Fisher-Price Adventure People Clawtron Action Figure Fisher-Price, 1980
Day #2,452: September 2, 2022
Clawtron The Clamps
Adventure People Action Figures
Item No.: Asst. 392 No. 380 Manufacturer:Fisher-Price Includes:n/a Action Feature:n/a Retail:$0.48-$2 Availability: ca. 1980 Other: Stunt pilot head, claw arms shared with Brainoid later on, retooled torso, motorcycle driver legs
This figure might be older than I am - or close to it. The copyright date on Clawtron hints at a 1979 release date, but the 1979 Toy Fair catalog doesn't show the assortment of figures with the larger cardbacks with painted artwork yet - so it's possible this was a later introduction. What I do know is that this figure (and indeed much of this line) was weirdly influential. Fisher-Price made this 3 3/4-inch figure line before the debut of Star Wars, and Kenner used them as a basis for their own prototypes. And, it would seem, the space toys were sort of a "plays with" line that went along with the Micronauts and Star Wars and other popular space toys of that era. Also, the unpopular ones. While some figures were made specifically for the space line, Clawtron slapped a stuntman's head on another body with new arms, a retooled chest, and a motorcycle driver's leg. His arms look sort of like what you would expect from contemporary robots, as the shoulders look a lot like C-3PO.
The 3 3/4-inch figure has a 1974 copyright date thanks to reusing old parts, and has no accessories. Back in the day, action figures and most toys were designed to be cheap. This one sold for a couple of bucks, with minimal paint, and effectively serves as an accessory to other, bigger Adventure People toys. You could throw him in your Creature Cantina, too, because the Star Wars look wasn't really defined until after The Empire Strikes Back.
With 5 points of articulation and a great ball-jointed neck, you can see why kids probably wouldn't be at all upset to get these for their birthdays. It's not Hammherhead or Greedo, but it's a weird figure with no backstory. He's whoever you want, molded in black, with dials and knobs molded to his chest. He'd be right at home in the 1970s comic book world thanks to the stark blacks, subtle silvers, and the wild bright blue pattern on his arms and legs. The design was so striking that he inspired other figures just recently, like an Imaginext figure that's a grab-bag of black space Adventure People and Onell Design's Clawden.
The figure has no foot pegs, and seemingly wasn't designed to interact with any specific accessory or vehicle. Thanks to his legs you can most likely fit him in other vehicles that were out at the time, like the sidecar of the motorcycle. He also fits in some Kenner ships and is a tight fit on things like the Alpha Star. He stands well, and has a pose that's a little more dynamic than his 5-jointed peers of that era. The legs have a hint of movement on them, and don't rest at attention like a Kenner figure. The arms are bent only slightly, giving him some sense of movement without being nearly as stiff as his competition from Cincinnati. I'm not sure what inspired the round tips on the claws - perhaps it was a safety concern?
Rather than waste money on green face paint like the X-Ray Man and Woman or the Firestar-1 pilot, Fisher-Price was content to leave the entire helmet, face, and visor molded in black plastic with a silver paint swipe on top and two weird little yellow dots for eyes. It's striking, as seen on the cardback artwork - it's piercing, it's weird, and it makes you mad that you didn't get one as a kid when it was worthless.
The torso is cut from a similar cloth as the X-Ray Man and X-Ray Woman, with things like dials, circles, triangles, and other elements which I couldn't tell you what they're supposed to be. A blue belt buckle matches the circles, hourglasses, and other designs on the boots and sleeves of this figure - and oh, how I love those sleeves and pants. It looks like something that escaped the very end of the 1960s, or were sketched in the margins of theme park designers before they went mad. I have very little else like it in my toy boxes, and I feel like a spoiled brat for buying this one during a particularly rough period of time in 2022.
Carded samples of this guy are not too expensive given their age - I did pay for a sealed one on a rough cardback, because I wanted one that was better than what tends to show up on eBay. The figures were thrown in toyboxes and silver paint from that era tends to scrape off due to play - so expect roughed-up chests, scuffed shoes, and iffy claws if you see a loose one that was ever part of a childhood adventure.
I don't think I'm hyperbolic in saying this figure is a weird treasure. On one hand it's a goofy reuse of existing tooling, slapped together with a cynical air of "the kids will eat this space crap up." But there are tons of custom figures on Etsy and eBay molded and painted to look just like Clawtron and X-Ray Man, and you can see how it inspired the various kitbashed, bootleg designer art toys which command huge sums due to the work involved. If you don't mind paint rub (or can paint him up yourself) you can probably get this 40+-year-old figure for under $15 on eBay, but what you should really consider is joining me in lobbying Mattel - the current business daddy of Fisher-Price - to consider rereleasing something like this again. Adjusted for inflation, these figures would probably cost $8-$10 and I would be positively delighted to know if something like this could fly in our license-heavy world. (And if not, just charge more and call them "collectibles," that seems to work.) This is one of the cheaper space figures from the line, and having him hanging out with old Kenner Star Wars or the Four Horsemen/Onell Design Glyos The Outer Space Men is a fun treat.
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