Cheesy Toy Knockoff NOW and THEN
This week's Cheesy Toy Knockoff is a rare treat, a VINTAGE knockoff from the early 1970s. It comes to us courtesy of Richard Loudermilk, who posted that he had a few extras available in the alt.toys.gi-joe newsgroup (lovingly known as "The Sandbox). This was a knockoff of the Adventure Team Land Adventurer, complete with flocked hair and beard.
Vintage Knockoffs are hard enough to come by still in their packages. So, seeing that vintage knockoffs, of my favorite era of GI Joe were available (and at a great deal with quick service-thanks Richard!), made this a no-brainer. When they arrived, I got a big surprise, but we'll get into that later. I knew going in that they would be cool.
One reason I was so excited about sending away for these knockoffs is that, years ago, I wound up with a very cool, but unmarked, 12" GI Joe knockoff in a deal where I bought a huge lot of cheap stuff. I've been trying to ID this guy ever since, even going so far as to run a contest in TOY TRADER Magazine, but thus far, I haven't been able to figure out who made him, and when. My mystery knockoff looks like an Adventure Team era imitation, but has a bizarre construction, the likes of which I've never seen. I was hoping that, even though Richard's knockoff had a different head than the mystery knockoff, he might have the same body. That Richard's knockoffs were still packaged made it even more exciting. If they matched, I could have a manufacturer's name.
Alas, it was not to be. While "Johnny Strong" is way cool and surprising in his own way, he is NOT made like my mystery guy. There are similarities, but not enough of them. The basic construction is different. So the mystery guy will have to wait until later for his time in the spotlight. Perhaps someday I can find out why he looks so much like the boxer, Roberto Duran, of "No mas" fame.
But Johnny Strong did make my day when he arrived (well, when three of him arrived-I do likes my knockoffs). There he was in all his cheesy flocked knockoff goodness. The very picture of an imitation GI Joe Land Adventurer, complete with the Duck Camo jumpsuit.
Packaged on a blister card, Johnny Strong is shown in various action scenes, which suggest that accessory sets may have been offered at one point, or maybe not. Anyway, he was definitely trying to pass for a Land Adventurer. Of the three, one of them even has knockoff KFG hands! Included with him in his little blister is a cheesy plastic web belt, helmet, and a flesh-colored rifle. And he has a decent pair of uni-boots. He's posed as if he is scratching his ear, with one leg raised, which I think is some sort of Freemason signal.
And the figure has 20 points of articulation! The neck and waist only swivel, but for having such cheap plastic, with some blow-molded parts, Johnny Strong is pretty posable. Perched atop this funky-looking body is one ugly imitation Land Adventurer head, with a really nice, thick flock job. This guy was cool enough to hang out with my Adventure Team guys! I wasn't really expecting that.
The real shock, however, was on the package itself. You see, Johnny Strong actually had a manufacturer listed. He was made by Fairland Toy.
FAIRLAND TOY? They're still around. I reached over to my teetering mountain of Cheesy Knockoffs and pulled out the convolutingly-named "Special Mission Combat Patrol Storm Troop", a Cheesy Knockoff from Christmastime 2002 that I haven't gotten around to covering yet (it is a HUGE mountain of Cheesy Knockoffs). Sure enough, it's made by Fairland Toy. The logo has changed, but the typeface is still the same, even.
And I'm pretty sure that Fairland was responsible for some recent vehicle sets with 12" figures that were sold at JC Penney.
So, this is pretty darned cool..a Cheesy Toy Knockoff NOW AND THEN set!
As for Special Mission Combat Patrol Storm Troop, he was a three-dollar figure sold at Dollar General in 2002. He has a body that's very close to the pre-super-articulation Power Team bodies, and a head that is a dead ringer for the GI Joe "WWII" head. He comes with a two-tone camo/solid jumpsuit (like a ton of Cheesy Knockoffs had around that time) and a helmet, firing weapon, boots, and binoculars. All in all, not a bad deal for three bucks.
But the coolest part of this story is that both figures were made by the same company, roughly thirty years apart! Who knew that knockoff companies had such stamina? It was a cool bit of synergy, seeing Richard's "for sale" listing, ordering a knockoff of the Land Adventurer, and winding up with a cool example of Cheesy Knockoff longevity. The fact that the figures are pretty decent is a bonus on top of the cool coincidence.
Next time, we look on as two crappy blow-molded figures fight it out for the honor of being the cheapest GI Joe Knockoff yet. It's a blow-molded blowout!