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Big Jim By Pol GosselinAmerican JIM (largely based on the article of D.G. Bishop from "Collectible Toys & Values"; Vol. I, N. 17. 1993.)
During the early '70, older military figures
were placed in the role of explorer/adventurer
(like G.I.Joe that became the G.I.Joe adventure
team). Mattel decided to launch their own series
of actionfigures based on this non-military type
theme. They did with BIG JIM, a mego-type 9''
figures well articulated with biceps that actually
flexed and a special action movement in the arms.
When you press the button on the back of the figure,
that caused the right arm to go down. In the USA,
BIG JIM made its debut in 1973. (Europe's Big Jim
bodies are marked 1971 ?).
These figures emphasized sports, as well as adventure. Accessory packs and outfits were made available, so that BIG JIM and his friends could participate in karate (allowed by the special arm action movement!), camping, ski, safari adventure, fishing, baseball, boating, soccer, hockey, dirt biking, and more. Early caracters were: BIG JIM (the "basic" good guy); BIG JOSH (formally, it is a breaded JIM), BIG JACK (the black guy), and BIG JEFF (the blond guy). In 1975, a new figure, the DR. STEEL, was added to this line. Dr. Steel was a bald asiatic guy with a dragon on his chest and had a metallic right hand (the one that he can move!).
Vehicules, such Baja Beast, Camper, Motocross Honda, and Rescue Rig, were produced to specifically correspond to many of these adventures.
After 2 to 3 years of relative succes, Mattel decide to set their sight on another area: spy/super-hero/action/adventure. In 1976, Big Jim adventurer become Big Jim P.A.C.K., a team of 4 members: BIG JIM, THE WHIP, WARPATH and the DR. STEEL. P.A.C.K. was the acronym which stood for "Professional Agents Crime Killers". JIM, as well as the other members of the group, had a wolf's head tatoo on his left hand, along with a pair of boots that, on the toe soles, featured wolf prints.
THE WHIP looked a bit like the former BIG JOSH, sported a beard and mustache. He came with the basic P.A.C.K. features/accessories but also with bola, 3 boomerang and... a whip. WARPATH was an american indian and was equiped with a bow.
In the first series, figures were first packaged in window boxed and in the second serie in boxes with no window, but with the addition of a 16-pages comics featuring the members of the P.A.C.K. For the third series, Mattel had gone back to the window boxes again. For the little story, the art for the two first boxes were done by Jack Kirby and the comics by John Buscema. The latter also did the art for the boxes of the third series.
The third serie of the P.A.C.K. included many special additions like "Gripping Hand" (a sort of "Kung-Fu Grip" in place of the older hard hand) and the Double-Trouble theme. There was a new version of BIG JIM and a leading foe for the P.A.C.K. called ZORAK. ZORAK was once an eminent scientist, now criminal genius. He came dressed in a hooded cloak cape with a medallion. At a press of a button on his back, his face changed from normal mostached man to one of a hideous monster. BIG JIM can also undergoe the double-trouble metamorphosis, Jim's expression could change from almost placid to that of raging anger. There was also a new member of the P.A.C.K. called TORPEDO FIST. After a unfortunate shark attack that took his right arm, this double of Popeye is now equiped with with an artificial one that featured a telescopic punch.
Vehicles and accessories were produced with the second series. Most of them were simple recolored versions of the ones produced before the P.A.C.K. like the Beast (from the Baja-Beast), the Howler (the Motocross Honda with some additions), or the Blitz-Rig (the Rescue Rig). Nota: I don't know if a first version Lazervette (a corvette-like vehicule) was realesed before 1976. The accessories like frogman, dirt biker, or martial arts were familiar too. The Double-Trouble Adventure Sets were more interesting and allow for example to change a Camera Man to a Secret Agent (Photographer/Master Spy Set).
In 1977, the sales weren't achieving what Mattel had hopped they would and they canceled the line. But, the story of JIM continue in Europe...
For what I know, the BIG JIM toy's line was first realesed in Europe between 1973 and 1975 and continued until 1986. It is possible to recognize 4 different themes in the history of this line: (1) the sport/adventure theme (the '70), (2) the P.A.C.K.-like theme (the early '80), (3) the spy theme (the middle '80), and (4) the Space theme (the late '80). In addition, Mattel realesed also in the late '70 a line called KARL MAY based on the story the american indian WINNETOU and his friend the trapper OLD SHATTERHAND.
European JIM of the '70s
This period corresponds to the sport/adventure theme and includes the same "early" figures of the american line. The symbol of the line is at this time the same "All-Star" logo than the one of the early american series. The figures were all equiped with the special action movement and have hard hands.
- BIG JIM: White man with brown hair - BIG JACK: Black man with black hair
These two figures were dressed with red shorts and came with two black dumb-bells, a silver pipe, a board of wood, and a silver band. The pipe and the board could fall appart in two part and so could be broken by the "kung-fu" punch of the figures. The silver band could be put around the biceps of the figure and broken when the figures strain their muscles.
- BIG JOSH: White man with black hair and beard -the same head as JIM. He was dressed with bermuda shorts and top in "blue jeans" and was the only figure sold with shoes, they were brown boots.
- BIG JEFF: White man with blond hair - a different head than JIM that looked a little bit like Hutch. He was dressed with tan bermuda shorts, a cowboy hat, and was equiped with a machete that he wore across his chest sash.
- DR. STEEL: It's the same carater as in the states but was clearly identified as the lethal enemy of JIM and was more a mystic martial fighter than an evil scientist. He was dressed with black pants and came with the same accessories as JIM or JACK.
Later in the '70 came some new caracters
- CHIEF TANKUA corresponds to the P.A.C.K. member called WARPATH. He was dressed with blue jeans, suede top, brown beld (with a wolf's head!), cow boy boots. He was equiped with a bow (always with a wolf's head!), a chest sash and a brand.
There was also ZORAK (the same as in the states) and a caracter similar to TORPEDO FIST that I think also has the same name than in the states.
There were also other versions of JIM and JACK realesed for the Olympic games. They were sold without clothes and with only one accessory, a gold medal!
These figures were packaged in red window boxed before 1975 and in larger blue window boxes with large art after 1976. The art of these boxes were generally different from the american ones.
I do not have an exhaustive list of the vehicules or outfits produced for this line. Here come what I know:
Some of the Vehicules and Playsets realesed for JIM and his friend were the same than the ones realesed in the U.S. They included:
* BIG JIM'S CAMPING TENT
* BIG JIM'S SPORT CAMPER
* BIG JIM'S RESCUE RIG
* BIG JIM'S MOTOCROSS HONDA
* BIG JIM'S THE DEVIL RIVER TRIP with real-action alligator (Big Jim's swamp boat with alligator was sold at least in Germany).
* BIG JIM'S SAFARI TRUCK: a green Jeep with capture engine that was sold with a baby rhinoceros.
But, also released in Europe:
* BIG JIM'S HORSE, called Storm
* BIG JIM'S SUNRUNNER, a racing catamaran of over 3 feet.
* BIG JIM'S HELICOPTER, a yellow helicopter with moving wings, working winch and a basket that could be turn into a stretcher.
* BIG JIM'S SAFARI TRUCK #2, the same chassis as the early Safari Truck but in yellow and 4x4 monster wheels.
Different CARRY CASES were also realesed including a orange one with 3 blue drawings of Big Jim (1974) and a blue one with a photo of Big Jim and his Friend on the front side.
The outfits came as ACTION SETs of 3 differents sizes.
* Smallest Action Sets were sold carded. They included, for example, Soccer player, Motocycle Driver, Scuba Diver, and Martial Art Expert.
* Middle-sized Action Sets were also sold carded. They included, for example, Skiing, Cowboy, Race driver, Safari, Rescue Ranger, Highway Patrol.
* Larger Action Sets were first sold on red cards until 1975: art of the card from 1975). They included, for example, Eagle Ranger (with a brown eagle that will be, in an orange incarnation, the alter ego of a sorceress in the early '80s!), Indian Chief, and an Argentine Gaucho. In 1976, older and new costumes were sold in blue boxes.
Some even larger ADVENTURE SETS were also realesed. They included a complete costume and some large accessories.
- DIVE TO DANGER (complete swim suit with a boat)
- DARDEVIL SKY JUMP (came with working parachute)
- ARTIC RESCUE (sled with Huski dogs; for me, one of the finest items of the whole line)
- SPEED CYCLE (came with racing cycle)
- ON THE TIGER TAIL (coming with a trapping cage and a jungle cat - a green and yellow version of this "cat" - used later by the "He-Man, the Most Powerfull Man in the Universe"; sic!)
KARL MAY, Big Jim's Variations.
In 1976, Mattel realesed a second toy's line based on the caracters of the Karl May's novels: the american native Winnetou and the trapper Old Shatterhand. As Big Jim's body was used for these caracters, these figures could be play with others Big Jim's toys or Big Jim could become a caracter of the Karl May's stories. All items of this line were realesed in green boxes with "wood" impression.
Karl May's Figures:
- WINNETOU, the american native has a totaly new head with real black hairs. He was dressed with "hunting" tan suede pants and suede shoes. He came with a calumet and a 'two shot' rifle.
- OLD SHATTERAND, the trapper has the same head than BIG JEFF (with the same blond hair but with painted beard). He was dressed with clear brown suede open shirt, clear brown suede pants, brown belt with holster, brown cowboy boots and brown cowboy hat. He came with a colt and a knife.
As "vehicles", two horses were realesed, one for each KARL MAY's caracters:
* 90-7383 ILTSCHI, black horse of WINNETOU. * 90-7384 HATATILA, brown horse of OLD SHATTERHAND.
Two Playsets were also released:
* 90-9401 WIGWAM, including teepes, totem, camp's fire, and more * 90-9402 INDIAN CANOE, including canoe, beast's fur, bow, and more.
Finally, six outfits were realesed:
* 00-9410 SCOUT OUTFIT (outfit of "Davy Crockett") * 00-9411 COWBOY OUTFIT * 00-9412 TEXAS RANGER OUTFIT * 00-9413 INDIAN CHIEF OUTFIT (the same than the one realesed in the "classic" Big Jim's line and always presented on CHIEF TANKUA * 00-9414 CAVALRY OUTFIT * 00-9415 WINNETOU HUNTING OUTFIT
Big Jim's of the Early '80; the P.A.C.K.-like team
In the early '80, Mattel tried to change its BIG JIM's line from a Sport/Adventure concept to a Spy/Adventure concept as was done in the U.S.A. in 1976 with the P.A.C.K. The major result of this reorientation will be presented in the next. But I want first present some special caracters and outfits realesed during this period and including some P.A.C.K. accessories (as the boots featuring wolf print). I think that it is important to mention them because, until this short period, Big Jim could be regarded as an individual, a guy called Jim. With these items, Mattel decided to turn him in "clone figure" as G.I.Joe was in the '70. These "Jim's clones" became the "all-same-face" members of a secret paramilitary organisation (with something that looks like "The Thunderbird" in the outfit!). The symbol of this organisation was a rainbow-like band with 3 colors -Yellow, Orange, and Red- but a driver outfit present the classic "All-Star" logo (!?!).
* BIG JIM MUSCLE MAN was the "basic" BIG JIM figure and was sold naked with all the same accessories that the "classic" Jim of the '70 but its general quality became lower.
* CAPTAIN LASER was different than the one in Major Matt Mason's line. Released in 1982, he looks like a super-hero. This figure cames with red boots, blue molded legs and arms, a totaly new red molded body with "sun-captor devices" on the chest, and a yellow unmovable helmet with visor. The eyes or all the face of the Captain could "light up" when you pressed a button on the neck.
Outfits were realesed in blue boxes and this time called ADVENTURE SETS. Some of the accessories of these outfits, as the boots, were done using molds of the U.S. P.A.C.K.'s line. These outfits included:
* 7146 ASTRONAUT * 7147 ALL-TERRAIN VEHICULE DRIVER * 7148: HEADQUARTERS GUARD * 7149 COMMUNICATIONS AGENT * 7150 ATTACK VEHICULE DRIVER * 7151 MOTOCYCLE DRIVER
Big Jim's of the middle '80 (82-84); the Spy Team
Mattel developed a "James Bond" concept for its 82-84 BIG JIM line but they add a little bit of Space (with the Star-Wars-mania of this period, it was an obligation). BIG JIM 004 (best than Bond 007!!) and his friends (some old ones and some new ones) became members of a secret organisation of internationnal spying and have news and dangerous foes. The symbol of this organisation was always the rainbow-like band.
The figures were:
* 5098 BIG JIM SECRET AGENT: classic BIG JIM's figure dressed with blue boots, blue pants, withe Mao shirt, brown vest, and blue coat. He was equiped with pistol, holster, machine gun, camera, binoculars, talkie-walkie, and grey attache case.
* 5099 ALPINEST JOE: classic figure with the head of older BIG JEFF character and dressed with brown boots, blue jumpsuit, and blue cowl. He was equiped with pistol with silencer, camera, talkie-walkie, gun, hook and rope.
* 5100 COMMANDO JEFF: classic figure with recolored head of TORPEDO FIST character and dressed with brown boots, blue jeans, blue pullover, leather vest, and blue cap. He was equiped with pistol with silencer, holster, machine gun, talkie-walkie, binocular, knife, bomb, and diving equipment.
* 5101 BIG JIM 004. This Jim's figure was produced using something like the Double Trouble features of the U.S. P.A.C.K. Commander. But, the unlike the american version, it was possible to put as second face different masks. There was two versions of this figure. The first was dressed with brown boots, brown pants, withe open shirt, brown tie, and tan trench coat and cames with 3 masks. The second was dressed with black shoes, tan pants, blue Mao shirt, scarf, and tan trench coat and cames with 6 masks. These two versions were both equiped with a pistol with silencer and a brown attache-case that can carry 4 masks.
* 4124 BIG JIM UNDERCOVER AGENT (equipment on a classic BIG JIM's figure) or 4071 RADIOMAN (equipment on COMMANDO JEFF). These figures were both dressed with black shoes, black pants, red pullover and red cap. They were equiped with a blue talking backpack same than the U.S. one.
* 4070 BIG JIM LASER GUNNER: classic BIG JIM's figure dressed with a red jumpsuit, black boots, and withe astronaut's helmet. He was equiped with a blue backpack connected to a "laser" rifle that could be lit up.
* 7290 BIG JIM THUNDER BLUE, THE SPACE AGENT: classic BIG JIM figure dressed with a blue jumpsuit, purple or balck boots, and purple or blue astronaut's helmet. He was equiped with a blue chest's armor with two moving "laser" canons.
The bad guys were:
* 5096 PROFESSOR OBB, definitively the finest bad guy of the entire line. This caracter was a bald asiatic guy (as DR. STEEL!) with a big black beard. He looked like the Emperor Ming from Mongo of the Flash Gordon comic book. He was dressed with black shoes, blue pants, white medic top, grey trench coat, red scarf, and balck hat. He was equiped with a grey medic attache-case, pistol with silencer, and a Umbrella/Machine Gun.
* 5097 BORIS. One of the strangest caracter of the line: the upper part of its head (a converted head of DR. STEEL!) was in metal and his right arms featured a telescopic punch. He was dressed in black (boots, pants, shirt, and hat) and looked like a soviet soldier (Was it the reason to call him BORIS?). He was equiped with a knife, a pistol with silencer, and a holster.
* 4196 IRON JAW. Definitively the strangest figure of the line. he looked like TRAP JAW of the MASTER OF THE UNIVERS toy line: its totaly new bald head (So these 3 bad guys were both bald!) was equiped with... articulated iron jaws and a mechanical right arm with intechangeable "hands" (5 differents: a hook, a blade, a hammer, a axe, and... something looking like a hand with 3 fingers). He was dressed with black shoes, grey pants and grey jacket.
* LASER-MAN: reboxed CAPTAIN LASER figure. This time, this caracter appeared on the art of its new box like an Alien Intruder attacking SPACE PILOT BIG JIM.
The outfits were realesed in blue boxes and called SPY PACK. They included:
* 4074 SPACE PILOT SPY PACK; he was released to be the pilot of the SPACE SPY VEHICLE
* 4075 GROUND CREW SPY PACK
* 4076 ATV DRIVER; he was released to be the pilot of the ATV
* 5102 SKY SPY PACK
* 5104 COMMANDO SPY PACK: the same outfits and equipment as the COMMANDO JEFF
* 5105 ALPINE SPY PACK: the same outfits and equipment as the ALPINEST JOE
There were also smallest outfits like classic SOCCER PLAYER, BOXER, and MARTIAL ARTS EXPERT or middle sized outfits including BODYGUARD, COMMANDO, DRILL SERGEANT (!?!) or DEMOLITION EXPERT.
Vehicles and playsets were realesed for the spy line. Some of them were recolored versions of vehicles of the '70s.
* 4002 LASER BACK PACK: the same than the one coming with the BIG JIM LASER GUNNER.
* 4015 ALL-TERRAIN VEHICLE. This very strange tracked vehicle propelled by 4 independent bands was build around the same chassis than the FLIP TRACK vehicule of the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE toy line. He was equipped with masked twin laser canon and cames in an early grey version and a later blue version.
* 4191 SPACE SPY VEHICLE: a space ship for BIG JIM SPACE PILOT with retractable wings and landing gear. The LASER BACK PACK could be fixed in the back of this space vehicle and allow it to convert its "radar" to a "laser cannon".
* 5140 GYROCOPTER AND DETECTION BACKPACK. A "one-man" helicopter convertible in a radar station.
* 5141 COMMANDO CYCLE: recolored version of the U.S. Howler 27)
* 5240 SPY TENT: recolored version of the CAMPING TENT with lot of camping accessories.
* 5253 SPY HELICOPTER: a recolored version of the helicopter of the '70 with crane, searchlight, and throwing water device.
* 5257 ADVENTURE-MOBILE: long camper which was also realesed in yellow for Barbie (but here the shower became a photo laboratory and the secret vanity became a secret computer terminal!).
* 5258 SPY JEEP: recolored version of the early Safari Jeep with "monster" wheels.
* 5259 COUNTERSPY DETECTION VAN; a recolored version of the RESCUE RIG but without the crane.
* 5262 SECRET HEADQUARTERS: over 3 feet. 3 floors and 6 rooms (garage, firing range, maps' room, radar's room, gymnasium, and armourer). Including a lift and lot of accessories.
* 7642 ATTACK VEHICULE. Profiled small vehicule that could be propel by a gyroscopic wheel.
* 7737 COMMANDO CENTER: this second headquarters was a plastic case that could be opened and was divised into two rooms by a hard Bristol board (a maps' and conference room and a computer room with photo laboratory).
* 8299 BIG JIM'S VOLKSWAGEN GOLF CABRIOLET.
* BIG JIM'S LAZERVETTE. This first version, the red one, was a recolored U.S. Lazervette with masked twin laser canons and "friction motor". The second version, the blue one, was a remote-control vehicle.
Big Jim's of the late '80 (85-86); the Space Team
Problem with the dates: these last items were generaly marked "Mattel, Inc. 1984" but were sold from 1985 and could be found until the end of 1987. This last line was in fact a new approach of the same "James Bond" concept but the general aspect of these news items were somewere more "spatial" (see the new face of OBB on the PICTURE 36) and seemed to be made for missions on Earth in a near future or on another planet (it's only my impression).
There was a major change for these figures: if the body remained the same (classic body with gripping hands), there were all new heads for the two "classic" characters (BIG JIM and OBB) as for the 6 new ones. These heads looked more "modern" but are smaller. Note for collectors: the paints used for these news heads were of a lower quality. So the last characters are, in most cases, more damaged than the early ones.
There was another change in the line: this time, the good and bad organisations are named. So, BIG JIM was the charismatic leader of the GLOBAL COMMANDO which was fighting against the evil CONDOR FORCE ruled by the biabolic PROFFESOR OBB. Each organisation had its own logo (two triangles, one red and one blue, forming a square for the Global Commando and a black shematic head of bird of prey including a red circle for the Condor Force). Each version of the two "classic" characters were sold with a GLOBAL PASSEPORT allowing the collection of the MISSION STAMPS sold with every items of the line. All the characters were sold in red and blue window boxes.
The "classic" figures were:
* 9269 COMMANDER BIG JIM, Battle leader, Global fighter! Classic body with new head. He was dressed with blue flightsuit with lateral red band, with "space" boots, with chest armor, withe beld with holster and scabar, and with "space" helmet. He cames with silver accessories including hand communicator, space rifle, space pistol, space knife, hook and rope.
* 9270 PROFESSOR OBB OVERLORD. Classic body with new head (beared man with pointed ears and Mohican's hairstyle !?! He looked more like an alien than the original asiatic mad scientist). He was dressed with dark red flightsuit, black "space" boots, black and withe chest armor, black beld with holster and scabar, and dark red "space" helmet. He cames with black accessories (different molds than the silver ones of the good guys) including hand communicator, space rifle, space pistol, and space knife.
* 9289 BIG JIM SPECIAL AGENT. Classic body with new head. He was dressed with an reversible outfit (diplomat turned into spy!) and was the figures that looked the most "normal" in this line. The outfit included a blue top with cowl, reversible pants and vest (brown cloth to blue leather) and black "space" boots.
The 6 totaly new figures included 3 good guys and 3 bad guys and were organised around 3 themes (space, jungle, and desert). For the Space, there were:
* 9296 ASTROS, SPACE MISSION (the good one), and
* 9297 VEKTOR, SPACE ATTACK (the bad one). For the Jungle, there were:
* 9300 DR. ALEC, JUNGLE MISSION (the good one), and
* 9302 BARON FANGG, JUNGLE ATTACK (the bad one).
For the Desert (in fact the Sahara), there were:
* 2243 COL. KIRK (Yes Mister Spock! Sorry), SAHARA MISSION (the good one), and
* 2244 KOBRA (Yo Joe! Sorry too), SAHARA ATTACK (the bad one).
Very few outfits were realesed in red and blue boxes as MISSION PACKS and included two GLOBAL COMMAND COSTUMES...
* 9394 HEADQUARTERS COMMANDER
* 9396 UNDERSEA ADVENTURE
... and three CONDOR FORCE COSTUMES.
* 9395 WIZZARD OVERLORD (with this silver and black outfit, Obb looked definitively like Ming of Mongo!).
* 9397 DEEP SEA CAPER (the same than the Undersea adventure but in different colors)
* 9398 ASSIGNMENT ESPIONAGE
Vehicules and playsets were also realesed. Some of them were recolored old items, others were variations of older ones, and some were totaly new ones (and, for me, the best one ever released for Big Jim!).
Recolored old vehicules were:
* 9585 RAIDER CYCLE, Laser Gunner, Mission Infiltrator! It was a recolored (in light brown) COMMANDO CYCLE (5141) which was already a recolored version of the U.S. Howler
* ATTACK HELICOPTER was a recolored SPY HELICOPTER (5253) which was a recolored version of the helicopter of the '70.
Revamped old vehicules were:
* 9419 STAR STALKER. Variation of the SPACE SPY VEHICULE with a new canopy.
* CONDOR FORCE JEEP. The only vehicule of the CONDOR FORCE was buid around the chassis of the "classic" jeep (without monster wheels!) with special features forming like a condor head given to the jeep a more futuristic aspect.
Totaly new vehicule and playset were:
* 9393 COMMAND MOBILE. Personal vehicle of BIG JIM looking like a monospace car but able to be converted in a fighting outspot with laser.
* 9421 GLOBAL COMMANDO CENTER, Modular Mission Headquarters with many differents set-ups (as a three level tower!).
After this last try, Mattel decided to cancel its BIG JIM line. For me, this last line included a lot of good things (the quality of the outfit and the finest vehicule and the finest playset ever realesed, respectively the COMMAND MOBILE and the GLOBAL COMMANDO CENTER) but also a lot of mistakes. First, all this line was nearly formed with new heads. Also, it was always the same recolored or revamped old vehicles. If you look at all the line, a collector could have 3 of the same helicopter (in yellow, blue and light brown) or 4 jeeps with the same chassis! But the major explanation to the lower interest of the kids for Big Jim was maybe the development in Europe of many other toy's lines of smaller (so cheaper) figures developping the same themes as MASK in 1986 or 3'3/4 G.I.JOE in 1987.
Note for collectors: I know that during the '70 or maybe the early '80 another "head" was realesed on classic body but I don't know its name. I have see this head two time on naked figures. It looks like a breaded man with the same general skull's form than DR. OBB #1 but with "real" hair like WINNETOU. I'm sure that there was two different characters because, if both of them have black hair, the first one was with black bread and the second with brown bread and telescopic punch (!?!).