The new Captain Action series is an incredible update to the classic toy line, blending the retro feel of the original with strong, modern day toy design. Captain Action is back, and better than ever!
I’m a little late to the party on this one– Captain Action, the 60′s hero from Ideal who could transform into other heroes using his rubber masks and costumes, returned last Spring, with an impressively ambitious relaunch that saw a new 12″ toy line (complete with licensed Marvel costumes), a comic and a cool new website all about the good Captain. I had been loosely following the relaunch since then, but my interest finally turned to excitement when I opened a brand new Captain Action from my Dad this Christmas. I was instantly blown away.
The original Captain Action was released before my time, but my Dad and I had a sizeable vintage toy collection as I was growing up, and Cap was always my favorite old school toy– with his semi-superhero style, cool ray gun and those awesome costumes, Captain Action was way cooler than G.I. Joe or Johnny West. Unlike his 1:6 colleagues, Captain Action was intended with the very cool play feature to dress him up in the costumes of various other super heroes, and with the proper gear the hero could become anyone from Batman to Captain America to the Green Hornet. The fact that Captain Action fought an evil alien in a silver nehru jacket was icing on the cake– he was hands-down the coolest toy hero of the 60′s.
I’m writing that as a precursor of sorts, my way of establishing I’m fairly familiar with the Captain Action brand. It’s obvious that the guys at Round 2, the ones responsible for the new relaunch, are also very familiar with the franchise… they’re clearly huge fans, and it shows– the new Captain Action line feels like a true labor of love.
This isn’t the first time we’ve see Action get rebooted. About ten years ago, the original dolls were recast by Playing Mantis, along with some costumes of the easier-to-obtain costume licencees, but the series never really took off. The new line from Round 2 corrects each problem of the previous reboot, right out of the gate. Rather than recast the old Ideal dolls, the new Captain Action is an all-new figure, incorporating modern toy engineering with a classic look of the hero. This is the best way to go, as we’ve seen in many other nostalgia-driven lines from G.I. Joe to Masters of the Universe– there’s a lot of toy lines from the past in which we’re more invested in the character than the toy, so if there is a modern, improved version of the character that captures the feel of the cool, yet simpler figure from the past, I’ll take the update any day.
The new Captain Action is very good, with a remarkably well-articulated body and an all-new head that’s a stunning improvement over the original, while maintaining a strong resemblance to the vintage Captain. Cap includes a cloth costume, just like the original, with a black and blue pattern that straddles the pulp and super hero aesthetic nicely. The figure also includes his signature hat, a belt with holsters for his lightning bolt sword and gun, and a communicator. All the pieces look great, and I love the functionality of holders for both weapons and a clip on the communicator, so everything can store on his belt. The doll is instantly recognizable, but features an amazing number of small, cool tweaks and added details, from the lightning bolt stamped on his boots to the wonderfully sculpted hat and weapons.
The costume goes on and off with ease, a simple strip of velcro in the back holding it together while the boots and belt pop on and off simply and smoothly. This is, of course, good news, as Cap can switch costumes with the licensed Marvel heroes very easily! We’ve seen four costume sets so far– Captain America, Spider-Man, Thor and Loki. I have my first set in the mail now, so expect a full review of the Thor set shortly, but here’s what I can say up front: Round 2 was smart to secure Marvel and DC characters for their line right away, and the retro Romita/ Kirby styling of the masks looks wonderful. I should also note, which I discovered recently, that the costumes are available in two versions. Toys R Us is carrying basic ones, with the bare bones parts you need to complete your character. However, each set is also available to specialty shops and e-tailers in a deluxe version, which is packed with extra pieces, alternate masks, AND a piece of a costume for Hawkeye– by collecting the first six deluxe costume sets, you can assemble a full Hawkeye outfit, a fun take on the “Build A Figure” concept.
Of course, Captain Action isn’t the only one to return– his arch nemesis Dr. Evil also gets a brand new figure! The villain is another excellent update of the vintage design, with his silver suit and blue skin looking every bit as otherworldly as the classic version. There’s a great retro vibe to the new Dr. Evil facesculpt, with his bulging eyes and exposed brain harkening back to 50′s invaders, while his tunic and pendant have a 60′s mod/ Bond villain feel. Again, the new design takes a few liberties with Evil’s design which work to his favor– gone are the silly sandals of the vintage version, replaced by blue boots that make him look more formidable (kudos for the patterning on the boots, though, which take the form of the sandals’ straps, a great nod to the villain’s previous footgear!)
In addition to his costume and necklace with pendant, Evil also comes packing his own sci-fi style gun, and a mask so he can disguise himself as his human alter ego, Dr. Tracy. The mask is made of a soft rubber and fits very well over the figure’s head, maintaining a good scale when properly in place. It takes a little rigging to get the mask to set correctly on Evil’s head, but I found that hooking the bottom of the mask over the villain’s chin and then pulling the mask up and over works best. There is a slight slit behind Tracy’s ears where Evil’s pointy ones poke out, but it’s only noticeable if you’re looking at him from directly behind (and close up). I’ve seen some comments from collectors wishing the masks had been sacrificed for alternate swappable heads, but I think this would take some of the magic out of what makes Captain Action so cool, and I’m hoping the licensed masks fit as well as Tracy.
There’s an impressive dedication to both detail and authenticity all over both Captain Action and Dr. Evil. They definitely capture the same retro-mod cool of the classic toys, and improve on it with slight upgrades to the design of both the characters and their figures. These guys are lots of fun to play with, and I can only imagine that will increase a thousand times over once I get my hands on some of their costumes!
With these two awesome figures as the base, the new Captain Action really made a splash. There’s a thoughtfulness on display here which left me convinced this property is absolutely in the right hands at Round Two. And with brisk sales at my local stores, and more hero and villain costumes on the way from both the Marvel and DC universe, I think this great new line will be sticking around for a while.
And for more on Captain Action, check out the official website– CaptainAction.com