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
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
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.