Mattel Big Jim Action Figures
Background and concept
The Big Jim line of action figures was launched by Mattel in 1972, as competition to Hasbro’s line G.I Joe. The first series of figures had a sporting theme, as opposed to G.I Joe’s military theme, and based itself around adventure, exploration and outdoor pursuits.
The initial five figures were accompanied by sporting and martial arts equipment, and were accompanied by a series of separate outfits ranging from baseball and American football to scuba diving, skiing and fire-fighting.
Later series’ included a spy team similar to Mission Impossible, a secret agent line with disguise kits, a Western line based on characters from the Old West, a range of Pirate figures and a line set in space.
The line was eventually discontinued in 1986, but during its time the figures were highly successful and were sold through the U.S, Latin America and Europe under numerous different names. Today Big Jim figures are considered highly collectible due to the wide range of figures, outfits and accessories.
Figure design and features
The figures measure 10” in height, and featured ‘Big Jim Body Action’ meaning all the joints bend and turn making them highly poseable. The first series of figures also had rubber casing on their arms, which would simulate bulging bicep muscles when the elbows were bent, and a karate chop action activated by a push button on their backs.
The figures came with ‘straight’ hands until 1976, when the design was changed to feature ‘grip hands’ which allowed the figures to hold weapons and accessories more easily.
Another feature in the basic series was the ‘Muscle Mover’ which attached to the back of special figures. This red hand-held trigger could activate a number of movements in the figure including kicking, twisting at the waist and an over-arm throw which could be used in conjunction with accessories such as basketball, baseball and football equipment.
Other features included changing heads, by which a figure’s face would change when its right arm was turned down, and telescoping arms which allowed various figures hands to extend and strike out.
Big Jim Action Figures
The first basic series of six figures was launched in 1972, along with a wide range of accessories and outfits. These figures were Big Jim, Big Jack, Big Josh, Big Jeff, Dr Steel and Chief Tanuka.
The basic series was followed by the P.A.C.K series in 1976, which depicted Jim as a member of an elite unit known as ‘Professional Agent against Crime Killers’. Each of the team had a wolf’s head tattoo, and the line featured a villain character for the first time in the form of Zorak the Enemy.
The Spy series, launched in 1979, featured two villains – Professor Ob and Boris – along with various versions of Jim such as Big Jim Secret Agent and Big Jim Laser Gunner. It also featured a range of outfits and disguises for Jim, including false beards, trench coats and cameras.
1979 also saw the release of the first Space series, which included the villain Dr Bushido and the android Captain Laser. This was followed in 1984 by a second Space series with a number of futuristic figures including four heroes and four villains. Commander Big Jim was joined by Astros, Dr Alec and Colonel Kirk in a fight against Professor Obb Overlord, Baron Fangg, Vektor and Kobra.
Other series within the Big Jim line included the Western and Pirate figures, although neither featured the character of Jim. The first figures of the Western series included Native American Indians and real-life characters such as Buffalo Bill, whereas the second wave of Western figures were based on characters from television shows including ‘How the West Was Won’ and ‘Grizzly Adams’.
The Pirates series ran from 1978 until 1979, and featured three figures – Captain Drake, Captain Hook and Captain Flint, along with a Pirate Ship play set.
List of Big Jim figures
See main article: List of Mattel Big Jim action figures