Since its release the Action Man toy has been a firm favorite for young boys. This action figure provides great memories of childhood for men up to the age of fifty and is still enjoyed by children growing up today. This toy has really managed to capture the imagination of young minds and almost from the beginning there was a wide selection of accessories to keep the toy fresh.
The first Action Man toy came onto the UK market in 1966. It was based on an American action figure called GI Joe; this had been released two years earlier. Both of these toys had been put out on the market in response to the success of the Barbie doll. The toy industry was completely bowled over by the success of Barbie and the logic was that if it could for girls why not boys? This proved to be a correct assumption, but it is doubtful that anyone could have predicted the lasting success of Action men.
When it first appeared on the market, Action Man was very similar to the American GI Joe action figure. After a couple of years though this all changed and it took on a peculiarly British feel. During the first few years the focus was on Second World War and so the uniforms and other accessories available reflected this. As time went on though the doll began dealing with other themes. In the sixties there was also a lot more focus on providing action figures to represent the different branches of the armed services; this meant that you had an army, navy, and air force figure. Later this emphasis on armed service branches became less emphasized.
In 1993 Action Man was reinvented with a change in direction from military to more adventure themes. As well as a change in focus there was also a change in what children found when they opened the packaging of the toy. Instead of having an action figure that you could later accessorize with different clothes and equipment the box contained everything that was needed for one mission. An example of this would be the Action Man Snowboard Raider which comes with clothes, snowboard, chainsaw, and everything needed for this theme.
In 2006 the original Action Man was reintroduced to celebrate the toys 40th anniversary. This brought back many memories for fathers buying these for their sons; even the packaging was the same as the original. As well as regular action man there has also been some successful spin offs such as A.T.O.M. that was released in conjunction with a cartoon series of the same name.
Action Man was released by Palitoy under license from Hasbro. The company has had to deal with quite a bit of competition from others trying to copy the success of Action Man. These were usually poor imitations, and this explains why the company continues to be successful right up until today.In the early years Tommy Gunn was able to compete successfully with action man, but this toy had falling off the radar by the late sixties.
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Although there were later attempts to depict the Action Man storyline in comics, movies, and a TV series, in the beginning the story was often left to the child’s imagination. The first models released in 1966 were almost identical to the American GI Joe. The box that these figures came in was covered in pictures which could be used to create a storyline. An example of this is the Action Sailor figure that can be seen in scuba gear holding a block of dynamite with a knife. As the series progressed there would be hints available as to each figure’s background but no full background.
Many of the early models of action men would allow children to act storylines from long before their birth; there was a lot of focus on World War Two. By the end of sixties though, the series began to deal with things like space travel. As well as the pictures on the boxes there were also leaflets inside most boxes which gave background information about the military divisions that the Action Man belonged to.
In 1995 a lot more story was provided for Action Man with the arrival of the TV series ‘Action Man; Let’s go Extreme’. This show portrayed Action Man as a cross between 007 James Bond and Indiana Jones. The earlier military theme had moved on to more one of adventure. In this series the arch enemy of Action Man was the evil Dr X.
Another TV series in 2000 brought more mischief from Dr X. This series was called, ‘Action Man, The Greatest Hero of Them All’. The storyline here focuses on Alex Mann who is an extreme sports athlete who also has special mental powers that mean he can see things that might happen in the future. Alex Mann’s alter ego is Action Man and when Dr X attempts to take over the world and replace the world’s population with his own manufactured neo-humanity. Dr X loses in the end when his creations rebel against him and Alex and his friend Brandon gain the upper hand.
The Good Guys
The Action Man series have brought many heroes to the lives of young boys, but for much of that time the exact character of the Action Man was left to young imaginations. During the sixties the most that was known about his identity was his military background and the there would also be some information about his battalion. Some Action Men did come with little pamphlets which gave a bit more information, but generally there was little to go on. It wasn’t until the arrival of 1990s TV series Action Man that his fans really got to know a bit about him.
In the Action Man TV series we find that his real name is Matthew Exler and that he is the adopted son of a famous rocket scientist who also has contacts with a government agency called the ISD.Dr. Exler raises his step son and blood son Dorian to be very well educated. Unfortunately for Dr. Exler his real son Dorian is actually a psychopath who eventually kills his parent’s and makes it look as if Matthew was the cause. Matthew has inherited a lot of money from his step-parent’s death but he is sent away to live in Europe.
Matthew goes through a period of self-loathing and he copes with this by becoming a bit of a playboy. He is not happy though so turns to a meditation master to help him cope with all his internal demons. During one meditation session he remembers his parent’s death more fully and he realizes that it was actually Dorian who caused the fire. Matthew returns to America from a sojourn in the Himalayan Mountains to find his brother and bring him to justice.
While Matthew is trying to infiltrate his brother’s organization he crosses the path of Action Force.He later joins forces with Action Force; together they do battle against Dr. X who was once known as Dorian Exler.
The Bad Guys
Dr X is Action Man’s main enemy. His real name is Dorian Excler and he is Action Man’s step-brother. They grew up together until Dorian killed their parents in a fire and blamed it all on the Action Man character, Matthew Excler. Dorian is a psychopath and for years he left Matthew convinced that he had indeed been responsible for their parent’s death. It wasn’t until Matthew went to the Himalayan Mountains and experienced deep meditation that he realized it was Dorain who killed his parents. Dorian Excler becomes increasing evil and he eventually becomes Dr X whose mission it is to take over the whole world.