Cheesy Knockoff

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Cheesy Knockoff # 12, redux by Rudy Panucci

The Power of the Force!

We continue our Cheesy review of the great Big Lots Knockoff Bonanza of the summer of 2001 with a totally new entrant on the 12" "I sure wish I was GI Joe" scene, POWER FORCE, a no-name special straight outta Hong Kong, who showed up with his own, even cheesier knockoff not far behind (check next week's installment).

Power Force originally showed up as a set of five carded figures with a retail price of $4.99 at Big Lots around the time that many of the previous entries in our Cheesy Knockoff GI Joe knockoff parade. These stood out because they weren't actionable rip-offs of existing molds from other companies, rather, they are notable in the sheer originality of their knockoffishness.

These guys all had the same headsculpt, and have a body design that features 14 points of articulation, but really cheesy materials and assembly. They also seem to have places within their chest cavities for a talking mechanism, but so far I haven't found any talkers. They're badly made, overly muscular, and not much use unless you have some oversized GI Joe outfits and you need uniform dummies.

Having said that, they're great cheap-o toys for kids, but not as much of a good deal as they were before the $5.99 GI Joes came out. Collectors, except for us connoisseurs of fine crap, will want to give them a miss.

The first five guys to show up each had a code name, and also a Christian name-a point which betrays a questionable grasp of English on the part of the designers, but one which makes for good fun. The five figures are:

Sniper I-Ray, Who comes armed with a blue SWAT-style outfit, and is equipped with rifles, and a backpack thingy of indeterminate use.

Sniper II-Poon (Yeah, that's a normal American name), Who has much the same outfit as Ray, but this fella has traded in one rifle for a Police shield.

Sniper III-Siman (sic), outfitted in green SWAT wear, but this sniper has a gigantic gattling-gun type weapon. I guess they're hiring Snipers more on the basis of quantity of shots fired than precision these days. This guy made a pretty interesting appearance in an Ames flyer last fall, pretending to be a GI Joe, much to the consternation of completists, and folks at Hasbro who hate to see crappy stuff like this mistaken for their quality products.

All these guys have a decent amount of pouches and radios and stuff that Velcroes to their flak vests. Not a bad value for less than five bucks.

After these three pseudo-military guys, we're treated to two adventurish guys. Both of the following guys have outfits that are available in a variety of color combinations, primarily green, orange, and black.

City Rollers-James, comes in a futuristic jumpsuit with a helmet, roller blades, a crossbow, and a rifle. Let's hope he's one of the the good guys.

Sea Hunter-Bruce, This fella comes with a decent short-legged SCUBA outfit, with a plastic chest piece and breathing tank, flippers, and a harpoon gun and knife. Not a bad little set, if you're not looking for exact realism. In fact, at this price, it's a pretty good pool toy.

Cheap, crappy, wannabe GI Joes, but charming in their own cheap, crappy way.

So I thought that was a nice little series of knockoffs, but I didn't think I'd see any more stuff from this no-name company. I was wrong.

Just before Christmas, figures using the same body molds and many of the accessory molds turned up in a ten-dollar package at K Mart, as part of their "blue box" Just Kidz line. These offered a ton of accessories-enough to perhaps become legend among kids of today-one figure, and an extra outfit. Notable among these guys, despite them still not having a company name anywhere to be seen, were the first appearance of a few new headsculpts and even an African American guy. Though all these sets were labeled "Military Playset", they really only had one military set. The other two that I've see were SWAT and Sea Explorer sets. The Sea Explorer set is worth seeking out for one accessory that is a cross between a surfboard and the old GI Joe Sea Sled. Some of these can still be found, and they're well worth checking out, just for the cheap accessories and weapons. They're good starter kits for the younger collector.

There's one more notable thing about these guys. The K Mart sets have several outfit stickers that bear the name, "Lt. Extreme". Why is this important? Check out next week's installment, "Hey, it's only a freakin' buck!".