Action Man (franchise)
|The name or term "Action Man" refers to more than one character or idea. For a list of other meanings, see Action Man (disambiguation).|
Action Man is a long-running toy franchise created by Palitoy, and later acquired by Hasbro, centred around the titular 12'' action figure and character. Since 2016, the Action Man character and franchise has been appearing in comics by IDW Publishing.
Action Man was created by Palitoy, a British toy company, in 1966 as a licensed version of Hasbro's G.I. Joe figure, renamed due to the American term "G.I." being unknown in the UK. Originally just an exact copy of the American figure, Action Man would later introduce British Army outfits and innovations like flocked hair and rubber "gripping hands" — aka the "kung-fu grip" — which would be adopted by Hasbro when they realised the benefits of using progressive improvements to drive sales. The various 12-inch Action Man figures were sold over the next 18 years, with sports, adventure and ceremonial outfits in addition to the military costumes, until 1984 when — much like his American counterpart — Action Man was replaced with a line of smaller figures with more distinct personalities and a modernized, science fiction flavor: Action Force.
After Palitoy's acquisition by Hasbro and a few nostalgia-fuelled reappearances in the early 1990s, the 12-inch Action Man toy made a resurgence in 1996 as a non-military "extreme sports" action-adventurer in bright orange shorts, aided by an assortment of gimmicks and fighting cartoon baddies like Dr. X. The new direction was successful enough to spawn a trilogy of direct-to-video movies, several video games, and two separate TV shows by DIC Entertainment (who also produced the latter seasons of the G.I. Joe cartoon) and Mainframe Entertainment (who also produced the Transformers Beast Wars and Beast Machines cartoons)... neither of which could be shown on UK television due to laws surrounding advertising to children. Whoops. Eventually, though, the new Action Man went the way of its predecessor, and was replaced by its smaller-scale spinoff, the totally radical A.T.O.M.: Alpha Teens on Machines (though it was only given the Action Man prefix in the UK, Australia and Latin America).
Since then, there have only been a few attempts to do anything more with Action Man — the Mainframe "Alex Mann" version of the character showed up in an early draft of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra; a solo film's been planned since 2012, but nothing's been heard of it since then; and a new interpretation of the character as an elusive, memory-inheriting secret agent showed up in the NYCC 2011 Unit:E comic. In 2016, though, the franchise was revived for IDW's Revolution event, with author John Barber reimagining the character as a Bond-esque superspy in a way intended to tie back to the military origins of the toy; however, all eras of Action Man are being pulled from, with Dr. X featuring as the series' main villain. The revival has been done, in part, for 50th anniversary celebrations of Action Man's debut; other elements include a set of re-released classic figures and a classic toy being sent into space. (His capsule disintegrated and he got lost.)