Action Man was another product from America, where he was launched under the name GI Joe by Hasbro in 1964. The backlash against the Vietnam War at the end of the decade led to that character being discontinued.
The 1/6th scale Action Man “doll” hit the stores in 1966 (manufactured under license by Palitoy) and if you had one as a kid, you will now be in your 40’s to mid 50’s . . . but it’s very likely that you, like every young owner of an Action Man, also simulated copulation between their scar-cheeked soldier boy-doll and their sisters’ Barbie.
I am reluctant to call my old friend a “doll” because as a kid I would not have been seen dead playing with a doll and yet had so many wonderful adventures with my collection of Action Man figures.
As a kid I coveted the accessories the rich kids had (including a scale Scorpion tank). I couldn’t afford them so I used to make jeeps out of cardboard boxes and tanks out of biscuit tins – The TV show Blue Peter often featured segments on making your own Action Man accessories.
I think one of the reasons I have such a fertile imagination today is due in no small part to my fantasy game play as a kid (in which Action Man took a starring role). I remember the best Action Man store around in about 1970 was in Mexborough in South Yorkshire.
Every birthday (or Christmas) I would make a pilgrimage to the shop to point out to my dad which uniforms and accessories I hoped “Santa” would bring me. Funny thing, psychic old Santa usually brought exactly the right gear!
Action Man is still around, but there are really big differences between the early and the recent Action Man figures. The recent figures have larger heads with ‘real’ hair and have gripping hands. Recent versions also wear blue trunks where the early figures are naked under their clothes (even though they never had any discernible genitals!)
I am a bit of an Action Man purist I’m afraid – In the late 60s and early 70s most of the Action Man gear actually also existed in the real military world. These days the legacy of Star Wars looms large!.
Variations on a theme included Action Man with “real” hair; Action Man with BLUE eyes (aha – Nazi Action Man?!), “Eagle Eye” Action Man and Talking Action Man.