I have a very wide knowledge of children’s playthings, but if I see a toy – especially an action figure - that I think’s cool I’ll buy it whether I recognise it or not, and that is how you end up with no money and no space despite living in a terrace house. For instance, this tiger:
This art to me. Ok that’s a little exaggeration but not by much, I have no idea where this little bloke came from, he was just on a table amidst various other toys and something about his crudity spoke to me the way antique furniture never does and I wanted him in my house. The thought that he was probably going to end up chewed and thrown away upset me, so now he sits in the box with all my other cheap animals and dinosaurs and has friends and someone who cares about him. Of course I still want to know who made the toy and what line it was released under, that is often harder than it seems (I still haven’t I.D.d Tony up there), even in today’s internet age with forum threads and Facebook pages solely dedicated to identifying toys – they still rely on people who visit them knowing what the fuck your thing is after all. Sometimes though I stumble upon the identity of total stumpers by accident, usually in unrelated Google Images or eBay searches, this post has five action figures(ish) who were I.D.d that way. I’m not saying this is the only place on the web where you can find info on these lines, that would be presumptuous and quite ridiculous (anyway even if it was true it would only be true for about a day before someone posted the info somewhere else), but these have a small enough internet presence that it felt worthwhile doing this. So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:
Atomic Ranger Warriors
Of note is that there are 3 ¼ inch versions and one of those was packaged with a water blaster, this is all about 5 inch versions. It’s really weird to see Lanard’s name on a toy that isn’t The Corps and a reminder that just because The Corps has become an accepted brand by us internet dwelling toy nerds it was still a knock-off line from a company that made such things. But it’s also a nice reminder of why the Corps became so accepted and have lasted so long – quality and creativity; the Atomic Ranger Warriors are one of the, if not the, best made vintage Power Rangers knock-offs with thick plastic and a whole heap of joints, these motherfuckers have ball joints, ball joints, on a knock off figure, in 1995! And while most companies were happy to just produce near exact copies of the Power Rangers suits just with enough changes to the chest design and helmet to avoid a lawsuit, Lanard stick with the basic design elements of the Mighty Morphin’ ones enough to confuse parents into buying their wares but go off into their own Lazer Tag meets Rob Liefeld world, these guys could just has easily have fought Darkhawk or been playable in a poor selling NES game as be rip-offs of Jason, Kimberly et all. Some of that may come from Lanard reusing parts (look at my Atomic Ranger, you can clearly see the vest sculpted into his torso) to approximate a Power Ranger but hey, it works, take the praise where you get it Lanard.
The Last Warrior
I tried to find out more about these things but they’re a bitch to search for, Google’ll just give you loads of stuff on The Warriors film and Skeleton Warriors, so all I really found out was that I still don’t own a Mezco Baseball Fury and the bloke with the beard from October Toys still irritates me and both of these things made me sad. I can’t even be sure I have the right company (they were listed as being by Madison on an old eBay auction) however I’m pretty confident that eBay seller was right, as well as them owning the damn things on card, three of the figures share heads with Madison’s Wrestling Champions and their construction’s the same as Madison’s Wrestling Champions (hard body and softer heads) – mind you neither of those things are unusual amidst knock-off lines so maybe I’m talking shit.
Regardless these are pretty sweet, the ‘sergeant’ head on the figure I have (Sgt Peppard) is a decent soldier head and is full of character – he looks like he’s going to bust your balls for falling out of line, then fall out of line to save two of his men stuck behind a rock half way up some god forsaken hill. Plus if you can find ‘em carded (good luck sailor) they come with a ton of accessories including random futuristic helmets and look, more ball joints! Going by the basic descriptions on the back of the cards we have both a heroic and villainous set of armed forces here – one made up of Sgt Peppard, Dr Thor and Captain Matador (the heroes, who all have original heads) and the other made up of Skarvski, Lt Cameron and Talos (the villains, who all share heads with Wrestling Champions), I enjoy it when even the cheapest toys provide play patterns for the kids, and it works too – before I knew this Skarvski was just a Wrestling Champion in a bandoleer but now I know he’s the evil counterpart to my figure I need to own him. Nowadays all that’s gonna result in is some eBay seller making too much money but back when these were out (whenever that was) that would have gotten Madison (or whoever) another sale.
1996, Wing Sang Toys
The aliens in these sets are easily one of the coolest alien action figures I own, these four armed Xenomorphs with two heads taken straight from Dr Seuss and painted like Sectaurs. I’m of the opinion, an opinion based on the title and general design of the two figures in each set, that this is one of those ‘twofer’ knock-off lines where dodgy toy companies put out a line that apes several popular/semi-popular things at the time – in this case Power Rangers, Kenner’s Alien toyline and maybe Star Wars – in one ‘original’ concept, of course it’s always possible it’s just an original concept drawing influence from one genre (sci-fi) but my cynical heart has trouble believing any cheap toy isn’t a knock-off. There’s a whole bunch of different colours of these – there’s at least three flavours of the alien and two flavours of the Galaxy Trooper which just makes me happy - a small rainbow of Dr Seuss Kali Xenomorphs!
Ok, PMS only distributed these in the U.K. according to their packaging, given that the costumes of the figures resemble the American Gladiators more than any other I’m guessing they were made by someone else and distributed by someone equally else in the US/Canada/Mexico. Owners of the least fortunate initials since the Central Underground National Travel agency closed down PMS distribute a load of cheap toys here, including a lot of the soft toys caught (or not, depending on how dickish the owner’s feeling that day) in our UFO catchers, they’ve got a factory on the Southend Road.
This is the first time I’ve talked about Gladiators on this blog and I’m ashamed of that, I remain a huge fan of the UK Gladiators TV show, which was a cross between Professional Wrestling and an obstacle course, as a kid I was all in on it and we went to see a semi/quarter/final each year it from 1993 to 1996. 1993 was the beginning of the show’s peak popularity and if American Gladiators was half as popular as Gladiators were they were absolutely worth knocking off, which these do. This is why they figures are in those weird ‘riding a motorcycle or possibly shitting while using a zimmer frame’ pose, because that’s the post the official Gladiators and American Gladiators toys were in (I think it was to allow for some of the playsets that represented the various games in the show, specifically The Duel) but there are Gladiators knock-offs that use the standard Galaxy Warriors-style body too, they’re usually sold under some variant of the name ‘Challengers’. Yes there are multiple Gladiators knock-off lines, I told you: this show was hot shit once upon a time and in my little world it still is – so don’t fucking diss.
Star Attack may be one of the greatest bootleg toy lines ever – the regular cards mixed Colorform’s The Outer Space Men with fucking Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds on a card that mixed Star Wars with The Last Action Hero (possibly unintentionally) and then they painted all the toys, which are roughly the size and quality of something you’d get out of a fairly expensive Christmas cracker, in metallic colours!. They turned one of the best designed –and expensive- toylines into inexpensive mini-figures then mixed them with one of the greatest kids shows of all time, and then coloured them like sculptures from Tomorrowland. I just…this is…if you can’t understand why this is cool just from a description you probably never will so maybe I should stop but…it’s very hard to not be enthusiastic about something made up of these things.
I can’t quite put my finger on where the space ship in the playset pack comes from though but I know I’ve seen it before, I mean that may have been because I saw Star Attack in stores so I may in fact remember the Star Attack playset from Star Attack but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, whatever it is it’s not from Mighty Max or TMNT: Mini-Mutants, it kind of looks like one of the Attack Pack, only without the tentacles and teeth.
And there you are, now you know where these figures come from, and knowing is the half the battle remember? Sgt Slaughter taught you that, and if you can’t trust a man who’s named after horrible murder who can you trust? And that’s why you should trust me: Mr Massacre.