action figure lines that also consist of a hearty amount of vehicles and/or playsets.

With new films released in 1980 and 1983, the Star Wars toy line continued to dominate the toy isle, but eventually all things must come to an end...

 Eventualy, Star Wars' time in the sun began to fade. New licenses were beginning to rise, and the format of the figures themselves-- once fresh and cutting edge-- began to feel too simplistic and dated compared to newer, more articulated and detailed figure lines

Towards the end of 1984, Kenner released the "Power of the Force" figures. These were figures that represented characters from any or all of the three films and were not designated with the individual film logos as all the previous figures were. They also came with a silver collector's coin featuring that character.

The Power of the Force continued into 1985, but by that time most stores were trying to discount and move all their remaining Star War stock in favor of more popular toy lines. Because of this, not many 1985 Power of the Force figure were ordered or produced, making them some of the most rare and valuable of all the Kenner Star Wars figures.

And so it was that Kenner's original Star Wars line came to end.

But, it there's one thing that Star Wars has always had above any other license in the world, it is, unquestionably, the most loyal and rabid fans in the known universe. Because of this, the Star Wars toy line, once again under Kenner's guidance, returned to toy isles in 1995-- and once again with the sub title of "Power of the Force". A very appropriate title indeed, for from that date forward, the Star Wars toy line has only continued to grow and has remained consistently in stores ever since.

The original Kenner Star Wars toys and action figures remain the most popular toy line to collect on the secondary market. With new movies and new generations of fans, many Star Wars collectors today consist of father and son pairs, both sharing their passion for Star Wars and the toys.

With new films planned within the next few years and beyond, there's no doubt that Star Wars will continue to reign supreme against all pretenders to the toy isle crown, both big and small, new or old, for Star Wars truly does have the Power of the Force.

FAVORITE FIGURE: Yoda
LEAST FAVORITE FIGURE: Rancor Keeper

1

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO

GI Joe Animated Series LogoHasbro GI Joe A Real American Hero Logo
HASBRO

1982 - 1994

If "gajillion" were a real number, it would be the one used to describe how many GI Joe: ARAH (A Real American Hero) toys were produced and sold in its 12 year life span.

Consisting of a total of over 500 different figures, and 250 vehicles and playsets, GI Joe: ARAH was probably the most brilliantly created and executed toy lines in all of toy history. (Well, until the last few years of the line where things went....bad. But more on that later.)

In 1980 Hasbro was looking to bring back their extremely popular toy line GI Joe, but the 12" figure format had long since been abandoned by the toy market, so Hasbro needed a new approach. The decision was made to follow Kenner's success with the Star Wars line by going with a 3.75" format and creating a very vehicle focused toy line. But, they needed something to tie it all together... An idea. A concept. A story.

According to 1980's Marvel Comics' Editor-in-Chief (and major game-changer himself) Jim Shooter, the new concept came about when Hasbro's CEO met up with Marvel's CEO at a charity benefit and began discussing their respective businesses. The subject of GI Joe was brought up as well as needing a new concept for the line. Marvel's CEO offered their services to help bring the idea to life and GI Joe legend, shepherd and then Marvel writer/editor Larry Hama was chosen for the job.

Hama was a talented writer with a knack for writing entertaining and realistic war comics-- due in large part of having been a Vietnam War vet himself. With his mix of creativity, storytelling and military knowledge, Hama went on to write all 155 issues of the Marvel comic book as well as 90% of all the file cards that accompanied each GI Joe figure.

Hama has since become synonymous with the GI Joe brand in the minds and hearts of the hard-core GI Joe: ARAH fans, and Hama continues to work on GI Joe to this day, consulting for Hasbro and writing a newly created continuation of the the original GI Joe: ARAH comic book series, now with IDW Comics.

With Hama creating the names, bios and storyline for Hasbro's GI Joe figure designs, they were ready to move the line forward and, in 1982, Hasbro launched the GI Joe: A Real American Hero toy line.

Simultaneously, Marvel launched the comic book to support Hasbro's toys and give a stronger foundation to its characters.

In the first year of release, most of the figures all shared some variation of the same three body molds, including the head sculpts. There was also a female figure in the form of a crossbow wielding redhead by the name of Scarlett who mixed it up right along side the boys of the GI Joe team. But the stand out figure for most kids was the mysterious black-clad masked Commando named Snake Eyes.

While Snake Eyes became the defining icon of the GI Joe brand, he might not have been so "cool" if Hasbro had gone with their original plan of putting him in a green camouflaged uniform. Looking to save money, they decided to cast him all in black plastic and release him that way. And so, what started as a cost-saving decision actually became the defining look for the character, only adding to his mystique and lending credibility to his ninja-level commando skills.

In a very short time, Hasbro had achieved more than they could have ever imagined with the success of their newly re-branded GI Joe toy line. They also supported the line with aforementioned monthly Marvel GI Joe comic book as well as animated television ads and a cartoon series.

By 1984, GI Joe was an unstoppable toy brand.

As a sign of the line's strength, in 1985, Hasbro released the largest and most expensive action figure related toy in all of toy history: the seven-foot long USS Flagg aircraft carrier, which was sold for a (then) staggering 109.99.

With each passing year, the line continued to grow exponentially with more brand new figures, vehicles and playsets.

At this time, Hasbro began to approach (semi) celebrities to appear as characters in the GI Joe universe and, in 1986, Sgt. Slaughter and Chicago Bears defensive lineman William "The Refrigerator" Perry both received figures in the line. (Both were also mail-away figures.) A possible "Rocky" (aka Rocky Balboa) figure was in the planning stages, but the deal fell through (although the prototype body and accessories were used to create the Cobra Trainer "Big Boa" figure.)

1987 was another huge year for GI Joe as it saw the release of the most sought after vehicles of the line, the massive Defiant space shuttle launch complex. This vehicle set consisted of a huge mobile gantry for the shuttle, the Defiant shuttle itself, and a smaller shuttle that piggy-backed on the Defiant.

1987 was also the last year that Sunbow produced the GI Joe cartoons (Sunbow also produced the Transformers and Gem cartoons for Hasbro).

In 1988, GI Joe was still going strong, but some slight mis-steps were beginning to occur in the direction of the brand, initially occurring in the prior year with the addition of the much fan-reviled (and Hama-hated, as well) Cobra-La team.

Perhaps running out of concepts, Hasbro began to re-release old figures and vehicles in new paint decos and putting them under a "sub-set" banner  know as "Tiger Force" (yellow, tiger-striped theme). This continued in 1989 with the addition of "Night Force" (figure re-painted in a dark blue, grey and green color scheme), "Python Patrol" (re-painted in snake-like "grid" pattern), "Slaughter's Marauders" (a Sgt. Slaughter lead team re-painted in blue, brown and green.)

The general release figures also began to see a much larger shift away from the realistic near-future military style that defined the brand and more into a military sci-fi theme. These newer figures also shied away from the traditional military colors established from the beginning of the line into more into more red, yellow and orange color based characters.

Luckily, through all of this, the figures still retained the detail, quality and creativity that the brand had become known for, and fans went with the slight divergence in theme that Hasbro was beginning to take.

In 1990, the toy trends of the times were becoming more noticeable in the GI Joe line. Many more of the figures and vehicles were taking on an unrealistic tone and color scheme, with bright, garish/neon colors creeping into all areas of the line.

By 1991, while the line still held some lingering nods to its military roots, all the vehicle were of a fully sci-fi nature and the figures and their weapons were full of gimmicks such as talking backpack, shooting missiles and neon colored weapons. (A neon red sword and sub-machine gun for Snake Eyes? Blasphemy!)

While it was only natural for a toy company to want to keep a decade old license fresh at retail, the line was beginning to show its age. Many of its original fans had grown up and moved on, and the ones who still lingered were put off by the new direction that the line was moving in.

Despite all of this, Hasbro's GI Joe: ARAH still managed to keep a foot hold at retail, either due to a small group of new fans or just by brand recognition alone. Defying all odds, 1993 actually saw the most figures ever produced for the line in a single year-- over 100 individual figures.

Again, while the detail, sculpting and quality continued to be top-notch, the paint schemes and concepts were so cartoonish that the line began to look like a parody of itself by this point.

In 1994, with it's last 43 figures, and final five vehicles, Hasbro finally read the writing on the wall and brought an end to what had once been one of the most brilliant, prolific and endearing toy lines of all time.

With the ARAH line now dead, Hasbro tried to re-brand GI Joe once again in 1995 with two failed lines in the form of GI Joe: Extreme (McFarlane-esque superheroishly sculpted figures with very limited articulation) and GI Joe: Sgt Savage (featuring a group of WWII commandos who, after being cryogenicly  frozen,  woke up in present day to fight the evil forces of General Blitz and his IRON Army.) Both were panned by kids and collectors alike.

It wasn't until 1997 that Hasbro once again had some small success with the GI Joe brand, initially through re-releases of the original figures (as well as some new ones) featuring new paint apps (and softer toy-standards-friendly plastics) as exclusives at Toys R Us. The figures were sold in 3-packs, but there were also repaints of some of the original vehicles, too. This small line continued to run at Toys R Us for almost 10 years, but it also allowed for a full-fledged, brand-new line in 2003, with all new figures and sculpts.

The new line, dubbed GI Joe vs. Cobra, featured mostly 2-packs of carded figures, one usually being a Joe and the other being his Cobra foe. It also featured some of the original ARAH characters along side newly created ones. The figures, while in some cases giving slight homage to the originals, were very sci-fi/super hero heavy in their design.

While GI Joe vs. Cobra was met with mixed reactions by fans of the original, it was the first time that Hasbro saw any major success with GI Joe since its demise in 1994, over ten years prior.

The line was also supported with a comic book series by publisher Devil's Due as well as a few straight-to-video animated short films.

In 1994, the line was renamed GI Joe: Valor vs. Venom and continued to be successful for most of that year. By the next year however, the line saw a sharp decline and amount of new product for that year was cut in half. On the other hand, this was one of the stronger years for the GI Joe Toys R Us exclusive product, seeing many new 3 and 6 figure packs being released. Hasbro also created a "Direct to Customer" line that allowed hard-core fans to buy figures that were not picked up by retailers, direct through the Hasbro store.

At this point, Hasbro discontinued the 3.75" format in favor of another re-branding, this time in a cartoonish and stylized figure line in the 9" figure format-- a first (and hopefully last) for GI Joe-- called GI Joe: Sigma 6. Even with the power of a new cartoon behind it, this latest re-branding met with a tepid response among children and collectors alike and the line died a quick death.

In 1997, Hasbro decided to use their still rabid fan base for an experiment that would be mutually beneficial to both with the GI Joe "25th Anniversary" figure line. This line was originally planned to be 25 of the more popular original GI Joe: ARAH characters, re-done with brand-new sculpts and with "vintage-style" packaging meant to replicate the original carded figures of the 80's.

The line was such a surprise hit that Hasbro decided to extend it and go beyond the original planned 25 figures. It even expanded into "comic book" 2-packs, muli-figure boxed set and vehicles, including re-releases of fan favorites like the MOBAT, HISS and Skystriker.

Once it ran through most of the more popular characters from the original line, Hasbro began to incorporate new figures, ideas and concepts into the line. This included the GI Joe: Rise of Cobra movie figures, the "Pursuit of Cobra" figures and GI Joe: Renegades cartoon series figures.

GI Joe currently remains at retail with the line focused almost solely on the upcoming GI Joe: Retaliation movie-- although some new classic versions of the original characters are planned for the line too, including the ever popular Snake Eyes v2 with his wolf "Timber".

Beyond the new movie, the fate of the GI Joe line remains unknown. To this day, Hasbro continues to receive the benefits of the quality and care that they put into the creation of original GI Joe: ARAH line back in 1982 in the form of a loyal and hard-core fan base. With that in mind, there's no doubt that there will always be collectors ready to support the license in what ever form it may take.

 TOP 5 FAVORITE FIGURES: 
Storm Shadow
Zartan
1985 Snake Eyes v2
Duke
Firefly
TOP 5 LEAST FAVORITE FIGURES:
 Robo Joe
Monstro-Viper
 Super Sonic Fighters Road Pig
Armadillo 
Golobulus

Sunday, November 18, 2012

THE LAST 50 YEARS OF TOY & ACTION FIGURE HISTORY - PART 1: THE 60'S


Best Toys & Action Figures of the 1960's

I started this site because I have so much useless toy knowledge that my close friends and loved ones got tired of being bored to death with hearing about, so I figured I'd better find an outlet for it and hope that other people out there might find it informative or useful.

While I will continue to focus on specific toy lines from the 60's, 70's 80's and beyond, I wanted to do a quick but comprehensive run-down of the various toy companies and their toy lines from the past 50 years.

Now, obviously I can't cover everything-- so your favorite line might not make it into the bunch (even though mine will)-- I'm going to try to hit all the major ones along with a few "honorable mentions".

Starting things off is the decade that saw the creation of what we've come to know as the "action figure". This term was first coined when Hasbro wanted to create a "doll" for boys. It was to be the male version of what Mattel's Barbie was for girls. Wisely, Hasbro knew that trying to sell "dolls" to boy was a losing prospect, so they called their "doll"-- GI Joe in his 12" form-- an "action figure".

And so, in 1964, the very first posable "action figure" was born!

With that little bit of history behind us, let's delve into the toy companies of the 1960's with, what else but--

HASBRO

Classic Hasbro Toys Logo

Originally called "Hassenfeld Brothers", brothers Henry and Helal Hassenfeld started their company way back in 1923. They started out producing simple things like pencil cases and toy doctor and nurse kits, but their first major hit was toy known as Mr. Potato Head in 1952. (FUN FACT: The original Mr. Potato Head only included the eyes, noses, etc, you had to use a real potato with the parts!)

Their first major foray into the boys toy market however was with a military themed 12" action figure series that they called G.I. Joe.

G.I. JOE

Vintage Hasbro GI Joe Figures - 1960's

Created by Hasbro toy designer's Don Levine and Stan Weston, GI Joe was meant to be for boys what Barbie was for girls. (FUN FACT: G.I. stands for "Government Issued" with the term "GI Joe" representing the generic term for a soldier as it was coined during WWII.) There were four different boxed figures released, each representing a branch of the military. The single figures-- Action Soldier, Action Marine, Action Sailor and Action Pilot-- each came with their basic fatigues and a duty cap. The real meat of the line was in the different military accessory and clothing set that you could buy to accessorize your figures into different military looks.

One of the most noticeable features of the GI Joe figure was that each one featured a scar on his right cheek. While it became the GI trademark among kids, it was actually put there to prevent other companies from copying the mold. (FUN FACT: Hasbro also added an additional and lesser known counterfeiting measure to their figures-- a thumbnail that's molded on the underside of the thumb instead of on top where it would normally be!) Another feature of each figure was that they all came with metal dog tags around their neck. After the initial launch, Hasbro created the "talking" version of their regular figures, an action that was activated by pulling on their dog tags which were attached to a string that would work the talking mechanism located in their chest.

The original GI Joe military theme spawned dozens of uniforms and weapons sets, and even some vehicles and "foreign figures" based off of WWII Axies and Allied countries. But, by the end of the 60's the war in Vietnam was creating a rather large anti-war sentiment in the US and parents just weren't as apt to buy war themed toys for their children. Hasbro needed to make a change with their GI Joe line before it faded into obscurity forever...

MATTEL

Classic Mattel Toymakers Logo

Founded in 1945 by Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler-- which is also where the company derived its name. Mattel's first and possibly biggest success, even to this day, was in 1959 when Handler's wife (and president of Mattel), Ruth Handler, created a toy line for girls named after their daughter Barbara called Barbie.

From that point on, Mattel grew to become the largest toy manufacturing company in the US-- even to this day.

MAJOR MATT MASON 

Mattel's Major Matt Mason Figures

With the girl's market firmly in the palm of their hand, Mattel set their sights on the boy's figure market by tapping into America's fascination with the "space race".

In 1966, Mattel introduced Major Matt Mason. The figures were astronauts and most of the original designs and playsets were based on actual NASA prototypes. The figures didn't have any "swivel" style joints like Hasbro's GI Joe-- and were much smaller-- but instead featured a wire inner frame over a rubber suited body. This was a bit hit and miss in terms of design in terms of longevity, but it worked well enough for the time.

While Mason and his astronaut (and later, alien) pals were the stars of the series, what really stood out were all the amazing vehicles and playsets, which became the life-blood of the line.

The line lasted quite a few years, but in the early 70's interest in real-life space adventures died down, and interest in Major Matt Mason died with it. The line is still fondly remembered to this day and a possible resurgence is underway spearheaded by actor (and Matt Mason fan) Tom Hanks.

 IDEAL

Ideal Toys Logo

You may never have heard of-- or just don't remember the name-- Ideal (or Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, as they were known in 1907 when they were founded), but they may very well be the most famous toy company of all time due to one singular creation in 1903-- the Teddy Bear.

CAPTAIN ACTION

Ideal's Captain Action Figures - Captain Action & Dr. Evil

Toy designer and entrepreneur Stan Weston took the concept of a single hero that could turn into various licensed super heroes to Ideal after he'd help create the GI Joe line at Hasbro the year prior.

In 1966, Ideal Toy Corporation launched the 12" Captain Action toy line in stores across America. The figure was a character unto himself, complete with costume, hat, sword and gun. He even had his own villain, Dr. Evil. The gimmick of this line was that you could turn Caption Action into various popular super heroes like Spiderman, Batman, Superman and even pulp heroes like Buck Rogers and The Phantom.

Captain Action was a hit with kids, so much so that Ideal introduced Action Boy, a sidekick who had his own line of sidekick hero costumes to don.

At the height of Captain Action's popularity, Ideal released a companion line called SUPER QUEENS. This line was created in the hopes of capturing a bit of the female audience while at the same time give some female heroes to the Captain Action line. There were only four heroine released: Batgirl, Mera, Supergirl and Wonder Woman. These figures did not have costumes like Captain Action, but instead just stayed the characters they represented.

As popular as Captain Action had become, after only a few years, his sales declined dramatically and Ideal cancelled the line. All in all, Captain Action was only around for a little over 2 1/2 years-- and the Super Queens line even less than that. Because of this, boxed or packages Captain Action toys are some of the most rare in action figure history, the Super Queens even more so. A boxed Super Queen figure in collector level condition can easily fetch close to $10,000 from the right buyer.

COLORFORMS

Colorforms Logo

Many people remember Colorforms from the 70's when they did boxed sets of flat vinyl characters that could be placed into background scenes that folded out from the interior of the box. They featured licensed characters like Spider-man or Superman, but we're talking about the 60's.

THE OUTER SPACE MEN

Colorforms Outer Space Men Figures

With the success of Mattel's Major Matt Mason line, Colorforms decided to enter into the boy's figure market by creating a line of alien figures that could be used in conjunction with Mattel's Mason line. In fact, Colorforms even aped Mattel's design, creating figures that were a rubber body over a bendable wire frame.

Each figure was from a different planet, like "Colossus Rex, the Man from Jupiter" and "Alpha 7, the Man from Mars".

The figures were not a major hit at retail, so the proposed second series never made it to production, although the prototypes still exist.

Once again, because of the rarity of these figures, they are some of the hardest to find in collector condition-- especially mint on card-- in all of action figure history and fetch very high prices loose-- and insane prices carded, should you ever be lucky to find even one.

(FUN FACT: The Outer Space Men have returned, thanks to the the famous toy sculptors/designers The Four Horsemen and original OSM creator Mel Birnkrant. This time out they are in a 3 3/4" scale the unproduced characters from the original second wave are finally now being released, too!)

~~~~~~~~HONORABLE MENTIONS~~~~~~~~

AMERICAN CHARACTER TOY

BONANZA

American Character Toy's Bonanza Figures

MARX

JOHNNY WEST

Marx's Johnny West Figures