“Wild” Bill Underwood, GIjOE and Action Man fan and collector (Photo courtesy: Bill Underwood)
By Bill Underwood
“In 1993, Hasbro re-launched Palitoy’s Action Man (AM) brand (the UK version of GI Joe) with a new body design that featured less articulation than the original figures from the vintage 1960s-70s era. Not surprisingly, many vintage 12” collectors were unimpressed by AM’s new heavily muscled body, oversized head and undersized feet. But kids seemed to like him and (those shortcomings aside) AM “soldiered on” nicely until 2006 – when the line was finally discontinued (again).
One of the more interesting chapters in this resurrected AM story was a limited-edition run of six James Bond AM figures inspired by the blockbuster films, including Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, GoldenEye, The World is Not Enough, and Tomorrow Never Dies. Each figure set features an Action Man suited up as 007 from one of the films—and Hasbro did a pretty decent job recreating the outfits.”
007s Out-of-the-Box Lineup— All six of the Action Man 007 figures proudly protect the fireplace mantle in Bill’s home from dastardly super-villains. Hot stuff! (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
“My favorite is Bond’s Royal Navy (Blue # 1) dress uniform from You Only Live Twice. For the record, Commander Bond also donned this uniform for The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies. Hasbro also recreated some of the gear from these films—like Bond’s spear gun from Thunderball and the GoldenEye apparatus from the Pierce Brosnan film. The most impressive all-around set (for both outfit and gear) is The Spy Who Loved Me, with its near-perfect recreation of 007’s snow ski suit (and gear) from the film’s exciting opening sequence.” (see below)
He Must Ski to Live— In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond struggles to evade a passel of pursuing bad guys by out-skiing them down a treacherous mountain slope. Look at the fit, the color and the coordinated details of this outfit. We’d buy this RIGHT NOW! (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
“The strongest feature of these sets is the packaging – which is simply OUTSTANDING. Each box features beautiful original art work with extras goodies inside, like scene storyboard cards and 35mm film cells taken from the movie. My greatest ‘complaint’ with these sets is the size of Bond’s Walther PPK. It’s just too big. Even for AM’s already meaty mitts. Fortunately, two of the Pierce Brosnan sets feature a different Walther model that fits more comfortably in his hands.”
The Right Gun for any Odd-Job— Fans of 007 know that Bond prefers certain weapons over others, so it’s important to nail those details. We DIG this headsculpt! (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
“I understand that these sets weren’t highly coveted by vintage Action Man (VAM) collectors, and that’s a shame, because they’re really quite cool. Yes, we also know that in recent years, other companies have produced more impressive 1:6 Bond-inspired action figures (i.e. Sideshow and Big Chief); but while those sets are ultra-realistic, they’re also ultra-pricey. I have a warm spot for these AM Bonds by Hasbro. Maybe it’s the hybrid aspect that appeals to me—in that they’re not exclusively Action Man—or Bond. They’re both. Then again, maybe I just can’t resist anything that combines two of my favorite hobbies—collecting AM figures and watching Bond films!”
Mind-Blowing Boxes— Many GIjOE and AM collectors would love to pick up these 007 sets just for their unique and outstanding packaging. This superb one from Thunderball combines vintage ’60s artwork from the original movie poster (and soundtrack album) with all-new artwork from the ’90s, and it does it flawlessly. GIMME! GIMME! GIMME! (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
“If you’re interested in picking up any of these bad boys (and who isn’t?), I would recommend lurking on eBay. Prices there have generally ranged from $35 to $60. One caveat though—if you purchase the Thunderball set (shown above and below) make sure that the rubber skindiving jacket is intact—BEFORE finalizing your purchase. The first set I picked up looked fine from the front, but (sadly) it was deteriorating in the back. Good luck AM and Bond fans—and Happy Hunting!” —Bill Underwood
Rubber Suit Awareness— Look out for dreaded “rubber rot” when picking up one of the Thunderball figure sets on eBay. This suit looks fine from the front, but… (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Movie Minutiae— Back panels of the boxes are crammed with movie trivia regarding each of the six sets, souvenir film clips, scene and figure pics, etc. (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Box Me Up, Baby! This box gets our blood burnin’ for Bond! (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
The skiing Bond figure out of the box and all set up. WOW! (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Bond’s a Bad-A**!— And this Goldeneye box deserves a Gold medal for package design. And look— Hasbro added a GIjOE/Action Man scar to his cheek! (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Lead will FLY— Tomorrow Never Dies was just one big shoot-out. Notice how in the artwork, Bond’s tuxedo is MUCH more form-fitting than its AM toy-version? We suggest you get out your needle and thread and get to work. Baggy jackets are NOT allowed. (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Dressed to Impress (and to KILL)— Regardless of how he’s dressed, 007 is always ready to mete out justice to his enemies. Yes, by 2018 we’ve seen better suits, but this tuxedo is actually pretty nice and can always be “tailored” to improve its fit and appearance. (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Nyet! Window Boxes are NOT Better, Comrade— Some of the AM Bond’s packages were relegated to less-collectible, standard window boxes that featured far less artwork and thus had far less shelf appeal. The unique Russian blue uniform on this Action Man has OODLES of customization potential, but this set’s plastic window box is boring and “toss-able.” (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Da!— The Russian-uniformed Bond inside the window-box package. Check out the highly detailed star patch and ID cards. VERY nice. (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Bill’s Favorite Bond Figure— is the one from You Only Live Twice where 007 is dressed in his Royal Navy uniform as “Commander Bond.” Out-STANDING! Where else are you going to find a RN dress cap with all that detail? Sadly, Hasbro went with a window-box for this figure, cramming all the cool artwork off to the sides, making the package less exciting overall. But—the cap, uniform and figure, all make this unique set a definite “keeper” for your AM/Bond collection. (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Welcome aboard, Commander Bond— This closeup of the AM Bond figure in his Royal Navy dress uniform and cap looks VERY cool. That cap is an EXCELLENT miniature replica of the real thing (note the crown above the anchor). A few minor tailoring adjustments to his uniform and this figure will soon be ready for a full-dress inspection. All hands on deck! (Photo: Bill Underwood) Click to enlarge.
Open Wide, Mr. Bond— Another (big) advantage to full-box packaging is that its front flap opens up to provide MORE opportunities to display supporting graphics and text re: the figure and its contents. And that background behind the figure looks like a miniature diorama. VERY nice. Now THIS is the way to display a figure, NMIB. Be sure to click this pic for a closeup! (Photo: Bill Underwood)
Bottom Line: What FUN stuff. We’re big fans of Action Man and James Bond, so these figures are right up our collecting alley. Our sincerest thanks go out to Bill Underwood for all of his generous and wonderful help compiling the material for this article. You are the MAN, Bill! —The Editor