Monday, February 27, 2012

African American Ladies of BOOTLEG G.I.JOES!

Knock-Off G.I.Joe-Type Figures from Lanard, Olmec, and Berchet

I had originally planned to do a separate review for each of these three figures individually for my series of Black History Month reviews, but time is short and they work so well as a group, so here they all are together.  We all know that black female characters are a rarity in boy-centric toy lines.  For some reason, even properties that have tons of female characters and tons of black male characters will rarely (if ever) combine the two minorities.  I did a review earlier this month on the lone African American G.I.Joe figure, Carla "Doc" Greer, but now I will focus on some cool bootlegs that have been released over the years to give us some sorely needed diversity in our 3&3/4" collections.

WOW Action Girls
Lanard 2001

The first figure I will review is from the king of all G.I.Joe knock-offs, a company called Lanard.  Lanard has been making not-quite-GIJoe figures for years under multiple product names, most notable being "The CORPS."  These are the types of figures you see in the drug store toy aisles or discount department stores.  Of all the bootleg companies out there though, Lanard has by far the greatest fanbase.  They do a really good job producing figures that fit in with their inspirational Hasbro line, while having new sculpts and interesting new characters.  Plus action figure customizers love the CORPS for inexpensive guinea pigs.  The lanard toy lines were conspicuously female-free until 2001 when they released a series called "WOW Action Girls" or "WOW Power."  This series consisted of G.I.Joe-sized girls with barbie-like smiling faces, and dressed /accessorized for a variety of professions and hobbies (Equestrian, Ice-Skater, Rockstar, Fashion Designer, Movie Director, Lifeguard, Police Officer, etc).  There were at least 12 different girls (making up for lost time I suppose!)  Arguably the coolest and most sought-after character from the WOW line is the focus of this first review, Astronaut Simone Johnson.

My Simone does not have any of her accessories, but she came with (1) a helmet, (2) a backpack/jetpack and (3) a handheld device/computer



Simone Johnson

A graduate of the Naval Flight Academy, she can fly anything with wings.

She is a captain on shuttle missions and a leading space explorer.

Bronze Bombers
Olmec Toys 1988

Next up is a figure with a fantastic backstory from 1988.  The figure itself doesn't have the great backstory, but rather the toy company itself, Olmec Toys.  In 1985, Yla Eason was a mother who simply wanted to find African American action figures for her son to play with.  As most toy collectors are aware, and as most eager-to-please mothers may not be aware, this is NOT an easy task.  So Eason took matters into her own hands.  She got a loan, made prototypes, and within a few years she had replicated the three most successful properties of the time but with African Americans being the predominant characters.  The first three toy lines were Sun-Man (a He-Man knockoff), Butterfly Woman (She-Ra), and the Bronze Bombers (G.I.Joe).  The figure I'm reviewing is the lone female of the 1988 Bronze Bombers, Agent Telepathy.

My Agent Telepathy does not have any of her accessories, but she came with a helmet and a gun.

Her Cardback Reads as Follows:

Agent Telepathy

Her Major: Computer Science
Her Specialty: Breaking PSB Enemy Codes
Her Motto: Keep it Simple; Break it Down
Her Goal: To Stay Honest, Strong, and Proud
   She was young, gifted, and lethal - a math wiz with a love for languages.  She 
   spoke 7 languages fluently and could break any secret code.  Her charm got her 
   in the door, but her fearlessness and cunning brought the enemy to their knees.  
   Her belief was: What people say is often the opposite of what they mean.  Upon 
   receiving her doctorate degree from M.I.T., she joined the elite Bronze 
   Bombers intelligence unit.

Medecins Sans Frontieres
Berchet 1988

The final figure in this review is Melissa from the 1988 Medecins Sans Frontieres ("Doctors Without Borders") toy line by French toy company Berchet.  Melissa is an African woman who I believe is a friend to the foreign doctors (I could tell you more if I could read French).  I reviewed Melissa and the Doctor Anne in detail in yesterday's Vintage Goodness post.

Time for some comparison pics!  

Here are all three ladies with Carla "Doc" Greer, the only official black female G.I.Joe (so far!)



  1. Agent Telepathy has become quite collectible in her own right. Bronze Bombers aren't the most common thing to come across.

    1. She was one of the first figures that got me excited about collecting. My first steps toward the action figure hobby was to try to get all the female GIJoes... and when that was complete I was going to stop. Then on I saw both the Bronze Bombers and Medecins San Frontieres in their "Not GIJoes" section... it was a simple discovery but it opened the floodgates :)

    2. I have also looked into that site and I saw her there as well. I was at an antique store a few years ago and found her in a bin on card for $1!!! For me, collecting female figures started with Sara Dyer's (sp?) female figure page. I had saved the lists of female figures she had on there and over the years have used it to try to collect all of them. She listed 70s, 80s, and 90s and her website stops at 1999.

    3. Yep, Sara Dyer's page was the start for me as well! In fact, I have a link to it on this blog's permanent sidebar. I probably collected before that, but finding that list was like lighting a fuse under my obsessive-compulsive butt. I even had to write to her a couple times in the past when I was desperate to identify an "unknown" toy. She always knew! I also became a fan of her Action Girl comics (not making the obvious connection between the two until much later - embarassingly), so many of my favorite comic talents contributed to that series. Great find with the Agent Telepathy. I never find anything good like that.

  2. Great article. My daughter wants to have a GI Joe that resembles her, and it's been a struggle to find a female African American GI Joe. There are a couple options, though. One is Jodie "Shooter" Craig, a GI Joe toy released as part of a 50th Anniversay 3-pack called the Special Forces Set. You can find examples on eBay. For the record, Jodie doesn't appear to be precisely African American. She is a dark-complexioned in action figure form. Her hair may be a bit European, however.

    Another good option are the customizable aftermarket GI Joe knockoffs made by a company called Marauder Gun Runners. Their GI Joe-type action figures are arguably better than the real thing and they're completely modular. You order a body, various types of clothes, a head, some hands, etc. They have a fairly broad selection of female African American heads, and the are compatible with off-the-shelf GI Joes.

    1. And, for the record, I'm referring to the small 1:18th scale GI Joes.

    2. I actually almost made my first Marauders purchase a couple months ago (I didn't though). I like the bright colored armor the new series has. I saw them at a convention and was really tempted.

      There have been a handful of new WOC joes, but as expected they are all super expensive on eBay: a new Carla Greer, Undertow Officer, and Freestyle. I don't have any of them unfortunately.