Cheesy Knockoff

email rudy

Well, here at Knockoff Central, we're still taking a look at the folks who tried to follow in the footsteps of Hasbro, with another of our GI Joe knockoffs. This one is particularly cheesy, although there are those among us who seek them out for kitbashing, customizing and cheap additions to the motor pool.

I'm talking about Strike Force action figures from a British company named "SunnySmile". What a lovely name for a war toy company. "Pardon me mum. Would you like a SunnySmile Tank to go with your SunnySmile Assassins and Snipers?"

These guys made inroads into this country a few years ago, with their tank, LSV, and cheap-o figures turning up at Target. More recently, they've had some figure sets show up at Toys R Us. We've only gotten a small selection from the vast line that they have available in the UK. They wanted to send more over, but we have laws about accepting garbage from foreign countries.

I was just kidding there, I don't know if we really have any laws like that, but to be fair, SunnySmile does have a diverse and successful line of Action Man knockoffs going in the UK. The problem is that they aren't exactly aiming high, in terms of quality, accuracy or articulation. But they are cheap.

What's most frustrating about this company's offerings is that they'll package a completely cheesy figure with one or two surprisingly decent kitbash items, like a trenchcoat or briefcase or nifty barking dog. So you end up with a crappy figure, with hardly any articulation---we're talking click joints here, folks--and maybe, a flocked head, which you feel obligated to use on an Adventure Team kitbash figure, even though it looks darned goofy.

The other specialty of this line of action figures is their vehicles, which were widely sought-after over here until far superior versions became readily available. Now they're hiding in closets, or hopefully, have found their way into the hands of children. They did a tank. It was nice, considering that nobody else did one. At least until a couple of years later, when much more impressive tanks rolled onto the market. I don't know anyone who's displaying their SunnySmile tank next to the Stuart. That would just be cruel to both of them. Same thing with their other big vehicle here in the states--the LSV dune buggy. Man, that was neat when it first came out! Then Hasbro released their version, and suddenly the SunnySmile LSV looked like it belonged to Ken or something. It's one thing to put vehicles on the market when nobody else is doing it. But that won't sustain you if your vehicles bear very little resemblance to actual real-life items. Their tank is about the size that a 1/6 Buick Regal would be.

I was searching my mind for an analogy that would explain the place that SunnySmile holds in this hobby, when it suddenly hit me. SunnySmile is the Charlton Comics of GI Joe knockoffs. They fill a minor void at times. They aren't anybody's favorite (or second or third favorite, for that matter). And they occasionally put something on the market that seems genuinely exciting, until somebody else comes along and does it better.

Basically, SunnySmile is the company that just doesn't get any respect. Don't feel bad for them, they don't really deserve any. They make a cheap knockoff product that might just be great for kids (if you don't mind them breaking). But the adult collector isn't going to be too satisfied with their stuff. In the end, that might just be the way to go.