I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to do this sooner. Readers enjoyed our list of Transformers knock-off toys. G.I. Joe is the obvious sequel article. And let me tell you, it was a DELIGHT to find the images and stories behind some of these ripoff and d-list G.I. Joe toylines. Enjoy!
10. Unifighters by Galoob
Unifighters were Galoob’s 1989/1990 answer to Hasbro’s popular G.I. Joe figures as well as their Transformers line. Specifically, how the then-current Transformers could merge together to form bigger robots. 15 military men in 4 squads each had a MASSIVE backpack that transformed into a piece of a larger vehicle. It was just too derivative to capture kids’ imaginations and the entire line was shortly on clearance. The idea of these poor soldiers lugging 1/3 of a vehicle into battle is pretty hilarious.
This wasn’t a bad idea on paper. G.I. Joes were a fast, massive hit and Remco tried to jump on that market fast, releasing these figures in 1982. And the good guys were based on Sgt. Rock, a well-known character, licensed from DC Comics. But the enemies were so generic. They were called, literally, the Bad Guys. And their symbol was a Cobra, just like G.I. Joe’s enemy. I think this lack of creativity kept kids away and it never had a second wave. The fact is, Remco was originally a REMote COntrol cars company from the 50s that just didn’t understand the toy market very well by the 80s and they were soon gone, completely.
8. Bronze Bombers by Olmec
The idea behind these figures is great – Olmec made toys aimed at African-American kids. But the execution was lacking. In 1988, they released 12 figures, all black. Their tagline was dull: “They stand for justice and they never lose!” They also had some questionable codenames like Agent Telepathy, Mapman Jackson and Shaka Johnson. I think black kids probably would’ve liked more diversity in the G.I. Joe line but they still preferred the creativity and story concepts behind G.I. Joe.
7. Power Commandos by Lucky Bell
These figures came out in 1992 as G.I. Joe’s popularity was waning. They tried to sci-fi up the G.I. Joe idea but they really phoned it in. The tagline sounds like the president made it up when he just wanted to get home that night: “Those guys from the other galaxy”. You know. Those… ones. This is probably why no one’s ever heard of the company Lucky Bell.
6. Commando Ranger by Justin Properties, Inc.
A 1987 hard ripoff of G.I. Joe. Looks like they used some of the same figure molds but applied worse paint jobs and possibly cheaper plastic. Also released with the logo Demon Ranger for the bad guys – but still in the red, white and blue font! The tagline makes no real sense: “Everyone’s Hero”. But there are American flags all over the place. Cheap, cheap, cheap.
5. American Defense by Remco
Remco failed with Sgt. Rock but issued one last-ditch effort to keep their company afloat with 1990s American Defense line. The tagline? “American Defense… the very name strikes terror into the hearts of the enemies of Freedom!” If you say so. They had some really depressing codenames like Dr. Care, Ramrod, Inspector Vision, Ramrod, Karate King, and Sheriff Gold Star. It wasn’t doing great so they tried to release some of them as spies, with the unfortunate name S.I.T. You can almost hear the death rattle.
4. General Patch by Galoob
What would be worse than the failed Sgt. Rock line? How about a knockoff Sgt. Rock line? Gen. Patch was Galoob’s 1982 entry into the army figures world. And they bragged that the weapons smelled like battle. What would that be? Gunpowder, blood and vomit? Gross.
3. European Force by some French company
If you can make out the name of the company in the below blister pack, let me know. I can’t figure it out. These figures blatantly use G.I. Joe figure pieces but have such awful names as Eclair and MyGal. Or maybe Mygal. I think the amateur-hour card art kept kids away from these. It’s Destro’s face with a mustache – but the action figure’s head is clearly something else (a repainted Snow Serpent I think).
2. X-Troop by Happy Well International Enterprise Limited
X-Troop is yet another company to steal the G.I. Joe molds but then find a way to make it worse. In this case, they’ve renamed Cobra Commander. He is now Thor-John. Sure, why not?
1. Special Force by Sungold
Here’s what you get when you take the G.I. Joe idea but then simplify the figure until all he has are moving arms. Everything else? Locked in place. I love how the guys on the top look like nearly exact analogs for Beachhead, Leatherneck, Shipwreck and Alpine. Only… not. Wait, maybe they’re not advertising moving arms, maybe this guy’s NAME is Moving Arms. Wow, that’d be sad. These guys came out in 1990 by a company called Sungold that was known for making cheap knockoffs for dollar stores. That was their whole depressing business. I especially enjoy their tagline: A team of modern army. It’s barely even English.