Monthly Archives: January 2015

G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Releases New Pics of 2015 12″ Membership Figure, “Doctor Isotope”

Holy, Radioactive! A newly released photo of the GIjCC’s upcoming 12″ membership figure, “Dr. Isotope,” reveals they’ve already made some slight changes in what will be the first-ever, glow-in-the-dark GIjOE. In this image, Doc’s previously blank eyes are now shown as painted-in and his fuzzy “Freddy Mercury” mustache has been removed. Also, what we previously thought to be a two-piece t-shirt and shorts outfit has been simplified to a one-piece, black lycra suit, ala the 1970s Adventure Team hero, “Bulletman.” (Photo: GIjCC)

The GIjOE Collector’s Club has released some tantalizing new images of its upcoming 2015 12-inch membership exclusive figure, “Doctor Isotope.” We’ve liked the concept and execution of this new figure from the moment it was announced (C’mon! He’s going to glow in the DARK!) and now (fortunately) it appears as if the club has made some changes that will make it even better. Gone are Doc’s original blank, blind eyes, giving him back the ability to SEE and cast his evil glare upon hapless victims. Gone too, is that fuzzy “Freddy Mercury” mustache that drew so much criticism.

We originally thought Doc Iso (like so many 12″ club membership figures before him) would be shipped wearing a two-piece black t-shirt and shorts outfit. That misconception has now been clarified and corrected. He will be outfitted instead, in a classic “Bulletman” (1970s style) one-piece stretch design. We have to admit, with that wonderful (glowing?) atomic symbol upon his chest, ol’ Doc’s lycra, retro-modern underwear appears strangely appropriate. Finally, Doc’s amazing accessories (sold separately, ‘natch) REALLY complete this figure. As always though, the buyer should beware, because as the club’s official press release reminds us:

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“Note: this is a mock up and the final product will vary!”
GIjOE Collector’s Club

This is a wonderful accessory set for Doctor Isotope. Imagine the custom backing card or coffin boxes you could make for this figure. WOW! (Photo: GIjCC)

Gimme! Gimme! This is a wonderful accessory set for Doctor Isotope. Imagine the custom backing card and/or coffin boxes you could make for this figure. WOW! (Photo: GIjCC) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: We look forward to adding Doc Iso to our ever-expanding collection of 12-inch club exclusives. Upgrades and customization of the figure should be no problem, and he cries out for a custom coffin box as well (Hello, Tony Stroud?). Remember the club’s promise: “If you are an active member on March 16, 2015, and choose the 12-inch figure option, you will receive this figure FREE sometime in the late spring or early summer.” So… Check your membership status today! ZzaPPP!

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Father Memorializes His Son (KIA in Afghanistan) By Creating One-of-a-Kind, Custom Action Figure

Remembering a beloved Son, Father and Hero—On April 3, 2011, 1st Lt Robert F. Welch III, US Army 1st ID (shown above), was killed by enemy forces while fighting in Afghanistan. (Photo: co.collin.tx.us)

I received word recently from a longtime acquaintance, Bob Welch, that an article had been written about him and his creation of a very special 1:6 scale custom action figure; one that he’d created to honor his son, Robert Welch III, who’d been killed while fighting in Afghanistan. Welch wrote:

Bob Welch (Photo:

Robert (Bob) Welch II (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

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“Hello Mark, Long time no correspondence. I wanted to forward a December 21st article regarding my son and a 1/6 figure I built honoring him after his death in Afghanistan in 2011. I have tried to figure out ways to send the article but the easiest way seems to be to send the web link to you from the DMN website.  Hopefully you can patch in and read it. I am not trying to blow my own horn or anything, but thought you would appreciate the article since your marvelous work appears on the figures in nametags, unit patches, and such. Thanks for all you do and keep up the good work.” —Robert F. Welch II, LTC USA RET

Marc Ramirez, Reporter, Dallas Morning News (Photo: DMN)

Marc Ramirez, Reporter, The Dallas Morning News (Photo: DMN)

If you’re unaware of its particulars, Bob’s story was first reported in The Dallas Morning News (DMN) newspaper and has since been widely shared around the internet. It was written by renowned, award-winning DMN staff reporter, Marc Ramirez and featured superb accompanying photographs by G.J. McCarthy. For those who missed it (and the steps Bob took in creating his custom figure), we present snippets of that marvelous 1:6 scale-related article below (edited for length). We’ve intentionally left out the emotional core of the story, feeling that it was better read and absorbed in its entirety, as Ramirez intended. To appreciate the real impact of what the Welch family went through and how Bob coped with his son’s death, we recommend that you revisit the original, complete and unedited article over on the DMN’s website HERE. As for the figure itself, Ramirez’s story reveals the following:

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“About half of his (Welch’s) collection is in his workshop, with the rest in storage or on display in area museums. While many are Hasbro products, others were made by Welch himself; part of G.I. Joe’s spawn is a secondary market catering to military buffs eager to depict more specific action figures.

Bob Welch's work station will look familiar to any customizer of 1:6 scale GIjOE or other action figures. Heads come off, uniforms are detailed and other minute changes are made until everything looks PERFECT! (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

Bob Welch’s work station will look familiar to any customizer of 1:6 scale GIjOE action figures. Heads are customized, uniforms are detailed and all sorts of changes are added or subtracted. (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

The table in Welch’s workshop is dotted with plastic heads and bodies and tools like pliers and cutting knives. As one of the legions of G.I. Joe-inspired hobbyists who custom-make their own action figures, he’s often at work here, even creating characters for the Texana Living History Association’s education programs. Custom crafters often start with the head, because that’s crucial: The likeness has to be believable. Sculptors and artists may be brought in. Then comes the uniform. It might come from an existing action figure, or be cobbled from several, or be personally crafted from fabric or other materials. The same goes for the weapons and other accessories.

Welch utilized photos (like this) of his son in uniform while researching the specifics of his custom action figure. The final results show an AMAZING likeness. (Photo: Bob Welch)

Welch utilized photos (such as this one) of his son’s uniform and gear while researching specifics for his custom action figure. The final results reflect an AMAZING likeness. (Photo: Bob Welch)

A supporting industry has grown to meet the demand for special items. Some companies, for example, make rarer military figures — say, a Special Forces unit of the U.S. Coast Guard — or gear like canteens, grenades or rifle magazines. Replicating Robby’s gear wasn’t a problem. And while one-sixth-scale MultiCam uniforms weren’t common, Welch finally tracked some down on the Internet. For more than six months, Welch strived to replicate every detail right down to Robby’s patches and nametag. Each one was a step toward healing.”

OutSTANDING! This closeup of Bob Welch's superb custom figure of his son, Robert Welch III, reveals the careful selection and matching of appropriate uniform pieces, custom patches and realistic accessories reflecting the actual items worn and utilized by Welch while fighting in Afghanistan. AMAZING! (Photo:

This closeup of Bob Welch’s superb custom figure of his son, Robert Welch III, reveals the careful selection and matching of appropriate uniform pieces, custom patches from Patches of Pride and 1:6 scale accessories matching the items worn and utilized by Welch when fighting in Afghanistan. AMAZING! (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

“Hardest of all would be Robby’s winning likeness. Nothing seemed to match. But one day, in one of his online catalogs, Welch came across a figure with his son’s signature smile. The eyes weren’t his, but the soldiers often wore sunglasses; that little touch would do the trick.

Welch places the custom figure he created of his son on the highest shelf, in between a custom figure of himself and his own father. Simply WONDERFUL! (Photo:  Welch displays the custom figure of his son on the highest shelf, in-between a custom figure of himself and his own father. Simply WONDERFUL! (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

Welch displays the custom figure of his son on the highest shelf, in-between a figure of himself and his own father. Simply WONDERFUL! (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

Welch has since taken the figure to G.I. Joe shows. It’s a way of showing people that these things don’t have to just come from a box. They can come from the heart. Welch’s wife eventually persuaded him to also create custom figures of himself and his father in military uniform; they flank Robby’s figure on a treasured hallway shelf.”

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Bob Welch for sharing this information with us and to Mark Ramirez and G.J. McCarthy of the Dallas Morning News for all the wonderful work they did on Welch’s article (which ends with the following quote from Welch and a note about his son’s funeral):

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It helped me work through the grief. I wanted to make it as much like him as possible. It was very therapeutic for me to sit there and feel like I was doing something to honor him.”

“Robby’s funeral in Richardson had been filled to double capacity, with a five-mile procession of cars. Those who approached his casket might have noticed, along with the Texas flag and Dallas Cowboys pennant within, the small figure tucked into a crevice of Robby’s arm. Duke. His beloved G.I. Joe.”

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Discouraged G.I. Joe Collectors Lamenting the “Indefinite Hiatus” of Many Local Club Divisions

Members of the Connecticut Division of the GIjOE Collector's Club (one of the earliest and first formed) posed for this photo many years ago. The club is now inactive. (Photo: John Kozin)

The First to Serve? Members of the Connecticut Joes (one of the first local divisions) posed for this group photo MANY years ago. Unfortunately, this pioneering club is now inactive. (Photo: John Kozin)

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

Hasbro’s original “Hasbro Boy” logo.

Finding Support at the Local Level Grows Difficult

As Hasbro continues to pull up its corporate stakes and decamp farther down the road from its original fan base of 12-inch collectors, catering evermore to the whims, wishes and greener($) market pastures of younger 3.75″ RAH vs. COBRA devotees, fans of so-called “vintage” (1:6 scale) GIjOEs are now largely left to fend for themselves, fandom-wise. Unsurprisingly, many “1:6ers” have begun splintering off to explore new brands of the hobby (Hot Toys, Sideshow, etc.), while others are putting 1:6 scale action figures aside altogether to engage in unrelated leisure activities (i.e. cars, motorcycles, golf, etc.).

One of the first places this emerging and inexorable brand-exodus has made itself apparent is over at the “local division” level of the GIjOE Collector’s Club (GIJCC). In the past, the GIjCC’s local divisions gathered like-minded fans together within shared geographic regions, held regular meetings, hosted annual GIjOE-related shows and encouraged overall brand-support for Hasbro and GIjOE-related products. But oh, how times have changed!

GIjOE Collector's Club logo

Current GIjOE Collector’s Club logo

Until recently, this was the very lucrative business model being pursued by both Hasbro and the GIJCC. And for the last couple of decades, local divisions have acted as the brand’s strongest standard bearers, keeping the flame of GIjOE passion burning and holding the torch of 1:6 scale fandom high. Sadly though, Hasbro’s current disregard for 12-inch Joes has the future of many local fan clubs looking, well, pretty bleak. Unable to find a division in their area, frustrated fans can only resort to posting pics or repetitive posts throughout scattered corners of the internet. But believe us when we tell you, such computer-centric “keypad fandom’ is NOTHING when compared to having honest-to-goodness, face-to-face “Joe-Talks” with other human beings. Unfortunately, local clubs with real members (not cyber-“likes”) are struggling to survive in 2015. For example, when we inquired about the current status of the (defunct) Central Florida GIjOE Collector’s Club, a dejected Cathy Jones replied:

GIjOE fan and collector, Cathy Jones of FL (Photo: Cathy Jones)

GIjOE fan Cathy Jones of FL (Photo: Cathy Jones)

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“I wish we had a club.  I tried TWICE to get one going, but it never took hold.”—Cathy Jones, FL

“Roadblocks” Facing Local Clubs Formation

Getting a local division “officially” started in this day and age is indeed a challenge. To do so requires a great deal of time, effort, and participation from all concerned, qualities that are in short supply for many fans. And if individual members of a club can’t (or don’t) contribute equally, then its meetings and activities will suffer accordingly. Of course, this has always been the case for most volunteer organizations, and GIjOE clubs are no exception. All that being said…

It also doesn’t help when the GIjCC places unnecessary “legal” roadblocks in the way of local club formation. We’re referring primarily to their blatant attempt to increase subscriptions to their tired monthly magazine. If you’re not aware, the national club requires all prospective local divisions to faithfully record and file pages upon pages of tiresome paperwork. While it’s been many years since we had to jump through the hoops of their “start-up” procedures, I can still remember when we were first trying to form the Central Illinois local division (HERE) back in 2005-2006. In order to “qualify as a division,” we had to submit lengthy membership and meeting attendance forms along with each member’s name and mailing address for at least the first 6(?) meetings. And we were required to do so before the GIjCC would even bother to list us on their website! What the…? That was hardly helpful, gentlemen.

Meetings of the Central Illinois GIjOE Collector's Club can become quite active with all the buying, selling, trading, talking and general Joe-fellowship going on. Remembering to fill out boring paperwork for the national club is the LAST thing its members are thinking about! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Meetings of the Central Illinois GIjOE Collector’s Club can become quite active with all the buying, selling, trading, talking and general Joe-fellowship going on. Remembering to fill out boring paperwork for the national club was the LAST thing its members wanted to think about! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Of course, for the national club, requiring the local divisions to submit detailed membership lists was their way of gathering new fan names and addresses in the hopes that they (those new fans) would subscribe to and/or begin paying yearly dues back to the national club. That’s all fine and dandy for the GIJCC, but the requisite hassles at the local level were hardly conducive to a new club’s formation. Rather than help us “get the word out” about our new local division, the national club made us WAIT for over a YEAR before our paperwork was accepted and our club was (finally) listed on their website. The irony of it all? Since the recent revamp of their new website HERE, the national club now no longer lists ANY of its local divisions. So it was all pointless!

Since its founding in 1999, the DFW GIjOE Collector's Club has worked repeatedly with the national GIjOE club and continues to remain one of the most active and well-attended local divisions in existence. (Photo: DFW GijOE Club)

Since its founding in 1999, the DFW GIjOE Collector’s Club has worked repeatedly (and well) with the national club and continues to be one of the hobby’s best divisions. (Photo: DFW GijOE Club)

Hasbro’s current indifference to 1:6ers and the GIjCC’s paperwork stall tactics are hardly the kind of support prospective local club organizers hoped (or expected) to encounter. We’ve found that 1:6 collectors are left largely to their own devices, expected to forge their own way ahead and generate their own “buzz.” That’s sad. Most fans don’t have backgrounds in advertising, marketing or public relations, so it’s easy to see why they’d become frustrated and give up trying. 50 years after our 12-inch hero’s debut, GIjOE fan club growth at the local level has now slowed practically to a standstill.

The younger faces of the "Pennsylvania GIjOE Meets" club reveal its likely interests rest more with the 3.75" GIjOE figures than the older, 12" version. (Photo: PGM)

The young faces of the “Pennsylvania GIjOE Meets” club imply its members’ interests rest solidly with the 3.75″ line of GIjOEs. Their club page on Facebook HERE backs up that assertion. (Photo: PGM)

Hasbro and the GIjCC might as well be burning fistfuls of $100 bills. By not selling 1:6 GIjOE products anymore, t

Goodbye 12-inch Profits! Hasbro and the GIjCC might as well be burning fistfuls of $100 bills. By not selling 1:6 GIjOE products, the two businesses are essentially losing out on millions in profit. (Photo: contractdoctors.com)

Missed Opportunities and Lost Profits

What’s happening in GIjOE-fandom now is truly bewildering. As many of the brand’s “original fans” begin to approach retirement age, with their pockets FULL of discretionary income, Hasbro has nonetheless (and unbelievably) chosen to IGNORE their combined and obvious financial strength. Fans all around the world are ready, willing and able to indulge and immerse themselves fully into the 1:6 scale hobby, but Hasbro wants no part of it; ignoring their requests for new (1:6 scale) GIjOE figures, equipment sets and vehicles. Of course, all sorts of cost-risk analysis arguments can be made, but in the end, the potential amount of (1:6 scale-related) profits remaining unclaimed by the company is literally staggering.

And, as Hasbro goes, so goes the GIjOE Collector’s Club. With both withdrawing their support of 12-inch figures, attendance at the annually held “JoeCon” shows around the country is on a definite downward spiral. The most striking example we’ve witnessed occurred recently at JoeCon 2013 held in Indianapolis, where the number of attending (12-inch) fans was visibly FAR fewer than in previous years (see our complete coverage of that disappointing event HERE). The good news? Overall, the attendance of collectors of 3.75″ Joes at JoeCons appears to be holding (at least for now), helping to keep Joe alive at least at that scale. But a depressing, anti-12″ trend has clearly grown with each consecutive show and many fans are beginning to feel “left out of the proceedings.

Changes Occurring at the Local Division Level

With two major GIjOE shows coming up in as many months (Joelanta in March and the previously mentioned JoeCon 2015 in April), we were curious about the current status of once-bustling local divisions of the national GIjOE Collector’s Club. How many of them are still operating today? How many members still attend local club meetings? In what activities do they engage? To discern the answers to these questions, we recently sent out inquiries to all of the local club’s last known “contact” email addresses, culled mostly from master lists found, you guessed it, on the internet. What we discovered was, to put it mildly—shocking.

Members of the Minnesota Division of the GijOE Collector's Club remain active and supportive of each other's collecting efforts, utilizing Facebook as a way to share messages and trade and sell with other members. (Photo: MGIJCC) Click to enlarge.

Members of the Minnesota Division of the GijOE Collector’s Club remain active and supportive of each other’s collecting efforts, utilizing their club page on Facebook HERE as a way to share messages and trade or sell with other local club members. FAN-tastic! (Photo: MGIJCC) Click to enlarge.

Imagine our concern when message after message began bouncing back to us as “undeliverable,” with “permanent fatal errors,” or tagged with the worst of all possible auto-replies, “account inactive.” Remember! These email addresses are—or were—the MAIN contact method and communication portals for many local clubs. If fans are unable to reach a club through its main contact email address, then that’s as good as sounding the death knell for a local division. After a while, prospective new members will simply stop trying to connect, give up, and go away.

Members of the New England Division of the GIjOE Collector's Club at a previous meeting. (Photo: New England GIjOE Collector's Club)

Go, Pats? Members of the New England Division of the GIjOE Collector’s Club continue to meet on a regular basis, as shown by their website HERE. (Photo: New England GIjOE Collector’s Club)

Furthermore, investigation by our crack research staff revealed that the majority of local division club websites, while still visible on the internet, had not been updated for MANY years (some as many as 10). Numerous club members had also disappeared, either having died, moved away, or otherwise left the hobby altogether. Life challenges too, including health and/or unexpected financial downturns can force a fan’s separation from GIjOE. For example, Ron Neubauer, of the (now inactive) Central New Jersey GIjOE Collector’s Club wrote to us, admitting:

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“I am no longer a NJ resident, having moved out in 2011. And I had to sadly give up my Joe collection due to a nasty divorce, so I am totally out of the (GIjOE) scene. —Ron Neubauer
Chicago GIjOE Club members, Kevin Bolger (left) and Tave Lamperez (right), conduct a "point-counterpoint" session regarding an amazing, MIB "Skydive to Danger" set. Their conversation was typical of the high-level thinking going taking place at the show. HA (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Chicago GIjOE Club members, Kevin Bolger (left) and Tave Lamperez (right), examine a “Skydive to Danger” set for sale at one of their previous club-hosted GIjOE shows in Algonquin, IL. Future shows are now on hold as the once busy division adjusts to its new “inactive” status. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Chicago GIjOE Club President Ron Biallas in 2008. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Chicago club President Ron Biallas posed for this pic at a show his division hosted in 2008. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Even once busy and prominent local club divisions are now falling on hard times membership and participation-wise. We asked collector, Kevin Bolger, of the (now very quiet) 25-30 member strong Chicago Division of the GIjOE Collector’s Club, “Should the Chicago club be considered as defunct or disbanded?” Bolger optimistically opined:

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“Inactive” would be a better description. A lot of our members have been busy catching up on life—with their kids, getting new jobs, working a zillion hours a week, etc. It was also harder getting a permanent meeting place as our long-time meeting place, the Schaumburg Library, put more restrictions on who could meet there. We do get together to go to the Kane County toy show. I was actually going to see if there was interest in getting a contingent to go down for the GIJCC Springfield show in April. As far as an Algonquin show, Ron (Biallas, club president) took a job at another school in the District so the HS venue was not available to us. I have no doubts that we’ll be getting together in the near future as our core members have been meeting for the better part of 20 years!”

As some divisions fall, others will rise. The Kentucky division known as KYGIJOE, recently hosted its first-ever “Kentuckiana GIjOE Toy Expo” in October, 2014. Out-STANDING! (Photo: KYGIJOE)

Looking Back in Time—This outstanding photo was taken in 2001 by a member of the Colorado GIjOE Collector's Club. Such images provide unique insights to fan activities of the past. (Photo: Colorado GIjOE Collector's Club) Click to enlarge.

Looking Back in Time—This photo was taken by a member of the Colorado GIjOE Collector’s Club and dates from 2001. Such “stockpiled” imagery provides unique insight into club activities of the past. (Photo: Colorado GIjOE Collector’s Club) Click to enlarge.

Our review of local division websites was a lot like looking back in time. Rather than operate as hubs of current club activity, most now serve as silent depositories of a club’s past history, revealing details of much busier and more active times. Fortunately, many clubs are keeping their memberships active by abandoning traditional websites altogether and moving day-to-day operations onto Facebook, group emailing lists, or exclusive fan forums. Ultimately however, our attempts to contact all of the known local divisions revealed a sad truth—the number of inactive clubs is now running about equal to those claiming to be active. According to our recent survey (please contact us HERE with any updates or corrections), the following local divisions should now be considered “inactive” or disbanded:

Local Divisions Considered to be INACTIVE:
DISBANDED: Central Florida GIjOE Collector’s Club
INACTIVE: Central Iowa GIjOE Collectors Club 
INACTIVE: Chicago, IL Division
INACTIVE: Colorado 1:6th Scale Collectors Club (Website)
INACTIVE: Connecticut GIjOE Collectors Club (Website)
ON HIATUS: Lone Star Scale Raiders (LSSR)
INACTIVE: Long Island Division GIjOE Club (Website)
DISBANDED: MexJoeheads (Forum)
DISBANDED: Mexico City GIjOE Collectors Club
INACTIVE: New Jersey GIjOE Collectors Club
DISBANDED: NORALA GIjOE Collectors Club
DISBANDED: NorCal GIjOE Collectors Club
DISBANDED: Ottawa 1:6 Scale Collecting group
DISBANDED: Space City Houston GIjOE Collectors Club
We had never heard of many of these clubs, including the intriguingly named, “MexJoeheads,” so we dug deep until discovering Carlos Santillan, the original founder of the club, and asked him if he’d please bring the rest of us up to date on what happened “down ol’ Mexico way.” He replied:
Carlos Santillan, GIjOE fan and collector from Mexico City (Photo: Carlos Santillan)

Carlos Santillan, GIjOE fan and collector from Mexico City (Photo: Carlos Santillan)

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“Hello Mark—Thanks a lot for asking and inquiring about the local fandom of GIjOE. Back in 1995, I was the organizer of a collector’s club called: ‘MexJoeheads‘ and we had a website, a message board and even held regular meetings. It all lasted until 2005, when we parted ways due to several reasons: wives protesting about the time not spent with them, grudges between some of the members, one of the members was to create a printed magazine (but he only stole us our money!), and finally, some dishonest traders. The worst was Polo Moreno, aka “ApeJoe.” He still owes me money! Other members used the meetings to promote their own peculiar visions of WWII history (it grew wearisome to interact with other people’s pontificating), another of the members lost his job, etc., etc.

Since then, I have lost contact with all of them, but I know they used to hang around in a message board from Spain: ‘Escuadron 1:6’ HERE and some are still active and reorganized not long ago to set up a Lili Ledy exhibition in the Toy Museum in Mexico City HERE. As for me, I’m still collecting GIjOEs, Dragon Model limited figures and customizing, mainly on WWII German figures. My latest acquisition is a transparent GIjOE club exclusive that I found in a flea market here in Mexico City a couple of months ago. This is a good account of what happened. Cheers and Best Regards!” —Carlos Santillan

What better place to set up and display your handmade 1:6 AA battery station than OUTDOORS, in the backyard, during a local division club meeting? This outstanding dio was set up during a gathering of the famous LSSR down in Texas. Hoo-EEE! (Photo: Greg Brown)

Lock-n-LOAD! What better place is there to set up and display a handmade 1:6 scale WWII German AA battery station than in the great OUTDOORS of Texas? This outstanding dio was set up, played with and photographed during a (long ago) gathering of the LSSR. Hoo-EEE! (Photo: Greg Brown)

Stuck Somewhere In-Between Active and Inactive

 While most GIjOE clubs can easily be identified as either active or inactive, some locally-based 1:6 scale groups have been around so long, that even when they’re inactive, they still considered to be, well… active! For example, renowned GIjOE fan, collector, dealer and Cotswold Collectibles company rep, Greg Brown, wrote in to describe an interesting club situation down in Texas:
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Greg Brown of Cotswold Colletibles (Photo: DFW GIjOE Club)

Greg Brown of Cotswold Colletibles (Photo: DFW Club)

“As it stands, the Lone Star Scale Raiders (LSSR) are on ‘indefinite hiatus’ until another meet is scheduled. In the beginning, we conversed via Yahoo Groups, but then migrated to Facebook. During the pre-meet discussions, we had people speak up to what they could bring and/or what they could do. Once we had the meet, those who didn’t bring anything generally got assigned “shovel duty.” In the late ’90s to 2005 (or so), we met three to four times a year. We’re lucky to meet once a year, now. Members have come and gone, but the core group is still there, including myself, Tony Tillman, Randy Thornton, Keith Holmes, Bob Welch, Jon Anders, Jeff Boutwell, Hank Dillon, Roy Smalley, Saul Friedman and Matt Stevenson (the majority of which are also active members of the DFW Chapter of the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club).” 
A Piece of Joe Fandom History—This photo was taken at the very first meeting of the members of the LSSR. They include

Historic Fandom Photo— This pic was taken at the very first meeting of the Lone Star Scale Raiders (see further description in Greg Brown’s quote below). (Photo: Greg Brown)

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The first picture (shown above) is of our very first LSSR meet, at Marco Valladares’ house. The dio was built on an assortment of folding tables, with buildings being fabricated out of cardboard boxes, foam board, and wood, and vehicles being an assortment of vintage Irwin vehicles, Hasbro Jeeps,  and one Cohoon Plastics (remember them?) Kubel. We learned quickly that day that smoke bombs and cardboard buildings don’t get along.”

Details and Dioramas—

Details and Dioramas— This intriguing photo set-up shows German and U.S. medics working side-by-side during a rare moment of truce. Fantastic work, LSSR! (Photo: Greg Brown)

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“Even though the LSSR doesn’t meet much any more, most of its members within the DFW GIjOE Club still carry the torch by building dios and displays for the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. In fact, one of our recent builds – that of a downed WWII Waco Glider – is still on display there!” 

It's amazing what you can accomplish with the help of a club and other Joeheads. Check out THIS amazing LSSR dio pic! (Photo: Greg Brown)

Holy REALISM, Joe! It’s amazing what fans can accomplish when they get together and combine their collections and talents into a club. Check out THIS amazing LSSR dio pic! (Photo: Greg Brown)

What a MASTERPIECE! Take a look at the final diorama built by the LSSR. Absolutely breathtaking. It's amazing what fans can accomplish when they combine their talents and work together as a club. WOW! (Photo: Greg Brown)

What a MASTERPIECE! Take a look at this final “JUMBO” pic of the diorama built by the LSSR. Absolutely breathtaking. (Photo: Greg Brown) Click to enlarge—and be BLOWN AWAY!

Bottom Line: Much has happened since our last report on the state of local GIjOE club fandom three years ago (see HERE). New clubs have been formed, while others have faded away. During GIjOE’s 50th Anniversary, Hasbro all but ignored fans of 1:6 scale 12-inch “vintage” figures, prompting many to reevaluate their brand loyalties and future collecting goals. As we get used to being “left on our own,” it makes sense for fans to seek out collecting clubs. Together, we can draw inspiration and support from one another. And while it’s inevitable that some clubs will fail, others, typically those found in larger markets (i.e. Atlanta, Dallas, etc.) will undoubtedly remain strong for many, many years to come. Our best wishes to all local divisions that are still fighting the good fight. Keep up your good work and please let us know about any upcoming plans or future activities. Finally, here’s a list of all the known “surviving,” ACTIVE local divisions. Contact one today!
Local Division Clubs Known to be ACTIVE:
Atlanta GIjOE Collectors Club (Website)
Central Illinois GIjOE Collectors Club (WebsiteFacebook)
Club de Coleccionistas de Figuras de Accion P.R. Inc. (Facebook)
DFW GIjOE Collectors Club (WebsiteFacebook)
JOHIO GIjOE Collector’s Club (Website)
Kentuckiana GIjOE Collectors Club (Facebook)
Manila GIjOE Collectors Circle (Facebook)
Midwest GIjOE Collectors Club (Forum)
Middle Georgia GIjOE Action Figures Club (Facebook)
Minnesota GIjOE Collectors Club (Facebook)
New England Division GIjOE Collectors Club (Website)
Pennsylvania GIjOE Meets (Facebook)
Southern California Inland Empire Division (Facebook)
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Remembering Martin Luther King on MLK Day 2015

DiD's Martin Luther King action figure features extraordinary facial and clothing details. Out-STANDING! (Photo: DiD)

DiD’s Martin Luther King action figure features extraordinary facial and clothing details. (Photo: DiD)

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DiD has introduced two versions of MLK, one speaking and one not (shown above). You also have a choice of preacher’s robes, black suit-n-tie, and an outstanding speaker’s podium. We’re not sure about this face-sculpt, however. It seems a little off. (Photo: DiD)

Bottom Line: I was only 7 years old when the Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. At the time, I was probably out playing in the backyard with GIjOEs or other such action figures, wholly unaware of the tragic events that had just occurred in faraway Memphis, Tennessee. Now, 47 years later, I’m an adult and I’m still playing with my Joes out in the backyard. But I never “dreamed” that MLK would someday be immortalized into a 1:6 scale figure as well. Surprisingly, after a quick Google search, I discovered that such a figure has indeed been created. And it’s AMAZING!

As you can see by these photos, the new MLK figure is yet another outstanding creation from DiD based on a real-life historical figure, and it comes with a variety of related clothing and accessory options. We’re not going to review this figure in any detail here, but the pics provided by the company speak volumes.

After reminiscing about MLK (the man), we realized that while most of the world has heard his marvelous “I Have a Dream” speech, many had probably never heard the final speech he gave prior to his death. Surprisingly, and very sadly, it proved to be quite prophetic. Please take a moment to remember this important American by viewing the short video clip below.

Absolutely AMAZING details and likeness. WOW! (Photo: DiD)

DiD’s new MLK figure boasts absolutely near-perfect details, fit and quality. WOW! (Photo: DiD)

The MLK speech podium is a miniature 1:6 scale work of art all unto itself. Imagine all the uses for this! (Photo: DiD)

MLK’s speech podium is a miniature 1:6 scale work of art unto itself. (Photo: DiD)

The detail and accuracy of the podium's microphones lend superb realism to this diorama! (Photo: DiD)

The detail of MLK’s podium microphones lend realism to ANY 1:6 “speaker” diorama. (Photo: DiD)

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Who is it? Is DiD’s closed-mouth headsculpt an overweight Eddie Murphy or MLK? The jury’s still out, but take a look at his superb suit details; perfect fit, nice tie and you even get little “equality” and 1:6 scale “Jobs & Freedom” buttons. March on! (Photo: DiD)

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Hang on, Fans! “Thunderbirds Are Go”———Again!

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Prepare for Takeoff! Fans of 1:6 scale dioramas and sci-fi adventure loved the intricate sets, machines and rocketry featured in Gerry Anderson’s “Thunderbirds” TV series and movies of the 1960s. Fortunately, the Thunderbirds are slated to return in 26 new half-hour episodes, not as “Supermarionation’ creations (right), but as CGI animations (left). The results remain to be seen. Cross your fingers! (Photos: ITV)

Fans of 1:6 scale drool uncontrollably at the sight of some of the Thunderbirds cockpits and other detailed sets. Imagine the adventures you could have with THIS one! (Photo: ITV)

Fans of 1:6 scale typically drool uncontrollably at the sight of some of the Thunderbirds cockpits and other ultra-detailed sets. Imagine the adventures GIjOE could have sitting in THIS one. Holy, WOW! (Photo: ITV)

Supermarionation is OUT.
CGI is (Apparently) “IN.”

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVED Gerry Anderson’s 1960s UK show called Thunderbirds Are Go! I have all the episodes on DVD and rewatch them regularly (the full-length film versions as well). I also own many of the playsets, action figures, vehicles, a vintage ’60s coloring book and scads more Thunderbirds merchandise. For ardent fans like myself, the recent news of a new Thunderbirds TV program is like throwing meat into a lion’s cage. I’m all OVER it! Here’s the intel released in today’s article by the UK Telegraph:

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“Thunderbirds are back. A new image of the Tracy brothers has been released by ITV, showing the puppets of old have been replaced by CGI characters with boyband haircuts and very tight trousers. The picture features [l-r] Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of Tracey Island. ITV’s ‘reboot’ of the 1960s show, called Thunderbirds Are Go, is a mix of CGI and live action, and will air this spring – 50 years after the first show was broadcast. Rosamund Pike will voice Lady Penelope. David Graham, the original voice of Parker the chauffeur, will return to reprise his role. Thomas Brodie-Sangster will voice John Tracy, and Kayvan Novak will be the voice of Brains.”

(Photo: IDW01)

The “stars” of Thunderbirds were actually the mind-blowing rockets, space planes and other far-out vehicles featured on the show. Our favorite? Thunderbird 2! Oh, YEAH, baby! (Photo: IDW01)

“An ITV spokesman said the series would ‘deliver a new level of action-adventure animation whilst paying tribute to the classic 1960s phenomenon.’ The original show was created by Gerry Anderson, who died in 2012 and had given the remake his blessing. The new version will be broadcast in 26 half-hour episodes and has been made by Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop, responsible for special effects in The Lord of the Rings. 

Graham, the only original voice cast member to feature in the remake, said Anderson was ‘delighted’ that the show would be introduced to a new generation. ‘In one of the last interviews he gave on television, he said it was going to come back. We all who worked on it would like to dedicate it to his memory,’ Graham has said.”

This closeup shows detail of some of the equipment, uniforms and Tracy Island. (Photo: IT)

About Face! This closeup shows detail of some of the equipment, uniforms and Tracy Island. (Photo: ITV)

Bottom Line: Depending on your “take” regarding the Thunderbirds, this news will come either as a big deal—or no deal at all. For us, it’s a VERY big deal. Time to get out our Tracey Island playlet and launch Thunderbirds 1, 2 and 3! (For more intel, see first video clip below and website HERE.)

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G.I. Joe Classic Collection Artist, Larry Selman, Unveils “Washington’s Review,” in Ceremony at National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA

Brig. Gen. Tony J. Carrelli, Pennsylvania National Guard deputy adjutant general – Air (left), Maj. Gen. Wesley E. Craig, Pa. National Guard adjutant general (right) and artist Larry Selman pose in front of Selman’s painting, "Washington’s Review," Dec. 6, 2014, at the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, Pa. The painting was commissioned on behalf of the Pa. National Guard and unveiled during its 267th birthday celebration. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum/Released)

Atten—HUT! In a formal ceremony held December 6th, 2014 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA, renowned artist and illustrator, Larry Selman (center), presents his latest work entitled, “Washington’s Review,” to Brig. Gen. Tony J. Carrelli (left) and Maj. Gen. Wesley E. Craig (right). Congratulations, Larry! (Photo: Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum/Released) Click to enlarge.

Larry Selman's masterpiece, "Washington's Review," measures in at a whopping 60" x 30" and carries on the tradition of fine military art he honed while working as an illustrator for '90s GIjOE "Classic Collection" boxes for Hasbro. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Larry Selman)

“Washington’s Review,” measures in at a whopping 60″ x 30″ and carries on the tradition of fine military artwork Selman first honed to perfection while working as an illustrator on various GIjOE “Classic Collection” packages for Hasbro Toys. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Larry Selman) Click to enlarge.

Larry Selman, renowned GIjOE packaging illustrator and artist of military history. (Photo: Larry Selman)

Larry Selman (Photo: Larry Selman)

Artist’s Latest Masterpiece to be Displayed Permanently at Pennsylvania National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Pennsylvania

GIjOE fandom’s favorite illustrator and artist, Larry Selman, made the news again recently when he unveiled his latest painting, a superb work he’d completed for the Pennsylvania National Guard. According to an official press release describing the event, as penned by Tech. Sgt. Andria J. Allmond (edited for length):

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“A painting commissioned by the Pennsylvania National Guard, and slated for display at the Pa. National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., entitled “Washington’s Review” by artist Larry Selman of Waynesboro, Pa., was unveiled at the National Constitution Center here Dec. 6.

The 60 by 30-inch image depicts Gen. George Washington assessing the 1st City Troop of Philadelphia June, 1775. The painting illustrates Washington returning the salute from the artillery officer while the enlisted men are at present arms as the officers pass by in review.”

The more you study Selman's work, the more you see. There are actually stories within the story being depicted and historic details that astound the viewer. Amazing! (Photo: Larry Selman)

Unbelievable! The closer you study Selman’s work, the more details you’ll discover. (Photo: Larry Selman)

Selman said he painstakingly conducts research before applying paint to his canvas, in order to provide not only a beautiful piece of artwork, but also an accurate account of history. One of America’s foremost historic artists, his body of work is comprised of capturing military scenes from the Revolutionary War to current military engagements.

Selman continued by stating that each painting is comprised of mini portraits, with research done on everything from the style of clothes worn and weaponry used, to how people would be positioned, to the correct landscape of the time and place. He explained that after conducting research, he obtains the correct clothing, equipment and people to serve as models in order to construct the original picture. Even body language and the emotional affect of individuals during the time the painting is portrayed are considered.”

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“When a picture is completed, if it’s wrong you have to defend it, it will always be wrong. But if it’s right, you’ll never have to defend it.” —Larry Selman

Selman's depiction of George Washington will ring a bell with fans and collectors of GIjOE action figures who remember a previous Selman painting of America's first President graced the packaging of an outstanding George Washington "Classic Collection" figure. (Photo: Timewarptoys)

Selman’s latest depiction of George Washington will ring a bell with GIjOE fans and collectors. Its layout and poses are similar to a painting the artist had previously created for the packaging of Hasbro’s George Washington “Classic Collection” GIjOE action figure. (Photo: Timewarptoys)

Bottom Line: Over the span of his illustrious 31-year career, Selman continues to “wow” and amaze his legions of fans with ever-more astounding works of artistic, technical and historic accuracy. Larry’s latest masterpiece, “Washinton’s Review” takes a well-deserved place among those works as one of his best and most memorable. Proceeds from the sales of prints of this painting will go to benefit soldiers and airmen in need (complete information HERE). Our sincerest thanks go out to Mr. Selman for all he’s done for the world’s GIjOE collecting community and for honoring members of the U.S. military. Visit Larry on Facebook HERE or at his website HERE.

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NEW Products! Working 1:6 Scale Desk Lamps

Light it Up!

Let There Be Light! This superb 1:6 scale, adjustable miniature desk lamp comes complete with bulb and battery for only $1. Available at most Dollar General Stores NOW. Great for your next diorama! (Photo: Gary Stair)

Here's what the lamp looks like in the store. Happy Hunting! (Photo: Gary Stair)

LED Power! Here’s what the lamp looks like in the store. Happy Hunting! (Photo: Gary Stair)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks go out to eagle-eyed Field Reporter, Gary Stair, who filed the following exciting report over our model 33 teletype machine today. According to Stair:

“Hi Mark, Maybe some of the other 1:6 scalers would love these little desk lamps I found recently at Dollar General. I purchased a couple in the black color, but they’re available in red, blue and white as well. Pretty COOL! They also come with batteries and a push button on-off switch at the top, just like 1:1 scale versions—and they’re even adjustable. Amazing! Enjoy!” —Gary Stair
Let's get to work!

Let’s get to work! Stair’s GIjOE prepares to plan his next mission, aided by the bright light of his nifty new 1:6 scale desk lamp from Dollar General. Absolutely perfect! (Photo: Gary Stair)

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At such a low price point, it’s a no-brainer for collectors and customizers to pick up 2 or 3 of these 1:6 scale desk lamps for use in their dioramas. EXCELLENT work, Gary! (Photo: Gary Stair)

Captain Action's not getting any younger, and he could use some extra lighting for his desk, too! (Photo: Gary Stair)

Captain Action’s not getting any younger, and could use a light at his desk, too! (Photo: Gary Stair)

UPDATE—THIS JUST IN:

We realize that not everyone has a Dollar General store in their area, so we started to search around online for similar products. While we couldn’t find any other miniature 1:6 scale desk lamps for $1 (that price is INDEED a bargain), we were able to locate an even better-looking version for a shade under $10. They’re called “Tiny Tim Book Lights” and they’re widely available in most bookstores and online at places like Amazon HERE. Yes, you can buy 10 of the Dollar General versions (if you can find them) for just 1 of the Tiny Tims, but Tim’s details appear to be superior. So, you know… Whatever you decide—Happy Hunting, 1:6ers! 

More expensive? Yes. Better? Maybe. These "Tiny Tim Desk Lights" are similar and slightly superior to the dollar store versions, but they're also much more expensive. Caveat Emptor!  (Photo: Amazon)

More expensive? Yes. Better? Yes. These “Tiny Tim Desk Lights” are similar to the $1 versions, yet are clearly superior in terms of detail. They’re also (much) more expensive. (Photo: Amazon)

Here's what the "Tiny Tim" lights look like in their packages. We love them, but recommend that you shop around before deciding! (Photo: Amazon)

Here’s what the “Tiny Tim” lights look like in their packages. We love ’em, but recommend that you shop around before deciding. (Photo: Amazon)

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Chew On This———2003’s Weird, Wild and Not-So-Wonderful “G.I. Joe Gum Bitz” From Cap Candy

Mmm, Mmm, NOT Good! One of Hasbro's most lamentable offerings for GIjOE fans and collectors was its "GIjOE Gum Bitz" which was purported to be bubble gum packaged in your choice of green, gray or tan mini-canteens. What was actually inside the clip-on containers remains to  determined by our team of scientists. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Mmm, Mmm, NOT Good! One of Hasbro’s most lamentable extensions for GIjOE fans and collectors was Cap Candy’s “GIjOE Gum Bitz” which were purported to be pieces of bubble gum packaged in a choice of green, gray or tan mini-canteens. What was actually inside remains to determined. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The best feature of this awful product was that each kid-sized canteen had a functional clip on the back to attach to your belt. Just imagine little Johnny running around in 2003 with this strapped to his side, feeding his every desire for—whatever this stuff was. On second thought, DON'T think about that. And we strongly recommend that you do NOT use these canteens to hold ANY type of liquid. ICK! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Clip it on! The best feature of this (awful) product was that each kid-sized canteen container had a functional clip on the back to attach to a belt or pocket. Just imagine little Johnny running around in 2003 with this strapped to his side, feeding his every desire for whatever this terrible-tasting stuff is/was (poor kid). On second thought, DON’T think such sad thoughts. Remember instead, PLEASE… to NEVER use these canteens to hold ANY type of consumable liquids. ICK! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Maybe the Headline of This Article Should Read: “DON’T Chew on This,” Or Perhaps… “Everything You Never Wanted to Know About One of Hasbro’s Worst Product Ideas”

Recently, we ordered an unopened, still-sealed-in-its-original-cello, 12-pack carton of GIjOE “Gum Bitz” to see for ourselves what all the non-discussion about this long maligned (and best forgotten) product was all about. Oh, man…(shaking our heads now)…We should’ve left our money in our company’s Paypal account and Hasbro should’ve left this so-called “bubble gum” sitting on the shipping dock when it returned from its trip to parts-unknown in China. It is—completely and absolutely—DREADFUL.

Of course, you can’t say we weren’t warned. The description on the product’s ebay auction listing (HERE) was very clear about what we should expect, even declaring boldly in all caps:

“WARNING!!!!!!
COLLECTORS ITEM ONLY!!!
DO NOT EAT THE GUM SOLDIERS INSIDE THE CANTEEN. THEY WERE MADE IN 2003 AND ARE AS HARD AS ROCKS. I TRIED ONE AND ALMOST BROKE A TOOOTH !!!” —MJ Variety Wholesaler

Our favorite part of this description is the author’s use of an additional “O” in “TOOOTH.” For some reason, that unnecessary vowel seems appropriate for an equally unnecessary product that probably never should have been released in the first place. In our opinion, even at its best, this has to be one of the worst looking and poorest tasting “bubble gums” we’ve EVER encountered (and our memories go all the way back to the flavorless bubble gum card packs of the 1960s).

How's THAT for unappetizing? Once you pop the top of your canteen, you see THIS bag full of...well, those are supposed to be soldiers. Regardless, first impressions are strong. This doesn't look like something a kid would want to put in his mouth. Sort of reminds us of dehydrated broccoli! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

How’s THIS for unappetizing? Pop the top of a canteen and you see this bag full of…well, those are supposed to be “soldiers” (you can probably still hear the outrage from the U.S. Army echoing in the Pentagon’s halls). Regardless, first impressions are STRONGLY negative. You have to wonder what—if ANY—consumer focus group testing was done on this horrendous tub of CRAP. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

After 12 years in a warehouse, what MAY have once been bubble-gum has become a potentially lethal osmotic mix of dozens of chemicals. How about a side of plastic and silica gel with your gum? BARF!  (Photo: Mark Otnes)

After 12 years in a warehouse, what may have (once upon a time) been bubble-gum, has now devolved into a potentially lethal mix of unknown chemicals. That warning on the included pack of silica gel? It should now be applied to the contents of every canteen. Do not eat or chew this! (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Before we’d received our test box of this dental-destroying confection, staff expectations here at The Joe Report were further lowered when our crack research department announced they’d discovered an official GIjOE Gum Bitz communiqué between Hasbro and the U.S. Customs Department. Ostensibly, the purpose of the document was to establish a legal “tariff classification ruling” for the new product, but it also contained a surprising description of the gum’s circuitous journey from the U.S.—all the way to China—and then back again, making the palatable prospects for GIjOE’s Gum Bitz even less likely. According to the company’s (now declassified) document (edited for length):

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“NY J87838

August 13, 2003 CLA-2-95:RR:NC:SP:225 J87838 CATEGORY: Classification
TARIFF NO.: 1704.10.0000; 9503.90.0080 Ms. Linda D. Santos Hasbro, Inc.

1027 Newport Ave. P.O. Box 1059 Pawtucket, RI 02862-1059

RE: The tariff classification of chewing gum pieces made in the United States and packed in a plastic toy canteen from China.

Dear Ms. Santos:

In your letter dated July 31, 2003, you requested a tariff classification ruling. You submitted a sample of a “GI Joe Gum Bitz” identified as item number 11624. The item consists of a plastic toy canteen that measures approximately 3-1/2 inches in height x 1 inch in thickness x 2 inches in length. The canteen has a clip for hanging on a belt. The canteen is comprised of two halves and when the top half is removed a plastic packet of green chewing gum pieces is contained in the lower half. You state in your letter that the gum pieces are made in the United States and packed in the canteen in China and then returned to the United States. You also state in your letter that the intended use of the canteen is as a toy by a child three years of age and older playing the part of a soldier. This office concurs that the canteen is a toy, as a child would continue to derive amusement by playing with the canteen long after the contents were gone.”

Globs of Green Guys— This is what you get in every canteen; approximately 18 pieces of...well, we'll let you decide what to call them. If you look closely, you see that this canteen yielded 3 "MPs," 10 "walking soldiers," and 5 "kneeling flamethrower" soldiers. Of course, you couldn't PAY us to put them in our mouths. We'd like to live to report another day. HA! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Globby Green Guys— This is what you’ll get in each canteen; approximately 18 pieces of…well, we’ll let you decide what to call them. If you study this closeup carefully, you’ll see that this particular canteen yielded 3 MP soldiers, 10 marching soldiers, and 5 kneeling flamethrower guys. Of course, you couldn’t PAY us to put any of them in our mouths. We’d prefer to live another day. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

As this closeup of the canteen reveals, the detail is actually not too bad. We like the blind-embossed logo, but would've appreciated a real cap and chain instead of the molded, non-functional version. As for the label, it would've been MUCH better if the GIjOE logo was MUCH bigger. 'Nuff said! (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Hits and Misses—As this closeup of an unwrapped canteen reveals, its details are actually not too bad. We like the blind-embossed logo, but would’ve appreciated a real cap and chain instead of the molded, non-functional version. As for the label, it would’ve been MUCH better if the vintage GIjOE logo was MUCH larger. ‘Nuff said! (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Okay, let’s pause here and consider what the U.S. Customs Department has officially confirmed and determined so far. These (so-called) “green chewing gum pieces” were made here in the U.S. Apparently, to save a buck, they were then shipped all the way to China to be put into miniature plastic canteens, etc., before being shipped all the way back. Our favorite line is where the USCD “concurs” that “a child would continue to derive amusement by playing with the canteen LONG (our emphasis) after the contents were gone.” Oh really? We’re sort of on the fence about that assumption, but the canteen does clip nicely onto your pants as advertised; so we’ll give Hasbro credit for that much. Next, the letter goes on to determine how GIjOE Gum Bitz should be officially classified for tariff purposes, saying:

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“Although packaged together as a set, the item is not a set for Customs’ purposes. Components of the ‘GI Joe Gum Bitz’ when combined, do not address one particular need or activity. The consumption of candy and playing with toys are two separate and distinct activities. Therefore, each item in the retail package is separately classifiable.​ The rate of duty will be 4%.”

All wrapped up with no place to go—This 12-pack of GIjOE Gum Bitz, complete with a packet of Silica Gel is shown as you receive it (and best left)—unopened. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

All wrapped up with no place to go—This 12-pack of GIjOE Gum Bitz, complete with a packet of Silica Gel is shown as you’ll receive it (and best leave it)—unopened. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

4 percent? Good enough. That’s all Hasbro’s legal and accounting department gurus really ​​wanted to know, anyhow. But interestingly, the Custom’s letter went on to confirm one final detail:

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“Based on the information provided by your office, the gum pieces will not be advanced in value or improved in condition by the operations performed abroad.” 

The one redeeming feature of GIjOE Gum Bitz is that it DOES clip on to your belt or pants pocket, reminding us of our childhood days when clipping such things on made us feel special and ready for a "mission" in the great outdoors. OOHrah! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The one redeeming feature of GIjOE Gum Bitz is that the canteen DOES clip on to your belt or pants pocket. That reminds us of our childhood days when clipping things on made us feel special and ready to tackle a “mission” in the great outdoors. OOHrah! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

It’s indeed safe to say that these little green pellets of pestilence were not “advanced in value or improved in condition” in ANY way by their journeys across the Pacific. In fact, we’d like to take this opportunity to add our own “unofficial” assessment to the official USCD findings. We believe that this so-called “gum” should now be reclassified as “non-consumable miniature blocks of inert matter.” (Psst! Hey, Gordon! How’s that for legalese?)

Daring to Go Where No Joe Fans Have Gone—in 12 Years!

Clearly, we couldn’t have written about this largely forgotten and much maligned product if we hadn’t actually tried it for ourselves. And so, after saying a short prayer, we passed a freshly opened canteen around the conference table and popped about three soldiers each into our mouths (yes, we HAD to). Much to our chagrin, we quickly discovered that the pursuit of journalistic and investigative excellence can sometimes be a painful and distasteful process. Yet, somehow we survived, and now we can reliably report that GIjOE Gum Bitz are indeed, as the rep at MJ Variety Wholesaler had warned us, “HARD AS ROCKS.” And while they do eventually soften in your mouth, instead of merging into a wad of chewing gum, they simply crumble into unchewable and indigestible bits of green chemical “crud.” (Imagine the loathsome sight when you spit them out.) As to flavor, the best description we could come up with was they tasted something like VERY stale bubble gum mixed with a mouthful of cardboard and plastic. It was absolutely the most flavorless trash imaginable. In fact, it tasted like we were eating trash!

The side panel view of a 12-pack of GIjOE Gum Bitz. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

ZERO Shelf Appeal? The side panel view of a 12-pack of GIjOE Gum Bitz. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The end panel of the box features a slightly larger vintage logo. That, and the clip on the canteen are about the only things we liked about this poorly executed GIjOE brand extension. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The end panel of a GIjOE Gum Bitz box features a slightly larger vintage GIjOE logo (proportionally). MUCH BETTER! That visual improvement, and the clip on the backs of the canteens are the only things we liked about this poorly executed GIjOE brand product extension. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Ohhh...Joe's feeling a little woozy and green himself, after trying a piece of that 12-year old gum. No Mas! No Mas! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Ohhh…Joe’s feeling a little woozy and green himself, after trying a piece of that 12-year old gum. No Mas! No Mas! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Osmosis (noun)
[oz-moh-sis, os-]

1) the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a partially permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.

Bottom Line: Oh, our stomachs… Okay, we gotta wrap this up… We’re starting to feel a tad woozy after that misguided taste-test experiment. Say, does anyone know what happens (chemically) to the ingredients of really bad gum after it sits in a plastic canteen for 12 years? Now we’re suffering from some sort of awful “digestive osmosis” of old gum, plastic, silica gel and cardboard. Even though we spat it all out, it still seems to be dancing a jig on our innards!

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Cinematic Stunner!———National Film Board (NFB) of Canada Restores 1966 Grant Munro Film, “Toys”

For the first time in 48 years, the faces and clothing of the young children in the 1966 short film, Toys, are clearly visible, almost startlingly so. The newly restored film is a timeless treasure of 1:6 scale animation and is held in the highest esteem by GIjOE fans worldwide. (Screenshot: NFB)

For the first time in 48 years, the faces and clothing of the young child actors featured in the 1966 short film, Toys, are clearly visible, almost startlingly so, with fully restored color and clarity. A timeless treasure of 1:6 scale animation, the film is held in the highest esteem by GIjOE fans worldwide. (Screenshot: NFB)

Grant Munro, animator, filmmaker, director. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Grant Munro, animator, filmmaker, director. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Classic Animated Short Film Featuring 1:6 Scale GIjOEs Lovingly Restored to Unbelievable Clarity

GIjOE fans have long considered the 1966 stop-motion animated short film, Toys, to be a premier example of movie-making’s most painstaking and patience-testing art form. If you’re not already aware, “stop-motion animation” requires frame-by-frame photographing of miniature action figures that are posed entirely by hand, with each movement carefully repositioned in minute increments that are then captured one—click!—frame at a time (i.e. Rankin/Bass’ Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer or Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit).

As you might expect, such a slow and deliberate filmmaking technique can become very tiresome and only the most patient animators attempt it; with far fewer ever truly mastering the art form’s many intricacies and requisite disciplines. Yet there’s one man who’s clearly mastered this arduous method, and that’s Canada’s renowned filmmaker and Toys director, Grant Munro (91), who proved long ago he is a MASTER animator—especially of GIjOEs!

You’ve Seen “Toys” Before—But NEVER Like This.

Munro’s Toys has long held a proud place in the pantheon of 1:6 scale animation, ever since its original debut back in 1966. Unfortunately, over the last four decades, GIjOE fans have had to placate their penchant for the legendary short by viewing it from grainy, third or fourth generation VHS copies, replete with annoyingly garbled audio and static-strewn imagery; much like watching ’60s reruns on an old-time television set without an antenna (not a pretty sight).

Finally! We can SEE! The crystal clarity of a recently restored master print of Grant Munro’s 1966 Toys, reveals numerous vintage toys that fans had been unable to see previously whenever watching badly distorted VHS copies of the film. For example, did you ever notice that Herman Munster doll sitting on the right-hand side? Or how about Chatty Cathy, waving to us from the back row? And what about that Thompson machine gun with a scope in the foreground? WOW! (Screenshot: NFB) Click to enlarge.

Fans of Grant Munro's animation can now purchase this excellent collection of his work on DVD over at Amazon. Click here to order.

Fans of Grant Munro’s animation can now purchase this excellent collection of his work on DVD over at Amazon.

As if in answer to our prayers, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has recently and lovingly restored Munro’s Toys and the results look as if they were shot only yesterday. Here’s how the NFB website describes their mission:

“We are Canada’s public producer and distributor, and this is our online Screening Room. We offer free streaming of documentary and animated films as well as interactive stories, all of which explore the world we live in from a Canadian point of view.”

The bomb bursts were real. The explosions were real. The smoke and fire? All real. Munro spared no effort to recreate the devastation that could created when 1:6 scale warriors go to battle. (Photo: NFB)

In Grant Munro’s “Toys,” the explosions were real. The smoke and fire? Also, VERY real. Munro spared no effort or expense to create the actual devastation of an all-out 1:6 scale WAR. (Screenshot: NFB)

The Marine Corps Field Medic saw a lot of action tending to the wounded, until he too, succumbed to the battle's maelstrom of munitions. (Screenshot: NFB)

Munro’s Marine Corps Medic saw a lot of action in Toys (as he tended to the wounded) until he too, ultimately succumbed in the battle’s “maelstrom of munitions.” GIjOE collectors, take note: Despite the commonly held belief that stress cracks in GIjOEs are due to the AGE of our vintage figures, it’s interesting to note that even this brand-new (at the time) 1966 GIjOE had already developed a severe stress crack near his left wrist (see photo above). Fascinating! (Screenshot: NFB)

Due to the numerous quick-cuts of the film, the "enemy" was often hard to determine. Nonetheless, severe and ominous lighting was applied to the German soldiers, creating a menacing and threatening presence. (Screenshot: NFB)

Achtung! Due to Munro’s choice and use of a quick-cut editing style, it was difficult to determine who was the “enemy” or “hero.” However, Grant did apply severe and ominous lighting to the German soldiers, giving them an added element of menace and threatening intent. Yikes! (Screenshot: NFB)

The film's restoration was so complete, that you could almost count each freckle and hair on the children's heads. Out-STANDING!

Look at those freckles! This film’s restoration was so complete and so perfect, that now you can see practically every adorable hair and freckle. Out-STANDING job, NFB! (Screenshot: NFB)

That giant REMCO tank looks right at home with all those GIjOEs. Say, we never saw that Sea Sled down there! And where do we get one of those rotating displays? Cool! (Screenshot: NFB)

That giant REMCO tank looks right at home with those GIjOEs. Say, we never saw that Sea Sled down there before! And where do we get one of those nifty toy store rotating display platforms? How cool is that?! So much to see and so much to love. Toy fans, REJOICE! (Screenshot: NFB) Click to enlarge.

This closeup reveals a superb 5-star Jeep with working recoilless rifle and spotlight. Oh, YES! (Screenshot: NFB)

Head to the Front, Men! This closeup reveals a superb 5-star Jeep with working recoilless rifle and spotlight and GIjOEs representing all military branches. YES! (Screenshot: NFB)

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Holy Hidden Treasures, Batman! This view of the left-hand side of the toy store display reveals a previously unrecognizable Batman plush figure hanging from the wall and affords a better view of many other previously unidentifiable toys. Fascinating! (Screenshot: NFB) Click to enlarge.

As the battle raged on, the expressions of the children switch from happy to concerned to clearly disturbed by the chaos and "killing" they're imagining. Munro's clever use of "freeze-frame" images such as this one enhance the emotional impact of the viewer. (Screenshot: NFB)

As the battle raged on, the expressions of the children in Toys switch from happy to concerned to clearly disturbed by the chaos and “killing” they were witnessing. Munro’s use of “freeze-frame faces” (such as this one) increased the emotional impact on the viewer. (Screenshot: NFB)

But What Does It All Mean?

Debate over Munro’s original intent behind Toys has continued to rage over the many decades since its release. Was the filmmaker trying to convince his audience that so-called “war toys” are all bad? Or that playing with them would somehow result in innocent children becoming warlike or warmongering? OR…was the film simply an exercise in producing a stop-motion animated fantasy; created mainly to demonstrate the many techniques possible in the genre? The answer is probably a little of both. Regardless, as action figure fans rediscovered the film in the 1990s, it began to resurface at toy shows around the world. Fans began to sell (or give away) bootlegged copies of Toys—first on grainy VHS tape and then later on DVDs. Finally, with the advent of the internet, it is now readily accessible online where viewing the ’60s classic is as easy as clicking on a link (conveniently provided below).

Raise your hands if you remember burning, blowing up or otherwise mangling and destroying a GIjOE or other toy as a kid. Likewise, Munro actually burns, melts and destroys several of the Joes shown in Toys, complete with added (horrific) sound effects. Aaaaaugh! (Screenshot: NFB)

Raise your hands if you remember burning, blowing up or otherwise mangling and/or destroying a GIjOE or other toy as a kid. Yup. Us too! Likewise, Munro burns, melts and destroys several of the Joes shown in his 1966 short film, Toys, complete with added (horrific) sound effects. Aaaaaugh! (Screenshot: NFB)

Goodbye, GIjOE! What happens when you soak a GIjOE in lighter fluid and set him on fire? Oh, the HORROR! (Screenshot: NFB)

Goodbye, GIjOE! What happens when you soak a Marine GIjOE in lighter fluid and set him on fire? First, his helmet melts all over his face turning him into a 1:6 scale version of the “Little Green Army Men,” then… well, thing gets progressively worse from there. Oh, the HORROR! (Screenshot: NFB)

Wake up, Kids! Eventually, the "spell" that had fallen over Munro's kids breaks and happiness returns. Cheerful music plays, giggles continue and the obvious love and rapt desire the little boys hold for the fully restored GIjOEs remains firmly intact. Go, JOE! (Screenshot: NFB)

The Nightmare is Over! Eventually, the dark mood breaks and happiness returns. Cheerful music plays again, giggles and laughter are heard and the obvious love and rapt desire children hold for the toy store’s (fully restored) GIjOEs remains intact. THIS is the REAL dream! (Screenshot: NFB)

This gas-powered Cox Stuka came to life, its machine-guns spitting bullets at the enemy down below. To create this effect, Munro attached simple firework sparklers to the plane and "flew" it towards the camera using fishing line. Ingenious! (Screenshot: NFB)

Spittin’ Flame! In Toys, this gas-powered Cox Stuka comes to life, its machine-guns spitting bullets down at the enemy below. To create this effect, Munro attached simple firework sparklers to the plane and “flew” it towards the camera with fishing line. Ingenious! (Screenshot: NFB)

Bottom Line: Over the years, the legend behind Munro’s Toys has continued to grow until it is now considered by GIjOE and animation fans alike to be an undeniable stop-motion masterpiece. While Munro’s original intended message for Toys may have been anti-war, GIjOE fans today appreciate it more for its animation achievement and as a sort of “time capsule tribute” to imaginative fantasy play with “America’s Movable Fighting Man.” While we all agree with its undeniable message that “War is Hell,” we can’t help but grin with delight as we watch Munro’s toys burn and melt each other with brutal abandon. So many of us did similar things as kids! Our sincerest thanks and best wishes to Mr. Munro for all of his superb contributions to the world of movie-making, stop-motion animation and his unintentional homage to GIjOE fandom. Alright then, Joeheads—Let’s roll this masterpiece!

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