Lightning Mobutu, produced by Lanard for its Corps! line in 1992, is a figure I’ve wanted to review for quite a while. This week, I got a wild hair and decided to actually do it.
Several of the photos contained in this review are pretty old. You might even recognize some of them. There’s even one with hilariously bad green screen editing and visible figure stands. It’s a photo I was always kind of historically embarrassed about. But, when I revisited it, I actually found it kind of charming. So it got to stay.
Anyway, please enjoy these old and new photos.
This review is also a reminder that I need to focus on The Corps! more often. Maybe the next time I can’t decide on which toy line to pull my next review from, I’ll look to Lanard again. It seemed to help me this week.
So let’s take a look at the figure who might be my all time favorite toy from Lanard’s bold and beautiful sci-fi military toy line.
My Lanard Corps! Lightning Mobutu Story
Really, there’s not even too much of a story here, which means we’ll just get to the review faster.
As a kid, I enjoyed the few Corps! figures my friends had around. Some of them were cool enough to rival the Joes we played with. But even though I sometimes saw the figures in stores, they were never really on my personal agenda. I did acquire a few Star Force figures in my teenage years, but that was about it until I started this website.
I don’t really know exactly what got me going full bore into The Corps!– it might have been the great features on Joe A Day, some photos on Instagram, or just general frustration with collecting GI Joe. Even four years ago, Joe prices were starting to get a little out of hand.
That’s when I really dove into the toy line. I got some assorted figures and a sealed multipack. It was incredible. It was almost like I discovered a genre of music I’d never heard before or found my new favorite author. Lanard made a huge amount of 3.75” military figures, space figures, civilian figures, and vehicles to go with all of them. I’d known about The Corps! for years, but when I really started digging, it was almost like discovering a second GI Joe toy line.
That’s when I put together a huge collaborative post, which is still one of the most popular pieces on this website. Several really good folks contributed photos, writing, stories, and knowledge. It was great to see some respect and love for a brand that’s often the butt of jokes and derision.
After that post went live, I found myself exploring Lanard’s work with even more fervor. I knew there were figures I definitely needed to get. I scoured eBay and sorted by ‘new’ for several search terms every single day for at least a couple months.
At that time, persistence got me huge lots of figures, complete single figures, carded figure packs, broken figures for parts, and big mixed accessory lots. That led me to having at least one version of every individually named Corps! character and plenty of repaints and variants. I am still pretty far away from having “everything” (and that’s not even a goal for me), but I have a big tub full of Lanard army dolls. And that’s a good thing!
One character I knew I absolutely needed was Lightning Mobutu. Rob B’s Joe A Day profile of the figure really spoke to me. It’s such a cool and weird figure– I strongly feel that no Corps! collection is complete without him. I already had the figure by the time that post was published, but I needed his accessories.
It oddly took me a while to find those accessories. Corps! figures are still plentiful on the secondary market, but they’re often missing their gear. But, since Lightning Mobutu’s accessories are unique to him, I couldn’t just nab the right pieces from my big baggies of Corps! weapons.
When I finally got a complete figure, it felt very good.
It’s been several years since I bought and completed Lightning Mobutu, and I’ve wanted to review the toy ever since. So, before my favorite month of the year ends, I decided that October of 2021 would finally be the time to review this very special action figure.
The Corps! Lightning Mobutu (1992) Review
Lightning Mobutu was released in 1992 as part of the black-carded Series 3 assortment, marketed as “World Force Response Team.” He was one of six new figures for the series, all of which had a vague sports theme.
From The Corps! Fans HQ forums:
“In 1992, the figures from series 1 and series 2 were all recolored and rereleased. Each figure maintained the same accessories, but often in different colors from the originals. In addition to these repainted figures, seven of the figures were repainted an additional time but retained the same accessory colorations as their first repaint. Six additional figures with new accessories were created for this series as well. These six figures were vaguely sports-themed and are often thought by many collectors to stand out from the rest of the series.
Instead of individual art for each character, Series 3 products all featured art of Steve Wyoming, one of the new sports-themed figures. Steve was the new face of The Corps! despite having most of his covered by a visor. Art of Lightning Mobutu and Brickwall, also of the sports-themed new molds, was featured on some of the multipacks along with Steve Wyoming.”
And stand out they did! 1992 was the first time Lanard really went buckwild with The Corps!, releasing prior figures in loud color schemes and really amping up the weirdness with the six new figures.
Lightning Mobutu stands out in the best way possible. He was an all-new mold for 1992, and all of his parts and accessories were unique to him. That was somewhat unusual for The Corps!, but the six sports-themed figures basically stood on their own (with a few exceptions) for the duration of the vintage o-ring line.
The packaging was especially eye-catching and beautiful. You can see the aforementioned Lightning Mobutu artwork (at low resolution) in this great post from Toys From the Past.
And here’s a full “10 Man Action Team” card from Figure Realm:
But let’s get on with it! Here’s the figure itself:
The first thing you’ll notice is that Lightning Mobutu is quite the colorful character! He’s wearing a white tank top, picturing the continent of Africa, tons of gold bracelets, green headgear, sunglasses and some wild runner’s pants featuring beautiful shades of purple, yellow, and grey. His necklace and boots are a deep reddish-brown.
There’s a ton of great detail here, and it’s easy to get lost in just the head sculpt alone. He looks confident, but not cocky or arrogant. The headgear has a really unique sculpt, sitting above the red arms of the sunglasses and wrapping around his head. It’s a bit hard to tell if the yellow paint applications are face paint or straps for the headgear, but I think it’s a fun thing to ponder. Lanard really didn’t hold back on this one. The two-tone shades alone are exquisite.
The paint applications on his pants are also a joy to behold. This is a more vivid pattern than most 3.75” action figures from any brand ever received. They are bright and garish, but they’re also a feat of technical action figure mastery. No other action figure from any line looks like this.
The detail on the figure’s back is a bit soft, but at least the pattern on the pants continues around to the rear. The only other complaint I have is that he seems to have unpainted arm bands. I’m sure the paint budget was already long gone before Lanard got around to those. Still, painting them the same color as the boots and necklace could have gone a long way.
For accessories, Lanard’s Lightning Mobutu comes with a green bow and a red quiver. But they’re not just any bow and quiver! The bow looks like a vertically-held crossbow, but I honestly think it’s more of a “power bow.” As in he presses the button or a trigger and the arrow launches. The arrowhead itself looks fancy, as if it’s an explosive arrow or another trick arrow of some sort. The quiver features three more of these arrows and has a “handle” on the top– though that handle is a bit thick and I wouldn’t recommend placing it in the figure’s hand.
Most right-handed people hold a bow in their left hand. I’m a bit torn on how to equip this bow with ol’ LM, so I settled on his right hand since it seems like a fancy, technologically advanced weapon that you wouldn’t use quite like a real bow. These are the things I think about, especially when I see so many photos of Storm Shadow or Hawkeye figures holding their bows in their right hands.
It’s a pretty good set of accessories, and they’re unique to Lightning Mobutu. Most early Corps! figures came with 2-3 accessories, so that’s expected. But almost all of them before the “sports series” used many of the same weapons. Don’t get me wrong, most Lanard weapons are great, but it’s nice to see some exclusive pieces, too.
So, which “sport” does Lightning Mobutu represent? He’s supposed to be a runner or a track star. I don’t have access to his dossier card, but he supposedly joined the World Force Response team when his country was taken over by an evil dictator.
It’s a pretty cool concept for a character. You can imagine him running and dodging around (like lightning), firing off explosive arrows at enemy vehicles and fortifications. The enemy can’t catch him or hit him. He’s wearing light, flexible clothing that makes him perfect for asymmetrical strikes on their positions.
I see the character of Lightning Mobutu as more of an adventurer than a strict military man. I imagine he’s served in some military or another, but those days are behind him. He goes where he’s needed, helping oppressed and suffering people, sort of like Green Arrow and Green Lantern in “Hard Traveling Heroes.” He’s out to explore the world and right some wrongs.
Similar to RTG’s concept of Snake Eyes, though, I see LM as a guy who joins up with an elite military force like The Corps! or GI Joe when the need arises. He’s not the amoral, shady mercenary RTG sees Snake Eyes as, but rather just kind of a lone wolf who likes to do things his own way. He joins a team if he can help but, otherwise, he likes to make a difference on his own terms.
Unlike some Corps! figures like Whispering Willie, Crowbar, or Fox who you might see as bad guys but are actually good guys, I can’t help but see Lightning Mobutu as anything but a bonafide hero. In that regard, there’s no ambiguity at all.
That’s how I view him, anyway. I sometimes use him as a bartender in photos, too, just because I think he looks cool. And who doesn’t appreciate a cool bartender?
Unlike most Corps! figures, Lightning Mobutu didn’t see heavy reuse. He was repainted in 1994 in the “Blade Warriors” series as one of the Red Renegades. The figure recolored Lightning Mobutu in red and gold, rendered his accessories in brittle gold plastic, and gave him roller blades to peg into his feet. Check out the figure below, courtesy of Figure Realm.
Blade Warriors are not easy to find. Sometimes Chinese eBay sellers have them for sale (listed under inaccurate names), and those figures are often complete. But Lightning Mobutu is one I’ve never been able to find. I’ve never even seen him listed on eBay. I’ve managed to gather most of the others, but he remains elusive. It’s probably just as well, as the gold plastic used on some of the Red Renegades makes them exceptionally fragile.
The quality on the 1992 figure, though, is quite good. He moves just like you’d expect him to, and he’s not any more prone to paint wear than the average figure. The plastic feels good. And I haven’t even had any scares while putting his weapon into his hand. Even though you have to push the handle in from the side, it has not stressed the figure’s thumb and he holds it perfectly. I have no concerns about durability or quality here.
Over the years, Lightning Mobutu has become my favorite Corps! figure. There are many others I love, such as Toxic Waster, Bengala, Gasman, and Night Lazer, but LM is the king of kings. I love the Corps! almost as much as I love GI Joe, and I feel like Lightning Mobutu is a must-have for almost anyone who collects 3.75” figures in the o-ring style.
Overall: Lightning Mobutu is a treasure. He has a cool, evocative sculpt, fun accessories, and a bewitching paint job. He’s fun, colorful, and completely unique. If you just can’t abide by The Corps! or have a hard time seeing how a fast-running, hard-hitting bowman fits into your own “realistic military” toy universe, then maybe he’s not for you. But for everyone else that appreciates a great 3.75” military action figure, he’s Highly Recommended.
Closing Thoughts on The Corps! Lightning Mobutu (1992)
Thanks for reading! I also have to give a big shout out to my friend Cody, who helped me with a couple things for this review. He is the Corps! expert (and commander), after all.
What do you think of Lightning Mobutu and the Corps! sports series? Do you want to see more Lanard reviews? Let me know in the comments!