#2
Get the Epiphone Les Paul Standard, and you will be doing yourself good for a long time. The Epiphone Les Paul Standard's pickups aren't so bad either.

A cheap / poorly made guitar will always be a cheap / poorly made guitar nomatter how much junk you put in the trunk!
#3
Check out Agile guitars at rondo music... They make Strats,Teles,LPs, etc

I have no experience with them but I have seen all over this site alot of positive reviews and very cheap prices.