Airman John–I think (1986 American Defense–I think)

I can’t lie, I think this is Airman John, the pilot character in Remco’s GI Joe wannabe, American Defense, but I can’t be sure. The mold was repurposed many times for the line and its offshoots. Just off the top of my head, Remco also produced US Forces, American Force and US Military using the same group of molds. There are probably many more that I’m not recalling, and that’s the problem in identification. Collecting Remco is like the wild west. I’ve been able to figure out some of the figures and lines available via old Tomart action figure guides and Google searches. The more you dig for these figures, the deeper the rabbit hole goes. Every search seems to reveal more variations. I know that quite a few collectors have sizeable Remco collections; someone just needs to compile information and pictures, similar to a certain famous GI Joe site. Who’s with me on starting

Having tried to track down a few of the Remco figures in recent months has left me flabbergasted when I see the amounts of money that folks are willing to drop on them. The Airman John mold seems to be one of the more widely available, and therefore cheaper. I presume the rarity of these knock-offs are what drives the prices, since most probably got trashed back in the 80′-90’s when kids abandoned their toys. After all, who would have had the forethought to save their K-Mart purchased cheapjack GI Joes?

On the subject of cheapness, I have to say that the quality on these figures is fairly high. The plastic seems to wear better than other well known knock-offs like the Corps. None of my Remco figures have broken digits. The weapons however can’t match Joe. The plastic is quite rubbery–heck I’d venture to say they are rubber. As you can see, this particular figure’s rifle suffers from a performance issue.

Despite being a Joe imitation, the Remco lines had a few unique features. The most interesting to me are the split fingers on the right hand. I can best describe it as a sort of “live long and prosper” pose. It’s a pretty successful workaround for a single trigger finger, which would probably have broken very easily. The figures also featured some modular accessories that plugged into chests or thighs. A gun could be replaced with a knife, etc. It’s the same kind of thing Hasbro would do with Joe years later in the 25th anniversary line. A knock-off was an originator? Gasp.

Back to this mold, it’s a fair representation of a fight suit, although the helmet looks more akin to a medieval knight meets Tom Corbett. Remco arms are a strange affair, with thin, pinched elbows and rivets at the biceps. The head details are soft, thanks to the rubbery plastic of the head. The paint job is quite well done however, with some very crisp camo patterns. I prefer this color scheme to the plain silver of Airman John. Wait, did I say this was Airman John? Guess I better check


  • I agree….these figures are tough to nail down. I didn’t have any of them back then so trying to figure them out now is very difficult.

  • You could almost pass him off as an eco warrior in that get up

  • He reminds me of a vintage A-Wing Pilot, but that’s another line/brand matter altogether.

    Somebody needs to do a Remco reference guide, online or print because there must be hundreds of variants out there. This is one rabbit hole I’m not going into due to pricing and scarcity. In fact, every time I run across one of these guys on the Bay, I keep reminding myself that they are knock-offs and were never worth my attention back when I collected vintage Joes at retail.

    It doesn’t seem to work very well given how anything Remco is on fire right now. Heck, look at the prices for their Sgt. Rock stuff.

  • I mostly passed on these guys at the time so I can easily pass on them now. I think they just didn’t have the personailty of Joes or Corps. I might have a dig around and see if I’ve got any to sell if they’re bringing good prices on ebay. I could afford more Joes then.

    I would really like to see a definitive though…

    Be seeing you

  • I had some of these characters and some of their thumbs did break, usually after giving them hard plastic Joe weapons.

    Beware the flame thrower (Captain Combat or something like that), the gold versions of him shatter easily. What the Transformer fans call gold-plastic syndrome.

  • This is a nice figure. I agree with you,it seems like at least joes were saved to some extent. I don’t run across knock-offs at flea markets or garage sales. It’s almost as if people threw ’em out.

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