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Ideal Toys' response to the wild success of Hasbro's G.I. Joe toy soldiers and Marx's Best of the West action figures was Captain Action, a hero who could become one of several well-known characters. In his regular form, the Captain wore a superhero outfit and a sea captain's hat, and used a variety of "crime-fighting accessories." But Ideal also managed a dream of a marketing deal that allowed their character to become any number of other heroes, with licensed costumes and masks. While little girls were encouraged to dress up Barbie as various fantasy role models, Captain Action could slug it out as Superman, Batman, Aquaman, the Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, Captain America, Steve Canyon, Sgt. Fury, or the Phantom. In his second year, he also acquired the costumes for Spider-man, the Green Hornet, Tonto, and Buck Rogers.

The accessories were often a bit odd: Aquaman came with scuba flippers while the Superman package included Krypto the Super-dog, who, at the time, was associated only with the young Boy of Steel. The later costumes also came with a "flasher" ring, which, when viewed from different angles, showed either a picture of the Captain himself or the licensed character.

After a year of moderate success, Captain Action acquired a youthful sidekick, Action Boy. The smiling lad wore a brighter version of his mentor's costume and a kicky beret; his accessories included a pet panther. Later, a silver and blue space-suit replaced his original costume (space toys were popular at the time). His alter egos, in any case, included Robin, Superboy, and Aqualad. Once again, Ideal excelled in colorful, cheap, and bizarre accessories: Robin had a pet bat, while Superboy had oddball lab equipment and a surreal "telepathic scrambler helmet."

Our heroes also acquired a vehicle, the Silver Streak, and a villain: Dr. Evil This alien character predates by decades the Austin Powers pretender to the name.

From 1966-1970, Captain Action fought crime in the backyards and basements of Yourtown. Ideal's sales, however, never matched those of their action figure rivals. Some cite cost: the price of Captain Action and a few outfits could purchase more than one G.I. Joe or Best of the West figure. Speaking as a former kid, you can stage better battles with many figures. I am also told that the accessories tended to break easily.

A short run and easily-damaged accessories have made the figures in the line expensive collector's items. Praying Mantis began issuing reproductions in 1998. Licensing has changed dramatically since the 1960s, and many of the outfits and disguises cannot be reissued. They manufacture most of the non-DC and non- Marvel costumes, and have added a few, including the Green Hornet's Kato. Action Boy, curiously, gets called "Kid Action" on some packaging.

Captain Action had his own short-lived DC comic from 1968 to 1969. In the first issue, they appear with Superman; the duo only act as themselves in their four-color adventures. The five issues include an origin story and a faux "Death of Action Boy" cover (#3). According to DC, Captain Action is an intrepid fellow named "Clive Arno." He and son "Carl Arno" find some ancient, magic coins which give them superhuman powers. Despite such talents as Wally Wood and Jim Shooter working on issues, the comic was not a success. Nevertheless, Moonstone publications began, in 2009, to produce their own version of a Captain Action comic, and they also intend to publish a collection of prose stories.

Other merchandise has included playing cards, a halloween costume, and a short-lived Aurora model.

Sources:

Sally Ann Berk, Tom Tumbusch, et al. Tomart's Encyclopedia of Action Figures. New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2000.

"Captain Action." Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics. http://www.dcindexes.com/

"Captain Action Index." http://darkmark6.tripod.com/capactionind.html

Ray Kolasa. "The Captain Action Story." Captain Action Headquarters. http://members.aol.com/actnboy/castory.html

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