REVIEW: THE COLORFUL CORPS!
As I related in a previous Flashback Review, Lanard Toys introduced several new figures to their G.I.Joe-style CORPS line in 1998, that took their previous standard of relatively mediocre design to a far higher level, nearly on a par with G.I.Joe itself.
G.I.Joe would take a nearly two-year absence from the toy store shelves, from late 1998 to into early 2000. During that time, the only G.I.Joe merchandise on any toy shelves for 3-3/4" fans would be whatever leftovers of the 1997-98 line were still lingering on the shelves at Toys "R" Us. That left a lot of collectors starved for new toys.
When Lanard brought several new faces into THE CORPS, which was (and is) primarily available at Wal-Mart, they definitely attracted attention. Their names were JUSTIN CASE, FULL PROOF, and LARS LAZER. The original versions were molded with dark grey uniforms, with significant black detail, and silver, green, and red trim. They were initially sold on individual cards for less than a dollar each, and then later appeared in a three-pack, with accessories and a small motorcycle, for $3.99. Later, these three newcomers would be packed on their own or with various Corps veterans in a variety of sets, including vehicles, accessory packs, and huge sets with up to ten figures, and a couple of large vehicles and playset items.
But their basic uniform colors remained unchanged -- or so it seemed.
Far scarcer than the Wal-Mart offerings were CORPS items that turned up at borderline warehouse/clearance stores, which were nowhere near as prevalent as Wal-Mart. One of these, a California-based chain called PlayCo, got in a very interesting derivation of these three characters.
Packed on cards marked LAZER FORCE, a name which had been used several years earlier for a remarkable set of CORPS figures that had chrome-plated (or vac-metallized) parts, the three "new guys" traded in their dark grey uniforms for olive green uniforms with tan trim. They came with an abundance of equipment, that included light-and-sound electronics. These guys never, to my knowledge, turned up at Wal-Mart or much of anywhere else outside of this PlayCo store, at least not in the United States. Lanard is an international company based in Hong Kong, and they market their product worldwide, including the United States, Europe, and who knows where else. And Lord only knows who gets what.
Scarcer still, though, were the revisions of Justin Case, Full Proof, and Lars Lazer that came about when they took their Lazer Force name and joined up with S.T.A.R. FORCE, the space-faring arm of the CORPS. Although structurally the same as the green-uniformed Lazer Force set (and it should be noted that the grey-uniformed versions were also available as Lazer Force figures), there were no less than three color schemes for each figure available within the S.T.A.R FORCE versions.
You could purchase any of the three outfitted in silver with white trim, copper with white trim, or metallic green with white trim. The silver visors had been repainted dark blue. The effect was most impressive. I've always thought the copper figures looked the coolest of the three versions. The silver ones are probably the most authentically sci-fi looking. The metallic green ones were next to impossible to find, and if it hadn't been for the online store SmallJoes.Com picking up a substantial supply of Lanard products during a warehouse clearance, I doubt I'd have them even now.
This was not quite, however, the final appearance of these three characters. They next turned up in a Target exclusive KOOL TOYZ set, which included new color schemes for all three of the characters, plus a vehicle. Gone at this point was the common color scheme between them. They no longer had uniform numbers printed on them, and the CORPS logo had changed somewhat. Full Proof went back to a uniform that was arguably the closest to his original appearance. Justin Case had a green uiform, but with black trim. Lars Lazer had a dark grey uniform, but with a yellow visor on his helmet, and a lot more silver detail on his uniform than the original version. Personally, I think his was the best reworking.
Justin Case, arguably the most normal-looking of the trio, would turn up a couple more times. One would be in a Corps "Adventure Set" that was another scarce PlayCo item. This set actually came with TWO Justin Case figures, both in green uniforms, but one was colored as an African-American!
The final appearance of any of these three would be one more Justin Case that came with a desert jeep. Here, Justin was given a tan uniform, a first for any of them, with black deail, green camouflage, and brown spray applications on the boots that I suppose were supposed to make him look like he'd been in a desert battle, but made him look more like he'd been walking through knee-deep mud.
It's a shame that these three didn't get a few more colorations. All three were truly excellent designs, easily on a par with the average 3-3/4" G.I.Joe figure, and certainly the construction is identical. I would not have minded at all seeing Full Proof and Lars Lazer in desert tan. That all-covering protective suit Lars wears would've been excellent for a desert environment, provided that it had a built-in cooling system of some sort.
And it was right around this same time when Lanard produced a number of "Emergency Rescue" sets, featuring policemen, firefighters, and paramedics. Vehicles included police cars, fire engines, and ambulances. I can easily see any of these guys being redone in red, yellow, or blue, to have fit that motif. Heck, there was even a hard-to-find Hazardous Waste Cleanup set or some such, that had a neon yellow-green personnel carrier with three fairly nondescript figures outfitted in equally neon yellow-green uniforms. Picture Lars Lazer colored for that set!
Alas, it was not meant to be. Lanard scaled their collection back to strictly military-type CORPS figures in 2002, redesigning the basic figures to be more in keeping with the new-style G.I.Joe figures, and dropping their Emergency Rescue and S.T.A.R. Force lines. There is a figure named Justin Case in the new CORPS, but he doesn't look anything like his predecessor, and frankly, I want no part of them, anymore than I do the new-style G.I.Joes.
But, overall, for three latecomers to the CORPS line, JUSTIN CASE, FULL PROOF, and LARS LAZER got around a heck of a lot, and put in many good appearances. And I'm glad to have them as part of my collection, standing right alongside their G.I.Joe "cousins".
YO -- CORPS!?