December 31, 2022



(Syndication, September 23, 1995-March 30, 1996)
DiC Productions L.P., Hasbro



Mark Griffin – Action Man/Matthew Exler
Dale Wilson – Action 2/Knuck Williams
Joely Collins – Action 3/Natalie Poole
Richard Cox – Jacques
Iris Quinn – Vira
Garry Chalk – Action Command/Secretary General Norris
Rolf Leenders – Doctor X/Dorian Exler


1964 saw the debut of the original G.I. Joe action figure from Hasbro. The figure was a 12-inch mannequin-like doll with multiple points of articulation made to represent the four branches of the American military (for more on that figure, check out the entry for G.I. Joe: Sigma 6). That same year, Hal Belton, Sales Director for Hasbro’s United Kingdom licensee Palitoy, returned from the United States with one of the action figures for his grandson. Seeing how well he liked it, Belton proposed to his company the idea of importing the concept over there. General Manager Miles Fletcher and Production Director Brian Wybrow met with Hasbro during 1965’s New York Toy Fair and acquired samples to conduct some market research; which included giving some to employees to take him to their children to test. Like Hasbro before them, Palitoy alleviated concerns over boys playing with “dolls” by banning the word when discussing it in favor of the newly-coined phrase “action figure”. Confident enough to move forward, a licensing deal was struck with Hasbro and the new name Action Man was chosen.

Action Man launched in 1966 and was like G.I. Joe in everything but name, complete with additional uniforms and accessories that could be purchased to dress up each figure. They proved a hit, with Palitoy unable to keep up with the demand at first and being forced to import Canadian Joes to cover their shortfalls. Much as Joe was moving away from its militaristic roots due to fallout from the Vietnam War, Action Man began his own move towards decidedly more British themes in 1970 by including adventurers and sportsmen. To distinguish it from its American counterpart, Palitoy included a wider array of uniform options and also began making changes to the figure itself throughout the 70s. They introduced flocked hair, conceived by Director of Design Bill Pugh, and hands that could better hold accessories and items, based on chief designer Bob Brechin’s own hand; both of which soon made their way over to Joe (the latter better known as “kung-fu grip”). Action Man would adopt Joe’s new “eagle eye” mechanic, which allowed the eyes to be moved back and forth. As they needed to replace their aging molds, an entirely new body was created for Action Man in 1978; doing away with any metal parts for safety and giving him a more muscular physique. Two more additions followed: new talking figures were made, upgrading the ones from the late 60s, and a “sharpshooter” head could pivot upwards for a realistic shooting position (sharpshooter was also applied to an attachment that could allow the soccer version of Action Man to realistically kick the ball). It was awarded the prestigious “Toy of the Decade” by the National Association of Toy Retailers.

As was the case overseas, toy production in the 80s began to favor the 3.75-inch size for figures for their cheaper production and greater allowance for accessories, vehicles and playsets that would prove too expensive and unwieldly at the original scale. They launched a new toyline in 1982 called Action Force, which were smaller scale versions of the earlier Action Man figures with an adapted Star Wars Death Star playset (Kenner, who produced the Star Wars toys, was also owned by Palitoy’s owner General Mills at this time, and Palitoy had the distribution rights for Star Wars toys in the UK). The new toys proved a hit and a storyline was conceived about the good guys—strike team SAS, infantry backbone Z Force, nautical operations Q Force and the eyes and ears Space Force—fighting against a terrorist foe, The Red Shadows (similarly to the Joes vs. Cobra storyline of their American counterparts). General Mills, looking to cut costs, opted to end the original Action Man line in 1984 as Action Force was cheaper to make and didn’t require paying Hasbro a licensing fee. Ironically, the Action Force line would end up becoming nothing more than an avenue to re-release G.I. Joe toys under both names.

By 1991, Hasbro had come to own Palitoy through a series of acquisitions, and as the Joe line had experienced its own resurgence, they decided to try and see if Action Man could have the same. In 1992, four new figures were released under the Action Man name; however, they were just repackaged Joe Hall of Fame figures. The following year, an all-new line with an all-new backstory was released, moving away from the realistic military motif it had originated with into more fantasy-oriented action and adventure with an extreme sports slant (like rollerblading and bungee jumping). The new Action Man was in a battle against the deadly Dr. X and his minions, such as No-Face and Professor Gangrene. The new line moved away from the accessory-heavy model of the earlier lines and came with increasingly permanent outfits and a set amount of included weaponry with each figure. The only thing retained from the original was the battle scar on his cheek; an innovation from the original Joe figures to allow them to trademark the head design.

Action Man.

Hasbro had previously tried to take another page out of the Joe playbook by commissioning the production of an animated pilot through DiC Productions in 1986. However, there was little interest in it. But now that the line was back, and with its 30th anniversary on the horizon, Hasbro and DiC revisited the idea with a new animated series centered on the storyline for the new toys developed by Bob Forward and Phil Harnage, and distributed by Bohbot Entertainment.

Dr. X.

Action Man was Matthew Exler (Mark Griffin), an orphan adopted by esteemed rocket scientist and wealthy inventor Dr. Alfred Exler. He and his older stepbrother, Dorian (Rolf Leenders), were both geniuses and science prodigies. However, Dorian was a born psychopath and set a fire that killed their parents. While Matthew was sent off to the finest European boarding schools, Dorian used his inherited wealth to set up his own para-military terrorist organization, The Council of Doom, staffed by mercenaries called “Skullmen”, after the skull design on their face shields. He proceeded to eliminate all records of Dorian and became the mysterious Dr. X.

The untrustworthy Ursula.

Matthew, tormented by the guilt of the belief that he was the cause of their parents’ deaths, sought inner peace with a bizarre cult he discovered called the Akesh Maharishis in the Himalayas. Over three years he studied their ways of physical conditioning, survival techniques, martial arts, yoga and meditation. By excelling in his training, he earned the coveted “A.M.” tattoo of the cult. His mediation also led him to the realization that it was his brother, not him, responsible for their parents’ deaths and set out to bring his brother to justice. He infiltrated his organization in order to bring it down from within. Complications arose when he fell for one of his fellow recruits, Ursula. However, he was forced to blow his cover to save the lives of the peace-keeping Action Team during an encounter.

Captured by X and his legions.

A combination of a concussion and Dr. X’s psychotropic drugs robbed Matthew of his memory. Learning of Matthews intents and condition, Dr. X had all trace of Matthew erased from the records in order to keep him from ever recovering his memory and threatening his plans. Seeing some value in Matthew, he’s convinced to join Action Team under the codename “Action Man” to help them stop Dr. X’s plans in return for their help in restoring his memories.

The Action Team: Jacques, Natalie, R.A.I.D., Knuck and Action Man.

Most of this backstory never made it to the screen and only existed in the show’s bible. The parts of it that did were brought about by a flash of memory Action Man would receive whenever he faced certain events or encountered certain people, like Ursula. Newly created for the show was Action Man’s team, comprised of the gymnastic Natalie, callsign Action 3 (Joely Collins); brawler and bomb expert Knuck (Dale Wilson), callsign Action 2; Jacques (Richard Cox), a genius in a technologically advanced wheelchair; and Secretary General Norris (Garry Chalk), callsign Action Command, a member of the World Security Council and their direct overseer. Additionally, they had a dog named R.A.I.D. (Randomly Acquired Intelligent Dog), who was once under Dr. X’s control. On top of their natural skills, the Action Team was equipped with a variety of gadgetry to help them best their foes and get out of tight scrapes. In a stock launch sequence, they all slid down into the waiting Jet Xtreme and took off from the orbiting Space Station Xtreme towards whatever emergency they faced.

Professor Gangrene.

Along with Dr. X and his army of Skullmen, there was Professor Gangrene (David Hay). He was a master scientist whose name came from the fact he was infected by so many diseases. Ursula, despite having affections for Action Man, was loyal to Dr. X and continually used their past to lure him into traps. She was a deadly hand-to-hand fighter and an expert marksman.

Jet Xtreme departing the space station.

Action Man debuted on September 23, 1995 in syndication as part of Bohbot’s Amazin’ Adventures programming block. Interestingly enough, the series wasn’t allowed to air in Action Man’s native UK due to laws forbidding the airing of shows based on toys (shows that eventually got toys were fine). The series was written by Forward, Harnage, Greg Johnson, Michael A. Medlock, Jess Winfield, Bruce Shelly, Reed Shelly, Wendy Reardon, Jules Dennis, Gildart Jackson, Jeff Kwitny, Brooks Wachtel, Michael O’Mahony and Kim Rawl, with Forward and Harnage serving as story editors. Character designs were handled by James Cross, Rob Davies and Louie Escauriaga, with music composed by Stephen C. Marston. Point Animation provided the animation.

Live-action Action Man talking into his wrist communicator.

Each episode featured three live-action sequences filed at Universal Studios Hollywood and Florida, making full use of their stunt show sets. The first would be a cold open featuring Action Man (also Griffin) on an unrelated mission from the main story, tussling with Skullmen and foiling Dr. X’s (also Leenders) plans. At the end of an episode, Action Man would slip on a virtual reality suit and helmet and strap into a computer named Vira (Iris Quinn) to analyze an unlocked memory. The sequence was all stock footage and Action Man spoke in voiceover. Finally, Action Man would appear to speak directly to the audience to deliver a pro-social message about things like recycling, exercising and making mistakes. These segments were written by Diane M. Fresco and Julie Fuller. Jeff Pruitt served as both their director and stunt coordinator.

Action Man in Vira examining his latest memory.

Action Man only lasted a single season of 26 episodes (although, many places declare it was broken up into two seasons of 13-episodes each), continuing on in reruns through 1998. Had the series continued, there were plans to pick things up with Action Team being disbanded now that Dr. X was seemingly defeated. Action Man would’ve done some adventuring where he would meet Sir Arthur Strong who had some knowledge of his parents and past. A crossover with G.I. Joe Night Force would have occurred (which later happened in 2004 as a Toys ‘R’ Us-exclusive action figure 6-pack), and Action Team would have been eventually reassembled with the addition of new characters. Instead, an all-new Action Man CGI cartoon was released in 2000 with a new version of the titular hero.

Natalie and Action Man's cameos in Revolutionaries #7.

Knuck and Natalie received their own action figures as part of the Action Man toyline; Knuck’s having a different body type than the rest of the line with a punching action and Natalie being given shorter hair to allow for full neck movement and a kicking action. Natalie was given a second 3.75” figure in 2010 by the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club during GIJoeCon. That same year, she would appear as a member of Action Force in Fun Publication’s G.I. Joe Versus Cobra #3In 2017, she and Action Man made a cameo appearance in IDW Publishing’s Revolutionaries #7 as part of  “Team Extreme”, the name taken from the 2000 Action Man cartoon.

Action Man complete series DVD.

In the UK, 14 VHS tapes containing 2-3 episodes each were released by Abbey Home Entertainment, and later Just Entertainment, between 1996 and 2004. Abbey would also release six DVDs between 2002 and 2005, with two more from Prism Leisure between 2005 and 2006. They contained a mix of new and previously-released episodes out of order. In the United States, Lions Gate Home Entertainment and Trimark Home Video released two VHS tapes with 2 episodes, each in 2001. All four episodes were combined onto the DVD Secret of Action Man, which released on the same day as the VHS that shared its name. In 2003, Sterling Entertainment released the DVD Action Man: Space Wars, which re-released the episodes “Skynap” and “Space Wars” along with two new ones. Neither DVD featured the live-action segments. In 2015, Mill Creek Entertainment released the complete series to DVD as part of their “Retro TV Toons” series. This was the first time every episode had been put onto DVD.


EPISODE GUIDE (NOTE: Some sources vary between it being one or two seasons):
“Explosive Situation” (9/23/95) – Action Man is lured into Dr. X’s trap by Ursula with the threat of a nuclear bomb.
Live Mission: Cut off Dr. X’s fuel supply in the North Sea.
“Fountain of Youth” (9/30/95) – Dr. X captures a group of scientists to make use of their regenerative extract herb and get a fortune in the resulting youth serum.
Live Mission: Invade Dr. X’s New York City headquarters.
“Cybersoldier” (10/7/95) – A KGB android Dr. X sends under the guise of Action Man’s old friend seemingly kills him in the encounter.
Live Mission: Contain radioactive waste in Madagascar.
“You Can’t Go Home Again” (10/14/95) – While trying to uncover some old memories, Action Man and Natalie must free a village being held hostage by Dr. X and save the Xtreme Station.
Live Mission: Disable Megamind Computer in Sri Lanka.
“Ancient History” (10/21/95) – Natalie’s uncle seems to be in charge of the team of miners excavating for Dr. X.
Live Mission: Destroy a weapons factory in Alice Springs, Australia.
“The Red Plague” (10/28/95) – Dr. X steals a beaker of a deadly virus and kidnaps the scientist that developed its cure.
Live Mission: Cut off Dr. X’s arms supply in Edinburgh, Scotland.
“Peril at Perigee” (11/4/95) – Dr. X hijacks a stealth bomber and plans to launch its payload from the European Space Agency base with Jacques as a hostage.
Live Mission: Liberate Quark Plate in the Cayman Islands.
“Rogue Moons” (11/11/95) – Action Man braves the Gobi Desert to stop Dr. X’s rogue moon launcher aimed at Earth’s cities.
Live Mission: Intercept arms shipment in Morocco, North Africa.
“Hands Down” (11/18/95) – Dr. X kidnaps and brainwashes an ambassador to set up Action Team, resulting in Knuck and Natalie being arrested.
Live Mission: Secure a dam in La Paz, Bolivia.
“We Come in Peace” (11/25/95) – Dr. X uses a stolen anti-gravity device to fake an alien attack on Earth.
Live Mission: Disable a sub station in New Orleans.
“R.A.I.D.” (12/2/95) – Dr. X sends a dog after Action Man, but Jacques ends up adopting him and using him to thwart X’s next scheme.
Live Mission: Disable Dr. X’s signal in Boston.
“Skynap” (12/9/95) – Dr. X takes the Jet Xtreme and Norris to the Action Space Station where he plans to start a major world war.
Live Mission: Secure an experimental serum in Barcelona, Spain.
“The Outside Edge” (12/16/95) – Dr. X manages to frame Norris for corruption and get Action Team disbanded.
Live Mission: Destroy weapon stockpile in Los Angeles.
“The X Factor” (1/6/96) – Gangrene plans to unleash his X-Vitamin steroid into the city’s water supply.
Live Mission: Clear a blockage in Lake Ontario, Canada.
“Ice Age” (1/13/96) – Dr. X steals a device and enough plutonium to eliminate the world’s oceans.
Live Mission: Destroy Dr. X’s new base in the Greek Islands.
“Soul of Evil” (1/20/96) – Ursula begs for Action Man’s help as Dr. X targets her with an assassin that shares Action Man’s voice and tattoo.
Live Mission: Destroy a toxic dump in Alaska.
“Déjà Vu” (1/27/96) – Dr. X’s plans to kidnap the G7 leaders feels unsettlingly familiar to Action Man.
Live Mission: Escape from a prison and expose Dr. X’s plans in Hawaii.
“Satellite Down” (2/3/96) – An important satellite crashes down amongst a hidden Arctic civilization.
Live Mission: Disable a warhead in Moscow, Russia.
“Space Walk” (2/10/96) – Dr. X takes control of a space shuttle with two of the world’s richest men on board.
Live Mission: Secure an armory in Cherbourg, France.
“The Most Dangerous Prey” (2/17/96) – The Action Team must survive against Dr. X and his Overseer robot after Jet Extreme is shot down and they’re all injured in the crash.
Live Mission: Secure top-secret files in Palermo, Sicily.
“Points of Danger” (2/24/96) – The Action Team must protect a special fish from falling into the hands of Dr. X who wants to use its to make a mind control gas.
Live Mission: Retrieve detonators in Marseilles, France.
“Crack of Doom” (3/2/96) – Dr. X saves an isolated island tribe from a volcano, earning their trust so he can turn them against the Action Team and the World Security Council.
Live Mission: Escape from a prison and disable Dr. X’s alarm in Vienna, Austria.
“Space Wars” (3/9/96) – Dr. X distracts the Action Team so he can steal and arm a space shuttle to take over an abandoned space station.
Live Mission: Destroy a warehouse in Birmingham, England.
“Past Performance” (3/16/96) – Dr. X steals a decryption computer in order to crack the codes to launch missiles at strategic targets.
Live Mission: Destroy Dr. X’s unmanned helicopter on the island of Crete.
“A Time for Action: Part 1” (3/23/96) – The Action Team manage to stop Dr. X’s theft of a gold shipment, however one of his robots manages to get past them and snatches the gold anyway.
Live Mission: Rescue a prisoner from a warehouse and escape.
“A Time for Action: Part 2” (3/30/96) – Jacques is forced to abandon his team in an inhospitable environment when Dr. X takes his father and Norris hostage.
Live Mission: Destroy a climate-manipulation device in the Bahamas.

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