Monthly Archives: March 2012

“Mummy’s Tomb” Meets “Clutch Cargo”

A screen shot from Jim Sweet's "Mummy's Tomb" Youtube video, utilizing basic animation techniques reminiscent of 1960s "Clutch Cargo" cartoon serial.

6 years ago, GIjOE fan and animator, Jim Sweet, wanted to make a video representation of one of his favorite childhood possessions—the 1960s Peter Pan book and record, GIjOE and the Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb. But Sweet also wanted to take his project one step further, and rather than merely photograph the pages of the comic, he decided to add original elements utilizing his own animation skills. The result turned out to be a unique and imaginative retelling of the classic story.

A screen shot from the opening of a Clutch Cargo cartoon. Each daily episode was only 4 minutes long, with a weekend recap episode of 30 minutes.

Clearly drawing inspiration from another childhood favorite (the crudely-animated 1960’s adventure serial, Clutch Cargo), Sweet decided to animate the mouths of all Tomb characters while leaving the rest basically static. This was very similar to what was done in Clutch Cargo. Back then, in order to meet tight production deadlines and even tighter budgets, the characters were very simply drawn, rarely moving, with only their mouths animated by a then-new “Synchro Vox” animation method.

Synchro Vox later became known simply as the “Talking Lips,” process, and its unusual look gave Clutch Cargo’s already extremely minimalist animation an even stranger, off-beat appearance. Modern-day audiences continue to see it employed on television, primarily by comedians such as Conan O’Brien. (Personal note: I distinctly remember as a kid, being so “creeped out” by Cargo’s weird, “talking lips,” that I would JUMP at the TV to change the channel as quickly as possible! And let’s face it, Jonny Quest made Cargo look like he was standing still. Which he usually was.)

While not using Clutch Cargo’s exact Synchro Vox method, Sweet’s own style of animation still has the same retro-appeal of ol’ Clutch. According to Sweet…

Sweet's animation, as in the classic Clutch Cargo serial, moves only the mouths of the characters, leaving the rest of the artwork to stand on its own.

“The ‘Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb’ is the best kid’s book and record EVER. First, I took my old GIjOE book and record and scanned in all the pictures. Then, I made the mouth move for each picture by drawing them in on Paint Shop Pro. Finally, I laid each frame into the Movie Maker program and mixed it with the audio from the record.”

So…on this lazy, modern-day Saturday, why don’t you take a few moments to reminisce what it was like when you were a kid, watching all those cool, Saturday morning cartoons? Start by rewatching Sweet’s entertaining Mummy’s Tomb VIDEO. Then, switch over to this (hilariously bad) 4-minute Clutch Cargo episode. When you’re done, sit back and remember what the old wise man once said…”Well, there’s another 15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.” HA

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New UK Flocking Service for Action Man & GIjOE

Flocktastic offers a wide variety of colors, hair lengths, custom blends, even flocked eyebrows!
(Photo: Flocktastic)

Vintage Action Man (VAM) and GIjOE collectors living in Europe and the UK have long awaited this moment. After years of relying on their own home flocking techniques, a new business called Flocktastic finally promises to provide fans with a “professional electrostatic flocking service that will have your figure’s head looking as new as the day it was made.”

A good flocking job adds instant character to figures. Just look at this guy! (Photo: Flocktastic)

The potential for Flocktastic’s new business is huge. Around the globe, there are literally thousands of collectors who own figures that are replete with patchy bald spots or worn-off beards. All of which would benefit from a trip to a professional reflocker. Imagine if every figure in YOUR collection suddenly sported a new, perfect head of hair. What a difference it would make!

As children, few of us gave any thought to the care of our beloved “Fuzzheads.” Hats and helmets of all types were roughly crammed onto their noggins. We tossed them repeatedly them into swimming pools. Boiled them in bath water. And even gave some haircuts and trims of our own (thanks, Sis!). The results were predictably awful, resulting in thousands of balding and hairless action figures.

Click on these photos for great closeups. This guy looks AMAZING. (Photo: Flocktastic)

Nowadays, as adults (and mostly men), we’ve grown somewhat more, shall we say, “sensitive” to the issue of hair loss. And we wish to correct such “injustices” whenever and wherever possible. ESPECIALLY when it has to do with our beloved Action Man/GIjOE/Geyperman action figures.

As a result, collectors worldwide are beginning to realize that their forlorn, battered figures are actually now completely salvagable. Yes, thanks to businesses like Flocktastic and its American counterparts, Flock Concepts and the famous Club Hair for GIjOE, fans everywhere can now take the baldest figures in their collections…and literally TRANSFORM them with newly flocked hair, beards, eyebrows and moustaches. Flocktastic will even offer a FREE eyebrow painting and face cleaning with every order. You can’t go wrong there! In fact, according to their website…

Fans of the Adventure Team will be thrilled with this closeup which reveals absolutely STUNNING flocking. (Photo: Flocktastic)

“Simply send the head(s) to us and we will strip off the existing flock and re-flock it according to your choice of colour, length and style.We currently have 40 individual colours in 5 different lengths to choose from. From these base colours, flock can be mixed together to create virtually any hair colour you can think of.

Choose to re-flock in the original 2mm length or customise the head with 1mm, 4mm, 6mm or even 0.5mm flock! If you don’t want eyebrows flocked, then any existing eyebrow rub will be re-painted free of charge with any re-flock purchased. Dirty faces are also cleaned up as best they can be as part of the process.”

Bottom Line: This is great news. Think about it. If we all just skipped a couple of cheesburgers this week, we could afford to get one of our old VAM or GIjOE heads flocked instead. What a deal! Happily, it seems as if Flocktastic is off to a great start with their new business. We wish them and their “fellow flockers” the very best of success!

“Toy Surgeon” Dennis Widner Makes Miniature Munition Masterpieces in Perfect 1:6 Scale

This is the masterpiece I was fortunate enough to purchase, a Tellermine 42 box, handmade by Dennis Widner. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

During the day, GIjOE collector Dennis Widner works at the University of Georgia teaching courses in radiation safety. Back at home, he transforms into a highly-specialized artist, creating handcrafted miniature 1:6 scale replicas of WW2 munition boxes. (Wow. Talk about your “narrow niches!”)

I caught up with Dennis at this year’s Joelanta show in Atlanta, GA. He told me that he began creating these mini munition masterpieces back in 1995, and that every crate and case is thoroughly researched, studied and planned-out before ANY work is begun. According to Widner…

Dennis Widner, aka “The Toy Surgeon,” poses in front of the small, unassuming display case he uses to sell his amazing creations. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“I do a LOT of research beforehand, because I don’t care for miniatures that’re inaccurate. So whenever I decide to make something, it’s going to be an exact, scaled-down copy—as close as humanly possible.”

Of course, such high-quality work doesn’t go unnoticed by the public for long. In fact, Widner told me…

“A few times after I’ve finished a piece, I’ve had others copying it exactly (without credit or compensation). But I guess that sort of thing is inevitable and can actually be considered a form of flattery.”

I don’t think Dennis has anything to worry about. No “knock-off” copy will EVER come close to the high-level of quality and character evident in his work. Widner confirmed that he makes everything by hand, using a mixture of hand-sculpted resin parts, tiny wooden pieces, working metal hinges and clasps, and even miniature metal nails (they’re so tiny!). The final results are simply astounding. You need to hold them in your hands to really appreciate the quality. Each crate or case looks, feels and even SMELLS like its 1:1 counterpart.

This closeup reveals astounding details in one of Dennis’ creations. There’s even a real, wooden handle! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Dennis’ crates are fully functional too. All of the hinges, clasps and tiny slots for the munitions. It’s all correct. Nothing’s phony or forgotten. I was floored by the amount of time and work each item requires. Nothing is mass-produced by a plastic vac-u-form machine in China for 5 cents a copy. It’s more like you’re holding a miniature piece of HISTORY in your hands. Not surprisingly though, according to Widner…

“I don’t really make any money. I know that. I make these purely for the love of our hobby. Typically, I only sell my work “face to face” to the public, about once a year, usually down here at Joelanta. They’re considered to be Joelanta ‘exclusives.’ But I guess if someone’s really interested, they could email me directly and place an order.”

Some of Dennis’ amazing work includes (from l to r): US 50cal ammo crate, 2cm German flak gun magazine case, 8cm German mortor case and (far r) the “holy grail” Tellermine 42 box.
(Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: Before I left his booth, I snagged one of Dennis’ Tellermine 42 boxes for myself (imagine the incredible diorama possibilities). I would’ve completely emptied out his entire display case, if not for my meager, limited funds. ARRGH!

Huge, Vintage GIjOE Auction tomorrow (3-29)

Just one of the astounding vintage GIjOE sets being auctioned on March 29th in the UK.
(Photo: Vectis Auctions)

Wake up, Joeheads! That BIG, vintage GIjOE auction over in the UK takes place early TOMORROW. That’s at the crack of dawn, on Thursday, March 29th.

Some important things to remember…

1) There’s at least a 6-hour time difference between the U.S. and the U.K. Their website says the auction will begin at 1PM. That’s UK time, not your local time. Roughly speaking, I believe that’s about 6 or 7AM on the East Coast and much earlier (3 or 4AM?) on the West Coast. Check your specific time-zone and be sure to compute the auction’s actual starting time accurately.

You want it. They've got it. The only question remaining is...Will you place a bid? (Photo: Vectis Auctions)

2) No matter where you live, you can bid ONLINE. Go to the Vectis website and review their online bidding procedures, policies, etc. To place bids, you’ll need to be logged in and following their specific instructions.

3) Prices will be in British Pounds or Euros. The U.S. dollar is kind of weak right now, so if you plan on bidding, it’s highly recommended you look into the current conversion rate beforehand, so you can do some quick mental arithmetic if required. And yes, they take credit cards. Bottom line, as with any auction, know your personal financially limits before bidding on any item.

This event promises to be an excellent opportunity to obtain some very rare, vintage GIjOEs. Take a look at all the PHOTOS once again and review these videos: VIDEO 1 and VIDEO 2. There’s no better way to get completely set for this event. If you win anything, please let us know. Best of luck and Happy Bidding!

Hasbro evolves to remain profitable

The toy business is changing again—dramatically—and Hasbro is at the helm of its most recent evolution. After announcing layoffs of 170 employees here at home and abroad (see our previous post of March 7), the creator of such classic toys such as GIjOE and Mr. Potato Head is now attempting to fight its way back from of the effects of a struggling national economy and sluggish sales, by morphing itself into a new entertainment/licensing/merchandising COLOSSUS.

Using star power to sell toys, Bruce Willis is shown in a scene from Hasbro's upcoming movie, "GIjOE Retaliation." (Photo: Hasbro-Paramount)

With all of its media guns blazing, Hasbro appears to doing well so far. By creating its own entertainment vehicles (TV shows, animation, films, etc.), while similtaneously owning all the licensing and merchandising rights, it has cast a much wider net for potential future profits.

For example, their franchise-based movie “Transformers” grossed 2.6 BILLION worldwide and the first GIjOE movie earned over $302 million. That’s some serious moolah! Plans for films based on Stretch Armstrong and the Candyland board game are also in the works. Hasbro has even created its own TV channel known as “The Hub” which is akin to running commercials for itself 24/7. Every base is being covered. And every possible avenue for profits is being controlled—by Hasbro.

Poster from Hasbro's upcoming movie, "Battleship," clearly inspired by their classic 1960s board game of the same name. (Photo: Hasbro-Paramount)

As the exclusive rights holder to such famous properties, it seems as if Hasbro should be garnering tremendous profits at every turn. But with the increased ownership (of everything) comes increased risk. When a TV show or movie flops, its toy line sits on store shelves unsold and the resulting financial losses can be quite heavy.

In addition, trends indicate that children nowadays are simply playing less with toys. Modern-era distractions such as video games, cell phones and the Internet are causing many children to grow up more quickly, leaving less time to simply PLAY. It’s an alarming trend that hasn’t escaped the notice of toy makers like Hasbro.

But Hasbro has high hopes for its new approach to the toy industry and their business in general. According to Reyne Rice, a “toy trend expert” quoted in a recent New York Times article

Hasbro plans to base an entire movie on the classic 1970s toy, "Stretch Armstrong." Introduction of a new/old toy line can't be far behind. (Photo: Kenner-Hasbro)

“Hasbro is ahead of its competitors with its brand strategy. By investing in their own properties, they are making the company more profitable. It becomes a revenue stream for them in the form of royalties from licensed products.”

This business trend is quickly becoming the new norm. Hasbro has even announced the opening of a new Transformers ride at the Universal Studios in Hollywood. And in the same NYT article, Hasbro’s Chief Executive, Brian Goldner states…

“Our four movies made $3 billion at the box office. But we made $1.6 billion in sales of merchandise because we own the I.P. and all the merchandising rights.”

Hasbro has clearly jumped in with both feet. But its new “own it all” approach to business and merging with the entertainment industry comes with great risks. Hollywood will tell you that each new film release is a huge gamble, nothing is ever guaranteed. But if successful, the financial rewards can often be HUGE—for those who own the rights. But seriously guys…Candyland?

E.J. White: Joelanta’s “goodwill ambassador”

E.J. White (left) charms another attendee (Santa, maybe?) at this year's Joelanta. In honor of the show's "Chronus Adventurer" exclusive, E.J. was sporting an 1880s-era top hat with a pair of exotic, "steampunk" goggles. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

You’ll see the man long before he ever sees you. You can’t miss him! With his eye-catching outfits, broad, welcoming smile, and warm, easy-going demeanor, E.J. White stands out in any crowd. At the Joelanta show in Atlanta, GA recently, he infused his unique powers of charm into nearly every moment of the proceedings.

From the earliest moments of the event, he roamed happily about the hotel, meeting and greeting incoming friends, dealers and collectors. During check-in and registration, I asked others about E.J. and learned that his club had dubbed him “The Grandmaster of the Lobby Swap.” He laughed later when I told him about this designation and said…

“Well, our club’s members rally around me. We’ve all bonded like brothers and are always there for one another. That’s really what it’s all about, you know?”

After his two successful freefalls from the top floor, my new Action Man declared, "Thanks to E.J.'s salesmanship, I'm no longer a virgin...parachutist."
(Photo: Mark Otnes)

That evening, during the big Parachute Drop event, E.J. was happily hawking new, still-in-the-box Action Man parachute figures for sale, so that anyone who wanted to, could still “get in on the skydiving action.” I know his “carnival barker” method of salesmanship clearly works, because I bought one from him myself at that moment! (see photo at left)

In this "artistic" photo of the charity art auction, E.J. poses with club members and friends.
(Photo: Mark Otnes)

Later, at the Charity Art Auction, E.J. cheerfully acted as a “co-auctioneer” with Buddy Finethy to help build excitement within the crowd. There didn’t seem to be an event that he wasn’t actively and enthusiastically involved in. And for that, we were all very grateful. Go JOE! Go E.J.!!!

New Captain Action Uniform Set Photos

Wow. Lookin' good there, Cap! Love that shield. (Photo: AFT)

If you’ve had your head under a rock for the last year, then you probably haven’t heard about the impending arrival of 1960s multi-hero action figure, Captain Action! Yes, that’s right, ol’ Cap is coming back to toy stores and online retail outlets near you (pre-orders are crossing our shores as we speak). And as was mentioned in an earlier post, 4 uniform sets have already been announced (Captain America, Spiderman, Thor and Loki).

But up until now, we’ve only had sealed, prototype packages to look at. That can be enticing, but also somewhat frustrating. Finally, there are some actual “out of the box” photos over at the Action Figure Times website revealing just how cool these new uniform are going to be.

It's your "Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman" in 1/6th scale. (Photo: AFT)

In short, the Captain America set seems to be VERY well made with loads of cool detail (look at the little buckles on that shield strap). Spiderman looks “interesting,” but not quite as exciting. Bottom line, the new CA uniform sets look pretty fantastic and these new photos will surely stir up collector interest in this new CA line-up. Stay tuned for additional intel as it becomes available. Meanwhile, jump over to the AFT website now and enjoy the photos!

First year of GIJOE adventure serial completed

Even the Yeti makes a dramatic appearance in this wide-ranging GIjOE-themed epic. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Exclusive to The Joe Report…

A daily, GIjOE-themed online serial entitled “A Joe a Day” has recently wrapped its first full year of production. According to its creator, Mark Otnes, it hasn’t always been easy to keep up such a strict production schedule. Here’s what he told The Joe Report…

” Looking back now, I don’t know how I kept up the grinding pace required to get a new panel out every day for an entire year. What was I thinking? <laugh> For a few days there, I got a little behind (due to holidays, illness, etc.) and had to work my backside off to get caught up again. But, it’s been a lot of fun watching the characters develop and I think the story’s been pretty entertaining as well. I can’t thank the fans enough for all their kind words of support.”

One of the serial's most intriguing characters, known only as "Aurora," was recently revealed to be the A-T Commander's daughter! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Originally created as a way to promote the grand opening of Otnes’ new Patches of Pride (PoP) website on 11/11/11, the serial was scheduled to wrap at the end of 2011. But popularity of the photostory has grown so much that Otnes has agreed to carry it forth into the future indefinitely—with one significant change. While it will retain its original “A Joe a Day” title, the serial will no longer be produced on a daily basis. According to Otnes…

“Increased business here at PoP has forced me to curtail production temporarily while I get caught up with filling orders. I’ve never charged for the serial and keeping the lights on here at Casa Otnes has to take priority. As soon as I’m able, I’ll get back to creating new panels. I know there’s a lot of fans out there waiting to see how this whole “Project Hercules” storyline turns out. And I’m eager to see it as well!”

The entire year's adventure (for 2011) has been archived and is now viewable online for free.
(Photo: Mark Otnes)

If you’ve never seen Otnes’ “Return of the Magnificent 7″ stories, you can easily catch up with them by going to THIS PAGE on his PoP website. And, the entire 365-panel “A Joe a Day” serial (for 2011) has been fully archived into 56 convenient weekly chapters that are available for viewing (free) HERE. With such a large and growing body of work, calls for compiling the entire “A Joe a Day” saga into printed book form have also gained momentum as of late. According to Otnes…

“A full-color graphic novel WOULD be cool. We’ll see. Anything’s possible!”

Father and Sons rediscover “Magic” of GIjOE

Robert Browning with sons Gus and Ben were all smiles at Joelanta 2012.
(Photo: Mark Otnes)

Since its introduction, GIjOE has always been more than just a toy. The beloved action figure seems to have an instant and “magical” effect, encouraging endless hours of interactive play between friends and family members. Robert Browning, a retail sales manager from Knoxville, Tennessee, brought his two sons along to Joelanta this year, hoping that the three of them would “create some memories together” during the big 2-day event. And so they did!

From the show’s earliest moments, the three were clearly happy to be working and spending time together. At the “Lobby Swap,” Robert had staked out a small area to sell some of his extras. His sons were active and vital participants, engaging customers directly and offering items for sale. Soon, the two boys began moving around the lobby area to better “work the crowd” on their own, offering passersby free 1:6 pistols (lugers) as an incentive. Whether they actually sold very much seemed to be of secondary importance to their father, however, as Robert told me, “Their being here is what it’s all about. Father-son bonding time like this is really so important.”

Robert searches for "hidden GIjOE treasures" with his sons at Sunday's big event. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Robert’s been a GIjOE fan and collector for over 15 years now. He remembers playing GIjOEs with his uncle as a kid and enjoys “carrying that tradition through” today with his sons. Later that evening, as the impromptu parachute toss began, he would get his chance to do so again.

For about 30 minutes, fans of all ages raced up and down 15 floors to toss and retrieve their parachute Joes and Action Men. There were many other children in attendance that evening and all clearly enjoyed watching the figures slowly drifting back down to the lobby and trying to catch them. The Browning family was no exception as Gus and Ben enthusiastically enjoyed every moment.

Robert's sons Gus (l) and Ben (r) hold up their 1st-place winning custom figure of "The Shadow" and their prize, a Sideshow Cobra Ninja action figure. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Sunday proved almost overwhelming with all the great toys, dioramas and customs on display. It was great to see Robert and his sons so excited about the figures and other items they were picking through. The possibilities seemed endless and Robert’s smile told the whole story as he watched his sons eyes growing wider with each new discovery. But there was one BIG surprise to come…

Toward the end of the show, winners of the various contests were being announced. The Browning trio had entered a custom figure of “The Shadow” and as it turned out, they had won FIRST PLACE! The boys eagerly showed me their prize, an expensive Sideshow Cobra Ninja figure. SWEET. Congratulations, Gus and Ben. Thanks to your dad Robert, you too, have discovered the “Magic” of GIjOE!

NE GIjOE Club holds 1st Meeting Sunday

Amazing collections await members at each meeting. (NE GIjOE Club website photo)

GIjOE fans in the Northeastern U.S. have been hoping for a club to form in their area for years. Now they’re about to get their wish! Tomorrow (Sunday the 25th) will be the first-ever meeting of the New England GIjOE Collector’s Club (NEGCC) in Pawtucket, RI. According to their official club website, they have many interesting activities scheduled. Tidbits leaked out so far include…

“It looks like it’s going to be takeout for the food as the votes are 8 to 7 in favor of takeout.”

Mmm…”Takeout Food.” But what about GIjOE? If General Tso Chicken isn’t enough to get you in your car, here’s what else they have planned…

“Brad and Rick are going to have a “class” on how to fix a talking GIjOE or Troubleshooter, so be sure to bring a non-talking-talker to try to fix.”

A “non-talking-talker,” huh? Now that SOUNDS more like it. Get it? HA! Seriously, repairing talkers is a subject that many Joeheads would love to eavesdrop in on. If we could only be a “fly on the wall” at your meeting. And finally…

“We’re having a mini-show, so be sure to bring anything you want to trade or sell.”

A GIjOE club in this part of the country is long overdue. Thankfully, the NEGCC appears to be off to a great start. Lots of cool activities are planned. Members are helping other members. That’s what the spirit of Joe is all about! Best of luck with your new division, fellas. Hope you all have a great meeting tomorrow. GO JOE!