The 1/6th scale Action Man was another product imported to the UK from America, where he was launched under the name GI Joe by Hasbro in 1964.
Action Man hit British stores in 1966, manufactured under license by Palitoy. At first, the boxed figure was either a soldier, a sailor or a pilot (although a range of alternative uniforms and weapons packs were sold separately).
In 1968, a fourth boxed figure was added to the range – a Talking Commander with a pull cord and 5 random spoken phrases. All the figures sold in their thousands.
Action Man’s appearance changed noticeably by 1970 with the introduction of flocked hair. There were also updated uniforms for the boxed figures – a new soldier uniform (this time with a machine gun) and a new updated sailor outfit.
There were also new non-military roles for Action Man – the Sportsman and the Adventurer – and a whole range of new accessories including 1969’s base camp set (including an orange tent, a Union Jack flag and assorted bits of mountaineering kit) and the Polar Explorer accessories, including skis, snowshoes and a husky-pulled sled.
In 1973, Action Man’s hands changed from hard, rigid plastic to softer, rubber “gripping” hands, and four new boxed figures and outfits were released.
A major change came in 1977 with the introduction of the famous “Eagle Eyes” Action Man, and 1979 saw the final major change to the vintage action figure – the addition of blue moulded trunks and a moe “dynamic physique”.
The sailor was retired by 1978 and the Adventurer in 1980 as the collection moved more towards Space and a new Sci-Fi focussed direction. The legacy of Star Wars loomed large . . .