When I was a kid, I usually gave my parents a list of what I wanted for Christmas, and they picked up what they could. So Christmas morning was a surprise, but not a huge surprise since it was based off my own list. I just didn’t like leaving things to chance, and I didn’t want them wandering the toy aisles and picking up any random thing. I was picky. Still am, I guess. But occasionally they went off-list and managed to get something that was a true surprise. Inspector Gadget was one of those things.
I wouldn’t say I was a diehard fan of the cartoon, because it always bugged me how Inspector Gadget was put into the role of the bumbling fool that somehow managed to keep his job despite being completely useless. For some reason back then every show had to have characters perpetually screwing up, whether it was the villains or the occasional hero. I guess that was what they thought a cartoon needed, but to me the concept of an “Inspector Gadget” had a lot more potential. I don’t know, I was probably weird. But regardless of how the cartoon handled Gadget, I loved the character and the idea behind him. Unfortunately, despite the massive amount of toy lines for every property, I didn’t think I’d ever have an Inspector Gadget toy to play with. That is, until one Christmas when I unwrapped a rather large, window-boxed figure.
As I said, a lot of presents weren’t a surprise. I mean, they were a surprise in that I didn’t quite know what they would be, but they all pulled from some list I had made, so they weren’t a surprise in being completely unexpected, if that makes any sense. But Gadget was a complete surprise because I didn’t even know it existed at all. I had never seen or heard of any type of toy line for him, and I do remember a few months before Christmas verbally stating that I wished they made a toy line for him. Not so much so I could re-enact the bumbling adventures of the guy on the cartoon, but the smart, suave, cyborg James Bond-esque adventures that he went on in my mind.
Inspector Gadget is dated 1983 on the bottom of his foot, but I know I got him a bit later than that. I’m not sure if he was rereleased at some point, or if his figure just hung around stores, but I’m thinking I got him for the Christmas of 1985 or 1986. He’s a little over 10 inches tall normally, and with both leg and neck fully extended he’s 13.5 inches tall. He comes with a nice variety of action features that hit all the essential beats of his cartoon: extending legs, spring-loaded extending neck, left hand and spring-fired right hand — all of which are activated by discrete buttons on his legs, arms, and back. Pretty cool.
In addition, he comes with his Go Go Gadget Helicopter (that really spins, as you can see in the pictures above) to motor around, an umbrella parachute that can be attached to a poseable arm that attaches snugly to his hat, a pair of working handcuffs, and a big bad-guy-bashing hammer. The hammer is probably the coolest part; it plugs into the wrist hole left behind by the spring-loaded hand and looks pretty cool. Those are the essential add-ons that were most often used. There were plenty of others used in the cartoon, but for a $13 action figure in the ‘80s, that was a nice load of extras.
He’s called an “Action Doll” on his packaging, so I’m not sure how popular he was with the macho little boys that would cringe at the use of the word doll, but he was a cool surprise one Christmas morning for me, and I played with him a lot after that. Unfortunately, at his size there were no bad guys for me to handcuff or bop with that big honkin’ hammer, so his adventures were solitary ones. But that’s OK. Sometimes all you need is a big-nosed dude in a trench coat with an extendable hand to have plenty of solitary fun.
You heard me.