Interview Questions by Devin Zydel and
Benjamin Fleurier (CBn Forum member Bwanito)
The interest in the literary James Bond seems to have skyrocketed in recent years. Currently, fans and collectors are treated to Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series and Samantha Weinberg’s The Moneypenny Diaries. In addition, there have been several reprints of the original Ian Fleming novels and countless new books examining the films, the novels, the artwork, the philosophy, and much more.
When it comes to the history of James Bond action figures, however, the sources of information have been severly lacking. Thankfully this is no longer the case with the release of James Bond & Indiana Jones: Action Figures by Nicolas Fleurier. The book presents in-depth information regarding the many different releases from the James Bond and Indiana Jones series; but it also considers the question of what is both a toy and a collector’s item. Exhaustive in detail, thoroughly researched and accompanied by extensive illustrations, James Bond & Indiana Jones: Action Figures is a welcome addition to any Bond fan.
Many thanks for agreeing to the interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.
Well, to focus on licensed products, as you can guess I was first a collector, but not specifically of items related to James Bond or Indiana Jones. Later I have been through different stages and became an exhibitor, a convention seller, and even a convention organizer. But my early goal was to write about licensed products. However, the first article I ever did on Bond was not about licensed products, but rather on the script of GoldenEye. It was published in a fanzine from a French club, and this was a way for me to find out if I could satisfy readers who are also connoisseurs. I then began my collaboration with Dixième planète, a French magazine on licensed products. My first article for them was about Bond but at this time, I was not as free as I would become later on in regards to the contents of my writings. Among my last articles, there is another one about Bond, more precisely in regards to video games. The English version of the book contains an exclusive feature, and it is a summary of this particular piece about video games. It was a rather unappreciated subject, but since then the MI6 site began to publish a series on it.
How did you come to write James Bond And Indiana Jones: Action Figures?
It is the result of a project on which I began to work back in 1999, and which I proposed to the publisher of Dixième planète in 2001. The first draft was pretty ambitious, a little too much perhaps. It was about many licenses, and not only about Bond or Indiana Jones. It was merely a base for reflection, but the publisher showed interest in a reorganized version about those two topics. I agreed because there were enough connections between the movie series to work on both together, and because there was enough material to work on only the two. But it was agreed upon that the book would not turn into a guide, and that the general thoughts on licenses and collecting that appeared in the draft would reappear in the new project, at the beginning and at the end.
Which type of toy lines can we find in your book (Gilbert, Mego…)?
You can find all toy lines that were ever related to James Bond or Indiana Jones and that includes action figures. So, Gilbert and Mego appear among other toy manufacturers’ names, like Mattel and Hasbro.
What was the most difficult aspect in writing the book? Was there one specific section or line of figures that was difficult to find information on?
To accept compromises, I think was the hard part. Jokes aside, there are always compromises to go through when your work is to pass through others’ hands in order to be published. I believe the publisher had a more appealing view of the project than I had. However, I decided to take some photographs myself, the ones that were shot outdoor, on actual movie locations in relation with the items. I remember there were many Japanese tourists in Venice, waiting for a boat. When they saw me seeking the best spot to take a picture of the Mego doll in front of the Danieli hotel, they all wanted to take their own picture of me with the doll and their friends. But that was fun. The hard part was not even to write the book with a historical point of view and an almost academic method, because it is the way I normally work. No, the hard part was to convince the Japanese tourists that the doll was not some Space Mountain related item! As for the line on which I spent a lot of time, I think this is the Big Jim James Bond line. It is only recently that I discovered another vehicle, which does not appear in the book: the “Vehiculo de ataque”. I almost lost sleep since then!
Could we find some interesting notes about the prototypes or the customs?
Naturally, there are some developments on prototypes, unproduced items and customs as well. For example, you can find some pictures of an action figure of Sean Connery as Henry Jones in the book.
Have there been any trends in the release of the James Bond action figures over time? Are there any themes that seem to be apart of most of them?
Some movies seem to be more appreciated by the toy manufacturers than others, and they are Dr. No, Goldfinger and Thunderball, even The Man with the Golden Gun and Moonraker. As for the actors, George Lazenby is badly off. Even Sideshow, with its last series, did not what many fans obviously expected: Bond in a kilt outfit. And there is still no action figure of Daniel Craig!
What comparisons would you make between the various James Bond action figures and those from the Indiana Jones films?
There are more common points between the movie series than between the toy ranges. Bond never really became a small sized action figure, whereas Indiana Jones was a 33/4 action figure right from the start. However, some toy manufacturers used both licenses: Galoob, Medicom and Hasbro. Unfortunately, the recognizable characters that were played by the same actor in the both movie series are always forgotten in one of the two toy ranges. Sallah, for example, became an action figure soon after Indiana Jones, but the general Leonid Pushkin, also played by John Rhys-Davies, never became a toy.
Do you have any personal favourites?
Well, most collectors have their own favourites: the item which is almost impossible to find, the figure that started it all. I did not have any favourite myself, because my favourites, if they are ones, are among the movies. The toys are only extensions of the movies. That is why, when I was young, I almost started collecting movies and not toys. There was this tiny video club, in a distant neighbourhood, where I went to spend a lot of time seeking the last Bond I had yet to see. I think it is for keeping the movies with me that I became a collector. It is one of the reasons, anyway.
What is the rarest James Bond action figure you’ve ever come across?
It is difficult to say. Maybe it is the Largo puppet made by Gilbert in the sixties. But it could be the last figures from Little Lead Soldiers as well.
Do you have any tips for Bond fans new to collecting the figures?
To be patient is the first tip that comes in mind. What is rare is not rare enough to jeopardize an entire life. And, after all, what was found was meant to be found, if you can say that. Then, you have to gather information, to know the items and to know their value. So, the second tip I can give is to cross-check sources. And perhaps to start by reading my book!
In your own opinion, has there ever been a ‘golden age’ of James Bond figures (where whichever line or specific figure[s] being released were far above the quality of all others)?
The expression “golden age” reminds me of the first age of comics. It is possible, I think, to compare the action figure history and the comic book history. Therefore, a first appearance would become a size change, the thirties, the sixties. But you speak of “golden age” as a period of quality. In that case, Icons and Sideshow, compared to Gilbert and Little Lead Soldiers, are the first names to quote. However, many collectors prefer vintage over new, even if new means quality. In fact, the “golden age” may be a subjective period, related to the childhood of each of us. There is a verb in English that seems to suit well for describing this way of collecting: to recollect.