TFP writer gives new life to 1960s franchise Captain ActionWritten by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo Free Press writer Jim Beard was first introduced to superhero Captain Action as a kid.
In the early ‘70s, a child from Florida whose grandparents lived on Beard’s block, would spend summers visiting the area and would let Beard play with a Batman outfit that seemed to fit his G.I. Joe doll. The outfit belonged in the Captain Action franchise, but neither Beard nor his friend knew that.
“I was super jealous of it,” Beard said. “I had no idea, at that point, what Captain Action was. … I prided myself at that point that I knew everything about toys.”
Beard assumed the toy was something only sold in Florida.
Captain Action is actually a franchise from the 1960s which recently gained a cult following. The toy was a competitor of G.I. Joe, Beard said, and came with separate costumes sold separately that disguised him into other well-known superheroes. Captain Action could change his look into those of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, The Green Hornet and more.
Flashing forward to Beard’s teenage years, he discovered the Captain Action toys which explained the Batman outfit he played with as a kid. At that point, it came together.
Today, Beard has his hand in the franchise’s future. He is giving Captain Action new life with his pulp novels, recently releasing the second in what will be a trilogy. The book is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or online at www.captainaction.com.
The action figure stopped being sold in the ‘60s, but since then has been celebrated as victorious for the many licenses it acquired from competing companies.
“That today is almost unheard of,” Beard said. “The hurdles you have to jump over to do something like that; they had DC characters, Marvel characters, comic strip characters. It was really incredible.”
Today, the original action figures sell for a lot of money, which is the reason Beard currently doesn’t own one. He has the toys from the re-released line though. The modified version of the toy was reintroduced with the help of two entrepreneurs, Ed Catto and Joe Ahern, who plan to revive the franchise in a number of ways. They recently acquired a DC license in addition to their already-existing Marvel one.
Beard became friends with the two men years ago, based on their mutual love of pulp fiction, which sparked the idea to make a Captain Action novel. The first book, “The Riddle of the Glowing Men,” which is set in the 1960s when the toy was popular, was published years later.
As Beard was writing the first book, he came up with ideas for a second and third book. The franchise that only survived for five comic book issues in the ‘60s is now set to have a trilogy of books released this decade.
“It’s interesting because today that five-issue series is highly coveted and highly prized,” Beard said.
Upon taking on the challenge, Beard had research to do with already-established background of the character. Beard was given the task of giving depth to the superhero, including functionality to the weapons and the cap Captain Action wears.
“You know, you pitch these projects, you get them accepted, everyone says, ‘Go ahead’ and then it suddenly dawns on you like, ‘I actually have to do this now,’” Beard said.
He gave himself a two-month deadline to write it and met his goal two weeks early.
“I was really surprised because I’m a horrible procrastinator,” he said. “It might’ve been the project, it might’ve been the characters, but it all seemed to flow really nicely.”
Beard introduced characters into the book, some already established and some created by Beard, including Action Boy, Dr. Evil and his accompanying villains and a new female character.
Additional research went into the book since it takes place in Tokyo in 1968. Beard has never been to Tokyo and was three years old that year.
“My memories of 1968 aren’t that great,” he said. “That took a lot more research. … What was it like in 1968?”
Beard looked at a lot of photos to get a feel for what the streets were like in Tokyo at the time. He also watched clips of the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” for inspiration.
The book takes place when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, which took research as well.
“I didn’t want to have some knee-jerk reaction,” Beard said. “I didn’t want it to become a socio-political thing, but I also wanted to treat those two events with respect.”
Catto said handing the franchise over to someone new was awkward.
“It’s a little bit like when your kid starts to drive,” Catto said. “You’re scared for the kid; you’re scared for the car.”
Catto said he is pleased with Beard’s work, calling him a “super passionate fan” and “talented guy.” He said their discussions before Beard started writing made Catto feel “safe.”
“He seems very respectful and smart,” Catto said.
Beard said he is careful in taking over the franchise.
“I always have to remember, every time I write a word in any of these Captain Action books, that it’s not my character. I am a caretaker for it at the moment,” Beard said. “I think about that every time the character performs any action, says anything, does anything [or] shows any form of emotion.”
Tags: "You Only Live Twice", Action Boy, Amazon, atomic bomb, Barnes & Noble, Batman, Captain Action, Dr. Evil, Ed Catto, Florida, G.I. Joe, Hiroshima, James Bond, Jim Beard, Joe Ahern, pulp novels, Spider-Man, superhero, Superman, The Green Hornet, Tokyo, “The Riddle of the Glowing Men”