The 1980s were truly a golden age for action figures, with the development of lines that remain popular to this day, with many depictions of these action figures found in video games and big-budget movies. Numerous cartoon series acted as 30 minute long commercials, and only served to drive the popularity of these enthralling pieces of plastic. Below you will find a list of 15 of these figures you can purchase today.
1. G.I. Joe: Serpentor
Serpentor is pure awesome. This action figure provides you with a representation of the results of creating a GMO leader infused with the genes of many of history’s most ruthless tyrants, such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Atilla the Hun and Hannibal; a megalomaniacal nutbar in a snake costume who flies around on an air-chariot, throwing cobras at people, while wearing a green bathrobe. It is available here, green bathrobe and all.
2. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: He-Man
Here you can get a figure of the titular character of what could be the considered one of the trinity of lines of 80s action figures (the other two being G.I. Joe and Transformers). The appearance of this figure could be best described as a roided-up monster-man with the haircut of a toddler. Originally, He-Man was meant to be a knock-off of Conan the Barbarian. So much so, that Mattel was sued for copyright infringement. Fortunately for 80s kids, the court apparently decided that He-Man’s Lloyd Christmas-esque haircut made him different enough, and Mattel won the lawsuit.
3. The Warrior Beasts: Guana
Here, you have Guana from The Warrior Beasts, a line of early 80s action figures that were He-Man knock-offs. This figure looks as if a deranged eight-year old lopped of a He-Man’s head, replaced it with that of a Triceratops, and proceeded to paint the resulting abomination fire-engine red.
4. Batman: Bob the Goon
5. Dino-Riders: Pteranodon with Rasp
If you liked dinosaurs and grew up in the 80s, you undoubtedly have fond memories of Dino-Riders. Few things can compete with the epicness of surprisingly accurate (for the time) dinosaurs clad in armor, guns, and/or missiles. Here is a Dino-Riders Pteranodon with wing-mounted laser-canons and a saddle to accommodate its snake-headed Rulon master.
6. Battle Beasts Icky Iguana
You probably owned a few these 2-inch figures depicting anthropomorphised, battle-crazed zoo animals. Interestingly, in Japan this action figure line was marketed as a Transformers spinoff under the name “BeastFormer.” Here, you can get the unfortunately named “Icky Iguana.” In Japan it had the slightly more imaginative name “Iguanamonss.”
7. Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos: Chuck Norris (Undercover Agent)
If you grew up in the 80’s, and your parents didn’t let you watch R-rated movies, there’s a good chance your first exposure to the martial-arts demi-god that is Chuck Norris came through the cartoon mini-seroes Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos or its accompanying toyline. Here, you can purchase a figure of Undercover Agent Chuck Norris. It is said putting one of these figures in your home can ward away ninjas, sleestaks, terrorists, and frankensteins.
8. Transformers: Optimus Prime
The Transformers were originally derived from two separate Japanese toy lines, Microman and Diaclone. These two lines were released in America with a new backstory about two races of warring mechanical lifeforms. Optimus prime is arguably the most iconic character developed from this. If you saw Transformers: The Movie in 1986, you were undoubtedly traumatized to see this mechanical father-figure killed off. Now with this Optimus Prime figure you can recreate that unforgettable scene that scarred you for life.
9. Transformers: Megatron
In the transformers universe a near-constant nemesis of Optimus Prime and the Autobots is the evil Megatron. In the design stage, the name used for the character was almost rejected for being too frightening (as it was similar to “megaton,” a measure of force often associated with nuclear weapons). You can get an original Megatron figure here. Though there have been many later versions, this figure would almost certainly never be marketed to kids today, given its fairly realistic appearance in gun mode. Actually, with its overly-male looking robot mode, (what’s the deal with that crotch?!) you have to wonder how it even made it to market then.
10 G.I. Joe: Tollbooth
The ranks of GI Joe and their arch-enemies Cobra were populated with character designs that ranged from iconic to head-scratchingly absurd. Nevertheless, they were almost always interesting. Tollbooth is one of the few exceptions. This so-called “combat engineer,” with his hard hat and pick-axe, looks more like an enraged department of transportation employee. Now you can purchase the only GI Joe figure that came with traffic cones.
11. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Ninjor
In spite of having a toy line populated with numerous sword-wielding bad-asses, Mattel felt it could further cash in on the ninja-craze of the 80s with the introduction of Ninjor. Overall, this figure looks like your stereotypical ninja, and his shirt is adorned with an ironed-on emblem of an Asian dragon entwining a katana to remove any doubts that you may have that he is anything else. However, his boots, which appear to cover oddly tridactyl feet, tell you something’s a bit off with this guy. Get this possibly duck-footed warrior here.
12. Bone Age: Anklor
Bone age figures were extremely unusual among 80s action figures in that they did not have an accompanying cartoon nor a comic book series. These figures depicted warring caveman tribes and various skeletal prehistoric beasts with interchangeable parts that could be rebuilt as vehicles ranging from helicopters, to tanks, to drag racers. Actually, here you can get the drag-racer. You may find something of a disconnect between its vehicle form and beast form, an Ankylosaurus; with a squat body about a third as wide as its length, Ankylosaurus would have been the slow-running fat kid of the dinosaur world.
13. Secret Wars: Wolverine
Here, you’ll find one of the first incarnations of Wolverine as an action figure. If you were not familiar with the character at the time, the description of the toy on the card may have caused some confusion, as the card subtitle exclaims “Marvel Superhero with removable claws battles for good!” Of course, the iconic X-man has retractable claws and the card is mixing a description of the character’s backstory with a description of the enclosed toy. Ugh.
14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Michaelangelo
If you grew up in the 80s and were not afflicted with a compulsion to collect plastic representations of those freakish pizza gluttons known as ninja turtles, then you can be assured at least one of your friends were. Here, you can get an in-box original Michaelangelo, a.k.a. the one with the misspelled name.
15. Pac-Man Arcade Figures: Blinky
Without any articulation there’s not a lot of action to this figure, but you’ve got to love its facial expression, which appears to be a mixture of confusion and malicious intent. Here is your opportunity to acquire one of the first toys depicting a video game character. This figure of Blinky was the only figure in the entire line that was not some iteration of Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man.