Life's tough when you're a small toymaker; just ask the guys at Plan B.
After ReSaurus folded under the weight of bad management, Plan B emerged from the wreckage. In addition to doing a lot of sculpting for other companies, the Plan B team kept ReSaurus' Special Forces line alive. Honoring the soldiers who put their lives on the line to ensure our freedoms, the Special Forces were like 6" GIJoes; lots of detail, a good amount of articulation and enough weapons to outfit the Punisher. Really, they were great - the only downside was the expensive pricetag.
The first series of figures was available at many large retail outlets such as Toys R Us. But when it was time for Series 2, TRU had a new buyer who had the mandate "no violent toys." Special Forces 2 could only be found in specialty stores like Software Etc. or Electronics Boutique, severely limiting their exposure to consumers.
Fans hoped that the new line, Emergency Forces, would fare better, but still TRU refused to carry them. I guess policemen and fire fighters can die so that others might live, but we shouldn't tell our children about them. Heaven forefend!
And you know this is just because Plan B is a small company. They're given the "no violent toys" excuse, but then ToyBiz releases a Marvel Legends Punisher and dozens of sword-wielding maniacs from The Lord of the Rings. Hasbro puts blasters and guns in with every Star Wars or GIJoe figure that heads to shelves, but Toys R Us carries those. Plan B Toys has been blatantly lied to by the buyers for major retail chains because they don't have the history, clout or backing to say "screw you, we'll just sell over here."
Though they may be hard to find, the Emergency Forces figures are really worth the hunt. We've already taken a look at the Police K-9 Unit, but now we take a look at three figures in one: the Emergency Forces firefighters.
First responders are firefighters tasked with victim extrication and medical care for auto accidents. The "Jaws of Life" are the tools of the trade and are very effective.
Clad in the muddy tan protective gear seen so often by the side of the roads, the First Responder looks exactly like his real-life counterpart, from the distinctive metal clasps on his jacket to the padded knees on his pants. He's wearing fireproof head netting under his helmet and has a clear visor that flips down to protect his face from flying debris.
He's got big red and silver stripes painted on his uniform, just like the real guys. The First Responder is very nice, but he's not the best of the bunch.
The Fire Service in the US was born in colonial Boston with the first paid Bucket Brigades in 1680. Today there are over one million active firefighters in the United States.
If you only plan to get one of these firemen, the Structural Firefighter is the one you want to look for. Wearing the classic blue gear that looks like most people's idea of a fireman, the Structural Firefighter stands 6 1/2" tall to the top of his helmet, which features an immobile clear visor.
The stripes on his uniform are painted yellow and silver, with the silver sections duplicating the reflective strips that help these guys stand out even in the thickest smoke. The figure's deco also includes dirt, soot and grime that make him look like he's been working.
In addition to having the best look, the Structural Firefighter also comes with the best accessories. First we have a bright red axe, that ubiquitous fire-fighting tool. With a yellow handle and a black grip, the axe looks perfect. The set also includes a length of firehose and a nozzle to control the spray. The hose measures about 14" long and is made from thick cloth to simulate the material real hoses are made from. The nozzle can plug into either end and be held in the Firefighter's hands.
The Fire Chief is responsible for all aspects of the scene including command, safety, and investigation. They also inspect commercial structures and ensure fire safety.
Wearing the same blue pants as his Structural subordinate, the Fire Chief is wearing a white coat to set him apart from the crowd. He has only yellow strips on his uniform: no safety silvers. His helmet is the same style as the First Responder's, though painted white to match his jacket. I'm guessing all those bright colors are to help him stand out at the scene of an emergency, because they're certainly not to hide the dirt: this chief has obviously been right there in the thick of things with his boys.
The Fire Chief comes with a halligan, the general all-purpose tool used by firemen. Designed in the 1940s by Hugh Halligan of the FDNY, the tool has specialized heads for breaking glass, prying things apart and ramming things. Combining several out-dated tools into one, the bar is designed to be generally destructive and get the firefighters past whatever obstacles they might encounter.
From the very beginning, the Special Forces figures have all been built around one basic body. A new body was designed for the firemen, though all three of them still share it. These three smokehounds move at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists (just below the stripes on the sleeves), hips, knees and ankles, though all of them had to do a lot of freezer duty before they had a full range of motion. They have a joint at the waist, though I found it to be very stiff in all examples and fairly limited in its motion. Their hips are ball-jointed, which is a first for the Special Forces lines.
As with all the Special Forces toys, the firemen's heads are removable - each set includes one unmasked head and one wearing a breathing mask. The heads pop on and off easily, and have squared-off tops that allow the helmet to plug into place on either head. While the Special Forces military guys had removable tac harnesses, the firefighters have a SCBA tank that can be taken off.
Each of the Emergency Forces firemen comes with one of the three Jaws of Life components - buy all three and you'll have a complete set.
Actually, "Jaws of Life" is a brand of tools that is trademarked by the Hurst Jaws of Life company, but like ping-pong, white-out and rollerblades, the brand name has supplanted the generic. A series of simple hydraulic tools, the Jaws of Life are comprised of cutters, spreaders and rams. The names are pretty straightforward, and so are the machines' functions.
Cutters have a mouth that opens and closes, just like a pair of scissors. They chomp through metal like breaking a twig. With an aluminum-alloy housing and forged, heat-treated steel blades, the cutters shear through vehicles to free anyone trapped inside. The hydraulic pressure is used to close the curved, pointed blades around whatever needs to be sliced. A typical cutter can generate anywhere from 6-11 tons of pressure between its jaws. The cutter is included with the Structural Firefighter.
Spreaders work in the opposite direction from the cutters: their hydraulic pressure is used to open the jaws rather than close them. Aluminum alloy arms with tips made of heat-treated steel provide maximum power for tearing apart any vehicle or rubble. The closed spreader arms are inserted into a hole or gap in the structure before being spread apart with 8 tons of pressure or more. The spreader (with nice gear-driven arms) is included with the First Responder.
Rams are the most simplistic hydraulic system: the fluid moves one piston head in a straight line. Used to push apart sections of the car, the ram is braced between two sections that need to be further apart; if a victim is pinned by the dashboard, the ram could move the dash out of the way, or at least provide a few important inches of space. Measuring 2" long and featuring a moving piston head, the ram is included with the Fire Chief.
Though most hydraulic systems rely on oil for their pressure, the Jaws of Life equipment uses a phosphate-ester fluid, which is fire resistant and electrically non-conductive. At a crash scene, this type of synthetic fluid is favored over conventional oil, since a rupture in the line wouldn't cause an explosion. The flow of hydraulic fluid is controlled by a portable engine with hoses running to the individual tools. The First Responder includes this small generator.
Plan B put a lot of work into these figures, making sure they were worth your money. But unless you have easy access to a specialty shop, you may never know it. Retailers are quick to react to comments from their customers, and even quicker to react when they realize that those customers might take their business somewhere else. If you'd like to see the Special Forces line in some bigger retail locations, use the addresses below to get in touch with the stores and let them know.
702 SW Eighth St.
P.O. Box 9350
|Toys "R" Us
461 From Road
Company contact info gathered from the Federal Citizen Information Center
Tell them that you want to see these toys on their shelves, and until you do, you'll be spending your money somewhere else. Point out that policemen and firefighters aren't violent characters - you can find police or fireman playsets and dress-up gear everywhere - and that the lines of soldier toys are no different than the GIJoes they already sell.
Fear of complaints is what kept the Special Forces off the shelves, so show these retailers that they're going to get complaints for not carrying them. You're a customer, you've got the money, you've got the power.
What's so violent about firemen? Their axes? The jaws of life? The respirators that allow them to walk into burning buildings and save our families? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.