Sunday, 26 February 2017

Stony Smith and Buddy Charlie - Old Soldiers Never Die! More Tales from the Haunted Toy Box by Tony K.

A SUNDAY MORNING SPECIAL!

It was 1964. GI Joe was the first action soldier to storm toy stores across the United States. It was an impressive campaign, where GI Joe, the defining 'Action Figure', was deployed by Hasbro to win the hearts and minds of kids across the country. 

Joe was made of tough plastics which incorporated a radically new system of posable articulation. He wore a stamped dog tag and authentic uniforms representing the US military. His supply column of outfits would equip him for combat, on land, at sea, and in the air.

GI Joe's blitzkrieg on toy-store America triggered rival forces. Marx were seasoned veterans. They would counter-attack with point-man, Stony 'Stonewall' Smith. 'The Battling Soldier' was an 11.1/2 inch tall figure made from 'unbreakable' poly-plastic. Unfortunately, only Stony's wrists, elbows, shoulders and head were movable. His solid lower body had no articulation. This was a self-inflicted wound for Marx. 

Stony could do little more than stand tall and fearlessly wait for the bullet which carried his name. A static Stony was no match for Hasbro's flexible fighting man. Marx launched a fresh attack with a battalion of improved Stony clones to boost morale and fill shelves. The new recruits had a slightly different style of uniform and new hip and knee articulation. 

The new box stated, ''COMPLETELY MOVABLE - Move Him Into 1001 COMBAT POSITIONS!''. With leg articulation, Stony was free to jump behind the wheel of the new Marx Military Jeep in a bid to keep pace with GI Joe.


Stony's packaging changed throughout the course of his career. He fought under a variety of names including Stony 'Stonewall' Smith, The Paratrooper, Stony Sky Commando, and finally, Stony The Paratrooper. Each re-branding would see him deployed in a large colourful product box packed with changeable plastic equipment and weapons. 

However, the final version of Stony The Paratrooper was released in a slimmer box, identical in dimension to GI Joes. Accessories were now boxed and sold separately as 'Stony Paratrooper Equipment'. 


Stony was flagging. In a desperate bid to take the high ground Marx unleashed the elite 'Stony 4 Man Combat Team'. This magnificent set consisted of four Stony clones equipped to be dropped behind the lines. 

Despite this brave action, Marx couldn't equal the movability and playability of GI Joe. GI Joe was firmly entrenched in the imagination of kids... and he refused to surrender his position. Stony had failed to secure his objective!


In 1966, Marx regrouped and deployed Stony's reinforcement, Buddy Charlie. 'Buddy Charlie' was the brand name Marx gave to their All American Fighter figures who were 'Made Expressly for Montgomery Ward'. The 'Montgomery Ward' text didn't appear on all Buddy Charlie boxes. Perhaps some were sold elsewhere? Buddy Charlie was a dangerously close clone to GI Joe. 

He had an action figure body, represented all four branches of the services, and wore fatigues and dog tags just like Joe! Buddy's product box was also identical in size. Marx would however wisely halt at copying the trademark GI Joe battle scar to avoid stepping into a legal minefield. The advances which came with Buddy Charlie were too little too late. 




Joe defeated Stony and Buddy at the Tannhäuser Gate... the Marx replicants had lost the war.


Boxed examples of Stony Smiths can be found. However, the Stony store display and the deluxe 'Stony 4 Man Combat Team' rarely reach the market. Boxed examples of Buddy Charlie are quite rare, particularly the store display set and the elusive Sailor and Airman. 


When Buddy does muster for parade, he's usually wearing boots looted from one of the cheap plastic imitators from the '60s, such as 'Johnnie Goes To War'. 


Original Buddy Charlie boots are very thin on the ground. Most become brittle and literally fell apart over time. Genuine Marx-branded Buddy Charlie Sailor and Airman hats are often missing in action, having been replaced with ersatz copies. 


In the latter part of the 1960s, Marx ceased military operations. By now they'd trail blazed into the Wild West, pioneering a successful niche with their range of Cowboy and Indian figures. Stony's head-sculpt was used for Marx cowboy, Johnny West. 

Hasbro's GI Joe flourished with changing times, constantly evolving into new incarnations as the years rolled into decades. This battle scarred soldier of fortune travelled the world under a variety of licensed nom de guerres. 

He landed in 1960s Britain, took the Queen's Shilling and signed-up as 'Action Man'. Like a plastic Peter Pan, he put us under his spell and took many of us on tremendous adventures when we were kids. 

Unlike GI Joe, Stony Smith and his brother in arms, Buddy Charlie, were unable to change their role and adapt to a changing world. They were made to be combat soldiers and nothing else... they couldn't move forward, or leave the past behind! 

They're anachronisms, forever anchored to the 1960s as a fading memory of a favourite toy given by a mum or dad. Some people don't get it, but I guess for some of us, our toys and trinkets are physical reminders which link us with our past. 

Unlike the parents, pets, people and places, we loved and lost along the way, our toys are still with us... unlike the changing landscape, they remain unchanged. They reinforce our fading 20th century memories and take us back to that precious and familiar time of a childhood which has long gone, but isn't entirely forgotten. 

Old Soldiers Never Die... at least not the plastic ones we knew as kids. 

Tony K

23 comments:

  1. An enjoyable read,Tony.As much of a GIJoe nut as I was,I don't ever recall any of the Marx soldiers.I know this;I would have appreciated the sturdy plastic of a Stony soldier,oddly I had some Johnny west cowboys and they were virtually indestructible.To Joe's credit, he was pretty unbreakable although I had a few bratty cousins that determinedly carried out that mission.I broke a talking commander by taking him underwater(If only then I knew today's value!)Strange I knew nothing about Buddy Charlie as we had a Montgomery Ward store in the Berlin/Stratord area,Another store that has been mentioned by author John Marshall.One thing that store did provide me with was an uber rare AHI Creature from the Black Lagoon doll,and a rubber creature jiggler to boot!

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  2. Hi Brian... glad you survived the heavy snow which hit you last month. Thank you for sharing your memories. I bet you weren't the only one to submerge a talking commander, haha. It sounds like you struck toy gold with the AHI Creature and rubber jiggler. The Creature is a particular fave monster of mine. I had him as an Aurora kit back in the 70s. But never had the AHI one... what a cool toy of the time :)

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    1. Funny thing, that snow was gone in 2 days, and the rest of the month so far has seen 50-60 degree days, the mildest February I can remember!Bad thing about AHI's creature, the joints fell apart quickly.I remember selling it at a yard sale in 1981 for a pittance and I've been kicking myself ever since!

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    2. Fingers crossed Brian... yeh never know, maybe there's one at a yard sale waiting for you to find it... anythings possible. These old toys can turn up in the most unexpected of places. I wish you good hunting :)

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  3. The only Marx figures I was aware of in the '60s (ones competing with Action man I mean), were Johnny West, Chief Cherokee and Mike Hazard. (Although I can't recall if I ever saw Mike 'in the flesh' so to speak.) Great reading about Stony (who I only learned about sometime in the last 20 years) and brilliant pictures. Are they all your own toys?

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  4. Very cool! Stony's equipped better than I was in basic training.

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    1. Hi William, Thank you for your kind comment. Haha, yes Stony was certainly well equipped for his battle against GI Joe :)

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  5. Hi Kid, Thanks for dropping by. Glad you did... I appreciate your input especially with your knowledge and interest in action figures. It was great to unravel info about Tommy Gunn earlier in the week, both here and on your own very cool blog. To be honest I can't remember Stony or Buddy from my own childhood either. The only Marx figures I had were Mike Hazard and an odd assortment of western characters who were the opposing force for Action Man. It's a pity... I would've loved to have had some of these Marx soldiers as a nipper. Thank you, yes, the figures in the pics are part of my collection. It's just nice to get old toys out and take a few pics of them every so often... and also a big thank you to Woodsy for letting me share them here on his superb blog :)

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    1. It's certainly an impressive collection, Tony. At the last count, I had around 60 or 70 action figures, but some of them are 'newer' ones. (By that I mean, ones released over the last 25 years or so.) I used to have them on display, but they've been boxed away since I had some work done in the house a couple of years or so back. And, as you say, thanks to Woodsy for allowing you to show off your great toys.

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  6. Thanks Kid. Unfortunately most of my collection is also packed away as well. Nice to just see 'em once in a while. Take care, Tone :)

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  7. Once again another cracking article where I learn more and discover more about the wonderful world of toys I've heard of G I Joe before and quite liked the film but I've never heard of Stoney Smith who is an absolute legend they should have made a film about him instead of GI Joe!

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    1. Hiya Doc... always great to hear from you. Ha ha, yes, a Stony movie, now that's thinking outside the toy box :)

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  8. Yep, another superb bloglet Tone and my pleasure. Stoney and Buddy have been introduced to quite a few new folks I reckon including me! I certainly didn't have any when I was a nipper and like many I had the impressively rigid Johnny West and Chief Cherokee. Many years later around 2000 I found them once again in a charity shop in Leeds, boxes and all. I saw them in the window for a tenner each and snapped them up! Do you have John Marshall's book on 60's action figures by the way?

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    1. Hi Woodsy, Brilliant... a tenner each... the stuff of dreams... just shows these old toys can still be found out there. You were meant to find them. Really nice to get the opportunity to write about Stony and Buddy. Their story really needed telling - thank you! Sorry, I don't have the John Marshall book, but I know the one you mean. Sounds like one I should track down :)

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  9. Let me add my (belated) compliments as well. Another smashing write-up with pictures worth a 1000 words. And I'm glad I'm not the only one that's never seen these figures before - quite an education as usual!

    Best -- Paul

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  10. Hi Paul, always great to hear from you. Thank you, I really appreciate your kind comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. It was fun giving Stony and Buddy a voice after decades of relative obscurity over here in Europe. All the best, Tony :)

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  11. Lovely article! My brother and I called the cheapies 'Dummy Men' because they had non-articulated arms and legs and moved like zombies! But they WERE cheap, so provided a constant stream of equipment for Action Man!

    H

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    1. Dummy Men, I love that Hugh! Sound like big babies! ha ha, Yep, there was something wonderful about all those cheapo accessory carded sets for Action Man clones back then. I think I got loads from Zodiac Toys.

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  12. Hi Hugh, thank you for posting your comment and sharing your own brilliant recollections of bygone battles with the classic action figures of the day. Always love to hear peoples personal stories! These toys certainly unlocked the doors to our imaginations. It was great how we'd mix and match the mass of equipment and figures available back then. Thank you, Tony :)

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  13. Hi Tony, just got round to playing catch up with some of the blog posts. This is one cool article, never heard of Stony or Buddy, nice one :D

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  14. Hi Scoop, thank you for your kind comment. There's a lot of info and pics about GI Joe and Action Man, but not so much about Stony & Buddy. It just seemed the right time and right place to tell their story. I really appreciate Woodsy including it on the Moonbase blog. Tone :)

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  15. I know you guys aren't big on facebook but there's a group called 'Military toys from our childhood' and the members are heavy into the 12" action figures - lots of G.I. Joe's and Stony's featured

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    1. Hi Ed and Bettina, really good to hear from you. Thank you for mentioning that, I appreciate the thought and will certainly check it out. All the best to you both,
      Tone

      Perhaps the curse of poor wifi has trailed after me from the caravan... awe 'heck'... tone :D





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