Years ago, I came to realize that I really liked “G.I. Joe” a lot more than I liked “Transformers.” This was a monumental shift in my fandom allegiance because while I grew up, I was a die hard Transformers nut.
But over time, I found that Transformers, which was more popular than Joe, was getting diluted. More characters were being added on. Names were switched around, back stories were continually jiggered. Eventually, they even had to begin labeling their transformers by generation. Sure, I’m glad it was successful and all, but it’s success also was making me lose interest.
G.I. Joe, on the other hand, was still a tightly controlled property. Pretty much it was whatever Larry Hama and Hasbro agreed upon was law, and that helped keep the line and all its related media under control.
A 25th anniversary and a movie later, the “G.I. Joe” property appears to be on hiatus. The stores are cluttered with leftovers and there’s not been any announcement on what’s next. Honestly, that’s all fine with me because it gives me an opportunity to take a peek at the main competitor of “G.I. Joe”: A copycat line produced by Lanard called “The Corps!” Now the competition between these two isn’t all that fierce. G.I. Joe is name brand. The Corps! is generic.
Despite this, I’ve picked up a healthy supply of Corps figurines over the years. I probably have 30 or more The Corps! figures. Some of it was straight out retail purchase (I especially loved their “space farer” line, which they called “The Corps! Star Force“) and some of it was in the secondary market when Lanard figures were mixed in with an auction lot of G.I. Joes.
What Does The Corps! Have to Offer?
So how could this happen? How could I veer from my beloved G.I. Joes?
The biggest benefit of The Corps! is the price. Where G.I. Joe offers figures for $7 for one guy, the Corps line often sells two for $3. Where G.I. Joe offers an interesting vehicle for $25, Lanard gives you one slightly generic vehicle for $8, but throws in some accessories to sweeten the deal.
Even better for G.I. Joe collectors, Lanard’s line scales perfectly with Joes. If you’re into making dioramas or taking scene photos that offers oodles of action figures in a pitched battle, then characters from The Corps! can fill out your background easily. If your looking to populate an office scene or need an army that’s neither Joes or Cobras, then The Corps! are your guys. Speaking of that, Lanard even came out with a neat supply of female figures that would work for even more characters. The Lanard WOW Action Girls are tough to find, but they offer nice diversity for any collector.
But when Hasbro upgraded its Joe sculpts for its 25th anniversay, Lanard’s line seemed to pale in comparison. It wasn’t too long after that Lanard did a nice upgrade of its own. They even came out with a one-shot comic book that I quite liked.
Granted, the change still made The Corps! the lesser product: Articulation couldn’t compare. Paint applications weren’t as plentiful or as finely done. There wasn’t much of a built-in storyline.
But the one thing they did do was massively upgrade its packaging. So much so that I actually like “The Corps!” packaging better than the “G.I. Joe” packaging.
With the Joe line petering out for a while now (blame that on the boring movie toys), I’ve spent more time in the toy aisles looking at The Corps! than I have looking at the oodles of Neo-Vipers acting as peg warmers.
New Version of The Corps!
Be warned: The newest version of The Corps! are decidely un-G.I. Joe. They have swivel wastes and straight up-and-down hip movement as opposed to the ball-jointed hips used by the Joes. The plastic is soft and seemingly malleable. The paint applications are sparse but servicable. Weapons that come with the figures are just a little bit too oversized for use with the figures, making it hard for them to grip.
But really, those are only minor quibbles to me. The toys work just fine. The sculpts — especially the faces — are pretty awesome, the accessories (love the guy who comes with a zip line) are fun and, let’s face it, the price is a huge plus. For a kid who isn’t well versed in the lore or branding of G.I. Joe, I’d just buy him a heap of figures from The Corps! line.
But, man, most of all I love that packaging. It’s just awesome.
G.I. Joe fans probably scrunch their noses at the thought of picking up The Corps!, but until we get some new G.I. Joes coming, this line, the old style and the new sculpts, is a great — and inexpensive — resource in retail stores and on the secondary market.