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Welcome to the Cheeky Weekly blog!
Cheeky Weekly ™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT ©  REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED was a British children's comic with cover dates spanning 22 October 1977 to 02 February 1980.

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Monday 2 December 2013

The Ads - Action Man

Palitoy's multi-jointed marvel Action Man first appeared in UK toy shops in 1966, the year in which my age advanced into double figures. I remember seeing tantalising ads for GI Joe (the original US version of the same toy) in American comics some time before AM became available over here. Thus I had been fantasising about staging my own miniature military manoeuvres for several months by the time Action Man's arrival on these shores was announced during an ad break on teatime TV. Much parent-pestering ensued until I secured my very own small-scale scar-faced soldier.

The Action Man figures came in soldier, sailor and airman varieties but although the toy's name was changed for UK release, the basic uniforms supplied with the models had a distinctly US appearance. However, a large range of additional costumes and equipment was available in order to expand the fighting figure's area of operations from snowy mountains to outer space. I remember sending my AM on several reconnaissance missions to the depths of the bath after having provided him with appropriate clothing in the form of the scuba outfit. The snug-fitting rubbery costume was very hard to get on and off the figure, and on one occasion while removing his scuba trousers, I was horrified to find that the bottom half of AM's leg had remained within the garment, having parted company with the rest of his body. Fortunately this life-changing injury was short-lived as it was possible to restore his lower limb by means of a plastic connector protruding from the exposed knee joint (not the only way in which AM's anatomy diverged from that of a real-life, healthy male specimen).

As if the possibilities for new adventures offered by the additional gear on sale wasn't incentive enough, each pack of accessories came with stars which could be cut out and stuck on a card. A card filled with 21 stars entitled the owner to claim a free Action Man, who arrived completely naked except for a pair of boots. I did manage to get a second Action Man in this way, and it was of course identical in every way to the first (even down to the scarred cheek) except that the new arrival's plastic hair was blonde in contrast to the original's brown pvc locks.

By the time of Cheeky Weekly's first Action Man advert in the 30 June 1979 issue, my Action Men had long since been retired after distinguished military careers often taking them far beyond the call of duty, and the toy had evolved somewhat from the rather basic original. Later models were endowed with malleable, gripping hands rather than the inflexible digits of the versions I had, fuzzy hair instead of the plastic moulded coiffure of the mid-60s, moving eyes and even a voice-box. For all I know, the legs may have even been more securely attached. The Cheeky Weekly ad heralded a competition in which the first prize was a trip to the Blackpool Illuminations and a meeting with Action Man himself. Not only that, but a trip to the seafront Action Man Tableau (i.e. advertisement), a ride in the Action Man car and a princely £10 to blow on Blackpool Pleasure Beach were on offer.

Cheeky Weekly 30 June 1979

A clever element had been incorporated into the competition - the chance to win 200 Action Man stars (hence the competition name and the five-pointed designs exploding from the page). This mind-boggling booty would, if the late 70s Action Man star exchange rate was unchanged from the mid 60s, entitle the lucky winners to each accumulate a private army of 9 naked Action Men. However, the action figures themselves may not have been on offer as, crucially for Palitoy's sales, this aspect of the competition required entrants to study a list of eligible AM products listed on the entry form. Thus those who failed to get a prize but had been salivating over their gear of choice would no doubt add a few items to their birthday/Christmas present lists.

This ad was placed in a late June issue of Cheeky Weekly in order that the winner could be chosen in time for that year's Illuminations which ran for the traditional 66 days from switch-on (by Kermit the Frog) on 31 August.

As Christmas 1979 approached another Action Man ad appeared, this time focusing on the Transport Command line of vehicles designed to accommodate the fighting mini-man. Obviously conscious of opportunist toy manufacturers churning out cut-price AM-scale military machinery, Palitoy were keen to remind readers to look for the picture of Action Man on their packaging. Among the toys being promoted was the Sea Wolf one-man sub, which no doubt enabled the fighting figure to explore the depths of the bath in comfort and without risk of trouser-removal trauma.

Cheeky Weekly 01 December 1979


  1. Cool post Niblet! Thanks for sharing the ads of action man. Its so great of you to still have these copies. Tesa Asia Distributor

  2. Hi Niblet
    Just discovered this. What memories!
    This was my advert and pr as Action Man Product Manager. Coming from St Anne’s I knew the Blackpool lights people so created the tableau with them.
    I drove the winning family all along the Illuminations ( signing autographs all along the way) And helped open the Blackpool Lights at the Switch On with a talk to (the full Square of thousands of people) on Safety in the Beach!
    The Lights people said we were the second most popular Tableau after Star Wars. They judged it with the amount of broken brake light glass!!!. “Stop the car quick Dad it’s Action Man!” Crash!
    At Toy Fair in 1980 we won Toy Of The Decade Award 🥇 I put those as stickers on every box. My other innovation was Space Ranger and Gargon the monster.
    Thanks again for reminding me of the ad I placed with you and other kids magazines.
    Videos on my site below

    1. Hi Kevin - thanks for getting in touch. I have very fond memories of my Action Men from the 1960s, and your recollections of your involvement with this late 70s campaign are fascinating. It's great to hear from Action Man himself! I'm sure this imaginative campaign generated many sales of AM figures and equipment (as well as replacement brake lights!).

    2. Did you create the art for these advertisements? If not, do you know who the artist or artists were? thanks. Max

    3. Hi Max - no I didn't create the artwork, and unfortunately I don't know who did.

    4. Ah, I realise your comment may have been directed at Kevin Thomson, who commented above. It would seem he would have more information about the campaign, but his website no longer seems to be online so I don't know how you'd go about contacting him.