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By Thomas Wheeler

The year was 1995. After twelve successful years on the toy shelves, G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero had been sent on indefinite leave by Hasbro. What was a collector to do?

Arguably G.I.Joe's most notable counterpart over the years had been a line of 3-3/4" action figures called THE CORPS, produced by a company called Lanard. Although they matched the construction design of G.I.Joe, the figures were not entirely well-regarded by collectors. They weren't as well-detailed, and their rather wide bodies looked a little strange next to the Joes. Although this would be corrected somewhat with a handful of new figures in 1998, at this moment in time, the truly superb "Justin Case", "Lars Lazer", "Full Proof", and "Tracker Tom" hadn't yet come along.

The CORPS had its advantages. There were some very cool vehicles in the line, that could easily work with G.I.Joe, and the prices for these toys were abundantly reasonable. You could buy a boxed set of figures with a vehicle and a load of accessories for about ten bucks in many places. Even some grocery store chains and pharmacies carried The CORPS.

But in 1995, Lanard released a set of six individually-carded figures that was a little beyond their usual product line, and attracted at least MY attention, and possibly that of other collectors, as well, who were rather starved for anything that bore a suitable resemblance to a certain AWOL American Hero and that was decently cool.

The line was called LAZER FORCE, and featured a set of six rather futuristic-looking characters that had been CHROME-PLATED (or perhaps the more environmentally-friendly "vacuum-metallized"), most of them in color, as well! Each figure came with a set of surprisingly bright light-up accessories.

Even the packaging was unusual for Lanard. Instead of the usual generic card with the black-and-grey card back, LAZER FORCE featured INDIVIDUAL artwork, with a FULL COLOR back and even a character profile! This was unheard of for Lanard's CORPS! And the artwork was virtually on a par with G.I.Joe, even if in two instances it revealed that the figures weren't quite as colorful as they were intended to be.

The six figures featured rather high-tech, futuristic names -- CIRCUIT BREAKER, INCINERATOR, HOT-WIRE, MEGA WATT, POWER SURGE, and RESISTOR. I'm a little surprised "Incinerator" didn't get them into trouble with a certain Cobra trooper from 1991, but if it did, I never heard about it.

Three of the figures were done in color chrome - gold, orange-red, and green. The other three appeared to be slight variants of silver, and here's where the card art gave away the only real problem to initially crop up in the figures. Clearly, two of these figures -- Resistor and Mega Watt -- were intended to be chrome BLUE and chrome PURPLE. But something went wrong somewhere. One of them looked very faintly pink, and the other one looked just a slightly darker silver. Lanard was able to do the gold, red-orange, and green figures very effectively, so I honestly have no idea what went wrong here.

The only other problem that has cropped up over the years with these figures is that, perhaps because of the plastic that had to be used to make them able to accept the metallic plating, they're a bit more brittle than average. Especially in one crucial articulation point where even G.I.Joe has had some problems.

As certain types of plastic age, they dry out, and both become more brittle and shrink. Now, if you're a swivel-arm elbow joint, you're not a very big piece of plastic, and you've got a metal rivet emplaced through you, that is NOT going to shrink. This has resulted, among even good quality G.I.Joe figures, in cracked swivel arm joints, right around the rivets. Generally these cracks are fairly minor, and are not a great risk to the structure of the figure, although they're certainly an unfortunate annoyance that can't readily be fixed (although if someone knows of a method, for crying out loud, e-mail me with it!)

LAZER FORCE was even more susceptible to this around the same joint. And it tended to be even worse. See the picture of these figures? See the orange guy? Want to know why I stood him where he did? His lower left arm fell off a few years ago. Unlike G.I.Joe, whose swivel elbow might crack on one side of the rivet, when Lazer Force cracks, it tends to do so on BOTH sides.

And yet, not ALL of the figures are afflicted with this. There's no doubt numerous factors -- how much water was used in the plastic the day it was made for this figure, how tightly the rivet was placed in during assembly, environmental conditions, etc. I'm no expert in such things.

And I did, at the time, buy enough Lazer Force sets (most of which I've since sold), to know that for the most part, the MAJORITY of Lazer Force figures produced in 1995 should still be just fine today. But I did feel I should mention this problem, since the incident rate was higher for these particular figures than it is for G.I.Joe or even standard Corps figures.

That aside, this set of six color-chrome figures were a VERY cool treat in 1995 for those of us that were still lamenting the loss of the Real American Hero, and it features an effect that, except for a few Destro heads and a mail-order character named Super Trooper, Hasbro had never done before.

LAZER FORCE, even just on its own, was an extremely cool set of figures. I really don't know to what degree they might be found today. Lanard used the Lazer Force name several more times for other figures, and none of Lanard's CORPS has ever been considered especially collectible. The odds of finding a collectibles' outlet that actually would have these is probably rather minimal.

However, if you do ever happen to find them -- check their swivel elbow joints, and then, if that's okay -- I most highly recommend them! LAZER FORCE remains one of Lanard's coolest CORPS products!