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Masked Villains

On one of the days I was working in Hasbro on GI Joe, the Marketing intern came to see me with a very puzzled look on his face. One of his responsibilities was to read and respond to consumer questions. A question came in on GI Joe that he had no clue how to react. The question was roughly this, “I was wondering if you can tell me how much my old GI Joe is worth.” Sounds reasonably simple so far, but he continued, “It has blue skin, bulging eyes and its brain is showing.” That was the part where the twenty-ish intern hit the wall. “Does this make any sense to you?” he asked. I tried to explain it a bit, as his eyes somehow glassed over even more, so I said, “Would you like me to type the reply for you?”

In case you are not that into 1/6th scale figures, this was not part of the “GI Joe Liberates Dr. Mengele’s Research Hospital” set. It was indeed the villain for Ideal’s 1967 Captain Action line: Dr. Evil. I had the pleasure of telling the collector that his figure was worth more than most GI Joes. At that time, the loose figure was worth about a hundred dollars.

Captain Action was an amazing 1/6th scale line consisting of a hero, Captain Action, a side-kick, Action Lad and a villain, Dr. Evil. However, the real fun was their accessory sets, which had costumes and soft PVC masks for Captain Action to become comic book heroes such as Captain America, Green Hornet or Flash Gordon. Action Lad could become Robin, Aqua Lad or Superboy. Dr. Evil looked like a hippy alien but had a trench coat, gear and two masks to change his appearance. Had the line lasted longer, we are all sure; we could have seen became villains such as The Joker or Dr. Doom.

When Playing Mantis relaunched the Captain Action line in the late 90’s, we finally received our long overdue villains. The Playing Mantis sets came in 5th panel boxes that open like a book. The artwork was great with a true comic book style. Dr. Evil was part of the initial launch although he only had a ray gun, necklace and mask instead of a full extra persona. The likeness was very close to the original so he was a “got-a-have” for me.

In that second wave, we finally received a true villain character. It was the ultimate villain of Flash Gordon – the Emperor Ming the Merciless of the Planet Mongo. Flash was still dressed in a modern space suit more like Buzz Aldrin, probably caused by the space fever rampant in the late 60’s due to the moon launch. However, Ming looked like he stepped right from the comic strips. His costume was a full jumpsuit with soft goods cape. He had a staff, a sword and a crystal ball. His boots were made of rotocast PVC instead of the clumsy blow-molded boots Captain Action and the rest of the 60’s figures had. This also came with the Dr. Evil figure wearing the costume instead of it being just an accessory pack.

The next villain to ship was Phantom’s archenemy the pirate Kabai Sangh. I bought this the moment I saw it as my proclivity for purple was possibly propagated my favorite Superhero: The Phantom. He came with soft goods coat, pants and tunic. His pointy curled-toed boots were nicely sculpted and His gear was great with a Ruger pistol, dagger, scimitar, bandoleer, spyglass and loot. His mask was one of the best sculptings we had seen on Captain Action. He had a true nasty villain face with sinister expression. These came with a cost-reduced package missing the 5th panel but still looked great.

The third villain released was the nemesis of Thor: Loki. This time the figure was not included. Loki looked like he came directly from the Marvel comic books with a great sneering mask with those giant horns. He had a full jumpsuit, boots, a staff and gloved hands. It was also one of the sets you would need to buy, if you wanted to get all the parts for build a Hawkeye. This is a marketing gimmick that I should have fallen prey to but never did. Now I wish I had.

One of the fun parts of all these figures were their toy price tag of about $30 and they were available at Toys R Us. The original plan was to sell Captain America’s arch nemesis: the Red Skull, but he never appeared on shelves… although I kept looking each week for months. Yes, there is an amazing 1/6th Red Skull made by Hot Toys but it is hard to justify spending hundreds for an action figure (yes… I know that could be considered heresy.)

Lately, there have been fun internet discussions on “What villains would you like to have for Captain Action?” While I weighed in with my answers, it occurred to me that I was one of the few who had the opportunity to try.

When I created the Disney Classics line of Fashion dolls for Mattel (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) part of the plan, inspired by Captain Action, was to sell “Mask Packs” of secondary characters. As I mentioned in earlier articles, many more were designed than the four that were released: Cinderella Fairy Godmother, Cinderella’s Stepmother, the Queen from Snow White and the Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.

One of the additional concept models created was Jafar from Aladdin. If you are wondering why he is in red instead of black, as he appeared in the films, think back to my comments in the Prince of Egypt articles: the use of computers in films has allowed the studios to change colors easily and at the last moment. When this model was made, Jafar was still in red. The mask pack of Jafar was designed to fit on any male fashion doll (and most 1/6th male figures). His costume is one long tunic with a separate sash that closes with Velcro at the waste. His shoes did have rounded pointy tips but were soft goods and sized only for Ken’s feet. He also came with a magic lamp.

The head was made of sculpted of Sculpy then baked and painted. While some of these were made to slip directly over a Ken head, this one was made on a shorter time schedule so it fit onto a stick that replaced Ken’s head. The sculpting was rough but had the true flavor of the character. The pictures shown are of the model after many years of flopping around in boxes of prototypes so it shows some scuffing and a break that had to be glued back together. This was the only model created of Jafar as this set was dropped from the line unfortunately.

The Peter Pan segment of Disney Classics only appeared as a Disney Parks & Disney Stores specials consisting of Peter, Wendy and Tinkerbell. However, a full line of concept models was designed and created. Captain Hook was one of the two mask packs developed for that film (the other being Super Chief shown in an earlier article).

Captain Hook had elaborate soft goods of pants with sewn-in stockings, a coat with ruffle, diagonal with sheath and a felt hat with fur feather. The shoes were constructed of flocked rayon fabric. The sword he would carry came from the pirates in the Big Jim International line. That hook hand on the model came from the small Masters of the Universe TrapJaw. The mask on this one-of-a kind model was made to fit over a figure’s head.

There were hints and promises of more Captain Action figures coming out and a stunning Action Girl figure image shown. I do not know if it ever released, but no new villains have shipped. So to the people with the license… please get creative and find a way to get us more sets at affordable prices.

What costumes would you like to have for a 1/6th female heroine?

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