Wednesday, September 13, 2006


In the spring of 1972, G.I. Joe was the dominant action figure on the market (I’ll discuss some of the also-rans in later entries). Then these commercials started popping up on my local UHF station during their cartoons/Little Rascals/Three Stooges sessions between 3 and 5 p.m. They showed an animated figure morphing into a fireman, motorcyclist, and any number of exciting people. Then it would shift from animation to a real life action figure dressed up in any number of outfits. He wasn’t limited to adventure, rescue stuff either. He could be a football player or a cowboy or a karate expert. As the jingle promised, “Think of what you want to be, then call on me!” (For complete information on Action Jackson, check out

The new action figure was Action Jackson. Once again, I was mesmerized by these commercials. Action Jackson promised even more than the Adventure Team could. In fact, the FCC felt the commercials promised too much and almost sunk the toy before it got off the launching pad. It seems the animated segments at the beginning of each commercial were against the regulations of the day regarding commercials aimed at children. I don’t know why adults back then thought kids were so stupid that they couldn’t distinguish between animation and a real toy. I guess it was the same people that were afraid kids would staple other kids’ nostrils together just because the Three Stooges did it. Okay, there was that one time, but….

Anyway, there was one aspect of the commercials that did mislead me, and that was with regard to Action Jackson’s size. Since the commercials featured few shots of the toy next to an average-sized boy, I assumed that Mr. Jackson was the same size as the other 1/6th scale figures that were on the market at the time. However, a trip to the local discount store revealed that he was only 8 inches tall. Not only that, his body and limbs were rather scrawny, and his face, which seemed rugged on screen, looked sallow and sickly. I was beginning to lose faith.

On the last day of second grade, my mom presented me with my own Action Jackson. We didn’t have graduation ceremonies for elementary school kids back then, but this toy was better than a fake diploma. Once I had ol’ Action in my chubby hands, I warmed up to him. In fact, I found his smaller size easier to handle than the bulky Joes, plus he had fewer points of articulation, so he didn’t become bent into weird positions during moments of action. Even his face grew on me.

Since Mego was about the cheapest toy company around at the time, poor Mr. Jackson came with nothing more than a blue jumpsuit and boots. I had to promptly nag my mother into buying me a couple of the numerous outfit sets available. I got the safari set (I was fond of the old Jungle Jim movies on t.v.) and the secret agent set (very similar to the G.I. Joe Mission to Spy Island set, but without the raft). I also finagled mom into getting me the strap-on helicopter. This was like James Bond’s jet pack in Thunderball, only it used a helicopter rotor rather than jets for lift. My memories of the summer of ’72 are completely wrapped around Action Jackson. I can remember playing safari in the tall grass of the backyard on hot afternoons, or secret agent while the Israeli Olympic team was taken hostage on t.v. I remember getting the Action Jackson amphi-cat for my birthday, right around the time that the Olympic Games resumed.

From what I’ve read, Action Jackson was not a huge seller for Mego, but from where I stood, he was the most remarkable toy since, well, G.I. Joe himself. For Christmas that year, I got more costumes and a black Action Jackson along with a blonde or red-headed one (not too sure about the hair color). Other figures were coming along, such as Big Jim and Mego’s super hero line, but I remained fairly loyal to Action Jackson.

Later on, I picked up Amigo, the figure offered as a Wards Exclusive. I was always a sucker for these “exclusives” offered by Wards and Sears in their Christmas catalogues. Usually, they were inferior, slapped-together pieces of junk just to be used as sales gimmicks. Amigo fit right into that category. Although the head and torso was roughly the same as a Jackson, his arms were bendy rubber and his legs were completely rigid. He also had two right feet! I think I threw him away after one of the rubber arms broke.

I said I was fairly loyal to Action Jackson from 1972 to 1974, but I wasn’t completely faithful. I still played with G.I. Joes, and I dabbled in the world of Big Jim. More on that next time…

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