As the Vietnam War raged on in the early 70′s, the public had tired of their usual fondness for war-related toys. Heck, even G.I. Joe took on more of a Steve Irwin persona, choosing a life of rugged adventure over another tour of duty. But he was no match in the brawn department to the one and only Big Jim. This was a man’s man – a sports hero, martial arts master and adventurer, all wrapped up in one beefy package.
Introduced by Mattel Toys, Big Jim had a body to be proud of and he wasn’t afraid of showing it off. With actual flexing biceps, and patented “Big Jim Body Action”, this was one highly flexible action figure. The included decorative armband proved no match for his biceps of steel and could be popped off with a single squeeze. And with a mere push of a protruding dorsal button, Jim’s mighty arm would snap into action, able to break his karate board as if it were a stick of butter. These weren’t the only accessories that came with Big Jim though. A big Jim’s Sportsbook was also included, as well as dumbbells and, um, a skimpy set of shorts.
But what’s a guy without friends? To his credit, Jim had a number of equally muscular acquaintances, which in hindsight might have been a little too Village People-esque. You had Big Jeff, the blond with the khakis and machete; Big Jack, the African-American version of Big Jim; and Big Josh, the furry lumberjack with the cutoff denim shorts. Throw in a police officer and a construction worker and these guys could have gone on to enjoy a career as a successful musical act.
Of course, Jim had a wide variety of attire available when he wasn’t in the mood to show as much skin. Perhaps he was in the mood to hit home runs, catch a trout, engage in a little downhill slalom or go to a leather bar, er, ride his motorcycle. No matter the activity, Big Jim was appropriately dressed (outfits sold separately, of course). And if Jim wanted to grab the gang for a weekend of safaris, cow roping, or saving the day, he could choose from a number of rugged vehicles to transport his buddies. Perhaps he would take out the boat for a fishing trip, Or maybe the camper, for a night in the great outdoors. The rescue vehicle, the Baja Beast – you name the adventure, Jim had the wheels necessary to get the job done.
But what is a hero without a nemesis? In Jim’s case, “his greatest challenge” came in the form of the dastardly Dr. Steel – a Mr. Clean looking dude with a dragon tattoo on his chest and steel right hand that he could break pipes with (pipe included). The two would eventually make nice in 1976, as the good doctor became a member of Jim’s elite “Big Jim P.A.C.K.” or “Professional Agents Crime Killers.” Perhaps it wasn’t the greatest acronym but the five members of P.A.C.K. made up a heck of a team. Accompanying Jim were Warpath (a tracker), The Whip (a weapons expert), Torpedo Fist (an intelligence expert) and the newly reformed Dr. Steel who acted as the enforcer of the group, thanks to that metallic right hand. Luckily for Dr Steel, the group chose their left hands to adorn with the team tattoo (steel doesn’t make a good canvas for a tattoo needle). With their matching boots, complete with wolf-print soles, the group was well equipped to take on the new villain on the block, the sinister Zorak – a mad scientist complete with hooded cloak, striking a similarity to the infamous Unabomber.
Like many a great Jazz artist, and Jerry Lewis for that matter, Jim’s popularity eventually waned stateside, but he and his buddies found new longevity in Europe, where the people have a greater appreciation for the important things in life – scantily-clad muscle men with a penchant for saving the world … and camping.
If you were the proud owner of a Big Jim doll as a kid, we would love to hear your memories in our comments section. What accessories and members of his entourage were part of your collection? More importantly, why did you choose Jim over his iconic counterpart? Was he cooler than GI Joe in your opinion? Tell us all about it as we tip our hats to this rugged action figure who will forever live in our memories.