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Marx Quick Draw Johnny West

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Johnny West Becomes a Gunslinger!

When it comes to ultra cool toys of the 1970s, Quick Draw Johnny West (Marx stock #5062C) surely ranks as one of the absolute best.  First produced in 1975, the "Quick Draw" version of Marx Toys' over 11 inch tall "action (or movable) cowboy," may have come along just a little too late.

Given that the year the QD version was released was the very last year of production of the original Johnny West action figure, it's too bad he didn't debut a few years sooner.  For just two short years later, the phenomenal success of the first Star Wars film in 1977 pretty much put an end to the perhaps already declining popularity of the once mighty Western genre.


Melt marks, pelvis cracks, hair rubs & all, QD Johnny still looks good after all these years

From 1965 to 1974, the vast majority of Johnny West action figures produced by the Marx Toy Company were cast in the same, more or less blah color commonly referred to by most collectors as "caramel," with even less colorful dark brown hard and medium brown soft accessories.


Note that the torso of QD Johnny is much thicker than that of his caramel brethren

In the photo comparisons above and below, you can see just how different good old Johnny looks with his brand new QD torso and a whole new color scheme.  Not that the caramel version looks shabby or anything, but the newer denim blue color really was a wonderful change of pace for the world's most famous cowboy action figure.

Blue body Johnny West figures were also made in Mexico, in two shades of blue (medium and light blue), but none of these Plastimarx offerings were equipped with the Quick Draw feature.  The first issue medium blue figure, quite curiously, was included in a set with a WWII era Jeep, however.

 

Front & Back - QD Johnny is just a bit shorter than his caramel counterpart

By 1975, all the Marx toy assets had been acquired by The Quaker Oats Company, and to their credit perhaps, they decided to jazz things up a bit by not only making the bodies of most of the Johnny West line of figures more colorful, but accessories cast in a wider variety of colors were also added to the production line.  So, for the first time in nearly a decade, Johnny and many of his Old West pals were given accessory sets comprised of more than a single color!


In full body profile, front and back, Quick Draw Johnny West is ready for wild west action!

Yes sir, even good old Johnny's accessories received a long overdue makeover.  Perhaps the most notable color update was the introduction of bright red for Johnny's neckerchief, along with the addition of a cream or light tan for roughly half of his other soft goods (vinyl) items.

It appears that Marx was still able to keep costs low however, by producing these soft goods in the old familiar brown, but also the newer cream color in equal numbers, and then merely mixing and matching these items to add variety to the new Quick Draw ensemble.


After 9 years of continuous production, it was finally out with the caramel & in with the blue

Most QD Johnnys came with cream colored hat & chaps with brown vest & gunbelt - or the opposite

With the red neckerchief, I'm not exactly sure how Marx managed to keep production costs low, but my guess is that a number of these items were cast together via the usual plastic tree type mold.  Either way, the introduction of the red neckerchief is just one of the many things that, in this toy collector's opinion, makes Quick Draw Johnny West truly the very best of all the western themed toys that Marx ever produced.


With a whole new set of brightly colored plastic threads, good old Johnny never looked so good

The finely sculpted detail of Marx figures and accessories is often stunning if you look closely

The red neckerchief is hands down, my favorite Marx accessory item of all

Naturally, when acquiring action figures from a second hand market source such as eBay, there is always the strong possibility that a former owner has done something to alter the product from its original vintage state.  In the case of the QD Johnny featured here, the brown hat may have either actually been a part of this vintage set (which did come with the original, vintage box), or was swapped out from an older caramel Johnny, since a QD Johnny with this particular color scheme (cream chaps and spurs, brown gun belt and brown vest) usually always came with a cream colored hat.


The QD Johnny I had as a kid had this color scheme, but his hat was cream colored, not brown

QD Johnny still looks smashing in his old brown hat, but I do prefer the cream colored version

The other QD Johnny variation that you are likely to find, is one where all the colors of his soft goods accessories (except his red neckerchief of course) are reversed from what you see here; such as, his hat, chaps and spurs are brown, and his vest, gunbelt and three sacks of gold are cream colored.


With greater variety in colors than any previous Johnny West figure, QD Johnny steps out in STYLE!

He's new, he's blue and you'd better watch your step, partner, 'cause he's got QUICK DRAW now!

Marx mostly produced durable, high quality toys at affordable prices, but some of their highly detailed sixth scale accessories, cast in soft vinyl plastic, are delicate and tend to break quite easily when exposed to regular kid play.  A perfect example are the beautifully sculpted and ingeniously designed chaps first worn by Johnny West, but also issued with several other Marx western figures.


A rare find; authentic Quick Draw Johnny West Chaps with all 4 easily broken tassles intact

As a result, when collecting Johnny West, you're almost certainly going to end up with set after set of broken chaps.  In fact, if it's thick enough, the vinyl these items are made from is very, very durable and long lasting - but not unfortunately, when the design of a specific accessory calls for the item to be very thin and narrow, as is definitely the case with the four tassles on Johnny's trademark chaps.


The chaps wear well when left on the figure, but DON'T remove them too often!

Though the tassles on this Johnny's chaps are flawless, his left spur is unfortunately broken

The design of Marx chaps is actually pretty ingenious when you think about it, but the material used to bring the design into fruition isn't quite such a marriage made in Heaven.  Luckily however, if your Johnny West happens to have broken vintage chaps (or even worse, he's... well... CHAPLESS) you can always get a pair of wonderfully accurate reproduction chaps from the good folks at Circle X Ranch/Marxman Bros. Creations.

Though not always an exact size or color match, most soft goods accessories from CXR make excellent replacements for lost or damaged vintage Marx items.  Naturally, they come in a variety of colors, and their chaps in particular, are arguably one of the finest Marx Toys reproduction items to yet be offered to collectors.


Johnny's all new (for 1975) Quick Draw gunbelt is beautifully sculpted and totally ready for action!

There should be 2 gunbelt straps, but you are likely to find only 1 with many vintage QD Johnnys

In addition to how nicely sculpted and designed they were for toys made at the time, QD Johnny's hard goods, such as his shiny silver spurs actually hold up quite well over time.  The only major damage that you tend to see with them, is that the ends of the hard poly plastic of the spurs that protrude behind his heels may break off when exposed to really rough kid play.  I was of course disappointed when I discovered that one of this Johnny's spurs was broken, but I'm sure I'll eventually come across a nice vintage replacement somewhere.


Shiny silver spurs with cream colored straps

QD Johnny sets even featured ALL NEW sparkling silver hard poly plastic accessories, too!  Previously, only Sheriff Garrett and some of the Canadian Marx figures had flashy stuff like that, by gum!  But here I am, going on and on about Johnny's clothing items when the real attraction is obviously the fact that our old cowboy friend had finally graduated to the status of a bonafide Old West gunslinger!  Well, by 1975, he had anyway.  Or should that be 1875?


Johnny's pretty hand with his shiny silver 1873 Colt Peacemaker Caliber .45

The Quick Draw feature was of course activated by pressing down the lever located in the right side of his back.  Therefore, from a production standpoint, for this all new type of Johnny, several parts had to be retooled.  Although his left arm, legs and head stayed the same, the inside of his right arm had to be modified, and his torso was completely redesigned altogether.


Quick Draw Johnny stands ready for any Wild West shootout

The QD feature still works quite well on this figure

QD Johnny torsos are quite similar in terms of sculpted detail, but the thing that struck me, even as a kid playing with the figure, was how Johnny had seemed to have gained some weight since he first appeared in 1965 (1865?).  In other words, the torso of a QD Johnny is a great deal more full in the waist when viewed in profile than any non QD Johnny West.

When I was younger, I remember fishing my older brother's old caramel Johnny out of the toy box and comparing the torsos of the two, and thinking how much better the QD chest and waist looked.  So much more realistic, I thought.  And really, if you look at a regular Johnny torso without his vest and other clothing accessories, he sure does look like one skinny old cow poke!


Does Quick Draw Johnny have "middle aged spread?"

Or is the original caramel Johnny one skinny cowpoke?

For obvious reasons, the somewhat delicate quick draw feature on some vintage QD Johnny West figures you'll find is broken or simply just doesn't work quite as well as it once did.  In many cases, the arm will still raise when the button is pushed, but you won't necessarily hear the sound of a "gun shot" quite the way you might have, had you been lucky enough to own one of these remarkable vintage toys when they were brand new back in the mid 70s.


Watch out folks, Quick Draw Johnny's mighty fast!

Another problem with the torso, from what I've seen, is that since it's not made of the same, relatively durable poly plastic as the arms and legs of the figure, it tends to chip and crack in some areas - usually where the hollow shell is thinnest, in the crotch area where it connects to the poly plastic thigh/upper legs.

In the image below, you can get a good idea of how much the poly plastic thighs tend to get chewed up where they connect with the brittle styrene plastic torso.  Well, not if the styrene doesn't break.  If it does, it tends to become quite sharp and bites into the leg pieces when moved.  There is also almost always a very visible yellowish strip at the seams of the torso, from where the styrene halves were bonded together.


A wide glue line & chewed up thighs are more evident on the figure at right

Worse yet, is that fact that the hard, brittle styrene plastic that the torso is made of may actually chemically react with any vinyl accessories that come in contact with it.  Particularly the vinyl vest.  If you do find "melt marks" (the melted look left by the chemical reaction between the two different types of plastic), it will most likely be in the raised details of QD Johnny's shirt, where the vest has rested against it.  Not a huge loss, especially if the Quick Draw feature still works, but not something a vintage toy collector really likes to find on their precious, decades old action figure.


There are more melt marks on the figure at left, but more pelvis cracks on the one on the right

As always, to safeguard against damage such as melt marks, never leave the soft, flexible (vinyl) Marx figure accessories on a Quick Draw Johnny for any appreciable length of time, and make sure to store these items in their own separate poly bag.  Believe it or not, I've even seen melt marks appear after only a week or two of display, so do be mindful of the fact that it really doesn't take long for the chemical reaction to occur.


Melt marks & pelvis cracks are fairly evident on the figure at left

Unfortunately, the torso of QD Johnny West figures seem to have been made of pretty much the same cheap, brittle plastic as all the Marx sixth scale horses.  Don't ask me why, but sometimes these notorious melt marks are much worse than others.  Because for whatever reason, some Marx horses I've seen, don't seem to have been nearly as affected by the melt mark phenomenon as others.  Go figure!


Melt marks or not, these 2 QD Johnnys are still pretty darned quick on the draw

Last, but not least, is the modification in Johnny's right hand that was made for the Quick Draw sets.  To make sure his shiny new silver revolver doesn't fly out when the arm swings up suddenly, Marx built a little peg into the handle of the poly plastic gun, and a hole where this peg is inserted into the hand.


Don't mess with Quick Draw Johnny!

Note the nub extention at the end of the revolver handle that plugs into QD Johnny's gripping hand

The 3 distinct types of Marx figure hands are the more rare "open," QD, & common gripping styles

If you ever come across a genuine silver Marx Johnny West revolver without the Quick Draw peg in the handle, it most likely does not belong to a regular issue caramel Johnny of course, but actually belongs to Sheriff Garrett, or even a Canadian made Johnny.  The very last possibility is that the gun was issued with a caramel colored Johnny that was released for a relatively short time before the QD version hit the market.  Most of these figures appear to have be released with dark brown hard poly accessories, however.

This now rare caramel Johnny released with the Johnny West Adventure Series came with pretty much the same wide variety of colored accessories as QD Johnny, but since the body was still the old style caramel, his hat and vest were a shade of light denim blue.  This figure was in fact, the first Johnny to sport that classic red neckerchief and utilize the new silver hard poly plastic accessories.  Even the box art was almost identical to that used for the QD Johnny sets - with the colors changed to match the respective products, of course.

QD Johnny figures came with two silver poly plastic stars.  These stars are even identified on the QD Johnny box as "spurs," but they're really just the two stars that originally came with the Sheriff Garrett figures.  Since the silver accessory sets for both Johnny and the Garrett figures were pretty much exactly the same, QD Johnny sets were also packed with these two, mostly useless, extra accessories.  After all, the two tiny, very easily lost stars do NOT attach to Marx spurs, and were actually only ever meant to plug into the itty bitty hole in Sheriff Garrett's black vinyl vest.  And, as they say, "that's pretty much all she wrote."


This QD set is missing the 2 easily lost sherriff stars, the derringer pistol & 1 holster strap

All in all, as a large scale action figure with 11 points of articulation, Johnny West was an unquestionable hit for Marx for most of his decade long run.  Oddly enough however, the original head sculpt used for Johnny actually began plastic life as a post WWII era soldier named Stony Smith (Marx stock #2050).

Stony really was Marx Toys' answer to G.I. Joe, but Stony Smith in his various incarnations (Battling Soldier, Commando and Paratrooper) simply never sold as well as G.I. Joe, the world's first action figure.  It might be argued that Marx won out in the end however, by using their pioneering, articulated all plastic figure design to introduce a whole generation of kids to the world's first "action/movable cowboy."

To be truly complete, a Quick Draw Johnny West action figure should have at least 24 accessories, in addition to the denim blue body with gripping hands and head sculpt.  26 accessories would probably be a more accurate count, but those 2 tiny poly plastic silver stars aren't all that easy to come by nowadays.  Below is a list of the items as they appear in the 1975 Quick Draw Johnny West one sheet "Equipment Manual."


The toy frontier just wouldn't be quite the same without QD Johnny West, the movable cowboy

1Model 1873 Winchester .44-40
    
- QD Johnny's shiny silver rifle
2 - Range Hat - Originally listed as a
     "sombero" in the 1965 Johnny West
     Equipment Manual

3 - Neckerchief
4
 - 1873 Colt Peacemaker Caliber .45
    
- QD Johnny's shiny silver revolver
5 - Cartridge Belt with "Quick Draw"
     Holster
- The holster should include two
     vinyl straps

6 - .41 Caliber Remington Double
     Derringer
- QD Johnny's mini pistol
7 - Chaps - By far, the easiest item for kids
     (or adults) to damage

8 - Coffee pot
9 - Coffee cup
10 - Frying pan
11 & 12 - Strongbox - 2 parts
13, 14 & 15 -
Sacks of gold - 3 vinyl sacks
16 - Vest
1718 - Branding Irons - LM Brand
19 - Canteen
20
 - Bowie Knife
2122 - Spurs - 2 poly plastic spurs
23 & 24 Spur Straps - 2 soft vinyl spur
     straps
25 & 26 - "Spurs" - 2 poly plastic sheriff
     stars, erroneously identified as spurs

If you find the numbering of Quick Draw Johnny West's accessories confusing, you're not alone, partner.  Although the outside of Johnny's box pictures the 2 silver Sherrif Garrett stars and includes the caption "spurs," these items are NOT included in the actual equipment manual (P-2256).

I suppose, if you want to count them as part of the 24, you actually have to combine the real spurs and spur straps into just 2 items, but that pretty much goes against all previous caramel colored Johnny West issues that counted the 24 parts as given above.  Many collectors therefore list the number of QD Johnny accessories as 26 (even though Marx usually only claimed the standard 24).

On a final note, even though my own personal Action Figure Universe index of Johnny West action figures features title cards with the Marx Best of the West trademark backdrop, this marketing campaign was not the only one used by Louis Marx & Company to promote their western toy lines.  Similar lines that featured essentially the same or quite similar casts of western characters were marketed under other titles, such as Fort Apache Fighters.  Quick Draw Johnny West figures were in fact, released under the JWA (Johnny West Adventure) title.


Look out, bad guys! They don't call him Quick Draw Johnny West for nothing!

CLICK HERE!

   

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