Mattel introduced Big Jim in 1972 as a response to the growing popularity of the G.I. Joe Adventure Team. Seeing how children enjoyed playing with action figures that had many similarities to their running Barbie line, Mattel aimed to match the competition and beat them. So, they created a new series of action figures with doll-like bodies. Instead of G.I. Joe’s 12” scale, they instead decided to create 9.5” figures that would allow them to save money.
The main draw of this new toy line was the action features and ability to change out the outfits of the figures. Big Jim featured two different actions. First, he could chop his arm with the press of a button on his back. This chopping action was modified for other figures to let them swing axes and other tools. Then, he had rubber arms with a very unique feature, the ability to flex his muscles. To emphasize this feature, the toys came with a muscle band that would snap open when the muscles bulged.
Big Jim launched as the All Star Series in 1972, which lasted until 1975. Like the Adventure Team that inspired Mattel, this series focused on adventure and exploration. This theme was present in all aspects of the line, including the outfit accessories and vehicles.
While Big Jim was the titular character, he was accompanied by multiple friends and even received an enemy. There was Big Josh, who shared the same mold as Big Jim and basically had a beard to separate the two. Then there was Big Jack, an African American character with a unique head sculpt. Big Jeff, the Australian of the group, also had a unique head sculpt and blonde hair. Introduced after the others, Chief Tankua was a Native American who befriended Jim, and Dr. Steel was released as the main villain for the series.
There were many variants of these toys, including a Gold Medal Boxer, a Kung-Fu Gear-wearing figure, a U.S. Olympic Boxing Match figure, and a hiker with a talking backpack. The vehicles for the All Star Series include vehicles like the Baja Beast, Cycle Set, Dune Devil, Jungle Truck, Motorcross Honda, Sports Camper, and many more.
As children began to fall in love with heroes like the Six-Million Dollar Man, Mattel shifted gears and launched Big Jim’s Wolf P.A.C.K. (Professional Agent Crime Killers) in 1975. This brand-new series focused on action and the battle against evil. Notably, Big Jim’s prior villain, Dr. Steel, turned a new leaf and became one of his allies. There was also a brand new style of box art with illustrations from Jack Kirby, well known for creating Darkseid and other great comic characters. This new series managed to last until 1976 when Big Jim vanished from U.S. toy shelves.
Big Jim was reimagined as the leader of the P.A.C.K. He had two types of toys in this series. First, there was the standard leader-themed one. Then, the Double Trouble toys featured a brand new action gimmick where his face changed from normal to angry when his right arm was twisted.
Then there was Whip, whose box art showed him using his signature weapon, a bullwhip. This toy also came with boomerangs and bolos. Otherwise, he was notable for wearing all-black clothing.
The next member of the P.A.C.K. was Warpath, who used a bow in his box art. He was the Native American member of the team and used a long bow. His other accessories included two arrows and a quiver.
Dr. Steel now stood at Big Jim’s side in this new series. He featured a chopping action, which his box art illustrated with him either chopping a brick or a metal pipe with his steel right hand.
Released later in the series, there was Torpedo Fist. As his name suggested, this character had a metal right arm that fired his steel hand like a torpedo. As with most other action gimmicks in the series, this ability was activated through a button on his back.
Finally, the group faced off against the evil Zorak. While he may appear to be a normal human at times, the Double Trouble action showed his true face, a mutant green monster. To activate the face swap, the user twisted his right arm.
This toy line featured multiple clothing packs, a carrying case, and a range of vehicles. One of the vehicles, the Blitz-Rig, was exclusively sold at Sears. Otherwise, there was The Beast, the Dune Buggy, the Howler Bike, the LazerVette, the Off-Road Patrol, and the Swamp Patrol.
Even though Big Jim was discontinued in America at the end of the P.A.C.K. series, the line continued until 1985 in international markets. Europe and other overseas markets had been pivotal markets for Big Jim even before the line was properly launched. In 1971, Mattel tested its concepts with the Mark Strong toy line. This line was officially discontinued in 1972 when Mattel could use the name Big Jim in Europe and fully launched the line.
In Mexico, there was the Kid Acereo toy line created by CIPSA which created unique characters for that area. They had other exclusive characters like the Invisible Man and Grafio. Then, there were vehicles like the Dragomovil and Lobohowl. The Kid Acero toy ended in 1978.
From 1978 to 1979, many European markets got the chance to buy the Big Jim Pirate Series. These toys were produced by companies like Congost and Mattel’s European branch. This line featured characters like Captain Drake, Captain Flint, and Captain Hook. There was even a Big Jim Pirate Boat.
Europe also received the exclusive Big Jim Space Series from 1978 to 1979. This line featured characters like Space Leader, Laser Gunner, Thunder Blue, and Dr. Bushido. There was also a repackaged Matt Mason figure, Captain Lazer. Mattel’s European branch created these toys.
From 1980 to 1982, Europeans had the chance to buy toys from the Big Jim Spy Series from Mattel’s European branch. This series included characters like Big Jim 004, the Secret Agent version, the Parlante Talking version, and an Alpinist Joe. There were also new characters like Boris, Commando Jeff, Iron Jaw, and Professor Obb. Then, there were vehicles like the Control Corvette, Motorized LazerVette, Counterspy Detection Van, and Command Cycle. Since this line proved popular, Mattel transitioned the line into an official James Bond series.
The final line that Europe received in 1985 was the Global Command series. These toys were also produced by Mattel’s European branch. Unlike other parts of the toy line, two forces battled it out. Forming the Global Command were Big Jim Commander, Astros, Colonel Kirk, and Dr. Alec. They faced the Condor Force composed of Baron Fangg, Kobra, Professor Obb, and Vektor. This line’s vehicles were the Command Vehicle, Laser Raider, Attack Vehicle, and All-Terrain Vehicle.
Even though Big Jim had been the third-highest-selling action figure toy line of the 1970s, it had remained dormant since its discontinuation. However, fans received a small treat when Mattel released the Back in Action Set for the San Diego Comic-Con in 2022. This set included three characters: Matt Mason, Pular, and Big Jim, in his Wolf P.A.C.K. form. Unfortunately, they were scaled down and used the basic body molds that Mattel had created for Marvel’s Secret Wars line.
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