One of the most popular heroes of the Cold War is returning to action, and he’s bringing some surprising friends along as well.
Announced earlier this year, Dynamite Entertainment has acquired the rights to the epic 1960s-era toy franchise Captain Action and bringing him back to comics in a six-issue comic series titled Codename: Action. As the title implies, it’s more than just Captain Action – joining him will be classic pulp heroes like the Green Hornet, Kato, the Spider, Black Venus and more. And writing this will be a man with a penchant for pulp action, Chris Roberson.
For those who didn’t grow up with Captain Action, here’s the scoop: the character was an action figure created in 1966 by Stan Weston, the same man who created HASBRO’s G.I. Joe line a few years before. After the success of G.I. Joe, Weston thought up a new idea of an all-in one hero who could adopt the guise of virtually anyone and anything, and thus Captain Action was born. The character became a quick hit, with everyone from Marvel, DC and others allowing the toymaker to sell costumes the Captain Action figure could wear to take on the identities of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Lone Ranger, Buck Rogers and others. DC even published a licensed Captain Actioncomic in the late 1960s with everyone from Wally Wood to Jim Shooter and Gil Kane involved.
Fast forward nearly 50 years, and Captain Action is back in Codename: Action coming this September with art by Jonathan Lau. The story, set in the seedy Cold War era which he was originally created for, shows spycraft and subterfuge as Roberson creates the definitive origin for Captain Action. For more, we talked with Roberson about this unique super-spy and his long-awaited return to comics.
Newsarama: Captain Action has a long and storied history in both toys and comics, and its making its way back to comics with you and Dynamite Entertainment. How’d this project come to you Chris, and what made it something you wanted to do?
Chris Roberson: I had a great experience working with Dynamite on Masks, and had just gotten started on a stint on The Shadow with them when they floated the idea of a Captain Action series. I’ve been a little obsessed with the character since I was first introduced to him in the pages of Amazing Heroes back in the early 1980s. And Dynamite was amenable to my idea of using the character as the focal point for a big Sixties-flavored superspy adventure. So how could I refuse?
Nrama: The title of this series isn’t Captain Action, but rather Codename: Action – why the revised title?
Roberson: Basically, because this isn’t a “Captain Action” story as such, but a spy story that has Captain Action in it. Or rather, this is a spy story that serves double-duty as the origin story for Captain Action. But he’s just one of the superspy characters that we’ll be dealing with.
Nrama: According to the press release from Dynamite, this six-issue series promises not only the return of Captain Action but also pulp heroes like the Green Hornet, Kato, the Spider and Black Venus getting involved. Can you tell us how this works, and if it ties into your work on Masks?
Roberson: As I said, this is a superspy story, and the focus of our attention is going to be on the spy characters like Captain Action, Operator 5, and Black Venus. We’ll be seeing various masked characters and superheroes in supporting roles, but they won’t be stealing center stage. So Codename: Action is thematically linked to Masks in a lot of ways, but it isn’t a direct sequel as such.
Nrama: This series is set in the Cold War, around the same time Captain Action himself was introduced as a toy. Why’d you decide to make this a period piece and in this specific time period?
Roberson: It just made sense. The original Captain Action figure was so much a product of its time, which was obsessed on the one hand with superspy adventures (James Bond, Derek Flint, the Man from UNCLE, etc) and on the other with superheroes (Batman, Green Hornet, et al.) Everything about the character as originally formulated, with his high tech gizmos and vehicles and such, just seemed to work best in that jet-age mid-Sixties setting.
Nrama: In the press release you state that this will be an origin story for Captain Action. His origin has been told somewhat several times by different authors in comics and in toy packaging – how’d you bring it all together and add your own ideas to create this origin?
Roberson: We really went back to the original information that came along with the toys kids would have bought back in the Sixties, and built up from there. But in many ways what we’re seeing in the course of Codename: Action is the backstory to that material, so this serves more like a prelude than anything.
Nrama: Captain Action was created by the same man who just a year or so before created G.I. Joe for HASBRO – Stan Weston. Has that tie between this and G.I. Joe played into your story or thoughts at all?
Roberson: What I find interesting about Captain Action is that he is more an adventurer and spy than he is a soldier. Closer to the later formulations of GI Joe in the “Adventure Team” era of the Seventies than the more militaristic approach of the Sixties or the “covert operations” approach of the Eighties.
Nrama: Did you look much at the previous Captain Action comics or those text with the toys in research for this comic? If so, which ones stood out to you the most?
Roberson: One of the things that fascinates me most about the toys of the sixties and seventies is that they were characters without stories, as such. While later action figures would be released with enormous mythologies, whether tied into television cartoons or comic book series or what-have-you, characters like Captain Action, G.I. Joe, Big Jim, and the like came with only the most cursory level of detail about who they were and what they did. It was up to the kids playing with them to fill in the details. So we’ve used the cursory details about Captain Action and his supporting cast that were printed on the boxes and in the inserts in the original releases, and used that as a framework to tell our story.