Sunday, October 26, 2008

Idol Pursuits : Master of the Plastic Arts -
part 1 : 01979 Ben Cooper DR STRANGE "Jiggler" Action Figure

Hello again!
Today's subject, as promised, is:
"IT FIGURES"
As you can probably guess, "IT FIGURES" will deal with various items that fall within the "figural" motif of 3-dimensional representations of characters in my collection.

*EDIT*
I have since renamed this feature as "IDOL PURSUITS" and have gone back to rename these previous entries to reflect the change. Sorry for any confusion this may cause.
*END EDIT*

The sub-header of;
"Master of the Plastic Arts"
is what I'll use for ACTION FIGURES of Doctor Strange.

------------------

However, that is, in and of itself, a misnomer, because since I wish to go through these items in chronological order of their release, the first THREE such items weren't made of PLASTIC at all.

While today's item might technically BE the FIRST true Doctor Strange "action figure", it isn't the first to be conceived OR the first "play figure" to hit the market.
However, as I'll relate, the first two (non-plastic) figures deserve special status and separate entries unto themselves, since they weren't released AS solo figures, but as part of unique merchandise sets.

Those were:

- the 01975 Dr. Strange Stand-Up Play Figure -
which was one of the figures in the "MARVEL WORLD Playset", from Amsco, with it's multitude of 2-D / 3-D stand-up figures. However, they were made of cardboard with plastic bases that could be slipped on and off.
(Dr. Strange as well as his entire Sanctum Sanctorum are represented), but since that's SUCH an awesome item, it won't get relegated here.

and

- the 01978 Dr. Strange Stand-Up Play Figure -
which was one of the 11 standees that came with
"the Amazing Spider-Man and the Marvel Heroes RUB n' PLAY Magic Transfer Set" from Colorforms.
These were cardboard, also, but much flimsier than the Marvel World figures.

You'll have to wait for a future post to see the pics of those items.
But trust me... they are worth the wait *.

-----------------------

Today's item, which as I mentioned, while being the first "true" action figure of Dr. Strange, also wasn't made of plastic per se, but a rubber / vinyl polymer.

Now, to further add to the confusion and time-line mash-up, since I'll be going thru the assorted figural representations of Doctor Strange in a chronological order, I have to mention that this "first" item truly should be further down on the ladder.

While this was the 1st solo piece of Doctor Strange "action figure" merchandise to be released, it was actually conceived after a more appropriate item.
The first would be the MEGO figure that was planned to be sold in their Super-Heroes line, as a tie-in to the live-action Dr. Strange series that was proposed.
However, since the 01978 TV pilot movie didn't do well in the ratings, the series was aborted, as was the Mego figure.
However, it WAS released later... sorta, and we'll get to that in a future installment of "IT FIGURES IDOL PURSUITS : MASTER of the PLASTIC ARTS".

OK. All caught up and properly confused?
Yeah. I know. Nothing is ever cut and dried.

Anyway, this FIRST item was also conceived that same year, but WAS released.
01979's BEN COOPER Super Hero "Jiggler" Action Figure.



As you can see, they had ZERO quality on the paint applications.
I guess, as long as the right color paint was on the right area, staying "in the lines" was optional.

I'll also include a pic of the BACK.


I had to lower the lighting, so you can make out the embossed info:
the BEN COOPER logo, "Made in Hong Kong" (c) 1979 M.C.G.
(Marvel Comics Group - as they were known then)

Also, of note is the tag, still attached.
I've seen a few of these, and usually the tag is LONG gone.

So it is, that for other characters, the manufacture of action figures (or even "play figures") could be had for many years (in the case of Marvel figures, I can think of the 1969 plastic statuette "marvelmania" play figures of Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America and Daredevil), but for Doctor Strange fans... this was the true beginning.

Unlike today's multi-jointed, realistically poseable figures of action, this old guy had ZERO points of articulation, and the only ACTION you could hope to achieve was by watching it bounce around on it's elastic string and flop around like a fish.
But still, for it's time, and for a Dr. Strange fan... we were happy.
Yup. 6 inches of rubber happiness. (uh... that might sound wrong.)

For those who don't know, BEN COOPER was a company that had rights to manufacture Marvel items at the time and, aside from the jigglers, they also made many, many superhero "trash-bag"-style Halloween Costumes.
Doctor Strange included.

I'll get to THOSE in an upcoming post (possibly very soon).

----------------

Now, for those who have interest in the collector's "quest", I'll share my anecdote(s) for this item (along with a few cool scans as "bonus content").

Way back in the 1970's to very early 1980's, as any reader of comics from that era can attest, Marvel comics used to have wonderful advertisements in them from a merchandise distribution store named; HEROES WORLD.
They started with one store / warehouse in New Jersey and then later opened branch storefronts.
(Later, they would become a distributer of comics and merchandise, until the 1990's boom and Marvel's acquisition - and later destruction - of the company. But that's a tale for another time.)

Heroes World was a mecca, a wonderland of tantalizing delights.
A "Neverland" that most comic fans could only get a fleeting glimpse of through their catalogs and ad pages.

Most of us had little chance of obtaining many of the items featured within the wondrous pages (unless allowed and/or able to partake in the mail-order option, or happened to live near one of the locations).

But, one day, I was fortunate enough to pass through the doorway that separated the mundane world from that of the realm of Heroes.
Heroes World.
At least their location in the Nassau Mall in Levittown, NY.


THIS is the ad page for the "jiggler" action figures.
Note the store locations at the bottom of the page.
*click to make more Hero-y*

As a kid, it felt like stepping into Valhalla. But it was dream-like, since I had NO idea that the store that I randomly stepped into (while wandering away from the parental-units during an out of the norm trip to a small shopping mall a few towns away) had even existed.

It was 01976, I was 9 years old and had no idea where this store was (I didn't pay attention to the directions driven by my dad. I'm sure I didn't even want to be a part of the excursion), but I was amazed at the stuff available. I recall seeing a groovy Silver Surfer t-shirt on the wall alongside Howard the Duck shirt and other Marvel tees (many that would feature reproductions of comic covers) and far too many items to remember.

Back then, I had a passing awareness of comics. I had a good friend who was VERY much into them (John D, as mentioned in my first post) and through his influence, I was slowly growing in interest and knowledge of this new medium, it's characters, and it's swag.

But, sadly, I had no access to spare moneys, and as such, departed the store with only a backwards glance.

Flash forward 4 years to 1980.
I had only just started to buy my own comics in earnest the year before (as opposed to those bagged multi-packs that I would buy randomly at the local 5 and dime), and had seen many ads for Heroes World (which were drawn by the Joe Kubert School, often by Joe Kubert himself).
I had only JUST become a Dr. Strange fan at that time, but only had a few issues and appearances. I wasn't a die-hard collector/fan (yet).

However, I somehow remembered that hallowed store of super-hero goodness and was at the age where I could bike there (although, it would have to be a secret mission, as I wasn't allowed to bike THAT FAR away, and my parents were NOT fans of my reading comics).

So, I went there (I think it must have been with other school friends) and went "shopping" (I don't recall having much cash to spend so I must have only picked up one or two small items).
I do remember being sad that that groovy Silver Surfer shirt (with him breezily surfing on a sunny wave of color) was no longer available. I loved that and would have bought it if I had the chance.
But, I DO seem to recall that there, under the same wall of shirts, were bins of assorted stuff, and IN some of those bins were these rubbery figures.

I'm not 100% sure, since memories like this are tricky, and one thing can easily be replaced by another in the subconscious.

But, I do seem to recall looking at them from a slight distance and for a moment thinking if that would be the one item that I would purchase.

Well, I obviously didn't buy it (not that I recall WHAT I did get that day), and left the store (only to return to it a few more times, several years later, before they closed their doors).

It wasn't until another 13 years had passed, and while re-reading an old comic and once again saw the ad for that "jiggly" figure that I realized that the time had come to locate it and make it my own.

This was 1993, before the internet made access to everything-and-anything a possibility, so, like many items I would acquire for my collection, it required a lot of cold-calling, looking for ads in trade magazines and following leads.

I managed to call one location, who didn't have it, but remembered seeing a different seller might have had one at a convention, but calling that seller lead to another, and so on...
Within a day or two, I had located the seller who had one, but had to wait for him to call back with the confirmation.

If I recall, it set me back about $60.00.
At least that's the amount that seems to stick in my head whenever I think about the experience.
(the guy could probably tell he had a desperate fan-hunter on the line)
It was just past the price that I felt was extortion, but I HAD to have it.

Of course, now, via eBay, I'd imagine one could be had far easier for less (not that I see any listed or even recently completed auctions... so who knows? It might still be quite rare).

***UPDATE***
Check out the comments section for news on a recently ended Dr. Strange "jiggler" that had a final sale nearly DOUBLE of what I spent. Yikes! These things are HOT!
***END UPDATE***


As a bonus, here is the specific page from that year's Ben Cooper catalog.





AND... thanks to the kind gents over at Plaid Stallions, here is a pic of the display box.

  (Needless to say... I NEED this display box!)

I've seen the Spider-Man figure, many, many times and I think I may have seen the THING, but I don't really recall seeing the RED SKULL.
Maybe once at a flea market. Maybe.
Again... memories like this are gossamer things.


-------------------------------------------------
* NEXT ISSUE : More BEN COOPER Goodness...
DOCTOR STRANGE HALLOWEEN COSTUMES!
3 Variants of the OFFICIAL, commercially released
Ben Cooper / Marvel Comics; Dr. Strange costume!
-------------------------------------------------


And then followed by MORE "IDOL PURSUITS" swag!
-------------------------------------------------
IT FIGURES IDOL PURSUITS (addendum)*
or
* The Prototypical Play-Figures *
-------------------------------------------------

* See? I won't make you wait too long for those.

4 comments:

~P~ said...

testing. some people are getting "bad request" notices.

wonder why?

Howard said...

Sanctum, extra points for the Ben Cooper catalog picture and the Marvel In-House ad.

It took me awhile to find the Doctor Strange jiggler. It wasn't up on eBay for at least a year before I tracked one down. Trying to find one using Google was difficult, to say the least. I got mine for more than you paid, so other people want them.

I never got to Heroes World (you lucky bastard!) but did see them for sale at Universal Studios Los Angeles back in 1978. I think I got a Spider-Man or a Hulk jiggler instead, since my folks made me go to sleep before the end of the Peter Hooten Dr. Strange TV movie and I was still pretty bitter about that at the time.

As for the Red Skull, at the time of this posting there's one up for auction on eBay (Item number: 110303777218)

You should see the results you get typing "strange rubber jiggler" into a search engine.

~P~ said...

Howard,

I'll just checked out that Red Skull one.
That is one UGLY Nazi mo-fo!

DAMN!

However, I did just type in "strange rubber jiggler" into google and the first item was a recently finished eBay auction for the Dr. Strange jiggler.

Item number: 140270390747

Final bid (after 6 bids - starting at the ubiquitous $9.99) was...
(are you ready for this?)...
$105.00

Wow!
I no longer feel bad about spending $60.00 for mine (although it WAS 15 years ago).

Does the rate of inflation make my $60 purchase high or low for today's market value?

Anyway, glad you liked the post.
:-)

~P~ said...

Oh, man...

I just continued scanning the listing for the rubber jigglers (on eBay) and came across one that is hiLARious!

A Jenna Jameson Jiggler.
(she comes with a tank top and bikini-top - both removeable, natch') and the entire body and her... uh... "accoutrements" jiggle freely, while she's standing on a stable base.

I won't post any links here, but if you fllow the leads from "strange rubber jiggler" (or just cheat and type "Jenna Jameson Jiggler" in eBay) you'll find it.

Funny (and yet, sad).

;-)

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