Monthly Archives: March 2013

Customizer Extraordinaire, Ron “Inks” Stymus, Has To Wait To Be Laid-Off Before He Can Create His 1:6 Scale Custom Vehicles, Props & Figures

Three of Ron Stymus' custom figures (his 'mini-me' is the one on the right) prepare to go cruising in three of his brightly-painted 1:6 scale customized "hot rods," (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Three of Ron Stymus’ custom figures (his ‘Mini Me’ is the one on the right) prepare to go cruising in three of his brightly painted 1:6 scale customized “hot rods,” (Photo: Ron Stymus)

“The best things are always one-of-a-kind, scratch-built, and custom.”

Ronald "Inks" Stymus (NY), poses with his 1:6 scale custom "mini me" GIjOE. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ronald “Inks” Stymus (NY), poses with his 1:6 scale custom “Mini Me” GIjOE. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

As GIjOE collectors and customizers go, Ronald “Inks” Stymus is a clearly a standout. His 1:6 scale recreations of blue-collar bikers, high-powered hot rods, erotically attired femme fatales, dioramas of game rooms, rock-n-roll bars and gritty street scenes are among the most original we’ve ever seen.

What makes his work so special? Besides an obviously keen eye for detail and expert craftsmanship skills, Ron has an uncanny ability for depicting real, everyday people. They’re not superheroes, WW2 stormtroopers or adventurers. Rather, his customs are based upon actual, gritty places he’s seen, or people he has encountered. His final scratch-built, one-of-a-kind creations illustrate 1:6 scale customizing—at its FINEST.

Surprisingly, the only substantial time Ron can find to work on his miniature artistic creations is when he’s LAID OFF from his job as a truck driver in the Finger Lakes region of New York. According to Stymus:

“I work in construction. I drive a 35-ton Volvo dump truck, 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. In the Wintertime I get laid off. That’s when I do most of my 1:6 customizing. I’ve also done tattoos (as another hobby) for over 35 years now, and I’ve done over 20,000; all custom, and all free-hand.

Most of my custom stuff is based on my life in general and people or groups that I’ve known. My 1:6 scale gameroom and other dioramas are based on my after-work R&R.

I started collecting 1:6 scale a long time ago. Now, I have about 550 GIjOEs and other figures, plus almost 300 Barbies and other female figures. I collect other things too, but that’s another story!”

“If you see it in 1:1 scale, you can make it in 1:6 scale.”

Ron’s mantra may ring true, but not everyone possesses his innate creativity or superior artistic ability. As another old saying goes, “If it was easy, then EVERYONE would be doing it.” To get a better idea of just how far-reaching Ron’s talents really are, let’s take a look at some recent work:

Holy, Hells Angels! Stymus' bad-to-the-bone custom Bikers look like they're ready for anything. Notice the custom leather outfits, and numerous tiny details that make this group of figures so outstanding. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Holy, Hells Angels! Stymus’ “bad-to-the-bone” custom Bikers look like they’re ready for anything. Notice all the handmade leatherwork, cloth vests, patches and painted tattoos; such realistic details make this group of unique figures truly outstanding. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's "mini-me" poses next to a stunning variety of scratch-built crates and pallets. What realism! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s “mini-me” poses next to a stunning assortment of scratch-built 1:6 scale crates and wooden pallets. Such realistic-looking props help make Stymus’ dioramas all the more believable to the eye. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's gameroom diorama features a scratch-built bar, pool table, skee-ball alley and much more. Look how ALIVE his scenes feel! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s 1:6 scale gameroom diorama features a scratch-built bar, pool table, skee-ball alley and a wide variety of realistic looking props and characters. Outstanding work! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's yellow custom hot rod sports outstanding custom painted flames as well as numerous other creative details. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s yellow custom hot rod was lowered, painted with custom flames and intricately detailed inside and out. Congratulations! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Even the interior received special attention with the addition of new door panels, carpeting and other details. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

The yellow car’s interior received special attention with the addition of new door panels, carpeting, fuzzy dice and other custom details. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's 1:6 scale custom blue hot rod is perfectly detailed and appointed to resemble a 1:1 scale high-performance street machine. Vrroom!(Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s second 1:6 scale custom was this outstanding blue hot rod, detailed and appointed to resemble a 1:1 scale high-performance street machine. VRROOM! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

“This blue car is the second one that I built. Its tires and rims came off a 1:6 scale PT Cruiser. I custom-made its wheelie bars, put N2O in the trunk, added a custom muffler made from a coffee can (with hand-painted Thrush logo), a Revell 350 Chevy motor, a blower from a 1:18 scale ‘Muscle Machine,’ bucket seats, carpeting, door panels, headliner, sun visors, fuzzy dice, gauges. and even a radar detector!”

This closeup of the engine bay reveals all of the stunning detail Stymus added to his custom 1:6 scale (blue) hot rod. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

This closeup of the engine bay reveals all of the stunning detail Stymus added to his custom 1:6 scale (blue) hot rod. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's custom rock band is truly unique, and its customized characters are very original and creative. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s custom Adventure Team rock band is truly unique. The more you look, the more you realize is scratch-built. You can almost hear the screaming metal music! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's scratch-built dog sled might need a little more "dogpower" to get underway. But look at that craftsmanship! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s scratch-built dog sled and supply crates might need a little more “dogpower” to get underway. But look at the superb craftsmanship and attention to detail. MUSHHH! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

You know you're a dedicated 1:6 scaler when you go to the trouble to scratch-build a custom frame for your hot rod. Superb! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

On his third custom car, Ron decided to go all out. His “Mini Me” lifts the car (with one hand) to reveal Ron’s scratch-built frame and gas tank on the underside. Outstanding! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

“This is the third 1:6 scale car I’ve built. It features a custom-built frame, a Revell 350 Chevy stock motor, custom firewall, gas tank made from a coffee can, brake lines, tranny lines, carpet, and some mounted guns in the trunk.”

This engine bay closeup reveals a simpler, stock 350 Chevy. But WOW, that firewall and all the other tiny details really add to the realism. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

This engine bay closeup reveals a stock 350 Chevy. But Ron’s custom firewall, hosing and other detailing really amps up the realism. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's red hot rod is equally eye-grabbing with its stunning paint job and engine details. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s red hot rod is quite eye-grabbing with its stunning paint job, bright chromework and myriad details. Even the service ramps are scratch-built! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's custom-built 1:6 scale auto transport trailer. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s custom-built 1:6 scale auto transport trailer. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

“My scratch-built 1:6 scale auto transport trailer includes bungee cords for the tarp, tie-down chains with axle hooks, ramps that stow under the trailer and chain binders.”

Closeup of Ron's custom trailer with ramps connected. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Closeup of Ron’s custom trailer with ramps connected. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

True 1:6 scalers love detail, and with Ron's custom trailer, you can even stow the ramps in racks in the back! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

True 1:6 scalers love detail, and with Ron’s custom trailer, you can even stow the loading ramps into racks in the back. Plus, notice the real wood planking, rusting detail on the racks, the figure’s custom leather welding apron, shop patch, spark visor and more. Truly superior customization! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's red hot rod looks STUNNING on his 1:6 scale scratch-built trailer. WOW. Look at the size of that thing! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s red hot rod looks STUNNING loaded onto his 1:6 scale scratch-built trailer, all ready to roll out to the nearest drag strip or 1:6 scale car show. Amazing! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

The Land Adventurer asks Ron's "Mini Me" for a ride back to Adventure Team Headquarters in their new (custom) "High Rider" Jeep. Fully RC, Ron's motorized monster is ready for any challenge. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Land Adventurer asks Ron’s “Mini Me” for a lift back to the Adventure Team Headquarters in his new, high-ridin’ RC “Monster Jeep.” (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's "Mini Me" loads up his new scratch-built 1:6 scale wheelbarrow with cords of wood. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s “Mini Me” unloads cords of wood from his new scratch-built 1:6 scale wheelbarrow to fire up his new scratch-built custom stove. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

“The tub on the wheelbarrow was made from sections of a coffee can. It has real wooden handles, and the wheel is from a 1:18 scale jeep, that was broken. The little wood cords are actually sawed-up real twigs. The stove is all soldered together, the door works and the stovepipe is plastic pipe.”

Closeup of Ron's scratch-built stove reveals it's made of actual metal and features a working door as well. Great for warming the shop during the Winter. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

In this early production shot of Ron’s scratch-built stove (taken prior to painting), you can see the various materials used in its construction. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Another shot of Ron's "gameroom" diorama reveals a detailed bar, beer keg, tons of details and assorted characters having a good time. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Another view of Ron’s scratch-built custom “gameroom” diorama reveals a detailed bar, beer keg, furniture, games and other props, plus assorted characters all having a good time. It’s time to “Par-TAY!”(Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's "Mini Me" prepares to take a ride on his 1:6 scale customized chopper. Note the hand-made background including a 1:6 ice freezer, walls door and window. Outstanding! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s “Mini Me” prepares to take a ride on his 1:6 scale customized chopper. Note Stymus’ hand-made background items as well, including a 1:6 scale ice freezer with working doors and hand-painted graphics. Outstanding! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron needed a case for his scratch-built guitar. No problem! Simply trace off a pattern...(Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron needed a case for his 1:6 scale guitar. No problem! First, he drew a pattern onto stiff cardstock for the top and bottom halves. Photo: Ron Stymus)

Then, cut out your pattern and glue it together, making the top and bottom halves. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Then, he trimmed it all out, curving and gluing long strips to the patterns to create the sides. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

The next step involves covering your case halves with the material of your choice. Carefully trim the material to fit and apply with adhesive. Reinforce with sewing as required to add handles and straps. Line case with felt or suede. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

It’s hard to tell from this photo, but the final steps involved either spray painting the case black or covering it with material before attaching final details such as handles, hinges and straps. Outstanding! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's lead guitarist seems quite satisfied with the results. "Where's our next gig, dude?" (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s 1:6 guitarist is quite satisfied with the results. “Let’s get to the gig, dude!” (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron's artisitc skills are applied even to the smallest details on his figures, including hand-painted tattoos. (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Ron’s artistic skills including creating superb hand-painted tattoos! (Photo: Ron Stymus)

Bottom Line: Ron’s work is simply amazing. Clearly, he has an excellent eye for miniaturization, material choice and fabrication. His recreation of real-life objects at 1:6 scale is already at an undisputedly professional level. He’s an inspiration to all in the 1:6 scale community and especially to its growing “Corps of Customizers.Far more than a truck driver, Ron has become a true ARTIST; one that must wait to be laid off—before he can create again. Go, “Inks!”

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Custom “Flying Elvis” G.I. Joe Parachutes Into Joelanta 2013 in Distinctive Light-Up Costume

Jack Hall's custom "Flying Elvis" figure was the unofficial "star" of Joelanta 2013. Hall's unique combination of Hasbro, Mattel and Auto Zone accessories, resulted in a one-of-a-kind custom figure you had to see to believe. For the record, "Flying Elvis" made 5 successful jumps (in full light-up mode) during Saturday night's parachute drop event in Atlanta and suffered no damage. "Thank you. Thank you very much." (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Jack Hall’s custom “Flying Elvis” figure was the unofficial star of Joelanta 2013. Hall’s unique combination of Hasbro, Mattel and Auto Zone accessories, resulted in a one-of-a-kind custom figure you had to see to believe. For the record, “Flying Elvis” made 5 successful jumps (in full light-up mode) during Saturday night’s parachute drop event in Atlanta and suffered no damage. “Thank you. Thank you very much.” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

As “parachute drop” events go, Saturday night’s session at Joelanta 2013 seemed to proceed fairly normally at first—almost too normally. The event has been held annually since 2000, and by now, most attendees consider it almost a rite of passage for their parachute-equipped GIjOEs.

To participate, fans first ascend 15 floors in one of the elevators to the top of the hotel atrium. Then, they move over to the railing, toss their “Jump Joe” over the side and watch it float (hopefully gently) back down to the lobby floor below.

Well, 2013’s event progressed quite predictably, and after only a few minutes, many fans seemed to be losing interest. After watching just a few jumps, most stopped looking up, choosing to talk amongst themselves instead. Something was missing this year. Something…EXCITING.

Jack Hall, creator of “Flying Elvis” which “premiered” at Joelanta 2013. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“Look up there! What’s THAT?

Fortunately, the lackluster mood began to change quickly as fans began to point and notice that there was some sort of light moving around on the top floor. What was it? Suddenly, an unusual GIjOE in a brightly lit jumpsuit “hit the silk” and began its first successful descent of the evening. Is that? Is he? Yes! It was…“FLYING ELVIS!”

Where did it come from? No one had ever seen this figure before. It was a GIjOE all right, but it sported an Elvis pompadour haircut, sunglasses, and a Las Vegas jumpsuit—with LIGHTS. Wow!

Turns out, “Flying Elvis” is no ordinary Joe. Rather, it’s a superb custom creation of fan, collector and customizer, Jack Hall. Here’s how Hall describes his production of this unique custom:

“First, I took a Mattel Elvis head, ‘scalped’ the hair off of its headsculpt and put it on top of a GIjOE’s head. Then, I took the figure’s Elvis suit and inserted some little light strips that I had picked up at an auto parts store. I strung the two sets together, ran ’em down the jumpsuit’s sleeves and pant legs, and connected it all up to some batteries. To get everything to fit, the suit had to be sliced open and then sewn back together again.”

A real-life "Skydiving Elvis" prepares to land at a recent T-Mobile event in San Franciso. (Photo;

A real-life “Skydiving Elvis” prepares to land at a recent T-Mobile event in San Franciso. (Photo: sfcitizen)

With the dramatic arrival of Hall’s “Flying Elvis,” the excitement had returned to Joelanta’s parachute drop, and fans hurried once again to “compete.” Elvis (and Jack) would go on to complete 4 additional jumps for a total of 5, all without an injury or loss of sunglasses. Collector Gordon Mayfield was stunned by the figure’s resilience and remarked…

“Even after five jumps, he still has his sunglasses on! Man, Flying Elvis is rockin’ COOL!”

Bottom Line: This is a superb custom figure. Our sincerest congratulations to Jack Hall for his amazing and creative work. Will this one-of-a-kind GIjOE ever fly again? We’ll have to wait and see. For now…
Elvis has left the building!

“The Karma of Joe” Prompts Acts of Generosity From Thousands of G.I. Joe Fans and Collectors

There were 10 distinctive versions of the "G.I. Love Joes!" buttons which were handed out free to 100 lucky attendees at the recent Joelanta 2103 show in Atlanta, GA. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“Joe Karma” in action: 100 grateful fans received free “G.I. LOVE JOES!” buttons at Joelanta 2013, courtesy of Patches of Pride. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“The Karma of Joe” is a very real force for GOOD that grows stronger every year.

In a superb example of "Joe Karma," GIjOE fan and collector, David Howard, preproduces vintage packaging in limited quantites and offers them at cost to fellow fans in a very generous effort to, as he says, "give something back to the GIjOE community." (Photo: Mark Otnes)

In another generous example of “Joe Karma,” GIjOE collector, David Howard, reproduces vintage packaging and offers it at cost to fellow fans in an effort, as he said, “to give something back to the GIjOE community.” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

GIjOE collecting has evolved quite dramatically over the last four decades. In its earliest phase of the 1980s, collectors and fans were left largely on their own; forced to rely on their individual wits and wherefores in order to gather new items for their nascent collections.

Most had no clue that there were even any other fans out there pursuing this peculiar little hobby. There was no internet. No ebay. No online forums or newsgroups. The only reliable sources of vintage 12″ figures were print publications like Toy Shop Magazine (remember those?), repeated trips to antique stores, flea markets and neighborhood garage sales, or searching through relative’s attics in hopes of discovering something that had been “left behind” from someone’s childhood.

There were no GIjOE clubs. No conventions. No online networks of fans brimming with the wisdom of thousands of like-minded collectors with whom you could share questions, discoveries and observations. In those early years, “Joeheads” were lonely—and disconnected. Fortunately, Things Change!

USO Logo

Charitable organizations such as the USO have benefited from generous GIjOE fans and “Joe Karma” over the years. (Graphic: USO)

With the introduction of the internet in the 1990s, the GIjOE hobby began to evolve. Suddenly, fans discovered they weren’t alone. Online forums and websites proliferated. The “loner” mentality of many collectors began to fade. New friendships were forged online and a community “Spirit of GIjOE” took root. THIS…was the beginning of what fans now affectionately call, “Joe Karma.”

“Joe Karma,” simply put, is ANY act of generosity given by a GIjOE fan to another person or organization. The recipient of the “karma” doesn’t have to know ANYTHING about GIjOE. In fact, over the years, acts of Joe Karma have spread out to include support for charities such as the USO, the Joelanta beneficiary Cody Lane Memorial Toy and Diorama Museum, the USMC’s Toys For Tots and many others. Over in the old Sandbox forum, collector “BDK” had this to say about Joe Karma:

“I am only repaying all the great ‘boxers who helped me when I first came to this wonderful place we call ‘The Sandbox.’ And helping each other is what it’s all about. I hope that we can hold firm to the true meaning of ‘Good Joe Karma’ and hang tough during the bad times. Fortunately, our good times FAR outnumber the bad.”

Many GIjOE fans are also Marine Corps veterans who heartily support the annual "Toys for Toys" drive. (Graphic: USMC)

Many GIjOE fans are also Marine Corps veterans who heartily support the annual “Toys for Toys” drive with donations of new, NRFB GIjOEs. Oohrah! (Graphic: USMC)

Collector-to-collector Joe Karma goes largely unheralded on a daily basis, and includes such selfless acts as throwing in extra items with orders or trades, helping out by hosting GIjOE club meetings, assisting and setting up dioramas for local events at VFWs and/or museums, giving out “freebies” at shows, and much more. If you’ve committed ANY such act of Joe Karma, we’re all the better for your generosity.

In conclusion, let’s take a brief look back at the earliest days of Joe Karma when renowned GIjOE collector and veteran Sandboxer, Thor Sadler (son of celebrity SSgt Barry Sadler, of “The Ballad of the Green Berets” fame), penned a timeless essay entitled, “A Story of Joe Karma” (edited for length):

GIjOE fan and collector, Thor Sadler, hoisted high by his father, famed US Army Green Beret SSgt, Barry Sadler. (Photo: albertarose.org)

“To all the Sandboxers who’ve come and gone, I dedicate this post to ‘Joe-Karma.’ It’s a hundred degrees plus with the heat index today. No sign of Winter, nor even Fall as I look out my window.

There’s no merry music playing on the radio. But news of death and tragedy abounds.

There’s not a tree in my house with lights or objects that glitter. No word from a preacher about a child being born. It is not Christmas.

But there in my foyer, are several boxes full of LOVE and GOOD WILL, all destined for children I know only by their names, living in nations all around the world.

Who are these children? I’ll tell you…they’re our kindred spirits. They’re YOU. They’re me. They’re all the children we offer a small portion of our wealth to, so that THEY too, may know the JOY—of our kindred toy…G.I. Joe.” —Thor

Bottom Line: Why do so many GIjOE fans participate and believe in the power of “Joe Karma?” Well, we can’t speak for all of them, but we have to believe it’s because Joeheads are predominantly a bunch of thoughtful, generous souls. We enjoy spreading the good will of GIjOE whenever and wherever we can. “Joe Karma” is a very real force. And it’s alive and well! Go, JOE!.

Ace Allgood Discovers Rare, Vintage, “Japanese Yellow-Body” Prototype G.I. Joe at Joelanta 2013

Widely respected collector and renowned authority on GIjOEs, Ace Allgood, holds up a vintage 1960’s Japanese “Yellow-Body” skin-color prototype figure recently discovered at the Joelanta 2013 toy show in Atlanta, GA. According to Allgood, the figure is 1 of only 3 known to exist. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

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“Officially, this figure NEVER existed.” —Don Levine

In this side-by-side comparison, a standard mass-produced vintage Japanese GIjOE appears to console his much rarer "yellow-bodied" cousin. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

In this side-by-side comparison, a standard mass-produced vintage Japanese GIjOE (left) appears to console his much rarer “yellow-bodied” cousin. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Ace Allgood could barely contain himself as he ushered me over to his dealer booth last Sunday, at Joelanta 2013.

“Mark! Come here and take a look at THIS!” he said, excitedly.

Although I’m used to seeing Ace all “hyped-up” at GIjOE shows (he REALLY loves GIjOEs), I couldn’t help but wonder what he had found.

“What is it?” I replied, curiously.

“Check it out, dude! A Japanese Yellow-Body! Ever hear about these? Betcha haven’t seen one before!” he said, by now practically squealing with delight.

For those of you who’ve never met Ace, he is truly a great guy and one of the leading “unofficial ambassadors” of the GIjOE-collecting hobby. A widely respected authority on vintage-era figures, Allgood believes this figure is an ultra-rare, “Japanese Yellow-Body” skin-color prototype that GIjOE’s “father,” Don Levine officially declared “never existed.” But clearly, this rare Joe DID exist.

Despite its superb headsculpt, Hasbro's difficulty reproducing accurate Japanese skin tones was evident again over 40 years later with its odd "clay-colored" Nisei figure. (Photo: amazon)

Over 40 years later, Hasbro again attempted to create an accurate Japanese skin tone for its 442 ID Nisei figure. Despite a superb headsculpt, the figure’s skintone received mixed reviews from collectors. (Photo: amazon)

The obvious difference between this unproduced prototype Japanese figure and any later, mass-produced version, is its sickly, jaundiced-looking yellow body color. It seemed clear to the fans who had gathered around to discuss the rare piece, that Hasbro must’ve produced a small batch of them for a quick series of pre-production skin-color tests.

The prototype’s too-yellow color must’ve seemed controversial or “fake” and therefore was deemed unacceptable for public sale. But how such a rare test figure (typically discarded) had ended up in a hotel conference room in Atlanta, GA over 50 YEARS LATER was anybody’s guess. But there it was. And Ace couldn’t have been happier!

Bottom Line: Something new and intriguing about GIjOE’s history is always being discovered. According to Allgood, this prototype “yellow-body” is just 1 of 3 that are now known to exist, making it a very rare collectible indeed. Congratulations…and BONZAI!

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G.I. Joe’s Appearances in Newspaper Comics #4

This kid knows what his GIjOE's need! (King Features Syndicate, Inc.) Click to enlarge.

This kid knows what his GIjOEs need! (King Features Syndicate, Inc.) Click to enlarge.

I was just finishing up my newspaper this morning and there it was: another (albeit small) appearance of GIjOE in a comic strip! This time, the perpetual temp worker, “Dustin,” is holding down a kiosk job at the mall, selling those little RC helicopters. He’s about to make his first sale to a little boy and his dad, when GIjOE is mentioned. It’s not much, but it counts as an official “Joe Sighting” in newspaper comics. Enjoy!

“Joelanta” G.I. Joe Show This Weekend, March 14-17

Joelanta promotional graphic for 2013. (Graphic: Buddy Finethy)

Joelanta promotional graphic for 2013. (Graphic: Buddy Finethy)

Achtung! The “Zepplin Commander” has ordered all GIjOE fans to climb aboard!

We’re only a few days out from this year’s big show in Atlanta, and for 2013, the event has grown beyond its traditional weekend roots to include special “Commander’s Package” events slated to begin as early as this Thursday, March 14th. Exciting daily events continue right up through the big show day itself, Sunday, the 17th. Can you afford to miss any of it? Of course not! The Zepplin Commander ORDERS you to attend! For complete information, jump to Joelanta.org. ‘Nuff said!

Robert Hall, in New “G.I. Joe Collections” Profile, Remembers Hasbro-Canada’s Final Sell-Off of NOS Crash Crew Fire Trucks As it Occurred in 1972

Canadian GIjOE fan and collector, Robert Hall, holds his favorite figure for a recent photo shoot profiling him over on the internationally acclaimed, "GIjOE Collections" website. Hall is the fourth Canadian to be included on the site. (Photo: Robert Hall)

Canadian GIjOE fan and collector, Robert Hall, holds his favorite figure for a recent photo shoot profiling him over on the internationally acclaimed, “GIjOE Collections” website. Hall is the fourth Canadian to be included on the site. (Photo: Robert Hall)

When Canadian Robert Hall wrote in to us recently to describe his extensive GIjOE collection, one part of his story in particular caught our attention. According to Hall, for a birthday present one year he had received a brand-new, never-before-opened, NOS (new old stock), GIjOE Crash Crew Fire Truck (CCFT).

That’s cool and all, but not too unusual. However, when Robert said he didn’t receive his new, unopened CCFT until 1972…then some alarm bells started to go off. 1972 is FIVE YEARS after the truck’s introduction in 1967! As far we’ve been able to determine, the CCFT was only offered that one year (1967). So how was such an unlikely purchase made possible?

Well, it turns out that Hasbro-Canada (in 1972) was attempting to clear out warehouses full of older, unsold GIjOE merchandise. Advertisements must’ve been created, Robert’s parents found out about the sale, and ordered their son one of the never-unboxed, minty-fresh Firetrucks—direct from Hasbro-Canada.

Many fans will recall that the Crash Crew Fire Truck was also reproduced in bright RED and sold for a second time in Europe and the UK as an “Emergency Fire Tender” under the Palitoy/Action Man brand. But that didn’t occur until MUCH later, in 1977.

5 years after the GIjOE Crash Crew Fire Truck had been sold in the U.S., a cache of unopened NOS (new old stock) firetrucks in Canada was sold directly to customers by Hasbro-Canada. (Photo: mccaig)

Bottom Line: Tales of unopened, 1960s GIjOE treasures, still unsold after so many years, are the stuff of Joehead dreams and legends. Congratulations to all the lucky Canadians who were able to take advantage of Hasbro-Canada’s unusual “Fire Truck Fire Sale.” To read Robert’s complete story and view closeup photos of his outstanding collection, jump over to his profile page on the international GIjOE Collections website found HERE.

Pro or Con? Using Modern Technologies to Add Authentic Sounds, Weapon Effects & Lifelike Realism to 1:6 Scale Action Figures & Vehicles

This portion of an old Hasbro ad reveals how GIjOE fans played with 1965's "state-of-the-art" 5-star Jeep: They got down in the dirt! Looking back at it now, this revered Hasbro vehicle was indeed a lot of fun to play with and quite advanced for its time, including a unique "Moto-Rev" engine sound, working spotlight and "firing" projectiles. (Scan by: Mark Wright)

This portion of an old Hasbro ad reveals how GIjOE fans once played with 1965’s “state-of-the-art” 5-star Jeep: They got down in the dirt! Recent advancements in RC technology have begun to change how fans play with such toys in backyards around the world. (Ad scan provided by: Mark Wright)

Consider this supposition:

Cost factors aside…What if, as a kid, your original GIjOE 5-Star Jeep had been a fully RC product, complete with motion and sound effects, a remotely rotating and elevating gun with remotely fired rocket shells and an animatronic driver and gunner that actually moved, looked around, etc. Would such high-tech, “hands-off” enhancements have made it a better toy?

Your gut reaction might be to say, “Heck yeah!” But let’s think it about it for moment. Would such a radically enhanced Jeep have been as much fun to play with? OR…would such a “superior” product have lessened the need for Andy and George’s mutual “imaginative interaction,” thereby making them mere operators of a toy with a predictable series of mechanized movements? Hmm…

Make Room for Daddy! “Backyard Battles” aren’t just for kids anymore.

Ramon Mendoza (left) prepares to demonstrate his $8,500 1:6 scale RC Tiger Tank the 2012 Chicago GIjOE Show. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Ramon Mendoza (above left), prepares to demonstrate his fully remote-operated 1:6 scale RC Tiger 1 Tank from Armortek ($8,500) to attendees of the 2012 GIjOE and Action Figure Show in Algonquin, IL Mendoza admits owning and operating such massive, high-tech toys is hardly “child’s play” as his all-metal Tiger weighs in at over 300 lbs and has numerous sharp, pointed edges, making it too dangerous for children. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Is it time for aging GIjOE fans to finally get up off their knees and stop playing down in the dirt? For some, the answer would be a resounding, “YES.” To such fans, recent advancements in RC technologies have opened up a whole new world of 1:6 scale collecting, customization and “play” possibilities.

By contrast, many “old-school” Joeheads continue to assert their belief that the more things a toy can do by itself, the less “hands-on” it becomes, and the lower actual play-value it possesses. According to this perspective, “Simpler…is Better!”

But regardless of your collecting preferences, it’s undeniable that 1:6 scale action figures and their vehicles have come a LONG way since the time when Hasbro’s 5-Star Jeep and its working spotlight, firing rocket shells, and (delightfully annoying) “Moto Rev” sound made it a “state-of-the-art” toy.

For vintage "Joeheads," playing in the dirt, either inside or outside was commonplace and second nature, as this '60s Hasbro ad clearly demonstrates. Are today's "high-tech" fans getting further from these early "hands-on" days? (Photo: Hasbro)

Playing with GIjOEs and 1:6 scale vehicles in the dirt (inside or outside) used to be commonplace and second nature to most fans, as this ’60s Hasbro ad clearly demonstrates. Are today’s tech-savvy adult fans moving 1:6-scale play too far from the past’s “hands-on,” imagination-based methods—or merely expanding upon them? (Photo: Hasbro)

Hasbro's mid 1960s ad for their "Capture Hill 79" GIjOE contest clearly reflected the company's awareness of how children were playing with toys at that time; down on the ground, hands-on, and imaginatively. (Ad scan: Mark Wright) Click to enlarge.

Hasbro’s 1967 ad for its “Capture Hill 79” GIjOE promotion clearly reflects the company’s awareness of how boys were playing with toys at that time; down on the ground, hands-on, and engaged. Are these innocent, imagination-fueled days gone forever? (Ad scan: Mark Wright) Click to enlarge.

Cue “Old Codger” voice here…

“Back in MY day…Before we had all these new high-tech ‘gizmos,’ kids had to use their IMAGINATIONS —and Saturday morning cartoons— to fill the hours. We played OUTSIDE, right down on the ground, like a bunch’a little monkeys! In the rain, snow, water or MUD. We didn’t care. We knew how to have FUN with our toys; ESPECIALLY with our GIjOEs!

We thought nuthin’ of pushing our Jeeps and MSVs around on our hands and knees for HOURS. Heck, half the fun was making our own sound effects like “Vrroom! Bang!” and “POW!” We used rulers, rubber bands and rocks to make catapults, and if we had any, lit REAL smoke bombs and firecrackers! We didn’t need no fancy ‘RC toys’ to have fun. We just made it up. And we LIKED it!”

This "screen grab" from a video shows two nude animatronic figures and how their electronic "guts" are housed in the chest and pelvis area. (Photo: Ylms) Click to enlarge.

This “screen grab” from a video shows two nude animatronic figures with Dragon headsculpts and how wiring connects to the electronic “guts” housed inside their chest and pelvis regions. (Photo: Ylms)

Our “Old Codger’s” dialogue is, of course, all made up. But his viewpoint is actually shared by many. Regardless, times and toys are always changing, and as the children of the past turn into today’s adults, a growing number of them now seek to improve and enhance the detail level of toys they previously believed to be perfect. They’re known of course, as “customizers.”

We’ve profiled many of these talented individuals in previous articles, and at the top of this fortunate group are the ones who are technologically (and financially) able to upscale their 1:6 scale products with advanced RC capabilities. With built-in digital sound effects, cameras, movable, recoiling and sometimes firing(!) weaponry, smoke-makers, powerful motors and drive-trains, their creations are QUITE amazing. A quick search of YouTube revealed hundreds of 1:6 scale RC, but these three videos demonstrate the advancements we’re discussing:

Video #1: Animatronic 1:6 Scale Action Figures w/RC Tank

In this first video by Wolfinger13, a German animatronic tank crew scans their surroundings for targets before firing off a shot into the woods. Absolutely real-looking and convincing. The crew moves, the turret rotates, the gun fires (with smoke and sound effect!), and the tank RUMBLES away at the end. Watch after the cannon-shot is fired. It seems as if the two crewman exchange a few words before driving away. So cool!

Video #2: Animatronic Figures w/RC Motorcycle & Sidecar

In this second video, Wolfinger13’s has built an outstanding, fully RC, 1:6 scale Zundapp KS50 WW2 Motorcycle with a scratch-built wooden sidecar and 2(!) animatronic Dragon figures. We’ve seen other WW2 RC motorcycles, but none with animatronic figures and sound effects added. With the camera mounted on a tripod, and no human hands visible, the officer and his driver take a few laps around the patio, interact with each other, and just seem so REAL. Superb work!

What happens when you combine a GIjOE, customized Mercury Space Capsule and a giant 1:6 scale Redstone rocket? The answer can only be: FUN! (Photo: mercuryjoe.com)

What happens when you combine a GIjOE, customized Mercury Space Capsule and a giant 1:6 scale Redstone rocket? The answer can only be: FUN! (Photo: mercuryjoe.com)

Video #3: The “Mercury Joe” Flights

Let’s not forget GIjOE pilots, astronauts and their assorted air and spacecraft. When I was but a wee lad of 7 years, I received a brand-new, bright blue, IRWIN Panther Jet for Christmas. I remember pushing that big blue bird across my living room floor, its built-in noise-maker going “click-click-click.” For a 7-year old, that was pretty high-tech. And the next Christmas, I received my first GijOE Space Capsule. Come on! What could be cooler than that? Such great toys!

But now, over 40 years later, my viewpoint is altered somewhat by adulthood, and in this third video, we’ll discover what happens when an RC model-rocketry experts mounts a heavily customized GIjOE Space Capsule onto to the top of 1:6 scale Mercury Redstone rocket. His resulting “Mercury Joe” missions have become legend with fans, and all been captured on video. Here’s one of the best…

What does the future hold for the way fans play with GIjOEs?

We don’t have a crystal ball, but clearly, the evolving interests of many adult GIjOE collectors, combined with an increasing consumption of sophisticated RC technology, seems to indicate that many future 1:6 scale “Backyard Battles” will be waged from the comfort of Dad’s lawn or easy chair. It may be time for some Joeheads to get up off their hands and knees, after all!

Bottom Line: How you choose to play with GIjOEs is up to you. But we wonder: How far will technology take our 12″ heroes? You have only to look at real-world developments in RC drone technology and miniaturization to conceive of a possible future scenario like the one depicted in the fantasy film, “Small Soldiers” (see trailer below). But that couldn’t REALLY happen. Right? Hmm…

“Remember the ALAMO!” Defeat of Mission’s Defenders Remembered 177 Years Later

Alamo reenactors fire a volley in honor of the fallen defenders of the Alamo, 177 years ago today. (Photo: JOHN DAVENPORT, San Antonio Express-News)

Alamo reenactors fire a volley in honor of the fallen defenders of the Alamo who lost their lives in the iconic Texas battle 177 years ago today. (Photo: John Davenport, San Antonio Express-News)

Right up front I’ll tell you I’m a Native Texan. Born and Raised.

And if you know anything about us Texans, you know that we’re VERY proud of our state’s unique and storied history. I was born and raised in Austin, the state capital, and I’ve been to the Alamo in nearby San Antonio many times.

Each time I’ve visited has been an eye-opening, emotional experience for me. To stand on the exact spot where the horrific seige took place; where the tiny mission full of volunteer Americans fought against overwhelming odds and ultimately all lost their lives—ALWAYS leaves me speechless with the deepest respect, admiration and eternal thanks.

Today marks the 177th anniversary of that battle. Whether or not you’re a Texan, all Americans should know about these important historical events. If you have a few moments, please jump HERE to read the superb coverage of today’s commemoration. And…“Remember the Alamo!”

“UltraCon” 2013 Set for March 23-24, Hialeah, FL

Official poster for the 2013 UltraCon to be held March 23-24 in Hialeah, FL. (Graphic: Mike Rio)

Official poster for the 2013 UltraCon in Hialeah, FL. (Graphic: Mike Rio)

Ramada Inn, Hialeah, FL, site of 2013's "UltraCon" toy show. (Photo: Ramada Inn)

Ramada Inn, Hialeah, FL, site of 2013’s “UltraCon” toy show. (Photo: Ramada Inn)

Sandwiched right in between Joelanta and the national JoeCon 2013 in Indianapolis, is Florida’s largest toy, comic and anime show known unabashedly as “UltraCon.” According to UltraCon’s head organizer and longtime GIjOE fan, Irving Santiago, this year’s event will have something for everyone. Just look at what Santiago reveals in this press release:

“Ultra Con will feature collectors and dealers from all over the State of Florida, selling their collectible vintage tin toys & modern toys, Hot Wheels, vintage sports cards, comic books, vintage GIjOEs, and hundreds of 3 3/4” GIjOE vehicles & figures. There will also be UK Action Man figures from The 1960’s& 1970’s, Star Wars (old & new), Monsters (old & new), Godzilla, Transformers, Dragonball Z, Power Rangers, Marvel Legends, Marvel Universe, Toy Biz, and DC. Several dealers will be selling off entire Star Trek & Star Wars collections from The 1980s!

Irving Santiago during the Lobby Swap at Joelanta 2012. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Irving Santiago during the Lobby Swap at Joelanta 2012. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Wow! Sounds like an amazing opportunity for toy fans and collectors of all ages and interests. But that’s not all. Santiago went on to describe even MORE attractions at this year’s show:

“There will also be two “Ultimate Fighter” special guests at the Con; UFC’s Mike ‘The Wolverine’ Rio and MMA’s Luis Baboon Palomino. Both will be there to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. Creature Entertainment Comics will have a team there and we’ll also have a “Comic Book Alley” set up for local comic book artists to display and sell their artwork. Members of a My Little Pony club will attend. There’s also a cosplay costume contest with a $100 prize!”

Bottom Line: If you’ve got the time (and the money), it’s obvious where you should be on March 23 and 24th. The Ramada Inn is across from Westland Mall in Hialeah, FL at 1950 West 49th Street. Adults are $5, kids under 12 are free. Dealers can set up Friday afternoon from 6pm until 11pm. Showtime is 9AM to 5PM on both Saturday and Sunday. Parking is free. For vendor info, call Irving at 786-285-3738. Sorry, but sinkholes, alligators and anacondas will not be allowed to attend. HA!