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By Thomas Wheeler

Many people think of Lanard's line of 3-3/4" CORPS figures as revolving predominantly around a series of G.I.Joe-like military figures, with a few spin-offs such as the space-based S.T.A.R. FORCE, and their Police, Firefighter, and Construction sets, all of which have been produced in the past five years or so.

But during the dark times of the late 90's, when there was no Real American Hero being turned out by Hasbro, Lanard produced a number of interesting and unusual variants to their basic CORPS line to try to fill the void.

Easily the most bizarre of these, from an appearance standpoint, was known as BIO-WING BATTLE SQUADRON.

Bio-Wing Battle Squadron consisted of an assortment of six figures. All were entirely new sculpts, and somewhat different from what had come to be expected from Lanard. Although as with most of their CORPS products, the figures followed the same basic construction pattern of 3-3/4" G.I.Joes, the physical proportions of these figures were more unusual. They were noticably slender, both in the torso area and their limbs, and in a few cases, very slightly taller than the 3-3/4" standard.

According to the storyline, the Bio-Wing Battle Squadron was a team of environmental protectors based in the future. However eco-friendly they may have been, their uniforms certainly were environmental nightmares. Lanard picked up the practice of what I've always tended to call "marbleized" plastic -- that is, two (or more) different colors of plastic run through the same mold to create a mottled, multi-colored effect. This was used most notably in G.I.Joe on the Mega-Marines -- and the 1993 Cross-Country's blue jeans.

Lanard chose some color schemes that made some members of the Mega-Marines look positively tame by comparison, and then added often contrasting paint colors that were just as outlandish. Whatever enviromental protection missions these guys went on, it's safe to assume it didn't include covert operations.

Each figure came with a large plastic glider, that was basically a non-articulated piece of plastic. These were, however, nicely detailed, as were the figures themselves, I should mention. There was nothing at all wrong with the sculpting and design elements of either the figures or their gliders. The gliders tended to have a semi-animal appearance to them, about to the same level of some of the more robotic animals one might encounter in certain Transformers lines.

Whether there were good guys and bad guys in this line was never made especially clear, although the characters' names, in some instances, such as "Vlad Vandal" and "Kash Kobra" did tend to make one wonder about their specific allegiances.

The BIO-WING BATTLE SQUADRON tended to be more readily available in Europe than in the United States, and ran long enough in Europe to actually have several of the characters recolored. Whether any of these recolorings were an improvement remains open to debate. However, it wasn't impossible to find the figures in the States, although they were far less common than most CORPS products at the time.

The last time I saw any of the molds used, they'd been turned out in far more sedate colors of white and grey, and merged into Lanard's S.T.A.R. FORCE line. Given their noticably different slender builds, they weren't an especially good fit, but it was rather cool to see them again.

Alas, most CORPS products don't have a great deal of collectibility as far as most toy collectors are concerned, and so finding past product today, ironically enough, is surprisingly difficult compared to items that ARE considered more collectible. Still, if you're in the market for these colorful characters, a search on eBay under the search phrase "Bio-Wing Battle Squadron" certainly isn't going to turn up much of anything ELSE other than your intended target, if you decide to go looking.

And, despite their rather garish color schemes, they are pretty cool figures, and don't look bad at all as part of an overall 3-3/4" collection that might include the Joes and other representatives of the Corps. From that standpoint, if you can find them, then BIO-WING BATTLE SQUADRON certainly has my recommendation!