The most popular action figures, as can be expected, are based around superheroes and TV-movie action characters. Some (like Mattel's Big Jim) are entirely new creations, sold to boys through ads in comic books and on television.
Although initially a violence-oriented toy, not all action figures emphasize that aspect. The best example of this is the original action figure, G.I. Joe, which started out as a Cold War era soldier but, after Vietnam, became a search-and-rescue figure with the Adventure Team line. Of course, G.I. Joe would become popular again during the Reagan era as 3-3/4" figures in the A Real American Hero series.
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