Ever find yourself reminiscing about the toys that you had as a child, only to discover that no one else seems to remember them? It absolutely sounds like you’re talking about a crazy dream, but you’re convinced that these toys were very real. Welcome to the world of lost childhood treasures, where the absurd and obscure merge into cherished memories that may or may not have existed. Welcome to the world of lost toys that we forgot.
One of my favorite toys as a kid was my Pulsar, The Ultimate Man of Adventure action figure from Mattel. While one of my favorites, few remember it. Worse, when you try to explain the forgotten action figure, they tend to think you’re crazy or making it up.
The chicken or the bionic egg?
To understand what Pulsar was all about, you need to know the whole convoluted story of Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man. In 1972, Martin Cardin wrote Cyborg, a science fiction novel about astronaut Steve Austin who is severely injured in a crash. To save him, he’s rebuilt using “bionic” implants to replace both legs, his right arm and left eye. These “implants” leave him with increased strength, speed and enhanced vision. All that came at a cost to the government: 6 million dollars. In return for being “fixed up”, Steve used his enhanced abilities to become a secret agent.
It didn’t take long until Cyborg was adapted as a TV film. It’s success spawned a very successful 5 season run of The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors. Later on, it was spun off into a Bionic Woman series starring Lindsay Wagner as well as several TV movies.
As you can imagine, kids loved the show – a mix of James Bond and Superman, what’s not to love. Didn’t take Kenner too long to release a very successful line of Six Million Dollar Man action figures, including Steve Austin with removable bionic parts (and patented orange jumpsuit).
The success that Kenner had with The Six Million Dollar Man action figures was soon noticed by other toy companies. Toymaker Mattel must have noticed because it didn’t take long for them to release their own “Bionic Man” Pulsar, the Ultimate Man of Adventure.
Rather than just copy the Steve Austin figure outright, Mattel decided it would be everything that the “Bionic Man” was, but a hundred times more. Their goal was to out-BIONIC the Six Million Dollar Man action figure. Everything that Steve Austin was, they’d be more. While Steve Austin had bionic limbs and a bionic eye, the entire front part of Pulsar’s body was a transparent chest showcasing his vital organs pumping. His heart beat, lung breathed and blood flowed (all from a push of the button on his back). Instead of a bionic eye, his whole face would lift to show a computer brain that you could insert mission discs into. And while Steve Austin wore a pretty dull looking orange jumper, Pulsar wore the coolest red & black tracksuit outside of a Sopranos episode.
In their goal to outdo The Six Million Dollar Man, they created an action figure that was bizarre. Was he half-man, half machine cyborg like Steve Austin or just a robot? No one was sure. For Pulsar to display his powers he had to strip down until he was mostly naked, exposing his transparent chest full of pulsing guts. Was Pulsar’s real power just to make someone sick from the sight? You could also insert mission discs into his brain, making him a great Manchurian Candidate for the kids.
Of course the old adage is, anything that attempts to be cool almost never is. The Six Million Dollar Man TV show eventually went off the air and toys stopped selling. Being a weird knock-off, the Pulsar figure unceremoniously disappeared from toy stores way before that. I know I thought it was cool, but the truth is it probably wasn’t.
Like every other toy I ever had, my younger brother Terry destroyed it. That’s what he did.
What’s your favorite lost toy?