That’s a Wrap! 4-Day “JoeCon 2013” Closes in Indianapolis To Mixed Reaction and Reviews

GIjOE collector and fan, Scott Turnbull, poses next to his 1:6 scale Apollo 11 diorama at “JoeCon 2013″ held recently in Indianapolis, IN. In an event that was clearly skewed towards fans of 3.75” figures, Turnbull’s larger-sized entry into the show’s diorama competition was a rare, 1:6 scale exception. A proud (and defiant) Turnbull later declared, “Please include my photo in your article on The Joe Report to show that 12″ figures STILL have their place at JoeCon.” Our pleasure, Scott! We especially admire Turnbull’s innovative combination of a 2-D photographic backdrop with his scratch-built 3-D LEM landing leg. VERY clever. It makes his diorama both stand UP and stand OUT! (Photo: Scott Turnbull)

Oh, my aching HEAD!” This closeup of the strangely tired-looking, haggard, and baggy-eyed headsculpt of “Hangover Joe,” one of the exclusive figures at JoeCon 2013, seems to mirror the mood and attitudes of many of the shows attendees. Dealers and fans of BOTH scales openly stated their belief that 1:6 scalers are now being “sidelined” by the national club. (Photo: M. Otnes)

After a year’s worth of build-up and hoopla…

JoeCon 2013, held this past weekend in Indianapolis, IN, is now officially, “a wrap.” And for all of the lucky(?) GIjOE fans who were able to attend, memories of this year’s 4-day event will undoubtedly be mixed, divided and somewhat conflicted. While it is always enjoyable to catch up with old friends and make new ones, the way fans of 1:6 scale figures will celebrate their love of the GIjOE hobby is clearly undergoing a change at the “national show” level. This year, attendees familiar with past national cons were struck by THIS show’s two undeniable and distinct developments:

1) There was LESS…of EVERYTHING.
Blame it on the economy. Blame it on “the Sequester.” Or simply accept it as an aberration unique to this year’s show. But there’s no denying it. This show was SMALL(er). While we’re not privy to official attendance figures, even the most casual observers were heard to be commenting openly how few fans, dealers, exhibitors, customizers, and “general public” visitors there were at the event. Only on Saturday, when the dealer room opened to the public, did anything resembling a “crowd of people” seem to gather.

Event workers, hotel security and volunteers all seemed to have less to do. Lines were extremely short (oohrah!) and the number of tables and quantity of merchandise for sale was clearly less than in previous years. By contrast, the more 12-inch friendly “Joelanta” show, held just 3 weeks prior in Atlanta, GA, is currently enjoying an explosion of growth in attendance and popularity. Interesting!

In a pleasant surprise, the evil “Sebastian Gorman” headsculpt turned out to be much better than expected, featuring stronger “scowl-lines” and more clearly defined facial features than those shown in early prototype photos. He could still use a little moustache trim, however. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

2) 12-inch fans are being SIDELINED at the national level.
Whether done intentionally or not, the national-level GIjOE Collector’s Club (GIJCC) seemed to be doing very little (if anything) at this year’s Con to dispel the growing belief among ALL fans that its version of a “national convention” is now predominantly planned around and targeted to the needs and desires of fans of 3.75″ RAH figures. According to GIJCC leader, Brian Savage, any “blame” for this development boils down to simple economics. During one of the JoeCon seminars (also held to sparse attendance), Savage defended the club’s decisions this way:

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“Over the years, a lot of different GIjOE shows have come and gone. They were run by a lot of different groups with a lot of different ideas and ways of doing things. But they’re mostly all gone now, and we’re still here. I think that’s because we (the GIJCC) haven’t forgotten, first and foremost—that this is a BUSINESS.” —Brian Savage, GIjCC

“Where’s GIjOE?” Historically, package artwork has been an integral part of GIjOE’s appeal. While this is box is nice, many fans wondered why creators of the “Secret Mission to Dragon Island” set had eschewed the usual outstanding artwork of Classic Collection artist, Larry Selman, in favor of a smaller box and a simpler AT logo/dragons motif. Was it simply a cost-cutting decision, or as many fans believed, yet another indicator of dwindling club support for the 12″ line? (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Cosplayers were in attendance as usual, happy and eager to pose for photos with fans in their amazing handmade costumes. Look at the superb detail of this “Cobra Snowtrooper” w/harness and parachute pack. WOW! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Where will things go from here?

No one can argue with the GIJCC’s successful record while at the helm of GIjOE fandom. However, its recent decisions have undeniably diminished the importance previously accorded to 12-inch fans. Such moves leave many observers (including us here at The Joe Report) scratching their pith-helmeted heads. What’s going on?

Think about it… Most “1:6 scalers” are now only in their 40s or 50s. Their retirement years will be coming up in another decade or so. That means more disposable income and TIME to spend on hobbies. To turn away such a lucrative fan/consumer base, with so many collecting and convention-attending years still ahead of them, seems shortsighted from anyone’s “business” standpoint.

Yes, there was a “Secret Mission to Dragon Island” figure set produced for this year’s JoeCon and collectors of 12″ figures. But the quantity produced by the club was reduced to only 200. Was the club THAT worried about selling them all? If so, their fears quickly proved unfounded, as all of the sets are now “accounted for” and in the hands of happy collectors.

Where things will go from here remains to be seen. We may be witnessing the beginning or end of a consumer cycle, it’s hard to say. Fans come into and go out of hobbies all the time. Judging by 2013’s booming attendance at Joelanta, and a disappointing national con in Indy, its unclear whether such shows are in for a period of growth or decline. George Gray, one of the few 1:6 dealers at this year’s JoeCon, views the current conflicted situation this way:

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“I don’t think the national GIjOE club reaches out to 12-inch collectors anymore. They think we’re a ‘dying breed.’ Regardless, I still sell at their shows because I loved GIjOE so much as a kid. And while I’m doing alright sales-wise, at these national cons, the days when you would see a lot of 12-inch collectors show up appears to be over. In recent years, fewer and fewer 12″ fans are coming to this show, and you start to wonder—who’s going to BUY this stuff in the future?” —George Gray

Fans of the little Joes were probably content, though not overwhelmed, by the number of quality dealers offering products in their 1:18 scale. For example, “Avac’s Lab” was selling row upon row of custom heads, helmets, hats and accessories. When we asked how he created his masterpieces at such a tiny size, the owner revealed, “I use a BIG magnifying glass and a lot of light!” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This closeup of some products from “Avac’s Lab” reveals how far some Joeheads are starting to go in 1:18 scale. Just look at the level of detail in that Spartan helmet. WOW! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Sharp eyes could find some stunning vintage Joe gear at the show. If we have to tell you how RARE these two sets are, you should just move on. The construction set even still has its ORIGINAL 1960's price tag!

Collectors of 1:6 could find some amazing vintage Joe gear for sale at the show. If we have to tell you how rare these two items are, then you should just move on to My Little Pony. HA (Seriously.) Both sets were 100% original and the construction one even retained its ORIGINAL 1960’s price tag (only .66 cents at JCPenneys). We quickly whipped out a dollar, but unfortunately, the dealer told us he wanted a “tad bit more” for it now. Hmph! Wasn’t that false advertising? (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Our favorite 12" custom figure by FAR, with real metal helmet, axe and accessories. (Photos: Mark Otnes)

Our favorite 12″ custom figure at JoeCon 2013 was this amazing piece featuring a real metal scratch-built helmet, fire axe and uniform accessories. Too cool! (Photos: Mark Otnes)

What a MASTERPIECE! Our favorite 1:18 scale diorama was this balloon-centered, Steampunk extravaganza. Superb craftsmanship in every piece. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

What a MASTERPIECE! Our favorite 1:18 scale diorama was this balloon-centered, Steampunk extravaganza. Superb craftsmanship in every piece. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

ARRR!!! Take a look at this  VERY creative custom of the Intruder, reimagined by customizing and custom painting a Hulk figure. But what really caught our eye was the all-steel cage and scale-correct padlock. PERFECT! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

ARRRGH!!! Take a look at this creative custom Intruder figure, reimagined by customizing an Incredible Hulk figure. But what really caught our eye was its all-steel cage and scale-correct padlock. PERFECT! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This unique 180-degree “panorama” image of the dealer showroom of JoeCon 2013, shows the convention at its peak attendance. However, the picture does not clearly show how few dealers there were. While quality of goods was high, quantity was LOW. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: We don’t pretend to have a crystal ball, or the answers to all the questions currently raining down in the fan forums across the internet, but this year’s JoeCon in Indianapolis was clearly a “wake-up call” for fans who prefer the 1:6 scale, 12-inch version of GIjOE. On the other hand, if you’re an advocate of the “little Joes,” you can rest easy. The GIjOE Club’s got’cher back!

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15 thoughts on “That’s a Wrap! 4-Day “JoeCon 2013” Closes in Indianapolis To Mixed Reaction and Reviews

  1. Mark Landvick says:

    My family and I attended our 5th con this year. We had a great time, but we have a great time because of what we get to do as a family. Both of my boys and I were disappointed with the general amount of 1:6th scale stuff. My personal list of things I was looking for was filled with 1:6th stuff and I only got one item, I was looking for. I have to be honest, I think these things ebb and flow. I grew up on 3 3/4 ( I’m 38)… But I love 12″ as much!!! It’s just one of those things. We went to our local Kane County Show and bought nothing but 12″…at the national we picked up more 3 3/4″. I really hope the 12″ guys don’t quit the club!!! My hope is that we can all find a way to stick together for JOE!!!

  2. Matthew Pak says:

    This is why I think it’s important that Hasbro and the Club resume issuing 12 inch articulated versions of the ARAH line, like the Crimson Guardman parachute figure they did in 2009. I think the crossovers can only help fuel interest in the 1:6 scale figures. I asked why they still haven’t made a super articulated black adventure for the Convention set and was told that it was because the black Adventurers from the club undersold. But Convention sets sell out every year so that logic is flawed. They should also take the 12 inch Baroness body from the 2009 SDCC exclusive and make Scarlett, Lady Jaye, Jinx, Covergirl, Zarana, and Pythona figures. There’s no end to what they could do.

    • What a great point, Matthew! I LOVE my 12-inch Crimson Guardsman parachute figure! Great quality, detail and love the black parachute. As a “1:6 scaler,” I could care less about the exact same figure in tiny 1:18 scale. But as soon as I saw it at 12 inches at the Kansas CIty Con, I WANTED IT!!!!!!!!!!! You’re right, there’s no end to what they COULD do. But, WILL they?

    • AT TroubleMaker says:

      “But Convention sets sell out every year so that logic is flawed” <—I hope you are referring to the 1:18 sets because if you are referring to the 1:6th sets selling out every year, why are there so many sets still available on the club website? See here – https://www.toyarama.com/store/gijoecon-products-c19.php?page=1

      Bottom line is that the Club and Hasbro will resume issuing more 12 inch figs when it makes sense from an economic standpoint.

      The RAH line could probably sell better in 12 inch than more vintage re-issues but that's due largely in part to the various media tie-ins with the RAH line, cartoons, comics…

      I still say that the Adventure Team could be a great seller if it had the same media treatment – Adventure Team cartoons, comics, movies…

      As to the Indy Con, I'm glad I sat out this Con. After being disappointed the last 3 years in a row, I'm done. It's JoeLanta for me next year.

      • You’re right about the sets, but this year they definitely sold out. They only made 200, announced they were down to 20 a week before the show, then only 10 a day before the show, and at the show, ZERO. I only saw three for sale, all from dealers with about $40 to $75 mark-up.

        As to your comment about Adventure Team being a great seller if it had similar media treatment as the RAH, that’s SO RIGHT. Wouldn’t it be great to see a Jonny Quest -type AT cartoon? Imagine the fun they could have with all the characters.

        • Matthew Pak says:

          You’re both right, what I should have said was that in recent years the 12 inch figures have sold out. The last two convention sets sold out. The Henchman exclusive figure in 2010, the Space Jumper in 2011 and the Laboratory Guard this year were sold out. Yes, they had lower quantities but I have no doubt that a well done 12 inch ARAH figure would attract a lot of fan interest, especially a lady figure or something as simple as a Cobra Officer or Trooper. And Adventure Team? How about a FEMALE AT member, something slightly better than the Savage Swamp Jane.

          • AT TroubleMaker says:

            A Female AT member…Hmmm…

            If done right (meaning that it is actually a good figure and attractive enough that adults might like it and…not too racy for kids), it could be a real hit. It would also have to be based off of a body that is currently being produced though.

            I also like pathesofpride’s idea of a Johnny Quest style AT cartoon. That could also have some real appeal but without Hasbro’s support, it’s likely that will never happen. Still, I think it would probably do better than Sigma 6 or Renegades.

    • Not to get into a huge race debate here, but I would say the majority of the people buying stuff from the club are white. And while those folks probably have some black characters in their collection, they’re more likely to have more white characters.

      I think the club is worried that it would have an effect on sales and I think they’re probably right. The SA Black Adventurer would have to be part of an amazing set, I think, to have the sell through that they want. It’s not the same as 3 3/4 where the black characters have storylines and are characters that are already beloved.

      I know the club never made the regular black adventurer because Walmart did such a bang up job on their version that it would be redundant.

      • Err, rather, they shouldn’t have made the black adventurer, because of the Walmart one.

        Also, last year they made a darker skinned Man of Action, who certainly could pass for something other than Caucasian (though he could be from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds) and I know quite a few people complained.

        • Matthew Pak says:

          That’s a shame, I wasn’t aware of that attitude. To me G.I. Joe was a great melting pot and I was glad that they did include African Americans and later Asians and Hispanics to the 12 inch mix. A super-articulated black Joe would be a great addition. In fact the second G.I. Joe I ever bought on my own was a black muscle body Adventurer that was on clearance at K-Mart for $2 in 1977. Oh by the way, I was wrong about the 12 inch convention sets being sold out, 2007-2011 are still available on the Club store website.

  3. While I am very glad that JoeLanta is booming, it’s also held in the same place every year. I have to wonder if the problems with the JoeCon this year aren’t tied to the fact that they got the details out VERY late and less people had time to arrange travel, set up booths, etc. I know I heard a LOT of people complaining about that this year. I was close enough to go, but the Club dragged it’s feet on announcing the location and hotel arrangements and I ended up planning other stuff that weekend.

    With JoeLanta, you can pretty much start planning on going to next year’s today. Whereas with the Club, you can’t prepare until they announce it and it might be halfway across the country. Harder to plan for a lot of folks.

    So I don’t think it’s an apples to apples comparison, even though it seems like one on the surface.

    • And one more addendum.. This year’s Con was running head to head with the NCAA Tournament finals. In an area that’s close enough to Louisville that some fans were probably busy with the games. Likewise, Indiana was in it until the 28th, so many Indy fans may have cleared their schedules for the NCAA games in hopes that Indiana might make it all the way. So they didn’t attend the Con.

      Just another potential pratfall of this year.

  4. Dead Man Walking says:

    Dude, Joelanta is in a metro area with 4.5 million people. JoeCon was in a metro area with 1.9 million people. And the Midwest is not like the Northeast where all of the cities are close. The RI JoeCon was fine because people could come from NY, PA, CT, etc. In Chicago, we aren’t close to Indianapolis, and even if we were, who the hell wants to go to Indianapolis. The club should stick to big cities (or nearby suburbs) like Chicago, LA, Atlanta, NYC, or at least destination cities like NO and Las Vegas. Nobody wants to go to Indianapolis. That goes double for Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akrin…well, all of Ohio, St. Louis, Birmingham, Tallahassee, El Paso, etc.

    Also, and I hate to say it, but the 12″ GI Joe is practically dead at retail. The last group of figures rotted on store shelves. 12″ JoeCon sets last weeks longer than the 4″ sets, despite existing in smaller numbers. It’s simple economics: 4″ fans way outnumber 12″. I bet a lot of 12″ fans have move on to Sideshow and Hot Toys.

  5. Kevin Baughn says:

    I’ll point one small thing out: If all of the 12″ sets are in the hands of happy collectors, why can I not sell it for what I paid, with the inclusion of the attendee bonus and first-day pin?

  6. Troy says:

    Interesting article. There’s a definate anti-3.75″ bias, but that’s fine as the author is a 12″ fan and was disappointed in the show. I do have a comment on one part though.

    “Most “1:6 scalers” are now only in their 40s or 50s. Their retirement years will be coming up in another decade or so. That means more disposable income and TIME to spend on hobbies. To turn away such a lucrative fan/consumer base, with so many collecting and convention-attending years still ahead of them, seems shortsighted from anyone’s “business” standpoint.”

    This statement is wrong and the truth might help explain why the 12″ fandom is dwindling (and why the 3.75″ ARAH fandom will dwindle as well, unless Hasbro switches back to 12″ or even 6″, 3.75″ will be around as long as Hasbro keeps the brand alive, but the ARAH fans won’t be).

    My parents (dad, step-mom and mother) have all retired within the last year. They do not have disposable income anymore, they all live on fixed incomes now. And at various points all 3 of made comments along the lines of “don’t have extra money”. Just because they retire does not mean they have disposable income, just the opposite, they are on a fixed income and costs just keep going up, not down. They have more time, yes, but don’t have the money to spend anymore.

    Obviously there are those that will have disposable income, but that would be the minority, not the majority. To count on the 60+ crowd would be bad business.

    I think as the collector gets older, they start spending less, not spending more. That’s why I think this same downward swing will happen with the 3.75″ ARAH fandom as well. As those that are now in their 30s/40s get into their 50s/60s, they’ll spend less and this same article will end up being about 3.75 ARAH.

    The Joe Club has to make as much money as they can now because their demographic is a stagnant demographic. At this point there is no new customer base to replace us (the 12″ and 3.75″ fans). Sure, some of us have kids that are into the brand but will they continue once they become adults? There’s no way to say and that generation numbers less then our generation.

    Ten years from now, fifteen, there will be a 3.75″ ARAH fan writing a similar article to this and (hopefully, because this means the brand has survived) lamenting how the national convention is geared more towards that generations Joe and not ours.

    The current Joe fandom, of both sizes, is a dying market. We are not growing, we are shrinking.

    Maybe Hasbro will come up with a new direction and the 12″ Joe will return. Or maybe they go back to Sigma Six and 6″ Joes. Hasbro needs to do something to generate interest and create a new generation of us because if they don’t, eventually there won’t be a Joecon for any of us.

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