NEW YORK – The Invisible Jim action figure that's making a buzz in the U.S. and Britain is taking dolls to a whole new level.
You can't break him. You can't lose him. And when they call him invisible, they really mean it — you can't see him.
That's because, strictly speaking, Invisible Jim doesn't exist.
"It's kind of a goof, the purchasing of a doll that's not there," said Sophia Senderovich, co-owner of Streamline Inc., the company that distributes the doll in the U.S. "It's more … it's really … I can't describe the doll because it doesn't exist."
Recipients of an Invisible Jim get what looks like regular action-figure packaging — molded clear plastic on a brightly decorated cardboard backing. "Sporting Realistic Fake Hair," it reads. "Completely Devoid of Darting Eyes," "A Gripping Hand Would Be Nice," "As Not Seen on TV."
But where another box would hold a grimacing G.I. Joe or preening Barbie, the man-shaped plastic for Invisible Jim contains nothing at all.
After realizing that Invisible Jim isn't quite all there, someone examining the package might notice the description on the bottom: "His Mission: Save the World from Crap Dolls."
Jim was created by an Australian designer who wanted to make kids use their imagination and to spoof the commercialism of the toy industry, said Chris Marler, director of Hurst-Marler, the British company that markets Jim in the U.K. Retailing at $2.50 in the U.S. and £2 in Britain, Invisible Jim is meant to be not a toy so much as a gag for "anyone with a sense of humor," he said.
Although Jim has been in stores for a while, the doll began to catch on in late May when a British reporter noticed one in a store. Before then, Invisible Jim was, well, pretty much invisible.
"Jim's been around for about a year, a year and a half, but of course no one's seen him," Marler said.
Since last month, sales have been brisk and the complaints scarce.
"We get the odd phone call from someone who says, 'We got an Invisible Jim but he must have fallen out. Could you send me another doll?'" Marler said. "But pretty much everyone gets it."
Marler said the Australian creator is busy making Jim's counterpart, Invisible Jane — presumably out of thin air. But that's all he could offer about the mysterious toy maker, who shares at least one notable trait with his invention.
"He keeps a real low profile," Senderovich said.