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The Top Ten Coolest 3 3/4" Action Figure Lines of the 1970s
I gave up writing a weekly list for Topless Robot, in order to finish writing Rack Toys. I will admit to missing it from time to time, so I’m going to keep fresh by churning out the odd one for PlaidStallions.
One of the things children of the 1970s were witness to was the birth of the 3 ¾” action figure, this was something that was entirely ours as a generation. The 3 ¾” action figure was to our generation, what the Slinky or Mr Potatohead was to the baby boomers.
The explosion happened so quickly and so many companies followed suit that it’s easy to over look who did some of the best jobs.
Disclaimer: Your favorites might not be here, sorry about that but this list is merely meant as a fun distraction and doesn't serve in any sort of "official capacity". I don't really consider myself any bigger an expert than you, trust me. I'll probably do an 80s one in the coming months. .
10: Kenner Butch and Sundance Line
Kenner’s Butch and Sundance line wasn’t based on the Paul Newman/Robert Redford classic from the early 1970s but on the 1979 prequel starring William Katt and Tom Berenger titleds “Butch and Sundance The Early Years”, yeah that happened.
The figures had better articulation than Star Wars figures, their legs moved they could ride horses and they could pull their guns with quick draw action.
All the bells and whistles couldn’t save the line from the fact that cowboys had fallen out of vogue and the movie it was based on was not really not great. Kenner tried to launch it as a generic western line the year after but it didn't fly, however they did recycle much of the tooling for the “Adventures of Indiana Jones” line in 1982.
9) TIE: Comic Action Heroes/ Pocket Superheroes (Mego)
It’s hard to really tell which one is better when it comes to this line. The Comic Action figures were some of the earliest 3 ¾” figures ever made, so they’re a bit crude and frankly, do look like they’re masturbating,
The less pervy Pocket Heroes are nice but didn’t have as many cool playsets and vehicles like CAH including bat shit crazy stuff like the Mangler.
Either way you slice it, content is king here, 3 ¾” Superheroes were and still are a good idea essential to happy childhoods.
8: Zee Toys Metal Men
8) Metal Man (Zee Toys)
No back story, none required. Zee Toys Metal Men were robots, that’s all we needed to know. They were heavy diecast robots with cool names like Roton and SGT, Steel and I wanted them all, still do.
7: TIE: Black Hole/Buck Rogers
Granted neither property is as memorable nor was as popular as Star Wars was but than again, few things were.
However, what makes these toy lines classics were the quality put into them, Mego hired legendary toy sculptor Bill Lemon to craft both lines and also imbued them with the magical O Ring, giving them fantastic articulation (something that would later give the GI Joe RAH lasting popularity in the 1980s).
Mego also created a slew of vehicles and Playsets for Buck but sadly not Black Hole (still pining for a Cygnus playset) however, as a kid it made perfect sense that the two cute robot universes were somehow connected. I still believe this, if you disagree, I will fight you.
6: Battle of the Planetsr
Unless you grew up in Europe or Japan, you were denied the pleasure of these amazing figures based on one of the most iconic cartoons of the 1970s. Seeing them as an adult kind of filled me with both joy and anger, as I would have been all over these as a kid.
It makes you wonder why a toy company wouldn't have thought a daily syndicated animated series was a safe bet for heavy merchandising, Especially since five years later it would be an industry norm. If they ever invent time machines, I'm sending my 9 year old self a 7 Zark 7.
5: Mattel Flash Gordon
Filmation’s Flash Gordon is one of the crowns in the jewell of that fine animation company.
Mattel did a better than average job with these figures that truly resemble the animated characters. The only two drags in the line are the inflatable spaceships and the lack of females (Lizard Woman being the exception). Perhaps that’s a good thing because if I actually owned a Princess Aura action figure based on this cartoon, I might have taken it to prom.
4: Knicker Bocker Lord of the Rings
Before this line, Knicker Bocker hadn't really crossed into action figure territory, so it's surprising that they did such an amazing job on their first outing, based on Ralph Bakshi's adaptation of the Tolkien books.
How nice are they? I can only use this example. I'm not a fan of LOTR, never read a book and my knowledge of the material is 100% derived from seeing the Jackson films and that Leonard Nimoy song. Despite this, I really want these figures badly.
Sadly, buyers ordered lightly and the line just sort of dwindled. Knicker Bocker to my knowledge never ventured back into action figures, which is really shame cause they were very good at it.
3: Mego Micronauts
Micronauts were actually created much earlier in the decade as "Microman" in Japan by a company called Takara but Mego brought them to North America and created one of the biggest brands of the 1970s.
Not only were they fun toys that sparked our imagination but Marvel comics wrote one of the best tie in comics ever created to go along side of it. Oh and if you're a fan of Transformers? That's an offshoot of Microman, so it really is an iconic and important toy line.
2: Kenner Star Wars
Well duh, the decision made by Bernie Loomis to make the figures small so Kenner could produce vehicles was one that forever changed the toy industry. The Star Wars toy line was the game changer that forced other toy companies to follow suit.
Also, it was for many of us the first time we could slip a G-g-g-gurl into our toy chests. I could never find the stones to buy a Mego Supergirl as a kid but a Princess Leia? Pssshhht! Ain’t no thing.
1) Adventure People (Fisher Price)
Fisher Price launched the Adventure people in 1975, a next step figure line for kids who graduated from their little people. I was five, it rocked my world.
Despite having no licenses, the Fisher Price adventure people were captivating, durable toys.
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