Captain Action 1966 Comic Ad

Lately, I’ve been thinking more deeply about the history of action figures, and the GI Joe line’s place in it. Of course, Joe was technically the first of what came to be known as action figures, although toy soldiers and dolls have been around for centuries. Captain Action was an early attempt by another toy maker (Ideal) to build on the twelve inch razor and blades format. Although Captain Action is a bit of a strange conceit when you try to reason out a mythos, as a toy it’s pretty brilliant. Adding comic book/strip, pulp and other heroes to the extra gear concept seems like a natural recipe for success.
However, the good Captain didn’t initially last long on shelves. He’s gathered quite a following over the decades, and has been relaunched twice. The story goes that kids didn’t have as much interest in changing out costumes to make different characters. In just a few years, Mego would have a huge hit with a smaller scale of cloth costumed super heroes, without the high concept of a single character changing outfits/disguises.

I found this ad in an issue of DC’s original Metamorpho comic. Fitting, that.

Captain Action Ad


  • I wonder if the writers for The Simpsons were thinking of Captain Action when they did that episode where Comic Book Guy creates his own character, Everyman, who has the power to take on the powers and partial appearance of whichever character whose comic he holds.

    • I’d say its possible Matt Greoning and most of the staff live in the 60’s. If you see ‘Lisa vs Malibu stacy’, you’ll also notice that all of Stacy Malibu’s real life husbands were all based on famous action figures [except for Dr Colosus]

  • So, Captain Action is the figure base who you dress up like Superman, etc.? I’d guess that Cap’n didn’t have enough charisma on his own to interest kids. Why dress up like Batman when you could just get the real Batman?

  • It seems like someone had the idea that rather than produce and ship more expensive figures, they’d just make money by selling the clothes. It would be cheaper for parents where they could buy 1 figure and a few outfits for less than they would be 4 or 5 figures for other lines. I’d wager it was a successful model for Barbie and her imitators.

    I’m guessing though, that changing clothes for a new character was a bit too much like “dress up” for boys of the time. And, what fun is having to change the outfits constantly if you want to have different adventures? Far faster to have another figure so Batman and Flash Gordon can interact.

    I see the marketing/sales concept. Had it been successful, I think we’d have had a very different toy experience in the ’80’s.

  • Who’s Steve Canyon?

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