Toying with Our Memories

I’ve spoken a time or three in this space about a group of dear friends I’ve known for over forty years. We’re now scattered over four different states, but since the advent of the pandemic we’ve begun speaking once a week for an hour over a Zoom hookup. It’s been a handy way to check in, make sure everyone (and their families) are doing OK, see what’s new, and relive some old times.

In our most recent such virtual gathering, the subject came around to toys and models from our respective youths — either items we had, or items we wished we had back in those days. I could participate in the former (I was a “Major Matt Mason” kid), though not the latter (never much of a model builder — what did you do with it after it was built? I didn’t get it …).

But one of my friends who was into models pointed out that, circa 1958, one of the industry leaders, the Aurora Plastics Corporation, produced a model of interest to LOAC readers and Caniffites everywhere:

A wee bit of Web-based searching brought me this image of the completed figure …

But what really perked up my attention was when the discussion moved to Captain Action, Ideal Toys’s generic hero, originally marketed in 1966. The Captain could morph into other, more recognizable heroes — provided you bought an appropriate expansion pack, of course. It was these packs that contained the costume and peripherals to allow Captain Action to adopt a different identity.

Originally there were nine different expansion packs, featuring characters from comic strips (The Phantom, Flash Gordon), comic books (Superman, Captain America), or the screen (The Lone Ranger). Captain Action could become someone easily recognizable (Batman, The Phantom) or more obscure (Marvel’s Sgt. Fury).

Oh yeah, turns out he could become Steve Canyon, too!

The Steve Canyon expansion kit for Ideal’s Captain Action
Captain Action, transformed into Milton Caniff’s hard-hitting bird colonel!

As you can likely tell, I had memories of Captain Action, but never owned it, nor do I recall as a boy knowing anyone who did (and the Aurora Canyon model was just a smidgen before my time). So while we were talking on Zoom I was Googling away, locating the images you’ve just seen, and mentally putting together this piece.

So thanks, guys, for steering the discussion in this direction, and special thanks to you, Walter, for pointing out the Steve Canyon/Captain Action connection! Jeez, here’s another one I owe you all — I hate to think how long that list of debts I’ve rung up has become!

Did anyone reading this post have Captain Action as a youngster — and if so, did you have the Canyon kit, or other kits instead? What were your impressions, memories, and experiences? I’d be interested to know …

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