In this edition we will take a look at some more of the most memorable action figures from my childhood years. (You can find part one here, and my original post about playing “G.I.S.” with my brother here.)
Lex Luthor (1984)
My first ever impression of Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor was via this figure of him wearing his green war suit. I did not know at the time that this armor was designed specifically to give Lex a cool action figure. It was a look that the character would sport only briefly; by 1986 the “Post Crisis” Lex wore a business suit and became more of a corrupt tycoon type of character. Still, in the back of my mind I always envisioned Lex having this armor in storage or something, ready to bust it out if he really needed to. The war suit has appeared in the comics a handful of times over the years, and even finally made it into live action when Jon Cryer played Lex on “Supergirl.” The kid in me was excited for Lex to finally “suit up” after decades of wanting to see it happen!
Stonedar and Rokkon (1986)
Kids have always loved toys that transformed. This is a known a fact. Usually that means a robot that turns into a car or an airplane or some other vehicle. Stonedar and Rokkon were robot aliens that turned into rocks. That’s right, they turned into freaking rocks. For some reason though I thought they were awesome. I’d like to say my young mind was fascinated by the extreme contrast between the advanced technology that comprised their robotic selves and the prehistoric simplicity of their rock forms, but I really think they just looked cool. These guys were part of the Masters Of The Universe line, and they all came with mini comic books that explained who the characters were. Stonedar and Rokkon were some of the first figures that I remember really paying attention to the comics and wanting to understand their backstory. (That backstory being, they were robot aliens that turn into rocks.)
Baxter The Fly (1989)
Most cartoon shows would always return things back to the “status quo” at the end of each episode, so that they could be watched in any order. That’s why it blew my mind when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had Baxter Stockman, Shredder’s scientist assistant who appeared in many early episodes, turn into a human-fly hybrid and stay that way. It was unheard of to have such a dramatic change occur and have it stick. Also, it happened because Krang threw Baxter into a disintegrator unit with the intention of freaking killing him. It was the most hardcore thing I had ever seen in my life. (I was kind of a sheltered kid.) I wanted the Baxter The Fly toy so bad that I actually had a dream about it one night, and I was crushed when I woke up and realized I did not really have it. When I eventually got it for my birthday I was overjoyed. (As my dad said at the time, “They can’t make ‘em ugly enough!”) I did wish they had made a figure of Baxter in his human form too though, so I could’ve re-enacted the episode where he transformed.
Casey Jones (1989)
Speaking of Ninja Turtles characters I was obsessed with. When they introduced Casey Jones, I did not understand that he was supposed to be a parody of dark and gritty urban vigilante heroes, probably because he was my first exposure to a dark and gritty urban vigilante hero. I thought the idea of a guy wearing a hockey mask beating the crap out of criminals with golf clubs and baseball bats was incredible; the tongue-in-cheek nature of the character and the fact that his voice was a Clint Eastwood impression was lost on me. I loved the character so much that I went as Casey Jones for Halloween that year. Everyone thought I was supposed to be Jason from the Friday the 13th movies though, which pissed me off. Also, I brought the Casey Jones action figure into school for show and tell one time. Steve C. in my class asked if that was the version of the figure where his mask comes off. I said no. He said he had the version where his mask comes off. I am pretty sure he was lying, I don’t think that was a real thing. But it did make me wonder what Casey looked like behind his mask.
Ace Duck (1989)
As the Ninja Turtle toy line went on, they started adding more and more characters beyond just the turtles and their villains. Sometimes they added characters that came out of nowhere and had nothing to do with anything. Ace Duck was an anthropomorphic duck who dressed like a pilot. To my knowledge he only ever appeared in a few seconds of the animated Turtles TV show, as a character the Turtles were watching on TV. That’s right, he was a character on a show on a show. However, I was also an avid reader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic books. There was a storyline with a very different version of Ace Duck, who was a muscle-bound intergalactic wrestler. Rather than finding this confusing I just found it very interesting that there were such different versions of this obscure character. (Also, it was really hard to get that figure’s hat to stay on.)
Deep Sea Diver Batman (1990)
Aren’t everyone’s favorite Batman adventures the times when he puts on a bright yellow suit and fights crime underwater? This was so odd that my brother and I usually had him be some kind of Batman impostor in our games rather than the genuine article.
Don The Undercover Turtle (1990)
This one came from later in the Ninja Turtles line when they were trying to find new ways to re-release the main characters. Having Donatello come with a disguise, including a mask, so he could go undercover and have detective adventures was really intriguing to me. At the time I wished he was wearing gloves, pants, and shoes too so when his mask was on you could not tell he was a turtle at all.
“Jimmy Olsen” (Pee-Wee Herman) (1988)
Often in our action figure games, my brother and I would adapt random figures into characters that we didn’t have. We would pretend this Pee-Wee Herman figure was Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen in our G.I.S. adventures. I guess because they both had bow ties? Jimmy tended to get killed off in many of our games and then miraculously be okay again in time for the next “episode,” almost like a precursor to Kenny from “South Park.” Good times.