If you grew up in the 1960's, 70's or 80's, you have been exposed to Hanna Barbera. Whether you wanted to see their shows or not, every Saturday morning for decades was filled with animated images from the duo of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. They worked on and created some of the most popular and indelible shows on television, and many of them remain popular and are still being shown today.
Of the shows that are covered in this toy line, none of them had long first runs on television. Over the years the same episodes were shown over and over, exposing new children to the characters while refreshing the memories of older viewers. The fact that the characters are still well-known and remembered is a tribute to the entertainment value of the shows. There is a theory that memory altering drugs fed to people by the government is another possible explanation, but thus far the proof has been scanty.
The fine folks at Toynami remember all the characters from the classic Hanna-Barbera shows (through there own methods or otherwise) and they've channeled this into a variety of new toys. Action figures based on the Herculoids, Dynomutt and Blue Falcon, and Birdman are in the works, but the first foray into this genre for them will be through their I-Men mini-figures.
What are I-Men?
One of the recent trends for US toymakers is into mini-figures, which are based on concepts that are popular in Japan. The Japanese were certainly influenced by prior mini-figures from Lego and Playmobil, but the success of the Medicom Kubricks has fueled a plethora of pint-sized playthings. Toynami's entries into this field are called I-Men, and they have a few features unique to themselves.
The I-Men have a base body style that's 2.5 inches tall and packs plenty of articulation. They are articulated at the neck and shoulders (all ball-joints), wrists and waist (twists), ball-jointed hips and ankles that twist from side to side and can move up and down. The articulation isn't enough to make them entirely unique, but what they have additionally is the power of electromagnetism. The magical energy that makes motors turn, generates electricity and keeps your kids drawings on the refrigerator has been harnessed for good, and distilled into mighty magnetic feet. The feet will attract to ferrous materials, but they are especially fond of the metal coins that come packed with the figures. These coins all have an I-Men logo on one side, and unique art on the other representing the particular character along with their collector number. The coins are designed as display bases for the figures, and if you have enough you can fill up a sock and use them to beat up that kid you hate who has all the good toys. However, neither RTM nor Toynami advocate this behavior, and UN sanctions could follow with a lengthy inspection period. Just so you know...
Most of the I-Men use the same basic body with different paint and heads to represent various characters, but two new bodies were created for this series of figures. The characters of Dynomutt and Avenger are a dog and bird respectively, and so the basic human form wouldn't work. Each has a form more appropriate to their species, though they aren't strictly to scale. PETA would be happy to know that not only were no animals harmed in the making of those I-Men, but they get equal rights when it comes to magnetic feet!
Previously, Toynami has applied the I-Men format to Robotech, and in the future will include figures based on Dragonball Z. For the Hanna-Barbera Action Heroes they have split up several properties into smaller groups. The hardcore I-Men or Hanna-Barbera fan will want all the figures, but if you are only interested in a few shows then you may end up with an extra figure or two. The figures are in two-packs, and Birdman and Avenger are packed together, as are Dynomutt and Blue Falcon. The other two shows have three characters each, so if you only like one of them you'll be getting a figure from the other. Thundarr and Ariel are packed together, but their companion Ookla is mixed in with Vapor Man from the Galaxy Trio. The remaining 2/3 of the trio (Meteor Man and Gravity Girl) are packed together.
Each I-Men figure has a "collector number" and the numbers for the Hanna-Barbera I-Men are:
14. Blue Falcon
18. Vapor Man
19. Meteor Man
20. Gravity Girl
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
Thundarr the Barbarian took his original inspiration from sword and sorcery tales like Conan, but with a dash of science fiction to enhance the flavor. The show premiered in 1977 telling a tale of the far future, after a rogue planet flew between the Earth and the moon, destroying civilization. The disaster was seemingly far away in 1994, and after 2000 years the Earth is filled with sorcery and super-science mixed in with mutants and monsters. From this seeming chaos rose one man (with a pair of friends) to fight for justice, and his next meal. Thundarr is joined by two friends - Ariel and Ookla, in his fight for good.
Thundarr is the leader of the group, but he started out as a slave to Ariel's stepfather Sabian. Ariel took a liking to him (possibly due to his bad boy appearance, and the fact that he's in great shape and only wears a few animal skins) and so she sets him free. Just letting him go would have been easy, but instead she gives him a magical weapon to banish his foes, the fabulous Sun Sword. The blade of the sword de-activates when Thundarr isn't using it and he can then carry it on one of his bracelets since it works like a magnet. The fabulous Sun Sword comes with Thundarr, so he can get to work once you open him up.
Thundarr's gal pal is Ariel, a sorceress who is the brains of the operation. She's clearly the smartest of the group, and is also the only woman so she gets plenty of attention. The fact that she's hot (due to the BowFlex she found in some ruins) probably doesn't hurt her. After freeing Thundarr she hangs out with him to help his cause, and probably to keep ogling him.
The brawn of the group comes in the form of Ookla, the Mok. Ookla has a leonine appearance, and he isn't the articulate one of the group. He likes to fight and he does it well. Since he isn't human he is a bit of an outsider. Because even the regular horse won't let him ride and he has to have his own special mount. Ookla likes to use his fabulous 'mok smack' to put his enemies in their place.
The Galaxy Trio was part of a show in the late 1960's where they appeared with Birdman and Avenger. The show ran for about two years, and introduced the triumvirate of Gravity Girl, Vapor Man and Meteor Man. The three worked for the Galaxy Patrol traveling around to fight and defeat evil. In their spare time they were known to enter contests to win free prizes, and used their frequent trips as cover to pick them up. This part of their mission is one the Patrol would have preferred to keep quiet...
Gravity Girl is the daughter of the king of Gravitas, and she has the power to lift objects. Most people can do this with their hands, but she is able to do it with her mind! The best part of controlling gravity is that she always weighs exactly what she wants to, which is handy after a few pints of Haagen Dazs.
The other member of the Trio that uses the alliterative naming convention is Meteor Man. Coming from the planet Meteorus he has the ability to go down in flames when asking women out. Besides that unremarkable talent, he can make any part of his body grow larger in size. This skill could lead to a lucrative career on late night television selling enlargement products. A great touch for this figure is the larger hands that he has. His hands a slightly bigger (and have the outline of fingers) than any other I-Men, and you know what big hands mean...
The final piece of the Galaxy Trio is Vapor Man. Most men have the ability to create a gaseous form as a chemical weapon, but Vapor Man can turn his whole body into a vapor. That's not as unique on his home world of Vaporus as it is on Earth. When traveling he is always given the blame on any elevators he happens to take, which is why he prefers the stairs.
Birdman got his start headlining the 'Birdman and Galaxy Trio' show in the late 1960's, along with his companion Avenger and his sidekick Birdboy. The show was short-lived when NBC cancelled it in an effort to tone down Saturday morning cartoon violence. Luckily, it seems the appetite for cartoon violence has not diminished, and the show has been able to broadcast re-runs via the USA Network's Cartoon Express, and the Cartoon Network. Poor Birdboy got the short end of the stick, as he doesn't get to be one of the I-Men. Maybe that's because he's just a boy...
The appropriately named Birdman (or Ray Randall if you prefer) was the star of his segment of the show, and as you would imagine he had several bird-like attributes. He can fly, like most birds, and he has uncanny accuracy from heights with regards to automobiles. Unlike other birds, Birdman has the ability to absorb sunlight and change it into super powers, like strength, and invisible force field and even powerful sunbolts. His powers come from the Egyptian Sun God Ra, who seems to like Birdman more than he did keeping the entire Egyptian civilization powerful. Birdman carries a communicator around his neck to call Avenger when he's trapped in the dark, even though a flashlight might be a better thing to keep. Birdman's hideout is in a volcano, proving that good guys can stand the heat and hang in volcanoes just like the bad guys. The best part is free heat and liquid magma!
Birdman has a pair of wings, just like his companion. He can spread the wings to help him glide and fly through the city, and with magnetic feet he is fun at the beach in summer!
Where would any hero be without a companion to get him out of trouble when his powers fail? Why, he'd be dead very quickly and since Birdman isn't dead, he must have friends in high places. One particular friend is Avenger, a giant eagle. Avenger carries a communicator around his neck so Birdman can give him a call when he's in danger. Luckily, Avenger's been working out and eating right, so he can carry Birdman when the need arises. He can also drop him.
Avenger has slightly different articulation, as you'd expect from his slightly different body shape. He still has the magnetic feet, and his ankles twist with two ball-jointed thighs. His head is ball-jointed and he has a pair of wings that can be spread out for flight, or angled to show his modeling job for the US Post Office.
The standard team of a superhero and his sidekick was thrown for a loop in the late 1970's with a team where the sidekick was first in the credits. Dynomutt and his associate Blue Falcon worked from the Falcon's Lair to keep Big City safe from evil while originally sharing a show with another crime-fighting dog - Scooby Doo. Scooby would occasionally make guest appearances with Dynomutt, even after their shows were split and Dynomutt - Dog Wonder ran for a summer. Dynomutt and the Blue Falcon did appear on the Laff-O-Lympics and they can still be seen on Cartoon Network's Boomerang.
The star of the show was clearly Dynomutt, a robotic dog who always seemed to triumph even though he was often his own worst enemy. With mechanical paws and other gadgets he could perform any manner of stunts, and they would usually backfire. Dynomutt's signature gadgetry involved extending his neck and limbs, mostly to show that he could lick even more parts of his body than a regular dog. He did it just to rub it in...
Dynomutt has four magnetic feet (double the usual complement), and all his ankles can twist and the legs have ball-jointed thighs. His tail can move up and down (depending on his level of excitement or how long it's been since his walk) and the neck can twist from side to side (in case he needs to be discreet in an alley). His mini-cape can move independently of the head, so he can be set for dinner at Red Lobster.
Every sidekick needs a hero, and that's the role that Blue Falcon filled with Dynomutt. B.F. (as he was called by Dynomutt) was the straight man of the comedy pair, and his toughest tasks usually involved fixing whatever Dynomutt screwed up and fighting evil, usually in that order. The alter-ego of the Falcon was wealthy art dealer Bradley Crown, because if you want to have cool gadgets like the Falcon Car you need to have money.
Pictures of Thundarr, Ariel & Ookla
Pictures of the Galaxy Trio
Pictures of Birdman & Avenger
Pictures of Dynomutt & Blue Falcon
|Where to buy the I-Men: The Hanna-Barbera I-Men are sold in two-packs, with a retail price range of about $7 to $10 USD per two-pack. Some retailers sell them in sets of five two-packs, so that you would get all ten I-Men at once. They are sold in specialty stores such as Tower Records, as well as at various online toy retailers.
Several such online stores are RTM sponsors Big Bad Toy Store and The Outer Reaches. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)