Journey with me back to the early 1990s, will you? I'm roughly 5 years old and I cannot get enough action figures. My grandma, being the enlightened one that I reference frequently, knew that the only way to satiate this need of mine was to have a constant selection of new action figures found at thrift stores and garage sales. One such day yielded six figures from the Dick Tracy figure line by Playmates made during 1990.
Playmates had been in business since 1966 and by the time the Dick Tracy movie came to fruition, they'd been producing the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for just over two years. Perhaps it's not really a surprise, then, that the Dick Tracy figures seem to have a similar design!
The toys coincided with the movie, featuring likenesses similar to the characters seen on-screen. Or at least, that's what I assume, as I haven't seen the movie in question. Still, even as a kid I had a basic grasp of who Dick Tracy was and what he did. I knew he was a detective who found gangsters in the 1920s or '30s, had a yellow hat and coat, and ... did I mention the yellow hat and coat? Man, was that a cool look.
There's one missing from this line-up, though: The Blank, the film's antagonist. According to Topless Robot, "The story goes that the Blank was initially held back from the first toy release because it had a removable mask, and would therefore give away the plot twist. However, when the toyline didn't become the hit Playmates was hoping for, they canceled their plans to release the Blank at mass retail in the United States." The story goes on to say that The Blank's figure was released only as a Canadian Sears exclusive in 1990, with only 3,000 figures rumored to be made.
The figures themselves seemed very strange though. Despite going for a somewhat attempt at physical likenesses to the actors, the body proportions were just plain goofy. The entire line looks squashed so that each character could be mistaken for a dwarf when standing next to other toy lines (lucky for Dick Tracy, the Marvel Legends line didn't exist yet).
Here's a character by the name of Al "Big Boy" Caprice. The appearance is pretty standard for this line where the villains have faces contorted into grotesque expressions of "I am a bad guy!" However, they are at the very least vibrantly colored, which is a major plus for a kid. I wasn't looking for realism in my action figures as much as accessories and bright paint jobs. I got at least for the second part of my wish.
This is Rodent, probably my favorite of the villains purely based on the purple suit and bowler. I have him holding one of the two tommy guns that came with the second-hand group. There were a lot more accessories when bought brand new, such as handguns and clubs, but I didn't own any of them. Most figures had a standard holster belt that either want around their waist or their shoulder or something like that, though when looking at some images of the fully-loaded toys, the belts looked really out of place. I don't mind them being lost in the transition.
The Brow, as shown above, continues the trend of mangled faces. Thankfully for me, the character Flattop wasn't included in the group, a real blessing as some of these figures just get uglier and uglier. It's not even really a good kind of ugly either. It's just plain ugly. The models lack a lot of the personality that other Playmates toy lines, such as Ninja Turtles, had in spades. All of these figures are just guys in vibrantly colored suits. One figure called The Tramp was pulled from the line after people complained about a homeless person being portrayed as a criminal, so we can confirm that parents though about things too much back in the early 90's as well.
They also don't stand all too great either as their legs are somewhat constricted. It fits the mood of some, like Mumbles up there, but doesn't help for standing the toys up during play. Half the time they'd just fall over, and the other half I'd be forced to make them stand like goobers since they had no choice to be bow-legged. Still, they had enough articulation to make me happy as they moved at the leg joints, the shoulders, the neck, and the wrists. It could have been a whole lot worse.
Finally we come to Shoulders, a guy I always though was a toy maker due to the handcuffs under his jacket appearing to my younger mind to be the turncrank on a wind-up toy of some sort. Sure it was weird, but it added a bit more personality to the toys than what they were actually designed with, and that's a shame. A good action figure should be cool no matter your grasp of the source material. These were banking almost entirely off the hope that kids would know what they were buying.
Naturally, I can't go a full article without bringing Ninja Turtles into the mix, but it makes quite a bit of sense seeing as how both lines were made by Playmates and have roughly the same scale. The 5" size works for the Turtles, but not so much for Dick Tracy. If you'd like to find an in-package Dick Tracy, they really aren't that expensive. Here's one for US$5. If you don't mind loose figures, here are 11 for US$53.95. I'd suggest checking thrift stores and yard sales, just as my grandma did, but the choice is up for you.
So then, did anyone else have any of these figures? Or did they want to have some of these figures and never did? Go ahead and leave a message and let me know. Otherwise, enjoy the video and come back next month for a toy property I'm also certain no one else has ever heard about.
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