Last weekend was the annual official G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention in Loveland, Colorado.
Oh, first off, that isn’t Sgt. Slaughter. That’s Erik Neal cosplaying as Sgt. Slaughter. I’ve never met the real Sarge. If I did, you’d probably read about it here.
Secondly: This is long, but it’s mostly photos, and the text chunks are in tiny, digestible paragraphs.
This year’s JoeCon was important for several reasons:
1) It was to be the last, with Hasbro pulling the plug on both it and BotCon (the annual Transformers convention) in favor of its own HasbroCon, specifics and location to be determined. Such a show would [attempt to] unite the various fandoms for Hasbro toy brands lines like Joe, TF, as well as MASK, Micronauts, Rom, and Action Man. From a business perspective, it makes sense, but I’m not convinced it will work.
2) With no G.I. Joe toys announced for 2016 and the line seemingly canceled, the fan club and the convention are the only place to get new 2016 product. That would be limited edition, fan club-exclusive and convention-exclusive 2016 product. I’m not actually a G.I. Joe toy collector at this time — I retired many years ago and switched to thinner, lighter, and more costly things like original art — but for most fans who attend JoeCon, like Shakespeare said, “The toy’s the thing.”
3) This is an important place to chat with several key collectors for fact checks on my book research, to network with fans, and to be seen. Without a movie and with barely a toy line to speak of (the 2015 G.I. Joe toy line-up was/is available only at Toys R Us and Entertainment Earth), this is the nexus of G.I. Joe fandom right now. Actually, that would be true even if there were a movie and a big toy offering at retail.
4) Thinking I would bring some newly finished chapters of my G.I. Joe history book to JoeCon in case I wanted to quietly show a few people, the prior week had a motivating deadline for my book designer and I to finish Chapters 9 and 10. We didn’t, but we got close.
I flew to DEN, which people often call DIA (Denver International Airport). Much hay was made by Joe fans attending (or not) of the con’s inconvenient location an hour north of Denver. Loveland has its own an airport — it’s across the street from the convention hotel, actually. But there are only three flights a week there, I’m told, so everyone just flew to Denver and took a shuttle, cab, or rental car. Or drove from home in the first place. I know of a dealer who drove from North Carolina, and another from Florida.
Traffic wasn’t bad and the drive was easy. Once again, a JoeCon hotel front desk greeted me with cookies.
…was 0.4 miles from the con, in the Embassy Suites. Not a bad 10-minute walk. The view from my hotel:
This was a strange place. Once utterly flat and undeveloped, a plain of grass divided by route 25, this strange sprawl of commercial plots in a desolate no man’s land a few miles north of actual-Loveland was a hodge-podge of chain restaurants, hotels, and a patchwork of undeveloped commercial plots still covered by grass.
Next to me was my main source of food:
But wait, what’s that in the distance?
Let’s get closer.
Why, that is an excellent surprise! I’ll have to check it out later! But will it be classic games, or modern ones, like at a Dave & Buster’s? Heading back to the con-hotel, here’s what it looks likes outside.
This greets me inside.
There are actually many people about, but I waited until the shot was clean.
I meet up with Chris-in-Texas, whose house my photographer and I invaded a year and a half ago. Chris read my book, and we’ve been meaning to go over his notes ever since. So we did.
He mentions a collector down in the lobby/bar/open area who’s got a thing he’s selling that he picked up at the famous and somewhat infamous 1994 Christie’s G.I. Joe Memorabilia Auction. (Things didn’t sell for enough, the catalog wasn’t great, the money perhaps didn’t go to charity.) We find him and I buy that thing, a snippet of artwork used in a ’90s Joe TV commercial. Included in the sale is an auction catalog! Which I’ve wanted for some time.
I bump into Troy McKie, Hasbro and Boss Fight freelancer.
We chat. It’s great.
I am exhausted. My body thinks it’s 1am. So I cancel any loose plans to drag people over to that arcade and instead head back to my hotel. But a strange thing happens.
The arcade calls to me, and I get a second wind. It’s probably 0.3 miles down the road — the whole scale of this place is like walking on the Strip in Las Vegas, which is my favorite thing to do in Las Vegas, where buildings stay the same size no matter how long you walk towards them. I’m a city boy, and when I walk 0.3 miles from my house, I’ve passed two dozen apartment buildings and shops. Here was just a desolate side road and two acres of grass for sale.
Up close, this place is huge. Either it’s three stories, or it’s one of those buildings that only needs to be one story, but is built high to get your attention, like Lexus dealerships and Walgreens.
I stepped inside, and was pleased to see blacklight bowling, but an arcade that was all new games and ticket-dispensing novelties. There was a giant 4-player version of Pac-Man Battle Royale, where each player has his or her own Pac-podium, and the game screen is the largest I’ve ever seen for Pac-Anything. The arcade was loud, and overly bright in an LED, 1am EST kinda way that was harsh and overwhelming, so I left. (Note to arcade designers: Funspot in NH uses red overhead lights. It’s great.) Also, there were a few teenagers hanging around.
Walking up to the con-hotel, the Embassy, looked like this:
Here’s a slightly different view, for context.
Across from the hotel and its convention center, another acre of grass, this one with a fence, and the first of a dozen rabbits I saw in Loveland.
It turned out breakfast at the Embassy was free! Good thing I didn’t pay for it back on my side of the street.
Said hello to Diana and Cullen Davis. Diana and I talked about current issues of IDW’s RAH.
Just past where general admission tickets are sold was the con’s display case. I didn’t shoot every figure, just a few that struck me.
The theme was Sky Patrol (a 1990 group of pilots and paratroopers), redone with modern Joe bodies. To fill out the set, Air Commandos and Battle Copter pilots from 1991 were updated and included as well. Fun!
I’ve heard some frowny comments from uber toy collectors that certain molds, like the Sky Striker above, get used and re-used too often. This modern update of the 1983 original was released twice in 2011 and then twice in 2013, for example. And here we have it again in ’16. So I can understand collectors’ frustration, we all wish Hasbro had a huge budget to make new vehicles and remake others, but the brand’s not strong enough. Anyway, it’s an unspoken goal that every single Joe from ’82 to ’94 (and ’97 to ’06, I suppose!) gets redone in the 2007 “25th anniversary,” modern body, so sets like these check off a lot of boxes.
I entered the con room, took a picture, and deleted it by accident a week later. But here’s a photo from the opposite corner:
Anyway, I took it all in. This is my second-favorite part of JoeCon (and BotCon) after the friend-people-stuff: the window shopping.
Joes from ’01
And the ’80s
And the 60s
Oh! This happened again! A kid was playing with G.I. Joe action figures — 1980s ones, to boot — and was making punching, machine gun, jet pack, and explosions sound effects!
Here a dealer displayed original art from the ’60s toy packaging.
Met up with Matt McKeeby, who’s providing some material support for Chapter 12 of my book, and Ace Allgood, who might provide same for Chapter 1. Ace’s daughter Lila jumped in the photo.
Walked a few tables over, but Larry Hama was elsewhere.
Watching him sketch is a thrill. He can talk and draw at the same time, so don’t be offended if he doesn’t make eye contact.
I checked out the art contest, with its various categories of small Joe customs, small Joe dioramas, big Joe cutoms, and big Joe dioramas. Here are some favorites:
Pale Peony is a Larry Hama character from the last few years of his G.I. Joe comics. Not based on a Hasbro figure, and has not been made into one.
Kirk Bozigian, award-winning model-maker and once Hasbro Marketing kahuna, added some realism to this Joseph Colton.
This one was wonderfully strange. Futurama through the lens of the 2007 G.I. Joe bodies.
Lots of fun.
This was my favorite, a diorama (and custom job on the figures, I have to think) of Snake-Eyes’ LRRP group from Vietnam, flashbacks in G.I. Joe issues #26 and #155.
Here’s another view.
This one was a little meta, as these two guys were standing twenty feet away.
Then it was time for the Hasbro panel. Manager of Global Brand Development Mark Weber and Vice President and Global Brand Management Derryl DePriest, who you may remember from one photograph ago…
…explained the current status of the Hasbro Cinematic Universe (HCU), that the writers’ room is coming up with treatments. Then they confirmed that the shared comic book universe of Hasbro’s toy properties, kicking off in a story to be published by IDW called “Revolution,” won’t be constant. Then they showed new toy product for Toys R Us and Entertainment Earth coming in November. This was a relief to me — I thought the line had been canceled. Somehow I missed the news that everyone else in the room had gotten two weeks prior, that there would be 2016 G.I. Joe action figures (though no vehicles! Boo!), just later in the year than previously.
It was a packed house, and you can’t even see the 30 people standing in the back.
It seems G.I. Joe is backed into a corner these last few years/these days at Hasbro, but lifelong fans (and smart toy people) Weber and DePriest are the right people to have in charge of the brand. Their explanations are diplomatic and educational, and their contained enthusiasm is infectious.
DePriest announced that the license to hold an annual G.I. Joe convention was being extended for two more years. The room was excited. I have some problems with how the current fan club and convention organizers do things, but I would rather some convention than no convention.
Returned to the dealer room and looked at the Joe Declassified booth. Joe Declassified seeks to collect and showcase pre-production G.I. Joe toys. But there are no photos allowed at their booth.
Requisite cosplay photo! I believe most of these fine folks are affiliated with The Finest.
Back in the panel room, Ace Allgood and Matt McKeeby presented 28 minutes of lost GI Joe toy commercials from 1964-1967. These were uncovered recently, so this was a big deal. I’m no big fan of the 12-inch GI Joe, but stuff like this does make me appreciate it.
Attended the live script reading. No photo. Gregg Berger played Firefly, Spirit, Autobot Grimlock and more, along with two fans who’d auditioned the day before. Remind me to one day tell you the story of that time I played an Autobot opposite Peter Cullen.
Chatted with Patrick Stewart about the state of the con. I think he’s going to read my book-so-far later this year and offer feedback.
Headed back across the street to relax and get Qdoba. Returned to the con. I didn’t have a pass to the Saturday evening event, so I played Donkey Kong Jr. and hovered near the entrance of said event Saturday stuff.
Chatted with Christopher McCleod and Adam Riches by the lemonade stand.
Here’s costumer James Kavanaugh, Jr. arriving as a budget Serpentor.
But his costume reveals a surprise! During judging, Kavanaugh takes off most of his accessories — He’s got a second costume underneath! He’s Brian Savage, G.I. Joe Convention organizer, and costume contest officiator! Brian Savage is standing next to Brian Savage! It’s wonderful. I was enjoying the moment and not worrying about getting a photo. But here’s a moment from a few minutes earlier.
On my way out I chatted with Dan Klingensmith.
And then Sam Damon, founder of Joe Declassified. He had some helpful perspective on copyright infringement and Fair Use.
There were 13 Ford Model A’s in my hotel parking lot.
Free breakfast again. It’s funny. At a con, despite the hundreds or thousands of people, if I attend alone, I feel alone. Like this.
Even if there’s all this around me.
Anyway, not to get melancholy, but conventions are filled with emotion. Excitement, exhaustion, anxiety. Mostly the former and the middle.
Chatted with Larry Hama.
He had finished a few dozen (!) sketches, and people were stopping by to pick them up.
Took a few pictures of the Hasbro display case. With the previous day’s reveals, I wanted to note the toys I was most excited by. All of this arrives in 2-packs or 3-pack this November as a Toys R Us and Entertainment Earth exclusives.
There’s this character, at last a plastic version of what originated as an extrapolation (G.I. Joe: Declassified issue #1 — Devil’s Due Press, June 2006) of a gag from page 4 of the very first issue of G.I. Joe (Marvel Comics, March 1982).
A new Cobra Officer. Notice anything particular?
Zombie 2-pack. I had forgotten that there was a zombie figure already a few years back.
A very nice update of Duke, in a 2-pack with his opposite number in Cobra, a new, unmasked villain named Tombstone.
I wish Tombstone had something more defining about him, like a scar or a tattoo or a flamboyant beret or a giant puple Cobra logo on his chest. He looks too much like a Joe, but this is practically Cobra’s third black guy ever [edited: see Comments section], so I’ll keep my complaints short.
Chatted with M. Carson Mataxis about his Art of G.I. Joe books.
Let’s talk about Marauders for a moment:
One of the biggest dealer tables was for the Marauder line of “Gun-Runner” action figures. This is not Hasbro.
This is a real boon for Joe fans who can’t get enough from Hasbro’s small offerings these last few years, or who want more modularity and customizability.
You could buy piecemeal!
Did I mention you could buy piecemeal!?
Again, I’m not here to buy, but seeing all this gets the kid and the collector in me excited! I want to capture how big and impressive this dealer table was, so I’ve included many photos.
Okay, that’s enough about the Marauder line.
I walked to the panel room for the Joe Declassified panel. Sam Damon, Dan Musick, and Dave Tree talked about and showed slides of a myriad of Joe variant figures from Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, the UK, and more. Again, as a not-really-anymore toy collector, this is a fun peek. As an academic, I love a good G.I. Joe slideshow with history and side-by-side comparisons.
On my way out I chatted with Terry Dizard, who knows a little more about the ’80s animated comic ads than I do. He mentioned a recent find that should get added to YoJoe.com soon.
Went back to the con room, bought a few loose action figures for five bucks, and wandered to the panel room, to see what was up with the costuming panel. Since that’s not my bag, I turned around, and bumped into Sam Sears.
He was deciding whether to attend Larry Hama’s reading and explanation of “Silent Interlude,” or to get lunch, since he was to be hosting two panels after. (Hama presented “Silent Interlude” at my school a few years back, so I could skip this here.) Sam nicely offered to help promote my blog and book on nerdrahtio when the time comes.
Got a cool Road Pig sketch from former Hasbro G.I. Joe designer and comics artist Mark Pennington, and happily plunked down cash for his sketchbook.
Surprise! I bought a few toys. As kids my brother and I loved the Accessory Packs. I got #4 mint-sealed at JoeCon 2014 I think, and so picked up #1, #2, #3, and #5 here. I’m pretty sure I already have one of them in my modest collection of 1980s still-in-the-package Joe toys, but such a redundancy is okay since the ones I forgot I wanted were all here in front of me, not expensive, and waves of nostalgia were buffeting me in the face and the gut.
Passed Kirk Bozigian and asked him to look at a chrome of some G.I. Joe art from around 1985 I don’t recognize.
It was 2:30pm, and the con room floor was noticeably slowing down. People had left, a few dealers were packing up early. The last day at a con is always sad. I need to stop lingering in big halls that are depleting. I said a few goodbyes, and aimed for the exit.
On my way out, Phillip Donnelly flagged me down and handed me a thumb drive filled with that stuff I think is getting uploaded to YoJoe.com soon. I was moments from hopping in my car and heading back to the airport, but I would happily spend 10 minutes copying this kind of stuff to my laptop any day.
That’s it for photos and pencil scrawls.
All in all, it was a great show. I’m disappointed I missed a few Friday panels — I’m just a weekend warrior at these shows, no three-day pass for me. The window shopping is unparalleled, and meeting up with friends and collectors in the know is good for me and great for my book. A tip of the goggles to Gary “Goggles” Head, who was present in spirit, emotionally present at the Declassified booth and every chat I had about pre-production and G.I. Joe history. Thanks to those of you said kind words about this blog or inquired about my book. (It’s going well, but slowly, but you knew that already.)
Everyone showed up expecting this year to be the last G.I. Joe con, and therefore, a sad occasion. (And I was present at the final BotCon in Kentucky two months back — which was quite sad in its final hours.) It was great to be able to say “See you next year in Orlando.”
How was your con?