What is it about Kenner’s Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers action-figures, that turns middle-aged men and women into gleamy-eyed kids? I get this reaction from folks all the time! Whether it be, when I take my Steve Austin out in public, or – when I see the excitement from new members, from around the globe, on David S. Lawson’s Facebook group, The Bionic Toy Action Page, which he created last summer. Hell, I even see it from the ‘old-timers’ – like me! I don’t know if I can adequately explain the love and adoration that people have for these (soon-to-be), 40-year-old toys, myself; but – I received my first Steve Austin, (and – the Bionic Transport and Repair Station that accompanied him), for Christmas, in 1975, and it’s been a love-affair, ever-since. I played with that action figure (I dare you to call it a doll…) until it fell apart, in a fight-to-the-death with Maskatron!
Sure, we all loved The Six Million Dollar Man and, later – The Bionic Woman TV shows of the 70’s, but the joy these toys brings goes deeper than that. Why, just today, a lady spied my Steve Austin, through a drive-thru window at a convenience store I go to, and she immediately morphed-into a kid, upon seeing him. She regaled me with stories from her childhood; her and her brother, playing with Steve, and Jaime Sommers, along with G.I. Joe, Pulsar (a Steve Austin knockoff from Mattel) and, of course, her Barbies. It led to several minutes of reminiscing, as my sister and I had similar experiences during our childhoods.
Last week, a buddy asked me to accompany him to Las Vegas, so I took Steve on a bionic adventure, too. My friend (who is in his mid-20’s) wasn’t familiar with the shows, or the toys those series spawned, and I had to explain it all, to him. (No, I didn’t mind in the least: I never do). But, he got a kick out of having Steve on our journey; he even went all over Vegas, taking me to different places, so I could get ‘action photos’ of us together. We went to a casino, the Pawn Stars pawn shop, the Pinball Hall of Fame, even up-and-down The Strip. I kept his dignity intact, however, by not taking him into the Ritchie Brother’s auction yard; although, I was quite tempted.
The week before that, I took Steve to the opening press conference at Salt Lake Comic Con’s #FanXPerience. I even had an ABC NEWS, Channel 4 camera-man take my picture at the podium, in front of the entire press corps. Who cares! It was fun!
Yes, there were folks during the trip, and at the press conference, who looked at me like I was crazy (LOL!), but there were others, who lit-up whenever they saw Steve; asking me questions and sharing their stories, as well.
For me, it’s a nostalgia thing; having lost all of my figures (Steve, Jaime, Oscar and Maskatron) to childhood folly, I treasure them, now, like they are priceless heirlooms – and, they are. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined owning Steve, (let-alone the rest of the ‘gang’) ever again. So, yeah…they’re special; like being reunited with old friends, in many ways.
My figures are in pretty-damn good shape, having been repainted and given new clothes; but I see people, who love their figures (that aren’t in as good a shape) just as much as I do. They don’t care that the hair is scratched up, or that their clothes are tattered. That said, there are others who’ve never taken their’s out of the boxes, and who’re always on-the-lookout for more. Checkout eBay! That site has got bidding wars on bionic toys and accessories on a daily-basis; and some of those items go for hundreds of dollars!
Then, there are others who joined the page, not to share, but – because the daily pictures turn them into kids, again! They love the ‘missions’ and outings we put our figures through, living their childhoods vicariously through active members’ images; but – mainly, because they love these toys. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen someone post: “This is cool!” or – “OMG! This is amazing!” – well…I’d probably be able to afford that Venus Death Probe, on eBay…
Kenner’s line of bionic toys have held up pretty-good over these past 40 years. They were well-made, they’re durable, coming with many, many accessories; from replacement limbs for ‘critical assignments’, to Steve’s control center and Oscar’s office and Jaime’s ‘Bionic Salon’, to clothes and outfits designed for a varied assortment of missions. Plus, there were enemies and friends; Oscar Goldman (with his exploding briefcase), Bigfoot (with his exploding chest piece), Jaime’s Fembot, and – still the best, after all these decades, the ever-changing faces of Maskatron’s (Steve’s arch-nemesis) arms, legs and head shoot-off from his body, as if they had just come off of a Chinese assembly line! But, not only were these figures made to last, they’re good-looking and beautiful; Steve is just as handsome (today) as Lee Majors was (then); and the same is true for Lindsay Wagner’s Jaime Sommers. She’s just as gorgeous, classy and elegant, as-ever she was – (and, still is).
So, what is it about these amazing Kenner toys, that keeps us so-enamored to them? I think these beloved figures just take us back in time and they rejuvenate something of our youth. We feel invincible, again; like we can jump off of rooftops or, slo-mo our way back to our childhood, if-only, for a short time. I don’t know… What I do know, is I’m ‘over the moon’ to have them back in my life, and I feel like a 9-year-old, again, every time I take ’em out to play. Maybe, Michael Listokin (a group member) is right; maybe they’re our own ‘Fountain of Youth.’
What do you think?
And…while you’re here, be sure to nominate Steve for the National Toy Hall of Fame for 2015!