This week your PopCulteer is going to return to his roots a bit. Back in the late 1990s I wrote a monthly action figure column for Toy Trader Magazine. It was a load of fun, and from what I’m told, it was pretty influential. Ii would present the latest toy industry news, rag on cheesy knockoffs and present detailed reviews of the latest action figures
When Toy Trader was bought up and shut down by Toy Shop (we were eating into their circulation, but their parent company had deeper pockets), I continued to write for Mastercollector.com for a while, but eventually I moved on to other assignments (like PopCult and Radio Free Charleston).
However, I never left the hobby. I still collect toys, in particular 1/6 scale action figures. As long-time readers of PopCult know, one of my favorites is Captain Action. Originally released in the 1960s, Captain Action was a cool crime-fighter with a great gimmick–he could change into other characters such as Superman, Batman, Spider-man, Captain America and others (uniform sets sold separately).
Back in the first month of PopCult, I wrote about Captain Action, and my role as a cheerleader for the short-lived 1999 revival. More recently, I’ve written about the good Captain’s return to comic books, his stint as an 8-inch-tall MEGO-style action figure, and his pending return as a full-sized 1/6 scale hero, complete with cool uniform sets.
Now I’ve got my hands on the first releases in this revived line. These are the basic sets that are just now showing up at Toys R Us. More deluxe sets are on sale in comic book stores and hobby shops, and we’ll list some mail-order sources for you at the end of this piece. This week PopCult is going to play with toys.
This is the return of Captain Action, and unlike the 1999 revival, this is an all-new action figure, not a reproduction of the original 1960’s toy. This is good on many levels. First, there are still plenty of the 1999 reproductions floating around out there in secondary-market toyland. Second, this is a state-of-the-art action figure with an amazing amount of articulation. Third, the new face sculpt, while still maintaining the spirit of the original, is a vast improvement, and unlike the original action figure, does not look like George H.W. Bush.
For your thirty bucks you get a great package, starting with the packaging. Captain Action comes in a cool, clear-plastic box, with a full-color inner cardboard insert wrapped around a clear tray. He can be easily removed and reinserted into the package, depending on how you choose to display him. Also in the package is a recent Moonstone comic book, with a cool Paul Gulacy cover.
The captain comes dressed in a copy of the 1960s CA uniform. It’s a one-piece black and blue outfit with the CA emblem on the chest. It’s a great bit of nostalgic glee to see this. The only minor quibble is that the outfit uses Velcro-style hook-and-loop closures instead of snaps, and it can be a little tricky to work with.
His belt more than makes up for that. Instead of copying the dull blue belt that the original figure came with, the Captain now comes with the nifty white-with-red-stripe belt that was depicted on the box are of the original toy. It’s a more detailed belt with more deluxe details like a slide-on scabbard, holster and communications device. The belt buckle is also painted silver, with a lightning bolt, and the bolt is also present on his boots, again, making them more like the original package art.
His sword and ray gun also sport more detail paint operations, too. As does his cap. This is Captain Action fully-realized, as his concept art depicted.
This figure also has an all-new, fully-posable body. The clever hand and foot joints make it hard to put a number on the points of articulation. They provide a full tilt and swivel. The elbows and knees are double-jointed, and their are swivel points in the thighs and biceps. With full rotation at the hips and shoulders, and joints at the waist, neck and chest, this action figure can assume just about any pose that the human body can. The joints are tight and hold the poses well.
The figure is also very well-balanced,and stands upright very well without assistance.
Another new feature of this body is that it has removable hands. The advantage of this is apparent with the uniform sets. The deluxe hobby edition of Captain Action includes a reproduction of a rare vintage Captain Action box, plus bonus accessories.
The Moonstone comic book included contains a front cover by Paul Gulacy (Master of Kung Fu, Batman, Sabre) and a back cover by Mark Wheatley (Mars, Blood Of The Innocent, Frankenstein Mobster). The two stories inside are very cool reprints written by Ceredo-Kenova’s Beau Smith with art by the late Eduardo Barretto. It’s a terrific bonus that really adds to the overall package.
The return of Captain Action is a complete success. It’s true to the spirit of the original figure, but updates him for the twenty-first century.
Of course the whole point of the Captain Action line is the uniform sets that allow Cap to transform into other heroes. One of the problems that doomed the 1999 revival was the absence of any DC or Marvel character uniforms.
In the 1960s, the licensing industry was in a primitive state. One man, Stan Weston, controlled the rights to both DC and Marvel, as well as characters from King Features Syndicate and others. Weston had a hand in the creation of GI Joe, and because of that, was able to pitch the idea of an action figure the same size, who could change into other characters, to the Ideal Toy Company.
When Captain Action was revived in 1999, the rights to DC and Marvel characters were way more expensive and unavailable. With such second-tier characters as The Lone Ranger and Flash Gordon, the line failed to catch on.
This time they didn’t make that mistake. Captain Action Enterprises and Round2 Corp. were able to cut a deal with Marvel, and the first two uniform sets for the new Captain are two of the heavy hitters from the 1960s.
Hooray for Captain America! The per-eminent patriotic super-hero was among the first uniform sets offered for Captain Action in the 1960s, and now he’s back again. This is not a reproduction of the original set, but instead is an all-new uniform set, depicting Captain America in his classic comic-book uniform. This is not the semi-military garb from the movie, or the Nike-like uniform from the upcoming Avengers film. This is the real Captain America.
The one-piece uniform is excellent (save for the hook-and-loop closures). The shield is perfect, down to the leather (ish) straps. The boots look fantastic and go on the figure easily. The gloved hands snap onto the wrists when the hands are removed, and are a vast improvement over the vintage CA uniform set.
The only drawback is the belt, which is a little short. It’s a struggle to get it fastened. I hope they can make a running change and fix this, because it’s the only flaw in an otherwise excellent uniform set.
The full-head mask can be tricky to get onto Captain Action’s head, but that’s because it’s a tighter fit that avoids having the oversized-head look of the vintage figures. Once you make the effort to get the mask on the figure, it looks amazing.
The deluxe hobby edition of this set includes a bonus triangle shield, like Captain America used in his earliest stories in the 1940s, an “unmasked” Steve Rogers head mask, utility pouches, extra fist gloves, and a really cool bonus, “Build A Costume.” Each of the first six Captain Action Marvel Uniform sets will include pieces that will make up. an entire Hawkeye outfit. Hawkeye is one of the new heroes introduced to movie audiences in this summer’s Avengers movie. This set includes his boots.
The vintage Captain Action Spider-man uniform set is one of the most expensive collectible toys from the 1960s. Mint examples sell for over $15,000. Yet, it was far from a perfect set.
This new Captain Action uniform set is a near-perfect recreation of the classic comic book version of Spider-man. The tight-fitting mask, one-piece uniform, boots and gloved hands look like they came right out of a Steve Ditko or John Romita comic. The webbing on the uniform is perfect. The left hand is molded in the “Thwip” web-shooting position, and we even get the often-ignored under-arm webbing and a small camera. This is a complete home run.
The deluxe hobby edition of the Spider-man uniform set also adds in additional gloved hands, web-shooters, a cartridge belt with a camera, and a Peter Parker mask. The deluxe set also includes the quiver and arrows for Hawkeye.
You might be able to tell that your PopCulteer is more than a little ecstatic with this revival. Coming later in the summer will be the return of Captain Action’s nemesis, Dr. Evil (now with interchangeable brains) and uniform sets that will let you dress Captain Action as Thor and Dr. Evil as Thor’s evil brother, Loki. Before Christmas we can look forward to uniform sets for Iron Man and Captain America’s sworn enemy, The Red Skull. There’s also talk of Captain Action showing up in an updated uniform, and hints of a possible “Lady Action” figure in 2013.
The basic Captain Action and the Captain America and Spider-man uniform sets should be in Toys R Us this weekend. If you’d like the deluxe sets, you might want to try online retailers Cotswold Collectibles, Midtown Comics or Amok Time.
That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. Don’t forget to watch RFC 154, our James Bond/April Fools spectacular, and check PopCult for all our regular features.