Action figures have been a staple in the toy industry for decades, capturing the imaginations of children and adults alike. But have you ever wondered about the origins of these beloved toys? Join us on a journey to explore the history of action figures and uncover the first ever action figure to hit the market. From its creation to its impact on popular culture, this article will delve into the fascinating world of action figures and provide insights into the toy that started it all. So, let’s get ready to take a deep dive into the world of action figures and discover the toy that ignited a revolution in the toy industry.
The first action figure was likely the 12-inch “Action Man” G.I. Joe figure produced by Hasbro in 1964. It was marketed as a military action figure, and its design was based on the popular 1:6 scale G.I. Joe doll from the 1960s. The figure had over 20 moving parts, including a neck that could rotate, arms and legs that could bend, and a waist that could rotate. It was also designed to be posed in various ways, allowing for imaginative play and storytelling. The figure was a massive success and helped to popularize the action figure toy genre, leading to the creation of many other action figures in the years that followed.
The Birth of Action Figures: The 1960s
The Rise of Superhero Toys
In the 1960s, the superhero genre experienced a resurgence in popularity, largely due to the success of the Batman television series. This, in turn, led to a surge in demand for superhero-themed toys, including action figures.
The first mass-produced action figure was created by Hasbro in 1964, and it was none other than the legendary superhero, Batman. This 12-inch figure was based on the character portrayed by Adam West in the television series, and it quickly became a hit among children and collectors alike.
The success of the Batman action figure led to the creation of numerous other superhero action figures, including Superman, Spider-Man, and the Hulk. These figures were typically made of plastic and had moveable limbs, allowing children to imagine and act out their favorite superhero stories.
In addition to the major superhero franchises, smaller toy companies also began producing action figures based on lesser-known characters from comic books and other forms of media. This helped to expand the world of action figures and cater to a wider range of interests and tastes.
Overall, the rise of superhero toys in the 1960s marked a significant turning point in the history of action figures, paving the way for the widespread popularity and commercial success of these toys in the decades that followed.
The Influence of Star Wars
The 1960s were a pivotal time in the development of action figures. Prior to this decade, toys were generally static and lacked the ability to move or pose in different ways. However, the release of the film “Star Wars” in 1977 changed the toy industry forever.
The film’s success sparked a new era of toy production, with companies like Kenner producing action figures based on the characters in the film. These figures were designed to be highly articulated, allowing children to pose them in a variety of ways and imagine scenes from the movie.
The success of the “Star Wars” action figures led to a surge in demand for similar toys, with many other companies producing their own lines of action figures based on popular films and television shows. The popularity of action figures continues to this day, with new lines and designs constantly being produced to meet the demands of collectors and fans.
In summary, the release of “Star Wars” in 1977 was a turning point for the toy industry, leading to the widespread production of action figures and inspiring a new generation of toys that could be posed and played with in a variety of ways.
1:6 Scale and Beyond
In the 1960s, the toy industry underwent a significant transformation, leading to the creation of action figures. The 1:6 scale became the standard for action figures, which means that each figure is 1/6th of the size of a real person. This scale allowed for greater detail and accuracy in the design of the figures, making them more realistic and appealing to children and collectors alike.
The popularity of action figures was driven by several factors, including the success of the TV show “The Adventures of Superman” and the release of the movie “G.I. Joe.” The demand for action figures based on these characters and others was high, and toy companies quickly responded by producing figures in the 1:6 scale.
However, the 1:6 scale was not the only factor that contributed to the success of action figures. The use of durable materials, such as plastic and vinyl, allowed for figures to be more versatile and durable, enabling children to play with them for longer periods of time. Additionally, the inclusion of accessories, such as weapons and vehicles, added to the playability and appeal of the figures.
The popularity of action figures also led to the creation of collectible lines, such as Mego’s World’s Greatest Super-Heroes and Kenner’s Star Wars action figures. These lines were aimed at collectors and featured limited edition figures with unique accessories and packaging. The collectibility of these figures added to their appeal and contributed to their enduring popularity.
Overall, the 1:6 scale and the use of durable materials and accessories were crucial factors in the success of action figures in the 1960s. The popularity of action figures has continued to grow, and they remain a beloved part of many people’s childhoods and a valuable part of the toy industry.
The Golden Age of Action Figures: The 1970s and 1980s
The Marvel Boom
The Emergence of Superheroes in Pop Culture
During the 1970s and 1980s, superheroes experienced a resurgence in popularity, primarily due to the success of the Marvel Comics, which revolutionized the comic book industry with its innovative storytelling and character development. This revival sparked a significant increase in the demand for action figures based on these superheroes, leading to the creation of the first-ever action figures.
The Influence of Star Wars
Another crucial factor contributing to the rise of action figures during this period was the release of the groundbreaking film Star Wars in 1977. The movie’s success inspired a new wave of toy manufacturers to create action figures based on the film’s characters, further fueling the demand for action figures among children and collectors alike.
The Marvel Boom and the Action Figure Market
The Marvel Boom, combined with the influence of Star Wars, led to a dramatic increase in the production and sales of action figures. Manufacturers like Mego Corporation and Kenner Products took advantage of this surge in popularity by creating action figures based on popular superheroes and villains from the Marvel Comics universe.
These figures, which featured articulated bodies and detailed costumes, were highly sought after by children and collectors, who appreciated the attention to detail and accuracy in the representations of their favorite characters.
The Evolution of Action Figures: From Basic Designs to Complex Articulation
As the demand for action figures continued to grow, manufacturers began to experiment with new designs and features. This evolution led to the creation of more complex and intricate action figures, such as those produced by Hasbro and Takara Tomy, which boasted advanced articulation and interchangeable parts, allowing for a greater range of play and customization options.
In conclusion, the Marvel Boom played a pivotal role in the rise of action figures during the 1970s and 1980s. By tapping into the resurgence of superheroes in pop culture and the influence of Star Wars, toy manufacturers were able to create a market for action figures that continues to thrive to this day.
The Star Wars Universe Expands
In the late 1970s, the Star Wars franchise continued to grow in popularity, and with it, the demand for action figures based on the characters from the films. The first series of Star Wars action figures was released in 1977 by Kenner, which included characters such as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Chewbacca. These figures were designed to be highly detailed and accurately represent the characters from the film.
To capitalize on the success of the first series, Kenner released several additional lines of Star Wars action figures in the following years. These included the Power of the Force series, which featured characters from the original trilogy, as well as the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi series, which featured characters from those films.
The success of the Star Wars action figures also led to the creation of spin-off lines, such as the Droids and Ewoks series, which featured characters from the animated television shows of the same name. These lines further expanded the Star Wars universe and provided even more opportunities for fans to engage with the franchise through their toys.
In addition to the action figures, Kenner also released a number of other Star Wars-themed toys, including vehicles, playsets, and role-play items. These toys allowed fans to create their own adventures within the Star Wars universe and further immerse themselves in the world of the films.
Overall, the Star Wars action figures of the 1970s and 1980s played a significant role in the popularization of the action figure as a toy category and helped to establish the idea of a “universal” toy line that could be expanded upon with new characters and accessories.
Action Figure Innovations
During the 1970s and 1980s, action figures underwent significant innovations that expanded their popularity and versatility. Some of these innovations include:
- Articulation: The introduction of articulation in action figures allowed for more dynamic poses and increased playability. The joints were typically designed to provide movement in the arms, legs, and head, allowing children to recreate their favorite characters’ signature moves and poses.
- Accessories and Props: The inclusion of accessories and props significantly enhanced the play experience of action figures. Characters from popular movies and TV shows, such as Star Wars and G.I. Joe, were accompanied by an array of weapons, vehicles, and other equipment that extended the play possibilities beyond simple action scenes.
- Interchangeable Parts: Some action figures came with interchangeable parts, such as removable limbs or clothing, which added a new level of customization and playability. This feature encouraged children to imagine different scenarios and stories for their action figures, enhancing their overall engagement with the toys.
- Detailed Sculpting and Painting: As manufacturing techniques advanced, action figures became more detailed and realistic in appearance. This was particularly evident in the likeness of famous characters, such as movie stars and superheroes, which helped to enhance the imaginative play experience for children.
- Multi-Character Sets: Many action figure sets included multiple characters, which allowed children to create and act out larger storylines and adventures. These sets often included popular characters from the same franchise or universe, providing a more immersive play experience.
- Licorice and Skin-Suit Costumes: The development of stretchy materials like Spandex and Lycra led to the creation of licorice and skin-suit costumes for action figures. These costumes allowed action figures to more accurately represent the appearance of characters from popular franchises, such as superheroes and supervillains, further enhancing the play experience.
These innovations not only contributed to the increased popularity of action figures during the 1970s and 1980s but also laid the foundation for the continued evolution of the toy industry in the decades that followed.
The Modern Era: The 1990s to Present
The Fall of Action Figures?
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the action figure market began to decline. Factors contributing to this decline included the rise of video games and other electronic entertainment, changing cultural attitudes towards toys, and the increasing focus on collectible and limited edition toys.
One of the main reasons for the decline of action figures was the rise of video games and other electronic entertainment. As video games became more popular, children began to spend more time playing with these electronic devices rather than traditional toys. This shift in consumer behavior led to a decrease in demand for action figures and other physical toys.
Changing cultural attitudes towards toys also played a role in the decline of action figures. In the 1990s and 2000s, there was a growing trend towards more sophisticated and adult-oriented entertainment. Action figures, which were often associated with children’s toys, fell out of favor with many consumers who wanted toys that were more reflective of their mature interests.
Another factor that contributed to the decline of action figures was the increasing focus on collectible and limited edition toys. In the 1990s and 2000s, many toy companies began to focus on producing collectible toys that were designed to be rare and exclusive. This shift in focus away from traditional action figures made it more difficult for these toys to compete in the marketplace.
Despite these challenges, action figures have remained a popular and enduring toy category. Many toy companies have continued to produce action figures based on popular franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel, and these toys remain popular with collectors and fans of all ages. Additionally, the rise of online retail and the growth of the collectibles market have helped to keep action figures relevant and popular in the modern era.
The Resurgence of Action Figures
The Rise of Superhero Films
In the 1990s, the resurgence of action figures can be attributed to the increasing popularity of superhero films. The success of films such as “Batman” (1989) and “X-Men” (1992) revived interest in superhero characters and sparked a demand for related toys. This led to the release of action figures based on these characters, which in turn, fuelled the collecting hobby.
Expansion of the Collecting Market
During this time, the collecting market also expanded, with collectors seeking out rare and hard-to-find action figures. The rise of online marketplaces and specialty stores facilitated this, making it easier for collectors to find and purchase action figures from different eras and franchises.
Emergence of Specialized Action Figure Lines
The 1990s also saw the emergence of specialized action figure lines, such as those based on horror, sci-fi, and fantasy franchises. These lines catered to a wider range of collectors, further fueling the popularity of action figures.
Action Figure Conventions and Collector Clubs
Another factor contributing to the resurgence of action figures was the growth of action figure conventions and collector clubs. These events provided collectors with opportunities to meet other enthusiasts, share their collections, and learn about new releases and trends in the hobby. This sense of community helped to sustain and grow the collecting market.
In summary, the resurgence of action figures in the 1990s was driven by a combination of factors, including the increasing popularity of superhero films, the expansion of the collecting market, the emergence of specialized action figure lines, and the growth of action figure conventions and collector clubs.
Collectibles and Special Editions
As the popularity of action figures continued to grow, toy manufacturers began to experiment with different approaches to marketing and producing these toys. One such approach was the creation of collectibles and special editions.
Collectible action figures are produced in limited quantities and often come with unique packaging or accessories. These figures are highly sought after by collectors, who often purchase them as investments.
Special edition action figures, on the other hand, are typically produced to commemorate a specific event or milestone. For example, a special edition G.I. Joe action figure was produced in 1994 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the toy line. This figure was designed to look like the original 1964 G.I. Joe action figure and included a reproduction of the original box and accessories.
In addition to these special editions, toy manufacturers also began to produce limited edition runs of popular action figures. These figures were often produced in small quantities and featured unique designs or accessories. For example, a limited edition run of Star Wars action figures was produced in 1997, featuring updated designs and additional accessories.
Overall, the creation of collectibles and special editions represented a shift in the action figure market towards a more collector-focused approach. These toys were designed to appeal to adult collectors, who were willing to pay premium prices for rare and unique figures. As a result, the action figure market continued to grow and evolve in the 1990s and beyond.
The Debate: What was the First Action Figure?
Candidates for the Title
1. G.I. Joe
G.I. Joe, short for “Government Issue Joe,” is a 12-inch action figure that was first introduced in 1964 by Hasbro. The toy was designed to resemble the typical American soldier during World War II, complete with a khaki uniform, web gear, and an M1 rifle. The original G.I. Joe was marketed towards boys, promoting the idea of adventure and heroism associated with the military.
2. Action Man
Action Man, created by Hasbro in 1966, is another contender for the title of the first action figure. The toy is based on the comic book character “Captain Action,” and it features a similar 12-inch size to G.I. Joe. Action Man has a more diverse range of accessories and costumes, including various military outfits, as well as outfits for astronauts, cowboys, and more. The toy was initially marketed in the United Kingdom and later became popular in other countries, including the United States.
3. Mr. Action
Mr. Action, introduced by the Ideal Toy Company in 1961, is another candidate for the first action figure. This toy is 12 inches tall and was initially marketed as a secret agent figure, with gadgets and spy equipment such as a camera, microphone, and grappling hook. Mr. Action’s outfit consisted of a suit, tie, and a fedora hat, making him a unique and stylish addition to the world of action figures.
While the debate over which toy truly deserves the title of the first action figure may continue, each of these three toys played a significant role in the development and popularization of the action figure concept.
The Answers May Surprise You
The question of what was the first action figure is not as straightforward as one might think. The debate among toy enthusiasts and collectors centers around several contenders, each with their own unique characteristics and histories. Let’s explore some of the most notable candidates for the title of the first action figure.
The 12-Inch Adventure Man
The 12-Inch Adventure Man, produced by the American company, Hasbro, in 1966, is often cited as the first action figure. The toy was based on the popular TV show “Bonanza,” which followed the adventures of the Cartwright family in the 1800s. The 12-Inch Adventure Man featured a posable plastic body and interchangeable parts, allowing children to customize their figures. However, it lacked the detailed backstory and elaborate universe of today’s action figures.
Another contender for the title of first action figure is G.I. Joe, which was introduced by Hasbro in 1964. G.I. Joe was a 12-inch action figure that was initially designed to be a modern-day equivalent of the traditional action soldier doll. However, over time, the character evolved to become a multifaceted action hero with a variety of professions, such as a doctor, astronaut, or police officer. G.I. Joe also featured interchangeable parts and a detailed backstory, which added to its appeal for children.
Aurora’s Plastic Model Kits
Aurora Plastic Company introduced model kits for the TV show “Buck Rogers” in 1950, which included posable plastic figures of the characters. While these figures were not as sophisticated as later action figures, they did feature moveable limbs and joints, making them an early example of action figures.
Comic Book Heroes
The concept of action figures was further developed with the introduction of comic book heroes, such as Superman and Batman, in the 1940s. These early action figures were typically made of paper or cardboard and were marketed as “action statues” or “dolls.” They featured moveable limbs and could be posed in various ways, but they lacked the detailed backstories and accessories of later action figures.
The debate over what was the first action figure may never be settled definitively, but it’s clear that the concept has evolved significantly over time. Today’s action figures boast intricate designs, detailed backstories, and expansive universes, making them an integral part of popular culture.
Action Figure Collecting: A Hobby for the Ages
The Thrill of the Hunt
Collecting action figures has been a popular hobby for decades, with enthusiasts around the world searching for rare and hard-to-find figures. One of the most exciting aspects of this hobby is the thrill of the hunt, the search for that elusive figure that will complete a collection or add a unique piece to the display.
The thrill of the hunt is what drives many collectors to scour toy stores, online marketplaces, and flea markets in search of their next find. Some collectors specialize in specific lines or characters, while others enjoy the challenge of tracking down figures from a variety of different toy lines.
The excitement of finding a rare or hard-to-find figure is what makes action figure collecting such a popular hobby. Some collectors spend years searching for a particular figure, and the satisfaction of finally finding it is a feeling that cannot be matched. The thrill of the hunt is what keeps collectors coming back for more, always searching for that next great find.
For some collectors, the thrill of the hunt is not just about finding a rare figure, but also about the memories that come with it. Many collectors remember the excitement of opening up a new toy as a child, and the thrill of finding a figure that they had been searching for brings back those memories.
Overall, the thrill of the hunt is a major part of the action figure collecting hobby. It is what drives collectors to search for new figures, and the excitement of finding a rare or hard-to-find figure is what makes this hobby so enjoyable. Whether it’s the search for a specific figure or the memories that come with it, the thrill of the hunt is what makes action figure collecting a hobby for the ages.
Building Your Collection
- Establishing Your Objectives: Determine the goals of your collection. Are you interested in acquiring a complete set of a specific line, or do you aim to collect action figures from a variety of franchises?
- Researching Your Options: Investigate the market to gain an understanding of the action figures available, their rarity, and their value. Utilize online forums, auction sites, and collector communities to gather information.
- Networking with Other Collectors: Engage with fellow collectors to exchange knowledge, share tips, and learn about rare or hard-to-find action figures. Attend toy conventions, join collector clubs, or participate in online forums to expand your network.
- Budgeting and Financing: Set a budget for your collection and determine how you will finance your purchases. This may involve setting aside a dedicated budget, trading with other collectors, or searching for discounts and deals.
- Display and Storage: Consider the best way to display and store your action figures. This may involve choosing between display cases, shelves, or storage boxes, and ensuring that the figures are protected from damage.
- Keeping Track of Your Collection: Maintain a record of your action figures, including their names, dates of release, and any relevant information. This will help you keep track of your collection and make it easier to identify any missing pieces.
Tips for Action Figure Collectors
- Start with a specific theme or franchise: Begin by collecting action figures from a specific franchise or theme, such as Star Wars or Marvel Comics, to focus your collection and make it more manageable.
- Research and compare prices: Utilize online resources, such as price guides and forums, to determine the value of your action figures and compare prices to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.
- Consider condition: The condition of an action figure can greatly impact its value. Take the time to carefully examine and inspect each figure before making a purchase.
- Display and store properly: To maintain the value and condition of your action figures, be sure to display them in a safe and secure location, away from direct sunlight and excessive heat. When not on display, store them in a protective case or box to prevent damage.
- Keep track of your collection: Create a detailed inventory of your action figures, including their names, dates of release, and any relevant information. This will help you keep track of your collection and make it easier to identify any missing pieces.
1. What is an action figure?
An action figure is a type of toy that is modeled after a character from a movie, television show, or comic book. Action figures are typically designed to be posed and moved by the person playing with them, and they often come with accessories such as weapons or vehicles.
2. When was the first action figure created?
The first action figure was created in the 1960s. The specific year is not clear, but it is believed to have been around 1964. The first action figures were created by Hasbro and were based on the characters from the television show “G.I. Joe.”
3. Who created the first action figure?
The first action figures were created by Hasbro, a toy company based in the United States. Hasbro is still a major player in the toy industry and is responsible for creating many popular toys, including action figures based on characters from movies and television shows such as “Star Wars” and “Transformers.”
4. What was the first action figure based on?
The first action figures were based on the characters from the television show “G.I. Joe.” This show was a military drama that followed the adventures of a group of soldiers in World War II. The action figures were designed to look like the characters on the show and came with accessories such as weapons and vehicles.
5. How did the first action figures change the toy industry?
The first action figures had a significant impact on the toy industry. They introduced a new type of toy that allowed children to play with their favorite characters from movies and television shows. This led to the creation of many more action figures based on different characters and franchises, and it helped to popularize the idea of collecting and playing with toys based on specific themes or stories.