An Action Figure File Card is a brief description of a particular character included on or inside its toy packaging.
The Ur-Example is G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. When Hasbro was preparing to revive the G.I. Joe franchise in the early 1980s, Larry Hama was hired to write a comic book based on the figures. According to this interview with Hama, he created these "dossiers" to keep track of the toy line's Loads and Loads of Characters: "When the guys at Hasbro saw these first dossiers, they said, 'These would be cool on the back of the blister pack!'"
The file cards started simply, featuring basic information on each Joe or Cobra member's Backstory, personality, and abilities, usually accompanied with a quote by or about the character. As the line continued, Hama's writing became increasingly clever and elaborate; he often added humor to the file cards (as this article shows). Hasbro added file cards to many of their other lines, and several competitors (most notably Playmates Toys) followed their example, making this a popular trope for action figure packaging.
Typically, a file card appears on the back of the figure's blister card, although sometimes a trading card-like insert is used instead, especially if the figure comes with a large vehicle. Many of Playmates' Star Trek figures take both options to provide a double dose of data, as does their Mysticons line.
Action figure lines with file cards, organized by toy company:
- Rambo: The Force of Freedom has character descriptions on the card backs, and trading cards with additional info inside the packaging.
- Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars: Larry Hama co-created this series, and he wrote the file cards in his distinctive style.
- C.O.P.S.: Larry Hama wrote these file cards too; Checkpoint's bio is (in)famous for hinting that he's the descendant of G.I. Joe character Beach Head.
- G.I. Joe
- During G1, My Little Pony toys came with descriptions on the back. By G3 in the 2000s these paragraphs were down to vague one sentence descriptions.
- The Pirates of Dark Water
- Transformers: Originally included "Tech Specs," numerical stats in addition to the usual bio, though some recent toylines don't have them anymore.
- Detailed profiles returned in the Combiner Wars line, at least for the Deluxe-class figures that come with a comic book issue. The profile is printed on the back cover, in the form of a status report provided by either Rung for the Autobots, or Soundwave for the Decepticons.
- Wild West COW Boys Of Moo Mesa
- Power Masters
- The Addams Family (toys based on the 1992 Animated Adaptation)
- Darkwing Duck
- Dick Tracy (toys based on the 1990 film)
- Exo Squad
- Flash Gordon (1996): Atypically for the trope, these cards had the heroes and villains describing each other.
- Monster Force
- Skeleton Warriors
- Star Trek
- Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- Wild CATS
- Spiral Zone had these in the form of pamphlets packaged with the figures.
- Cartoon Action Hour, being based on toyetic cartoons, uses this concept for the players' character sheets.