By Past Nastification
A few military themed toylines, such as Remco’s Sgt. Rock and Mego’s Eagle Force arrived just ahead of GI Joe A Real American Hero. Another toyline arriving in 1982 alongside or immediately after GI Joe was Porto Play’s Military One line. Working under the assumption that a toyline would take a year to go from first inspiration to product rollout, these figures were probably under development the same time our favorite Mobile Strike Force was.
These figures were pretty well sculpted and featured five points of articulation. The quality of the sculpting is high enough that they’re frequently confused with Palitoy’s early Action Force figures before Hasbro’s GI Joe figure molds were used. In fact, I had to verify that the “Pilot” figure was not an AF before I took photos. The uniforms have a vague timelessness to them. They seem like they would have been appropriate for 1982 or 1942.
They lack any kind of codenames or proper names, and are labeled with overly simplistic names like “Navy”, “Beret”, or “Terrorist”. Terrorist was a Beret repaint, but with an obligatory beard sculpted onto the face.
Despite a lack of accessories and unpainted eyes (which should have been a tell when I was figuring out Pilot’s origin), the detailing on these figures is quite crisp. They have just enough arm bend sculpted at the elbows to look natural, something many 5 POA figures sometimes didn’t have in the late 70’s/early 80’s.
Military One figures aren’t perfect. The proportions are realistic, although all of the figures (except for Navy and Frogman) have oversized Herman Munster feet. Beret has an oversized beret. Navy’s “Dixie Cup” is so large it wouldn’t register as a sailor’s cap without the rest of the uniform to provide context. Several of the figures had faces that look suspiciously like Prince Charles. Something else gives these figures a not-quite-American feel. It might be the stiff shirt collars under the jackets instead of t-shirts. Or the knives slung right at the hip. The strangely shaped berets. Whatever it is, it’s there. I think. This quasi-European vibe might just be in my head, or it might be a real thing that causes other people to lump the figures in with Action Force.
An internet check for “Porto Play” finds only a few eBay auctions for figures, but nothing about the toy company itself. Figure-archive.net also shows that Porto Play also had a “Police One” toy line, but no images are shown. I would really like to know about the company. Who sculpted these? Were they actually in development parallel to GI Joe? Toy packaging shows a New York address, but I’m not convinced that wasn’t just a stateside office address. Was there a European influence- maybe a designer or sculptor who pulled from both American and European uniforms for inspiration? The helmet on the “Army” figure looks like a blend of the WWII era American and German helmets. 1981 (my assumed time of design) was several years before the US Army introduced modern composite helmets, like the ones brought into GI Joe lore by Bazooka and Footloose in 1985.
In addition to the pictured figures, Porto Play also released a Paratrooper figure, featuring a molded-on parachute pack. There were also four female figures, wearing a dress uniform w/sculpted-on skirt. The body was recolored for each branch of service, with slightly different heads.
Like Tonka’s Rapid Deployment Team, these figures were great “background players” in the 80’s and are now great for dioramas. Sadly, the company didn’t give us more than a wave or so, including some repaints. Not only am I curious about the designers, I’m curious about what else they would have created.