October 22, 2015

Tom Stark's Plastic Passions #4

So far this blog has concentrated on new production figures and that’s fine. We all like new things. But the world of plastic toy soldiers has been around for 50 to 60 years now and if one ignores all that history he or she will miss out on a lot of great figures. Further, if you appreciate the art of these toy soldiers for what they are, toys with varying levels of sophistication, the past has all the more to offer.
But where to start? There is so much material.
I can’t remember where I got the idea but I decided I would focus this installment on different makers’ interpretations of an iconic pose; the stalwart American Indian shielding his eyes and staring into the sun/future wondering where life will take him. This pose was a staple in the world of cigar store Indians and found its way into plastic many times.
Marx went to this way quite early and at least twice, once in 40 mm and once in 60 mm. Both came onto the market in the 1950s in a variety on incarnations of the Fort Apache playset all of which will soon be reviewed in depth by Playset Magazine. Some people may not be satisfied with the detail and animation of these two poses but, if you are like me, nothing brings a sense of childhood-past to mind like the smell of the soft vinyl plastic these fellows were initially made of. Both were produced a bit later on, with bases, in polyethylene.

Timmee followed right on Marx’s heals. Most of its production, excepting perhaps its WWII Russians, was considered of lesser quality than Marx. While I prefer to think of them as just being a different style of toy, the close up of their figure (on left) does make me wonder if the sculptor thought Indians wore sunglasses of some type. His companion is by Hoeffler, a German masker who likely produced their rendition sometime in the late 1960s, but that date is a guess. Not at all sure why he would be holding what appears to look like a rock.

Next we have Austrian maker Linde who produced a fantastic line of American wildwest figures “borrowing” some from the Hauser/Elastolin ranges in general and Karl May in particular but also making many of their own such as this fellow. There are many truly excellent poses in this range of about 40 poses which I believe was produced as a product premium. He is joined by Danish maker Reisler’s pose who decided to get a bit creative and sculpt their interpretation of the pose on its hand(s) and knees

Another creative interpretation and perhaps my favorite is Italian maker Atlantic’s two-figure pose of Indians on their hands and knees, draped in wolf skins to suppress their scent, sneaking up on a buffalo herd. This is an old photo since I could not find the pose for this blog making me use a shot taken for a Plastic Figure and Playset Magazine article many years ago. Sorry it is dark. The figure to the back is the one shading his eyes.



Just so you don’t think it was only Indians that needed to look into the distance, the last photo shows pioneers and cowboys doing the same including a mounted, hard plastic Elastolin, a standing Leyla and a kneeling Reisler with a moveable right arm. At least when the sun went down this fellow could put his arm down too. Great stuff that I hope you enjoy.

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