Action Man joins the Foreign Legion
Considering the numerous international variations of Action Man.
Action Man Fall in! Or could that be Geyper Man Caer en? Action Joe Tomber dans or even アクションマンフォール·イン? The answer is actually “all of the above” as Action Man was available in many countries but marketed under a variety of names and, even more excitingly, with a number of different uniforms and head sculpts - some of which were totally unique to the country of manufacture.
Action Man, or GI Joe as he was known originally, was born in the USA in 1964 and was licensed to Palitoy in 1966. Initially all Action Man’s uniforms and accessories were those used by GI Joe until the team at Palitoy, under the watchful eye of Bob Brechin (chief Palitoy designer), started to come up with its own ideas and unique outfits. Some perfect examples are the infamous Ceremonials, which still remain one of the most popular and collectable outfits to this day. Obviously as his popularity grew, different countries started to produce their own unique outfits and some even went so far as to give Action Man/GI Joe a total facelift, ensuring their own population of children had that familiarity of what a soldier or adventurer would look like in their home country.
Possibly the first example of this came in the form of the Soldiers of The World range from the USA, which was also released in the UK under the name ‘Soldiers of the Century’. The stark difference to previous releases was that the series included an actual Japanese Imperial Soldier figure, produced with a different head sculpt. It was the first time this had happened in the Action Man/GI Joe ranges. Along with this release the European ‘Sour Faced Joes’ were also introduced in four hair colours, including blonde, black, brown and auburn. There are rumours as to why these were discontinued including bad taste, political correctness and cost cutting but whatever the reason it has made these extremely collectable and a good example of the GI Joe Imperial Soldier can easily fetch three figure sums.
The UK never produced a different head sculpt that was unique to these shores but there were two other countries that would - making these examples among the rarest imports of the worldwide GI Joe/Action Man collecting range. One of the examples hails from Japan, where Action Man was licensed as Takara New Joe. He had a different sculpt that featured a very westernised wide eyed figure, which, if found clothed and in excellent condition, can fetch between £200-£300.
The only other country to accompany Japan is Mexico, where a bearded figure under the name Aventurero Accion, but commonly known as the Mexican Joe, was produced. Again this figure is extremely rare to find in any condition but would fetch the same sort of price as its Japanese cousin. It is a common misconception that France produced different head sculpts to fit in with its market, such as Rahan and Albator, but these were only made under the license of ‘Group Action Joe’ and only depicted comic book characters. Nevertheless these can command high prices. In fact, Albator has been seen to make up to £1,000 on eBay. The concept was also copied by Spain and, as a result, Super Geyperman was produced. This fetches up to £500, although you’ll be lucky to find a surviving one at all.
Perhaps the most outlandish, impressive and unique outfit that came with a different head sculpt was produced as part of the Combat Joe series from Takara in Japan. This was the fantastic Godzilla costume, which enabled a unique Takara Joe figure to climb into a Godzilla outfit – just like the real thing [Ed – this has quickly become one of my favourite toys of all time. Amazing stuff]. Once inside he could add to the costume by attaching clawed paws and a spiked back that covered the zipped compartment where Takara Joe would be inserted. There was also a choice of two heads for Godzilla: one angry, snarling head and another calmer, mellower head. This outfit, if found boxed and complete, can fetch as much as £1,000 but be warned, there is a much inferior Godzilla reproduction that can be found for much less.
There are many more unique outfits and some that were shared between certain countries. This has amazed and enthralled collectors worldwide ensuring an insignificant outfit in one country can suddenly become the most desirable and expensive figure in another country. So ignore any Joe-related product from any country at your peril, as this could be a very expensive mistake and a very important discovery to us mere Action Man/GI Joe collectors.
As you may know, I organise regular Action Man Days and one of the (many) benefits to hosting such an event is that you attract and meet collectors from all over the world: New Zealand, Canada, Germany and France, to name but a few. This improves your knowledge and gives you an insight into why this toy has proved so popular, not only in its own time and within its own country, but also for modern collectors in countries across the globe. As such, this has produced a whole NEW way of collecting (for want of a better word) an OLD toy.