The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

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The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby Hopper » 14 Feb 2014 22:23

Apologies for the length of this post.

I finally have the time to write this! My school literally blew down on Wednesday, so I have had the last two days off!

I have been mulling this over for a while, and following many discussions on the forum, I have decided to attempt a comprehensive overview of the ‘Waves’ of Action Force, and shed a light on the variants that I and others keep coming across. Feel free to disagree – I don’t say that I have all the answers, but I am trying to attempt to force some order on this subject. If you have any evidence to the contrary, or feel that I have made a mistake in reasoning, etc. let me know… this is a work in progress, and I would like to think that this is a collaborative effort.

As an archaeologist, I have to do this sort of thing for pottery all the time – a relative pottery typology – it basically lays out the relationship between pottery types – so if they occur together, they are of the same age, if they don’t, then they may be earlier or later. By comparing and noting certain elements or features in a pottery type, we can build up a picture of what goes where. It’s not perfect, but it is a useful tool.

Plastic figures are not that different!

The fact that Series 1 stops dead and completely morphs into Action Force is very useful in that it provides a cut-off point. But it is more useful that the same moulds are used in both periods. Thus, we can observe technical and production aspects continuing throughout, and using these we can suggest a definitive typology, or at least suggest the phases and waves based on certain features continuing and others being dropped.

So here goes!


As far as I can tell Series 1 arrived, fully formed. The photograph on the back of the packages did not change, and there were no new additions of figures or vehicles, so no phases or Waves as such. Yet, of the 19 original figures, there are 20 variants that we know of – 20 at least, with the possibility of more.
So, at first glance, it looks like a jumble of waves, etc.

Can we, then, identify these phases?

The variants fall into 2 groups: Moulding and Paint/Transfer; we will tackle the Pain/Transfer first.

I started with the basic premise that all businesses try to simplify, to streamline, production in order to speed up production and to reduce costs whilst maximising profits. There is also a tendency toward increasing uniformity.
Assuming this, I argue that the ‘fancy’ transfers noted on some figures would be phased out by such streamlining.
This, then, allows us to create/recognise two Phases in Series 1:
Phase 1 has fancy transfers and excessive paint.
Phase 2 does not.

Thus:
German Stromtrooper T1 (with helmet decals) is Phase 1, and those without (T2 and T3) are Phase 2
Frogman is similarly simplified – the shield-shaped outline of T2 is Phase 1, and T2, without the shield-shape, is Phase 2.
Arctic Assault – the red eagle head decal (T1) is Phase 1, and in Phase 2 it is removed to make T2. This has an important bearing on the T3 and T4 sculptural variants as we shall see.
Commando – the green painted webbing (T2) is Phase 1, it is streamlined to uniform colour to become T1 in Phase 2
SAS Frogman – The pink painted hands of T1 are Phase 1, whereas it is all black and unpainted (T2) in Phase 2.

The minor variations in paint colour, etc. are, I think, unimportant. So, the fact that T2 German Stormtrooper has a black chin strap, and a T3 has a grey chin strap, is down the individual painter, or to the availability of a certain paint colour that week or month.

However, the variants in, for example, the Ground Assault camouflage (T1 dark brown camouflage on upper crotch area, T2 dark brown on lower crotch area) may well be connected with the Phases, but is very difficult to read. It is impossible to assign either to a phase based on information we currently have, so I shall lump them together and explain it as different painters using the same stencil with different paint (which actually may be the truth of it).
Ok, so far so good(ish).

What then of the Moulding variants?
What do we have?
The Commander figure - T1 blank chest, and T2 with a zip and pockets.
The Brazilian Beaver Variant of the Mission Pilot (T2)
The Round Mic versus Long Mic in Arctic Assault, Ground Assault, Mountain and Arctic, and Naval Assault.

Well, if we accept the above in the discussion of Paint/Transfer, it becomes a little clearer.

We know that the Arctic Assault figure has a Long Mic and red head decal. This, then, has to be Phase 1. Now, I have checked, but I can’t find any Arctic Assault figure with red head decal and a Round Mic. This is very interesting, and suggests that the Round Mic is a later development. Similarly, the Mountain and Arctic figure.

I can’t find any example of red head decal and Round Mic occurring together.

This suggests that the Round Mic is Phase 2. It is obvious that both Round Mic and Long Mic are made contemporarily, but not with the red head decal, and I will go out on a limb here and suggest that no Round Mic will be found with a red head decal. I’m not putting money on it – as one of you buggers will prove me wrong – but I suspect that this is the case.

I read the introduction of the Round Mic as a new head sculpt in response to increased pressure to produce more figures.

The massive variation in painted camouflage in the Arctic figures is also to be read this way. Rather than producing exclusive figures, someone, somewhere, will have taken the decision to streamline and use up all the different parts from different ‘snow’ figures, almost certainly using the phrase “they’re all bloody Arctic-y, no one will ever notice the difference.”
Well, they never counted on us!
It is likely that this was toward the end of production, just before Action Force was unleashed – they carried on making the figures, but using up their spares to complete the figures.

The Commander figure is a conundrum.
Using an exclusive body mould in the T1, he borrows a body from the Helicopter Pilot and Mission Pilot in T2. I don’t see a significance in this – they just used two bodies… randomly! Indeed, the fact that the Commander T1 and T2 both continue to be made after the introduction of Action Force would seem to suggest that the bodies are not Phase specific.

However, the fact that there is no Black Major with a Mission Pilot body makes me suspect that the Commander figures were produced in enormous numbers in Phase 2, and the Action Force Z Force Commander is in fact repainted overstock, rather than newly produced version.
Also, given that the Black Major is later, and has an affinity with the T1 Commander in that it shares the same body, I am tempted to say that the T2 Commander with the zips and pockets is Phase 1, and the new body of the T1 Commander comes in with Phase 2 perhaps as a response to increased demand.

The ‘Brazilian Beaver’ variant of the Mission Pilot (T2) is a real mystery! He is the only figure that has the lower part of the body to have the zip part. I can only suggest that he is an early mould that was changed fairly soon, following streamlining. Tentatively, then, we should put him in Phase 1, but that is only because I cannot explain him away any other way! As soon as more information arrives, we can perhaps modify this.

Right, where does that leave us?
Well, we have 2 identifiable phases of production in Series 1, each with the following characteristics:

Phase 1:
Full ‘fancy’ decals. Then Palitoy realised they were onto a winner, and the ensuing increasing production and streamlining ushered in Phase 2.

Phase 2:
Simplified and streamlined. No ‘fancy’ decals. New sculpts – Round Mic and possibly also Commander body?

It may be even possible to further sub-divide Phase 1 into 1A and 1B.
Phase 1A being the first figures produced, the ones that actually copy the original Action Man figures, and Phase 1B being the phase that introduces all the other figures. If the idea was to reproduce Action Man in miniature, then surely these would be the first made. Can we see this in the figures themselves? I think it is unlikely, but do keep an eye open.

There you go!

Let me know what you think, especially if you disagree.
And if any of this is incorrect let me know.

As I say, this is collaborative, so dive in!

Anyway, that’s all for now.
The introduction of Action Force to follow.
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Re: The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby Quickfire » 15 Feb 2014 04:54

Hopper wrote:we will tackle the Pain/Transfer first.
:shock:

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Welcome to the Desert of the Real a la l'"Hopper" Sauvage.

You are on to some theory or other that might just be definitive :thumbsup:

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Re: The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby Quickfire » 15 Feb 2014 04:55

PS. Now it's clear why you've not been tweeting of late / seriously tweeting the last two months or so.

:shock:

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Re: The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby SteveD » 15 Feb 2014 09:10

Hmmmm - interesting! But re the Brazilian Beaver Connundrum - I'm sure that as well as the pilot one I have an orange diver one where the zipper goes all the way down like a gimp suit. I can't check though, as my series 1 aren't on display anymore, pending a lovely new showcase display intended to take their spot in the cabinets!
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Re: The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby Thundershot » 15 Feb 2014 09:32

So.. would :originalaf: phase two figures of been manufactured around the same time as the 1.5 wave of figures (:2naval: :night: :fogsas: :heli: & Artic Assault) were introduced?

Palitoy could of made new tooling to cope with the expansion of figures in the range (or simply meet extra demand) perhaps more than one factory location was involved in manufacture which would account for the differences?
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Re: The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby SteveD » 15 Feb 2014 10:43

Definitely more factories come later waves. The small print on the card backs has "made in x" and there's at least three locations I think.
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Re: The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby Thundershot » 15 Feb 2014 11:17

Didn't Bob say that the early :originalaf: were first manufactured in the U.K.?

That could explain variations in finish.
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Re: The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby tintinlostsnowy » 15 Feb 2014 12:33

I am sure these 3 are round mics not the best pic and all have red detail on the helmet.Image
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Re: The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby Hopper » 15 Feb 2014 12:58

SteveD wrote:Hmmmm - interesting! But re the Brazilian Beaver Connundrum - I'm sure that as well as the pilot one I have an orange diver one where the zipper goes all the way down like a gimp suit. I can't check though, as my series 1 aren't on display anymore, pending a lovely new showcase display intended to take their spot in the cabinets!
That would be a new variant altogether. Types 1 and 2 stop at the belt.
Obviously, if you get chance, have a look.
The same goes for everyone else reading this - check your Orange Frogmen

The issue with the Brazilian variant is that it comes from nowhere - there is no antecedent, and no descendent - the crotch zip should not exist!
It just sits there, laughing.
But actually, as TinTin has partly demolished my argument, that is now academic.
Perhaps, instead, we are looking at two different factories making Series 1.
Or, two slightly different head moulds used simultaneously?
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Re: The Hopper Exegesis - Series 1

Postby Hopper » 15 Feb 2014 13:02

Thundershot wrote:So.. would :originalaf: phase two figures of been manufactured around the same time as the 1.5 wave of figures (:2naval: :night: :fogsas: :heli: & Artic Assault) were introduced?

Palitoy could of made new tooling to cope with the expansion of figures in the range (or simply meet extra demand) perhaps more than one factory location was involved in manufacture which would account for the differences?
I think that Series 1 (:originalaf:) stopped dead, and all attention was then focused on Action Force and The Enemy. The stock they had left over would be hastily packaged and shipped, and so would be on the shelves at the same time, but actual manufacturing would be solely on :enemy: :zforce: :qforce: :space: :sas:

I think you have hit the nail on the head with the expansion and new tooling creating variants. This may explain the origin of the Round Mic, etc.
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