Action Figures from the 1980's

The Dukes of Hazzard, by Mego and CBS Toys, 1980-1982
This series of action figures is based on the very successful and extremely popular TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard" which premiered in 1979 and lasted seven seasons, until 1985. This is an excellent show that I'm still a huge fan of. The Mego toy company did a super job on the action figures which were first offered in 1980, however Mego was going through some internal business challenges at the time and unfortunately went out of business in 1981 while the toys were still in huge demand. At the time, CBS was the network that broadcasted the TV series and had recently developed it's own toy division. They quickly stepped in to continue producing the action figures and vehicles that Mego had available, while also expanding the series with two additional vehicles.

The Duke boys, Luke and Bo, with the General Lee

Dukes of Hazzard action figures: Luke, Bo, Daisy Duke and Boss Hogg
 
In addition to these four Mego also offered figures of Uncle Jessie, Rosco, Cletus and Cooter which are all less common to find.

For the vehicles assortment, Mego originally offered the General Lee and Daisy's Jeep "Dixie". CBS Toys added Boss Hogg's Cadillac and Rosco's police car to the collection. Both of the CBS Toys cars are hard to find in any condition, especially mint in the original package. I'm still missing Rosco's police car. Mego cars that are unpackaged are hard to find with undamaged decal stickers, but mint copies can still be easily found in the box on websites such as e-bay or at vintage toy shows. You can see in this photo that the fender on Boss' car is broken on the side and missing a piece, and an area on the door is starting to yellow. The stickers on both doors are missing but the licence plate stickers are still there. However, the definitive bull horns that were on the roof of the car are missing.

Here's a front view of all the cars. Unfortunately Daisy's jeep has a broken section over the left wheel. Still, these are all in fairly good shape for loose toys from the early 1980s!

The General Lee has a door in the roof for placing the figures inside the car. They don't fit through the window very well.

I've found three different versions of the Bo Duke figure. The first one has a smaller head that is sculpted to look like the 8 inch Mego doll head of the character that was made at the same time. The other two may actually be Coy Duke heads, but I'm not certain. In any case, the one in the middle has brighter yellow hair and more detail, while the one on the right has darker yellow hair with less detail. The eyes are also filled in rather than having small eye holes, as seen on the middle figure. The pants of the middle figure have discoloured over time but were originally the same blue as the others.

Daisy Duke has two variations. I'm assuming the original one is the shorter haired version. The face on this one isn't as pretty as the second version, which has longer, fuller hair and an open mouth with painted white teeth.

Here's the back view of the Daisy action figure variations to show how very different the hair sculpting is for each.

Here is a side view of the General Lee with the very popular die cast toy car by Ertl that was also available at the time. Ertl continued producing General Lee toys in the early 2000's when the TV show experienced another wave of popularity on TV and DVD.

Here are the 8 inch Mego dolls that were also produced at the time, next to the toy cars. An 8 inch Daisy Duke doll was also made as part of the set.

A-Team, 6" action figures by Galoob, van by ERTL, 1983


Here are the A-Team figures I played with as a kid in the early 1980s. I remember saving up my pennies to buy each of these figures and was very determined to get all four. My Uncle Mike bought me the van for Christmas. It was the "must have" item on my list for that year. I never saw the Amy figure in stores or the four "Bad Guys" figures and was surprised to learn about them years later while reading an action figure price guide.


The A-Team: Hannibal, B.A., Face, and Murdock. These 6 inch action figures were made by Galoob (the same company that made Blackstar action figures) in 1983 based on the popular TV show. Each figure came with a bunch of accessories, shown below. B.A. came with a tool belt, tool box and tools, while the other three figures each came with a belt and a unique back pack. Murdock also came with a string with a hook on it (which I'm missing) that could be tied onto his unique belt. Murdock also came with binoculars. Hannibal and Face have the same belt. All four figuers came with the same gun. Hannibal came with an additional unique gun (shown in the bottom left corner).

 
Head Variations I love discovering variations in mass produced toys. Not sure exactly why... it must be the obsessive collector in me that "wants them all". I never knew until as recently as February 2015 that there were head sculpting variations for two of these 6 inch figures. Hannibal has two different head sculpts and one of them (the one that I don't have) can be found with dark grey hair or light grey hair. This version has the chin, smile and hair sculpted to be more pronounced than the one shown above. So I can confirm that there are three distinct variations of Hannibal!!!
 
Face also has two different head sculpts (Face has two faces!). The one that I don't have has a very wide smile. The head on the one shown above looks much nicer. I've also noticed that earlier produced heads for Murdock have a slightly different look to them than later versions, but the difference is quite minimal. I think it may just be the way the detail is painted on the eyes and eyebrows.  I'll have to do more comparisons before confirming if there is a Murdock variation.
 
There are, however, differences in the colour of the plastic used for some Face and Murdock heads, as the skin tone can be slightly darker or lighter. Some of the rubber heads for these skin colour variations are also squishier than their matching counterpart. So far I haven't noticed any variations for B.A.


I've always found it odd that Galoob did not make a van for this series, yet they made a van for their smaller 3 3/4 inch A-Team figure series. Galoob made a gyrocopter, an ATV with trailer, and a large multi-level "Command Centre" playset for the 6 inch figures, but no van! Instead this A-Team van was made by ERTL in 1983. It was the only one available at the time that was anything close to the scale of the 6 inch figures. The picture below shows how B.A doesn't quite fit in the driver's seat. His head still sticks out of the opening in the roof. ERTL also made the white corvette (that Face drove) in the same scale as this van. Both vehicles are made out of plastic and were sold without any packaging.

 
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, by LJN, 1983-1984
In the early 1980s Dungeons & Dragons caused quite a bit of controversy. Many parents let their imaginations and superstitions get the better of them and would not allow their kids to watch the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series or have anything to do with the popular role-playing game. Like Harry Potter in the early 2000's, people objected to the idea of make believe sorcery and magic. In my opinion all the fuss is rather silly. With the exception of the dragon shown below, I bought my "D & D" action figures in the early 1990s from a schoolmate who was selling off his collection.


Here are the two horses from the series. The Strongheart knight figure is shown with "Good Destrier: Mighty Battle Horse" on the left, and the villain Warduke is shown with "Evil Nightmare: Flying Horse-Like Creature". The Nightmare horse and rider are my favourite pieces from this collection. I don't have Warduke's sword, so he is shown with the sword from the Metta Flame figure from this series (which I no longer have). Both of Nightmare's front hooves are removable rubber pieces that can be easily lost. The heads on both of the horses turn side to side and their tails can be moved up or down. The horse's armour is removable but it is difficult to do so. The backs of each horse have a trap door to allow the figure to "sit" on the horse, the same way Kenner made the Tawn Tawns from the Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back action figure series. The corresponding figure's leg is moulded and painted onto the side of the horse's saddles. A Bronze Dragon figure with a saddle was also made for Strongheart to ride on.

Here is the gang (L to R): Zorgar: Evil Barbarian, Kelek: Evil Sorcerer (though he doesn't look so evil without his fabric robe), Strongheart: Good Paladin, and Warduke: Evil Fighter. There are many other figures in this series to collect! The first series alone had 12 figures. I found the names of these four characters in Tomart's Price Guide to Action Figure Collectables. The Zorgar figure has a button on the back that operates his arms, similar to Kenner's Super Powers collection figures.

Here is "Dragonne: Half Dragon, Half Lion". This was a very popular toy in it's time. I received this one as a Christmas present! Dragonne's wings were removable but unfortunately the tabs that hold them in place have broken off. Below are other views of Dragonne and the wings.


 
Super Powers, action figures by Kenner, 1984-1986

Throughout the 1970's the Mego toy company produced various action figure toys based on DC Comics and Marvel Comics superheroes. As a result Mego toys dominated the toy industry. However in 1982 the company went bankrupt and ultimately went out of business. With the rights to produce DC Comics superhero toys once again up for grabs, the producers of the original Star Wars action figures toy line, Kenner, quickly acquired the rights and the Super Powers action figure series was born!

In other words, this amazing and iconic toy series would never have happened if Mego had never gone bankrupt. As both a life-long fan of Mego 8 inch superhero dolls and a huge fan of the Super Powers series, this bit of action figure history has always made the collector in me feel rather conflicted. Part of me can't help thinking "Wow! Good thing Mego went bankrupt! Woo Hoo!", but then the Mego freak in me immediately feels like I've betrayed my awesome 8 inch Mego collection and am not worthy of basking in it's glory. Gosh, life is hard sometimes!

Unlike Mattel which acquired the rights for Marvel Comics superheroes resulting in the "Secret Wars" toy line, Kenner pampered DC Comics fans by producing a well designed and perfectly sculpted series of figures complete with fabric capes and articulated knees to allow extra posing and playability. Plus, each figure had a built in "Super Power action" based on the specific character's heroic ability. If that wasn't enough, each figure also came with a full colour mini comic book! This made the Secret Wars figures seem lack-luster to kids of the 80's. As such, Kenner's Super Powers series quickly became the more popular superhero toy line, and the rest is history. Mattel wasn't out of the picture though. Two years prior in 1982, Mattel had released their extremely popular He-Man / Masters of the Universe toy series, so they still had a very strong and stable position in the action figure market.

Series 1

Heroes: Aquaman (missing trident staff), Robin, Batman, Superman (missing cape),
and Wonder Woman (missing golden lasso)

Super Power action:
Aquaman - squeeze arms to make both legs kick for swimming action
Robin - squeeze legs to make right arm make a karate-chop action
Batman - squeeze legs to make both arms punch
Superman - squeeze legs to make both arms punch
Wonder Woman - squeeze legs to make arms cross (to use her bullet stopping bracelets)

Heroes: The Flash, Green Lantern (missing lantern accessory), and Hawkman
 
Super Power action:
Flash - squeeze arms to make both legs move for running action
Green Lantern - squeeze legs to lift right hand (to use the green power ring)
Hawkman - squeeze legs to make both wings flap


Villains: Penguin, Joker (missing coat tails), and Lex Luthor
 
Series 1 figures missing from my collection:
Brainiac
 
Super Power action:
Penguin - squeeze legs to make right arm lift umbrella
Joker - squeeze legs to make right arm clobber with mallet
Lex Luthor - squeeze legs to make both arms punch or chop, removing the green armour limits his powers (by releasing a button on his back, this limits the arm movement)
Brainiac (not shown) - squeeze arms to make right leg kick
 
The Batmobile
 
This toy was originally sold in a box without the figures. The car has a spring loaded battering ram on the front which is activated by a lever next to Batman's chair. A yellow button on the dashboard operates the headlights, which simply lift up (they do not actually light up). Another button next to Batman's chair operates a set of spring loaded hooks that pop out from the back of the car to capture the villain. When the car's back right wheel turns it makes a clicking sound.
 
Series 1 Vehicles and Playsets missing from my collection:
Lex-Soar 7 (spaceship)
Superman Supermobile (spaceship)
Hall of Justice Playset
 
Series 2
 
Heroes: Green Arrow (missing arrow accessory), Firestorm, Red Tornato,
Martian Manhunter (missing cape), and Dr. Fate

Villains: Desaad (missing various parts), Darkseid, Kalibak (missing Beta-Club accessory),
and Steppenwolf (missing axe)
 
Series 2 figures missing from my collection:
Mantis
Parademon
Clark Kent

Series 3

Hero: Samurai (missing fabric vest)
Villain: Tyr (missing rocket arm)
 
Series 3 figures missing from my collection:
Cyborg
Plastic Man
Mister Miracle
Shazam
Golden Pharaoh
Orion
Cyclotron
Mr. Freeze
Riddler (exclusive to Argentina)

Here is a cool website with images of all of figures and their packaging: http://www.kennersuperpowers.com/


DC Heroes, PVC Figures by "Comics Spain", 1989-1992
I found this series of DC Comics PVC figures on e-bay. They are marked "Comics Spain" and each has a different date between 1989 - 1992.
 
Shown above are Hawkman (1991), The Flash (1991), Batman (1989), Superman (1992), Wonder Woman (1991) Green Lantern (1991), and Aquaman (1991). Additional figures in this series include Green Arrow and a character from the Teen Titans, Starfire. There is also an earlier version of Superman in a different pose from 1988, and a version of the above Batman figure in a black costume, likely released in 1989 in conjunction with the Tim Burton Batman movie. In 1992 a third PVC figure of Batman was made based on the sequel Batman Returns, detailed to have the same costume as seen in the movie. That figure was released along with figures of the villains Catwoman and Penguin from the same film. In my experience the three Batman Returns figures along with Green Arrow and Wonder Woman are the harder figures to find from this series.

Here are some of the PVC figures next to an 8 inch Batman Mego for size comparison.
 
Superman and Wonder Woman
 
Here's a closer look at each of the figures. The 1992 version of Superman is much nicer than the 1988 version, though I adore this PVC series so I hope to own both someday. Wonder Woman is a more recent addition to my collection. In my experience she was quite challenging to find. As these were originally only sold in Europe the only way I'm able to acquire them here in Canada is to buy them online. Had it not been for e-bay, I would never have known this series existed!

Batman and Green Lantern
 
Batman and Green Lantern are nice looking figures. Alas, it seems that a Robin PVC figure for this collection was not made. :(  Unfortunately in the late 1980's and early 1990's Robin was out of vogue as a side-kick for Batman, who was being marketed on his own as a solo superhero. I thought that was unfortunate as Robin has always been my favourite superhero. As Robin was the leader of the Teen Titans he was still a popular character. It's equally as odd that a PVC figure of Starfire was made for this series without a Robin figure to match (the two characters were also dating in the comic book storyline), not to mention any of the other Teen Titans such as Cyborg or Kid Flash. That would have been cool! Teen Titans were very popular at the time, so it's very bizarre to me why Robin wasn't made. As a collector I find it extra frustrating that they made two versions of Batman and Superman but no Robin!
 
Hawkman, Flash and Aquaman
 
I must say, it's nice to see Hawkman included in this set as the character is often excluded from action figure collections. I wonder why his winged cowl was painted brown instead of orange as they already had orange paint for Aquaman? But I'm glad to have the figure none the less. In 1991 when the above Hawkman and Flash PVC figures were made along with Green Lantern (shown above next to Batman), the three characters had only been offered in action figure form on two other occasions. The first was as part of the very popular Kenner Super Powers series in 1982, shown above on this page, and the next was in 1990 by Toy Biz, which in my view were rather poorly made. The Mego toy company that had produced smaller 3 inch action figures, bendy figures, 8 inch dolls and 12 inch dolls based on DC Comics characters in the 1970s never included Hawkman, Flash or Green Lantern in their figure assortments. Aquaman is sculpted slightly larger than all the other PVC figures in this set including Superman.

Marvel Heroes, PVC Figures by Comics Spain 1992, and Yolanda 1988(?)

Here are some Marvel PVC figures that I found bought on e-bay. I've included the 8" Spider-Man Mego for the size comparison. The small Spidey figure is by Comics Spain 1992. The Thor and Silver Surfer figures were made by Yolanda. I couldn't make out the date on either one, but it looks like it might be 1988.


More to come!

2 comments:

  1. Hi Mike. Marc in South Africa here. Ive been trying to find if there ever was a Galoob A-team van for the 6 inch figs. Its seems to be an urban legend here and Ive met two people who swear they had the large van for their figures. In 1984 our local importer of the figures (Arlenco Toys) along with a local Central News Agency (CNA) brought out an exclusive South African Sticker album which featured illustrated artwork of the characters and scenes from epsiodes from the 1st season of the show, AS WELL as actual photographs of Galoobs preproduction promotional photos of the toys. One of which shows a 6 inch Face figure sitting in a large scale A-team van (not Ertl) and hes sitting in a beige chair in the back of the van and the side sliding door is open. So same external & internal color scheme as the smaller scale Galoob van but definitely large scale as you know the smaller van only had a removable roof and did not feature a sliding door. If you want me to send a photo of that sticker just shout. I have a spare complete albums as well but they are super rare and collectible as they are super sought after as the centrefold of the album is a photo of BA/Mr T in the famous the A-team needs you pose (like Uncle Sam), this poster is now sought after as it was used in a South African punk music bands music video, the band is called Die Antwoord and more famous in the US than here. The video is called Baby light my fire (you can find it on youtube). Another interesting note on the smaller scale villain Snake Gang action figures, the colours of their outfits differed in the USA compared to their UK & European & South African versions. Regards Marc

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    1. Hi Marc Thanks for all of the awesome info!!! Feel free to send the photos if you wish, that van sounds awesome! Too bad it didn't get past the prototype stage. It would have been a popular toy. I find it odd that no toy companies have ever taken advantage of this situation by producing a suitable van for this series like the one you described. Even without the figures it would be an awesome collectable item!

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