PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Img_9342bWe are happy this week to bring you a detailed advance look at the two new Captain Action uniform sets featuring Iron Man and Wolverine, plus the now-complete “build-a-costume” Hawkeye set. Iron Man and Wolverine will be available in about two weeks in comic book stores and hobby shops, and can be pre-ordered online.

Img_9334If you haven’t been reading PopCult regularly since 2005, you’ll need to know that Captain Action is a 12″ action figure, originally sold in 1966, who can change into other superheroes through the use of rubber masks and outfits. Originally the good Captain could change into a variety of Marvel and DC characters, along with a handful of comic strip heroes and the like. The line last three or four years during the superhero boom of the 60s, and was revived in 1999, with a faithful reproduction of the figure. With no access to Marvel or DC characters, the revival quickly went South.

Img_9375In recent years Captain Action has been revived once again,this time with an all-new body and face and now he has the added advantage of better licensing deals. These two uniforms are number five and six in the Marvel line, and starting next year classic DC Comics heroes and villains will be added into the mix.

Which brings us to our subject today. Captain Action Enterprises and Round 2 Corp. have scaled back the marketing of these uniform sets a bit. They will not be sold through Toys R Us, and they do not have “deluxe” sets with extra goodies, but they are still both very strong new entries into the Captain Action hall of identities. Without deluxe versions and in redesigned packaging, these Captain Action costumes retail for around $20 each. The figures are sold separately. A new Captain Action figure is shipping with these for the same price.

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Iron Man

Img_9332Remember the mega-success of the Iron Man movies and The Avengers? Okay, now forget that. This is the classic Iron Man of the comic books. Back before the drinking and the multiple suits, this is a classic, mid-1960s rendition of old Shell Head. A Captain Action collector couldn’t ask for anything sweeter.

This outfit, when placed on the figure, looks like it sprang off the cover of a classic Marvel comic book. It evokes the look of the classic artists on the strip, like Don Heck, George Tuska or Gene Colan. The detail is fantastic, with all the armor ribbing in place and painted detail on the chest piece and the repulsor ray generators in the palms of his hands.

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One area of great improvement with these new Captain Action costume sets is in the ease of dressing. The tailoring is more precise and the cloth outfit slips on fairly easily, with some coaxing needed to get it over the figure’s hips. Iron Man has a base costume made of cloth with vinyl panels. The vinyl is printed with added detail. The boots and gloves are plastic. The two-part headpiece is also molded in a more rigid plastic, instead of the usual rubber used for the CA masks. There is also a two-piece hard plastic chest piece that really finishes the set and looks spectacular.

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The gloves snap onto the wrist-pegs with ease and the dressed figure poses well with no binding or balance issues. Round 2 has changed the design of the belt to one that is much better at staying fastened. That was a bit of an issue with the earlier uniforms. I’m happy to report that they have listened to complaints and responded quite well.

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Package art appears to be from the John Romita Jr./Bob Layton era of the early 1980s, but I may be mistaken on that. The back has Tony Stark’s alter-ego in an iconic pose that may be the work of Gil Kane.

The end result of all this is an impressive 12″ action figure who would look right at home with the original 13 Captain Action characters. Truth be told, this costumed figure is far more faithful to the comic book character than many of the orginal 1960s versions were.

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Wolverine

Img_9335Arriving in a package decked-out with John Byrne artwork, this costume lets you turn Captain Action into the most popular member of The X Men, albiet in his late-1970s comic book incarnation. This version of Wolverine dates to an era before he sported his trademark facial hair, but it’s still a classic look.

The rubber mask features Old Man Logan’s grisled visage covered in the cowl that he wore when The X Men first became a smash hit comic book. The sculpting is great and, just as the comic book depicted, he has a hint of Clint Eastwood to him. The mask slips over Captain Action’s head with ease.

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Img_9363The uniform is a combination of spandex with vinyl panels. The tailoring is excellent. The wrist pegs snap easily into his gloves, which are complete with his Admantium claws deployed. The boots fit perfectly and this figure also sports the improved belt closure.

Wolverine is another addition to the Captain Action mythos.

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Hawkeye

Img_9402One of the nice extra touches with the Marvel costumes for Captain Action has been the “Build-A-Costume” feature. The deluxe versions of the first four Marvel uniforms each had a piece or two for an additional figure. The idea being that you’d buy all six deluxe sets and have a bonus costume at no added cost.

Even though Captain Action Enterprises and Round 2 have abandoned the deluxe packages in order to streamline things, they kept the “Build-A-Costume” alive and with Iron Man and Wolverine, the final elements to complete Marvel’s archer, Hawkeye are finally here.

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Hawkeye, originally a villain, comes off a bit as Marvel’s answer to The DC Comics’ Green Arrow. Clint Barton reformed and turned from a life of crime to life as an Avenger. Created by Don Heck with Stan Lee, Hawkeye had become a bit of a cult figure in the Marvel Universe before breaking out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as played by Jeremy Renner.

This costume depicts Hawkeye as he appeared in the 1960s with his purple and blue tunic and tights, his mask plus his bow and a quiver full of trick arrows.

The level of detail is incredible. I waited until I got all six pieces of this set to open the plastic bags they were in so I could assemble him for the photo shoot. I was very pleasantly surprised when I discovered a nice little bonus. I pulled an arrow out so I could post Hawkeye getting ready to do what made him famous, when I discovered, clinging to the arrow head, a tiny little Avenger, Ant Man. Many times in the comic books, Hawkeye would use an arrow to launch Ant Man into battle. This was a very cool surprise indeed.

Yes, that's Ant Man on that arrow!
Yes, that’s Ant Man on that arrow!

Because some of the uniform parts were made during the earlier runs of Captain Action costumes, there is one issue. The belt requires help to stay closed. A little double-stick tape should do the trick, but it’s nice to know that they’ve fixed this little problem.

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Once dressed, Cap as Hawkeye looks terrific. Hawkeye always had a cool and under-used color scheme, and it’s very well-captured with this costume set. It was well worth the wait of eighteen months or so to complete this set, but happily, Round 2 has announced that although they will continue the “Build-A-Costume” concept, in the future the costume pieces will only be spread out across four sets.

Already-announced for the DC Comics “Build-A-Costume” set is Aquaman, whose costume parts and mask will be found in the uniform sets for Batman, The Joker, Superman and Brainiac, all coming in 2014.

Iron Man and Wolverine, containing the arm and wrist bands and mask for Hawkeye, should be in comic book shops on November 13. These are great for the CA collector. I’m thrilled to be adding three new guys to my superhero shelf.