Only GI Joe is GI Joe. Nobody Beats GI Joe. GI Joe Is There.
But what if someone else is GI Joe? What if someone might, in fact, beat GI Joe? And what if someone else is there?
Dear readers, I present to you– Lanard’s THE CORPS!
The Corps! is a highly skilled group of soldiers, hockey players, skiiers, wrestlers, spacemen, forest rangers, and street punks recruited from all over the world to fight a nebulous enemy force. No, not that team… the other one. Members of The Corps! are divided into units based on each individual’s skills, weapons, specialties, pants-wearing preferences, and the colors of their outfits.
If you can afford them (and you probably can), then you can hire THE CORPS!
A few weeks ago, I got bored of looking for the few GI Joe figures on top of my “most wanted” list. They’re all painfully expensive and hard to come by. Granted, there are plenty of great figures I don’t have, but I was feeling defeated.
To curb that feeling of rejection and further feed my plastic army man habit, I purchased a few lots of vintage, o-ring style Lanard Corps! toys from eBay. I bought one carded “8 man team” collector’s pack and a few mixed lots.
This caused me to remember everything I love about The Corps!… and just a few things I don’t.
The Corps!, oddly, aren’t written or spoken about too much in the GI Joe community despite their similar construction, great sculpts, awesome vehicles, and neat character concepts.
So, in an effort to fill that void, I assembled a crack commando squad to nerd out about THE CORPS!
Since this is a huge post, even by Dragon Fortress standards, I’ve included a handy table of contents below. Simply click the chapter you’d like to read or, better yet, enjoy the whole post.
Table of Contents:
- The Contributors: Our Daring, Highly-Trained Special Missions Force
- Lanard’s The Corps! – Mission Briefing
- An Introduction to Our Brave Corps!men
- The Corps! Meets GI Joe
- Cheap Copies, Blank Slates, or Badass Plastic Army Men?
- Modern Fighting Force
- Who is Steve Wyoming?
- Bonus Round: Our Favorite Corps!men
- Additional Resources
(Additional photos by Robert Buzan, Eric Setzke, and Herb Mumford)
The Contributors: Our Daring, Highly-Trained Special Missions Force
For this in-depth article, I wanted to assemble the best team I possibly could. I sought out GI Joe bloggers whose profiles and reviews I’ve been reading for over 15 years. I sought out my favorite podcast hosts and YouTube reviewers. I sought out my favorite GI Joe photographers, and the people who run websites that provide me with amazing, daily content. I also sought out the people whose creativity and sense of humor bring me endless mirth.
My other criteria for choosing these contributors, other than my respect for their talents, was this– how likely were they to care enough about Lanard’s The Corps! to both take time out of their busy schedules and have something interesting to say?
I 100%, fully believe I’ve assembled the best, most qualified team to discuss Lanard Corps! in the entire history of GI Joe-Related Web Content(™).
Meet the squad!
Justin Bell (Generals Joes)
Tactical Profile: One of the most prolific and most respected GI Joe reviewers, photographers, writers, thinkers, and overall fans in the world. The brains behind Generals Joes, the internet’s go-to source for GI Joe reviews, from the early 00s to now. If it’s been released in the last 20 years, Justin has probably written a detailed review about it, and taken great photos to match.
Dossier: No one creates GI Joe dio-stories like Justin. He built an incredible world around his “Joeverse,” and then built convincing sets, found amazing props, and made that world come to life through photographs, speech balloons, and digital effects. He’s also a novelist, with the military werewolf political thriller The Fog of Dreams, as the highlight.
Without Justin, there would be no online GI Joe fan community. He’s the single person almost any of us would choose to write a GI Joe comic for IDW. He’s a thoughtful, rational presence with talent that far exceeds his mild-mannered demeanor.
Mike T (Forgotten Figures)
Tactical Profile: Ever since the late 1990s, Mike T has been looking out for the underdog. His long-running website, Forgotten Figures, is still updated weekly. There’s no neon 90s oddity or obscure foreign figure he won’t talk about. His website is one of the best, most in-depth resources dedicated to GI Joe on the entire world wide web. While that’s impressive in and of itself, his willingness to explore the unloved figures that escaped from our collective memories is what sets him apart from other long-running archivists.
Dossier: Mike doesn’t just review and profile forgotten figures– he gets in deep. He discusses the figures at length, from the origins of each of their parts, to their cost and value, to their accessories, to the figure mold’’s usage throughout the world. The best part about Forgotten Figures, though, is that Mike explains how he uses each figure in his collection. His use of Star Brigade Payload as a diver or all-environment rescue trooper, for instance, is one of those things that really gets the wheels in your head turning. So, of course I had to grill him about The Corps!
Tactical Profile: STRYDENT is one of the most in-depth, thoughtful reviewers of modern, 1:18 scale military toys on all of YouTube. He mostly collects and customizes modern GI Joe, but he doesn’t neglect other toy lines, either. No one else gets poetic about True Heroes and The Corps! like Strydent does. He’s also an open-minded, calm, and reasonable voice in a fandom that’s sometimes just one big shouting match. With each review he films and publishes, STRYDENT leaves no stone unturned. Want to know how many modern GI Joe figures the vintage Thunderclap will hold? He’s got you covered. Want to know how your GI Joes will look manning Lanard’s Corps! Beast Bomber? He’ll show you. Also, he’s a delight whenever he makes a guest appearance in anyone else’s podcast or YouTube video.
Dossier: STRYDENT is also an accomplished illustrator, which you can see at his DeviantArt account, or by reading his comic, War of The Gods. His Facebook group is also full of friendly, engaging discussion about GI Joe and other 1:18 military toy lines.
STRYDENT also doesn’t look down on non-GI Joe toy lines just because they don’t carry the name brand– he embraces, finds, and points out the coolness in the toys other people don’t even think twice about.
Rob B (Joe A Day)
Tactical Profile: Rob B has been profiling GI Joe and GI Joe-related figures daily since 2011. If you ever run out of GI Joe content to read, head over to Joe A Day and whittle a few hours away. Even if you’ve read the whole site (like I have), you’ll find yourself coming back every day for new content, and digging through the archives. Rob commonly covers toys by Remco and Lanard, which makes him an ideal candidate for this article. He’s a source of near-endless knowledge, and that knowledge hasn’t made him cynical– his enthusiasm for plastic army men is contagious!
Dossier: Rob embraces the brightly colored, oddball GI Joe figures from the 1990s, as do I. He also embraces Lanard’s Corps! and other GI Joe competitors. He enjoys GI Joe, and its lesser-loved cousins, as pure toys. Does the figure look so weird it could never serve a practical military purpose? He’ll tell you why that’s actually an awesome thing. Rob also has an amazing, dry sense of humor that sets him apart from other writers. Reading a profile on Joe A Day is like a double shot of instant, infectious glee.
Rob is also a great GI Joe photographer, and has graciously allowed me to use some of his Corps! Photos in this article. (He also gets to attend Lanard’s yearly Warehouse Sale, for which I will never forgive him– because I do not get to attend. I want as many Corps! space shuttles and Lars Lazers as my arms can carry) You can also follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Steve (GI Joburg)
Tactical Profile: Steve is the ringleader for GI Joburg, one of the best (if not the best) GI Joe podcasts to ever reach across the world. Broadcasting from South Africa and heard around the globe, Steve and his team of Rob, Paul, and Cujo (on the West Coast!), bring their one-of-a-kind observations to Joe fans everywhere. GI Joburg’s YouTube channel also reviews classic GI Joe vehicles and figures in an exciting way– instead of sitting in a studio, they take the vehicles “on location” and get their hands dirty. They took the Cobra Hammerhead to the beach, for instance, and also took the GI Joe Mobile Command Center into the desert. No one does it like Joburg!
Dossier: Steve has a way with words. His wit is sharp and his jokes are on point. He and his co-hosts explore the deepest recesses of GI Joe without ever stopping to boorishness or condescension. Steve’s take on GI Joe will reinvigorate your passion for the hobby and make you want to take your own Cobra Hammerhead to the beach for some quality time.
Steve, Rob, Paul, and Cujo are also generous souls who always interact with their fans and listeners. For that, I can’t thank them enough.
Alexx (Toys and Tomfoolery)
Tactical Profile: Eric Setzke, better known as Alexx to the GI Joe community, doesn’t just cover GI Joe toys– but that’s where he got his start in the reviewing world. Back in the days of the Joe Battlelines forums, he reviewed modern era GI Joe figures in his “Alexx Shorts” series, which were as much an assortment of hilarious comics centering around his review subjects as they were about profiling the toy. His current venture, Toys and Tomfoolery, is paradise for toy fans who appreciate comedy. His jokes are goofy, clever, and full of heart– he’s never crass or mean spirited, even if the occasional genital and/or fart joke sneaks its way in.
Dossier: Not only is Eric one of my favorite toy humorists and toy reviewers, but he’s also an incredibly underrated toy photographer. He can make a MOTU Classics toy or a Nintendo Amiibo look equally dynamic and badass. He straight up runs the best toy blog on the internet, because it doesn’t get bogged down with a certain franchise or property– instead, he celebrates toys in all their forms. What could be better than that?
Nekoman (The Viper Pit)
Tactical Profile: Nekoman is a GI Joe photographer with few equals. Whether he’s showcasing a vintage o-ring figure or a modern era figure, he does it with style. He builds incredibly detailed dioramas, poses his figures perfectly, blocks the scene, nails the lighting, and the results are magical. His photos are both beautiful and technically proficient, but they’ll also make you feel something. He’s able to capture a sense of danger, dread, or urgency with just a well0-built set and some plastic army men.
Dossier: Nekoman also runs The Viper Pit, which is another of my favorite GI Joe review sites. He understands the art of writing the perfect amount about each figure– he doesn’t leave anything out, nor does he go on for too long. I could learn a lot from him. Nekoman is also an upstanding pillar of the GI Joe fan community, and he’s never anything but helpful, constructive, and generous.
Lanard’s The Corps! – Mission Briefing
In the late 1980s, a company called Lanard introduced a line of 3 ¾” military action figures called Gung Ho! They were built and articulated just like GI Joe figures, their main competitor. They were also less expensive, and were meant to appeal to kids and families operating on a tighter budget.
Because Lanard’s Gung Ho! Was both a competitor to GI Joe, and shared the name of GI Joe’s first marine, they soon changed their toy line’s name to The Corps!
Lanard issued many, many o-ring style figures throughout the 80s, 90s, and 00s. They ventured into space with Star Force. Their brave Corps!men were packed with vehicles and animal companions. It was just as common to see a Lanard Corps! figure decked out in neon green as it was to see one in hyper-realistic camouflage.
For most of its history, Lanard’s Corps! Line included no backstory and no media tie ins, and the character bios on the packaging were as bare bones as it came. This allowed kids to use these figures in any capacity they wanted– especially because there were no defined enemies among the Corps! roster. The fascist-looking dude with the eyepatch, Fidel Castro, and the pantsless, mohicaned street punk were just as much good guys as the Crocodile Dundee pastiche and the mysterious ninja.
In recent years, Lanard has done away with the o-ring style construction for their figures, in favor of a much sturdier, but less articulated, form of toy. Their vehicles and playsets are still talked about among GI Joe fans, as they fill a hole that Hasbro isn’t currently interested in filling.
Lanard has also worked much harder to build a backstory for its Corps! world, and has introduced The Curse for The Corps! to fight. They’re also introducing more articulation into their newest figures, and they made some incredible toys for their recent Kong: Skull Island line.
Still, no matter how many steps forward Lanard makes, many GI Joe fans look at The Corps! as a second banana. Or even a fifth nectarine.
An Introduction to Our Brave Corps!men
When I was in fourth grade, I used to go to my friend Jeremy’s house after school. His dad ran a slaughterhouse and his mom was a school teacher. You could always hear George Strait and Tim McGraw blasting throughout his house.
We usually played with GI Joe toys, as we were both huge fans. Our play time centered around the TMNT Technodrome, which stood in for the bad guys’ base of operations. And we each picked a team from his collection of figures.
But there were some figures in the bin I didn’t recognize. They had big hats and sunglasses. They were ninjas and kung fu fighters. Their thumbs were broken. He always picked them first.
That was my first experience with The Corps! and, from then on, I always thought they were cool.
I asked my brave platoon of contributors how they first encountered The Corps!, and what kind of impression the figures made on them. .
STRYDENT: When I was little, the CORPS! were pretty much what my parents got my brother and I in place of GI JOE. You could get a pack of the old O-ring dudes…I think a pack of 6 or so for like 10$.
My parents loved that. And it wasn’t because we were poor but because the JOES we liked were really hard to find in our area.
My first CORPS dudes were Dragon Han and Large Sarge.
They felt like GI JOES at the time so we had no issues with em.
Justin Bell (Generals Joes): I remember a friend having a bunch of CORPS figures as a kid, and I clearly remember Boomerang Billy and Gunner O’Grady. I thought they were neat (especially since back in the 80’s so few action figures were articulated like G.I. Joe) but every time I saw one there was something broken, most often thumbs. I remember really loving Gunner O’Grady’s Uzi and the removable boomerangs from Boomerang Billy. A little later in my childhood affair with G.I. Joe, I remember using John Eagle as a land-based version of Torpedo. If I was given my preference as a kid, my preference would always be for G.I. Joe. I saw CORPS as something different, not necessarily anything less, just different.
To me, they were GI Joes and I just played with them without knowing any better.
Nekoman (The Viper Pit): It’s kind of strange really, like my experience with GI Joe. I was born in the early nineties, so GI Joe was basically dead by the time I came around. My older brother had a huge GI Joe collection though, and we’d play together with his figures. I really liked the toys because I watched tons of Sunbow reruns and VHS tapes, so I had an attachment to the characters despite coming in so late on the line.
That’s where The Corps! comes up. My brother had a bunch of these and they were just mixed in with his Battle Figure Collectors Case. I didn’t know at the time they weren’t GI Joes, and many of them I actually mistook for characters from the cartoon. Figures like the astronauts also blended in well with the Star Brigade figures. To me, they were GI Joes and I just played with them without knowing any better.
Rob B. (Joe A Day): My first experience with CORPS! goes back to their first assortment back in the 80s. I didn’t buy any of them back then, not because I thought they were inferior, I was just usually more interested in picking up a Joe figure or some other action figure. I certainly wasn’t a Joe-only snob, as I bought quite a few of Remco’s American Defense figures around that time. I didn’t see these lines as copies of Joe, but rather just another series of military figures I could use, since they were articulated just like Joe. Stuff like Sgt. Rock was not as favorable in my eyes.
Mike T (Forgotten Figures): I have no real recollection of them from the ’80’s. I was fortunate as it was pretty much only my parents and grandparents who bought me toys and they knew I only wanted G.I. Joe. When I wandered the toy aisle, I’d only hit the G.I. Joe and Star Wars section. (For a couple of years, I’d check out Transformers, too.) So, while I was at toys stores a lot, I spent my time looking at the same items over and over again.
We’d get a few of the random knock offs for birthdays, etc. But, my first real run in with the CORPS! wasn’t until the ’90’s when I’d see them in my quest for the last retail Joes. I saw the similar construction, but they just looked to cheap for me to buy. So, I never really considered them.
Around ’98 or ’99, though, I found the CORPS! vehicles. Notably, the Hummer and the Attack Boat. At the time, they were great additions to a Joe collection since they were nicely designed, cheap and available in abundance at retail. I bought a couple of Hummers and a Tank. By the time I went for the Attack Boat, they were gone. The Hummers got a lot of use in my early pictures. But, the tank was pretty much garbage. It looked cool. But, it fell apart and figures didn’t fit into it easily.
I used the figures that came with the vehicles as a source of O-rings for my broken Joes. I tried to use the screws, but most of them wouldn’t fit.
There was no denying the allure of the ninja at that stage of my development. But I think I lost him the weekend I got him! The Ninja, master of illusion and vanishing acts!
Steve (GI Joburg): My first experience with The Corps! was precisely that – crappy copies. I imagine most kids are pretty discerning and there was no hiding the fact that The Corps! were a more affordable substitute. My earliest purchase was around age 5 and it was Hiro Yamato. There was no denying the allure of the ninja at that stage of my development. But I think I lost him the weekend I got him! The Ninja, master of illusion and vanishing acts! But so long as Joes were still readily available on the pegs, I never strayed again. I received the two-pack (snip strip!) of Fox and Large Sarge for a birthday present from friends from across the street who I knew had rather frugal parents.Unlike Hiro, they are still with me today. All but their thumbs, that is!
Alexx (Toys and Tomfoolery): I was vaguely aware of the Corps, in that I saw the packages and thought they were cheap (hey, I was a kid!). Funny thing is that, if any friends had them mixed in with Joes – I wouldn’t know the difference. Neither did they. I’d say the biggest reason I ignored them is because I never saw any of the awesome sci-fi stuff. I always felt their basic military dudes were kind of boring, and those are what I saw most often (then again, I usually find basic military dudes kinda boring, even in G.I. Joe).
The Corps! Meets GI Joe
Some of us thought of The Corps! As cheap GI Joe substitutes, but others of us thought they blended right in. Some of us rose above both ways of thinking and saw The Corps! as its own, unique and valid toy line.
But what did we do when we mixed our Corps! in with our Joes? Or would we just keep them totally separate.
My best friend since childhood, Drew, was another person I always used to play Joes with. Somewhere in his toy box was a Hiro Yamata, the famous Corps! Ninja. He was always a deadly assassin in our games, and I believe he even took out Sonic Fighters Tunnel Rat once– much to my chagrin, as he was my favorite figure and character at the time!
I also vividly remember buying some Corps! Astronauts when I was a broke junior high kid, and I loved integrating them with my Crusader and Star Brigade figures.
But how did everyone else see it?
I like to think the CORPS! team is another set of highly-trained, special-mission government operatives, maybe in a sort of “Earth-2” sense, to mix my pop culture metaphors.
Rob B. (Joe A Day): I like to think the CORPS! team is another set of highly-trained, special-mission government operatives, maybe in a sort of “Earth-2” sense, to mix my pop culture metaphors. So in that sense, they can cross over with the Joes in my universe. I just don’t see them permanently interacting.
STRYDENT: So as I am all about integrating any similar toys that fit my ideas into my Joe-verse, I use many CORPS! vehicles as supplements to fill gaps in the JOE line.
So if HASBRO didn’t make a specific vehicle…like a quality armored HMV, I use the CORPS! stuff. They don’t seem to make many re-does or redesigns of older vehicles so I just use CORPS! and other vehicles to take that place.
As for the CORPS! as an organization…I use them as the guys that work alongside the regular Armed Forces. Almost like Delta Force.
The Joes are still the Alpha Dogs…the best of the best. I like to imagine that many of both teams may have served together at some point, so they are aware of each other.
We had new names for most of the Corps! guys, but they were led by Fox, who had been re-dubbed: Karlos Duarte, the Skorpion (with a “K”). Yup. He was always referred to by his full title!
Steve (GI Joburg): My fondest memory of the O-Ring Corps! figures has got to be recasting them as South American drug lords, who GI Joe had been tasked with stopping after the Corps! guys actually brought GI Joe to its knees (almost) in a series of sabotage missions and kidnappings. We had new names for most of the Corps! guys, but they were led by Fox, who had been re-dubbed: Karlos Duarte, the Skorpion (with a “K”). Yup. He was always referred to by his full title!
Mike T (Forgotten Figures): The figures I tended to get were pretty much the more basic military guys. (They and the space guys were the most common figures when I was buying them.) From time to time, they would be cannon fodder. But, mostly, I didn’t find much use for them. The vehicles, though, became stapes. The Hummers were my de-facto security vehicles for years. My armies of Law figures would rove around in them, capturing Dreadnoks and the like.
One thing I appreciate about the CORPS! was that they copied G.I. Joe backpacks, modified them just enough, and released them in different colors. My single favorite is a black version of Flint’s backpack. I put it and a black knock off Flint shot gun on one of my Funskool Flints. Someone saw it in one of my photos and thought that there were black variants for Funskool Flint’s accessories. They were disappointed to learn of the true origin. I’ve got a yellow footloose backpack out there that’s just odd, too. Those little details are a fun way to tie the two lines together.
The later released Laser Force figures (Justin Case and Full Proof especially) were amazingly well done Lanard figures that actually fit pretty seamlessly with some of my G.I. Joe product.
Justin Bell (Generals Joes): I do see CORPS filling in some holes in G.I. Joe pretty nicely, especially some of the later releases. I already mentioned John Eagle as Torpedo, and several of my old school custom figures used CORPS parts (since I did many of those customs in the 90s when G.I. Joe was not as available). The later released Laser Force figures (Justin Case and Full Proof especially) were amazingly well done Lanard figures that actually fit pretty seamlessly with some of my G.I. Joe product. Parts from those figures were pretty quicky integrated into my G.I. Joe universe as customs. Full Proof donated his head for my custom of “Blackout” a G.I. Joe rookie who played a large role in my Price of Peace fanfic (yes, this was before the Stall brother of the same name was released).
One of them comes with a TRIPLE BLADED CHAINSAW. There’s no way you can ignore that, no matter how cheap a kid thinks they are!
Alexx (Toys and Tomfoolery): Vintage Corps, yes, I would have integrated them, depending on looks. Sadly, like I said, most of what I saw was basic looking dudes, and if I had seen the awesome stuff I’ve seen in the archives, then I would have used them, no question. One of them comes with a TRIPLE BLADED CHAINSAW. There’s no way you can ignore that, no matter how cheap a kid thinks they are! The modern stuff caught my eyes less and less during the 2000’s and especially into the 25th era: the era of super articulation. I tended to ignore them until recently, when the glamor of super articulation has begun to wear off. Nowadays I’d integrate them regardless of less articulation, since the sculpts are actually pretty impressive on quite a few of them.
Nekoman (The Viper Pit): As I said above, to me, they were GI Joes, so there wasn’t any integration as a kid. As an adult however, I tend to use them more sparsely. I generally find them the easiest to use as background figures in a diorama, or something like that.
Cheap Copies, Blank Slates, or Badass Plastic Army Men?
Like Nekoman and Alexx, I confess I never had any Corps! figures as a kid. A few of my friends had them, and I was predisposed to thinking they were cool. But, when I had pocket money, I’d buy a Playmates Star Trek toy, a Toy Biz X-Men toy, Lego, or sometimes a Joe figure. GI Joe was usually something I got for Christmas or a birthday, and The Corps! was never included in that.
But, as a kid, I longed for those “blank slate” figures. Sure, I could make guys like Stretcher, Big Bear, Downtown, or Freefall into my own characters, but I wanted something different. I wanted civilians. Non-Cobra enemies for Joes to fight. Generic soldiers for the good guy side to challenge Cobra’s legions. Mysterious ninjas who weren’t Slice, Dice, or Storm Shadow.
I asked each contributor what they think of The Corps! as sheer toys. Are they cheap knockoffs, or do they have their own luminous essence?
I also asked them what they think of the “blank slate” aspect of these toys. With no media tie ins or extensive on-package biographies for the figures, you can really use them for anything you can possibly dream up.
… I’ve used CORPS figures very often throughout various dio-stories as normal soldiers, police officers, or construction workers…
Justin Bell (Generals Joes): This is a tough one. I’m one of those collectors that generally likes at least a little backstory or media support. While I enjoy fleshing out characters that weren’t featured in the spotlight (like Hit & Run), I like there to be some kind of media support, especially when some of the designs are somewhat generic. On the flip side, it is nice to have this ‘fodder’ of sorts to fill out the ranks, and I’ve used CORPS figures very often throughout various dio-stories as normal soldiers, police officers, or construction workers, and looking at them from that perspective gives them a lot more functionality for me.
Alexx (Toys and Tomfoolery): I’m bummed that I missed pretty much all the vintage Corps stuff. Every time I look back on archives I see so much cool stuff! Granted, a lot of that is in regards to the sci-fi stuff like Lazer Force, Galactic Force, and the good-god-amazing Space Cowboys, but even the stuff that was trying hard to be like G.I. Joe was impressive! I’m disappointed that all I saw was some basic multi-packs with boring looking soldiers. That was The Corps! to me, for years, until looking back over all they had done. As for a “blank canvas”, oh man, that is my JAM. To tell you the truth, I used G.I. Joes as blank canvases all the time, so if I had gotten Corps figures with no bios, it wouldn’t have effected me any differently. I didn’t need extended media to know how to make a story.
If you look at the hordes of knock offs that mimicked G.I. Joe, the CORPS! wasn’t just the best, they were far and away the best.
Mike T (Forgotten Figures): As a kid, they looked like knock offs. As an adult, though, I really appreciate their quality. The early CORPS! stuff was a great way to cheaply add some neat action figures to your collection. If you look at the hordes of knock offs that mimicked G.I. Joe, the CORPS! wasn’t just the best, they were far and away the best. The only thing missing from their offerings was a coherent bad guy and the media relations to promote that. Had that happened, there’s no reason the CORPS! wouldn’t have competed directly with Joe. But, part of the reason G.I. Joe was more expensive was because it had all that media to tie it together.
Now that I’ve seen the full range of Lanard offerings, the CORPS! line is probably as vast or moreso than Joe. The civilian figures and vehicles are a great way to get an integrated toy design without having it be all military. Some of the firetruck vehicles are just spectacular. (And, modern aftermarket pricing shows they are still appreciated.) If Lanard had better distribution or cross promotional marketing on its packaging, people like me would have been more aware that they offered more than a pallet of Hummer and Tanks at K-Mart and $.99 three figure packs of space men at Wal Mart.
World building to the Nth degree.
STRYDENT: The whole “Blank Slate” concept with the CORPS! was cool because it encourages imagination from the ground up…World building to the Nth degree.
Having just their names as a starting point is cool because it gives you a tiny bit of background on each dude.
As in, Gunner O’Grady might be Irish or Scottish, so he may be tied to a European branch of service like the SAS etc.
I love that kind of stuff.
Nekoman (The Viper Pit): The vintage Corps! figures were a mixed bag in my opinion, at least as toys. They were great GI Joe stand-ins, and the sculpts looked pretty good as a kid. But, as toys they were flawed for being far, far too delicate. My brother’s GI Joe collection and the ‘94 Joes I acquired for myself survived our childhoods really well. Only a few figures ever broke, and it was just the common things like Shadow Ninjas and Freefall’s crotch. The Corps! figures would often times get totaled, losing both thumbs and their crotches. I rarely, rarely broke toys other than these, and this made me dislike them once I was old enough to know they weren’t Joes.
For a good while vintage Corps! were the go-to bad guys ahead of Cobra!
Steve (GI Joburg): Sadly because of the quality departure, they were only ever cast as the baddies. Many broken thumbs meant weapons were often stuck to hands with putty. Great for targets to be “taken out”, not so great for using as your protagonists. The Corps! were forever a more military, realistic alternative to something as freaky looking as Cobra. And in my early teens, that was the order of the day. For a good while vintage Corps! were the go-to bad guys ahead of Cobra!
Rob B. (Joe A Day): As toys, the CORPS! figures are not quite up to the same quality, as far as fit and finish when compared to the Joe figures. One can run down Lanard for its comparative lack of variety within its characters, and the absence of a unified enemy force, but I believe those elements are a side effect of the company’s business model. Lanard was (and still it) out to get a bang for its buck with a lower price point series, and mold reuse was a big part of their plan. I think the blank canvas aspect of the toys allows a nice bit of flexibility and allows a kid’s imagination to run. I’ve been more impressed over the years with Lanard’s vehicle offerings, and would point any Joe fan, and especially customizers, to take a look at some of the more recent output like the ATK Jeep and Beast Bomber. Good stuff.
Well, we just heard quite a few horror stories– but it’s true, Corps! figures’ thumbs were notoriously easy to break.
I’ve already had one casualty from that sealed package of Corps! toys from the early 2000s I recently bought. Hiro Yamata’s thumb snapped right off when I gently tried to take the nunchuks out of his hand!
I also remember my friend Drew’s more vintage Hiro Yamata suffered an even worse fate. His ENTIRE HAND snapped off at some point. I don’t know if Drew was trying to break it, or if Hiro suffered the loss from a tragic Z-Bots-related accident.
Let’s get gory.
I think almost everyone who’s owned a few of these have broken one at some point.
Nekoman (The Viper Pit): I think almost everyone who’s owned a few of these have broken one at some point. Nowadays I treat them in the same way as foreign Joes, Slaughter’s Marauders and anything else that’s notably delicate. I generally avoid the Lanard parts and opt for Marauder Gun Runner replacements, some of which I’ve trimmed the handles on. Other than that, I don’t think there’s much you can really do.
Steve (GI Joburg): I leave them armed and riding inside the very cool classic Lanard APC. Not removing weapons ad infinitum really cuts down wear and tear and they’re always ready for action that way! And the guys with no thumbs have their remaining fingers on the wheel; or manning mounted .50s on the ATK Vehicle (Hummer?), among others.
Come to think of it, I have no Corps! figures with broken crotches, and I have a lot of figures! Must be their slenderly sculpted thighs! Advantage: Corps!
Justin Bell (Generals Joes): This happened constantly, especially as a kid, but you know, it happened quite often with G.I. Joe back then, too, it was just kind of a fact of my young life. I don’t recall doing anything specific to avoid it, though I try to use weapons with slimmer handles and not force things too much.
I’ve even had one figure’s fingers break, which I’ve not seen from a Joe figure.
Rob B. (Joe A Day):I have broken several CORPS! figures’ thumbs. I don’t know if it’s due to aging plastic, but many of my problems in this area have come from old stock that I’ve bought at the annual Lanard sales. For the most part, we’re talking about figures over 20 years old. I’ve even had one figure’s fingers break, which I’ve not seen from a Joe figure. Because of this, I try not to use any weapons that might stress their hands. If it comes down to using original accessories for a JAD photo shoot however, I just take the chance.
STRYDENT: I SERIOUSLY played with all my figures so there were many “injuries” across the board. I had more broken thumbs than anything on both my JOES and CORPS! figures because I wanted desperately to have them shoulder their rifles correctly. I would achieve success for a few months and then would come the inevitable “Click” followed by a broken thumb.
Now, I’d avoid it by avoiding the oldschool O-ringers altogether. LOL! I’d stick with the more modern construction. Better plastic means longer lives, more missions.
Just so you know: Bottle rockets won’t launch a Corps figure.
Alexx (Toys and Tomfoolery): I don’t remember any Corps breaks (certainly not any of the new ones). Chances are, they would have broken the same ways that Joes had broken. There’s only so much pressure a hand can take, and so many wild roundhouse kicks that a crotch-piece can take. There was the…unfortunate incident of the ninja multi-pack in my teenage years, which shows what we had thought of Corps figures, back then. At the time, I had wanted some generic ninja toys (can’t remember why) so a friend of mine found this pack of Corps ninjas for my birthday. We messed around with them, but mostly found them hilarious and generic, so we….tested out some explosives on them. Just so you know: Bottle rockets won’t launch a Corps figure. Firecrackers will explode them. Surprisingly enough, some of them survived, and I kept the parts and O-Rings to fix up Joes (in fact, I believe one of their O-rings is still keeping my yellow and black Alley Viper together). So I guess….yes. I did have some Corps breaks. Through no fault of their own.
Mike T (Forgotten Figures): Not having used the figures much, I haven’t had much experience with breakage. I’ve taken them apart for parts without issue. The older weapons I had were always softer plastic which seemed to save wear and tear.
Modern Fighting Force
Now, it’s time to look into the present and the future. Lanard is consistently increasing the quality of its figures and releasing huge, imposing vehicles that can transport a ton of plastic soldiers. So, basically, every GI Joe fan’s naughtiest fantasy.
Their recently released female soldiers, Puma and Snakebite, have also made waves in the modern Joe collecting community. They feature new sculpts, on-board weapon storage, and enhanced articulation. They also have cool haircuts that I wish I could pull off.
So, what does everyone think of the modern Corps! offerings? Now that there’s no GI Joe at retail, does Lanard’s Corps! fill a huge gap for GI Joe fans?
Steve (GI Joburg): Absolutely. And more than the presence of the figures, the continued innovation and originality of the vehicles is very encouraging. If a new generation of toy lovers of all ages can build their forces and fleet with impressive toys like the Rain Fire and the Beast Bomber; they’ll get hooked as hardcore as I was in 1989.
But, in today’s toy landscape, it’s going to be tough to survive and carve out a market without at least some kind of license to draw kids to the brand.
Mike T (Forgotten Figures): I think their new figures are well done. The designs and colors are good. They are the closest thing to what the vintage Joe line did that’s out there. The newer vehicles don’t do much for me. Most seem undersized and poorly detailed. I’ve tried to find some to work with my Joe collection. But, their newer stuff doesn’t catch my eye.
Their “new” airplane (I think it’s the Beast Blaster.) is spectacularly awesome. It’s big, has lots of parts and looks great. But, it also shows the limitations of toys in that scale. You want it to be more than it is due to the size. In the end, it has fun features. But, not enough to really sustain a long term play pattern.
I think that Lanard will still struggle without the proper story and marketing behind their toys. Years ago, Wal Mart stated they liked CORPS! because they filled in impulse buy price point. Meaning, if a kid saw them and asked mom or dad for them, they’d toss them in cart since it was only a buck or two. Now, though, the figures are priced higher than impulse buys but substantially less than licensed toys. If a kid sees the figures and thinks they’re cool, they might get them. But, the figures don’t really fit a niche. If a kid asks for military toys, a relative might find the new CORPS!. But, if they ask for anything else, the CORPS! will be overlooked. The King Kong promotional tie in was a good way for Lanard to get their toys in front of kids. Those toys seemed to sell well enough at my local stores. But, in today’s toy landscape, it’s going to be tough to survive and carve out a market without at least some kind of license to draw kids to the brand. (Even Imaginext combines their proprietary designs (which tend to be awesome) with licensed super heroes and movies to get kids connected to the brand.)
Justin Bell (Generals Joes): Conceptually I absolutely LOVE what Lanard is doing today with CORPS. They’re taking out a lot of the stops and going whole hog into the crazy modern military/science fiction style, much in the same way G.I. Joe used to. They’re not feeling tied to realism or tied to some kind of media authenticity, they’re just making crazy, fun figures for the sake of making crazy, fun figures. That being said, I was certainly disappointed with the articulation of some of their more modern releases, and I’m glad to see they’re taking some steps away from that going forward. They are likely filling a void, I’d think. They’d have to be, Wal-Mart hasn’t carried Joes in many years, so for a large bulk of buyers, Lanard has really been their only exposure to military themed action figures.
Nekoman (The Viper Pit): Adding more articulation to the figures is a benefit. I also did grab Puma and Snake Bite a while back out of curiosity, and they’re alright although the proportions are pretty bad. Despite that, there’s two things that stick out to me that I dislike about the current The Corps! toys.
First, the figures are very inconsistent, and the quality of certain 2000‘s era sculpts is pretty bad. Comparatively, the vintage figures were all pretty much the same, and mirrored the solid GI Joe construction very closely. It’s odd getting a decent figure like Puma, packed with a JvC style figure, and another who’s got a simple five points of articulation. I’m sure that was a bit of cost cutting for the nicer figures, but I wish they might go ahead and retire some of these sculpts from the early 2000‘s. A few of them are pretty bad.
Second, vehicles. While some of the larger items look alright, I have a lot more interest in the medium size vehicles like they used to sell more of. What happened to those? I haven’t seen any in a while besides what’s in the King Kong line. It sort of disappoints me that I can’t easily grab an ATK Command jeep, or the Rhino Missile Assault like you could a few years ago.
I’m amazed that a smaller operation like Lanard is able to produce a large scale vehicle and get it to market for a reasonable price point.
Rob B. (Joe A Day): I am excited by Lanard’s incorporation of improved articulation, since they’ve been stuck in the new sculpt Joe t-crotch style much too long. The new large scale vehicles are certainly filling a niche (along with TRU’s True Heroes) that Hasbro is just not focusing on at the moment. I’m amazed that a smaller operation like Lanard is able to produce a large scale vehicle and get it to market for a reasonable price point. I don’t know the workings of Hasbro’s pricing models, but when I see the cost of large Star Wars vehicles, for example, I have to wonder why a modern vehicle like an AT-ACT is priced at over $200. Anyway, off the soapbox…
Pretty much everything they are currently making either fills a void for collectors or provides a quality alternative to those interested in 3 3/4 military figures.
STRYDENT: I love the new stuff that Lanard is doing. From the variety of characters to the variety of vehicles(when you can find em…damn scalpers!) to the improved construction/articulation as well as the build quality overall.
Pretty much everything they are currently making either fills a void for collectors or provides a quality alternative to those interested in 3 3/4 military figures.
And the best thing is that they remain as affordable as they were back in the day.
(Editor’s Note: I’m giving the reigns to the rest of this section to Alexx, who was thoughtful enough to go in deep on the modern Corps! Toys, and also provide us with some of his trademark comics. That’s RIGHT! The Dragon Fortress has made it now, because I’m hosting exclusive Alexx content! Take that, The Fwoosh! jk fwoosh ilu)
Alexx (Toys and Tomfoolery): I am VERY impressed with Lanard’s efforts, recently. In fact, in the past couple years, I’ve bought maybe one or two of those Toys R Us Joe repaint packs, and four or five different items from Corps. I’m not going crazy with it, since my rabid Joe buying days are far behind me, but it goes to show that Corps is inadvertently following along with my waning interest in super articulated collectors figures and stepping it up in just the pure, fun toys area.
Puma and Snakebite are fine examples! They go back to the basic Joe articulation, not going overboard, but hitting it just right. The sculpting is what brings it home, though! After seeing pictures of them, I went on a hunt.
I hadn’t hunted down a figure like that since…well, since Joes were still doing interesting things with Pursuit of Cobra! Granted, it helps that they’re female, since women are pretty under represented with Joes. Any time I can add new female characters is always welcome, and these two just ooze character; no bios needed (though I did enjoy the bios they wrote). If they can keep this up, I’ll be very interested to see where they’re going.
Puma and Snakebite aside: I got some basic Corps figures with them (since they came in multi-packs). I am happy to say that I was impressed with them, too! Even with the lesser articulation in the legs. The sculpting and paint was great!
The only ones I wasn’t big on were the mostly static figures with next to no articulation, but the sculpting was still nice and there was nothing stopping it from being a basic, good toy.
On top of that, I also bought one of their exo-skeleton walkers that, while kinda flat, still worked great and was pretty nice for the money. It just goes to show that you can make a budget toyline and put real, actual WORK into it, and it’ll still shine out above the rest of the budget figures…and maybe even the more expensive figures.
…that said, I feel like Lanard may be trying to fill the void that is G.I. Joe, nowadays. I could see an argument that Joe isn’t dead, since TRU is still selling the repaint packs – and let me say, I’m not trying to crap on the repaint packs. There are some new figures in there, and they ARE packing some of the best of the best in those packs, giving people a way to easily get figures they may have missed in the hard-to-find original run. Still…they’re repaints and repacks with a couple new figures, and none that took my attention all that much. The paint feels like it’s getting worse, while the price stays the same (or goes up).
With Corps, I can expect a base level of “budget figure” and then get impressed with what they can do on a budget! With Joes, I feel like I’m spending the Official Toy Premium Price for product that is missing the mark more and more. I already saw all that stuff, and the figures aren’t as good as the first time they sold them. Joe is inexorably tied to marketing and story, while Corps – as you can see, from the years of random stuff like Space Cowboys – is free to do whatever the hell it wants. …kind of like G.I. Joe, in the 90’s. I mean, when did we see a Star Brigade cartoon? Never? But they still made the toys.
So what am I getting at? That Lanard has been doing what Joes did in the 90’s, and may STILL be doing it? Just making what looks cool and throwing some bios in the mix, in case you need a story? Yeah, I guess that’s how I feel. Corps is free to be toys, while G.I. Joe continues to stay in this void of “We need a movie or cartoon to catch on, sorry. Here’s some more repaints of figures that were mostly selling to collectors, anyway.” The days of innovative, crazy stuff like Valor vs Venom and Sigma 6 are over.
Let’s hope Corps continues to pick up the broken pieces of yesterday (but not the broken pieces of Corps figures I blew up. I was a teenager, I feel bad about it, and I’m sorry. Let’s move on, Random Corps Ninjas).
Who is Steve Wyoming?
Steve Wyoming. Women want to chat with him, men want to arm wrestle him for quarters.
Who is this mystery man? Well, like most Corps! figures, he’s a total blank canvas. But he’s a beautiful blank canvas.
If I’d had Steve Wyoming as a kid, he would have played an essential role in my GI Joe stories. When I look at him now, I see him as a combination super soldier and propaganda tool. He goes around making public appearances and fighting terrorism for camera crews. But, behind the curtain, there’s some darkness there. Think Nuke or early US Agent from Marvel comics. Of course, GI Joe and The Corps! would have to team up to take him down.
I asked each contributor how they would have incorporated Steve Wyoming into their collections during their childhood years.
Justin Bell (Generals Joes): Steve Wyoming is amazing. I’d think he’d have to fill a kind of Captain America role. Some kind of symbolic hero for the United States, maybe the next evolution of the “Super Trooper” program from the 1980’s. He’s a really fun figure, and I know I’d have to fit him in somewhere. His helmet would give him enhanced vision, hearing, and a circular radar vision, while his backpack connects directly to his skeletal system, pumping strength-enhancing chemicals directly to his bloodstream. His armored gauntlets and boots serve as additional offensive weaponry. (Great minds, Justin! –ed)
Rob B. (Joe A Day): If I had seen a figure like Steve Wyoming back in the 80s, I would have bought it in a heartbeat. Contrary to what some adult collectors feel about post-’85 GI Joe’s sci-fi/wacky leanings, as a kid I was all-in for concepts like Serpentor, Raptor and Crystal Ball. Of course, I was also a comic book fan at the same time, so maybe my willing suspension of disbelief was stronger. As for the stories or play patterns in which he’d be involved, I would have had him in some sort of field leadership role a la Flint. He’s a quarterback after all.
There were a lot of homicidal robots in my play times.
Nekoman (The Viper Pit): That’s hard to say… As a kid I’d usually have a lot of odd and sometimes random uses for figures like that. Probably would’ve seen a lot of action with the Street Fighter GI Joes, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have turned him into some kind of cyborg Cobra. There were a lot of homicidal robots in my play times.
Alexx (Toys and Tomfoolery): Steve Wyoming? Seriously? Was he like, a Captain America super soldier type? He’s amazing! Oh man, where the heck was I when Corps was doing this stuff? Hell yeah I would have integrated him into my Joes! Chances are, if I didn’t get him in-package, I probably would have thought he WAS a Joe! I am all about the cybernetically enhanced super soldiers! In fact, I think Barricade played that role, back in the day, due to his heavy armor and Robocop-like helmet. Friggin’ Steve Wyoming would have been a welcome addition to my vintage Joes and my constant sci-fi stories about robots and cyborgs ‘n junk. Hell, I want him now, too!
He reminds me “The Action Man” from the Venture Bros. cartoon and I could see him in that vein as a hyper-exaggerated version of Duke who’s completely deluded by his own sense of ability.
Mike T (Forgotten Figures): As a kid, I’ve have hated that figure. He’s just too out there. I didn’t like Big Boa or Quick Kick. Guys with no shirt in battle simply didn’t make sense. As an adult, though, I see the Bulletman influence and appreciate this figure for his zaniness. He’s work as someone completely over the top. He reminds me “The Action Man” from the Venture Bros. cartoon and I could see him in that vein as a hyper-exaggerated version of Duke who’s completely deluded by his own sense of ability.
I’d avoid Steve Wyoming like the plague! That design is pure comedy! LOL!
If I absolutely had to use him in my “Verse” , I’d make him a failed US or possibly Russian Super Soldier. The CORPS! team would be tasked with taking him down at all costs. (Super soldier? Good thinking! -ed)
Steve (GI Joburg): What alchemy is this? Steve Wyoming?!? (Steve’s real last name is Wyoming -ed)
(Editor’s Note: Steve Wyoming was lost out in the field while getting his glamour shots taken. This is the last known photo of him. RIP, Steve.)
Bonus Round: Our Favorite Corps!men
As a fun bonus question, I asked everyone what their favorite vintage Lanard Corps! figures are.
Mine are Bengala, because of his amazing look and sculpt; Lightning Mobutu because HELL YES; and Fox because how did they get away with that???
Now, onto better answers from everyone else.
Mike T (Forgotten Figures): Mike is a man of mystery, and we may never know his three favorite vintage Corps! figures. Feel free to guess Mike T’s favorite three Corps! figures in the comments, and I’ll send you a Corps! surprise if I agree with you.
Steve (GI Joburg): Serious list: Fox, Tony Tanner, Boomerang Billy
Parody list (these guys made me laugh and laugh and laugh as my buddy Rob would lampoon the stereotypes mercilessly on the battlefield): Tracker Tom, Shooter Sam, Bengala!!!
Hell the first three were equal parts baddass and comedy relief too!
Justin Bell (Generals Joes): Depends on how far back “vintage” goes. Love Justin Case and Full Proof, those are definitely high on my list. I’d probably put Hat Trick Lemonde on there somewhere, too, just because.
Nekoman (The Viper Pit): Of the one’s I’ve owned, my top three are:
Fox (‘88 release, the grey one). Such a great design. I like that he could easily be a good guy or a bad guy depending on how you look at him, and the grey colors in particular were the best. The later repaints were never as nice as this one IMO.
Boomerang Billy (‘86 release). My childhood Recondo. I always thought this guy had a really nice look to him, and his parts were pretty good too. I think it’s a sten gun he comes with.
Emergency Rescue Police Officer. This guy’s an odd one. I really like the police figures Lanard released in the late nineties, but they are very tough to find. I’ve never even seen a packaged example of the particular figure I’m referring to. The sculpting is sharp and he’s a great figure just to use as a civilian.
Rob B. (Joe A Day): Whispering Willie, Fox, Lightning Mobutu.
STRYDENT: Shark, Large Sarge, Dragon Han
Alexx (Toys and Tomfoolery): I’ll be honest: It’s hard to pick just three, out of these crazy bastards. Steve Wyoming has to be on there, now that I know about him. Yeah, let’s start there:
#1) Steve Wyoming, for looking like a hilarious 80’s cyborg man and having the robotic balls to leave his entire chest open to enemy fire. The man has faith in his abs, and now, so do I.
#2) This one goes to Whispering Willie, for the name, the pink Mohawk, the fact that he doesn’t wear pants, and the triple bladed chainsaw. I’m fairly sure this man has been killed by Mad Max, Kenshiro, and Jimmy and Billy Lee numerous times.
#3) Any of the Space Cowboys! Good god, how did I miss those? Ah! AHH! I want one now! It’s killing me inside, not having these! Lanard, if you’re listening: Make these again! They’re brilliant!
Additional Resources and Closing Thoughts
Thanks for reading this love letter to Lanard. Clearly, the vintage Corps! figures and vehicles are worth paying attention to. The modern Corps! Vehicles and their newest figures are also very impressive.
I want to thank each of my contributors again, who were so gracious with their time and energy. This would have been a real snoozefest if it was just me blathering on. But instead you got wit, insight, deep analysis, and humor. We all win!
Be sure to tell me your thoughts on the Corps!, and especially your favorite figures (and who you think Mike’s favorite figures are), in the comments below.
In case you’d like to read more about the Corps!, I’ve listed some additional resources in this section.
But first, Marauder John of Marauder Inc. was kind enough to provide me a list of Marauder weapons that likely won’t send your vintage Corps! figures to the infirmary. Since vintage Corps! Weapons are much harder to find than the figures, this is a great resource for anyone who wants to equip their Corps!men without breaking a thumb.
Marauder Inc.’s Corps! Compatible Weapons
- XM177 Assault Rifle
- AK47 Assault Rifle with Wood Stock
- AK47 Assault Rifle with Folded Stock
- AKs74u Assault Rifle
- Dragonov Sniper Rifle
- Commando Assault Rifle with Scope
- Famas Assault Rifle
- Recon Assault Rifle
- ACR Assault Rifle
- FO6c Assault Rifle
- Toys From the Past has the best rundown of the vintage Corps! line on the internet.
- The OG13 forums have some great photos of most every Corps! series
- Here’s Joe A Day’s incredible archive of Corps! figures
- The Corps! Fans HQ forums always have a wealth of stuff to look at
- Here’s Lanard’s official Corps! Site
PS: I still pronounce it “the corpse” in my head. Every dang time. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯