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The Rocketeer

Funko ReAction
by yo go re

In 2013, obscure-toy-magazine-turned-obscure-toy-company Super7 somehow acquired the vintage 1979 prototypes for a line of Alien toys that were never made, and set about making them. The SDCC exclusive sneak peek figures were wildly popular, and then Funko got involved. Using their existing relationship with just about every licensor imaginable, Funko expanded the ReAction line way beyond the original scope, bringing in a ton more properties - including the Rocketeer.

Here's excitement - dished out in brutal chunks, back when the teeth of justice bit deep into the throat of crime!

Created by artist Dave Stevens, the Rocketeer was inspired by Commando Cody, star of several Republic Pictures serials you may have seen on MST3K. His secret identity was hotshot stunt pilot Cliff Secord, who one day discovers a mysterious package in his plane. Unwrapping the package, he discovers a mysterious jetpack. Using this jetpack, Cliff Secord fights crime as the Rocketeer!

The comic first appeared in 1982, and nine years later had his own movie from Disney. And yet he's never had an action figure until now!

This figure is emphatically based on the Disney movie, not the comics - it may be a case like the Maxx, where all the merchandising rights went to the first licensor. Not that it really matters, since movie Rocketeer is functionally identical to comicbook Rocketeer. The Rocketeer was definitely more like Spider-Man than X-Men in that regard, you know?

The character looks very much like an old-fashioned aviator. He's wearing tall brown boots, khaki jodhpurs (with a black belt that sits too low on his hips and really shouldn't be visible), and of course his familiar button-flap jacket, with 17 sculpted buttons. Though it's hard to make out, the gloves are even sculpted with the triggers by the thumbs - that kind of detail is amazing on a simple, retro figure like this, just amazing! The harness for his rocket pack is a molded part of the torso, designed to look like it's fastened beneath his chest flap, but the pad rests flat against his back.

Of course, the figure comes with his rocket pack - he wouldn't be much of a rocketeer without it! There are two large pegs on his back to hold it in place. The detailing is much more intricate than we ever would have seen on the toys this figure is homaging: almost every little thing seen in the movie is duplicated here. There are two engines flanking a central grill and fan assembly, with big rivets all around. The nosecones are golden, and the exhaust ports are black. They even sculpted - and painted - the wad of pink gum stuck to the back for luck!

His only other accessory is his removable helmet, the bucket with a fin that allows him to steer. Cliff Secord was played by Billy Campbell, who just barely lost out on the role of William Riker to Jonathan Frakes. This toy doesn't really have a "likeness" to speak of, and the eyes on mine are painted crooked. Doesn't really matter, since he'll be wearing his big helmet most of the time.

The soft likeness is a symptom of the late '70s/early '80s style the ReAction figures are aping. Another throwback? The articulation. The Rocketeer moves only at the big five: neck, shoulders, and hips, and they're all swivels. It's particularly annoying that a character specifically known for looking straight up can't do anything but turn his head. A lot of collectors aren't old enough to have any first-hand memories of the old Kenner toys, so it can't just be nostalgia that's making them think this is a good style of toy; what's the thinking?

When he was created, the Rocketeer was a throwback to a simpler time - he may have been introduced in the Reagan presidency, but he was meant to be a pulp hero, just like Doc Savage or the Shadow. With that in mind, giving him an old-fashioned toy makes a certain kind of sense. Yes, I wish it was better, but 10 bucks for this thing sure beats a couple of hundred for the Medicom version. A few years ago the people who make those 12" Captain Action dolls announced plans to make a Rocketeer set (which would have gotten a lot of people to try Captain Action for the first time), but it's still never materialized.

Objectively, the ReAction toys aren't very good. But if you're okay with the limitations of the form, and don't expect anything that you obviously can't get from them, they're almost worth the price. And in the case of the Rocketeer, it's not like anyone else has ever made one to compete with it.

-- 11/27/14

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