TOYHEM! A favorite toy — and a frustrating Christmas…

Welcome to TOYHEM! For the holiday season, we’re bringing you a series of features and columns celebrating the toys of our youth, which often made for the best memories this time of year. You’ll be hearing from comics creators, regular 13th Dimension contributors and more. Click here to check out the complete index of stories — and have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah and Happy Holidays! — Dan

TOYHEM! isn’t really a single series of stories. It’s sort of a series of series. We have the 13-day Custom Mego Box of the Day, for example. (Click here.)

But we also have TOYHEM! MEMORIES – a collection of guest essays by comics creators (and in this case, a historian) on their favorite childhood toys.

Now, this piece doubles as an EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from the new RetroFan #7, editor Michael Eury’s quarterly kitschfest from TwoMorrows:

See, in this issue, Michael recalls his first Captain Action figure as part of a much larger piece on the history of Ideal’s 1960s man of many heroic disguises. (Michael also wrote a dynamite coffee-table book on the subject some years ago — Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure, also from TwoMorrows. It’s out of print, but do yourself a favor and track down a copy.)

Anyway, for TOYHEM!, take a read on the intro to Michael’s RetroFan piece — and make sure you pick up the issue to read the full article, which is as in-depth as it is entertaining.

And of course, the issue has tons more to offer, so check out the table of contents:


I cried like a baby that Christmas morning.

Now, before you RetroFans rechristen ye ed as this mag’s “Crybaby-in-Chief,” let me explain. I was a baby. Or close to it. A grade-school boy, in fact.

And the Christmas I’m referencing was in 1966.

That’s the year I experienced The Big Disappointment. For much of 1966, I had been whipped into a Pavlovian slobber-state by advertisements. Television commercials and the ad pages of my beloved Batman comic books tag-teamed to pound it into my consumer conscience that I must own what would become my favorite childhood toy, Ideal Toys’ Captain Action.

Kurt Schaffenberger art

I could not escape Captain Action’s siren call. Once the leaves fell and the air chilled, that tome of dreams, the Sears Christmas Wishbook, also summoned me, its slick, color-packed pages possessing my thoughts with their dynamic poses of the good captain garbed as some of my favorite superheroes. Wow, a super-hero who could become another super-hero? Including my (as-seen-on-TV) fave, Batman?

My dad, always eager to please, shrugged off my constant badgering for a Captain Action and costumes with this response: “Add it to your Christmas list, son.”

And what a list it was, with my cursively penned pleas for the Captain Action figure plus uniforms for Batman, Superman and Aquaman (not to mention Ideal’s 23-piece Batman and Robin playset and Mattel’s Batman Switch ’n Go Batmobile Set).

Photo by Craig Hedges, via RetroFan #7

Come the morning of December 25th, I received proof that Santa Claus did indeed read my scribbled entreaty as each of my requested Captain Action items, all neatly giftwrapped, waited for me under the tree. After the fevered exhilaration of shredding apart the colorful wrap to uncover my bounty, my heart sank.

My mint-in-box Captain Action action figure, anchored rigidly at attention, gripped into position by upper- and lower-body cardboard support pieces, his awesome lightning sword and ray gun safely secured inside a plastic pouch, had… two left hands.

Let the bawling begin.

I learned two important life lessons that day. First, be prepared for disappointments — not everything is always going to go your way. And second, I was reminded that I had the coolest, sweetest mother in the world, as the day after Christmas she whisked me to the nearest W. T. Grant department store and marched to the toy department to buy me a replacement Captain Action… and yes, she opened the box first to inspect his hands.

(Somewhere out there is another Baby Boomer who has a similar childhood story about how his Christmas was ruined by receiving a Captain Action with two right hands. If you’re out there, brother, I’d like to hear your story…)

RetroFan #7 is available in comics stores but can also be ordered directly through TwoMorrows. (Click here.) Not only that, Michael Eury will be back at 13th Dimension soon with another Captain Action piece for TOYHEM!


— The Complete TOYHEM! Index of Features and Columns. Click here.


Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I received a second year issue CA and the Superman costume, complete with rings, for Christmas of the most memorable gifts ever.

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  2. OMG Michael! I too received a Captain Action with two left hands for the Christmas of 1966! I always wondered, what the heck??? What’s up with this screw up because my CA looked so weird! Glad to know that mine was not the only one in this condition!

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  3. I also received a Captain Action on Christmas Day 1966 (or maybe it was 1967, but it was the first year they were released) that had two left hands! My father took it back to the store the next day so that one of Santa’s “elf’s” could exchange it for one with a left and right hand. So I guess out there somewhere are two other kids who got a CA with two right hands!

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  4. Crazy… I literally just read this article in my Retro Fan magazine ten minutes ago, picked up my iPad and here’s an article about it. Best magazine ever by the way. Read it from cover to cover with each issue. I read on one letters page, someone asked for articles about Freakies cereal and Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings… I second those!

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  5. Christmas 1966 was the year I also received a Captain Action figure with Batman, Superman and Aquaman costumes. Soon after Cap American and the Green Hornet. I also received that Batman/Justice League playset with the JLA Sanctuary cave, Batplane and villains like The Key. Great fun!

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  6. Christmas 1967 Santa left under the tree a Dr Evil an Action boy and a Robin costume and a super queen Batgirl. So many years have past and I can remember ever minute. Unwrapping the boxes, and holding the dolls. Great memories. We did have the best toys back then. The Captain is very deer to my heart.

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