Not to be confused with Jonny Quest, or James West of its contemporary TV series “Wild, Wild West,” but Johnny West was another of those classic toys of my childhood.
Introduced by Marx Toys in 1965 to compete with the popular G.I. Joe action figures for boys, Johnny West was a cowboy character who quickly found a spot around the imaginary campfires of boys around the world. Westerns, particularly on TV, were popular at the time and Johnny West capitalized on that trend.
Johnny West was a hard plastic action figure that wasn’t as posable as G.I. Joe, frankly. But Johnny West did have one weird quality that Joe did not: His hands and head were softer, almost rubbery material.
Which led to one of the many odd inspirations of my childhood.
At about the same time I was playing with my Johnny Wests I was watching the daytime TV supernatural drama “Dark Shadows.” At some point during the run of the show, a headless man terrorized the denizens of Collinswood.
As a little TV and movie fan, I just had to re-create those scenes.
So I decapitated one of my Johnny West action figures by cutting through his rubbery pink neck. To make the headless man effect extra gruesome, I used a red magic marker to make the stump of his neck bloody.
All too true.
Anyway, Johnny West outlived my interest and murderous playing style and saw many new characters introduced, including a cowgirl, Jane, cowkids, Native Americans and townsfolk.
Like my G.I. Joes, my Johnny Wests are long gone. They live on in my memory, though. Even the decapitated one.