Sky Knights! had held a lot of promise in the 8-15 boys segment. The news frequently made their exploits seem daring, much more exciting, at least, than counterinsurgency and roadside bombs. Too many American boys had big brothers in real shitstorms—how many American boys had big brothers who flew their very own jets, went out there on their own, and soared to victory? None, and in so many circles these mercenaries were received as ronin, masterless warriors.
These guys could be Ninja Turtles but supersonic; G.I. Joe, but self-made, not patriots but individuals. Knights in the sky: man existing alone, taking the on world, several thousand feet up and yet closely bound with all being by virtue of living so close to the edge of it. Amazing.
Then the knights went and dropped napalm on a Congolese port town. Okay, simple enough: time to recast them as bad guys, and shift the focus to the mercenaries tangoing with the Pakistan Air Force over the Khyber Pass, or those privately owned Jaguars stalking the Colombian border. A little marketing backflip, maybe, but every line had to have its villains. Villains could be fun.
Villains who fragged a Danish corvette and a British cruise ship, however, had the predictable effect of drying up anyone’s appetite for private air forces.
Suddenly Hasbro could be pretty sure that no parent would buy their kid any toy plane with spring-loaded Exocets. Someone had made a joke about getting started on a cruise ship with Realistic Battle Damage™. He had been told to pack up his things and kindly leave the company.