Heads Up, G.I. Joe Fans ‘n Collectors———Unusual “One-of-a-Kind” Prototypes From Don Levine’s Personal Collection Now Being Auctioned Off

A GIjOE "Dream Date" Barbie combo set? With a Naval Cadet figure? Heck yeah, we'd buy that! Opening bid for this  unusual "one-of-a-kind?" $3,500! (Photo: NDSA)

A GIjOE “Dream Date” Barbie combo set—with a Naval Cadet figure? Heck yeah, we’d buy that! Be sure to click this photo to enlarge (and read their untold, unsold story on the back). (Photo: NDSA)

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Nate D. Sanders, Auctioneer (Photo: NDSA)

Nate D. Sanders, Auctioneer (Photo: NDSA)

FLASH! GIjOE History For Sale—Only 1 Day Remaining

We were surprised to learn today that Don Levine’s wife and widow, Nan Levine, is currently auctioning off more of Don’s rare GIjOE prototypes and other “one-of-a-kinds” at the Nate D. Sanders Auctions (NDSA) facility in Los Angeles, CA (and on their website online). Fortunately, Nate wrote in to The Joe Report today juuust in time for his exciting news to make it into today’s issue. Here’s what Nate had to say about the auction:

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“Rare” and “One of a Kind” are not words we throw around lightly here at Nate D. Sanders Auctions. We try very hard to reserve those hallowed words for pieces that truly fit that description. We can confidently call the G.I. Joe prototypes we are putting up for auction on October 30th ‘rare’ and ‘one of a kind,’ because that really is what they are. Nate D. Sanders Auctions is excited to announce that we will be auctioning off several museum-quality G.I. Joe prototypes owned and designed by G.I. Joe creator Donald Levine. This is a dream come true for any toy collector, as Mr. Levine is widely considered to be one of the most prolific toy designers of all time. All of the items come directly from his estate. Mr. Levine had a storied career as a toy designer for Hasbro and its UK distributor Palitoy from 1959 until his recent passing this past May.”

As to the GIjOE-Barbie combo set shown above, Sanders provided the following intel:

malecomment“This is the original prototype designed and created by G.I. Joe creator Donald Levine, in its original packaging taken by Levine to the pitch meeting for the idea, at the offices of Hasbro executives. Ultimately, though, the ”dream date” never occurred, as Hasbro was unable to get licensing rights from the Mattel toy company for the production of the Barbie doll.

The back of the box reads: ‘This is the ultimate to collectors’ fantasy come true! / Everyone who ever grew up playing Barbie or GI Joe during the mid-1960’s imagined what it would be like if these two American icons ever went out on a date. Well, here’s the answer to their dreams. Dream date is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Barbie and GI Joe collectors to add a very special piece of toy history to their collections.’

The bottom reads: ‘The Story / It’s June week at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Midshipman, GI Joe, has asked the most beautiful girl in America to the Cotillion Ball. Barbie is dressed in a mid-1960’s prom dress. GI Joe is dressed in his full-dress service academy uniform. Before the dance is over, will he and Barbie take a stroll in the moonlight along Flirtation Walk?’

G.I. Joe wears the aforementioned navy blue white and gold Naval Academy uniform, complete with a long sword housed in a bright blue sheath affixed to the doll’s belt. Barbie wears the mid-1960s pink prom dress, complete with pearl necklace and earrings. She wears pink elbow length gloves, and the dress has a white ‘fur’ collar. Measures 10.25” x 15”. Slight wear to the box, as it was opened at the Hasbro pitch meeting. Very good condition. From the estate of G.I. Joe creator Donald Levine and with a COA from his widow.”

While this figure is certified as being owned by Don Levine, an "Action Soldier" it is obviously not. Rather, it appears to some sort of Adventure Team "kit bash" created using a '70s fuzzhead Commander figure and an Air Force jumpsuit. (Photo: NDSA)

While this figure is certified as being owned by Don Levine, an “Action Soldier prototype” it clearly is NOT. Rather, it appears to be some sort of Adventure Team amalgam, created with a ’70s fuzzhead Commander and an Air Force jumpsuit. (Photo: NDSA)

Caveat Emptor! We’re not sure if it’s a matter of Nan Levine not knowing about what she’s endorsing, or whether Nate’s auction company is simply in error, but some of the items in this auction aren’t exactly what we’d describe as “prototypes.” The soldier and Action Man figures look a lot more like kit-bashed “representations,” created out of already existing uniforms and figures. Conversely, the GIjOE and Barbie combo set and that remote-controlled figure appear to be real “finds,” Joe history-wise. But we’d advise caution and careful consideration about the others before placing your bid(s). Here are some more of Nate’s intriguing descriptions:

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“One of a kind ”Action Soldier’ G.I. Joe prototype from 1964, with original hair flocking. This is one of only a handful of original prototypes personally designed by G.I. Joe creator Donald Levine for Hasbro in 1964. Hard plastic prototype features bearded soldier wearing removable burnt orange flight suit, which zippers from the waist to neck and contains ”G.I. Joe / By Hasbro / Hong Kong” written on the label. A four pocket green military coat with three snaps covers the flight suit, and the soldier wears brown mock lace up combat boots. To the inside label of the military jacket reads: ”G.I. Joe / By Hasbro / Japan”. Embossed to the figure’s backside is the original copyright from 1964. Measures 11” tall. One snap missing on green jacket, and minor soiling to the flight suit. From the estate of G.I. Joe creator Donald Levine and with a COA from his widow.”

This one is VERY intriguing. And the stains on his sweater add even more mystery to its origins and purpose. (Photo: NDSA)

This figure is VERY intriguing. But also questionable. Bid with caution. (Photo: NDSA)

Crikey! The World’s FIRST Action Man?

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“One of a kind ‘Action Man’ prototype from 1966, with original hair flocking. The manufacture of this figurine was personally overseen by G.I. Joe creator Donald Levine in 1966 for Palitoy, the British distributor for the Hasbro toy company at that time. Included is the original picture booklet from the Action Man series, which was the British version of the popular G.I. Joe series. The booklet contains pictures of the entire Action Man action figure series from 1966. The prototype wears removable black combat boots and is clothed in an olive-green sweater with matching cargo pants with a removable khaki colored belt. A small lever to the back of the neck allows the figure’s blue eyes to move from side to side. A copyright is written to the prototype’s back which reads: ‘Made in England by Palitoy / Under license from Hasbro / 1964.’ Measures 11” tall. Small stains to the chest of the sweater. From the estate of G.I. Joe creator Donald Levine with a COA from his widow.”

With its wood and styrofoam base, the accuracy of this set's status as a "prototype" seems highly likely. (Photo: NDSA)

With its unpolished wooden base, handcrafted styrofoam “debris” and wife-signed COA, the likelihood of this being Levine’s 9/11 firemen set prototype seems undeniable. (Photo: NDSA)

Of course, Levine’s “retirement days” were anything but, as he was constantly occupied with creating new prototypes for historic one-of-a-kind action figures. For example, post 9/11, he worked with both Target and Hasbro to create a short run of superb “Top Line” NYPD and FDNY sets. Here’s how Sanders describes Levine’s 3-figure 9/11 FDNY prototype (see photo above):

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“One of a kind ‘Real American Heroes’ prototype scene, representing heroic firefighters at the site of the 9/11 tragedy. The scene depicts three first responders, manufactured in the style of G.I. Joe dolls. The firefighters stand on an artistic representation of the World Trade center rubble. The three struggle to maintain their balance on the rubble, which is made of gray painted styrofoam affixed to a wooden base.

Firefighters wear blue t-shirts underneath black firefighter overalls with neon green striping to the cuffs. The middle firefighter wears a removable black firefighting jacket with neon green striping across the chest and elbows, as well as striping across the cuffs and bottom of the jacket. The removable jacket velcros to the neck. All three firefighters wear removable black and neon green firefighting hats with clear plastic visors.

Base measures 12.5″ x 9.25″. Scene measures 13″ tall. Weighs 3 lbs. 8 oz. Middle firefighter has disconnection between the knee and the calf, which does not affect the integrity of the look of the scene. Very good. From the estate of G.I. Joe Creator Donald Levine and with a COA from his widow.”

Are these the first-ever Cyborg GIjOEs? Quite possibly. So COOL! (Photo: NDSA)

Are these the first-ever Cyborg GIjOEs? Quite possibly. Click to enlarge. (Photo: NDSA)

This closeup of the back of one of the remote-controlled prototypes is a real mind-blower. Absolutely BREATHTAKING! (Photo: NDSA)

Plug me in, Joe! This closeup of the back of one of the remote-controlled Joes is sooo interesting! (Photo: NDSA)

A Pair of Remote-Control Prototype GIjOEs? Affirmative!

Without a doubt, the most unusual and unique items in this auction are a pair of prototype GIjOE figures that utilize remote control. Yes, you heard us right. Remote control! Let’s jump right to Nate’s fascinating description of a truly historic pair of ground-breaking GIjOEs:

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“One of a kind pair of G.I. Joe prototype dolls, including original remote control. First prototype is a representation of a member of the ‘NYPD Emergency Service Unit,’ who wears a full Emergency Service Unit uniform, including a removable black velcro bulletproof vest. The exceptionally detailed uniform includes a variety of removable miniature plastic weapons, including a combat rifle, shotgun and ‘Glock’ handgun affixed to the right thigh as well as two grenades affixed to the rear waist. The black uniform features a removable gas mask along with the removable vest, and the doll wears knee and elbow pads. The head is covered by a removable lycra hood. Soldier holds a flashlight in his left hand, and there is a removable walkie-talkie affixed to a case which attaches to the left side of the bulletproof vest. Wiring component that controls lights on his uniform is housed in a black pack with ”NYPD Police Emergency Services Unit” written in white lettering, affixed to the prototype’s back. Red shotgun shells are attached to the doll’s left leg as well as to the upper back. Second prototype is an army soldier, wearing a green and brown camouflage uniform. Soldier also wears a green beret and black gloves, and holds a handgun in his right hand. Battery components for the remote control (fully operational allowing movement of the soldier) are held in an olive-green backpack, as well as on two waist packs which rest on his rear end.”

The Hunchback of GIjOE Fame. The prototype remote-controlled Army Joe (utilizing an Action Man head) seems somewhat hunch-backed due to the hefty size and weight of his electronics-filled backpack. "Esméralda!" (Photo: NDSA)

The Hunchback of GIjOE Fame? This closeup of Levine’s prototype Army figure reveals that in addition to its remote-control electronics, it was kit-bashed together using a ’90s Action Man headsculpt set atop a 21stCT body and uniform, making it look somewhat “hunch-backed.” Esméralda! (Photo: NDSA)

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“Either doll fits into black plastic footholds which are affixed to the brown wooden base. The black silver and red ‘Futaba’ brand remote-control has two metal knobs which control the camouflaged doll’s extremities. Set also includes an extra pair of black combat boots. The prototypes measure 12” tall. Included base measures 4.5” x 6”. Remote control measures 7” x 2” x 6”. Entire set weighs 4 lbs. 5 oz. Near fine. From the estate of G.I. Joe creator Donald Levine and with a COA from his widow.”

Bottom Line: There’s more, but of the items included in this auction, the pair of remote-controlled prototype figures and the GIjOE-Barbie combo set strike us as the most collectible. Action Man fans will probably disagree after studying that AM prototype, but that’s understandable. Our sincerest thanks go out to Nate Sanders and Ace Field Reporter, Ian Gould, for providing us with this exciting news. We close with one more quote from Nate, who informed us:

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“We are also auctioning off several other Levine owned pieces, including a set of 11 dolls from the Dolly Darling series, and more G.I. Joe prototypes. Your inner child is very, very excited. To buy, consign or sell GI Joe memorabilia, please email me at Nate@NateDSanders.com. Thanks!”

Holy, Corn Cobs! 2015 G.I. Joe Convention Slated For April 9th-12th in———Wait for it———Springfield, IL

The Prairie Convention Center in Springfield, IL, will be the site of 2015's official GIjOE Convention. (Logo: GIJCC)

The Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, IL, will be the site of JoeCon 2015. Springfield is the capital of Illinois and final resting place of Abraham Lincoln. (Photo: visitspringfieldillinois.com)

Official logo of JoeCon 2015 (GIJCC)

Official logo of JoeCon 2015 (GIJCC)

Welcome to Our World, Joeheads!

In a surprising announcement, the official GIjOE Collector’s Club has revealed that it will host its next collector’s convention, JoeCon 2015, April 9th-12th, in a town located smack dab in our own cornfield, er… backyard, Springfield, IL. Despite popular opinion, this Springfield is NOT the home of TV’s The Simpsons, but it IS the state’s capital city and final resting place of our nation’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. In addition, this part of the country is also the home of The Joe Report (we’re headquartered just down the road a piece in the sleepy college town of Champaign-Urbana), the wonderful Central Illinois GIjOE Collectors Club, 1:6 scale accessories manufacturer, Patches of Pride and much more. So while we have obvious reasons to be thrilled with the club’s choice of location in 2015, we can’t help but wonder how other Joe fans, collectors and dealers will feel. How do YOU feel?

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, IL, is one of the city's stellar attractions. (Photo: wikipedia)

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, IL, is one of the city’s stellar attractions and boasts thousands of artifacts related to the 16th President of the United States. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Lincoln's tomb is located in Springfield's historic Oa Cemetery and open to the public. (Photo: wikipedia)

Lincoln’s tomb is located in Springfield’s historic Oak Ridge Cemetery and open to the public. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Spoiler Alert! Since GIjOE fandom will be coming to us, instead of the other way around, we thought we’d save you some of the suspense of waiting for official convention details from the club and give you an unofficial idea of what’s in store for visitors to the area. Besides Springfield’s neat, orderly, downtown area, the club will undoubtedly conduct group tours of the city’s superb Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, and the historic Lincoln’s Tomb. Both are well worth your time and we heartily encourage anyone who has not visited the sites to do so. As to details regarding the convention itself, according to an official announcement by the GIJCC:

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“For G.I.JoeCon, there is no place like Springfield! The 2015 G.I.Joe convention to be held April 9th – April 12th in Springfield, Illinois. Fun Publications, Inc., licensee for Hasbro’s official G.I. Joe Collectors’ Convention G.I.JoeCon, announced today that next year’s amazing convention will take place at the Prairie Capital Convention Center April 9th thru April 12th in the wonderful city of Springfield, Illinois. In 2015, fans from the Midwest and across the world will be able to celebrate another year of G.I. Joe at this exciting event! You can make your hotel reservations now!”

Stunning waxwork figures of Lincoln and his family wait to greet guests and pose for a photo-op in front of a replica of the White House built inside the ALPM museum in Springfield, IL. Amazing! (Photo: ALPM)

Stunning waxwork figures of Lincoln and his family wait to greet guests and pose for photo-ops in front of a realistic replica of the White House built INSIDE the ALPM museum in Springfield, IL. Amazing! (Photo: ALPM)

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“In the coming weeks, pop culture enthusiasts from around the world will be able to register for G.I.JoeCon 2015 through the G.I.JoeCon.com online registration system. Fans and collectors who register for G.I.JoeCon as an American Hero or General package holder will receive an exclusive G.I. Joe convention figure set, admission to the Friday private sales room experience, priority seating at all panels and seminars throughout the weekend and admittance to the Saturday night Casino Night and Awards party. Finally, American Hero and General package attendees will also receive a special bonus G.I. Joe item to go along with their convention box set. General Admission for non-registered guests will be available on Saturday and Sunday only.

For all the information regarding the G.I.JoeCon show activities, hotel updates and the exclusive figure offerings, remember to stay tuned to GIJoeCon.com. And for a sneak peek at this year’s convention set theme be sure to check out G.I. Joe VS Cobra Issue 7, on comic book shelves this December!”

Scott McCullar, GijOE fan and collector (Photo: Scott McCullar)

Scott McCullar, GijOE fan and collector (Photo: Scott McCullar)

Finally, we asked Springfield native, renowned GIjOE fan, collector, artist and vintage expert, Scott McCullar, for his thoughts on the show being held in his hometown. Scott’s currently overseas in Japan, but he replied on Facebook:

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“The 2015 International G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention is coming to where I live in Springfield, Illinois in April. I may not sleep for four days, but if I do, I can do so in my own bed just down the road. Those that know me well, know that I am a vintage G.I.Joe and (British) Action Man action figure collector. I look forward to meeting many of my fellow Joe collectors that I often buy, sell and swap pieces with in our hobby. I can’t believe it is coming to Springfield. I’ve traveled to Atlanta and New Orleans for these types of collector’s conventions. Now, I just drive 2 miles down the road to the Prairie Capital Convention Center.”

Bottom Line: That last line in the club’s description (about GIjOE vs Cobra) seems to imply whatever 1:6 scale convention sets are created MAY be RAH-themed, but that remains to be seen. Whatever their plans, with the show being only a short trip down the highway (for us), it’s a no-brainer that the complete staff of The Joe Report will be there to cover the events. What are YOUR thoughts regarding the show’s location? Please leave your comment(s) here today. Thanks!

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2015 G.I. Joes Returning to 12-Inch Size as “Jumbo Vintage Figures” Made of “Durable Plastics”

This is GIjOE will look like in 1:6 scale (12-inches tall) in 2015. That's right, Gentle Giant's new "Rock 'n Roll" GIjOE is 12 full inches of twisted steel and sex appeal. Actually, according to the product description, he'll be made of "durable plastic." As to sexy...we'll let you be the judge. (Photo: BBTS)

This is what 12″ GIjOEs will look like in 2015. That’s right, Gentle Giant’s new “Rock ‘n Roll” GIjOE is 12 full inches in height, and according to the product’s official description, he’ll also be made of “durable plastic.” (Photo: BBTS)

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, let us proceed…

What a relief! At a time during GIjOE’s 50th Anniversary when fans of 12-inch figures had given up all hope and accepted the cold, sobering reality that Hasbro’s 1:6 scale Joes were now largely a thing of the past, a second toy company (under license from Hasbro) has picked up the beloved brand’s baton and announced plans to carry it on proudly, well into 2015. The company coming to the rescue of 12-inch collectors is none other than Gentle Giant, Ltd, and the first Joe out of their factory’s gates will be an all-new, 1:6 scale figure based on the vintage RAH superstar lovingly known as—Rock ‘n Roll.

Let’s take a look at the stats on this bad boy: He’s going to be a full 12″ tall by 5″ wide and 2″ deep (must’ve been working’ out). And based on the photos generously provided to us by online retail giant, Big Bad Toy Store (BBTS), we can also see that R&R will have at LEAST 10 points of articulation. Yes, you heard us right. TEN. Imagine all the poses!

You get 2 "look" choices as well! Either with, or without his helmet. Yes, it may be difficult to decide from so many options, but that's the FUN of these new 12-inch Joes! (Photo: BBTS)

Who’s that? With Gentle Giant Ltd’s new 12-inch Rock ‘n Roll GIjOE, you’ll have 2 exciting uniform options to choose from: with—or without—a helmet. Wild! (Photo: BBTS)

“Jumbo Joe” will be convenient, too. R&R’s clothes aren’t going anywhere, so you won’t have to worry about dressing him or changing outfits depending on assignment. In fact, since Gentle Giant isn’t offering any accessories or optional uniform sets for this new 12-inch line, you won’t have to remember to keep up with any new bothersome 1:6 gear. Phew! R&R’s also “loaded for bear” with a big, black, bi-podded machine-gun thingy, and two big, shiny GOLD machine-gun ammo bandoliers. The REALLY good news? He’ll never lose or run out of ammo, because both of those bandoliers are permanently fused onto his body. Now THAT’S thinking ahead, dude! For additional intel on these 2015 12-inch Joes, we once again sought the counsel of the good folks over at BBTS. Their official product description states:

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That's right, Gentle Giant's new "Rock 'n Roll" GIjOE is 12 full inches of twisted steel and sex appeal. Actually, according to the product description, he'll be made of "durable plastic." As to sexy...we'll let you be the judge. (Photo: BBTS)

Got Gun? Gentle Giant’s new “Rock ‘n Roll” may not have the best gun in the 12-inch universe, but he’s probably got the BIGGEST. Whoa! (Photo: BBTS)

“Inspired by the Hasbro vintage GI Joe A Real American Hero figure, Gentle Giant is proud to bring you the GI Joe Machine Gunner, Code Name: ROCK ‘N ROLL. One of the first figures released in the series that started in 1982, Rock ‘N Roll is now the FIRST figure in an ongoing series of jumbo vintage figures.”

Holy cow! Did we read that correctly? This is to be the FIRST in an ongoing SERIES of “jumbo vintage figures.” Can you imagine? There’s going to more, just like this one. BBTS goes on:

“Rock ‘n Roll was a surfer in Malibu prior to enlistment. He was also a weight lifter and played bass guitar in local rock bands. Is familiar with all NATO and Warsaw Pact light and heavy machine guns. Graduated: Advanced Infantry Training (Top of Class). Specialized Education: Covert Ops School.”

The view from the back is just as...exciting. Uh-oh! It looks like Gentle Giant's 12-inch Rock 'n Roll took an RPG directly in his back. OUCH! (Photo: BBTS)

The view from the back is just as…painful. Gentle Giant’s new 12-inch Rock ‘n Roll GIjOE apparently comes pre-injured. He’s got a wicked RPG hole right in the middle of his back. Ouch! (Photo: BBTS)

Does anyone need to know more? Surely fans around the world are already whipping out their credit cards and emptying their Paypal balances. Seriously, who can pass this new 12-incher up? If you still need more convincing, BBTS continues with this juicy bit of intel:

“Rock ‘n Roll is cunning but naive; forceful but shy. Possesses a strong sense of loyalty to his teammates and is sincerely concerned about their well-being. A man of honor and integrity who can be counted on to hold the line.”

We bet you didn’t know that R&R was naive AND shy. (We didn’t.) Naive, sure. But shy? C’mon, who knew THAT? Regardless, all this new insight into Gentle Giant’s new 12-inch GIjOEs just makes them more irresistible, right? Finally, BBTS reveals how this exciting new line of figures will be created:

“The GI Joe A Real American Hero Jumbo Figure line features reproductions of the original 3 ¾” figures, using digital scanning and outputting to create an exact replica, only larger. Each figure will be reproduced using roto and injection molding and will be made of durable plastics.”

This advertisement for Gentle Giant's new line of "Vintage 1:6 scale jumbo figures" promises to keep Joe at 12-inches, at least through 2015. (Graphic: Gentle Giant)

This advertisement for Gentle Giant’s new line of “vintage 1:6 scale jumbo figures” promises to keep GIjOE at his original size of 12-inches, at least throughout 2015. Yippee! (Graphic: Gentle Giant)

Bottom Line: Fans and collectors of 12-inch GIjOEs can now breathe easy. These new “jumbo vintage figures” are surely everything they’ve been asking for—and MORE (“durable plastics, YES!). And if you can’t wait until 2015, BBTS wants you to know that you can pre-order a R&R today—HERE. And guess what? They’re only $80 bucks each. Hurry—before they sell out!

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Customizer Creates Astonishing Replica of Hasbro’s First-Ever Prototype G.I. Joe to Celebrate the Brand’s 50th Anniversary

GIjOE collector and customizer, Bill Lawrence, holds up the award he won recently for the creation of superb replica of the first-ever GIjOE prototype. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

GIjOE collector and customizer, Bill Lawrence, holds up the award he won recently for the creation of a replica of the first-ever prototype GIjOE. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Don’t tell longtime GIjOE fan, collector and accomplished 1:6 scale customizer, Bill Lawrence, that there isn’t anything fans can do to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of “America’s Moveable Fighting Man.” After having a good laugh, he’d probably give you a knowing look, crook his finger and ask you to follow him into his Joe Room to witness one of the most astonishing custom figures ever produced: a perfect, piece-by-piece, modern-day replica of Don Levine’s first-ever prototype GIjOE (originally created over 50 years ago by the now deceased, “Father of GIjOE” himself and his 1963-64 team of artisans at Hasbro). In this exclusive account of Lawrence’s amazing 10-of-a-kind achievement, we’ll hear from the customizer himself and learn exactly how this stunning 1-year creation ultimately came to fruition. And so, without further ado… Herrrre’s, Bill!

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The original helmet of the Hasbro prototype has not faired so well after 50 years. Fortunately, enough of it remained to provide Lawrence with a reliable painting and color guide for his recreation. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

The original helmet of Levine’s “Rocky” prototype figure has not faired well after 50 years. Fortunately, enough of it remained intact to provide Lawrence with a reliable painting and color guide for his 2014 recreation. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

My Custom 50th Anniversary GIjOE Figure
By Bill Lawrence, October 19, 2014
Written exclusively for The Joe Report

malecomment“With all the talk about the upcoming 50th Anniversary of GIjOE and the possibility that we may not be seeing anything in 1/6 scale to celebrate it, I decided that it was too important of a historical event to not do something to commemorate it.

And what better way to celebrate Joe’s 50th Anniversary than to do a custom of the figure that started it all; the prototype of the world’s first action figure, America’s Movable Fighting Man, Rocky. I also wanted to do something unique that hadn’t been done before and I believed that this would fit the bill. I also wanted it to look the absolute best that it could, so I assembled a team of professionals that have a reputation for being some of the best in their respective fields. Beginning with…”

1:6 sculptor extraordinaire, Andrew Covalt (Photo: Paul Wasson)

1:6 sculptor extraordinaire, Andrew Covalt (Photo: Paul Wasson)

Working With “the Pros” To Create a MasterpieceStep 1: The Sculpt

“I contacted a sculptor I’d met a couple of years ago at Mego Meet 2011, Andrew Covalt of Covalt Studios, about sculpting the head for me. He is a VERY talented artist that did several head sculpts for the DC Retro Action Super Heroes line by Mattel. Thankfully, he agreed to take on the project and work began in early October 2013. After producing the first rough sculpt, Andrew told me that he noticed some differences in the comparison pic I had sent him and wanted to re-work his sculpt some more to try to make it even closer to the original. All we had to go by were images we found on the internet and we never did locate a profile shot, so some guesswork was involved.”

Andrew Covalt's first, rough sculpt of "Rocky" (r) in comparison to the original (l). (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Andrew Covalt’s first, rough sculpt of “Rocky” (r) in comparison to the original (l). (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Covalt's revised head sculpt was ready for recasting in resin. (Photo:Bill Lawrence)

Covalt’s revised head sculpt (r) was much closer to the original. (Photo:Bill Lawrence)

“Now that the head sculpt was complete, the next order of business was attaching it to a body. This involved hollowing out the head, which was made of wax, and test fitting it on a vintage talker body that Andrew had lying around the house.”

Test-fitting the headsculpt to a vintage talker body. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Test-fitting the headsculpt to a vintage talker body. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

 “To me, the neck looked a little thick and hung over the base of the neck post too much. I also felt it was a touch long. Andrew said would see what he could do (see below).”

Small, but vital changes were made to more closely match the original. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Small, vital changes were made to more closely match the original head sculpt. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

“Things were really starting to come together and look great now! I noticed one thing in the update pictures Andrew was sending. Somewhere along the line it looked like the right eyelid had become slightly misshapen, not quite as rounded as the left. Andrew immediately made the minor adjustment and sent back what would be the final picture of the sculpting phase.”

GIjOE History—Reborn! This ultra-closeup of the custom head sculpt created by master sculptor, Andrew Covalt, reveals it is a superb likeness of Don Levine's original prototype GIjOE. OutSTANDING! (All photos courtesy of Bill Lawrence, exclusively for The Joe Report)

GIjOE History—Reborn! This ultra-closeup of the custom head created by master sculptor, Andrew Covalt, reveals its superb likeness to Don Levine’s original prototype GIjOE. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

The Final Headsculpts: Creating a Prototypeof the FIRST GIjOE Prototype

“Andrew told me that after he hollowed out the head, the neck had gotten pretty thin. He was a little worried about it getting damaged in the mail. He decided to make a mold and do a couple of resin casts to make sure we had a solid copy of it. After a couple of tries, Andrew informed me that he was having problems with air bubbles and couldn’t get a casting that he was happy with.”

Resin master, Austin Hough, is INDEED, a "Superman!" (Photo: Austin Hough)

Accomplished resin master, Austin Hough, is INDEED, a “Super man!” (Photo: Austin Hough)

“We discussed the issues he was facing and ultimately decided to carefully package and send the wax original to Mego Museum member Austin Hough, owner of reproheads.com, who uses a pressure pot method in order to minimize the bubbles that are sometimes formed during the molding and casting process.

I was also lucky enough to attend a seminar on casting put on by Austin at Mego Meet 2011. We knew he was the right person for the job and thankfully he agreed to take on the project for me. I contacted Austin and made arrangements for the wax original to be sent directly to him. On April 3, 2014 it was on its way!

The wax original arrived safely at reproheads.com on April 7. Whew, that was a relief! After about a month or so, I received the following picture from Austin (see below). They were done and looking good! I couldn’t wait to get them in the mail.”

Holy, WOW! Look at all the fantastic resin copies of "Rocky," as casted by famed resin master, Austin

Holy, WOW! Look at all the fantastic resin copies of “Rocky,” as cast by famed resin master, Austin Hough. Absolutely SUPERB work, Austin! (Photo: Austin Hough)

“They arrived! I opened the package to find the wax original tucked safely away in a plastic container carefully padded all around with foam and ten freshly cast Rocky heads in a one gallon baggie. They kind of looked like golf balls LOL.

Now it was my turn to get to work. I needed to drill out the necks and fit each one to a GI Joe neck post. Austin had cast them solid. This proved to be a better method than trying to cast them with the hollowed out necks. So, I rounded up all my tools and a 7/16” paddle bit and set out to accomplish this task.”

Drilling out the new heads required patience and a steady hand. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Drilling out the new heads required patience and a steady hand. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

“I had some problems with the paddle-bit wollering out the hole to the point that the neck got very thin in places on several of the heads. In hindsight, I suppose I should have used a smaller bit, like 5/16”, and then fine-tuned it with a Dremel. I used Milliput to build up the thin spots and then finished up with the Dremel to get the final fit.”

Busy, busy, BUSY! Custom figures don't create themselves. They're a LOT of work! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Busy, busy, BUSY! Custom figures don’t create themselves. They’re a LOT of work. But the final results are well worth it and make them treasures—beyond compare. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

“It worked great! The white Milliput was almost an exact match to the resin, both in color and composition. Now for the final touches and then off to paint.”

After being drilled, sanded and tested for fit, the first head was ready for paint! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

After being drilled, sanded and tested for fit, the 10 heads were ready for paint. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

David Howard, GIjOE Collector (Photo: Joelanta)

Graphic Designer and Illustrator, David Howard, of the DFW GIjOE Club, handled the all-important task of painting the 10 head sculpts to match the 1960s original. (Photo: Joelanta)

Step 2: The All-Important Paint Job—Matching the PAST

“At first I entertained the idea of painting all 10 heads myself. Then I thought of artist David Howard, member of my local DFW GIjOE Club. I had seen some examples of his work through the box art he designed for a couple of our club exclusive figures. It was impressive. What if he could paint them for me?

I ran the idea by Greg Brown and he said he would reach out to David and ask him for me. David agreed. I got in touch with him through email and we discussed the project. We finalized the details and the heads were packed up and on their way to him.

I received an update from David on August 5, 2014. He told me the paint was coming along nicely and that the likeness to the original was “very close.” Then he asked if I wanted the final sealant to be gloss or flat. The original looked glossy because they likely used oil based enamels to paint it. I didn’t want it too shiny, so I asked if we could go with a semi-gloss sealant. David said he would see what he could come up with.

 I emailed David at the end of September for an update on the painting. He was planning on attending the DFW GIjOE and Action Figure Show on Oct. 4-5, 2014. He told me he would bring the completed heads with him when he came up on Friday. I tried to have everything done on my prototype so all that would be left is attaching a head for its debut on Saturday morning.”

You never know where you'll find parts or materials ideal for use in creating custom figures. These common olive-drab shoelaces proved to be perfect for part of the backpack assembly. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

You never know where you’ll find parts or materials ideal for use in creating custom figures. These common olive-drab shoelaces proved to be perfect for part of the backpack assembly. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Step 3: Rocky’s Uniform and Accessories

“I had a difficult time finding a seamstress that would agree to sew the outfit for me, so I tossed around ideas on how to get it done. I could find some vintage Vietnam-era military clothing and use an old GIjOE Action Soldier uniform for a pattern and make the jacket and pants myself. I thought they probably did something similar back in 1963 when making the prototype. That would be cool, just like they did it in the day! But there was one problem with that idea: I would have to learn how to use a sewing machine to pull that off (not likely). Fortunately, one day I was looking through one of my GIjOE books and came across a picture of a #7505 Field Jacket. Ahh…

The vintage GIjOE Army Field Jacket proved to be a close match to Rocky's original uniform. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

The vintage GIjOE Army Field Jacket proved to be a close match to Rocky’s original uniform. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

“It had a very similar look to what I needed. It had a zipper instead of snaps, but I could live with that or possibly even remove the zipper and sew in a couple snaps later. Ultimately, I decided to go with this jacket and a pair of 2-snap, Action Soldier fatigue pants. The original boots were handmade and looked pretty rough. This wasn’t something I entertained doing by hand so I decided to go with standard issue short black boots.”

A little brown paint, a new white chin-strap, and VOILA! A near-perfect recreation of Rocky's original helmet. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

A little brown paint, a new white chin-strap, and VOILA! A near-perfect recreation of Rocky’s original helmet. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

“I also equipped Rocky with a standard canteen and a marine camo helmet. I had to add brown camo paint spots to the helmet and I also changed the black elastic to white in order to better match the original.

I also had to come up with a way to recreate his unique parachute harness and backpack. I wasn’t sure I was going to have the resources to have them custom-made for me, so I tried to see what I could put together.

I started by looking at an Army-Navy store down the street from where I work. There, I found a tan belt that worked perfectly for the bed roll, and eventually found my solution for the harness and back pack with a vintage GIjOE Marine medic bag and a pair of store-bought olive drab shoe strings!”

Bill's custom "Rocky" figure was coming together nicely, due to the help of many other fans and his own ingenuity. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Bill’s custom “Rocky” figure was coming together nicely, due to the help of other fans, his wife and his own, creative ingenuity. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Another view of Bill's superb recreation of Rocky's hand-crafted backpack and harness. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Another view of the work Bill’s wife did recreating the original Rocky’s hand-crafted harness, etc. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

When All Else Fails—Recruit the Aid of Your Wife!

“My wife agreed to lend her sewing skills to the project. She surprised me with a prototype of the harness and pack one weekend when I was out-of-town. There were some adjustments to make, but overall I really liked where the design was headed. As the week of the show arrived, I still needed to complete the parachute harness and my wife and I spent a total of 6 hours over 3 evenings finishing up the design. We debated altering the envelope shaped top to the medic bag to go straight across but we liked the way it looked so much already that we left it as it was.”

Recreations of Rocky's original handcrafted patches were also handcrafted, this time by Dave Tedesco of The Patch Hut. Superb! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Recreations of Rocky’s original handcrafted patches were also handcrafted, this time by Dave Tedesco of The Patch Hut. Superb! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

“Next, I had to figure out how I wanted to recreate the sleeve patches. On Rocky’s left sleeve was a Sergeant rank patch and on his right sleeve was the same, but with the addition of a 3rd Infantry Division patch above it. I knew there were places to order 1/6 scale patches, but I wanted to first explore the idea of making my own. I decided that I would try to make the Sergeant patches and go ahead and buy the 3rd Infantry ones. Both Dave Tedesco from The Patch Hut and Mark Otnes from Patches of Pride were kind enough to send me examples of their 3rd Infantry Division patches to try out.

The ones from the Patch Hut arrived first, and I needed to get Rocky ready to debut the following weekend at the DFW GI Joe and Action Figure Show, so I went ahead and tacky glued one on the right sleeve. As for the sergeant rank patches, I came up with the idea of using a dark green denim iron-on patch and some .005” brass sheeting.

They came out okay, but were very tedious to make. It also got a little sloppy with the glue, mainly because I was working with such small pieces. I am going to have Dave at the Patch Hut custom make me some sergeant patches to match the style of the 3rd Infantry patch. I feel they will look a little cleaner and save me a lot of time!”

After locating images of the box panels on the internet, it was output in glorious full color, cut, folded and assembled into this wonderful replica of the original Hasbro prototype box. OutSTANDING! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

After locating high-res images of the original “Rocky” box art on the internet, the panels were retouched, output in full color by box expert, Jay Cosenza, who then trimmed, folded and assembled it all into this wonderful replica of Levine’s original. OutSTANDING! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Yes, the box for Bill's figure is equally amazing as its contents. Absolutely PERFECT in every conceivable way! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

The custom box for Bill’s custom “Rocky” figure is as amazing as its contents. Absolutely PERFECT in every way! Click to enlarge. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Creating a Replica of Rocky’s Prototype “Coffin Box”

“Rocky’s custom box was made by Trenches member, Jay Cosenza. Luckily, when Levine’s original, hand-painted prototype box came up for auction in 2003, Heritage Auctions had taken some high-resolution pictures for the auction listing and they were still out there on the internet. I sent them all to Jay and he promptly got it all laid out.

I wanted to honor the golden anniversary of GIjOE by placing a seal on the box. I searched Google Images for 50th Anniversary logo ideas and found several I liked, but nothing really caught my eye. One day, I was reading some back issues of The Joe Report and saw a t-shirt design that Mark Otnes had created for his “Dirty Dozen” at Joelanta 2014. THAT was the logo I wanted for the box! I emailed Mark to ask if I could borrow the image and he agreed and forwarded me a JPEG. I sent that along to Jay with a couple of notes on some slight changes I wanted to make.”

Bill and Jay tried many altered versions of Otnes' logo, but were never happy with the changes. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

While looking for the perfect logo for his custom boxes, Bill and Jay tried many altered versions of Otnes’ “unofficial” 50th logo, but were never completely happy with their changes. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Step 4: Choosing a Logo to Celebrate GIjOE’s 50th

“Jay worked on the design and sent this back to me. I really liked the way he did the 50! It was my suggestion to also include ‘1964 – 2014′ on the logo, but I didn’t really like how it came out. It just looked a little busy. So, I asked Jay to remove it altogether and move the word ‘YEARS’ down to where the dates were. This looked better, but something still wasn’t quite right about it. Something was just ‘off.’ Since we had gone back and forth several times and I kept trying different ideas and not really getting it just right, I suggested to Jay that we go ahead and print the boxes just like the original and make the 50th logo a sticker that I could include with the contents. On August 12, 2014, Jay sent me pictures of a mock-up of the finished box for approval and it looked great. On September 1st, the boxes were done and ready to ship. The boxes finally arrived on September 18th. As I expected, they were absolutely PERFECT!” 

billlawrence6

The final “Rocky” boxes were undeniably PERFECT. Who wouldn’t want to add one of these beauties to their collection? WOW! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

The "unofficial" 50th Anniversary logo design Lawrence ultimately chose to create as stickers, which were included with his 10 custom "Rocky" boxes. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

The “unofficial” 50th Anniversary logo design Lawrence ultimately chose and used for stickers, which were included with his 10 custom “Rocky” boxes. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Back to the 50th Anniversary sticker. Mark’s logo was the one that initially caught my eye. I decided to quit messing with perfection and just go with it as is, not change a thing about it! I spoke with the print shop across the street from work about having some stickers printed up. The price was very reasonable. I emailed the image to the print shop and received an email back on 9-24-14 that they were ready to be picked up!

Step 5: Putting All the Pieces Together

“It was show time! I arrived at the convention center to load in and set up my booth (Vintage Toy Rescue). The first thing I needed to do was to find David Howard. I found him setting up his own booth and after a brief chat, we got down to business. Surprisingly, he told me he had ‘some good news and some bad news.’ (uh-oh).

I said, ‘You brought me at least ONE head didn’t you?’ He quickly assured me that he had. That was the good news. The BAD news was that he had been unfamiliar with the brand of semi-gloss sealant he had used and applied to all 10 heads earlier in the week—and that the paint had ‘bubbled off each and every one of them!’ Aaaaaaugh!!!

Bill Lawrence's beloved, custom "Rocky" figure BARELY made it to his own debut at the DFW Joe Show. Thankfully, he showed up in full gear and a custom box, to boot! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Lawrence’s custom “Rocky” figure BARELY made it to his own debut at the recent DFW GIjOE Show. Thankfully, he DID show up, and with full gear, custom box and 50th sticker. Phew! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

The fully-assembled "Rocky" awaits his astonished fans at the DFW GIjOE Show. It's SHOW TIME! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Lawrence’s fully assembled “Rocky” awaits his astonished fans at the DFW GIjOE Show. It’s SHOW TIME! (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

“David said he hollered every cuss word he knew and then even made up a few! At the end of this tragic story, he handed me a small box. I peeked inside and staring back at me—was Rocky! He looked AWESOME! The likeness to the original was incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better final product. I immediately popped him on the body I had waiting and set him up for the show.

In the end, everything came together beautifully. The process, from start to finish, took about one year. Rocky debuted on Saturday, October 4th, 2014 at the DFW GI Joe and Action Figure Show and was well received by all. In fact, he won first place in the custom action figure contest! Going into this project, I set out to make 10 figures. Those 10 were gone within the first hour of the show Saturday. Thoughts of a second run are already being entertained, but I want to complete the first 10 before I decide how to proceed with the next run. I will say that I want everyone that wants one to be able to have one.

Oh, and for those that caught it and are wondering why Rocky is holding his helmet tucked under the wrong arm in my pics; it’s simply because his right elbow was too loose to hold it. That’s it for now, I have work to do!” —Bill Lawrence, Texas

A rear view of Rocky showing all his gear. AMAZING. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

This 3/4 rear view of Rocky shows off all his custom gear, patches, head sculpt, paint and more. AMAZING. (Photo: Bill Lawrence)

Bottom Line: Typically, we’d sum up here with a couple of paragraphs of laudatory praise for Bill and his A-Team of 1:6 scale customizers (all OUTSTANDING), but today, we’re turning the reigns of The Joe Report immediately back over to Bill, who wanted to offer his own heartfelt words of gratitude to those connected with this amazing project. Take it away, Bill!

“Yes! Thanks to friend and fellow DFW GIjOE Club member, Greg Brown of Cotswold, who was a big help throughout the process, acting as my consultant. I bounced just about every idea off of him first, soliciting his valuable advice. And thanks again to Andrew Covalt of Covalt Studios for his amazing work sculpting the head, David Howard of Design Ranch for painting the heads, Cozette Lawrence for helping with the design and sewing of the parachute pack and harness, Jay “aiwaloki2” Cosenza for making the amazing boxes, Mark Otnes of Patches of Pride for the use of his 50th Anniversary logo and sample patches, and Dave Tedesco of The Patch Hut for sending some 3rd Infantry patches and custom-making the Sergeant sleeve patches for me. You were all wonderful. THANKS!”

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Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!———Are Facebook’s “Closed Groups” Dividing G.I. Joe’s Fandom?

This Civil War era poster hoped to instill patriotic fervor in an attempt to keep the Union together during a time when sides were pulling apart. Increasingly disparate GIjOE fans may be facing a similar test of their own due to increased splintering of a once mighty, unified fan group. (Photo: bentley.umich)

This 1860s Civil War-era poster hoped to recruit troops and instill patriotic support for the North. In 2014, free of the corporate influence and guidance of Hasbro, disparate groups of GIjOE fans also find themselves “rallying around” their favorite scales (1:6 or 1:18) or favorite eras (Vintage Military, AT, RAH, etc.) through the increased use of “closed groups” on Facebook. (Photo: bentley.umich)

Time was, TV viewers would stay up late until the "viewing day" was over and a test pattern would appear onscreen until the next morning. (Photo: celiabullwinkel)

Time was, TV viewers who stayed up to 1AM (typically after a Late, Late Movie) would witness a station announcing it had reached the end of another “broadcasting day,” listen to the national anthem and then stare at a test pattern before finally switching off their set. Click to enlarge. (Photo: celiabullwinkel)

Some Herald “Unlimited Choices” While Others Decry Increased Splintering of GIjOE’s Fan Base

Remember when watching TV was as easy as 1, 2, 3? We do. 50 years ago there were only the 3 major TV networks, and a handful of independent stations vying for our attention. Such concentration of viewership resulted in a shared national identity that provided citizens with familiar reference points of culture and debate. Now, with the addition of thousands of new satellite and cable TV channels, the minds of many have begun “going their own way,” dividing the medium’s previously unified audience. Intriguingly, GIjOE fandom can now be said to be following a similar path. Only in this case, it’s the internet that (counterintuitively) risks splintering fan factions, threatening to pull collectors in so many directions that previous collecting group dynamics may soon become a thing of the past. Admittedly, with all the wonderful things the ‘net has done to bring Joeheads together, it’s hard to imagine that the very same medium could now be working against them. But recent developments reveal—the damage may already be done.

In a strategy primarily geared at selling and increasing its ad revenue, Facebook' "mining of data" has earned its creators less than glowing reviews among its members. Is the use of "closed groups" playing right into their hands? (Photo: thehappyblogger)

One BILLION Joeheads=$$$! In a strategy primarily geared at selling and increasing its ad revenue, Facebook’s “mining of data” has earned its creators less than glowing reviews among its members. Is the use of “closed groups” part of their Master Plan? (Photo: thehappyblogger)

For Example: When discussing GIjOEs, what topics do you consider to be off-limits? Are certain words or phrases unacceptable for use in a GIjOE fan forum? Where do your personal “tolerance thresholds” for opposing opinions begin—and end? Tough questions all, we grant you; some requiring serious introspection. But for fans of GIjOE, the answers used to be very simple—NOTHING. We used to be too busy being fascinated by each other’s Joe-knowledge to be offended by an occasional off-color remark. Regardless of personal scale and era preferences, fans (in the past) loved ALL GIjOEs (yes, some more than others) and were always happy to support one another’s differing tastes and/or viewpoints. What’s happened to change all that? Surprisingly, some say—Facebook.

GIjOE uber-fan, Ace Allgood (shown at right) had just arrived from Minnesota. He hoped to reconnect with old Joe-buddies and sell some of his new custom GIjOE pins.

Good PeopleGood Times. As always, whether or not a GIjOE fan is accepting of others depends primarily on who he or she is on the INSIDE. Tolerance of differing opinions and collecting preferences may come easily to some, but not so, to others. Here, outgoing and popular GIjOE collector and advocate, Ace Allgood (right) greets a friend during a previous Joelanta show. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This screenshot of the GIjOE Discussion group's rules clearly spell out their disdain for "Hazblow" or terms of a similar nature. Unfortunately for Otnes, this information was unknown to him at the time of his post.

This screenshot of Facebook’s GIjOE Discussion group reveals a specific list of “things to think about before you post” (i.e. rules and regs).

So what’s the problem? We’re still all GIjOE fans and we’re still just talking about toys, right? Well, maybe not. The introduction of Facebook’s numerous “closed group” GIjOE fan forums has led to an unexpected “splintering” of the hobby. While most fans enjoy the closed groups simply as yet another place on the ‘net to share their fandom (and let their “geek flags fly”), others see them as a way to suppress dissenting opinion. Of course, the level of closed-group moderation (i.e. censorship) has always varied from group to group and moderator to moderator. But in today’s increasingly segmented, politically corrected and word-sensitive society, it’s not unusual for an unsuspecting Joehead to stumble into a group of fans who are more than willing to lead him (or her) into an abyss of dispute—over a simple WORD.

Formerly impervious to trivial disagreements, some fans (nowadays) appear to have developed a decreased tolerance for opinions that don’t immediately coincide with their own. Nowhere online is this evolving phenomenon more apparent than in the closed groups on Facebook. If you don’t know how such groups operate, pay heed: First, you request (or are invited) to join. Then, if you’re accepted, you learn whether the group is moderated or not and its particular “rules” for posting. To remain a member, you must abide politely by its restrictions or risk getting unceremoniously cut (i.e. “black-listed”) from the group’s roster by its all-powerful moderator. If this all sounds a tad Orwellian or close-minded, it can indeed feel so at times. But as one might expect, experiences vary from group to group and depend entirely on the mindsets of the individuals clustered within. Your level of enjoyment (or disappointment) will vary accordingly.

Many fans are dumbfounded by Hasbro's lackadaisical treatment of the GIjOE brand and franchise. According to one fan's review of a new GijOE video game: "G.I.Joe deserves more than this, here we have yet another “straight-to-the-bargin-bin” Movie Tie In game. With a broken camera, repetitive game play and poor graphics you’ll swear the game is a plot by Cobra Commander to cause pain to those dumb enough to buy it full price." (Photo: angryjoeshow)

Many fans are angry and dumbfounded by Hasbro’s lackadaisical treatment of their beloved GIjOE brand and franchise. According to one fan’s scathing review of a new GijOE: The Rise of Cobra video game: “G.I.Joe deserves more than this, here we have yet another ‘straight-to-the-bargin-bin’ Movie Tie-In game. With a broken camera, repetitive game play and poor graphics, you’ll swear the game is a plot by Cobra Commander to cause pain to those dumb enough to buy it full price.” Feel free to disagree, but be careful WHERE you post your thoughts over on Facebook’s “closed groups.” (Photo: angryjoeshow)

Mark Otnes (l, back), editor and main writer of The Joe Report, holds up his GIjOE space capsule and astronaut on Christmas morning, 1967. Otnes found himself the focus of an online dispute recently that seemed to highlight a schism between fans. (Photo: TJR)

Mark Otnes (l, back), editor and main writer of The Joe Report, holds up his GIjOE space capsule and astronaut on Christmas morning, 1967. Otnes found himself the focus of an online dispute recently that seemed to highlight a schism between fans. (Photo: TJR)

Intriguing Schism Between GIjOE Fans Revealed By Response to Article on The Joe Report

Read the Fine PrintThose who don’t read and/or follow a closed group’s “rules and regs” before placing posts may suddenly find themselves the target of angry and derisive rejoinders from the group’s membership. Even innocent blunders, like the use of an “offensive” term (which vary from group to group) can come to back to bite their authors—hard. For example, your own friendly neighborhood blogazine, The Joe Report (TJR), and its main article writer, Mark Otnes, recently found themselves at the center of an online social media storm in which members of Facebook’s leading 3.75″ GIjOE group, GIjOE Discussion, unleashed a torrent of posts critical of Otnes’ reportage of a recent article, and his use of the term, “Hasblow,” when posting to the group. For example:

malecomment“When people use the word ‘Hasblow,’ I just assume that they are mentally retarded. Thus far, I have not been proven wrong.” —Jay B., GIjOE Discussion

The Confusion Re: “Elizabeth,” the “Hasbro Toy Shop” and “Hasblow”

The October 6th article that drew so much attention from the group initially was in fact, one of our shortest. It concerned an equally short email we’d received from a Hasbro customer service rep confirming the complete disappearance of all GIjOE products from the Hasbro Toy Shop (HTS) website. One of the main points of contention the GIjOE Discussion (GD) group members had with Otnes’ article was his insistence that the HTS was part of Hasbro. For some reason, they believed the store to be an independent business and not connected with the toy company in any way. According to this adamant GD group member:

malecomment“HTS is not a division of Hasbro, it is a private company that just licenses the Hasbro name to sell their mass market products online.”
Kevin G., GIjOE Discussion

WRONG. To settle this issue, we contacted HTC rep, “Elizabeth” again, both to confirm her own physical reality (machine or human?) and to clarify HTC’s official status. She stated:

womancomment“I am a Consumer Service agent at Hasbro, not an automated system. We read and respond to each email received from our consumers. As for Hasbro Toy Shop, the site is part of Hasbro. We feature some of our more popular toys for sale on the site. The reason we do not sell all products is we simply do not have the warehouse capacity to house the 1000’s of products Hasbro makes. As for the GI Joe exclusive toys, that line cannot be sold by us, the product were made only for Toys R Us. I hope this helps.”
Elizabeth, Customer Service Agent, Hasbro

So…Elizabeth is a real person, works at Hasbro, and confirms that the Hasbro Toy Shop is part of Hasbro. Points proven. We stand by our article and its simple premise: GIjOE is NOT being sold by Hasbro’s own online outlet store: the Hasbro Toy Shop. Otnes was not discussing “exclusive” GIjOE brand toy sales at Toy’s ‘R Us—or anywhere else. (Editor’s Note: It was also strongly suggested—by a GD member—that we double-confirm the store’s status by also contacting Hasbro’s PR firm. We did so. But after a week, they have yet to reply to our inquiries.)

malecomment“Get with the program, ya ancient dinosaurs!!!”
needagungho, GIjOE Discussion

The title of the first issue of "The Fall of GIjOE" comic book will strongly resonate with fans of all ages, mirroring as it does, GIjOE's current "fall" from grace over at Hasbro. (Photo: IDW)

The title of the first issue of this new GIjOE comic book (“The Fall of GIjOE”), strikes fans as all too appropriate, mirroring as it does, GIjOE’s current fall from grace at Hasbro. Read more HERE. (Photo: IDW)

Claiming the High Ground—and Then Abandoning It

Debate about Otnes’ article (and the appropriateness of “Hasblow”) aside, comments like the one above (from another GD member) indicate a somewhat hypocritical, “have-it-both-ways” mindset. In other words, when a closed group objects to the use of an “offensive” term (from one of its own members) and then responds with a slew of their own (such as this group’s description of 12-inch fans as “dinosaurs, mentally retarded, brats,” etc.) then its easy to question their purported sincerity and desire to spare the feelings of others. We’re all Joeheads, but it’s important for members of closed groups to adhere to their own rules, or risk igniting yet another, intra-fan “flame war.”

malecomment“If I see someone seriously use ‘hasblow’ or ‘hasblo’ or ‘hazblow’ or any other variation, I immediately discount anything they have to say.” —Troy O., GIjOE Discussion

And finally, here’s two more Joeheads who wanted to provide some slightly more in-depth, well-considered commentary on this whole “3.75-inch versus 12-inch” collecting schism thingy:

malecomment“I’d feel worse for them (12″ collectors) if the bulk of that part of the community didn’t take a figurative crap on any 12″ product that’s been released in the last 15 years. … The 12″ camp continued to desert the GIJCC because they DARED to place the 4″ figure fans on equal footing and now doesn’t understand why the Club swings so heavily that way …

Make no mistake, I know some GREAT fans of the 12″ Joes—but 12″ fans who contribute to growing (or even maintaining) interest in their hobby are few and far between, and these Patches of Pride guys—who can’t even accept that GI Joe has been a predominantly 4″-scaled toy line for, oh, 32 years now—aren’t going to accomplish much with this sort of guerilla journalism.”
Mike I.D., GIjOE Discussion

malecommentHasbro was VERY clear on its plans for GI Joe nearly 8 months ago, which didn’t include 12″ for a very important reason: 12″ is DEAD, or at least the 12″ figures collectors want. … And every attempt since in bringing back 12″ has been met with retail failure (all THREE TIMES in 10 years!). 

… Ultimately, this blog (The Joe Report) … shows a real lack of knowledge on the current toy market or even the brand itself. Anyone following GI Joe over the past 5 years (much less 10) could have likely seen the trends that bring us to where we are now.
Steevy M., Hisstank.com

Finally, we were also taken to task by one high-ranking Joehead who insists we mispronounced the cheerful yell of support for our favorite action figure, stating:

malecomment“I hate when people say, Go Joe! It’s Yo Joe!
Dumb ass!” —sbartek1974, Hisstank.com General

The first. The original "Sandbox" newsgroup was part of the early "Wild West Days" of the Internet for all GIjOE fans. It was a text-only, unmoderated environment that led to thousands of unedited posts, many leading to lengthy online arguments, aka "Flame Wars." (Art: Daryl Williams)

The first. The original “Sandbox” newsgroup was part of the early “Wild West Days” of the Internet for all GIjOE fans. It was a text-only, unmoderated environment that led to thousands of unedited posts, many leading to lengthy, heated, online arguments, aka “Flame Wars.” (Art: Daryl Williams)

Bottom Line: Thanks to the gated-community mindset and feelings of supposed safety fostered by Facebook’s new closed groups, the old “Wild West Days” of free-ranging arguments and flame wars between fans are largely a thing of the past; and the older, unmoderated, text-only forums, such as the venerable wide-open Sandbox, have now become veritable ghost towns (see story HERE).

Nevertheless, as the quotes above show, verbal attacks on fellow fans still occur, even within these new closed groups, and chastised members may find themselves feeling as if they’ve unwittingly traded some of their 1st Amendment freedoms for a false sense of online peace and quiet; essentially “preaching to a choir” of like-minded souls, where nary a dissenting word —is allowed to be heard.

P.S. All this kerfuffle over “Hasblow,” has us genuinely curious. What’s YOUR opinion about the disputed term? Please vote below, so Joeheads of all stripes will finally know. Thanks!

Hasbro Replies to Fan Queries Re: G.I. Joe’s Disappearance from HasbroToyShop.com

What would the original "Hasbro Boy" think of the company's 2014 decision to turn its back on the iconic 12-inch action figure that made the company such a great success? We doubt he would be pleased!

My, how things have changed! The face of the original 1960s “Hasbro Boy” logo appeared on nearly every vintage GIjOE product and promised children (and adults) toys that provided hours of creative and imaginative play. Sadly, like GIjOE, Hasbro Boy too, was “retired” and replaced by today’s bland, blue square logo that promises Joe fans—nothing.

Better Late Than Never.

In a brief follow-up to our previous article of October 4th regarding the disappearance of all scales, iterations and product extensions of GIjOE brand toys from Hasbro’s official online Hasbro Toy Shop (HTS) website, we felt it was only proper to pass on the company’s official response to a query we’d sent them (concerning this topic) last week. The company’s email comes to us this morning from a Hasbro rep named Elizabeth (strangely, no last name was given), who replied to our question with an answer that can only be described as uninspired and disappointing. She said:

“Thank you for your email in regards to GIjOE products for sale on our Hasbro Toy Shop website, I am happy to help you. Hasbro does not sell the GIjOE line on our website, the product line is exclusive to Toys R Us only. You may want to check their website and your local Toys R Us stores for the products. Thank you for your understanding. Have a great day!”

The immpassionless, sterile response of the Hal 9000 computer from the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, reminds us much of Hasbro's current attitude toward GIjOE fans and collectors. (Art: mondspeer)

The passionless, sterile response of the Hal 9000 computer from the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, reminds us much of Hasbro’s current attitude toward GIjOE fans. (Art: mondspeer)

Bottom Line: In today’s world of automated email reply systems, its unclear if “Elizabeth” is a real person or simply a computer-generated (form-letter) email reply system called upon to respond to what must surely be one of their most frequently asked questions (FAQs). Regardless, we’d like to thank Elizabeth (or Hasbro’s version of the Hal 9000) for finally sending us a reply email, for wishing us a nice day and for thanking us for our “understanding” regarding GIjOE’s fading away into Toys ‘R Us’ uncertain sunset. All of that and a quarter will get us a bubble-gum ball from the corner drugstore. We hope Joe fans around the world will continue to support, customize, collect and REMEMBER “America’s Moveable Fighting Man,” regardless—and IN SPITE OF—Hasbro’s current and obvious lack of passion for the line. Joe MUST live on in the hearts and minds of us all. Go, JOE!

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(Un)Happy Anniversary———Hasbro No Longer Sells G.I. JOE Brand Products On HasbroToyShop.com

GIjOE's recent disappearance from store shelves, Saturday morning cartoons and even Hasbro's own retail website has left his fans dazed and confused on the beloved toy's 50th anniversary. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

GIjOE’s recent disappearance from store shelves, Saturday morning cartoons and even Hasbro’s own retail website has left his fans dazed and confused on the beloved toy’s 50th anniversary. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Have We Outlived “America’s Movable Fighting Man?”

Who’d a thought GIjOE’s fans would be alive and kicking longer than GIjOE himself? After all, Joe’s essentially an “immortal” plastic toy who doesn’t have to worry about realities such as heart disease, cancer or old age. His biggest concerns are untimely “shelf dives,” “firecracker-in-the-pants” mishaps, or embarrassing tea parties over at Barbie’s Dream House. GIjOE exists primarily as an inspirational ideal. He’s a dedicated and loyal representative of morality and goodness in the never-ending defense of freedom and a life-long paragon and promoter of creative play for children.

So how then is it possible, that here on GijOE’s 50th Anniversary, to all indications, it appears as if our 12-inch (and/or 3.75-inch) hero is fading fast from the hearts and minds of his once-loyal corporate creators and his previously enthusiastic retail supporters? The latest shoe to drop in this regard (logistically and economically) is Hasbro’s recent (unannounced) “we-hope-you-won’t-notice” elimination of all scales, variations and extensions of GIjOEs from its own retail website: hasbrotoyshop.com.

(Hasbro Toy Shop logo)

(Hasbro Toy Shop’s website logo)

That’s right. GIjOE is GONE. Go ahead. Try entering every possible variation of the search word “GijOE” in the Hasbro Toy Shop website’s search window. You can do so until your knuckles turn blue—and you’d STILL come up with “item not found.” We tried GIjOE, G.I. Joe, G I Joe…nothing worked. Indeed, if you’ve been shopping for GIjOEs (in any scale) anywhere lately, online or in stores, hoping to score something new and cool to celebrate the brand’s 50th anniversary, then you’ve undoubtedly already encountered aisles of empty SKU slots on Toys ‘R Us shelves and blank webpages online. Store displays have been taken down and removed from public view. Other than the $300+ Sideshow figures and the annual exclusives offered by the club, only a handful of 12″ and 3.75″ GIjOE brand figures remain. Shockingly, 50 years after his creation—GIjOE has disappeared from retail outlets—with ZERO indication he’ll be back anytime soon.

In the blink of an eye: "The Father of GijOE," Don Levine, holding the original 1960's prototype for the Navy frogman figure "looks back in time" as he reflects on the origins and evolution of GIjOE. (Photo: cbc)

In this poignant photo taken before his passing, “The Father of GijOE,” Don Levine, examines the original ’60s prototype for the GIjOE frogman and reflects on memories of its creation. (Photo: cbc)

hasbrologonewWhat’s Does the Future Hold for GijOE?

Frankly, we’re not encouraged. It’s as if Hasbro has simply dropped their most famous brand and walked away. Yes, we all saw the Legos movie and yes, we know the toys are very popular with kids. We’re glad of that. But surely there’s still room on store shelves for an alternative to primary-colored, interlocking building blocks. Or has the world changed so much that there’s no room left in the hearts and minds of young boys and girls for what was recently voted as the “World’s Most Popular Toy?” (See story HERE.) And please don’t tell us that today’s children are so engrossed with smart phones and video games that use of their creative frontal lobes is out of the question. That would simply break our hearts!

A screen shot from an early ’70s TV commercial that would launch the ambitious “50 Adventures of GIjOE” concept. Imagine if Hasbro REALLY tried something like this today. WOW!

A forlorn vintage GIjOE looks towards an uncertain future while wearing one of the "unofficial" 50th t-shirts provided free to fans from Patches of Pride. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A forlorn vintage GIjOE looks towards his uncertain future while wearing a spiffy new “unofficial” 50th anniversary t-shirt provided not by Hasbro, but by Patches of Pride. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

After 50 Years of Adventures and Memories—All I Get Is A T-Shirt?

Fans of the venerable GIjOE brand were due FAR better treatment than they received (from Hasbro) in 2014. As Joe’s 50th Anniversary nears its end, we’re still struggling to understand WHY they’ve been ignored by the company so blatantly, and without explanation or apology. We asked Hasbro for a statement, a sentence, a sound bite—ANYTHING—regarding the shocking disappearance of GIjOE in 2014 and have (as of today) received no answer. Curious what other Joeheads might be thinking, we perused the fan boards in search of opinions and first found collector and fan, Jason Bienvenu, who offered up a this observation on the GIjOE Discussion Facebook page:

“I’m pretty sure whoever is in charge of the action figure department (at Hasbro) does not like the 3.75″ scale and has done their best to phase it out and dumb it down into the Happy Meal-quality toys we have now…”

Ernie King offered a little more prophetic view about the 50-year life of GijOE, saying:

‘GIjOE will only really live on in the hearts of collectors…like all of us here.”

Finally, collector Michael Ryan was the most proactive and optimistic, when he said:

“GIjOE is taking a time out, Transformers did it in 1992, Ninja Turtles has done it before, He-Man is in time out more often than not. This is just your chance to hit up eBay and collect the older toys you missed, or get into something new!”

Bottom Line: GIjOE is no longer listed on Hasbro’s own website. That’s a cold, hard fact fans now have to accept. While the brand may only be taking a “time out,” as Mr. Ryan postulates, to others, this looks like yet another nail in our hero’s 1:6 scale coffin. Sadly, it’s hard to imagine Hasbro resurrecting the line any time soon. When and if another movie is released, we might expect some more half-hearted, barely poseable figures at Walmart. But for the forseeable future. GIjOE may have to, as Mr. King stated, “live on in the hearts of collectors.” And live on he will. Go, JOE!

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