Below are thoughts about five random ‘80s action figures. Well, random to you, but very important to me. I chose these five because blah blah blah, something something, who cares, nobody reads intros. I’ll just use this space to practice the ol’ text whistle. Whhhrrreeeeeee. Sooowoooiiiiiiooo.
B.A.T. (Battle Android Trooper)
G.I. Joe, 1986
I should have written more about this guy over the years, because it’s damn close to my favorite action figure ever. The B.A.T. was just one of an army of identical Cobra robots who made life hell for the Joes, but their place in the lore never concerned me. I just thought the figure looked impossibly cool.
In my little toy universe, B.A.T. had a starring role. For a while, everything that happened on my bedroom carpet was seen from B.A.T.’s point of view.
Uh oh — the Rancor is battling a Sharkticon. How will this affect B.A.T.?
Regrettably, this particular figure is in rough shape, and is missing one of its coolest parts – the awesome chest sticker that showed all of his internal gears!
B.A.T.’s right hand was removable, and he came with various weapons that could be attached instead. The weird cigar cannon shown above is all I have left. Still better than most of the other beat up old B.A.T. figures, with left arms that stop dead at the elbows. I have a bad feeling that only three of you will have any idea what I’m talking about, and of those three, at least one will snark about how I’m not really “talking.” Preemptively: Fuck you.
Louie the Plumber
C.O.P.S. & Crooks, 1988
Even if figures like the B.A.T. were my “stars,” only rarely did I consider them the “leaders.” Throughout my childhood, only seven or eight action figures were given such honors, loosely forming a mafia-esque syndicate that may not have liked each other, but maintained peace for the good of the monopoly.
In general, those leaders were the expected figures. Guys like Jabba the Hutt and Mumm-Ra. The usual top dogs.
But somehow, Louie the Plumber, an absolute b-teamer from C.O.P.S., became one of these bosses.
I can barely remember the C.O.P.S. cartoon, but it had one of the most underrated toy lines ever, with richly detailed figures. Louie, on the other hand, was arguably the least interesting figure in the set – a big fat Bluto with bad jeans and a painter’s cap.
The painter’s cap was glued on and never intended to be removable, but kids will be kids, and once I pried that thing off, Louie looked positively badass. He went from “bald” to “boss” in two seconds flat.
The sands of time have stolen his legs, waist and forearms, but out of respect for everything Louie meant to my toy universe, I’ll never throw him away.
(Besides, I considered “legless figures” to be all-knowing specters who warned my still-complete figures of pending doom. So even like this, Louie still has a purpose. He’s the guy who floats around the people with legs, telling them to be wary.)
Food Fighters, 1988
Speaking of underrated toy lines, I absolutely adored Food Fighters, a collection of anthropomorphic food items with military trappings and strangely human arms. Totally bizarre, but somehow, it worked.
I don’t know if I have a favorite figure – they were all so good – but if pressed, I guess I’d go with the pizza dude who uses his own pepperoni as an eyepatch.
I’ve known about Food Fighters for more than twenty years, so I’m a little desensitized to their inherent weirdness. If you don’t think I’m making a big enough deal about A WALKING PIZZA SLICE ARMY GUY WITH MUSHROOMS OVER HIS BREAST, it’s only because I’ve had so long to get used to him. I would not blame you at all for shitting right now. If this is news, believe me, I get it.
Star Wars, 1983
Very briefly in the early ‘80s, one of my brothers worked at Toys “R” Us. I should have been too young to remember this, but I do, and it’s all because of Admiral Ackbar.
One night, my mother brought me to Toys “R” Us while my brother was working. Even at that young age, Star Wars was my world, and my happiness was 100% linked to the Kenner action figures.
Unfortunately, on that particular night, the only one in stock that I didn’t already own was Admiral Ackbar. This was likely 1985 or so, and the Star Wars stuff was already drying up.
I know that Admiral Ackbar has become a big thing online. I know you all love him, and I do too. But this was before all of that, and I was five-years-old at most. Within those parameters, Admiral Ackbar was an awful Star Wars figure. Forget the fact that I was too young to appreciate a brilliant talking squid. It just seemed to be such a BORING toy. Even his weapon sucked. It was just a black stick!
Well, my brother set me straight, right there on the checkout line. He was old enough to “get it,” and after his speech, I did too. Admiral Ackbar was a hero, a scholar and a funny looking cephalopod, and I should have been proud to own his action figure.
I especially love his meaty Popeye forearms.
As for my brother, he only lasted at Toys “R” Us for a few months, but I can still picture him wearing the old striped vest, and that weird hat that I’m almost definitely making up. Does anyone remember what Toys “R” Us workers wore in the early ‘80s? Were hats involved?
Filmation’s Ghostbusters, 1985
Oh, man. This guy. Prime Evil. I’ll spare you the “Filmation’s Ghostbusters vs. Real Ghostbusters” spiel, because most of you know it, and it isn’t really relevant to this story, anyway. I didn’t watch that cartoon, and I had zero interest in its corresponding toy line.
…until I saw Prime Evil, hiding in the back of an old Consumers catalog.
The Consumers chain came up on a recent thread, but making a long story short, the stores only carried around 3% of what was featured in their catalogs. Seemed that way, at least. Filmation’s Ghostbusters was already dead and gone by the time Consumers featured Prime Evil on its clearance pages, and that store was my only shot at getting him. The bastards never had him in stock.
If you’re wondering why I wanted a figure from a franchise that I had zero interest in or clue about, LOOK AT IT. I wrote about “boss” characters earlier, and my God, if there was ever an obvious boss. Total capo de tutti capi material.
To this day, Prime Evil figures are tough to find – especially with the fabric robes intact. I picked this one up months ago, thinking that it would immediately improve everything about life in general. It didn’t, but I’m still glad to have him. He looks like Skeletor’s angry grandpa. I see him as the type to find minor nuisances extremely aggravating.
Did I mention that it’s six in the morning? Yeah, no matter when this gets posted, I wrote it in the middle of the night. I am so ready for bed. I’m not even going to wash my hands, though I should, because I’ve been handling dirty, sticky old action figures for the past three hours. Goodnight.