Big Jim (toy line)

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Big Jim
Big Jim prima serie.jpg
TypeAction Figures
CountryUnited States

Big Jim was a popular line of action figure toys produced from 1972 through 1986 by Mattel for the North American and European markets. In Latin America he was renamed Kid Acero, and for a short period of time, Mark Strong in Europe. Originally inspired by G.I. Joe, the Big Jim line was smaller in size (closer to 10 inches in height compared to Joe's 12) and each figure included a push button in the back that made the character execute a karate chop action. The action figure's arms were made of a soft plastic/vinyl material and contained a mechanism that simulated the bulge of a biceps when the elbow was bent. Big Jim was less military-oriented than the G.I. Joe line, having more of a secret agent motif, but also had a large variety of outfits and situations available including sports, space exploration, martial arts, hunting, western, camping and even unusual choices such as fishing and photography.

Basic characters[edit]

Characters are sorted in the year in which they made their first appearance. Note most of them were produced for several years after their initial release.

Original Mark Strong the Man (1972)

  • Mark Strong – Big Jim's former concept – The basic figure dressed in orange shorts with white stripes with karate board, dumbbell and test of strength belt. He was released in Europe only.

Original Big Jim Basic series (1972)

  • Big Jim – the "basic" good guy leader of the P.A.C.K. He was an average Caucasian male with no other distinguishable characteristic, except having a permanent good attitude and joy for life.
  • Big Jack – One of the first African American characters with friendly attitude that made it into toys without racial stereotypes.
  • Big Josh – Effectively Big Jim with a beard. He is one of Jim's best friends, and was positioned as the tough guy among the group.
  • Big Jeff – Big Jim's third buddy. An Australian kind of blond type, who was also Jim's opponent in the Olympic boxing match set, even though both Jim and Jeff are on the American team.
  • Dr. Steel – He came with a steel right hand and an iron pipe, and a big dragon tattoo on his chest. Most of the time, kids thought of him as being an evil villain for the first series, but it turned out he was also one of the good guys, as he re-appeared as an official member of the P.A.C.K. In other countries he remained as a villain however.
  • Chief Tankua – Jim's Native American friend. He came with bow and arrow, and was the first character who wears a wolf tattoo, which eventually became the P.A.C.K. image.

P.A.C.K. Series (1976)

  • Warpath – He is Tankua with a different name. Exactly the same figure.
  • The Whip – A weapons specialist who masters all kind of weapons. He came with boomerangs, bola and whip, from which he takes the nickname. The Whip is one of the few Big Jim characters known for an alias instead of his real name.
  • Torpedo Fist – Probably the strangest of all members of the P.A.C.K., he was the only one who had "superpowers". While all other members of the group were normal humans with no other special ability except their agility and normal strength, Torpedo has a telescopic cybernetic arm.
  • Zorak – A reputed scientist who performed several genetic experiments with his own body, until he finally became a major menace. He is mostly like The Hulk, who transforms into a monster. He was the villain in the P.A.C.K. series. Not to be confused with the unrelated character of the same name from Space Ghost.

Spy series (1982)

  • Agent 004 – Big Jim, with a new secret identity.
  • Joe – A professional alpinist who helps agent 004.
  • Professor O.B.B. – An Asian gentlemen with refined moods and a dangerous profession. His character was partially based on James Bond's Doctor No.
  • Boris – He looked like a European driver, mostly a Soviet soldier, and was originally inspired by Oddjob from Goldfinger. He has a steel cap on his skull and a fist which could extend from his wrist with a cable. A remarkably similar character named Brocken would later appear in the World Heroes video game series.

Global Command series (1985)

  • Commander Jim – Big Jim, this time as the leader of an adventure team, a bit similar as the original P.A.C.K., but this time also oriented to spy and space adventures.
  • Astros – Described mostly as a loyal friend of Jim. He was initially dressed as an astronaut.
  • Dr. Alec – A member of Global Command specializing in jungle and desert missions.
  • Baron Fangg – A longtime enemy and rival of Doctor Alec. He was equipped with a "mimetic armor" which allowed him to mimic the area around him like a chameleon.
  • Vektor – A cosmonaut specializing in supersonic aircraft, he was intended to be Astros's rival.

The Original Edition[edit]

First Editions – At their debut season, Big Jim action figures came out in a small blue box with red and white stripes. The entire 1972 toy line was split from the beginning in three sub lines: the Basic Line, the Adventure Line and the Sports Line, being the sport one the first which hits the shelves as with the sub line name "All Star". Simultaneously, Mattel released an almost identical figure named Mark Strong, The Man from Mattel© in Europe. He was Big Jim's former concept, and at first sight looks exactly the same as Jim, and came with same accessories. A close inspection of the crotch piece reveals Mark's is in fact, more fragile. Jim's piece has thicker junctions.

The Basic line was composed mostly of figures which came almost naked, with minimal clothes or accessories. The original basic Big Jim came simple dressed in orange shorts with white stripes. Came with a karate board, a dumbbell and test of strength belt. Jack was an identical, figure, with only a different head. He was one of the first African American related toys ever produced in the United States that represents a minority in a plain, simple and respectful way.

The Basic line also included the first incarnations of Josh and Jeff. Jeff is an Aussie type figure dressed with shorts and brown hat. Came with chopping knife with chest belt and a bamboo stand. Josh is supposed to be the tough guy, a bearded woodsman figure fully dressed in denim vest and shorts with brown boots. He was the only one which came with vest and shoes.

All four basic figures had a mechanism that simulated the bulge of a biceps when the arm was bent.

The adventure series was composed mostly of camping and explorer vehicles, and these were the first playsets ever made in the entire toyline. Three animals were released with this first wave: a gorilla, a rhino and a crocodile. To date, the "hunt the crocodile" set is one of the most recognizable among all Big Jim toys.

The entire Sports line was composed of different versions of Jim only dressed as a sportsman. He was a baseball player, a hockey player, a pugilist, and even an eagle ranger. The eagle which came with this set became an instant icon of the entire line, and it is one of the most beloved Big Jim toys ever. For this reason, this same eagle was repeatedly produced and included with several different versions of Jim along the years.

From the first wave of Big Jim toys probably the most strange of all was the one dressed as a nuclear plant worker, especially because he had no relation at all with any other of the themed figures.

P.A.C.K. Series[edit]

In 1975, Mattel decided to create an extension of the main toy line making Big Jim the leader of a Mission Impossible-like group of heroes for hire. This series is easy to identify because all related products have a howling wolf as its principal image and character art by Jack Kirby. The members of the spy group were named P.A.C.K., which is an acronym derived from "Professional Agents – Crime Killers".[1]

On its initial release, the series presented Jim as "Commander", this time as the leader of a counter intelligence strike team. He and two of his most loyal friends joins forces to against a hooded villain known as "Zorak, the ruler of the Underworld".

The first Zorak action figure was named Double Trouble Zorak, because he had a face-changing feature where his normal-looking head could be turned into a monstrous green visage.

Two Big Jim action figures were relaunched to join forces against Zorak. One of them was Warpath (a Native American archer) who was previously released as Tankua. Seems like the main reason for the name change was the difficulty in pronouncing "Tankua" properly, and the need for a more dynamic name. Dr. Steel returned too, but this time as a hero and member of the P.A.C.K. A new character was added to the group, The Whip, a weapons specialist armed with a bullwhip. One year later, a new character named Torpedo Fist, (a former sailor with an artificial hand and forearm) was added to the team. In Latin America several parts of this figure in particular were split to create new Big Jim characters not released in the United States, as part of the region's version of P.A.C.K., named LOBO Squadron.

  • Big Jim Commander / with wolfpack tattoo on left hand / dressed in white pants – blue sweater with white wolfpack logo – shoulderholster and silver gun – brown boots – wolfpack belt – silver arm communicator for right arm .
  • Big Jim Gold Commander / with wolfpack tattoo on left hand / dressed in yellow pants – black sweater with gold wolfpack logo – shoulderholster with silver gun – black boots – wolfpack belt – silver arm communicator for right arm .
  • Double Trouble Big Jim / With wolf pack tattoo on left hand/ He had solid hair which looked more like a helmet– his face would change much like the Double Trouble Zorak– But Big Jim would change from a normal face to an angry face.
  • Torpedo Fist / with wolfpack tattoo on left hand / dressed in blue pants – red + black striped shirt – blue hat – brown boots – wolfpack belt / came with expanding right arm, torpedo fist action .
  • The Whip / with wolfpack tattoo on left hand / black bearded figure / dressed in black pants – black vest – black commando hat – black boots – wolfpack belt / bandolero – whip – 3 boomerangs with braun chest belt – black chop stick – boomerang throwing device on right arm .
  • Warpath / with wolfpack tattoo on left hand / Indian Figure / dressed in denim pants – leather vest – black top hat – brown boots – wolfpack belt / silver bow with wolfpack logo and 3 silver arrows with the wolfpack logo on top / braun chest belt for the arrows
  • Zorak the ruler of the Underworld / 2 faces which can be changed from normal into a hulk like villain / dressed in black pants and red cloak with gold chains – black boots

Pirate Series[edit]

In 1978, Mattel launched a series based in the pirates theme exclusively in Europe. The series initially consisted of repaints and retooled figures, but eventually included some figures exclusives for the region.

  • Captain Drake – An evil hooded pirate. He had a face-changing feature like Zorak and could change his face to a skull.
  • Captain Hook
  • Captain Flint/Sandokan

Space Series[edit]

  • Big Jim Space Leader
  • Big Jim Laser Gunner
  • Captain Laser - The figure was made from the same idea of the Captain Lazer made by Mattel in the Major Matt Mason line.
  • Dr. Bushido – A baddie who wields a glow-in-the-dark katana. Bears a striking resemblance to Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. Was exactly the same doll as professor Obb.

Spy Series[edit]

Since 1979-1980, Mattel released a series of Spy themed Big Jim figures.

  • Big Jim 004
  • Big Jim Secret Agent
  • Big Jim Talking
  • Commando Jeff
  • Alpinist Joe
  • Boris, the devious chauffeur – An evil chauffeur with a steel cap on his skull and a fist which could extend from his wrist with a cable. A remarkably similar character named Brocken would later appear in the World Heroes video game series.
  • Professor Obb – A bearded mad scientist.
  • Iron Jaw – A villain for the Italian Spy Series: with a metal lower jaw and a prosthetic arm ending in a hook which can be changed with other extension that were stored in his green briefcase. This figure was never released, but appeared on catalogue and ads only. A similar character with an iron jaw and hook arm, Trap-Jaw, would show up in Mattel's Masters of the Universe action figure line.

Global Command vs. Condor Force[edit]

The last Big Jim sci-fi themed series appeared in the half of the eighties and was distributed In Europe only. There were eight characters, four "good" and four "evil", divided in two opposing camps: "Global Command" (the good one) and "Condor Force" (the evil one). The leaders of both groups were redesigned: a new head was sculptured for the classic Big Jim figure and for the villain Professor Obb too.[2]

Global Command
  • Big Jim Commander
  • Astros
  • Dr. Alek
  • Colonel Kirk
Condor Force
  • Professor Obb
  • Vektor
  • Kobra
  • Baron Fangg

Big Jim's Vehicles & Bikes[edit]

  • BIG JIM RESCUE CHOPPER – A big yellow chopper designed for rescue in high and low places, this chopper was equipped with stretcher which can be used to transport a figure during a rescue mission, also this chopper was equipped with a real working search light below the chopper, the chopper can hold one figure in the chopper and another one in the rescue stretcher outside the chopper, Mattel released some other variations of this chopper in Big Jim lines
  • RESCUE RIG – This was a large mobile unit similar to a fire truck, but with an interior, featuring an extending crane on the top, and it included various rescue gear, like a fire axe and a hook pole.
  • SAFARI TRUCK – It was a green safari truck that could sit two figures in the front. It came with a rhinoceros and a net that could either be used to make a cage in the truck bed or as a capture net to snag the rhino. The truck also came with two removable red gasoline jerrycans housed in the rear sides as well as a winch in the front and a boom for the winch. other accessories included a shovel, pic-axe, a single-barreled pump-action shotgun, and a long handled hatchet.
  • DEVIL RIVER TRIP – This was an adventure set featuring a yellow one-man swamp fan-boat, and a mechanical alligator with a gear and pulley articulation which allowed it to "undulate " as you slid it along the floor or strapped it into a special geared niche in the boat (the boat had wheels to make it "glide" along the floor and it didn't actually float).
  • The HOWLER /HONDA DIRT BIKE – It was grey and the wheels were made of a rubber compound. The "Howler" version of the motorcycle had a wolf's head cowling on the front of the bike which could be removed for off-road riding. A helmet was included.
  • SPORTS CAMPER – Large brown plastic wheeled camper, which came with camping gear and sporting accessories. This vehicle used the same moldings as the Barbie's Country Camper, but with different color plastic and printed vinyl patterns.
  • THE BAJA BEAST CAMPER – Same model as the Safari truck except for the removable top on this truck, so it can be changed from a truck into a camper just by removing the top, this version could hold the Honda dirt bike in front of the truck, the truck colours where white with the Big Jim Allstar logo attached on the sides, interior was orange and it also featured some truck accessories like jerrycans etc.
  • THE LAZERVETTE – A Corvette for Big Jim's P.A.C.K. that had laser cannons that flipped out of the hood.
  • THE SKY COMMANDER – A jet airplane, that folded into its own carry case. Opened it was 4'5.5" long, 1'10" tall. It had a single seat cockpit area, and two main compartments. The forward compartment was the main operations center with equipment and radios. The rearward compartment included a fold-up bunk for Jim.
  • BOAT AND BUGGY SET – A blue two seat dune buggy that came with a 15" boat (the same boat that came with the sports camper, only in blue), and a white boat trailer. The trailer also had two wheel slots to carry the motorcycle.

Kid Acero[edit]

Most of Big Jim toys from the early 70's from the adventure and sport series were sold as "Kid Acero" (Kid Steel) in Latin America. All toys are exactly the same as in the American versions and were produced by a local Mattel subsidiary. Only the Brand name is different. The Kid Acero toy line also included several figures which were exclusively created for the Mexican market, such as The Invisible Man, The Bionic Man, Garfio, Nocton and retooled and repainted versions of several Big Jim toys not available on United States or Europe.

Karl May's © Winnetou and Old Shatterhand[edit]

This series took its inspiration from the Winnetou movies that were made in the sixties that starred Pierre Brice as Winnetou and Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand. Mattel released six dolls in the Karl May line; they came in large green display boxes with the Karl May logo on the box. The lineup should be as follows:

  • Winnetou : Indian figure with real hair / Snake bandana – Suede-like pants with purple addings on the side – silver rifle
  • Old Shatterhand : Winnetou's sidekick / Fully dressed in suede-like trapper outfit with westernboots – gunbelt with two guns – peace pipe – rifle – hat
  • Old Firehand : Bearded Trapper figure / bearskin-like hat – peace pipe – gunbelt with two guns – rifle
  • Bloody Fox : Villain-like Indian figure with scare on face – rifle – chestbelt – gunbelt with two guns
  • Old Surehand : Buffalo Bill-type figure also with real hair / hat – leather cowboy outfit – western boots – white tie – rifle – gunbelt with two guns
  • Nscho Tschi : Indian Squaw Doll / The one and only Barbie-type doll in the Big Jim / Karl May series / Squaw outfit with two carrying buckets

A series based on Wild West characters of the popular German writer Karl May (1842–1912) and especially the 1960s series of Karl May movies was available in the late 1970s, including Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, Chief of the Apache. In addition to May's original Old Firehand and Old Surehand, a Bloody Fox was invented. With Ntscho-Tschi, Winnetou's sister, a unique female character was introduced to the series.[3][4]

In other countries this series was renamed and distributed as part of the official Big Jim line. In Italy it appeared as Gli amici del West di Big Jim ("Big Jim's Friends of the West"), and in Spain it was made by Congost as Oeste ("West"). The character was renamed too.[5][6][7]

  • Winnitou was renamed Geronimo in both countries
  • Old Shatterand was renamed Dakota Joe
  • Old Surehand became Buffalo Bill in Italy only
  • Old Firehand became Old Kentuck in Italy and Kid Buffalo in Spain
  • Bloody Fox became Bisonte Nero in Italy and Bisonte Negro in Spain
  • Nscho Tschi became Fresca Rugiada in Italy and India Apache in Spain

In Italy furthermore the Warpath character, knew as Chief Tankua, was add to the West series.

James Bond, Agent 007[edit]

Most of Big Jim toys from the early 80's were sold as "James Bond" toys in Latin America. The American Spy and Space series were renamed "James Bond, secret agent 007". All toys are exactly the same as in the American and European versions and were produced by a local Mattel subsidiary. Only the brand in the packages is different.

Iron Jaw[edit]

The Italian line of Big Jim also included several figures not released in other regions. Among the Italian line, Iron Jaw is the most rare of all. He has a metal lower jaw and a prosthetic arm ending in a hook which can be exchanged with other extensions that were stored in his green briefcase. This character was never produced, although there was a prototype figure on the prospect that came along with the figures from the Spy Series Italy. For this reason, collectors were desperately looking for him. A German collector made a bootleg copy in 2002 of the Iron Jaw figure based on the brochure, and produced several of his custom dolls which were traded around the world, but always stating clearly that it was a copy based on the pictures in the brochure.

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