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Tag Archive: Big Jim


Netflix is now carrying a new documentary television series that delves into the creators behind some of our favorite toys from the recent, and not so recent past.  The Toys That Made Us features four episodes in its first season of streaming, each focused on a toy line that should bring in a good cross-section of fandom.  The choices for the first shows include Kenner’s vintage Star Wars action figures and playsets, Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, with an emphasis on the 3 3/4″ line of action figures, Mattel’s Barbie, and the Mattel’s Masters of the Universe No doubt Barbie and G.I. Joe should pull in the older crowd, while the latter half of G.I. Joe and Star Wars will pull in the kids of the 1970s and early 1980s, and Masters of the Universe the kids of the 1980s.

Not a show for kids and not another show about toy collectors, the series devotes plenty of each hour to interviews with designers, marketing, other businessmen discussing the nuts and bolts of negotiating deals, like the lawyer for Kenner discussing the greatest toy deal negotiation ever, and the later not-so-great negotiation because of a loose-lipped CEO.  The Barbie episode features a Barbie expert continually bashing the character as a “hooker” as if she has some sort of love-hate relationship with the doll.  But the politics of toymaking is interesting fodder for the right audience.  Should it be a surprise that toymakers have the same ugly corporate politics, the downsizing, the layoffs, and the takeovers, like every other company?  Prepare yourself for several CEOs and designers as they tiptoe, or not, around decisions and employers they wrestled with in the past as toys and brands came and went.  The creators look back both with nostalgia and anger at the former toy companies that eventually terminated their employment.  So look for an unusual take on these toys and these companies.

The next four episodes will be launched on Netflix later this year, and include Hello Kitty, Transformers, Star Trek, and LEGO.  Sometimes what the show chooses to tell is as interesting as how the show tells it.  The eight toy lines chosen no doubt came from the producer’s own focus groups, like the ideas behind some of the toys they discuss.  If The Toys That Made Us really is a one-time thing, someone else should come along and continue the idea with all the other major brands and influences.

We want to see an episode on Marx toys, including little toy soldiers and the 12-inch action figure series.  We also want to see a history of the broad Mego line of figures, Hot Wheels, Stretch Armstrong, and Big Jim.  How about companies like Fisher Price, Playskool, Playmobil, and Radio Flyer?  A series like this needs to cover more “recent” but still classic toy lines, too, like My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, and figure out a way to capture famous classic toys like Spirograph, Tinker Toys, Play-Doh, Etch-A-Sketch, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, and the ultimate multi-license toy, Viewmaster.  How about a tour of the Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers factories of the past?  Who put out more great board games than these companies?  It’s easy to imagine entire episodes on the history of games like Clue/Cluedo and Monopoly.  And how about featuring a current game company that’s been around for decades, like Wizards of the Coast?

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Are you a fan of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe and ThunderCats from the 1980s?  Were they a part of your afternoon cartoon line-up?  Did you pit your action figures of He-Man and Lion-O, in an epic battle against Skeletor and Mumm-Ra on your parents’ living room floor?  If so, a new series from DC Comics and Mattel may be your next favorite comic book.

An outgrowth of the Big Jim action figures and toy line, Masters of the Universe toys first appeared in 1981.  Four years later we met the ThunderCats in a Marvel Comics series and animated television series.  Flash forward thirty years and Mattel’s Rob David and Lloyd Goldfine have written a limited series bringing together the two worlds with interior artwork and covers supplied by Freddie E. Williams II.  The artist had a big year with another big crossover, his Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, a huge hit for fans of both franchises and for DC Comics.

Advance publicity for the series gives us a look at what’s to come: In his eternal desire to destroy the mighty ThunderCats, the evil Mumm-Ra quests for a weapon that can rival the legendary Sword of Omens: He-Man’s Sword of Power!  But his dimension-spanning scheme launches a cataclysmic crisis that will, for the first time ever, unite Lion-O, Cheetara, Tygra, Panthro, WilyKit and WilyKat with He-Man, Battlecat, Teela, Man-At-Arms and the rest of the Masters of the Universe.

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This week the six-issue series begins.  We have a preview of the series below for borg.com readers.

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Max Steel

Not to be confused with Steel starring Shaquille O’Neil or Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman, Max Steel is a new “coming of age, family, superhero” movie due in theaters next month.  In a world of big budget superhero movies based on 75-year-old characters like Superman and Batman, how can a relatively unknown superhero compete?

With a new trailer that plays a bit like *batteries not included or Explorers, there may yet be room for a Max Steel.  Is there a young audience being missed by the violence and language of movies like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Deadpool?  Maybe a film for kids with a plot less complicated than Captain America: Civil War?  Or a movie for audiences looking for the next Sky High?

Max Steel is the combination of angsty teenager Max (not Mark) McGrath and Steel–a smart-alecky alien tech robot drone.  Does “organic armor” make Max Steel a new cyborg?  A plus for the character is its source in Mattel’s large-sized action figure line based on the format and marketing of the original, classic 12-inch G.I. Joe action figures, as well as an animated series.  Will that draw in viewers?  Max Steel apparently has a large following in Latin America: While Mattel’s Big Jim 12-inch action figure series died out in the U.S. in before the 1980s, it was thriving there.  Original Max Steel figures wore Big Jim clothes and were packaged with the same accessories.  In the 1970s Big Jim was sold in Latin American countries as Kid Acero, or “Kid Steel”.

Max Steel figure

Will Max Steel usher in the eagerly awaited return of Hasbro’s Mike Power, the Atomic Man?  That would be a fun blast from the past.

Check out this trailer for Mattel’s theatrical release of Max Steel:

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Wheaton Binderup McDaniels at Planet Comicon 2014

Why are you here?

To read?  To learn something?  To kill time?

OK, not why are you “here” at this website.  Think Big Picture:  Why are you here?  To narrow the gap between the rich and the poor?  To help people?  To have fun?  To create?

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels from Run-DMC, who we met at Planet Comicon last year, asked himself that question after returning to a hotel after a night on a European tour.  He’s pictured above with Wil Wheaton and my pal William Binderup.  McDaniels asked himself that simple question and wrestling with that question set him on a path that he recounted to a crowd of college students years later.  National Public Radio located an audio recording of that talk that they re-broadcast this past Wednesday night.

The result is a great story, and may serve as inspiration for anyone suffering from depression, anyone who was adopted, and it surprisingly serves as a great message about the power of fandom.  It also should cause you to consider the possibility that you can do anything you want to do with your life, and sometimes you may even surprise yourself if you aim high.  Maybe there’s more to who you are, who you like, and what you know–and don’t know–about yourself.

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