Noticing a wave of interest in cyborgs and bionic-enhanced men, Mattel decided to introduce an action figure that featured unique action features. They landed on Pulsar: The Ultimate Man of Action, which they designed and patented in 1976. This character would be programmable for missions, with even a special bay to prep him in. He also received an equally ultimate villain to fight. With all this set, they launched the toy line in 1977.
Pulsar was a 13 ½” action figure with tanned skin and white hair. While he wore a cloth red and black jogging suit, his special abilities were hidden under his jacket. Unlike most action figures, the front of Pulsar’s torso was completely clear. While many toys would create a fully transparent torso or body, Mattel instead decided to leave the back opaque. Instead, the clear chest was present to give an unobstructed view of the action figure’s “organs”.
Pulsar had a heart, lungs, and guts visible in addition to an impression of a circulatory system. Moreover, Mattel set up a pump on the figure’s back which would be crucial for his special action figure. By pressing down on the figure’s back, players could pump Pulsar and make his heart pump, lungs breathe, and blood flow. This effectively activated his vital systems. Mattel described these actions as actions to prepare him for imaginary super-human feats of strength, agility, stamina, and intelligence.
Beyond activating the action figure’s organs, Pulsar had one more secret feature. His head could be lifted, revealing a small storage area. This allowed players to insult up to two mission disks into his head, or brain. While it did nothing to the actual action figure, the mission disks programmed Pulsar and fully prepared him for missions.
This action figure notably had two different versions. The first version had a completely clear torso from the neck to the groin area. This left the rubber connecting his legs visible. Meanwhile, the second version utilized flesh-colored paint which was applied to the inside of the clear plastic. This paint covered his groin area up to his waist. Thus, only the moving organs remained visible. There were also slight differences between the expressions of these two versions.
Understanding that consumers now expected toy lines with both heroes and villains, Mattel created the ultimate villain for Pulsar to fight. Hypnos was his arch nemesis and was an alien dark-purple cyborg with a light-purple face. Like Pulsar, the action figure was 13 ½” tall. He wore a face mask that could be lifted or removed to reveal his face. This face stood out with the dark purple markings and star-like shapes in his eyes.
The most notable aspect of Hypnos was the contents of his chest cavity. Like Pulsar, the front of his torso was clear. Within his chest were a series of spirals and spinning disks with bright, psychedelic colors. By pressing the lever on his back, the hypnotic disks in his chest swirled ‘round and ‘round, changing colors. Moreover, the action figure featured friction-triggered “cosmic sparks” and “cosmic sounds”.
Aside from these two characters, Pulsar received a Pulsar’s Life Systems Center play set. This set had many features that would fully prepare the character for missions. It included a moveable power pack with a scanner, an X-ray screen, and a control panel with dials that turned. These dials were labeled as controlling the pulsatronic systems, biologic systems, and power systems. There was also a remote activate pump that activated the inserted action figure’s vital systems. Finally, it included assembly instructions, a programmer card with mission settings, light bulbs, and a label set.
By using the Life Systems Center, players could set Pulsar within the medical bay to be x-rayed and prepared for missions. The various knobs, switches, and levers would optimize the hero for his next action-filled mission. However, most of these elements remained within the player’s imagination.
After Pulsar left the store shelves in the late 1970s, he remained dormant for decades. Mattel finally brought him back for a special San Diego Comic-Con exclusive toy line. In 2022, Mattel released the Back in Action set which also featured Matt Mason and Big Jim. Unlike the original toy, this new Pulsar was significantly smaller, only around 5” tall.
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How to use the Identification Tool to find your action figures and toy lines
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