Remembering Action Man

And what about Action Man?  I admit that I had an Action Man/Men, and my memory seems to associate it with my later years in primary school and possibly the first year of high school, which puts it about 1973 – 1976. Action Man in the UK was a Palitoy product but looking at the net what I saw was not what seemed to be available in SA back then (in my experience that is). He is however not to be confused with GI-Joe and was more UK orientated than American.   Mine was a blonde dude with a click in legs and arms as well as a squish-able blonde head, and, if he sat down his legs would spread due to the hip/pelvis design of the figurine. I named him “Dusty Miller”, a name that I got from one of my beloved warbooks. I also recall having a 2nd dark haired dude called Nobby Clark and somewhere I acquired a proper branded Action Man with flock hair and strange hands, or should I say hand? he had lost his in a skirmish and I replaced it with a hook. Because he was jointed he was very poseable but that fussy hair and chiselled features did nothing for me. 

Anyhow, I had quite an arsenal for them, and I was adamant that Dusty Miller was a member of the Royal Navy with the rank of Lieutenant Commander which meant he drove ships instead of walked patrols.  I do recall having a Stirling smg as well as a BAR, a Browning 7.62 mg, Lee Enfield and an M16. Uniform-wise he mostly wore an  orange overall and brown boots and was draped with assorted accessories with strange hats that were always getting lost. Towards the end of his service I made him a landing craft and he used to ride on board a single roller skate that I had acquired along the line.

Yes, there were many adventures and battles that were fought in the depths of the front garden, and bedroom. One of my primary school friends also had a collection so we would join forces and refight the war on many occasions. His sister was quite puzzled by this and really wanted to join in although Barbie did not quite fit into our military themed adventuring. I think that when I went to high school the realisation was that I was outgrowing this small squad, and they ended up being given to the daughter of my father’s boss. She was fascinated by them, and I suspect they ended up being unwitting participants in tea parties with Mrs Nesbitt and then consigned to that great big dustbin in the sky as she too grew up. 

My own military service was not too far away though and many of those childhood bubbles were burst once I discovered that it was not as fun as we all thought it would be. Nobody had mentioned that we would end up running around trees and being on the receiving end of  the sadistic power trips of our “instructors”. I also ended up carrying those 7.62 Browning machine guns and they were much heavier that I expected. Thankfully I did not carry an M16, although the good old FN would feature in my first year of military service. 

FN Assault Rifle for Action Man

Action Man then fell off my viewscreen until recently when I was watching a doccie about him and other action figures,  and naturally my interest was piqued. Had he been retired? shot at dawn? committed suicide from the effects of PTSD? so many questions.  A quick search of the net revealed much information, and I recommend that you have a look at the official Action Man website. as well as Actionmanhq.co.uk.    Some reading between the lines does reveal that Dusty may have been an el cheapo knockoff, but that did not detract from the fun that was possible with enough equipment and a vivid imagination. In line with this sudden burgeoning interest I went looking for a figurine to add to my dolls and anime figurine collection, and I was able to acquire a 50th anniversary “Action Sailor Deluxe” figurine dated 2018.  He is way more robust that Dusty and the gang, although I will not be setting up battlefields or going crazy once again.   For some reason he reminds me of the Lone sailor Memorial in San Francisco,  and his duffle bag has a walkie talkie, binoculars and a headset in it.  He is really a collectable, and will remain as such. His markings are “Hasbro 2018”

The Action Man brand is owned by Hasbro and has really become a footnote in toy history, although there appears to be a very big 2nd hand vintage market judging by the prices of figures out there.  My current unnamed ordinary seaman will remain unnamed unless I get some sort of inspiration. He really should get that scar seen to though.

Dude number 2 has arrived and his markings are also “Hasbro, 2018”. He appears to be wearing some sort of desert camo and has no hat (waar is jou donderse hoof-deksel troep??).  actionman.com provides the following information:  “November 2018 Art & Science International began to introduce six new budget Action Man products aimed at the 3+ age group. The safety tested ‘Kids’ ranges include new bodies with fewer points of articulation, but the familiar iconic head with trademark scar, new scale dog tags and all-new contemporary uniforms of a Soldier, Pilot and Sailor. “

The one thing that I was unable to remember was how we actually played with these dudes. Did we just randomly grab a guy and throw him into a imaginary battle? were there missions that they completed (attack the local bad guys)? In all likelihood we made up these things as we went along. As children we rarely sat down and planned what we were playing, it was mostly spontaneous and we were liable to drop one toy and grab another, or incorporate them all into one grand game?      

I am not finished with Action Man yet, I need to see what else I can lay my hands on, and at this rate I may just be able to figure out a story or something.  I have learnt that depending on where you lived the local equivalent may have been called Gelperman, Banjo Man, Tommy Gunn, GI-Joe and possibly a few others. Was there an Afrikaans equivalent called “Aksie Man” or “Aksie Oom?”. There are also a very good looking “action figures” at  dragon-models.com. 

DRW 2022. Created 04/04/2022. HASBRO and its logo and ACTION MAN and its logo and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro

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