Action Man

Time for a melancholy remembrance.

When I was growing up, I had some toys called Action Man, made by a company called Palitoy.

Action Man was fantastic. England's original action figure, and over the years a multitude of outfits were produced. My favourite was the SAS trooper, but I also had the Space Ranger Captain, a standard "soldier" figure, and, yes, no prejudice here, a WWII German army officer's uniform.

I even had young adult novels about Action Man.

Action Man changed over the years. His hands went from moulded plastic to rubber, so he could grip his stuff. He gained "eagle eyes", movable eyes operated by a lever on the back of his head, and he later gained the ability to speak, albeit via a pull-string operated device with around six or so phrases. He had different hair - all regulation military cut - and sometimes a beard, but always the same scar on his cheek.

Then came Action Force.

Action Force was simply a smaller scale Action Man. A lot of his outfits were represented, including that SAS trooper, which I then had in both scales. I had the Para, the Commando, the Frogman, the Ground Assault (although, one of my friends stole that one), the Mission Pilot, and the SAS Frogman. I also had the AF-3, a jeep with a roof that became a boat.

Later, Action Force was split into four forces. Q-Force, SAS force, Z-Force, and Space Force, and now we had an enemy force, the Red Shadows, led by the infamous Baron Ironblood.

And, it was fun. Their adventures were immortalised in a weekly comic called "Battle Action Force" (which was really an older comic - Battle - with a few Action Force stories thrown in).

Then, it all went to shit.

Action Force changed. Each figure had his own name. Multi-jointed figures who were previously available were repackaged and rebranded. The driver of the SAS jeep was renamed from "Stalker" to "Snake Eyes" and sold on his own. Quarrel, the rider of the Z-Force motorcycle was branded "Scarlett". Hunter was evicted from the Wolverine and replaced by some dude called "Ton-Up". Red Jackal was pulled from his Hyena and, against his will and through a lame storyline, forced to become Destro.

And Baron Ironblood went though the world's most ridiculous transformation to become "Cobra Commander".

Shortly thereafter, Action Force became G.I. Joe: The Action Force, and it wasn't long before they dropped the Action Force bit altogether.

And, like Opal Fruits and Marathon bars, Action Force were swallowed up and destroyed by American marketing gurus determined to rebrand the world in their image.

And just look at what they've done to Action Man!

Still, it's good to see some out there are keeping the faith.

Long live Action Man, and his little brothers, the Action Force. The kids today may not know your glory, but you helped me through my childhood and I'll never forget you.


terri said...

Wow! I had no idea that GI Joe had such an illustrious history!

Amazing how "market improvement and repackaging" of toys kills the fun.


Matt said...

My friend, Action Force ruled my life after Star Wars. The Z-Force and SAS days were the best before Cobra took over. Battle Action Force was an awesome comic too.
If only the UK Action Force toys were as well moddled and articulated as the US counterparts. The More poseable figures that came with the vehicles like Steeler, Quarrel, Hunter, Stalker, Jammer, Gaucho (my personal faves), Red Laser and Red Jackal were all brought into the UK range from GI Joe in the US, and re-painted as different characters. Red-Laser = Cobra Commander, Hunter = Cobra Officer etc. Shame really. I just wish Hasbro in the States would re-make Z-Force and SAS et al, and produce all the classic vehicles and characters as part of sub groups of GI Joe, called simply "Action Force". I'm speaking from a nostalgic collector viewpoint here of course. Not that I've bought any of th old stuff, or even all of the new anniversary toys being released now, it'd be far too expensive! It's just a shame to see kids of today never getting to experience what we did in the 80s.

Long live Red Shadows and The Enemy! Long live Action Force!


Jim said...

I feel your pain, man. The Americanisation of Action Force was a bitter pill for any 10 year old to swallow.

I run the Action Force site now, do please pop along to the forum and talk some bollocks.

Did you see the cameo by the Black Major in the new GI Joe comic?