Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

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NoOneofConsequence
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by NoOneofConsequence »

Davies wrote: Tue Apr 27, 2021 1:36 am Kimiko is a bit more likely.
Possibly, though she was born in LA (IIRC), and her cousin does go by Thomas, so it's anyone's guess. But it wouldn't at all surprise me if they had Western/American first names they used in public and Japanese ones for home/clan.
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by Davies »

NoOneofConsequence wrote: Tue Apr 27, 2021 2:29 am
Possibly, though she was born in LA (IIRC), and her cousin does go by Thomas, so it's anyone's guess. But it wouldn't at all surprise me if they had Western/American first names they used in public and Japanese ones for home/clan.
Good point, and I didn't know the former.
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by Batgirl III »

For the Freedom Squadron RPG (which is so obviously G.I. Joe with the serial numbers filed off) my character was built using the Intelligence Agent character class with a background in law enforcement. She was a former forensic accountant for MI-5. I gave her the codename “Exchequer.”

(Incidentally, Freedom Squadron is a ton of fun. Highly recommended.)
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by MacynSnow »

Batgirl III wrote: Tue Apr 27, 2021 2:46 am For the Freedom Squadron RPG (which is so obviously G.I. Joe with the serial numbers filed off) my character was built using the Intelligence Agent character class with a background in law enforcement. She was a former forensic accountant for MI-5. I gave her the codename “Exchequer.”

(Incidentally, Freedom Squadron is a ton of fun. Highly recommended.)
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by NoOneofConsequence »

Being the terrible dork I was (and am), back in the day, I invented my own all female GI Joe subgroup (GI Jane, before the Demi Moore film kind of ruined that as a name), led by Scarlett (now promoted to 1st Lt.) and Lady Jaye (now Sgt.). Also Cover Girl with a new version of the Wolverine which incorporated a gatling cannon system similar to that of the Whirlwind. I can't recall much of the rest. I remember there being a CIA agent, someone from the Coast Guard, a communications tech, and the pilot of a transport plane.
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by NoOneofConsequence »

So, Transformers.

It was a line entirely made up of giant shapeshifting robots. All the characters were male.

This would change when an episode of the cartoon series introduced a small collective of female Autobots still living in hiding on Cybertron. They were led by Elita-1, meant to be Optimus Prime's counterpart/romantic interest. Chromia was essentially a female counterpart to IronHide (complete with a van-like form). The other two were Moonracer and Firestar (later renamed because of the pre-existing Marvel character). At least two others were shown, but I don't think they were named. They were later designated Lancer and Greenlight. Not a one received figures, and only Elita-1 would really be seen again.

When the Transformers animated snuff film came out, it introduced another female autobot, Arcee. Who was pink. When the animated series picked up after the movie, Arcee was a near constant presence. And, even though all the existing figures had been discontinued in favor of the whopping three new figures (Hotrod, Kup and Blur), they didn't make one for Arcee. The sole exception was when around the fifth wave or so, they included these little mono colored rubber statues with various figures. Arcee was one of them. But like I said, this just a tiny little rubber statue and not an actual Transformer.

All of these characters would eventually get figures of some sort in the 21st century. Unfortunately, a lot of them end up being recolors of each other, and so all have the exact same vehicle mode. Just speaking personally, I would've enjoyed having actual transforming figures of all of the above. Especially if Elita-1 and her crew had been updated with modern (ie 80s) earth vehicle forms.

It would actually be the late 90s Beast Wars line that finally gave Americans actual female Transformer action figures. While the Predacon Black Arachnia was just a recolor of the previous Taratulas, the Maximal Windrazor was a totally original figure.


And a curious bit of tangental trivia: Beachcomber, the Autobot geologist who turns into a blue and grey dune buggy from the second wave of small Autobots, has the unique distinction of being the only Transformer to share a name with one of Hasbro's My Little Pony characters.
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by NoOneofConsequence »

Superpowers and Secret Wars

In 1984, Kenner launched its DC Superpowers line of figures based on DC's various comic book characters, particularly those associated with the Justice League of America and with the animated Superfriends series. The first wave of figures included 12 figures, eight heroes and four villains. And, naturally, one of those heroes was Wonder Woman. There would be two more waves of figures, but unfortunately Wonder Woman would be the only female character released. If you're a fan of DC and the Justice League, especially if you're old enough to remember the early 80s, this sounds insane. Besides Wonder Woman, there were three other prominent female Leaguers from the 70s Satellite Era that so heavily influenced the Superfriends cartoon: Black Canary, Zatana, and Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman. Then there's Jayna of the Wonder Twins, as well as Batgirl and Supergirl (who had her own movie come out that year). Then there's the villain side of things. In three years, they couldn't make a Catwoman figure? (Apparently this may have had something to do with licensing rights, though how they were able to acquire Batman, Robin, Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and the Riddler without Catwoman is beyond me.)

Apparently there were plans to make a few of those characters. Designs and concept art for proposed fourth, fifth and sixth year waves included Supergirl and the Wonder Twins. It has been suggested over the years that Batgirl, Powergirl, and two Legion of Superhero members Dream Girl and Dawnstar, but no solid evidence of that has ever been found.

But there's just so much lost opportunity here. I mean, the third wave included two totally made up heroes, Cyclotron and Golden Pharaoh. It boggles me that someone thought those two would be a better choice than, say, Supergirl and Batgirl.
Plus, given how Cyborg was worked into the cartoon series and made into a figure (a really amazing looking one with vac chrome metal parts), Starfire would've made a really cool addition to the line.
Villains are a little harder to work with. Catwoman was DC's single most iconic female villain at the time, and other only ones who could really compete were Cheetah and Giganta from the Legion of Doom. The Pre-Crisis Cheetah would be perhaps a little redundant if you had Catwoman, and Giganta's power is hard to make an action gimmick for. The best bet probably would've been for Poison Ivy (especially given how much they leaned on Batman's enemies). However, given the heavy focus on Darkseid in the second wave, it would've been cool to see some of the Female Furies. (Silver Swan or Doctor Cyber from Wonder Woman might've worked also. And Killer Frost.)


Meanwhile, in a response to the above, that same year saw Marvel make a deal with Mattel (who'd lost out to Kenner in the bid to make the Superpowers line) to produce the Secret Wars toy line, based off of the twelve issue maxi-series of the same name. The first wave included eight figures, four heroes and four villains. None of them were female. The second wave of figures included only four figures (two heroes, two villains), plus a recolored Spider-man now in his black costume. Again, no women. (There were three others that were supposed to be part of this wave were dumped on the Latin American market.)

The Secret Wars line was pretty much inferior to Superpowers by every measurement. There were fewer figures in the line. The figures were smaller. While the articulation for both lines was obviously inferior to Hasbro's GI Joe, Superpowers at least made up with it with the action gimmick idea. All Secret Wars characters got were these little plastic shields with lenticular inserts showing their secret identities. (This was especially goofy for Captain America, as he got this silly thing instead of the shield he was famous for.) And the Superpowers figures just looked better.

As I noted, not a single Secret Wars figure was female. And here's the totally bizarre thing about that. Mattel actually asked Marvel to create more female characters in the Secret Wars comic for them to use for figures. The second Spider-Woman, as well as the two new female villains Titania and Volcana, were the result of this. Spider-Woman and Titania would've made awesome figures, even given the limitations of the line. But nope.
And it's not just them. SheHulk would've also been a great inclusion. As would Storm, especially as this was during her punk mohawk period. And Captain Marvel Monica Rambeau would've been especially great. Rogue also would've worked, as would Enchantress.
What makes this especially aggravating is who they picked as their four second wave figures. Daredevil, Falcon, Baron Zemo, and Hobgoblin. Four people who were not even remotely involved in Secret Wars. And the other three that got booted overseas? Constrictor, Electro and Iceman. (Forget the female characters for a second. I want to know who decided these guys were a better pick than people like Thor, the Hulk, the Human Torch, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Colossus, The Thing, Hawkeye, the Lizard, Ultron, Absorbing Man, or Klaw. All of whom were actually in the freakin' comic.)

So for the majority of the 80s, that was what we had for comic book superhero action figures.
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by NoOneofConsequence »

MASK

MASK was one of the more interesting toy lines of the 80s. The concept - rather brilliantly IMO - managed to combine the two of Kenner's rival Hasbro's biggest sellers of the time, GI Joe and Transformers, into a single concept. A team of special agents who drove transforming vehicles. Plus they all had unique masks which effectively gave them super powers. While Kenner made the strange choice to go with a much smaller figure scale than the 3.75" of Star Wars and it's followers, they certainly didn't skimp on the quality of the figure sculpting and especially not on the vehicles themselves. Almost all of them had working doors, real rubber tires and in some cases even seat belts.

MASK and their enemies, VENOM, were both made up of unique and colorful specialists. While the bad guys were all career criminals (and sadly, never really got a lot of back story), all of the MASK agents had their own unique mission skills and had day jobs - high school teacher, toy designer, rock musician - which gave them a bit more depth. And, like most toy lines which had a cartoon, each side got a token female member for the show.

MASK's member was Gloria Baker, a champion race car driver and Kung Fu master. Oddly, she was one of the few whose day job directly tied in with her specialization, as she was a martial arts instructor. (She was called a "Sensei", but that's a Japanese term; the term usually used for teachers of Kung Fu or other Chinese arts is "Sifu".) Her vehicle was the Shark, a white Porche 928 with yellow high lights which turned into a submarine. Her mask was called both Aura and/or Collider, and could produce an energy shield.
Sadly, in spite of appearing in 19 episodes of the show (being a submarine kind of limited when and where the Shark could be used), and being in the opening credits, the Shark was never produced as a toy, or even as a prototype. Exactly why is unknown. One theory is that Porche would never give Kenner permission to use the 928's likeness for a toy. A few fan efforts have been made to make a Shark for collectors, but unfortunately the scale and complexity of MASK vehicles makes this almost impossible for amateur crafters. Gloria herself would at least finally see release in MASK's forth and final year of toys, with a new vehicle, the Stiletto. This was a Lamborghini Countach which, like most vehicles of that year, split into two separate vehicles, a helicopter and fighter jet, with one being piloted by Baker and the other by her mask-created holographic clone (because why stop with Hasbro's GI Joe and Transformers when you can also add Jem into the mix). However, this figure was in a green and silver outfit rather than her traditional white and yellow.

One the side of VENOM, we had Vanessa Warfield. She was described as an espionage and intelligence agent. (This seems to be the default for 80s toy line female characters; as I mentioned when talking about GI Joe, Cover Girl was the only one of the six who wasn't an Intelligence specialist. Ironically, Gloria Baker slightly mirror's Cover Girl in being a race car driver, while also following Scarlett with the other traditional female role of martial artist.) Her vehicle was the Manta, a purple Nissan 300ZX Z31 which transformed into a fighter jet. Her mask was called Whip and, obviously, created an energy whip.
Warfield and the Manta appeared a bit more than Baker did, probably owing to the fact that a jet can go more places than a submarine. And unlike the Shark, the Manta actually got a toy release. This was part of the third year wave, when they inexplicably switched over to a racing theme. In some ways, Warfield and her Manta were sort of a holdover from the previous years, as it didn't get any sort of racing rebranding. Collectors tend to be grateful for this fact.

Curiously, both vehicles have aquatic themed names. This is a bit of 80s design that would crop up again in Visionaries, in which both female characters had aquatic totem animals. Also, both Gloria Baker and Vanessa Warfield were voiced in the cartoon by the same person, Sharon Noble, who also did the MASK computer voice. (If you want to count the computer as a female character, then technically "she" comes with the Bolder Hill play set.)

As far as female action figure characters go, MASK did pretty well. While we never did get the Shark, we did at least get both female characters as figures. While one or two other female characters added to the line would've been nice, MASK had such a small cast, with a lot of characters getting multiple releases with different vehicles, that it doesn't stick out too badly.
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by NoOneofConsequence »

Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light

So, I made a brief note of Visionaries in the previous post, so let's talk about them.

Visionaries was an interesting series which had an unfortunately short life span. The concept itself was pretty cool. It was set on an alien world, Prysmos, that was one of those future earth settings (see also the post movie Transformers and COPS). Unfortunately, when the world's three suns - and don't even ask me how that's supposed to work - have an alignment, all the world's technology stops working, apparently being replaced by magic. I think it may have been implied that this was something that had happened before in ancient times, with the reverse happening (magic ceasing to work while technology took off). The civilization seems to adapt to medieval technology levels fairly quickly, as most of the characters have pre-alignment backgrounds, with whatever die off happened from the collapse being kind of glossed over. At some point after the place has stabilized with a new class of knights running around, the ancient wizard Merklynn pops up and offers the secrets of amazing magic power to anyone who can reach his secret shrine. A bunch of heroes and not-so-heroes manage to make it there. Each of them gets a magic totem animal, which they can turn into, represented by a spiffy holographic image on their chest plate. (This holographic gimmick was the focus on the whole line, because it was the 80s; said holography was developed by Hasbro sculptor Bill Merklein, whom Merklynn was named after.) Some of the knights also got magic staffs, which granted additional powers, which were activated by a rhyming phrase. Others were instead given the power to activate and use magically powered vehicles, which again required a rhyme to activate.
The line was supported by an animated series, which only got 13 episodes. Unfortunately, I've never been able to see it outside of a single episode off of a satellite feed, as it didn't air in my market, and it's never been released on DVD in the US. I did at least get to read the first issue of the comic. But I have seen clips on YouTube, and it isn't a bad show. It's from the same people who made Hasbro's other properties. The activation rhyme gimmick for the staffs ends up being one of the highlights.

The initial line had eight stand alone figures and four vehicle drivers, with a four/two split between good guys and bad guys. All of them were male. However, the animated series had two additional female characters.

One the side of the heroic Spectral Knights was Galadria. Her animal totem was the dolphin. She has no staff, but was able to operate the vehicles. The comic book adaptions gave her a magic shield with the power of Healing, activated by the phrase "By warmth of heart, your pain I feel; Grant me the power, your wounds to heal." I don't know if the animated series went into her pre-alignment life, but I like to think she might've been a doctor or medical student. In a curious deviation from a lot of the typical animated series formula, Galadria has a love interest, but it wasn't the Spectral Knights leader Prince Leoric. Galadria was voiced by the legendary Susan Blu.

Her opposite on the side of the Darkling Lords was Virulina. Her animal totem was the shark. Like Galadria, she has no staff and can use the vehicles. Her comic book only shield gave her the power of Disease, activated by the phrase "Wind of sickness, illness most vile; Strike down my enemies with disease revile." Her pre-alignment life was apparently that of newscaster, and one so popular and good looking that she was also a clothing model. There's probably a joke in here somewhere about news reporters spreading sickness. Virulina was voiced by Jennifer Darling.

Sadly, neither Galadria nor Virulina ever got figures released. Apparently no plans were even considered for such. Visionaries never got a second wave of figures, but among the prototypes made for the proposed second wave, one of them was a male character who had the Dolphin totem. This was 1988, the same year Hasbro stopped making female GI Joe figures, so apparently they'd just completely given up on the idea of female action figures at this time.
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by Davies »

NoOneofConsequence wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 1:56 am I think it may have been implied that this was something that had happened before in ancient times, with the reverse happening (magic ceasing to work while technology took off).
This is explicitly the case in the comic book adaptation.
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Re: Female Action Figures: Hits and Missed Opportunities

Post by NoOneofConsequence »

Davies wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 5:32 am This is explicitly the case in the comic book adaptation.
Thanks. I likely have some vague half memory of it from the original comic.
I rather wish Hasbro would rerelease a lot of the old comics for stuff like this, MASK, and the like.
What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)
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