I loved Big Jim as a kid, but what I loved even more was Big Jim's P.A.C.K.!
No, not package, damn it! P.A.C.K.! As in the acronym for "Professional Agents, Crime Killers".
Well, actually, I take that back. I love Big Jim's package! In fact, the entire team of Big Jim, Warpath, Torpedo Fist, The Whip and Dr. Steel all had some of the best packages in all of toy history! (Okay, I really should say "packaging", but I'm really just going to keep pushing this double entendre thing as far as I can.)
So, what makes these old 10" figures from the 70's stand out as one of toy history's all time best you ask? Two words:
That's right, the King of Comics himself created the box art for all of Big Jim's P.A.C.K.! And if you don't know who Jack Kirby is, then I banish you from this blog!! (Actually, please don't leave. I need the traffic!) At this time, Kirby was deep into his New Gods stuff, so the art is drawn in that hyper-stylized art that Kirby was known for. Awesome stuff-- and perfect for the comic book like characters of the P.A.C.K. In fact, there was even a Big Jim comic book produced with art by Sal Bucema and Joe Sinnot that was included with the Big Jim Commander to give a story to Jim and his P.A.C.K.
(Remember, this toys line was produced at a time when the FFC made it illegal to produce cartoons based on toys because it was deemed too decisive a marketing ploy. This was actually repealed in the early 80's which is why and when we got cartoons of Transformers and GI Joe. Now, there's some toy history for ya!)
The characters of the P.A.C.K. were a motley crew at best. The first released was Big Jim as "Commander" of the P.A.C.K.
Jim, and all the members of the P.A.C.K. that followed, had a wolf symbol stamped on his left hand to identify him as member of the group.
Three different versions of Jim were released for this series. The first one wore a blue shirt and white pants, while the second version wore a black shirt and gold pants.
Both versions also included a shoulder holster (what secret agent would be complete without one!) with a vac metalized pistol. He also had a cool wrist gauntlet on his right hand with spikes on the bottom of it for extra damage when he employed his karate chop action!
The final version of Jim was Double-Trouble Big Jim. This had a different uniform than the rest featuring a horribly 70's stylized blue jumpsuit. Looking more like a mechanic than a secret agent, this version had the boots, belt and shoulder holster of the originals.
What made this version the "Double Trouble" Big Jim was the "good-idea-poorly-executed" action feature of Jim being able to change his face from normal to angry by spinning the head around to the other side where the other face/expression was. To do this, Mattel decided to make the hair static and spin the head beneath it giving Jim the very definition of "helmet hair".
The over-all aesthetic of this figure was pretty bad, especially considering how brilliantly cool yet simple the original Commander Jim was.
The villain of the line was the Ruler of the Underworld known as Zorak.
Zorak also featured the same face changing feature of Double-Trouble Big Jim, but with Zorak's head covered with a hood, the feature worked great on this figure.
Zorak's face could turn from a mustached villain to a green faced monster. Other than this feature and a cool cape with a gold chain, the rest of Zorak's design was fairly uninspired, consisting of only black pants and boots.
The P.A.C.K. team itself consisted of two new figures and two revamped ones.
Warpath was a Native American archer and all-around ass kicker who was originally named Chief Tankua in the Big Jim line. Here he's part of Big Jim's P.A.C.K and given a cool hat and the Wolf tattoo on his left hand. He had a very cool silver bow and a few arrows featuring a wolf head on the flattened tips; something he retained from his original release. (I wonder if this was the genesis of the naming and symbol of the team.)
Dr. Steel was the other figure who was revamped and included in the P.A.C.K. line. He remained the same from his original release and included an intricate chest tattoo and a vac metalized right hand.
A new character called The Whip was certainly the coolest edition to the P.A.C.K. team. As a spy, The Whip certainly looked the part, dressed all in black with a black watch cap. He also had a great assortment of weapons a gear. He included, as his name suggest, a whip (Beast-Man from the Masters of the Universe would later be give the same exact whip), a bolo, four boomerangs, a chest bandolier which can hold the boomerangs across his chest, as well as a wrist-launcher which can "throw" his boomerangs when his "karate chop" action is engaged.
The last edition to the P.A.C.K., one year later, was Russian sailor styled character named Torpedo Fist. His action feature allowed him to extend his fist through an armored gauntlet he wore on his right arm, hence his name.
There were also a line of vehicles to go with the P.A.C.K. line, as was per the usual when it came to the Big Jim line. The coolest and most notable vehicle was the "LazerVette".
This line of multi-national character fighting an evil terrorist character who leads an organization certainly sounds a lot like a precursor to GI Joe A Real American Hero doesn't it? Hmmmm...
Big Jim was one of the most beloved and longest running figure lines of the 70's, producing dozens and dozens of different figures and vehicles during it's lifespan-- including a great line of secret agent (i.e. James Bond styled) figures the were released only in the European market. Of the whole line, however, the P.A.C.K. stands out as the shining gem of the series, appealing to fans of no only Big Jim, but GI Joe and superheroes alike. The perfect mix to grab this author's attention at the time.
From Mattel's Catalog
Many of Big Jim's ads were hand drawn artwork
Art by Sal Bucema and Joe Sinnot