The PopCult Toybox
Action Man is the British version of GI Joe. Hasbro debuted GI Joe as the first-ever action figure (seriously, they invented the term just for him–if someone says different, they don’t know what they’re talking about) in 1964, and America’s Movable Fighting Man proved to be so popular that Hasbro was approached by toy companies in other countries who wanted to license the hit toy.
In the UK, Palitoy secured the license, and changed the name to “Action Man,” mainly because “GI” was a meaningless term in the British Military. Also, having “action” in the name reinforced that he was an action figure, and not a doll.
There is a ton of history that comes after that, but for the purposes of this review, we’re going to jump forward about fifty years. In 2014 GI Joe hit his 50th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, Hasbro did almost nothing. They did slap an anniversary logo on some 3 3/4″ GI Joe toys that had been delayed from the previous year, but outside of offerings from the Official GI Joe Club, there was no 12″ GI Joe product.
However, two years later, when the 50th Anniversary of Action Man came about, a small company called Art + Science International Ltd licensed the rights to produce 50th Anniversary Action Man sets from Hasbro (who bought Palitoy back in the 1980s).
These were well-done sets that included nearly exact replicas of the original figures with great accessories and they were priced with the adult collector in mind.
After having a decent level of success with the collectors figures, last year Art + Science decided to shoot for a more mainstream, children’s market, and came up with a new, less expensive, body design. Apparently inspired by Marvel’s Titan Hero series of figures, of which I am on record as not being particulary fond, the new Action Figures are aimed at ages 3 and up.
These figures were released in the UK in time for Christmas last year, but I just now got my hands on one of the basic models (more deluxe sets have weapons, but I believe they have the same body).
These may well work as toys for kids, but I think even kids would be disappointed. The figure itself sports a great headsculpt–a perfect likeness of the GI Joe/Action Man head that we all know and love. Unfortunately that head is poised atop a body that can best be described as that of a knockoff of Ken, Barbie’s boyfriend.
There are eight points of articulation, and half of of those points have limited range. The nead has the neck built-in, and plugs into the body, which makes it incompatible with most other action figure bodies without serious modifications.
The figure comes with no weapons. The uniforms have no real pockets and close with velcro-type closures. You get a shirt, pants, boots (molded with a distinction between left and right), very cool scale dog tags and a nice beret. The basic model has no other weapons or accessories. This is a budget-line action figure.
We’ll address the positives: The headsculpt is perfect. This is GI Joe (or Action Man), down to the scar. The scale dog tags (seen right) are terrific, although I can’t figure out how they got around the choking hazard standard to get this marked safe for ages 3 and up. The beret is very nice, pliable vinyl-like material. The boots are well-sculpted military boots, and seem to be big enough, and soft enough to use with a vintage 12″ action figure.
There are plenty of negatives too: The body sucks. Articulation is poor. The head can twist, at the base of the neck, but can’t move up or down.
The hip joints are very loose. The legs are neoprene and the plastic click-joints within can only hold three positions. Ankles are not jointed. The waist joint is a simple swivel.
The arms are way too short. The hands will not grip anything and are posed open, like he’s waving. There is no articulation in the arms, other than the ball-and-socket joint where they attach to the torso. Elbows do not bend and the wrists are not articulated.
All told, there are eight points of articulation, but that’s being a bit generous.
The uniform is cloth, and not some kind of plastic or vinyl, but the velcro-type closures are clunky (and white on the uniform I got, which makes them more visible). The pants may be useful on other figures as part of a kitbash, but the shirt is hampered by being tailored to fit the unnaturally short arms and might look a tad doofussy on another figure.
At the moment, I’ve only seen these at Amazon. None showed up at any of the toy shows I’ve been to this year, and even ordering from Amazon, they ship from the UK. You’re looking at spending twenty to thirty bucks a pop, depending on the vendor and how elaborate the set you choose is.
I went with the basic desert-camo guy, and he ran just over twenty bucks.
That’s not a great value for the money. The figure, as sold, is not intended for collectors, and once he’s out of the box, he does not display well at all. My guess is that, if these were marketed in the US, at mainstream retailers, they’d sell for ten or twelve bucks, just like most 12″ figures do now.
At that price, these have some good kitbash/custom fodder value. I’ve just popped the head off the body as I’m typing this, and I’m going to extend the neck with Apoxie and see how he works on a Marx 12″ action figure. I’ll find a use for the uniform, boots and beret, and those dog tags will look sharp on a detailed military kitbash.
If Hasbro allows these to be marketed in the US (which does not look to be likely) and the price is what I’m guessing, customizing and kitbashing would be the use for these. They’d be cheap enough to buy in bulk just to get the headsculpts.
However, at the current prices as imports, it’s a bit much to pay for a figure that can’t be enjoyed as-is, out of the box.