Catastrophic Capsule Failure Dooms Astronaut “Major Bob Tom” During “Mercury 10” Mission Commemorating Action Man’s 50th Anniversary

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Lost (From) Space— The whereabouts of the UK’s most famous 1:6 scale astronaut, Major Bob Tom, remain unknown. Did he survive his momentous fall? Can YOU help find him? (Photo: Rob Wisdom)

Final Fate and Location of Organizer’s Vintage Action Man Astronaut Remain Unknown

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Robert Wisdom, Action Man fan and collector (Photo: Robert Wisdom)

Bottom Line: A 1:6 scale “space mission,” designed to lovingly commemorate Action Man’s 50th Anniversary, has ended with mixed—some might say, heartbreaking—results. The goal was to lift a vintage Action Man astronaut figure (strapped securely into a vintage AM space capsule) up, up, UP through the stratosphere with the aid of a helium-filled balloon, and return him safely back down to the Earth (see our earliest coverage of this event HERE).

Designated “Mercury 10” by its organizers, the UK mission was masterfully coordinated by Rob Wisdom and funded primarily through donations raised in a surprisingly successful (10-day!) Kickstarter campaign (see that fundraising page HERE). Thankfully (for the thousands of AM fans around the world who were not able to attend), this mission’s breathtaking ascent, its startling final fate, and the frustrating field search for the intrepid (yet sadly, still missing) “Major Bob Tom,” have all now been preserved and presented in an excellent 25-minute video (see below). Enjoy!

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Identifying Marks— To help you find him, note that Major Bob Tom was bedecked in an original silver space suit with a union jack flag and custom “Mercury 10” patches from Patches of Pride—one was even placed on his helmet for maximum visibility. Also-fricken-TASTIC! (Photo: Rob Wisdom)

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A Perfect Fit— As this closeup reveals, the real cloth “Mercury 10” patches provided by Patches of Pride conform perfectly to the folds and sleeve of a vintage AM space suit. If you find an astronaut in a field in Britain, look for THIS patch. It’s only on the uniform of Major Bob Tom! (Photo: Rob Wisdom)

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Miguel Tavarez———Master of Miniaturization———Creates Astonishingly Realistic (1:6 Scale) Diorama of U.S. Army’s 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) Paratroopers in Action

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Bring it On— In a stunning display of 1:6 scale artistry, customizer Miguel Tavares has recreated a battle scene from the Korean War featuring two figures from the U.S. Army’s 2nd Ranger Inf. Co. (Airborne). This closeup of the Master Sergeant reveals he has been authentically detailed with correct unit insignia and helmet emblems produced by Patches of Pride. (Photo: Miguel Tavares) Click to enlarge.

Expert Modeler Depicts Soldiers of “Forgotten War’s” All-Black, All-Ranger Regiment

Welcome to 2017, 1:6 Scalers!

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Immortalized on the Cover—UK hobby industry magazine, Military Modelling (vol. 41, issue no. 1) celebrates the skills of master modeler, Miguel Tavarez, by splashing his work (deservedly so) on the front cover of its most recent issue. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Military Modelling)

It’s a brand-new year and the guys and gals at The Joe Report felt like kicking things off with a BIG photo-story about a new, rising talent among the 1:6 scale customizing community—Miguel Tavarez. Tavares is a master modeler and 1:6 customizer of the highest degree, and in recognition of his superlative skills, the UK hobby magazine Military Modelling recently published an article about his work, even going so far as to feature a photo of his new (2-figure) paratrooper diorama on the publication’s cover.

The remarkable diorama in question depicts two African-American U.S. Army paratroopers of the 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) during the Korean War. They’ve just completed a jump and one soldier appears to have suffered a hard landing or been otherwise wounded. His Master Sergeant has rushed to his side, all the while gazing grimly skyward as he watches other Rangers still descending.

This 1:6 scale masterwork is both wonderful and inspirational to behold. Action figure customizers and diorama builders around the world would probably pay good money just to take a 1 hour class from this talented artisan. If fact, we felt Miguel’s Ranger dio achievement was so important, that it was worthy of further mention and praise beyond just the pages of a UK hobby magazine. Therefore, despite any repetition, we’ve wholeheartedly chosen to share it here, too—on The Joe Report!

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A Bad Time for a Sprain— What a superb choice of headsculpt! This figure’s excellent facial expression perfectly captures so much emotion at once. The frustration, pain, and yes, even anger, at being hurt before even getting to fire a shot, must surely be a severe disappointment to this Ranger. After training for months, making dozens of practice jumps, and going through everything required to become a U.S. Army Ranger, to be sidelined and/or hobbled like must be quite a blow. Let’s hope this brave paratrooper’s leg is only sprained and not broken. Go, Rangers! Go, ARMY! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez) Click to enlarge.

 Details Do Make the Difference

When you study Miguel’s custom figures, you quickly discover that he is zealously devoted to both military accuracy and authenticity, as well as the execution of professional, almost extreme modeling detail. Take a (very close) look at those hands (the fingernails!), the figure’s wrinkled and “weathered” uniforms, their weaponry, equipment, and even the stones and grass on the ground cover beneath their feet—it’s all been magnificently painted and otherwise realistically executed. HISTORY—has been brought back to life in three dimensions: visibly, tactilely—and in miniature!

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As Real as it Gets— The mind boggles looking at the reality of this ground cover. Make special note of Miguel’s careful selection of the grass and tiny white flowers. Where other customizers would choose or create plantlife that is oversized, Tavarez has ensured that even the tiny flowers are correctly scaled to match his diorama. Un-freakin’ believable! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez) Click to enlarge.

It’s Okay to Seek Outside Help

Tavarez has also taken the trouble (and expense) to commission custom waterslide decals and cloth patches from renowned miniatures manufacturer, Patches of Pride. All of their tiny products are carefully researched and recreated from scratch, so their inclusion helped to elevate this unique diorama to undisputed “masterpiece” status. Custom works of such high caliber are truly rare, and this one solidifies Miguel’s well-deserved reputation as a master modeler of 1:6 scale.
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Let’s Get a Move On, Ranger!— Staying out in the open for too long after a combat jump can be an invitation to disaster, as this Master Sergeant clearly knows. This side view of their combined poses demonstrates that there is a clear sense of urgency and peril to their situation. Just LOOK at all the amazing detail! The patches, helmet emblems, ammo bandolier, boots…WOW! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez)

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Miguel describes the inspiration behind his 2-figure Ranger diorama:

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Cheers, Customizers!— Miguel Tavarez raises a cold one in toast and tribute to other members of the 1:6 scale community in this exclusive photo taken for readers of The Joe Report. His outstanding customs are providing inspiration to thousands of fellow kitbashers around the world. (Photo: Miguel Tavarez)

“This diorama is about two African-American Rangers during the Korean War. The Korean War is often referred to as “ the forgotten war” because of the lack of public attention it received both during and after the war, and in relation to the global scale of World War II, which preceded it, and the subsequent angst of the Vietnam War, which succeeded it. After finishing my last 1/6th dio, I was looking for a new project to do, and so I decided to read up on the Korean conflict and see if I could find a subject to recreate within my own little 1/6th scale kitbashing ‘world’.

I came across a book on a very fascinating unit of a segregated, all-black elite Ranger company that had fought with distinction during the first 2 years of the “Forgotten War” in Korea. I had previously done a WWII 761st African-American tanker before, so I became keen on creating something that would also honor this all-black Ranger company—the 2nd Ranger Infantry Co. (Airborne).”

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Don’t Forget the Base— Yes, you can simply set your figures on a table, but the creation and use of a custom base beneath their feet helps add geographical texture and context, as well as increasing the realism of your tabletop diorama scene. Beautiful! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez) Click to enlarge.

“As I mentioned before, they were an African-American unit at a time when the U.S. military was slowly being integrated after years of racial segregation. President Truman’s executive order 9981 in 1948 changed that. But the reality was that the desegregation policy was yet to come into full compliance. Segregation was still being practiced right into the Korean War.

White high-ranking officers who did not support desegregation would funnel the colored troops into units such as the 2nd Ranger Co. in the first several years of the war. But 1950s racial issues aside, the ‘Buffalo Rangers,’ as they were known, gave a good account of themselves in the Korean War until their deactivation in 1951.”

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Remembering and Honoring Our Heroes (in 1:6 Scale)— This 3/4 front view shows off the entirety of Miguel’s amazing custom diorama and reveals that he included an actual Ranger pin down in the bottom righthand corner. Congratulations on a great job, Miguel! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez) Click to enlarge.

These “Buffalo Rangers” participated in “Operation Tomahawk” on March 23rd 1951. This operation was historic for two reasons; one, it would be the first time a Ranger unit participated in an Airborne combat jump. Secondly and more importantly, it would be the first combat jump for black troops in the U.S. military. Attached to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (its parent unit), it would make this historic jump in ‘Operation Tomahawk’ into North Korean and Chinese-held territory!” —Miguel Tavarez

Bottom Line: Miguel’s work is AWESOME. That’s the bottom line. Our sincerest thanks go out to Mr. Tavarez for sharing these photos of his work and for the exclusive account of his inspiration for this piece. As of the date of this article, you could still buy a copy of the issue of UK’s Military Modelling magazine featuring Miguel’s amazing work HERE.

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Happy New Year, Everyone! Have a Great 2017!

happynewyear2017Bottom Line: Whoever you are, wherever you live, we wish you a WONDERFUL 2017!

Remember Pearl Harbor Day Today—Ceremonies Will be Livestreamed on Numerous Websites

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Horror, Death and Destruction—In this historic photo, the Battleship USS West Virginia has already been sunk and continues to burn during the deadly attack on U.S. ships, installations and personnel at Pearl Harbor, HI, Dec. 7, 1941. In the background is the Battleship USS Tennessee. It would be damaged, but somehow remained afloat and was later repaired and modernized. (Photo: US Navy)

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In this full-color recreation of the attack, (a scene from the Hollywood film, Pearl Harbor), a stricken U.S. battleship lists severely to port as its sailors struggle to hold on. (Photo: Touchstone Pictures)

Bottom Line: Clear your desks, gather around, and REMEMBER with us the terrible events of this historic day back in 1941. Fortunately, there will be numerous websites providing LIVE streaming coverage of the memorial ceremonies taking place in Hawaii today. Here’s an article showing a complete list of those streaming sites and here’s a direct link to the DOD website as well. Please remember the time difference. If you don’t see an image, try the other links. Our sincerest thanks to everyone involved in providing live coverage of this important event available today.

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1:6 Scale Baseball Caps and Related Sports Gear Revisited———Outfitting Your G.I. Joe For Game Day

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Vending Machine NFL Caps for GIjOE— These NFL team logo caps look great on any 1:6 scale action figure. Minor paint overspray can be easily touched up. (Photo: Bryan Mays) Click to enlarge.

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Play Ball! This closeup reveals the 1:6 scale MLB batting helmets produced by Rawlings—perfect for 12-inch GIjOEs. Go, RANGERS! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

If you’ve been with us since 2012, then you may recall that the first-ever article published HERE on The Joe Report was a short account regarding the discovery of a 30-piece set of 1:6 scale MLB baseball batting helmets at a local Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Champaign, Illinois. Manufactured by Rawlings, the tiny helmets (see at right) proved to be a huge hit with GIjOE kitbashers (and sports fans), and the article itself helped us to “kick off” the collaborative and informative nature of this beloved online blogazine.

Today, another faithful follower and “eagle-eyed TJR field reporter” helps us revisit that self-same first topic, reminding us of both past and present 1:6 scale sports headgear and jerseys, including some new hats that he found recently—in a vending machine. According to Bryan Mays:
“I love The Joe Report and how creative all the folks out there are, as well as all the great GIjOE history your blog has uncovered. Your TJR ‘Christmas List’ article a few years back (see HERE) really got me hooked, especially when I saw that photo of a GIjOE holding a toddler’s corn-popper Christmas ornament made by Hallmark. Right then, I knew that Joe Report readers were my kind of people! I wanted to drop you a line and see if you or your readers knew of any NFL gear (or even MLB or NHL for that matter) that would fit our 1/6th scale buddies. I am passing along what little I’ve learned on this subject as well, which admittedly, isn’t too much, but here we go:
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What Team Does YOUR Joe Support? Outfit your GIjOE sports fan with one of these new 1:6 scale NFL team caps found both in vending machines and websites online. Their quality may not be perfect, but with a little touch-up paint, the will be! (Photo: Bryan Mays) Click to enlarge.

A few years back, I bought several hats out of a vending machine that do fit 1:6 scale GIjOEs (see above). They are still available online (HERE) as ‘Premium Football Caps Vending Capsules.’ The hats themselves sometimes have a bit of paint overspray, but they were only $1 from that vending machine, so no biggie.
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Have it YOUR Way— These nifty 1:6 scale football player jerseys were distributed by Burger King a few years ago and can still be found numerous places online. Take care when putting these on your GIjOE however, as those neckholes can be very tight. (Photo: IMGUR) Click to enlarge.

I also found that those Burger King NFL jerseys from about a decade ago (see above) do not work easily with 1:6 GIjOEs—at least not without some modification. Right out of the bag, their neckholes are simply not large enough to fit over Joe’s noggin. You’ll need to either enlarge the neckhole by stitching and sewing, or remove and reinstall Joe’s head in order to get the jersey to go on the figure.
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Higher Quality, But Untested— Have you tried these caps on a GIjOE? If so, we’d love to hear from you. They look GREAT! (Photo NFL store)

I’ve haven’t had time to test those the new NFL MadLids football team ballcaps (see at right), but they’re starting to hit Target stores now and look to be very detailed, even including a little New Era logo. I also haven’t tried any of those Upper Deck mini jersey offerings, neither NHL nor MLB. It is possible they will have the same (tight) neck issues as those Burger King ones. I’d be interested in hearing if any other Joeheads have tried them and/or if they know of any other ballcaps or sports jerseys that work well with 12″ GIjOEs. 
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How Great is THIS? Imagine all the action figures you could outfit with these great NFL “Mini Jerseys.” We’re not sure when they came out, or if they’re still available, but hopefully, they’ll easily fit onto GIjOE without any major modification. It’d be a shame to have to alter them. Of course, if you can yank off and replace your Joe’s head, then any tight neckhole problem is moot. If you know more about this exciting line, please write in. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks! (Photo: Upper Deck)

Happy holidays to all, and thanks again for putting out such a great site, Mark! I hope my article is enough on-topic to be of interest/help to you and to the rest of the 1:6 scale community that loyally follows The Joe Report.” Sincerely—Bryan Mays
Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to Bryan Mays for his generous contributions to this article. We had not heard of (or seen) many of the items described above. It looks like its time for us to start searching the ‘net (and our local stores) again. Happy Hunting!
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G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Announces It Will Sell 50th Anniversary Action Man Figures in the U.S.

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Hit the Slopes! Loaded down with skiing gear and weaponry, this 50th Action Man Ski Patrol soldier looks ready to face any foe. This is just one of six AM commemorative figures available NOW for pre-order at the GIjOE Collector’s Club. (Photo: GIJCC)

In an emailed press release received today from the GIjOE Collector’s Club, members were notified that the UK’s much anticipated 50th Anniversary Action Man (12″) figures will indeed be offered for sale on this side of the Atlantic. However, the club advises fans to begin queuing up sooner rather than later and place their pre-orders NOW at the club’s online store found HERE.

It would also behoove buyers to pay special attention to the specific ordering instructions (and ominous warnings) which are posted alongside each product’s description, stating:

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“PLEASE DO NOT ADD ANY IN-STOCK PRODUCT TO THIS ORDER, ONLY PRE-ORDERED ITEMS. IF IN-STOCK PIECES ARE ADDED, YOUR ORDER WILL BE CANCELLED!! The Action Soldier & Action Footballer will ship together in mid December. The Marine Paratrooper, British Infantryman, Frogman & Army Ski Patrol will ship later around the first part of January. If you place an order for all six figures on the same order, your order WILL NOT SHIP UNTIL JANUARY.” —GIjOE Collector’s Club

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You’ll Get!— While no final packaging photos are yet available, the club’s webstore does offer “carded” pics of all the items that come with each figure. (Photo: GIJCC) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: For many collectors, these figures will look very similar to other GIjOE and AM re-releases we’ve seen in the past, but the unique 50th Anniversary occasion coupled with the increasingly rare opportunities to buy NEW “product” should make for quite a run on these exclusive 12″ figures. Packaging pics aren’t available (yet), but each figure is accompanied by photos of its respective uniform pieces, weapons, gear and equipment. Go, Action Man!

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How To Create Realistic 1:6 Scale Rifle Slings For Use With Most Weapons———in 9 Easy Steps!

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1:6 Sling Perfection— This closeup of John B.’s Vietnam-era custom rifle sling reveals it is absolutely perfect in terms of color and detail. Learn how to create your own 1:6 slings in the photo-article provided below. (Photo: John B.)

We LOVE when our faithful readers do all the work for us. Today, intrepid TJR Field Reporter”John B.” provides the following step-by-step guide for creating your own 1:6 scale rifle slings. It is an out-STANDING and simple 9-step procedure that we recommend you print out and save for future reference. As for now…Please clear off your workstation and get ready to have some FUN. Heeeere’s… John B!

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“I wasn’t too happy with the slings that came with a number of the 21stC 1:6 Vietnam-era weapons, so I devised a way to make my own using colored cloth book binding repair tape and wire. I added some light weathering, which I think gives the tape a great canvas look, much more realistic than what originally came with the toys. I used my first new sling for a ’70s Vietnam-era weapon, but with some minor modifications, this procedure could be utilized to make slings for modern-day weapons, World War II, World War I, etc. This might be an old trick (that I just happened to reinvent), but if not, here are the pictures I took to help walk you through it. It’s really quite easy. Enjoy! —John B.

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Written and photographed by John B. Click to enlarge.

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Written and photographed by John B. Click to enlarge.

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Written and photographed by John B. Click to enlarge.

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Written and photographed by John B. Click to enlarge.

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Written and photographed by John B. Click to enlarge.

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Details Make the Difference— As this closeup of John B.’s custom Vietnam-era 101st AB MSG reveals, it’s the DETAILS that really help make the figure. Our eyes are instantly drawn in to those tiny, weathered patches, his amazingly realistic face sculpt, and yes, that beautiful little custom rifle sling. GREAT work, John! (Photo: John B.)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Mr. John B. and to all of the other generous, helpful (and very talented) customizers, reporters, and contributors to The Joe Report. You guys & gals are the best! If you have any questions about this tutorial, please contact John directly via email HERE. Thanks!

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Fan-Created G.I. Joe Ephemera———Picking Up Where Collector’s Club Leaves Off, James Kavanaugh Jr. Heads Up a Talented Team of Graphics Experts to Produce Exclusive Posters, Cards, and Boxes To Be Given Away Every Year at JoeCon———For FREE!

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Utilizing Vintage Design to Promote RAH GIJoes— At first glance, you’d think this professionally created mini-poster is one of the original product brochures produced by Hasbro back in 1964 to promote its new line of 12″ GIjOE action figures and accessory sets. But you’d be wrong, my friend. In actuality, this masterpiece depicts GIjOEs of the more modern-era (3.75″) RAH variety. Produced by a team of graphics professionals spearheaded by James Kavanaugh Jr., this limited-edition (300) fan-produced poster is a superb example of how far some die-hard fans will go to further expand upon and refine GIjOE’s “universe.” (Framing by Sam Sears. Photo by: James Kavanaugh) Click to enlarge.

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Incognito Imagineer?— Apparently a man of many faces and talents, James Kavanaugh is also the chief designer of some of the world’s greatest GIjOE “faux ephemera.” (Photo: James Kavanaugh)

Bumping Into a Graphics Guru— When we first met James Kavanaugh Jr. at JoeCon 2015 in Springfield, IL, he was surrounded by about a dozen wide-eyed fans. They were all eager to get a closer look at James’ offering of expertly created GIjOE fan-graphics; including such nifty items as mini-posters and 3.75″ mini-boxes. Surprised by the professional quality of the items arrayed on his tables, we were sure they would be priced accordingly (i.e. expensive) and were stunned when he informed us that they were actually being given away to JoeCon 2015 attendees—for FREE!

If you know anything about the high costs of producing and printing quality graphic projects (and we do), then you’ll know we’re talking about some serious money here. For example, individual copies of James’ RAH posters could easily range upwards of $30 apiece (if outputted with high-end plotters or printers). Such JoeCon “freebies” can actually be very expensive to make (and very valuable to collect).

Clearly, this segment of GIjOE fandom isn’t a cheap corner of the “sandbox” to play around in. The large amount of time required to produce such quality pieces can ring up a hefty tab, and we were eager to learn what sort of “madness” drives Kavanaugh in this regard. Thankfully, he kindly assented to the following exclusive interview—for faithful readers of—The Joe Report!


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TJR: Thanks for speaking with us today, James. As fellow graphic designers and “brothers-in-arms” in the visual and communication arts profession, we’d love to hear the story behind your amazing GIjOE print projects; especially that stunning RAH mini-poster (shown at top).

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With a Wink and a Nod—GIjOE fan, collector and graphics expert, James Kavanaugh Jr. continues to produce and distribute GIjOE graphics at each JoeCon—for FREE! (Photo: James Kavanaugh Jr.)

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“The poster is a long answer to a short question. I pigeonhole myself as a RAH (Real American Hero) collector and since the 2005 convention, I’ve been making and handing out free custom file cards and package card backs.

They were originally designed to supplement the GIjOE club’s membership figures because the club was only providing a quick bio on the back of each membership card.”

TJR: What a excellent idea! And you still give all these cards and posters away for FREE?

“Yes, that’s right. Every year I make 300 for JoeCon and an extra (exclusive) 100 for the awards dinner as a token of my appreciation to all the wonderful people I’ve met at the shows.”

TJR: That’s very generous. You have some serious “Joe Karma” coming your way. Do you work on these projects all alone, or do you enlist the aid of other talented Joeheads?

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GIjOE Fan and Expert, Gary Godsoe (Photo: Gary Godsoe)

“Gary Godsoe is my right-hand man in these projects, and Ace Allgood was my go-to guy for reference photos, accuracy, and overall expert vintage opinion. I’ve also utilized the amazing skills of John Jett, Troy McKee, Andrew Hall and Todd Weinzeirl.”

TJR: That sounds like an “A-Team” of GIjOE experts. Are you a big fan of both the RAH and 12″ GIjOEs?

“Honestly, I was born in 1977 and grew up in an almost childless neighborhood with no older relatives, so  I knew nothing about 12” GI Joe. I assumed that he was just Barbie’s ‘Army boyfriend.’  And sadly, certain aspects of the 12” figure as a whole are simply lost on me. Nonetheless, I wanted to work backwards and explore GIjOE’s 12” history by undoing the RAH line. 

It began one day when I was thinking about the TV series ‘Gotham.’ I assessed that the show took the core of the Batman story, pulled it apart, and reassembled its disparate pieces into a new configuration. That made me wonder, what if the RAH line had been released back in 1982 with a more 12” style approach?”

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Giving Proper Credit— Contributors to each of Kavanaugh’s projects receive official credit bylines such as those listed in the corner of Jame’s RAH poster. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

TJR: Where did you take the project from there?

“Over time, the project evolved into various interpretations of the RAH portion of the GIjOE hobby, each a reflection of the current time. For example, in 2009, I inducted Bullet-Man into the ‘Crappy Figure Brigade.’ And in 2010, I did a Ted Williams card back for the love-to-hate-to-love subgroup of fans that support, shall we say, the more ‘unique’ G.I. Joes ever produced.”

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Packaging Fans Take Note— The classic GIjOE designs from the 1960s hold up VERY well today, as this closeup of James Kavanaugh’s poster clearly reveals. Hello, Hasbro? Are you seeing this? Here’s a great way to bring all GIjOE fans together under one “visual umbrella.” (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

TJR: What did you decide to produce for GIjOE’s 50th Anniversary?

“For the 50th Anniversary of G.I. Joe, I wanted to do something more dynamic and more in tune with the roots of G.I. Joe, not a RAH ‘off-year,’ so I developed the 4-inch boxes. They were designed to assume the role of a vintage package for the modern visage of G.I. Joe. They were also designed to emulate the vintage packaging as closely as possible, while fully selling the more ‘realistic’ aspects of the RAH.”

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Realistic Detail on Every Panel— The attention to detail on Kavanaugh’s projects is stunning; UPC codes, fine print, choke warnings, it’s all there. Look closely at this GIjOE “Infantry” box— there are even pictures of its related uniform and accessory sets depicted on the side panels at barely 1″ high. Get out your magnifying glass, because you’ll need it to read it! (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

TJR: You’ve made mini-boxes, posters, and even authored books on RAH GIjOEs. But your new poster seems to be targeting fans of the vintage 12″ GIJOEs. What inspired the change?

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Debonair Author— James Kavanaugh Jr., renowned RAH GIjOE expert and “Human Chameleon,” demonstrated yet another of his handsome and distinctive “looks” while discussing his new book, “Rank & File, a Guide to 4″ GIjOE Action Figures,” at a convention held in the UK. (Photo: Tree-Bot)

“I wanted to do something a bit more abstract in relation to my previous work and also do something for a wider audience than RAH collectors. My RAH research showed me that, in many ways, early RAH was still thought of in terms of small 12” figures with names and an enemy.  This poster gave the RAH figures height, removed the names and gave them the interchangeable dynamic that was left behind in the transition. My goal was to also simulate a marketing approach to ‘higher ups’ so that the viewer feels like they’re looking at a conceptual pitch.”

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Collect ‘Em All— Kavanaugh’s wide variety of GIjOE-related creations have become a new collecting segment all of their own and it’s easy to see why. The cover of his new book, Rank & File, utilizes design inspired by the ’80s RAH comics. Get your copy HERE today!

TJR: Your poster is a superb demonstration of how Hasbro could have brought fans of both eras together by appealing to the heart-strings of older collectors while reviving vintage packaging design. What did your A-Team of experts think of your unique retro-poster concept?

“The early idea was difficult for me to convey, I had a hard time articulating my thoughts to my core consultants. They kept simplifying it as a 12” Grunt (like the figure in the 1994 Hall of Fame). The base figure is the Action Soldier male, not ‘Grunt’ as the RAH guys know him. The vintage RAH art is familiar to RAH collectors and was used to help accentuate the packaging while guiding the viewer to its hybrid conclusions.

I then divided the 82-84 line into Basic and Deluxe package options and used almost the exact character themes given to us in those respected years. I stripped away the unique shades of green that each RAH character is typically assigned (ex. Zap was light green while Grand Slam was dark olive) and tried to create as many reusable plastic parts a possible.

Customizable variations of the core product were also paramount.  The human essence of both lines was diversity so I wanted to assume the base figure was ‘available’ in various hair colors and skin colors.  But to take it a step further, the consumer could mix and match figures with outfits as they choose.”

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A Face All Fans Can Love— Whatever the scale, GIjOE’s “first face” was an iconic design that continues to resonate strongly with collectors worldwide. (Character art: John Jett/Andrew Hall) Click to enlarge.

TJR: What else should fans (of both eras) know about the content depicted in your poster?

“The versatility of the 12” line was there for the consumer to choose. So showcasing the iconic vintage 12” head was paramount in order to drive home the idea that this concept was 12”.  John Jett was the artist that nailed the various looks. The verbiage used in the poster derives heavily from the vintage RAH catalogs, and the fictitious Asst. #’s are based on the original Asst. numbers used in the original 1982 products (the ‘H’ is fake in all the numbers and the ’15’ is just the convention year).  My projects always have Easter Eggs in them.”

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Gutsy, Not Glamorous— Kavanaugh’s poster also features a GIJane action figure. Never meant to be a “pin-up” girl, the various depictions of Jane depict determined looking, capable fighting women instead. Out-STANDING! (Character art: John Jett/Andrew Hall) Click to enlarge.

TJR: Tell us about that GIJane figure. She’s a great addition to the poster!

“The real ‘twist’ with this poster’s concept was the inclusion of a female soldier. This fictitious, femme-fatale figure would’ve been sold separately—but equally—with the male. This led me to make the female look more in sync with the male figure, while still retaining female features. I will apologize beforehand when I say the female nurse isn’t the most attractive female action figure representation (in my opinion). Thus, John Jett was tasked with developing a more striking female. But hey, don’t get me wrong, she’s not posing for a glamour shot.  She’s here fight for freedom!

She’s obviously (to RAH guys) an abstract notion of Lady Jaye. However, the reason why I gave her a javelin thrower is not for RAH accuracy. I would’ve been inclined to give her a rifle like her male counterpart (though I’m sure some market research would’ve resulted in girls wanting some sort of ‘non-rifle’ weapon) but it hit me that GI Joe reflects contemporary pop culture and Hunger Games is a huge hit right now. The female star is called Katniss and fights with a bow and arrow. Of course, a traditional bow and arrow would’ve looked awkward compared to the male’s rifle, but a javelin shooter bridges that military gap and still gives girls the sort of heroine they’d want.”

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A GIJane With a Bow— Katniss from The Hunger Games inspired and impacted Kavanaugh’s depiction of the GIJane action figure shown on his poster. However, the movie character’s bow-n-arrow had to go and was replaced with a rocket-propelled “javelin” (instead of a rifle). (Photo: Lion’s Gate)

I asked John to produce a woman that looked like she means business, yet wouldn’t scare away female consumers.  The goal was for her to have an assertive demeanor. Then, females could utilize the basic accessories like the male, yet have their own exciting ‘looks’ that filled all roles.”

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Words to Live By— Real American Heroes need real mottos to steel their nerves in battle. The copy on James’ poster reminds kids and adults to fight the good fight—with GIjOE! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

TJR: Any closing thoughts on this poster and/or your reasons for creating it?

I believe vintage GI jOE could use as much attention as possible and I just wanted to do my part. Hopefully, this poster showed commonalities between both lines and illustrates how, with some minor changes, Hasbro could’ve painted a totally different picture of the brand’s landscape. With the proverbial product ‘well’ running dry or at least tapering off, maybe collectors who prefer one line over the other will decide to cross over into new territory so to speak, and further round-out their own perspective of the hobby.”

James Kavanaugh Jr.

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and best wishes to James “the Chameleon” Kavanaugh Jr. for all of his generous contributions to the GIjOE collecting hobby and to this article. You can reach James on Facebook HERE and find his books on Amazon HERE. Go (or Yo), JAMES!

 

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September 11, 2001 Attacks———15 Years Ago Today

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Alex Taka created this superb 1:6 scale diorama photo recreating the presentation of the WTC flag by members of the NYFD. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Alex Taka)

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Remember the Fallen— The 9/11 “Flag of Honor” hangs outside the HQ of The Joe Report today.

Bottom Line: We will never forget.

U.S. Army Paratrooper Who Modeled For Photos in 1962-63 Believes the Images Taken of Him Were Used To Create the Iconic Headsculpt of G.I. Joe

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Well, Hello Joe! At first glance, Phil Iverson’s resemblance to the original (1964) GIjOE headsculpt seems obvious—even strikingly so. It should be no surprise to learn that the former US Army paratrooper firmly believes the iconic action figure’s “first face” was based on photographs taken of him in 1962-63 by a representative of Hasbro. As fans well know, theories have long postulated that the original GIjOE’s face was an almagam of various Medal of Honor winners—not based on the likeness of any one individual. Unfortunately, the head’s sculptor (subcontracted by Hasbro) provided inconclusive comments about the use of reference photographs before passing away in 1996. (Photo: Courtesy of Phil Iverson)

Did a Signed Contract Enable Hasbro to Legally Recreate Soldier’s Visage in 1:6 Scale?

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There Was Something About His Face— As kids, we all knew IMMEDIATELY that GIjOE was a tough, good-looking dude, and that his sublimely heroic countenance was perfect for untold adventures of imagination. With or without that facial hair, GijOE was definitely ‘da man. HOOah! Go, JOE! (Photo: Sears Roebuck & Co.)

For over 5 decades now, GIjOE fans and collectors around the world have been asking the same question: Did some unknown individual’s face serve as reference (or inspiration) for the original ’64 GIjOE headsculpt? Or, was Joe’s famous noggin (as many still believe) actually a magnificent mélange of various Medal of Honor winners? Depending on how one views the newly uncovered facts, photos, and first-person account of former U.S. Army soldier, Phil Iverson, the truth may now be a little more…


plau·si·ble

ˈplôzəb(ə)l/
adjective

 1. (of an argument or statement) seeming reasonable or probable. “a plausible explanation”


When PFC Phil Iverson was first told by an unknown U.S. Army sergeant (in 1962-63) to report to HQ and have his picture taken in khaki uniform and cap, he replied, “Yes, Sergeant!” PFC Iverson’s photographic mission seemed simple enough, but unbeknownst to the 21-year-old paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division, he was (possibly) being tasked to be an artist’s model who’d provide reference for a sculptor creating the most popular toy soldier face ever—G.I. Joe.

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The Likeness is VERY Close— As these side-by-side closeups help confirm, it seems quite likely that freelance sculptor Phil Kraczkowski utilized the reference photos he (or a Hasbro rep) had taken of Phil Iverson. Even GIJOE’s iconic facial scar was placed on the same cheek (right-hand side). Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not! (1:6 scale paratrooper cap patch courtesy Patches of Pride.) Click to enlarge.

exclusivebannerAn Exclusive Interview With the Man Who May Be the “Original Face” of GIjOE—Phil Iverson

In the following exclusive interview, Phil Iverson relates exactly how he was photographed and why he believes his 21-year-old face was ultimately utilized as visual reference/guidance material by sculptor, Phil Karaczkowski, during the latter’s creation of the iconic, 1964 G.I. Joe headsculpt.

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Senior Citizen Joe— Phil Iverson (76), is considered by many to be the model used for the “original face of GIjOE.” He’s shown as he appears in 2016. If  you’ve ever wondered what GIjOE would look like as a senior citizen…here you go! (Photo: Phil Iverson)

“I enlisted in the service in 1961, went through basic training, MP school, and was sent to Fort Campbell, KY, to go through paratrooper jump school with the 101st Airborne. Sometime in 1962-63, a sergeant I had never seen before came into our barracks and told me to put on my uniform and double-time it over to the headquarters building to get my picture taken. 

So… I went over to HQ and up to an empty 2nd floor office that was not being used. I remember it had a reception counter in front and empty office space in the back. I went in and there was a man sitting next to a camera. I don’t know who he was, but he had black hair and looked to be about in his 30s.”

(The man Phil refers to here was most likely Hasbro’s Don Levine or the largely unsung sculptor of the original ’64 GIjOE head, Phil Karaczkowski. For more information on Mr. Karaczkowki and his hugely important role in GIjOE’s early history, please watch the video clip provided below. —Ed.)

“He looked me up and down for a moment and said (pointing), ‘You have to sign that release, right over there.’ He was referring to a form he’d placed on the left side of the counter. So I did as he said,. I went over to it—and I signed it. What it said, I have idea. I didn’t read it. In the Army, you’re trained to do what you’re told. 

As I was signing the form, I laughed and said, ‘Sure! I’ll sign. Nobody will ever want to use MY picture.’ That seemed to get his attention and he gave me sort of a double-take, you know, like he suddenly had a much greater interest in me.

He said ‘Stand right there’ and I did. I remember I was standing in front of a plain backdrop. He took a couple of pictures, front and side stuff, you know, and that was that. I walked out without any further comment from either of us.”

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The Artistic Genius Behind GIjOE— Freelance sculptor, Phil Karaczkowski, was the largely unheralded creator of the iconic, world-famous 1964 GIjOE headsculpt, receiving only $600 for the assignment. Here, he stands next to some life-sized examples of his work, bronze busts of other famous Americans. Was THIS the man who took reference photos of Phil Iverson back in 1962-63? (Screenshot taken from a video produced by DoubleACS TV, Attleboro Access Cable System, Inc.) Click to enlarge.

“The next day, while I was sitting on my bunk relaxing in the barracks, another sergeant (that I’d also never seen before) came in and said, ‘Here’s a copy of one of those pictures they took of you yesterday.’ I took it, said, ‘Thanks,’ and he left. The next time I went home on leave, I gave the photo to my parents.

Well, I didn’t see that photo again until 2002. My mother had just passed away and we were going through her belongings. When I saw the photo again, I thought to myself, ‘Boy, that sure looks like GIjOE!’ A lot of other people I’ve shown it to also agree that it was probably used for GIjOE, but I don’t have a copy of the release I signed or any other definitive proof.

I am reminded of another occasion, long ago, just a little after 1964. I had gone to a birthday party for some kid, and at the party he received a new GIjOE. Everybody was standing around looking at it, because it was a new thing at that time, you know…and they were all saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, Phil. That’s YOU!‘ 

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A Real GIjOE On Duty— The only other photo Phil Iverson owns from his time in the Army is this rather dramatically lit nighttime image taken while on guard duty at the entry gates of the base. It confirms Iverson’s PFC rank and position as a Military Police (MP) officer and 101st Airborne Division paratrooper (see 101st AD helmet emblem and basic jump wings pinned above left pocket). The mystery is, Phil has no recollection of when this photo was taken by the Army (understandable, since he was on duty at the time), nor of how it came to be in his possession. Cue the Twilight Zone music! (Photo: Phil Iverson)

By this time in Phil’s story, our curiosity was well piqued. We began to dig deeper for more facts:

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Author-GIjOE historian, John Michlig. (Photo: John Michlig)

TJR: Most fans believe the definitive history of GIjOE was detailed in a book authored by John Michlig entitled, GIjOE: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action. After checking through its pages, we were unable to locate any mention of you, or of any reference photographs being taken (of anyone) for use in creating the original 1964 GIjOE headsculpt.

“No. Well, that’s probably because he (Michlig) wrote that book before he knew anything about me, my story, or the pictures. But with GIjOE’s 50th Anniversary approaching, I looked Michlig up on the computer and found his website and phone number. I thought, ‘What the heck?’ and I called him. I told him that I thought my picture was used for the ’64 headsculpt of GIjOE and he seemed kinda bored, sorta like he didn’t believe me. 

I told him I also had a facial scar—on my right cheek. That fact seemed to pique his interest. Then I asked him to take a look at my photos on Facebook. He did, and while he was looking, I could hear him in the background going, ‘Whoa!’ Finally, he said, ‘Send me ALL the stuff you’ve got! I did, and he called me back later to say, ‘Oh yeah. That picture of you was definitely used somehow for GIjOE.'”

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Derryl DePriest. (Photo: Derryl DePriest)

TJR: Interesting! Has anyone else in the GIJOE pantheon agreed with your supposition?

“Well, I called the GIjOE Club a few years ago. They agreed totally that the picture had to have been used in some way for GIjOE. But they also advised, ‘Let’s keep this confidential.’ Then I called and spoke with Hasbro’s Derryl DePriest. He was also very nice, but mostly noncommittal, and only said, ‘We don’t have any information that goes back that far.’ That’s about all I have right now.”

TJR: Okay, so while many people agree there’s a strong resemblance and a high likelihood that the photos taken of you were used by Hasbro or Phil Kraczkowski, there’s still no definitive written or oral proof (other than yours) to attest to that fact. No contracts. No testimonials. Nada. Did you ever consult a lawyer about this matter?

“Yes. A lawyer I consulted asked me if there was any kind of heading on the release form I signed and I told him no; not that I knew of, or remembered seeing. I read about Stan Weston in the California Daily News. He’s in his 80s now, and I understand he’s still trying to recoup some copyright possession of GIjOE (see The Joe Report’s coverage of that story HERE). But I have no goals or ambition to gain financial benefits from Hasbro. They’ve made about a billion dollars on GIjOE, but I’ll never see any of it. I’d just like to get this historical information out there. I’m sure most fans and collectors have never heard about these early model photos before.”

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Comfortable Working at Any Scale— GIjOE’s sculptor, Phil Kraczkowski, working in his studio. (Screenshot taken from a video produced by DoubleACS TV, Attleboro Access Cable System, Inc.)

TJR: Did you ever try to reach the actual sculptor of that first GIjOE head, Phil Kraczkowski?

“Yes, I did. But he had already died and his girlfriend has sold off everything he had. His records are all gone now. I know this, because I also talked to his nephew.”

TJR: That’s a shame. Tell me, do you remember how you got your own facial scar?

“Oh yeah. I was in 8th grade. They were making a ball field in the back of the grade school. We got a bunch of people together and they gave us all shovels. I was standing there and this kid picked up a shovel of dirt, swung it and hit me right in the cheek. I had to have about 20 stitches! After 50+ years, you’ve got to look really close to see that scar now, but I still have a Selective Service card (from 1958) that says ‘Identifying Marks: Scar on right cheek.’ HA!”

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You May Fire When You Are Ready, Gridley!— Indeed, like the famous US Navy quote, a few years later, Phil Gridley Iverson would indeed be firing weapons for his country—but not for the Navy. Iverson enlisted in the U.S. Army instead. Intriguingly, his 1958 selective service registration card already mentioned the defining physical characteristic of any true GIjOE, his “scar on right cheek.” Coincidental? Yes. Fascinating? OH, YES! (Photo: Phil Iverson) Click to enlarge.

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That Famous Scar— You can’t miss it on this page in a 2014 issue of Boy’s Life magazine. (Photo: Carin Reddig)

TJR: Very interesting. And actually, that little card is yet another tiny bit of evidence supporting your story. Of course, we all remember Don Levine’s account regarding the addition of a scar and reverse thumbnail to the original GIjOE. It was done so that Hasbro’s new action figure would have unusual physical characteristics that would help strengthen its copyright protection.

“Yes, that’s right. And the scar is visible in the photo (of me) that I believe Hasbro and/or Kraczkowski used. If you look at that photo and then at a ’64 GIjOE—they’re identical. Funny thing, I have another photo of me, taken by the Army, where it’s obvious that they chose to airbrush-out the scar. But to me and to everyone else I’ve ever shown this material to, the conclusion remains obvious. They all say the same thing. That original GIJOE ’64 headsculpt—is ME!”

TJR: Your theory seems to be, at the LEAST, quite plausible. And it does appear that you were unwittingly immortalized in plastic. Whether or not any of it was Kraczkowski or Hasbro’s intent remains to be determined. What have you been doing since those bygone days?

“Well, I was in the Army for 3 years. I’m as patriotic as anybody who’ll ever walk the face of the Earth, but I didn’t want to go to Vietnam. So… after I got out of the service, I first went to work in a steel mill, then two years in a police department, then on to Commonwealth Edison electric utility for 30 years, and finally to a grocery store where I worked as a maintainance man for 14 years. I retired at 70 and am now 76. Oh! And I just had a heart-attack.”

TJR: Oh, No!

“Yeah, I’m afraid so. And I’ve lost 30 lbs since then. I got some stents and then I had to go to rehab at the local hospital. When I was there, they interviewed me and asked if anything interesting had happened to me in my life. I told them about GIjOE. The next day, everybody at the hospital knew about it. The nurses said their kids and some adults with GIjOEs wanted to bring them in for me to sign!”

Phil Iverson, Manteno, IL

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GIjOE: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action (Photo: Chronicle Books)

Does Iverson’s theory about Hasbro sending someone to Fort Campbell, KY to take reference photographs for a new GIjOE action figure ring true to you? Well, there’s a lot of established precedent to back up his account. Many of Hasbro’s subcontracted artists, such as the famous Sam Petrucci and Larry Selman, were well-known for taking numerous resource photographs in preparation for their GIjOE-related art projects. It’s easy to conceive then, that Iverson’s mysterious “dark haired, 30-something” photographer was indeed Phil Kraczkowski. Sadly, the sculptor passed away in 1996 and didn’t mention taking (or using) reference photographs in John Michlig’s book:

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“People ask where my ideas come from. I say ‘from living so long.’ I’ve observed an awful lot of people, and I draw from that. In the case of GI Joe, I never sketched anything and I couldn’t use myself as a model because I’m not that handsome. Like a lot of the things I’ve sculpted, GI Joe came from within…Does GI Joe look a bit like John Kennedy? I’d done the Kennedy medal in 1961 and other full busts of him preceding the GI Joe project., so maybe the resemblance got in there subconsciously. I was thinking of a composite of people I know.”

Phil Kraczkowski, as quoted from John Michlig’s book, GIjOE: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action

Bottom Line: The truth is out there…and probably rests somewhere in the middle. The idea that Kraczkowski created GIjOE’s 1964 headsculpt completely from his own imagination is certainly conceivable and believable. But taking reference photographs has been and will always remain a tried and true practice that commercial artists rely upon when facing impending project deadlines.

Whether or not Karaczkowski mentions the use of reference photos in Michlig’s book, Iverson’s interpretation of the events that occurred at Fort Campbell in 1962-63 fit perfectly within GIjOE’s early timeline. And SOME civilian clearly took reference photographs of Iverson and other soldiers on that day 50+ years ago. We have the physical proof staring back at us from Phil’s photo.

Nevertheless, pending any further clarification, conclusions drawn by anyone regarding the photographer’s actual intended purpose or use of his images remains (for now) mere speculation. Hopefully, someone out there will see this article and write in with further insight or intel. Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to Phil Iverson for his generous contributions to this article.