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By Thomas Wheeler

Not every 3-3/4" action figure Lanard turned out was intended as a less- expensive version of Hasbro's popular Real American Hero, G.I. Joe.

For example, lets take a look back at the ATOMIC RANGER WARRIORS. Maybe Lanard wanted to distance themselves just a little more from the actual name "Power Rangers" and still get some advantage from it.

As I suspected, there were six figures in the line, not just four. I think that I passed on the ones that were outfitted in black and white uniforms because they looked a little dull compared to the more colorful ones.

The figures, much like the Power Rangers themselves, had real names and code names. In the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, one figure might be known as the Red Ranger, but his real name was Jason. So it was with the Atomic Ranger Warriors, although their code names had nothing to do with their colors, which as you'll see in a few paragraphs, was just as well.

The characters' "real" names were Rex, Carl, Conner, Bruce, Max, and Jack. Nothing especially imaginative in there, but not too bad. One sort of wonders where they got the names. "Conner" isn't that common a name. Lanard company executives? Pages of a phone book stuck to a dartboard? Who knows? Their code-names, respectively, were Blitz, Boss, Brainstorm, Shotput, Trickster, and Megahertz. There's at least two names in there that DC Comics would have a slight problem with, and if somebody actually has to name himself "Boss", how good a commander is he, really? Interestingly, the name "Megahertz" would carry over to the chromed Lazer Force figures.

Apparently there were more than one assortment of these figures, and some of the colors changed along the way, and even switched. A friend sent me a photo of the single-carded versions, and the figure that I have in purple is done in yellow, the one that I have in green is done in white, the one that I have in yellow is done in red, the one that I have in red is done in blue, and there isn't a purple one to be seen. The other two are a darker shade of green, and a black one. I am assuming that these would be the white and black ones missing from my group, but as to which one would've been black is anyone's guess.

The figures in and of themselves are pretty cool. While no one will ever mistake them for G.I. Joes -- or even standard Corps figures -- they have the same high level of articulation that G.I. Joe was known for, by virtue of being constructed along the same pattern. The only variations here are the purple and green figures whose helmets are so bulky at the base that they're actually molded as part of the upper torso. Unusual, certainly, but not that big a deal.

Obviously the quality isn't quite the same as G.I. Joe, since Lanard was always known for producing distinctly less-expensive figures. But the overall quality is actually very good, and frankly as good, in construction and neatness of painting, as some of the more recent stuff I've seen coming out of companies that really should be doing better than they are in this regard.

So, what's the final word on these? Well, it's doubtful that you'd actually find them today, except maybe on eBay, and even then, they'd probably be well-worn specimens, probably tossed in with some allotment of G.I. Joe figures by someone who wasn't entirely sure what they were. So I can't exactly give my usual "recommendation" on these. Think of them instead as a mild but amusing aberration from Lanard, hoping to latch onto a new star in the toy cosmos -- one which continues to this day, it should be noted.

Offbeat? Yeah. A bit of an "unsolved mystery" with regard to color changes and switches? Perhaps. But Lanard's ATOMIC RANGER WARRIORS managed to be pretty cool anyway.