Twelve Inch Treasures is my fun name for 1/6th scale figures. 1/6th scale mean that every inch represents 6 inches. This sizing equates a typical six-foot tall live person scale to a 12 inch figure. What figures do we have that are twelve inches? The mid sixties were the Golden Age for 1/6th scale figures. We grew up with an amazing assortment for boys and girls. The rulers of the era was Hasbro’s GI Joe for boys and Mattel’s Barbie for girls (yes – Mr. and/or Mrs. Picky, I know Barbie was first launched in 1959 but was not as big of a hit until the 60’s).
In response to those tremendously popular toys, other toy companies released their champions to compete in the category. Marx had a full range with Johnny West and the Best of the West, Noble Knights and Vikings, or the secret agents such as Double Agent Mike Hazard or The Woman from UNCLE. Ideal released Captain Action who could also dress up as multiple superheroes such as Superman, Captain America and Phantom. If you were into the feminine side of superheroes, Ideal also released the Comic Heroines for young girls with Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Mira (“significant other” of Aquaman). Kenner eventually jumped in with the Six Million Dollar Man, (Yes – I get he was a little bigger but we never held it against him.) Bionic Woman, Dusty, Stacy and Miss America. Hasbro kept angling for a piece of the action with Jem and Maxi.
Toys were important to children then as they are now. For kids, toys are a way to explore and act through how to live in an adult world. Toys represent a different time in many of our lives of simple joy instead of the constant stress of adulthood. Many adults are spending time and money on eBay searching for those same toys to relive some of the lost fun from their childhood. A great testament to this was a great poster issued in the late 1990’s that showed a wall of GI Joes with the slogan “GI Joe: The Greatest Toy My Mother Ever Threw Away.”
I am one of the fortunate few to have their professional career revolve around toys. Many of those 1/6th scale toys influenced toys I designed and developed over the years. When my Hasbro GI Joe was searching for the mummy’s tomb,
how was I to know that one day I would be making Prince of Egypt dolls for Kenner?
If you take a close look at all of the accessory sets from Mattel’s Disney Classics princesses,
those mask packs used the same format to solve a cost issue as Ideal used in 1967 with Captain Action.
Mattel’s giant alien Capt. Lazer from Major Matt Mason,
was an influence when I designed the GI Joe 2010 Operation: Intruder Defense with cool space gear and blaster.
Kenner added a properly sized Big Foot to its Six Million Dollar Man line,
which influenced me create a proper sized and articulated Search for the Yeti to play with instead of the diminutive vintage Search for the Abominable Snowman.
You could even argue that the all black Marx villain Sam Cobra
had some influence on the Matrix Neo and Trinity figures I developed for WB toys.
Sadly, inflation on the price of the figures has really polarized the current 1/6th scale market. The toy giants of Mattel and Hasbro have regressed to selling 1/6th scale figures with almost no articulation and absolutely no soft goods for about $8.50. You can still buy the deluxe 1/6th scale figures from companies like Sideshow Toys and Diamond Comics, which are amazingly cool, but they typically start at $100. In context, we were hording our allowances and grass cutting money to save up for our Joes and Johnnies at $5 to $10.
What I believe the children of today are really missing is the anticipation and preparation for play. Seldom did children just grab a figure out of their toy box and start playing. Even Barbie had to be dressed before going on a date. We pulled out Joe, his friends (sometimes even a Barbie) and all his gear. Then we would often spend an hour or more prepping for figure for a mission. Step 1 – What’s the mission today? (Hey, my older brother just gave me his old big rubber snake) Step 2 – What gear is needed? (It’s a jungle, that would require an Australian hat, camo shirt, shorts, socks, boots, canteen, radio, pistol, machete and a backpack or belts to hold it all). Step 3 – Where will my backyard battle take place? (Deep inside the pyracantha bushes would make a great jungle). Step 4 – Who is joining me and my Captain Action today? (Terry with his GI Joe Air Adventurer and we can give Randy a Johnny West but just tape his cowboy hat up one on side to look Australian. Forward Play! Now the Adventure team of Greg, Terry and Randy can save the jungle village from the giant boa that is terrorizing the Congo! (Does this sound familiar or am I still suffering from an over-active imagination and a long memory?)
My children had to live through honor/horror of playing with dad and his Joes. I would set up elaborate adventures such as “Mercenary poachers encroaching on the Phantom’s jungle” then my daughter and I would each have a hero figure to battle through it. Alternatively, I would have my son pick ten superheroes out of my stash, not knowing what trials they might face, and then set up multi-battle gauntlets to conquer by unraveling the clues left by the Riddler. Each of the battles were fought in more of a Pokémon scenario with superpowers being unleashed in single blows by supervillains at Superheroes. They both survived (my children) and are excelling in their chosen fields of study – but there might be still be some therapy bills that will come due.
The 1/6th scale figures clearly influenced my life and my life’s work. I hope that work will positively influence another generation.
What was your favorite 1/6th scale figure?