Cheesy Knockoff

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This week we're kicking off a mini-series within a series. We'll be looking at some of the cheesiest knockoffs of one of the world's most beloved toys--GI JOE--a topic near and dear to the heart of many readers of Master Collector. Over the years there have been many knockoffs, rip-offs, and imitations of GI JOE, and you have to see that as a tribute to the lasting success of America's Movable Fighting Man. Some of these knockoffs have been well-done, and are very well-respected by collectors. Of course, we won't be looking at those. Over the next few weeks, we'll be examining some of the goofiest, cheesiest, dumbest GI JOE knockoffs ever made. They'll be presented in no order whatsoever, and are mainly here to amuse you. So let's kick off this gallery of Joe-wannabes with a fella that can't really make up his mind what he wants to be a knockoff of.

COMBAT SQUAD was originally found at Family Dollar and Big Lots Stores back in 1998. At first glance, it appears to be a knockoff of Small Soldiers. Two of the three faces are hideous contorted attempts at mimicking the look of the toys based on that Dreamworks film. However, the logo is a straight rip-off of Galoob's Battle Squad, with the same lettering style, colors, and explosive bursts on the packaging. Not content to knock off only two toys, COMBAT SQUAD also qualifies as a GI JOE knockoff on two different counts--first of all it's a 12" military figure (and all 12" military figures owe a debt to Joe), but more strikingly, the third head of the three that were offered is exactly the same as the first carded Classic Collection Joes. I don't think it's a copy--it looks like they did some dumpster-diving outside the factory and simply swiped the mold. You can see where a half-hearted attempt was made to remove the trademark scar from his cheek. A small amount of retooling allowed them to change the neck post to fit the body.
Why, you may ask, do I think that the manufacturers of this hunk o' toy cheese were not above dumpster-diving? Well, the body is pretty much a dead give away. I saved the best for last....this figure has the same body as the first-edition Soldiers of the World, from Formative International. By the time these guys showed up, the arms had already been changed (and since that time, the entire SOTW body has been upgraded to a state-of-the-art gem) but the COMBAT SQUAD guys have the oldest-style SOTW body, only they're made of a shiny, rigid plastic. There's no way that they bought the old molds--they swiped them from the trash heap! That gives you an idea of just how classy a knockoff company we're dealing with here.

There's no manufacturer listed, but there is a Hong Kong address printed on the box. I read it off to an industry contact, and without going into detail, they suggested that this was a known ruthless knockoff company with ties to less-than-wholesome business practitioners. Health concerns prevented me from pursuing that line of questioning any further.

Four toys with one knockoff--that's gotta be some kind of record. But aside from figuring out what it's a knockoff of, there's the question of how good is it. It isn't good. In fact, it's particularly crappy! That's how good it is. The figure doesn't come with a weapon,. Two of the heads are ridiculously cartoonish. The clothes and boots are very cheaply made. The body not only features primitive articulation, but since it's made with the wrong plastic, it doesn't even hold a pose very well. And the hands are rock hard and can't hold anything rigid.

On the plus side, each of the heads came with a choice of four hair colors: Black; Brown, Blonde, and Gray. The carded GI Joe "recruit" head was never officially made with gray hair, but this knockoff looks pretty good with it. The paint ops and facial detail are pretty impressive for a cheesy hunk of crap like this. And some folks like the oddball camo that the figures wear.

These usually cost four bucks, but other than for sheer goofiness value, they aren't really worth it. That is, unless you want the gray haired recruit head. Sadly, if these can be found in a store at this late date, the good heads are usually all gone, leaving you with just the goofballs.