Ever since an intrepid dealer offered these on eBay as "Unknown Japanese Major Matt Mason Figures" there has been a lot of controversy about the Leadworks "Astronaut" figure. Initially offered in the US in the Fall of 2000 (the first of them was seen in late October, early November) as two variations of the same carded figure, they appear to now be offered as boxed figures with four variations (two of them are african-american).
The figures appear to have been molded from an actual large-head Major Matt Mason figure, with a little retooling on the hands and bottoms of the boots. The paint is actually pretty close to the originals, with the additions of some small details (such as the cuffs being painted) and a US flag decal (the stars are actually rotated 90 degrees for a strange looking flag!). The helmet is extemely close to the original, with a little more "point" to the visor where it clips to the helmet. The Mattel copyright information has been replaced with ©L W and Hong Kong is missing from the calf. There are also "breather" holes in pairs along the back of the figure and the back of the limbs, probably from the injection process. The original two "Astronauts" came in an Orange suit version with light brown hair and silver cuffs, and a Silver suit version with dark brown hair and white cuffs. My guess is that they were emulating the suit colors for the Mercury and Shuttle astronauts.
The cards in themselves are pretty interesting, stating "Launching to Earth, Moon, Mars and Beyond"..."Everyone thinks you're a space cadet?...Now you can be one!" and "Boldly go where no action figure has gone before!" The back of the card is the most interesting with "Exciting adventures in deep space of uranus."
Here's a detailed image of the carded figure:
Recently Bob Aucutt reports that the carded Leadworks figures will no longer be produced. Instead they are bagged, and presented in a decorated box. Also, Leadworks has issued two new black astronauts, one in a yellow, and one in blue space suits (Jeff Long?). These two African-American figures are re-paints of the originals, with similar detailing. They are different in that they have clear instead of the yellow tinted visors. The set is packaged differently from those previously, as it is only sold in case form where you get three of each of the four colors. Here is the new package design...
More Pics (click to enlarge)