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Yo, you remember… Exo Squad?

Late September of 1993 I was 9 years old and walked into my older brother’s room to see something that immediately caught my attention. “What’s this?” I asked. “It’s Exosquad, it’s like G.I. Joe in space. That guy is Wolf, he is awesome.” he replied.

 

The Show:

The original title sequence explains it all: “It was a golden age for all mankind. Using the incredible exoskeletons called E-frames, we had successfully terraformed Venus and Mars, and were now poised to move on to the Outer Planets. Suddenly, it all ended. We were pressed into a nightmarish war on a scale previously unimagined. We were attacked by our own creations, the Neosapiens, a race of artificially created humans. Led by Phaeton, they had seized control of Venus, Earth, and Mars. This is Lt. J.T. Marsh, member of the Exofleet, leader of a small band of E-frame pilots dedicated to freeing humanity from Neosapien rule. We are… the Exosquad.”

Exosquad premiered on September 18th 1993 and it was not like many other cartoons on the air at the time. It followed a long story arc in a time when most American animated series did not. (Disney’s Gargoyles came out a year later and had a serialized line. The X-Men and Spider-Man animated series were airing around the same time with many multi-part story lines.) Exosquad also had a different tone then everything else on TV, more serious, more action, more intense than most cartoons aimed at children at the time. Exosquad is like G.I. Joe in space, except shots fired often hit their targets and cause explosions and death. Exosquad is where I learned about concentration camps, slavery, and the consequences of war. Maybe it was too much for a 10 year old.

Print of J.T. Marsh by storyboard artist Keith Tucker.

Original Animation Cel.

Universal Studios produced the series which lasted for 52 episodes over two seasons airing from 1993 to 1994. The first season aired on Sundays (at least in New York it did), and the second season aired on weekday mornings. Without a strong cartoon block around it or time slot, the show’s ratings were not enough to land a third season. Due to the politics of animation studios and networks, most areas had it playing at weird times and irregular schedules, making it hard to find and keep a following. I feel lucky that in the New York City area it aired regularly at 7AM weekdays (right after Bots Master) and as a kid I was always able to find it.

 

The Toys:

Exosquad toys were released in conjunction with the series. I think they hit shelves shortly before the series premiered. I have a memory of my grandmother bringing me to Toys ‘R Us, I was taking a bit too long to decide on what to get and she pointed to an Exosquad box and said “what about this?”. I dismissed her and finally picked something else, only to later be disappointed in myself for not listening to her brilliant advice.

Playmates Toys produced the line, on the heels of their hit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line. The figures and E-Frames had a great level of “playability”, hours of fun just putting the pilot into and taking him out of the frame. Even if it was a little frustrating trying to get the cyberjack into the tiny figures head and the hands around the joysticks.

Picture courtesy of the “Bring Back Exo-Squad!!” Facebook group. 

The ExoSquad toy selection at Pandora’s Box Toy Store.

The figures were a bit smaller than a G.I. Joe, and came with a mech suit called an E-Frame that the figure would fit inside. They came with sticker sheets, blueprints, ID cards, and more stickers to add battle damage. Most of the line consisted of single figures with a standard size E-Frame but there were also larger, 2 person, frames and two fighter jet style exoframes.

The first time I heard of Exo Squad was when I walked into K-Mart looking to by some new G.I. Joe figures. As I made my way to the toy section, with my bag of free popcorn, I noticed they had setup a huge end cap of the newly released Exo Squad toys in a great display.

I was immediately hooked, I must have stood at the end cap for what felt like 2-3 hours reading all the details on the back of each box. I was in awe of the level of detail in each figure.

That’s when I also found out there was an animated series they were based off. As soon as we got home, I frantically looked at the TV Guide (hahaha, TV Guide) to find the Exo Squad schedule.

From the very first episode I watched I knew this show was much different then the other cartoons I watched. That was when I first realized what an animated series actually was, this wasn’t just a cartoon. This had a deep overarching story, more mature theme with some of the best character development at the time.

Exo Squad was WAY ahead of its time and it’s borderline criminal how it slipped by so many kids in the 90s. Through the years of moving, getting rid of stuff, selling my belongings, my Exo Squad collection was one of the few things from my childhood I refused to part with…

 – Logan, Lifelong ExoSquad Fan

The toys came packaged in boxes with original box art, again much like G.I. Joe verichels. With the big difference being that the front of the box had a flap that lifted up to reveal the action figure and E-Frame. The larger sets would have a window to show the exclusive figure that came in the set.

Eventually the line expanded to carded figures and then took a left turn by re-releasing Robotech toys from the 80s. The colors and decals were updated slightly for the Exo Squad line and I imagine was an easy way to keep the fading line going. It seems that many Robotech fans were and are excited to be able to purchase the toys again, and today the Robotech Exosquad variant toys are among the most expensive of the Exosquad line. 

 

The Ending:

Exosquad only lasted 2 years. The story of the Neosapien War ended, and then there was one final episode that ended on a cliffhanger. It could have been used to propel the story into a third season, the likes of which can only live in the imagination of fans and on online forums. It can also be used as a jumping point to allow you to continue to use the toys to fight any alien type toys that were in your toy chest.

The toy line did continue for a short period of time after the show was over but still playing in syndication. There was also a board game and video game for SEGA Genesis that I was never able to beat.

Able Squad of the ExoFleet. Picture courtesy of Resurrected Hobbyist on Instagram.

For a while the show did have a second life airing on the USA Network. During their “Action Extreme Team” animation block, usually next to the Street Fighter animated series. It was here that I was finally able to see the final episode “Beyond Chaos”. When the show originally aired I would wake up every morning to watch it. After the final episode of the war, Abandon Hope (The Fall of the Neosapien Empire 5), my 10 year old self assumed the series was over. Imagine my surprise when I got home from school and my brother wanted to talk about the crazy episode explaining what happened after the war…

To add to that story, I would record every episode on VHS, in the worst quality. I was so excited to finally be able to record the final episode and then 10 minutes into the episode the recording stopped and the tape started to rewind, I had reached the end of that tape!

Phaeton and the Neosapiens.

Original Animation Cel courtesy of exosquadarchive.com

Today:

For a long time Exosquad was hard to impossible to find, except on my blurry video cassettes (and other fan’s recordings on ebay). Then in 2008 when Hulu launched it was there. Only the first season and if my memory serves me correct they forgot to upload episode 12. Finally in 2009 season one made it to DVD. Today the entire series is available, for free, on NBC’s new streaming platform Peacock.

Not for free today are the toys. Most every Exosquad toy you find nowadays comes with a hefty price tag. eBay always has a bunch and the prices seem to always be a bit, let’s say, out of this world. Obviously you know that we at ToyStoreGuide suggest visiting your local vintage toy store and looking for the figures. Luckily, a store only an hour from me, Pandora’s Box in New Jersey, has a great selection and I was able to snag some pieces that I was missing. Way cheaper than anything I was seeing on eBay. I was also able to grab a few open figures from my local shop Rip N’ Run Collectibles in NJ. Other stores that we have noticed had figures are TC’s Rockets in San Diego, Paul’s Toy Room in Jersey and DFW Toy Stash in Texas.

Like with any fandom, there are online groups devoted to Exosquad. Reddit and Facebook both have communities that help keep the memory alive. As a kid, part of the reason I liked Exosquad was that most people didn’t, like when you like a band that none of your friends know about, it gives you a sense of ownership. Now I search out and befriend other ExoFans. There is even talk about an East Coast Exosquad Meet-Up. You know ToyStoreGuide will be involved!

Recently, the Exosquad Archive launched at exosquadarchive.com. It is now the best place to find out about everything Exosquad. Toys, the animated series, games, concept and fan art, even merchandise, the Exosquad Archive has it covered. Imagine that today, 28 years to the day ExoSquad premiered, you can buy new merch.

I was 16 when Exosquad came out and was enamored with it. It was a bit of a dirty secret I kept in high school as all my friends began to get into cars, girls, music and clothes. Toys and cartoons weren’t cool anymore. But to me, they never stopped being cool. 

As I started working part time jobs in high school, frequently my paychecks went to new and clearance Exo-Squad toys. For whatever reason, I kept them boxed and safe and they moved with me everywhere I went for 25 years until last year when it was time to “DO” something with them…

 – Kevin, The ExoSquad Archive

We at ToyStoreGuide are happy that we were able to help the Exosquad Archive in any small way possible. Mainly scanning sticker sheets and sending over any random ExoSquad related pics and info collected throughout the years. You can help too, since it’s an exo-community driven site, just check the home page for how you can submit your own E-help.

For some reason, I can not tell you why, when I was fourteen I decided to sell my entire Exosquad collection. Then at 24 I decided to build it back. The search continues for lost pieces but I can sleep at night knowing my collection is strong. Sleep at night with Exosquad playing thanks to an AppleTV playlist. Sleep at night knowing that others are out there that remember ExoSquad. Sleep at night knowing my brother was right, Wolf Bronski is awesome…

Launch the E-Frames!

Article by: @toydelorean on Instagram

Disclaimer: The article above is for entertainment purposes only and has barely been researched. It is meant to instigate nostalgia and to promote a sense of community.

 

“Yo, you remember… ?” will be an ongoing series of articles and stories dedicated to toy related memories of the past. Do you have a toy memory that you would like to let people know about? Reach out to us so we can collaborate on keeping the memories alive. This has been a message brought to you by ToyStoreGuide.

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