Sunday, January 04, 2009

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 84: Big Jim Sky Commander (Mattel; 1973)

Who is Big Jim? Well, he's not a porn star, I assure you that. If, uh, that's what you were thinking.

Instead, Big Jim is a globe-hopping adventurer and boy toy icon of my favorite decade: the dazzling 1970s. Big Jim was Mattel's alternative to Hasbro's popular G.I. Joe, a less overtly military, war-oriented action-figure line that endured for much of the decade.

Instead of being a soldier in the Army, Big Jim was what in you might call an "all rounder" -- an athlete, a secret agent, an astronaut, a scientist and even an outdoors man...a true renaissance man, I guess. His buddies included Big Jack, Big Josh, Big Jeff, Dr Steel and Chief Tankua. Many of these figures featured karate chop arms: you'd press a square in their backs and they'd deliver a karate chop to an your brother or sister.

For the avid toy collector, there was a whole universe of Big Jim toys to collect back in the day. Big Jim had a very cool brown camper/van, for instance, one perfect for jungle expeditions. Big Jim also had a dune buggy, a rescue rig, a Corvette and even a Safari House, a green camping tent and his own Kung Fu Studio. He was also known to tangle -- occasionally -- with gorillas and sharks.

However, my favorite toy from the Big Jim line (after the ubiquitous camper...) was his aerial HQ...the Big Jim Sky Commander (1973).

This massive toy is four-and-a-half feet in length with when fully opened. It could also be folded up into the form of a compact carrying case, which makes it perfect for quick transportation in the event of an afternoon at granny's house.

The Sky Commander features four compartments overall. There's the cockpit (with chair and steering wheel...), the situation room (replete with maps, Morse Code device, navigation table, and tools), the bunk room (with bed, sink, food supplies, a storage unit on the floor and a rest room), and finally, the tail section.

The tail section is decorated with a cool Big Jim logo (a soaring eagle...) and you can make out the details of the engine technology too.

This "around-the-globe jet headquarters" transports Jim from one secret assignment (or vacation, I guess...) to another. To help with ultra-high-speed pick-ups, the Sky Commander also comes with a working winch and rescue basket/litter. So you can actually reel action figures up into the plane...

The Big Jim Sky Commander (according to the legend on the back of the box) was perfect for "air search and rescue," "ecology," "trouble-shooting" and even "science" as Big Jim "jets around the world."

I had one of these toys when I was a kid. I was at a garage sale with my parents when I was about five, I guess. For sale was an array of Mego Batman figures (good grief!) and also the Sky Commander plane...alongside a similarly-designed Barbie plane. My sister got Barbie, I got the Sky Commander (and Batman) and we were both happy for days.

I realize that in 2009 this toy probably looks pretty darn primitive (most of the cool equipment is merely drawn on the vinyl), but I had hours, probably months of fun imagining stories for Big Jim and this thing. The Sky Commander was a passport to great adventure for a young mind.

I found one of 'em recently on E-Bay , and bought a Sky Commander for my two-year old, Joel's Christmas. He's already running around the house shouting "Big Jim!"

1 comment:

  1. Those were the "Good Ole Days" glad you found one and your lil one is enjoying it-most kids now a days do not have an imagination-Thanks to the not so good toys and video games. I hope to find one at a thrift store-wish me luck!!!