Crazeblaze (1997 Bronze Bombers)
Any successful toy line will inevitably have imitators. Throughout the life of the 3 3/4″ GI Joe series, there were scores of similar looking military lines. One of these look-alike series, Bronze Bombers, was produced by Olmec Toys, an African-American owned toy company. Olmec released several toylines through the 80’s and 90’s, all featuring African-American characters.
In 1994, Olmec obtained the rights to produce figures using actual Hasbro molds, and released a box set of twelve figures, sold exclusively at Toys R Us in 1997. Eight of the hero figures (called The Bronze Bombers) were made up of Hasbo bodies with new heads. The four villains (named the Pyros) were entirely Hasbro molds.
Crazeblaze, the leader of the villains, is a repaint of Darklon, and even included the original figure’s weapon. While Darklon had a very odd combination of colors, Crazeblaze has a simple two color paint scheme (presumably to cut costs). The result is a very attractive figure, and is infinitely more menacing than his Hasbro counterpart.
An interesting aspect of this series is the inclusion of filecards, and an attempt to create a story and characters. Crazeblaze is described as having caused havoc from an early age, and wanted to become a psychologist. When he was told that he was “mentally insufficient” his reaction was to begin setting fire to learning institutions. It doesn’t go into detail about how he became the leader of the group or how the explosion that disfigured his face occurred. Sure, it’s not a Larry Hama masterpiece of short exposition, but I have to give them credit for even trying.
The 1997 Bronze Bomber figures, although not an official Joe product, command a premium price. The combination of seldom used parts, along with some interestingly different color schemes certainly stir the interest of collectors looking for something out of the ordinary to add to their collection.