Big Jim always seems like such a laughable concept from the modern perspective. Mattel’s answer to GI Joe was a man’s man, who spent most of his time without his shirt, flexing his muscles and hanging out in a camper with fellow musclebound shirtless men. Let’s not beat around the bush, it seems homoerotic these days. Of course, in the 1970’s it was anything but. Yes, a figure who’s entire premise was that he was a muscular guy who liked to workout was a thing. It was a different time. These figures even feature “BODY ACTION” which is equally absurd sounding.
All joking aside, Big Jim was quite a hit. Eventually Jim shed some of his “manly” image, going for more of an action/adventure/spy theme. A lot of those sets are pretty cool. Especially in comparison to the lumberjack and short shorts sets that predated it. This ad from the Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog in 1974 shows some of the transformation. This is Jim in the period before he was with the Big Jim P.A.C.K., but there was already an increased emphasis on adventure.
Jim was an odd bird, in that he was 9 1/2 inches tall. Thus making him a competitor to both Mego and GI Joe, sort of splitting the difference. Big Jim was a much bigger star internationally than he was here in the US, although he sold nicely in the states as well. Eventually a lot of Big Jim stuff would be recycled for the launch of Masters of the Universe in the early 1980’s. Big Jim sort of came back to life in Mattel’s ill-fated Retro Action line. Sadly Jim himself did not make an appearance.