Military One

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.

6 comments

  • Nicely done. It’s cool to see these obscure toy lines. There were so many in the ’80’s. It made for some great times for play with so many possible toys. But, most of the stuff hasn’t aged well.

  • I had some of these when I was a kid. The diver and tan colored pilot were crucial members of the Joe team til the 83 recruits started showing up. They were a perfect transition from the Star Wars and Adventure People figures I already loved to the new GIJoes I was quickly becoming obsessed with. Also had a camo paratrooper and the ‘Army?’ figure in a dark green color. I only saw them at one store (Best Products), they had 2-3 pegs full but only 5-6 figures. I’ve never seen the ladies in person, only the pics that originally surfaced in the old Tomart’s guide. I remember the narrow cardbacks shaped like a 1.

  • Did a quick search and discovered two things. 1) the figure labeled as ‘Army?’ is actually a Police 1 figure. 2)These must be of European origin, this link shows a carded figure (with knee joints!) that appears to be wearing an RAF(British) uniform. http://figure-archive.net/item.aspx?itemID=18353

  • Wow! Thanks for this. These guys have stumped me for years. I knew they weren’t action force!

  • They’re so generic that they’re kinda forgettable. But the green Army guy does kinda resemble the 1994 Action Soldier. Characterization, and media tie-in of course, really elevated GIJoe above other military toys of the time.

  • There were firefighters and cops, too. I never owned any, though.

    I had the terrorist, the frogman and paratrooper. Paratrooper suffered from loose arms. The hands were soft but not so soft they wouldn’t tear if you stretched them at least on the paratrooper and terrorist. As a kid I found frogman was mostly useless. His fins are molded, he’s got his tanks on but his mask is up. He’s only good for “standing by to dive” moments. Those moments kids reenact the most, right?

    They terrorist and the para came with a version of the “m-60″ gun from Galoob’s A-Team, which I think originates back to Mattel’s Heroes on Action. They couldn’t really hold it either hand.

    Much later my brother got one of the dress uniform women on super mark down. Not a pretty lady.

    At some point I owned a headless sailor I got at a flea market.

    The one line I remember from the 80’s I’ve never found evidence of online was a 3 3/4” scale line of wind-up or action feature soldiers.

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