Sunday, February 1, 2009

Silver & Beyond: Captain Action

I am sadly just slightly too young to have enjoyed the good Captain during his hey-day of the mid-to-late 1960s, but was familiar with the toy from the numerous ads that ran inside Silver Age comics I would have the luck to happen across in my youth...

A little bit of history, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Captain Action was an action figure, from 1966, equipped with a wardrobe of costumes allowing him to become Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, Aquaman, the Phantom, The Lone Ranger (and Tonto), Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Sgt. Fury, Steve Canyon, and the Green Hornet. Captain Action was the Ideal Toy Company's answer to Hasbro's GI Joe — although the protagonist dolls of both toy lines were created and designed by the same toy- and idea-man, Stan Weston.

The figure itself had a rather sad and worried expression, a strange shaped head (so the masks of the various heroes would better stay in place over it) and a more detailed musculature than G.I. Joe's. The original Ideal base for the line was Captain Action in his blue and black uniform, with lightning sword and ray gun included in the box. Separate Superman, Batman, Lone Ranger, The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Captain America, Sgt Fury, Steve Canyon and Aquaman costumes (with accessories) were available; the next wave (1967) added Spider-Man, Buck Rogers, the Green Hornet, and Tonto, with a Blue Lone Ranger variation (matching the still popular Clayton Moore series) and collectible flicker rings in each box.

In 1967, Captain Action proved popular enough to expand the line, adding a partner, Action Boy, and an enemy, Dr. Evil, a blue skinned alien with large bug eyes and an exposed brain, wearing a modified Nehru suit and sandals. Also, a vehicle called the "Silver Streak," a two foot long amphibian car with missile launchers, was added, large enough for both the Captain and sidekick. Several sets meant to be used by Captain Action in his Captain Action identity was designed for the character as well: a four foot working parachute, a jet mortar, a jet pack, weapons arsenal, and several other secret weapons to add to the Action Cave, which the special box for the Streak could convert into. Both the Captain and Dr. Evil received "secret lairs," which doubled as carrying cases for the figures, but which are now quite rare. All this was an attempt by Ideal to build the "Action" line and focus on Captain Action as a hero in his own right, rather than just a base figure for other heroes.

National Periodical (DC Comics) licensed the character from Ideal and published five issues of Captain Action in 1968, illustrated at first by Wally Wood, then by Gil Kane. The scripts were by Jim Shooter and Gil Kane. The comic book story line had little to do with the toy concept, as some of the heroes licenced for use as costumes for the Captain Action doll were not owned and published by DC (Spider-Man and Captain America for example, were Marvel Comics characters), therefore the ability to change into different characters was entirely dropped. Instead, Captain Action came to possess magical coins, each of which provided him with a spectacular power from a Greek, Roman, or Norse mythological god (in a similar way to the original Captain Marvel). Captain Action was given a real name of his own, Clive Arno, and was identified as a widowed archaeologist and museum curator, and was described as having located "the coins of power" in a buried city. Action Boy's comic-book alter-ego was Carl Arno, son of Clive. Dr. Evil was given a back-story too, having been Captain Action's father-in-law, then going mad in a mishap.

I actually really dig the DC series alot, simply for the great Wally Wood artwork the earlier issues contain. Plus, the later issues are from a period at which Gil Kane was at the height of his DC career in my opinion.

Anyways, also from Wikipedia:

After 30 years off the market, Captain Action was revived in 1998, by retro toy company Playing Mantis. Captain Action as the Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon (with a new figure, Ming the Merciless), Green Hornet, and new to the line Kato returned along with Dr Evil. The line met with lackluster sales, and a retooling had the costumes issued separately, along with a revived Action Boy (now called Kid Action, due to Hasbro owning the rights to the name Action Man) and the addition of retro long box packaging. It made little difference in the general sales and the line was discontinued. The second coming of Captain Action ended in 2000.

I actually ran across and purchased one of the Kay-Bee exclusive Playing Mantis Green Hornet sets at a Toy Liquidators location that used to be in the area for around 10 bucks a few years back (Man, I really miss that store), and then about a year or so later lucked into one of the Kato outfits at a local Odd Lots for around 3 bucks (pictured above)...I'd love to get the Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless sets, which would be f***ing awesome.

In recent times, publisher Moonstone Graphics has acquired the Captain Action license from the current owners, CA Enterprises (whose website:, is actually kinda fun) and have begun producing new Captain Action comic book material.

I love the above Paul Gulacy (one of my favorite artists as a kid on Marvel's Master of Kung Fu) cover for the preview issue of the new book, Captain Action #0. The new series avoids any of the licensed "disguises" Cap used to use, instead replacing them with generic versions of folks like Superman and such, and it's tone seem to be a darker one, involving the now adult Action Boy taking up the mantle, but so far it's been a fairly interesting read.

Download Link (Hosted by Rapidshare & Mediafire)
Captain Action (DC Comics 1967) #1-#5 RAR file

Captain Action #0 (Moonstone) CBR file

1 comment:

Rick said...

Cool entry. As I kid I was getting much of the Captain Action stuff. I had almost all of the costumes, etc. Most of it got destroyed through the year and then on a move I sold the surviving stuff with my mass of GI JOE toys. Thanks for the memories and I had forgotten about the change rings. ;) Heck your who blog/site rocks big time!