“Big Jim” was yet another toy franchise that was handed down to me from my older brother in the 1970’s to me a little kid in the early 1980’s. Mattel carried the toy line from 1972 all the way through 1986 — but I didn’t know a single other kid who played with these in the latter decade. We were all firmly entrenched in Kenner’s “Star Wars” and Hasbro’s “G.I. Joe,” with their wider ranges of small-scale, mostly all-plastic action figures. “Big Jim’s” more doll-like 10-inch figures and complex accessories made them seem more like the “Barbie Dolls” that my older sisters used to play with. (And they were roughly the same scale.)
This camper, in fact, was actually just one of Mattel’s “Barbie” vehicles that was cast in different plastic and lined with different vinyl siding. (As a child of the 80’s, I’m still befuddled at why so many 70’s playsets were made of vinyl. Did some law mandate that every product made in the 70’s include vinyl?)
What’s interesting about “Big Jim” toys from a cultural context is that they were … like a slightly pacifist “G.I. Joe.” (As I’ve mentioned here at the blog before, 1970’s G.I. Joe’s were a foot tall and far more doll-like than 80’s action figures.) Big Jim and his cohorts (like “Big Josh,” “Big Jeff,” “Big Jack,” you get the idea) were a lot like G.I. Joes. They were exclusively depicted in all sorts of manly adventures — camping, rafting, dirt-biking or weightlifting. But they had a decidedly non-military character.