At the risk of sounding too definitive or even reckless, Captain Action was my favourite superhero toy as a young boy. Some people, young people especially, are right now crying out:
"Who the HELL is Captain Action?"
Or other related and amusing questions, such as
"Is this another GI Joe?"
"Is he related to Action Jackson?"
"Wasn't there a toy named 'Big Jim'?"
These are all excellent questions. And the answers are as follows: hang on, I will explain who he is straight away; No, not exactly a GI Joe; No, no relation to Action Jackson; yes, there was a "Big Jim," but he is also no relation to the great Captain Action.
And as you can see, my Captain Action has lost his head.
(Though read on: that's not "Captain Action.")
To qualify this seemingly bizarre and outrageous statement, let me provide some background on the good captain.
Captain Action was a toy created by Ideal Toy Company in answer to Hasbro's wildly popular GI JOE. Joe was the first "modern action figure" for boys, a fully articulated twelve-inch toy and the first to be called an "action figure" rather than a doll. A perennial cash cow, the toy company could manufacture limitless accessories for the action figure, creating a business that could have new cool products each year around Christmas time.
Toy developer Stan Weston took his profits from the successful GI Joe franchise and formed his own licensing company. Ideal Toys came to him to compete with Hasbro in the ever-growing toy market.
The original idea for Captain Action is that his accessories would be different costumes, so he was essentially many heroes in one, able to change his guise to that of Spider-Man, the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet, among many others.
In 1967, the line expanded to include Action Boy and Dr. Evil as well as a vehicle called the Silver Streak among many other cool toys and accessories, such as the secret lair (HQ) carrying case seen in one of my photos.
As a kid, I wanted to own all the costumes, but my parents only had so much money. I do own the Silver Streak, which I will feature in a future post with my other CAPTAIN ACTION SHIRT. Yes, I have two Captain Action shirts as of the writing of this entry (and I could expand to three or more before I am done).
One of the things I love best about this blog is learning new things. I knew that Captain Action was one of the most beloved toys from that period and because of its limited market time (only produced and sold from 1966-1968), I assumed the figures were rare. As you can see, it appears that mine is NOT in good condition. Though, if you look closely, the figure in the suit is an African-American, headless GI Joe with the Kung-Fu grip and not the original Captain Action figure, who, incidentally, still has his head. Back to my subject, I love learning new things or finding out things I may have known long ago and have forgotten, such as that Ideal produced a line of girl action figures called the "Super Queens Posin' Dolls," featuring Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, and MERA, who is Aquaman's wife!! I did not know this fact. How awesome is that? I am a HUGE Aquaman fan. I have already mentioned how much I am loving the recent comic (such as in T-shirt #99: Moby and T-shirt #126: New York). And for those who like previews, an AQUAMAN post is on the horizon. BTW, Aquaman was popular around the same time (1968) due to a re-packaging of Aquaman's half of the 1967 Superman/Aquaman Adventure Hour.
In my research, I found videos of the old commercial on You Tube, which is one of the things I love about the Internet and how people can resurrect these old things that I never thought I would see again, not ever!
Have you wondered why you are seeing some of my childhood toys?
I had written that my blog was a survey of my "life in geek," but I did not understand what that meant until I started actually doing it, writing it.
But the blog is more than just a journal of "my life in geek," as I have written before it's a self-inventory, a self-analysis, and in reading my analysis, I am hoping that my readers will see reflections of their own analysis or potential analysis.
To explain the toys, I have to drill back into what Jung calls "The Process of Individuation." I am wrestling through the Shadow, the Anima, the Ego, and I am stripping off the layers of conscious and unconscious contents that mask the Self to get at the core. In this process, drilling through the layers, I have to strip out fears (my parents are growing older), phobias (I do not like change, and I actively resist change), purpose (what is the value of these toys?), beliefs (toys are not just for children), and ultimately end up with the results of this process: Have I made progress?
The first step simply explains the toys: where did they come from? Finding the toys was one of the reasons I started this blog in March. One reason for writing this blog was well explained in T-shirt #77, if you have not read it already, I encourage you to do so if you are interested in why I have devoted myself to this enterprise. Another impetus for deciding to do the blog surfaced when moving my parents from their home of the last 10 years to a new condo and thus dealing with a lot of my things that had been packed away since the move from the old house in 2003 and possibly since the late 1980s when toys were packed away to make room for videos in the family room. Culling through old boxes of toys to identify what to keep and what to give away/purge meant a re-discovery of old loves and old toys, such as explored in T-shirt #79: The Planet of the Apes, T-shirt #111: Atom Ant, and T-shirt#94: Batman TV show.
As I culled through old toys, the idea for this blog kept bubbling up from my unconscious as a useful self-inventory tool. As I sorted my many possessions, I had to keep asking myself: "what do I value?" Because this is the essential question about whether I can part with something. In some cases, it's an issue of need: "Do I need these articles on gender and society anymore?" or "Do I need this book as a handy reference?" But other questions were more slippery: "Can I bear to part with this?" And the trickier "why do I value this old toy so much?"
The question of value always seemed moot to me before. It seemed like a question to which I knew the answer. I have always held to the opinion that toys are not solely the province of children. I love my toys. I still love stuffed animals. I may not play with toys as I did when I was a child anymore, I may not carry around the stuffed animal and sleep with it cradled in my arms anymore, but the toys themselves have not lost their value, and my affection for them has shifted but not really diminished.
Also, I do not believe that a person must give up toys as a demonstration of "growing up." Becoming an adult is NOT about giving up childish things, and anyone who thinks that is being incredibly shallow. As far as I have been able to tell, being an adult is about responsibility and maturity. Maturity is about handling responsibility and handling relationships in a sophisticated way, in a way that is the product of years of self-analysis and growth. Being an adult is not about giving stuffed animals and the beloved GI Joe play set to Goodwill or selling them on e-Bay. But the world is full of judgmental people who feel otherwise, and I have always avoided digging into this question because I am afraid that the answer is that I do not want to grow up, and that I am holding on to my childhood like a petulant and stubborn toddler clutching someone else's toy that does not belong to me.
The issue of growing up along with the issue of parting with old toys and their value to my sense of self, my identity, are the issues that I grappled with as I sorted boxes of possessions that would go to my house and boxes that would go to my parents house, many of which still remain in need of sorting to determine their permanent home. For instance, there is the lodestone of my comic book collection, which numbers close to 10,000 some issues, but that's a story for another time.
But it's not just about me. I hope that if you read this blog, then, it's also about you. What do you see of yourself in what I am doing? The blog has given me an excuse to re-discover loves of mine both new and old. I am re-connecting with the toys, TV shows, comic books, books, movies, music, comic strips, and other popular culture artifacts that have shaped me into the person I am today. It's a process that I hope inspires others to undergo a similar reflection. What are your experiences? What are your treasures? What do you cherish?
The natural follow-up to those questions is the question of "why?" Why that experience? Why that treasure? Why do you cherish that thing?
The "why" question is the drill bit. There's always another "why" question that strips the layers, that goes deeper and deeper and deeper. In T-shirt #64: Embrace Uncertainty, I posted a great video by philosopher Timothy Freke called "The Absurd Notion of One." I highly recommend it if you did not watch it already. From another direction, the video targets the same subject I am targeting here in this essay. Freke uses the same drill bit: "Why?" "Why do I want that?"
The answers to the questions of the value and the "why" bring some scary stuff to the surface of the reflecting pool, and my success at grappling with these demons will be the difference between my success or failure (or my rationalized perception of success as I fool myself smugly into thinking that I am making real progress) with the process of individuation. As I sorted through my possessions in order to help my parents move, I realized that one of the things I was really struggling with was their advancing age and how things were changing. Now that I am married and own a home of my own, with my own kids (step-kids), my relationship with my parents is changing. As I see my parents age, I am faced with the realization that they will not be around forever, and I do not like this eventuality. So, in part, this is all about change.
I do not like change. I have always resisted change. I have always been afraid of change. When I graduated from Kalamazoo College, my girlfriend of that time urged me to move with her to New York. We had just met there a few months before and had held down internships, which could have become full time jobs if we had shown our value to those employers. I could have taken off the day after graduation, but I was afraid. All of a sudden, the school of which I had been so critical was my haven. I did not want to leave. I took a crappy job with the summer theatre just to continue to live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and delay leaving the school I suddenly realized that I loved.
There have been other times in my life when I have resisted change. Had I been bolder, had I not been counting on the hints of promises of full time employment, I might not have spent ten years toiling away for poverty level pay teaching a Media Studies class, which I built into one of the most popular general education courses at the university. Maybe I would have made a change. But I was afraid. I was comfortable.
And I made rationalizations to avoid changes because the world changed around me. In 2000, my mother contracted bacterial meningitis that mostly paralyzed her and left her in need of total care. Rationalizing that my parents needed me to help manage her care helped me to avoid leaving, avoid change, and so I tried to do everything I could to keep our home the way she had kept it, the way it was throughout my childhood: unchanged. I developed many OCD tendencies to cope with the change that had happened to my mother, happened in our lives, which I did not want to face head on, that I wanted to deny.
But my efforts were futile. I could not avoid change. Change just happens. And more changes were to follow those of the eventful year of 2000. Starting in 2008, in a period of two years, everything changed. I lost my job at WMU. I met Liesel. We decided to get married. After trying to find a job out of teaching, I went back to teaching. After another two years, we bought a house. Within a span of three years, I had changed jobs, tripled more work load, married the love of my life, become a step father to two awesome teenagers, and become a home owner. For someone who does not like change, who actively resists change, that was A LOT OF CHANGE, and I had to devote myself tirelessly to making a transition.
I find change easier now. I resist it less. In part, I am more open to change because I have realized why I resist it, why I have avoided it, and have drilled to many of the roots of those feelings. And yet, my issues with change are strongly in force with my feelings about my old toys and my parents and my childhood, which brings my subject around again to this blog. Part of the impetus to write the blog came from the psychological work I have been doing to feel comfortable with change, and a good result of the blog itself is the self-examination I have performed here. If you read all of this, I thank you. I am honored to have your attention. I hope that my experience can inform your own experience.
I cannot escape change. My life changes, has changed, will change. The aging of my parents and the eventuality of life without my parents are things I cannot control. I cannot stop time. I cannot dial time backwards. And if I am psychologically healthy, I should not want to do either of those things. I can control the place of my childhood things in my adult life and question their value. I can also write, as I have here, about the reasons to start this blog and as I did in T-shirt #77, as I mentioned before. My work in this part of the Process of Individuation is ongoing and not yet complete. But I feel better having committed some of these thoughts and ideas to text. Thanks for reading.
CAPTAIN ACTION LIVES ON!
Apparently, a Captain Action animated series is in the works. San Diego Comic Con took place last week, during which, for the second or third year in a row, Captain Action Enterprises hosted a panel.
There's a book by Michael Eury and published by TwoMorrows called Captain Action: The Original Super Hero Action Figure, which I have somewhere and cannot locate for this entry (which gives me another reason for the other entry on my other T-shirt).
I knew toys had been re-released in special collector's editions (see photo farther above) as I want to obtain these toys, but I did not know about Captain Action Enterprises and the possible animated series. Apparently, this T-shirt was produced by Captain Action Enterprises to promote its work and its future TV show. I thought it was a product of Moonstone Publishing who has been producing Captain Action comics since 2008 (for a full explanation see the CAPTAIN ACTION WIKIPEDIA).
I quite liked the new Captain Action comics from Moonstone, especially because of some great art by Paul Gulacy, and some smart writing by Fabian Nicieza, whose work I have followed avidly on comics like The New Warriors and Thunderbolts.
I love the 1960s spy flavor and Steranko-themed covers from Moonstone. For more on Steranko, see T-shirt #53: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and T-shirt #106: Captain America.
There's also been a much needed addition to the cast via Moonstone with LADY ACTION, who works for the British branch of the A.C.T.I.O.N. directorate.
If you do some searching, you will find some intriguing Cos Play for Lady Action (not crazy about this name).
The image of Lady Action below comes from downthetubes.net from the comic that was created by Tony Lee and Jake Minor with this cover art by Gulacy. I am also throwing in an image from the full poster by Gulacy from which the image directly below is cropped in the cover gallery to follow.
Paul Gulacy, who is a great artist, can be found at GULACY.
Some links to current Captain Action activity:
CAPTAIN ACTION SITE
FOREVER FUN - CAPTAIN ACTION
DIAL-B FOR BLOG PART ONE: CAPTAIN MAGIC AND GI JOE
DIAL-B FOR BLOG PART TWO: CAPTAIN ACTION
COVER GALLERY FOR CAPTAIN ACTION COMIC - DC
Covers from the short DC comics run of Captain Action issues. The changing costume schtick couldn't work as Ideal produced costumes for both DC and Marvel Comics heroes. So Captain Action found ancient coins that gave him powers. Though not all toy tie-ins were worthy as comics in the field, this was the first tie-in by DC, and it featured some of the top talent in the business. The first issue is illustrated by the great Wally Wood and the other issues by one of my top five artists, GIL KANE (as described in T-shirt #83). The issues, especially the covers, are just gorgeous. Here's a cover gallery (with the first page of issue one thrown in for good measure). These are not scans of my issues, however. My copy of Captain Action #1 (if memory serves) is in better condition. I am adding a Lady Action poster at the end of the gallery just because. :-) ENJOY!
- chris tower - 1307.27 - 9:04