In 1964, Hal Belton, an executive at Palitoy got his hands on a US made G.I. Joe figure which he gave to his grandson. When he found it was well received by the boy, he took it Miles Fletcher, the head of Palitoy (owned by General Mills). Samples were collected from Hasbro and they were doled out to staff of Palitoy to give to their children and the response was fantastic. However, staff were told to not use the word "doll" when marketing the figure as at the time, boys weren't supposed to play with dolls.
However at Toy Fair 1966, Action Man was unveiled to the public and was well received. He went into direct competition with another toy from Pedigree called Tommy Gun. Due to higher production costs and a better body sculpt, Tommy started gaining ground in sales, however, by 1968, Pedigree had dropped the Tommy Gunn line all together.
Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, Action Man kept a very military flair and emulated not only British soldiers from the modern era and WW2, but also international and the British Commonwealth as well, with Mounties being represented with a horse and bull mastiff included in the set. However, by the mid 70s attitudes towards things had changed and Action Man took different routes.
Much like Adventure Team in the G.I. Joe toys, Action Man took on a more athletic persona during the mid late 70s, Action Man gained not only a series if football (soccer) outfits, but also karate during this time, to cash on the Martial Arts craze started by Bruce Lee. To cash in Star Wars, Action Man ventured into space and battled alien robots.
However, it wasn't all sunshine and smiles, in a twist of irony, Action Man was killed off at the end of the 70s by Star Wars, made by the same company. Action Man didn't survive past the 1980s and wouldn't make a return until the 1990s.