Monthly Archives: April 2015

Top Hasbro Executive, Derryl DePriest, Responds to Criticisms From Fans & Collectors of 12-Inch G.I. Joes: “A Market is Definitely Being Ignored”

Hasbro Global Brand Manager, Derryl DePriest, in his trademark Hawaiian shirt and neon tennis shoes, during an exclusive interview with The Joe Report at this month's JoeCon 2015 in Springfield, IL. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Hasbro VP of Global Brand Management, Derryl DePriest, during an exclusive interview conducted recently with The Joe Report at this month’s JoeCon 2015 in Springfield, IL. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

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“You know, the reports you put out (in The Joe Report), I have to say—I read them—and I have to bite my lip. Unfortunately, it’s not reflective of what the industry’s put out.”

Thomas Durbin of Champaign, IL, demonstrates his interpretation of the Adventure Team Commander at JoeCon 2015 with a marvelous handmade cosplay costume. Durbin remarked,

12-Inch Fandom Runs Deep with Thomas Durbin of Champaign, IL, who demonstrates what many fans enjoyed doing at JoeCon 2015—portraying their favorite 12″ GIjOE characters with handmade cosplay costumes. Durbin told us, “The hardest thing was enlarging the uniform buttons to be at the right scale.” Durbin certainly bears a striking resemblance to a kung-fu gripped Adventure Team Commander. FAN-tastic job, Thomas! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Hasbro Exec is Clearly Listening—But (Respectfully) Disagrees With the Views of Many 12-Inch Fans

I sat down with a very congenial and upbeat Derryl DePriest on the afternoon of April 11, 2015, with the primary purpose of catching up with one of the most famous GIjOE collectors in the world. For those who may not know, DePriest is the Vice-President of Global Brand Management at Hasbro and the author of one of the most famous books ever written on vintage 12-inch GIjOE collecting entitled, “The Collectible GIjOE—An Official Guide To His Action-Packed World.”

Derryl’s fame as an author and lofty position in the toy industry aside, I was more interested in learning about DePriest the man. In fact, my idea of interviewing him had only occurred to me one day before, when I’d seen him walking around at JoeCon 2015 in Springfield, IL. I’d met Derryl previously (at JoeCon 2009 in Kansas City), but only long enough to shake his hand and thank him for all his work on behalf of GIjOE. Now, six years later, I was curious to discover what else had been happening in his life.

As a result, when we faced each other in the dealer room/exhibit hall at JoeCon 2015, I told him I had no prepared questions and no particular subject in mind (to discuss) other than himself. Derryl quickly suggested an alternative to a typical Q&A interview, stating, “Let’s just have a conversation” instead. We agreed, turned on the tape recorder and jumped right in. Interestingly and unbeknownst to either of us, our conversation would quickly veer into a very sensitive subject area: Hasbro’s current treatment (and/or lack thereof) regarding (that’s right, you guessed it)—the 12″ GIjOE line. Here then, is our conversation:

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The Collectible GIjOE (Photo: Courage Books)

The Collectible GIjOE by Derryl DePriest (Photo: Courage Books)

INCLUDES 11 NEW & EXCLUSIVE
PICS TAKEN AT JOECON 2015

TJR: So… Could you tell us about the book you’ve written and your interest in GIjOEs?

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“I published The Collectible GIjOE in 1998. That was a dream come true; to be able to write a GIjOE book. I’ve collected 12-inch GIjOEs pretty much my whole life. It’d been my favorite toy when I was a kid and I had to put them away when I was in college; but I’ve never stopped buying them or ‘curating’ a collection. When I as kid, I had about 75 to 100 GIjOEs.”

TJR: Wow. When I was a kid, I had like 6.

“Well, I don’t want to misrepresent it; I didn’t come from a wealthy family by any means. Instead, I came from a family where we had a regular stand at a flea market, and my parents routinely bought and sold things on the weekends. I also have two younger brothers who love GIjOE. So we took our meager allowance every weekend and were running around the flea market buying toys.”

This full-sized truck sported bold, colorful GIjOE graphics at JoeCon 2015. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This full-sized extended-cab truck sported a multi-colored custom paint-job with bold GIjOE-inspired logos and graphics. It was also on display at JoeCon 2015. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

It must be St. Patrick's Day! DePriest poses for a photo for his Facebook page. (Photo: Derryl DePriest)

A Lot to Smile About— DePriest posed for this recent “profile pic” over on his Facebook page. (Photo: Derryl DePriest)

TJR: How old are you now and where are you from originally? Where did you grow up?

“I’m 50. So I was born in 1965. I’m from San Diego and grew up in a family that had a very entrepreneurial spirit for buying things and then selling them at a profit. That’s pretty much what my family did.”

TJR: San Diego? So are you from a Navy family?

“No. Dad worked for McDonnell Douglas as a liaison engineer with some of the armed forces manufacturers down there. Anyway, I do have fond memories… Every time a new GIjOE or a set came out that we had to have for Christmas, my brothers and I would look through the Sears catalogs. We had three different colors of pens and each of us would circle what we wanted. I remember when the Mobile Support Vehicle came out and the Headquarters came out. All three of us had drawn BIG circles around them. Under the Christmas tree that year, we got THREE of each toy, because we couldn’t share, we were all jealous of each other.”

Unofficial GIjOE

Unofficial GIjOE “Rabblerouser,” Rick Pell, stands outside Hasbro’s Worldwide Headquarters building in Pawtucket, Rhode Island where DePriest works. In 2014, Pell formed the “50 Years of GIjOE” fan group on Facebook as a place for fans to vent their frustrations re: Hasbro’s current indifference towards 12-inch GIjOE collectors. (Photo: Rick Pell)

TJR: Do you live in Pawtucket, RI, now?

“Yup. After my book came out in ’98, I was contacted by Hasbro. They were closing their Cincinnati office and hiring a new team in Pawtucket. Many of the great folks who’d worked in Cincinnati didn’t want to leave Cincinnati, so what came open was the Director of Marketing for GIjOE. I’d interviewed in Kenner before and I’d really set my sights on joining Hasbro. For years, I’d decided that was really my ‘dream job.’

In 2001, I interviewed with the folks back in Pawtucket, including Alan Hassenfeld, the President of Hasbro (son of company founder, Merrill Hassenfeld). A few days later they offered me the job and I told my wife we were moving to Pawtucket. I had joined Hasbro as the director—heading up GIjOE!”

That's right. All that fantastic 40th Anniversary swag you now hold so near and dear in your collection, you owe to the hard work of Derryl DePriest. (Logo: Hasbro)

All those great 40th Anniversary products you now hold near and dear in your collection were spearheaded by Derryl DePriest. (Logo: Hasbro)

TJR: What were your first GIjOE projects at Hasbro?

“I was in charge of GIjOE from 2001 to 2004. So I brought back the 40th Anniversary Joes and really helped amplify our 12″ GIjOE line. The resurgence in 12” GIjOE had really started before that, with the ‘Classic Collection,’ as done by the Cincinnati team. In fits and starts, that Hasbro team had reissued the classics; after John Michlig had helped bring back the true vintage GIjOE with his book and the ‘Masterpiece Collection.’ But I had felt that we really hadn’t done justice to the original vintage roots of GIjOE, so I conceived the 40th Anniversary Collection (a series of vintage reproduction figure sets with window boxed accessories); and with OUR team, executed that and brought it out. The great lament I would have is that we didn’t get to some of the more exotic and rare and desirable sets. But it is what it is. I’m glad we were able to get out the 24 that we did. Thankfully, the (GIjOE Collector’s) club finished up the Green Beret and Air Force Dress sets for us. We just couldn’t get them to retail.

Many collectors of 12-inch GIjOE would reasonably argue that the 40th Anniversary line has been DePriest's greatest work to date for GIjOE. Unfortunately, this line was discontinued...in 1994!

Collectors of 12-inch GIjOEs could reasonably argue that the 40th Anniversary line was Derryl DePriest’s greatest contribution to GIjOE fandom. Unfortunately, that line of magnificent figure/uniform sets would be discontinued in 2004. And sadly, fans may never see their likes again. (Photo: ebay)

TJR: I LOVED the 40th Anniversary line! I really hated to see it end. What did you do next?

“Well, ultimately, 12-inch GIjOE wound down and then it was OUT. So I made a decision to go over to the Star Wars team in 2004.”

The Future of 12-Inch GIjOEs— With Hasbro unlikely to create new products for fans of 1:6 scale Joes, the club has picked up the ball and announced new figures coming in 2015-16, including 2 more of their superb

The Future of 12-Inch GIjOEs— With Hasbro no longer creating 12-inch GIjOEs, fans listened with rapt attention during a panel discussion at JoeCon 2015 as the club announced it will produce 4 new 1:6 scale figures for 2015-16, including 2 more of their superb “Lost Talkers” series. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

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

Which is it? Fans believe this graphic represents all the money Hasbro is losing by not selling new 12-inch GIjOE products to them; while Hasbro most certainly views the same image as representing all the money they’d LOSE manufacturing such items for a “niche” market segment. (Photo: Getty)

TJR: What do you say to all the 12-inch GIjOE fans and collectors out there who are still hurting from Hasbro’s lack of any 50th celebrationand yet, their wallets remain WIDE open, ready and eager to buy more Hasbro 12″ GIjOEs? It seems like a sizable market is being overlooked—or even ignored.

“A market is definitely being ignored. 

Hasbro is a big company with shareholders. We can’t make everything that we want to. We have to put our design resources where they’re going to be most productive. Unfortunately, the economy of scale of GIjOE—especially 12-inch GIjOE—doesn’t make it (creating new 12″ GIjOEs) a viable proposition for us.

In 1994, when there was a 30th Anniversary of GIjOE underway, that was a much different time in GIjOE collecting, where there was a much bigger base of active collectors. Ten years later, when we did the 40th Anniversary line, we launched that with the anticipation that we would re-engage a lot of fans, and initially, we thought we were. 

But the reality is, even at the time when we had the 40th Anniversary line out there, the 12-inch Joes were finding a much bigger audience to kids than they were for fans. It was still a very much kid-driven line, but we were doing ‘fan-product.’ 

But…the sales tapered off. And what they showed Hasbro senior management is that the 12-inch business really was a very niche business in the world of boy’s toys. So… We had to shut it down. Sales didn’t sustain it. And I’d say 10 years later, the situation really hasn’t changed. 12-inch collecting has a small but passionate fan group (base), but it’s not significant enough for Hasbro to devote design resources to putting fan-targeted product back out there.”

New 12-inch GIjOE product, like the AA

12-Inch GIjOE Sans Hasbro— The creation of new 12-inch GIjOE products (such as this AA “Fantastic Freefall” repro figure for sale at JoeCon 2015) is left to the auspices of non-Hasbro companies including the GIjOE Collector’s Club, Sideshow, Hot Toys, and Cotswold Collectibles. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

At this point in our conversation, the sober realization that Hasbro would no longer be making 12″ GIjOEs, once widely considered to be the “World’s #1 Toy,” left both of us feeling clearly saddened. We paused for a brief moment, lost in thought, watching convention goers pass by our table, before Derryl tried to put a positive spin on this depressing 12-inch forecast, by saying:

The future of 12-inch figures at Hasbro include this

The future of “12-inch” at Hasbro includes more products such as this “Titan Series” figure of Thor, featuring a whopping 5-points of articulation. But don’t worry, ol’ Thor won’t need to bend his elbows, waist or knees to sell briskly from stores (or Goodwill bins). (Photo: Amazon) Click to enlarge.

“What we HAVE shown…is that there actually is a very big market for 12-inch figures. They’re not the kind of figures that fans want to see, but there’s been a 12-inch business ‘renaissance’ of sorts with our Titan series of figures from Marvel and Star Wars. These are the figures with 5 points of articulation at very consumable price points. They’ve become a VERY big part of our business globally.”

TJR: Okay, let me stop you right there. You know those (5-point figures) are widely panned and derided by everyone out there, right?

“No. That is not true.

TJR: That’s NOT true?!

“They’re widely derided by fans who want ARTICULATED figures.”

Show us what'cha GOT! Another cosplayer shows off her stuff at JoeCon 2015. For her and other fans of 3 3/4

Show us what’cha GOT! Another cosplayer shows off her stuff at JoeCon 2015. Fortunately for her and other fans of 3 3/4″ GIjOEs, there’s a great deal of new Hasbro product coming in 2015. Lucky girl! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

sandboxlogoTJR: Right. I’m talking about all the posts I’ve read on places like the Trenches. I’m talking about the Sandbox. I’m talking about ALL of the 12-inch fan groups over on Facebook, where collectors go to discuss what’s currently being offered.

“Those are…I want to say this in the politest way possible…The days of a 12-inch, adult collector fan base being a significant part of our audience are unfortunately behind us. We had the opportunity 10 years ago to make product for that market—and we did! We made wave after wave of 40th Anniversary products. The market was NOT there, compared to any other business at Hasbro. I made a very valiant effort to launch and float that line as a viable business, and ultimately it did not pan out.

smtrench2What I’m trying to say here is, because there are fans who have the money and means and want to buy product, it doesn’t mean it’s a business that Hasbro should be doing. Quite honestly, Hasbro has finite resources, and we have to deploy them where they’re going to give us the greatest return on that investment for the company.”

Another WILD RIDE was parked in the main exhibit hall of JoeCon 2015, this one sporting twin machine guns and armor plating. WOW! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This 1:1 scale COBRA assault vehicle was parked in the main exhibit hall during JoeCon 2015. It featured a full rollcage, twin belt-fed machine guns and armor plating. WOW! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

There's room at the top— If you've got the money, that is. The

12″ GIjOE Excellence— The “Retaliation” GIjOE figures created by Hot Toys were undeniably excellent in every conceivable way. Their only drawback? They’re $200+ EACH. (Photo: Hot Toys) Click to enlarge.

TJR: Have you given any thought to maybe creating an off-shoot company or license someone else to release regular offerings to 12-inch GIjOE fans, i.e. those fans that Hasbro no longer considers to be financially viable?

“The GIjOE Club exists to do those kind of things. They’ve managed the collecting business for 15 years now, or longer. They’ve managed conventions and they’ve seen it all. The GIjOE club knows the size of that audience. Unfortunately, what the club has seen over that time is a steady erosion of active collectors in the 12-inch hobby. 

Sideshow and Hot Toys have also made a number of 12-inch figures (see HERE) from us, under license, for the past few years. They were absolutely unbelievable. So in a way, we did exactly as you said. We DID license out 12-inch GIjOE. Unfortunately, even Sideshow’s tapered off. No one (else) has knocked down our door to license 12-inch…the business just isn’t big enough.”

Willing to Wait— GIjOE fans of all scales are steadfast and VERY patient when it comes to their collecting passions. Here, fans line up and wait to enter the dealer/exhibit hall at JoeCon 2015. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Willing to Wait— GIjOE fans (of all scales) are steadfast and patient when it comes to satisfying their collecting needs. Here, fans wait to enter the dealer hall at JoeCon 2015. (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!

“Blades” of a Bygone Era— The production of carded uniform/equipment sets that were “sold separately” is, according to DePriest: “an antiquated model” unlikely to return. Does that make these two even MORE valuable? (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

TJR: We hear all the time from GIjOE fans who wonder why Hasbro can’t simply return to a smaller, more targeted version of their original “razors and blades” concept. They’re not asking for another big 40th Anniversary-style product push, only some occasional new 1:6 scale uniforms or equipment that hasn’t been produced before. Has that approach ever been (re)considered?

“The retail model in today’s landscape doesn’t work that way at all. Retail is a real-estate play. We have to be productive and turn in the space that we aggressively maintain with our retailers. The common comment we get is the ‘razors and blades’ model. That is a 30-40 year old model that is not tenable today. It doesn’t work. It’s not the way other competitive products are sold. In practically any line out there, the FIGURES are the things that sell and are highly consumed. Accessory sets languish and are quickly eliminated from any line, not just GIjOE. The ‘razors-n-blades’ model is an antiquated model that doesn’t represent the way consumers purchase today.

Thanks to the hospitality and welcoming beauty of

Thanks to the hospitality and beauty of “Springfield Welcoming Committee” members, Scarlett Conn (l) and Sara Detrick (r), fans attending JoeCon 2015 were warmly greeted—with FREE cupcakes! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Does THIS Jog Your Memory? This is one of the 2011 GIjOEs DePriest quizzed me on. Of course, I remember them now, AND that in actuality, I DID purchase at 3 or 4 of them. (Photo: ebay)

Does This Picture Jog Your Memory? This is one of the 2011 GIjOEs DePriest was quizzing me about at JoeCon. At the time, I couldn’t place what he was referring to, but I remember them now, And in actuality, I DID purchase 3 or 4 from this line. (Photo: ebay)

(At this point, Derryl decided to turn the tables and began asking ME a few pointed questions):

“When was the last time we had a 12-inch GIjOE line at retail? Do you remember that? Did you pick up the figures we did in 2011 when we came out with a series of 5 or 6 different 12-inch military figures at retail?” 

(Caught off-guard, I couldn’t recall which figures he was referring to specifically, so I just shook my head.)

“You probably don’t remember that. That just gives you an example. People will make figures and people don’t show up to buy them. That’s why we’re not (making them anymore). In 2011…we brought back some new configurations of 12-inch figures. We publicized them throughout the Joe community, but the 12-inch figures were the weakest sellers we had in the entire line. Nobody showed up to get ’em. We had almost no pickup or response from the fans.”

Hasbro's Last Stand For 12-Inch GIjOEs came back in 2011 with figures such as this Army Paratrooper. Many items were rehashed from previous sets and sales were lackluster at best. (Photo: ebay)

Hasbro’s “Last Stand” For 12-Inch GIjOEs was taken back in 2011 with the introduction of 5 or 6 low-priced figures featuring (yet) another paratrooper. Most of this Joe’s gear was rehashed from previous sets, and overall, quality seemed noticeably down. Sales were (predictably) lackluster. (Photo: Amazon)

(Still unsure what 12-inch Joes he was referring to, I replied):

The 2011 line of 12-inch GIjOEs were featured on this issue of the GIjOE Collector's Club newsletter. The pattern in this Marine's camo ACU uniform was one of the few highlights for fans. Did YOU buy this one? (Photo: GIJCC)

The 2011 line of 12-inch GIjOEs were featured in this issue of the GIjOE Collector’s Club newsletter. The ACU camo pattern in this Marine’suniform was one of the few highlights for fans. (Photo: GIJCC)

TJR: Well, is it perhaps that 12-inch collectors are a little more discerning and demanding now, and that they felt the 2011 figures weren’t worthy somehow?

“I don’t know, you tell me! You didn’t buy ’em! I’m not here to do a post-mortem on that line, but what that line suggested was that kids were not—at the time—into 12-inch figures and the fan base wasn’t enough to sustain that business.

My long answer to a short question is… As passionate as the 12-inch fans are—and I’m one of them, because my story’s built on 12-inch, I came to Hasbro to take over the GIjOE line, I have launched many lines internally—it’s (unfortunately) a small but passionate business; not big enough to sustain. 

Our focus now is Joe-Cobra. That’s not to say Joe-Cobra couldn’t be 12-inch, but the days of a kind of generic GIjOE and razor/blades phenomenon or Timeless Collection stuff are in the past.”

joecon2015girls2

JoeCon 2015’s “Cobra Girls” were decidedly taller than their 3.75″ counterparts. Will 12-inch fans ever see such figures become part of GIjOE’s 1:6 future? Only Derryl knows! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

TJR: Wow. Well, we’ve covered quite a lot today, haven’t we? Let’s finish by talking about you again. Do you still have a GIjOE collection? Do you have a “Joe room” at your home? Do you have display cases or is everything stored away in tubs?

“Yes, to all of that.

I’ve got every GIjOE figure ever made!

Some are on display and some are not because of space limitations. You can see in my book exactly what my collection comprises. That’s the story and essence of my collection. Since that time, I’ve acquired a lot of packaged GIjOEs. That’s what I’m interested in now; adding really nice, packaged examples to my collection.

My goal someday is to have every single packaged figure, vehicle and accessory set.” 

TJR: Is there a possible second book in the offing then?

“No. Unfortunately, while I’m at Hasbro, I can’t write any more books.”

TJR: Okay then, do you ever leave comments on GIjOE fan forums or other online fan sites?

“No. We don’t participate in social media, either. And I don’t care. It’s never been about celebrity for me. It’s about trying to bring out the things that fans are most passionate about.”

TJR: Well, your heart’s definitely in the right place! Thank you so much for all your time.

“My pleasure. Thanks, Mark!”

It's Never Been About Celebrity—

“It’s Never Been About Celebrity”— DePriest, looks out at the JoeCon 2015 crowd, reflecting upon the fact that he’s helped make so much of what they enjoy collecting—a REALITY. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Derryl for his generosity and contributions to this article. It’s always fascinating to hear directly “from the top” whenever discussing the past, present or future of Hasbro’s most marvelous creation. If you’d like to see and hear more from Derryl DePriest on this topic, we highly recommend you watch the following VIDEO. Enjoy! Go, Derryl! And GO, JOE! 

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The World’s First G.I. Joe———Unique Arts’ All-Metal Wind-Ups Predated Hasbro Toy Line———By 20 Years!

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Not Quite “Eagle-Eyes”— But pretty cool-looking, nonetheless. This super-closeup of the first toy to EVER bear the name “G.I. Joe” reveals he wasn’t a plastic action figure made in Japan, but actually a pressed metal tin-toy manufactured in the U.S. toward the end of WWII; surprisingly—by a toy company legally designated as the “G.I. Joe Corporation.” (Photo: Ralph L. Tomlinson)

jouncingjeepbox1

Repro Boxes (such as the one shown above) for “G.I. Joe and His Jouncing Jeep” are expensive—almost as much as the toy itself! (Photo: ToyTent)

Does YOUR GIjOE Collection Start at the Very Beginning—Way Back in 1944?

The first-ever GIjOE toys didn’t fight Nazis or spandex-clad terrorist bad guys named “Cobra.” Rather, they drove odd, tractor-shaped Jeeps around in random, drunken circles, bumping into anything and everything in their paths. OR… they carried around (for whatever reason) suitcases full of puppies(!) as they briskly walked across the floor. It’s hardly the sort of “Capture Hill 79” action we’re used to, but that’s the way it was—back in 1944. Feeling confused? Don’t worry. If you’ve never heard of the “G.I. Joe and His Jouncing Jeep” toy before, renowned toy collector, Ralph L. Tomlinson (now deceased), one of the nation’s premier experts, described it as:

Ralph L. Tomlinson, Renowned toy collector. (Photo: Tomlinson family)

Ralph L. Tomlinson, Renowned toy collector. (Photo: Tomlinson family)

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“This lithographed tin wind-up toy was manufactured by Unique Art Manufacturing Company under license from the G.I. Joe Corporation. It features a spring-action mechanism that can be activated with a key.

The toy then comically jerks back and forth while the soldier is propelled forward, making his helmet fall over his eyes. This is one example of how many toy companies tried to capitalize on the United States patriotic mood after WWII.”

Driving a

Hold on Tight, Joe! Driving a “Jeep” that looks suspiciously like a tractor, the first-EVER G.I. Joe-branded toy was a cute little soldier doing his darndest to keep a “jet propelled” Jeep traveling at “supersonic speed” safely on the road. The toy’s pressed-tin construction, with bright litho painted graphics, assures that even 70 years after its construction—it still looks GREAT! (Photo: GunShyCC)

The G.I. Joe you never knew existed— G.I. Joe and

“Search for the Little Puppies” In this closeup of a GIjOE you probably never knew existed, Joe carries two baskets(?) full of forlorn looking puppies, complete with sad, hangdog expressions and bandaged noggins. Were they casualties of war? Poor Little Puppies! (Photo: ebay)

But Wait—There’s More. MUCH More…

The more we dig into the obscure origins of GIjOE, the more intriguing his history becomes. For example, while we’d known for many years that there was some old tin-toy called “G.I. Joe and His Jouncing Jeep” (see above), we’d never really given it much thought until now. D’oh! What a mistake. Yes, he’s pretty silly looking. The toy was targeted at very young children (3-5) as a pressed metal wind-up, and it didn’t seem to have much of a place in our modern GIjOE collections. In fact, other than winding him up and watching him go, there isn’t much else you can do with these earliest GIjOEs. But hold on there just a minute…

Thankfully, our intrepid TJR Field Reporter, Keith Davis, came across one of these gems of GIjOEs past in an Ohio antique store recently and wrote in to remind us of the importance of these very unique toys (by “Unique Arts”)—especially to collectors of all things GIjOE. An adamant Davis reminded us that there was indeed MUCH more to this old toy than we had imagined. And after providing some superb photos of his discovery, he urged us to delve even deeper into its past. We did. And here’s what we learned:

FIRST, we had no idea that these GIjOEs predated Hasbro’s “movable fighting man” by over 20 years. To be honest, their brightly colored litho graphics reminded us of post-war toys made in Japan, so we had mentally pegged them at around 1960 or so. How wrong we were! G.I. Joe and His Jouncing Jeep were first created and sold back in 1944.

SECOND (and even more surprising) was when we learned that these early GIjOEs were manufactured not just by Unique Art Mfg., but by a toy company called—wait for it—the “G.I. Joe Corporation.” Whoa!

THIRD and most important: It turns out that there was more than one variation of these 1944 G.I. Joe metal toys, thereby turning them into a legitimate toy LINE (albeit a very short one, consisting of only 2 products). The second figure was a wind-up walker (no vehicle) who’s taken it upon himself to rescue stray K-9 puppies. Yes, you read that right. Remember, these toys were targeted to very young children. So shooting and killing “bad guys” simply wasn’t on their radar yet (even in 1944).

On the flip side— G.I. Joe's Jeep is boldly described as having

On the Flip-Side— G.I. Joe’s Jouncing Jeep is boldly lettered with “Watch Joe Go” and as having “Atomic Brakes;” fully a YEAR before the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb. (Photo: GunShyCC)

We asked Davis if he could describe the condition of the Jouncing Jeep (the exact one shown in the photo above) that he’d found at that antique mall in Ohio and he kindly replied:

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“One of the big rear wheels keeps partly slipping off the drive axle, because the factory (at the time of manufacture) failed to crimp the axle’s outside end to keep the wheel from going over the end, and that makes the wheel very floppy.”
As seen from the front, the toy is clearly labeled

Instead of Being a “5-Star” Jeep, the first-ever GIjOE only rated a 3-Star version. Nevertheless, as seen from the front, this toy was clearly and boldly labeled “G.I. JOE,” making it a “must-have” for collectors. (Photo: GunShyCC)

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“The rest is in rather good, but NOT Perfect condition, probably because it wasn’t run very much due to that factory failure. Someone may have the skills to carefully crimp that axle and flare it back out as it should have been, but in the purist sense, this is the way THIS unit was from day one.”
THERE'S the payoff— On the back-end of the Jeep, the manufacturer and manufacturing date are clearly written. How COOL! (Photo: GunShyCC)

THERE’S the Payoff— On the back-end of the Jeep, the manufacturer and manufacturing date are clearly shown. How COOL! (Photo: GunShyCC)

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“Look closely at my photos, and you’ll see that there’s some wear and tear on this toy. There is a small amount of rust in some places as well, so keep that in mind when comparing these on the open market.” —Keith “GunShyCC” Davis
Bottom View of the

Bottom View of “G.I. Joe and his Jouncing Jeep” (Photo: Grand Old Toys)

An original Jouncing Jeep box, over 70 years old, has sharp, clear graphics and still makes an AWESOME display. (Photo: Grand Old Toys)

An Original Jouncing Jeep Box— Although it’s over 70 years old, this box still has sharp, clear graphics and would make an AWESOME display piece in any GIjOE collection. (Photo: Grand Old Toys)

The top panel view of the superb repro box by Toy Tent. (Photo: Toy Tent)

The top panel view of the superb repro box by Toy Tent. (Photo: Toy Tent)

The box for

This repro box for “G.I. Joe and K-9 Pups” is rather plain by comparison to the Jouncing Jeep version. (Photo: Toy Tent)

Bottom Line: These are cool GIjOE-related toys, especially if you can find ’em with their original boxes (or afford some reproductions). Our sincerest thanks to Keith Davis and Ralph L. Tomlinson for educating us on this largely unknown and earliest aspect of GIjOE history. Remember… shop around for the best prices and compare conditions carefully before you buy. It’ll save you a headache later. If you’d like to see these early GIjOE toys in action, we suggest take a look at these two cool videos (shown below). Enjoy!

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Why It Was So Great to be a Kid———Back in 1967!

nas·cent
ˈnāsənt,ˈnasənt/ adjective
1. (especially of a process or organization) just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.

Bottom Line: If you were a kid during GIjOE’s earliest, nascent days of the 1960s and ’70s, then we’re probably preaching to the choir. But if you didn’t come along until much later, you may not realize what you missed (so sad). If so, we highly recommend one of the most fond memories many of us adult Joeheads have: the “Capture Hill 79” GIjOE contest. Even if you lived through this early period of Joe history, we recommend you watch the TV commercial again, because when you do, it’ll all come back and your day will be MADE. So…Watch it. Know it. Remember it. Capture Hill 79!

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Brian Savage Becomes De Facto Leader of 12-Inch G.I. Joe Production For the Foreseeable Future

Leading the Way— GIjOE Club Founder and President, Brian Savage, currently has more years under his belt as a producer of 12-inch GIjOE action figures than practically anyone. With Hasbro turning its back on the 12-inch line, Savage now finds himself the leading coordinator and producer of official 1:6 scale GIjOE figures. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Leading the Way for 12-Inch Fans— With Hasbro abandoning 12-inch GIjOEs, GIjOE Collector’s Club Founder and CEO, Brian Savage, has become the main producer of officially-licensed 1:6 scale GIjOEs, with 4 new figures (3 announced at JoeCon) slated for a 2015-16 release. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

joecon2015logoAs Hasbro Bows Out, Longtime Leader of the GIjOE Collector’s Club Announces Production of (at Least) 4 More Officially Licensed 12-Inch GIjOE Action Figures

With multiple IDs dangling from his back pocket and an ever-present walkie-talkie clipped to his famous blue jean shorts, the GIjOE Collector’s Club (GIJCC) founder and leader, Brian Savage, looked every bit the “Field Commander” of GIjOE fandom he’d become. At this particular moment during 2015’s JoeCon (a hugely successful GIjOE convention Savage recently orchestrated in Springfield, IL), he found himself in a hallway, encircled by about a dozen 12-inch fans who were peppering him with all sorts of GIjOE and club-related questions.

Although Savage had just completed an hour-long GIJCC panel discussion in the main ballroom, these fans had remained behind with the realization that they were being given a rare opportunity to speak directly to the man who helms the longtime Ft. Worth, TX-based business that will oversee production of new 12-inch (1:6 scale) GIjOEs into the foreseeable future. Fortunately, Brian’s answers were plainspoken and specific. After almost 30 minutes of the energetic back-n-forth, his rapt audience thanked him for “all that he’s done for the hobby” and Savage thanked them in return for their continued support of the club’s efforts. Below are some quotes from that hallway Q&A:

Brian Savage, GIjOE Collector's Club (Photo: GIJCC)

Brian Savage, CEO and EIC, Fun Publications, Inc. (Photo: GIJCC)

On the Club’s 2 New Upcoming (12-inch) GIjOE Lost Talkers:

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“On the 12-inch side…we had started this ‘Lost Talker’ series a few years ago. We did the Talking Action Soldier and the Talking Marine…in the old days, when these were made…around ’67, they only had 8 talking phrases. We found out that in the archive, there were actually 10 recorded by the original voice actors that were not included. What we did with these figures was, we went back…and were able to add all 10 phrases. So not only were they reproduction Talkers as they had been, but they had 2 phrases that had never been heard, not newly recorded phrases, but original, vintage ’60s recorded phrases that were—LOST.”

Talking Sailor GIjOE (Photo: Vectis)

Talking GIjOE Sailor (Photo: Vectis)

“We’re going to continue this series…they may hit late this year (2015), depending on production. We’re going to do a Lost Talker Action Sailor…and then we’ll round out this whole series by doing the Lost Talker Action Pilot; which will have 10 phrases rather than 8; 2 that have never been heard before.”

Talking GIjOE Pilot (Photo: Vectis)

Talking GIjOE Pilot (Photo: Vectis)

“We go in and add additional art to the insert to show what the new phrases are. It’s kind of a nice reproduction item with a little bit of a ‘plus’ to it. 

So, even if you already have these as vintage items in your collection, you’ll get something that you didn’t have before. And then that will round out our ‘Lost Talker’ series.”

On the Return of Mike Power, the Atomic Man, as the Club’s 12″ Exclusive for 2016:

So Far Away! Sorry about this grainy pic, but we were  seated pretty far back in the crowd during this presentation. Regardless, we hope you can make out the fact that Mike now has TWO atomic legs, and an all-new

(Mock-up photo: GIJCC)

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“He’s going to be a good lookin’ dude. We’re not reusing his old namby-pamby head. We’re doing a totally new sculpt. We didn’t like the unnamed, ‘other company’s’ male pseudo-fashion figure that Mike Power always seemed to look a little bit like (That would be Barbie’s Ken, ed.). And we’re actually going to put an LED into his eye, which will work with the dog-tag when you pull it. Please don’t point this at any aircraft. Federal authorities will come visit you. We showed a photo of a mock-up and a sketch of the all-new headsculpt we’re having done in the panel discussion. There’ll also be a uniform set called ‘Field Mission Alpha’ that you’ll be able to purchase separately.

A sketch of an all-new head sculpt for the GIjOE Collector's Club upcoming recreation of the Mike Power GIjOE action figure. (Photo: Jerry Gonzalas)

Here’s Looking at YOU, Mike Power #2— Savage revealed a sketch of an all-new headsculpt currently being created for the GIjOE Collector’s Club 2016 12-inch membership action figure—with working LED light-up eye. An optional uniform set will also be produced and sold separately. (Photo: Jerry Gonzales)

A new photo of the GIjCC's upcoming 12

GIjCC’s 2015 12″ membership figure, “Dr. Isotope” will be the first-ever, glow-in-the-dark GIjOE. Imagine Mike Power’s LED atomic eye shooting at Doc—in the dark! (Photo: GIjCC)

The optional uniform set for Doctor Isotope is practically a

The optional uniform set for Doctor Isotope is practically a “must-have” for fans. (Photo: GIJCC) Click to enlarge.

On the Upcoming and Unusual “Dr. Isotope,” the First EVER Glow-in-the-Dark GIjOE: 

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‘The 12″ membership figure for 2015 will be Doctor Isotope: The Nuclear Menace. He’ll be the first-ever 12″ GIjOE action figure that will glow-in-the-dark. He’s a new foe for the Adventure Team to fight and as always, you can purchase a unique uniform and accessory set for him separately.”

For over 18 years now, GIjOE fans and collectors have watched Savage and the GIJCC grow to fill a role of ever-increasing importance and leadership among both the 1:6 and 1:18 scale GIjOE collecting communities. Indeed, without his/their tireless efforts, many wonderful GIjOE figures (of both scales) that fans now take for granted would never have been produced in the first place. Take a look at your own collection. It’s likely you own at least one of Savage’s superb creations, perhaps more. And as the years have passed, their desirability and collectibility have only increased. That’s easy to understand. Here are just a few examples:

An AWESOME Legacy—When Brian Savage finally retires, he'll leave behind a trail of excellence and achievement. We looked around the office this morning and piled up what we could find of his work. Of course, he and his team of experts at the GIJCC have produced many more official GIjOE products, in both 1:6 and 1:18 scales. Imagine owning them all! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

An AWESOME Legacy—When Brian Savage finally retires, he’ll leave behind a mountain of GIjOE achievement. We looked around our office this morning and piled up what we could find of his work. This is only a fraction. Imagine owning everything! (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge (and drool).

Indeed, as Hasbro continues to step farther away from the possibility of producing 12-inch GIjOEs EVER again, Savage has begun to be recognized for his new role: that of being the sole remaining producer of officially licensed 12″ GIjOE action figures. Sideshow and others may dip a toe into the GIjOE waters now and then, but nothing with the regularity of Savage and the GIJCC.

Local fan club divisions too, occasionally produce their own exclusive figures (predominantly the Atlanta and DFW divisions), but when it comes to manufacturing hundreds of authentic GIjOE action figures in factory-made coffin boxes, there’s really only one place collectors can still turn to: Brian Savage and the GIJCC. Here’s some more Q&A from Savage at JoeCon 2015:

JoeCon 2015 was held in Springfield, IL. Why? According to Savage, it was because for the first time, the community responded to their requests for facility and hotel availability. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

JoeCon 2015 was held this year in Springfield, IL. But why? According to Savage, there were a variety of reasons. For the FIRST time, Illinois’ capital city had responded to the GIjCC’s inquiries re: facility and hotel availability, thus helping its chances. And as the old lottery saying goes, “You have to be in it—to WIN it!” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

On How JoeCon Locations Around the U.S. Are Chosen:

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“When I started this 18 years ago, my original thought was I would find an East Coast, Center of the Country, and West Coast location. I would then alternate between them. But that reflected my naivety as an event planner, because I wasn’t experienced as an event planner.

What’s happened is, we’ve continued to grow…We’re not in that facility ‘footprint’ size anymore. There are a lot of facilities out there with 12,000 sq. ft. ballrooms. However, they do NOT have another 8,000 sq. ft. ballroom sitting next to it where we can do break-outs (i.e. panel discussions, film festivals, etc.) or dinners.

For JoeCon, we’re now at 25,000 square feet (gesturing to the dealer room upstairs). To do BotCon, I need 35,000. There are very few facilities out there that have that size space. And oftentimes, you can’t get into a place you’ve already been because they don’t have your dates. Costs, rates and availability are always changing.

I also try to move it around it the country because I always hear people say, ‘It was never near me before. But this year I could drive to it and had such a great time; I’m going to go WHEREVER you are next year!’ For all these reasons, choosing a location for JoeCon is often a lot more magic—than it is science.”

Sometimes the surprise

SURPRISE! Sometimes the free convention “extras” given out to attendees are GREAT and sometimes they’re not. This year, at JoeCon 2015, 12-inch fans received a STUNNING Adventure Team pilot’s helmet (its logo is painted on, not a cheap sticker) along with a matching yellow parachute box (including straps but no ‘chute). These FREE gifts were very much appreciated. Thanks, Brian! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Many fans also received  FREE JoeCon 2015 jackets for their Fantastic Freefall figures. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Many 12″ fans also received FREE JoeCon 2015 jackets for their Fantastic Freefall figures. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

On Working With Hasbro and the State of the GIjOE Brand in 2015:

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“The Joe people, because it (GIjOE) hasn’t been in the retail stores, they pretty much let us run amok (in picking sets, teams and themes) for a lot of it now…They do work with us. There’s nothing heavy-handed…They’ve been trying as a company, for the last 4 months, to integrate us better on both sides. The GIjOE brand just isn’t there, because they (Joes at retail) are in such an anemic state right now. And you know, you couldn’t ask for two better people to work with than Derryl (DePriest) and Mark (Weber).” (He goes on to explain that there is just not enough demand or resource for both sizes.)” 

The Man of Action accessory set, while uninspired, will offer fans the chance to dress their new membership figure, as well as house him in a nice repro box. Actually, the box is the most appealing part of this entire set. (Photo: GIJCC)

The GIjOE club’s reproduction Man of Action figure, box and accessory set were the closest Hasbro would get to an “official” 12″ commemorative of the brand’s 50th anniversary. (Photo: GIJCC)

“In my opinion, they blew a whole opportunity to artificially (because of the 50th Anniversary) recreate GIjOE and drag it (the 12″ GIjOE brand) up from the depths again. But the company decided not to emphasize the anniversary. If WE (the GIjOE Club) were supposed to head up the 50th anniversary celebration, then that’s kind’a sad (as there is no way they could do with the brand what Hasbro can).”
GIjOE Brand Manager Mark Weber (l) and Hasbro Global Brand Manager Derryl DePriest (c) took time at JoeCon 2015 to patiently reply to  questions from fans and the media. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

GIjOE Brand Manager Mark Weber (l) and Hasbro Global Brand Manager Derryl DePriest (c) repeatedly took time during JoeCon 2015 to patiently answer questions from fans and members of the media. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“It’s all strange and wondrous (the last 18 years)… I don’t even remember the names of all of the people we’ve worked with there (at Hasbro). I’ve been working with them for 18 years. I’ve got more time on the brand than anybody that’s there at Hasbro, except maybe Derryl (DePriest)…There’s a lot more phone calls and stuff now that he and Mark are on the brand.

Above: The parachute drop at the 2009 JoeCon in Kansas City, MO, was one of the last truly big “media event” drops hosted by the GIjOE Collector’s Club. Sadly, since that time, the activity seems to have lost its focus, forcing the club to shelve future drops while reconsidering its purpose.

On the Evolution and Disappearance of the Parachute Drop at JoeCon 2015:

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“The parachute drop (has) become something totally different than what it was designed to do in the beginning. It was designed to #1: Stop 12-inch collectors from throwing parachute figures off the building at night. And #2: So that we could have an event for the media, to get on TV.

We used to sell the extra figures to cover the costs of the free ones we were throwing off the building. But now, the parachute jump has kind of devolved into this ‘extra collector thing I have to have.’ So we need to go back and rethink what we’re doing, because it’s not serving its original (media event) purpose anymore.”

On the Day-to-Day Difficulties of Dealing With Dissatisfied Club Members: 

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“What we find on the web is that people often go to non-related forums or contact Hasbro to ask a question or complain without ever contacting us. If you have a question or concern, you can email or call our office. We want to help you get the correct answer.”
In the

Just Joking (Sort Of)— In the post-Con Questionnaire that attendees fill out and return to the club’s information booth, we made sure to indicate our preference for super-articulated 12-inch club figures with KFG (YES!). And then we jokingly named Hasbro as our “favorite GIjOE enemy.” HA! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

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“I answer almost every email, and if not, we’ll put something out that has the information on it. That’s why we put out a newsletter and a website. Sometimes I get so many emails from the same people. I don’t mind answering one or two, but when you’re sending me one every three or four days, it becomes overwhelming. If I have 3,000 people in each club (GIjOEs and Transformers), sending this many emails we won’t do anything except answer emails.”

Finally, in a previous interview over on joecustoms.com (HERE), Savage cleared up the differences between Fun Publications, the Master Collector and the GIjOE Collector’s Club, saying:

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“Fun Publications, Inc. is our company. Master Collector is one of our websites and was the classified ad publication for trading toys. We ceased publication of the print version of MC a year ago. The G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club and the Transformers Collectors’ Clubs are officially licensed by Hasbro and are business units of our company. That means every figure or accessory we produce are officially in the cannon of G.I. Joe.”

After thanking Savage again for his years of hard work, the hallway O&A group slowly began to disperse; but before they did, Brian politely and thoughtfully thanked them in return, saying:

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 “I sure appreciate y’all coming, and taking the time to listen, and the feedback—and all that stuff!”

Savage has grown increasingly popular with fans of 1:6 GIjOEs, as they have begun to realize he is now the

Savage Faces the Fans— Brian has grown increasingly popular among GIjOE collectors, especially fans of 1:6 scale figures, as they have begun to realize that Savage’s business (Fun Publications, Inc.) provides the best chance for the creation and continuation of new, officially licensed (12-inch) GIjOE-brand action figures. Here, Savage answers an additional 30 minutes of questions from fans of 1:6 scale Joes during an unscheduled “Hallway Q&A” at JoeCon 2015. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

GIjOE Collector's Club logo

GIjOE Collector’s Club logo

Bottom Line: Savage and his GIjOE Collector’s Club have certainly earned their place at the top of the GIjOE collecting pantheon. There’s an undeniable “sense of historic occasion” to each of Savage’s JoeCons; and while they may not all be successes, when they do “hit,” they typically hit on all cylinders, providing 3 days of fun and opportunity for thousands of fortunate fans. After all, many collectors remain GIjOE brand purists, demanding only Hasbro-stamped butt cheeks and Hasbro-branded coffin boxes. For them, nothing else but official Hasbro-licensed GIjOE products will do. And for them, Brian Savage remains solidly in business. He and the GIJCC are probably the last, BEST hope for such products in the future. Remember: Only GIjOE—is GIjOE!

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Action Man Journeys Into Space in New UK Video

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

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

Some GIjOE/Action Man fans are talented—and then there’s the world’s-leading Action Man graphics guru, Robert Wisdom. As you may recall from our previous article profiling Wisdom (HERE), his work is top-drawer all the way and professionally produced. Recently, Wisdom completed a new video short (see above), that reimagines the early days of America’s space race and NASA’s Mercury space capsule missions in particular. The hero of his short is, of course, a vintage ’60s Action Man astronaut, ably supported by a superb ground crew from the same era. Before being released, Robert had written in to describe his new project to us, saying:

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“I’m going to film him (Action Man) suiting up, getting into launch position, and shooting into space. Then, there’ll be a space-walk and Earth floating in the background. The sound will be actual dialogue from one of the missions and some cool layered music. I’m having to polish his visor somewhat first because of the HD and close-ups. That’s the biggest hurdle so far; would you believe? I’m filming primarily with green screen, and I have some glow-sticks to put in the capsule’s footwell for added authenticity. It won’t be long, but it should be good, taking 2-3 weeks to produce.”
In this superb retro-comic ad "teaser" for his new video, Robert Wisdom recreates the look of an old comic book ad of the 1960s. Excellent work, Robert! (Graphic: Robert Wisdom) Click to enlarge (and print!)

Action Man’s “Mission Mercury”— In this superb “teaser ad” for his new video, Robert Wisdom recreates the look of old comic book ad from the 1960s. (Graphic: Robert Wisdom) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: Wisdom’s new video IS excellent in every way and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Without a doubt, it’s the most visually perfect the GIjOE/Action Man astronaut figure has ever been depicted on-screen. Our sincerest thanks go out to Robert for sharing his new fan video and the supporting “teaser ad” (shown above) with readers of The Joe Report. Go, Action Man! Go, Robert!

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JoeCon 2015 Captured in Widescreen HD Video

Bottom Line: In this, the first of THREE articles we have planned covering JoeCon 2015, we thought we’d surprise you. Rather than penning paragraph after paragraph of descriptive text, we chose instead to produce a documentary video of the show. That way, you’ll get to see and HEAR highlights captured during its actual events. And if you weren’t able to attend in person, then this should provide a “You Are There” experience for what you missed. Finally, to assure you receive the finest coverage available, our Joe Report film crew shot the entire production in FULL high-definition (HD) widescreen. So, sit back, enlarge the picture to fill your screen—and ENJOY!

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That’s a Wrap, Fans———JoeCon 2015 Is Now History

Hasbro's new Brand Manager for GIjOE, Mark Weber, folds his arms in satisfaction after conducting a "2015 new product" seminar and carefully arranging is officially He's "The Man"

He’s “The Man”— Hasbro’s new Brand Manager for GIjOE, Mark Weber, sits back in satisfaction in the dealer/exhibit hall at JoeCon 2015. Weber was taking a short break after co-conducting the “Hasbro Brand Panel” discussion with fellow company exec, Derryl DePriest. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: Just a quick heads up to let readers of The Joe Report know that we’re now back from covering the events at JoeCon 2015 in Springfield, Illinois. This year’s extravaganza was so jam-packed with Joe-fun, that we’re going to have to break up our reportage into three separate articles. Stand by for article #1, a general overview of all the action—complete with HD video! 

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Stormy Skies Unlikely to Deter Thousands of Die-Hard G.I. Joe Fans From Attending JoeCon

Serious rain is falling all across Illinois at the moment, but it's unlikely to effect the action occurring largely indoors at this year's JoeCon 2015 in Springfield, IL. (Photo: Ev Cabrera Marinucci)

Button up and put the Pedal to the Metal Heavy rains currently falling across Illinois are unlikely to effect the turnout at this year’s JoeCon 2015 being held in Springfield. (Photo: Ev Cabrera Marinucci)

Bottom Line: Well, the sun is up but we can’t see it through all the rain, lightning and tumbling thunderheads. Nonetheless, fans from all over the U.S. will be headed to Illinois’ capital city this weekend for 3 days of fun with the world’s favorite action figure—GIjOE. Just a heads up though, whether you’re on the road or up in the air, THIS is what it looks like down here on the ground. It’s raining cats-n-dogs at the moment (great for when we plant corn and soybeans later this month), but we don’t think the storms will have ANY effect on the thousands of excited fans who’re planning to attend. Safe travels, everyone. Hope to see you soon. Go, JOE!

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KY Man Builds Real Wooden Boxes & Crates at 1:6 Scale For Use With 12-Inch G.I. Joe Action Figures

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Holy Supply Depot, Joe! These 1:6 scale ammo, food and equipment crates were all handcrafted out of wood by one very talented and generous GIjOE fan—Danny Garrett. OOHrah! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

Danny Garrett

Danny Garrett in his workshop. (Photo: Danny Garrett)

And Then He GIVES THEM AWAY!

For 35 years, Danny Garrett (KY) has been faithfully serving his local community as a professional nurse; spending the last 10 years in the high-pressure environment of his hospital’s “ER,” or Emergency Room. Fortunately for Garrett, whenever the daily drama of his real life becomes too stressful, he can retreat to a cozy workroom at home and enjoy—the World of 1:6 Scale!

After hours spent cutting, sanding, shaping, gluing and detailing a variety of tiny wooden boxes for use with 12-inch action figures, the cares and pressures of his real-life work day begin to melt away. Turning his talented hands from patient care—to creating 1:6 scale accessories—is clearly beneficial to Garrett as an individual both creatively and therapeutically. But the very same thoughtful and giving personality that’s served Danny so well throughout his career in nursing, also prevents him from keeping (most of) his amazing creations. That’s right. Danny GIVES AWAY his superb miniature masterpieces to fellow fans and collectors of GIjOE. We asked Danny to elaborate and he replied:

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Ding Dang It! I'm going to GIVE THEM AWAY if I want to! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

He’s Determined— Danny’s going to GIVE AWAY his creations—and dude, YOU can’t stop him! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

“I received my first GIjOE back in 1965. I was soon making scenes with him and his friends, Stoney Smith and Johnny West. Now I make dioramas with Joe and all his friends. I find myself being absorbed with dioramas as a release from the crazy world of the ER. It’s also a good way to support the GIjOE hobby and my fellow ‘Trenchers.’

My wife’s grandfather taught me to do wood-working, so I use the same techniques in making my boxes/crates. His advice was, once you set up a jig or pattern, it’s just as easy to make a dozen as it is to make one. So, I make more and bring them to Joelanta and give them away.

Now I have the whole family involved in building and finding objects to use in the next one. The grandchildren come over to see what ‘PawPaw’ is making now and give their suggestions. 

I first started giving away wooden boxes at Joelanta back in 2011. I’m always glad to see a smile whenever someone gets something free. So each year, I bring the fruit crates and something new to give away. The best is when you give one to a kid and see their smile. Thanks for your interest!” Danny Garrett, KY

Garrett's work is SO much BETTER than than any cheap plastic versions mass-produced over in China. In the photo shown above, Danny carefully "reimagines" numerous raw pieces of wood into all-new accurate 1:6 replicas of munition boxes, crates and loading pallets. SUPERB! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

Danny’s work is SO much BETTER than any cheap plastic versions mass-produced over in China. In the photo shown above, he carefully “reimagines” numerous raw pieces of wood into all-new accurate 1:6 scale replicas of munition boxes, crates and loading pallets. SUPERB! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

EXCLUSIVE JUMBO PIC— Garrett graced us with these superb samples of his work at Joelanta 2013. The fit, finish and quality are all TOP-NOTCH. For a super closeup of these intricate boxes, crates and pallet, click to enlarge. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

EXCLUSIVE BONUS “JUMBO” PIC— Garrett graced us with some superb samples of his work at Joelanta 2013. Their fit, finish and quality are indeed, TOP-NOTCH. Click to enlarge. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

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Depending on their contents, some of Danny’s creations receive added details such as labels, rope handles and even custom paint jobs. (Photo: Danny Garrett)

Bottom Line: It was a pleasure to meet Danny at Joelanta 2013. He certainly surprised me when he reached out for my hands and then loaded them up with the FREE swag shown in the photo above. What a talented and generous guy! The patients at his Kentucky hospital are certainly lucky to have such a caring and thoughtful person looking after their needs. Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to Mr. Garrett for his assistance with this article and for all that he’s doing (and done) for the 1:6 scale collecting and customizing hobbies.

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OOO-OOO! AAA-AAA! Catching Up With Mary Votava, aka “Monkey Woman,” from Syfy’s Hit Reality-TV Show, Stan Lee’s: Who Wants to Be a Superhero?

The Perfect Primate? Renowned actress/singer, Mary Votava, poses for a publicity still. (Photo: Mary Votava)

The Perfect Primate? Renowned actress/singer, Mary Votava, aka “Monkey Woman” from Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero? (Photo: Mary Votava)

Monkey Woman had it all. She was beautiful, fit, athletic and super-sexy in her skimpy jungle costume and go-go boots. What a character! (Photo: Syfy)

Monkey Woman had it all. She was beautiful, fit, athletic and super-sexy in her 2-piece jungle costume and bright yellow go-go boots. What a swinger! (Photo: SyFy)

Fourth in a Series of Exclusive Interviews with Contestants of the Syfy Channel’s Reality TV Show, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?”

By Mark Otnes, 4-5-2015
Editor, The Joe Report

When Syfy TV viewers first caught a glimpse of Mary Votava, they could see right away she was fit, trim and beautiful. And muscular. And athletic. After all, her homemade “bikini-n-bananas” costume left little else to the imagination. But when Votava firmly planted her wooden staff, opened her mouth wide and suddenly let forth with a loud, piercing monkey scream, “Ooo-Ooo! Aaa-Aaa-Aaa!,” everyone else in the room (and everyone watching at home) could tell that this powerfully petite, modern-day female Tarzan was someone intent on making a STRONG impression on her competition—and she did!

As her fans now know, Votava hails from Kirkland, Washington and is a part-time actress and singer who’s appeared in numerous stage and theater productions as well as independent films produced primarily in her native Northwest. But it was 9 years ago, when her on-screen looks, performing talents and outstanding athleticism all fused together perfectly to help land her the role she’s STILL best known for today—a tree-climbing, vine-swinging, dog-fighting, banana-swallowing, superheroine wannabe, affectionately known as—Monkey Woman.

As seen in this publicity still, Mary's piercing green eyes were perfect for her jungle-bound eco-warrior superhero character, Monkey Woman.

We’re GREEN with Envy As shown in this superb “head shot” or publicity still, Mary’s piercing green eyes were perfect for a jungle-bred, eco-warrior, super-heroine character like Monkey Woman. WOW! (Photo: Mary Votava)

Votava and other contestants vying for a spot on Stan Lee's "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" in 1996. (Photo: Syfy)

Va-Va-Va-VOOM! Votava and many other beautiful contestants vied for a spot on Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” TV show. (Photo: Syfy)

Votava debuted her Monkey Woman character back in 2006 on Syfy’s ground-breaking,“Who Wants to be a Superhero?” (WWTBASH) reality TV show (to great excitement and potential). But sadly, after only three episodes, she was unexpectedly eliminated by its host, Stan Lee. Despite an all-too-short foray into reality television, Mary’s appearances proved “wildly” entertaining and she left an indelible impression upon the hearts and minds of millions of fans. But whatever became of the beautiful Mary Votava after her untimely departure from the show? Where did she go? What did she do next? We were eager to uncover the fate of the Syfy jungle queen and contacted Votava recently at her home in Washington. She kindly consented to our request for this interview and also provided many of the its exclusive photos as well, most of which have never been seen by her fans before. Enjoy!

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The passing of the years have done little to dim the natural beauty of Votava, though she now seeks a life largely out of the limelight. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Before we begin, please allow me to thank you for taking the time to reply to our questions. I’m a huge fan of yours, of your Monkey Woman superhero character and of the show, Who Wants to be a Superhero? (WWTBASH). It’s been a genuine pleasure to conduct these contestant interviews and I’m sure your fans can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to since 2006.

TJR: Let’s begin by catching up. What most of us know about Mary Votava ends about 2007. According to LinkedIn, you’re now a “Product Marketing Manager” for Microsoft in the Greater Seattle Area. Congratulations! What have you been up to for the last 7 years and how did you end up working in that particular position?

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“Around 2008, I began seriously looking for a career change.  I explored the idea of going back to school to get another degree, and around that time began doing part-time marketing contract work with different groups within Microsoft. I found it to be a great fit for me, as I enjoy the intellectual challenge, the people and culture of high-tech, and I have always been a huge fan of Microsoft specifically (at one point, to illustrate my nerdy side, I even put on my Match.com profile that I get way too excited about a finely crafted Excel spreadsheet). One opportunity led to another, until I came into my current position on the US Office team.”

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A natural beauty Mary Votava at home in Kirkland, WA. (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: What’s a typical day like for Mary Votava now, in 2015? Can you walk us through it?

“I pretty much live the Monday-Friday ‘American Dream’ now.  My boyfriend and I wake up and get ready for work together, I feed the cats, listen to NPR while sitting in traffic on the 405, go to a lot of meetings and write a lot of emails (and occasionally actually do work), go to hot yoga in the evening, cook and eat dinner with my boyfriend, relax a bit and/or work on assorted projects, go down to my secret lair and monitor Kirkland for any supervillain activity and intervene if necessary, etc.  You know, normal stuff.”

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Remember the Alamo! Votava and Sheppard during a recent visit to the historic battle site in San Antonio, TX. (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: In previous interviews, you’ve discussed your childhood and family, but your fans know very little about your current personal life. For example, when we interviewed Chelsea Weld aka “Cell Phone Girl,” we learned that she was just about to be married. Is there any similar information about yourself that you’d care to share at this time?

“I share my life with an amazing man that I met on Match.com after moving back to my hometown, Kirkland, WA, in May. We’re both lovers of all things science (fiction or non), and enjoy quiet nights together on the couch with our Surfaces, going out in downtown Seattle, and outdoor activities. Re: the latter, Kyle has been introducing me to what Pacific Northwest has to offer, like sailing, snowshoeing, and wool socks at REI. We’re very happy together, and you can monitor my Facebook profile for any future relationship status changes of the Chelsea Weld variety!”

Votava in costume for a stage production. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Mary Votava in costume for Pirates of Penzance. (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: Your fans also already know that you’re an accomplished actress and singer, and that over your career, you’ve appeared in numerous stage productions (see a scene from The Mikado, above), performed live with an LA-based improv-comedy troupe called The Omelettes, and have acted in numerous TV shows and films. But we don’t know your performing arts goals and ambitions. Is it ultimately to be a television or film star? A singing star? Or something else?

“I did spend many years working in the performing arts, but found very little enjoyment or satisfaction in the process, or the industry as a whole. Luckily, I have found a place where I am happy and excited to come to work every day, so my professional ambitions are now very much about expanding and growing my career at Microsoft. I feel proud to be part of a company that is on the forefront of technology, whose philosophy is about empowering people. My work now aligns with what is of paramount importance to me, which is my own personal philosophy and how I live my life. My over-arching ‘goal’ is to leave the world a little better for my having been here, and have fun while I’m doing it; to be a good person, be kind to others, contribute to society, help those in need, bring a smile wherever I go, be easy to make laugh and difficult to offend, always wonder, always learn, always grow, always love. At the end of the day, if I can take inventory and feel confident I spent a little more time being this type of person vs. being a jackass, I am content.”

Silliness in a Furry Bikini—In this screen grab from "Space Guys in Space—Amazons" Votava portrays Goodah, an "ugly" alien Amazon who's eager to have "space relations" with the Earthlings. Shakespeare, it's NOT. (Photo: badmouth.net)

More Silliness in Fur Bikinis—In this screen grab from “Space Guys in Space—Amazons Votava portrays Goodah, an “ugly” alien Amazon who’s eager to have “space relations” with the Earthlings. Shakespeare, it’s NOT. (Photo: badmouth.net)

Comics legend, Stan Lee, enjoys his front row seat to Votava's fine-figured introduction of her Monkey Woman super heroine character. (Photo: Syfy)

Comics legend, Stan Lee, enjoys a front-row seat during Votava’s ear-piercing demonstration of her “Monkey Woman” jungle call. Oo-Oo-Ah-AHH!!! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: You’re clearly a very creative, multi-talented individual. Could you share your feelings and memories about your favorite show business moment to date?

“That is very kind, thank you! I must say that one of my all-time favorite memories from my time in show-business was hanging out with Stan Lee at Comic Con before WWTBASH season 1 premiered. Stan isn’t just a creative genius, comic tycoon, or celebrity – he is the type of human being I aspire to be. He exudes a vitality and kindness that is apparent to everyone around him. He was gracious and encouraging to each individual person he spoke with, and had incredible energy to boot! I have one vivid memory of walking through the halls of the San Diego Convention Center, following Stan as we went from a panel to the exhibit booth. I’m a notoriously fast walker, but at 84, Stan was easily outpacing me and everyone else. The security escort had him stop a couple of times so the group could catch up. I knew that’s how I wanted to be in 50 or so years.”

Zombies 'R Us! Surprisingly, Votava's least favorite show business memory had nothing to do with

This zombie-ized “fan art” of Votava was created by renowned graphic artist “Brett” and pays homage to her many appearances in various low-budget horror films. Absolutely FAN-tastic work, Brett! (Photo: bhold-designs)

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An Actor’s Life isn’t all Fun and Games— Having grown dissatisfied with her life as an actress, Votava has recently decided to switch careers. (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: Okay, then…what’s your least favorite show-biz memory?

“My least favorite memory would be when I was at a callback for a Crohn’s disease medication commercial. Unlike most gigs, this one paid well. So while I was doing my best impression of a woman thinly veiling the agony of impending explosive diarrhea while she greets her friend at a coffee shop, all I could think was ‘I NEED this job. I really, really NEED this job.’ That thought was soon followed by ‘Shit (no pun intended), is this really what I want to be doing with my life?’ Soon after— 

I began searching for a new career.”

Singing with Sincerity, Votava clearly

Votava’s singing and acting talents were BOTH called upon during her portrayal of Mabel, in “Pirates of Penzance.” (Photo: Mary Votava)

Gettin' Down 'n Dirty— Nowadays, Votava doesn't hesitate to shed her glamorous image in order to work on one of her latest passions—home improvement and remodeling. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Gettin’ Down ‘n Dirty— At home, Votava doesn’t hesitate to shed her makeup and show-biz past in pursuit of her latest passion—home improvement. (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: Well, it’s wonderful that you’ve found your new niche over at Microsoft, but your fans will be saddened to hear this news, nonetheless. Now that you’re moving out of the limelight, I’m curious… of all your talents as a performer, what did you enjoy the most and why? What truly satisfies Mary Votava’s creative soul?

“I definitely enjoy singing most. There is something about music that is both nerdy and magical for me; an art form based on the frequencies of sound waves emitted moment by moment, totally dependent on the flow of time for its existence. I like being a part of that, being a source of beautiful sound waves.”

TJR: Do you play any musical instruments? Have you recorded any albums or song CDs that your fans could buy? Are there any Mary Votava performance videos out there, other than the few currently up on YouTube?

“I play piano, and do some songwriting as well. However, I have not recorded anything yet. It’s on my bucket list, but right now not super high on the priority list. I have a lot of creative projects in the works that I’m passionate about – including stuff like DIY home improvements. But I’ll definitely let you know when I get bitten by musical inspiration again and start posting anything to YouTube.”

Holy, Superheroes! Votava snuggles with TV superhero icon, Adam West, during at break signing autographs at the celebrity tables at Comic Con. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Holy, Superhero Snuggles, Batman! Votava tries to stay warm in a bathrobe and by hugging fellow TV superhero, Adam West, as the two wait to participate in an autograph signing session at Comic Con. (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: In previous interviews, you discussed your interest in superheroes, Wonder Woman, X-Men and Batman in particular. Are there any plans for a Monkey Woman comic book or graphic novel? And besides being on WWTBASH, what other effects have superheroes had on your life?

“There’s no plan for a Monkey Woman comic or graphic novel, but one thing the X-Men taught me is that even if it didn’t happen by puberty, superpowers can still kick in later in life, particularly after some kind of trauma. So just for good measure, any time I trip or fall down the stairs (Kyle calls it ‘pulling a Mary’), I check to see if I’m telekinetic. (Nothing yet.)”

Can it be True? Sadly, no. Despite this mocked-up cover, there are no projects planned for Votava's superhero creation. (Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

Will Monkey Woman be swinging into a comic book store near you? Sadly, no. Despite this mocked-up cover, there are currently no such projects being planned for Votava’s Syfy TV superhero. (Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

TJR: Did you get to keep anything from the show? Your costumes? Your bed logo? Or..?

“I’m so bummed I didn’t think to take my bed logo – that would have been fun to have! I do have the poster of the cast with Stan’s autograph framed and hanging on a wall at my house. I also saved some of the marketing and publicity materials that came out around Season 1. Oh, and I *might* have the costume in a storage bin somewhere, maybe…”

MeOW, Mary!  In this exclusive photo (taken 3/2015) for The Joe Report, Votava redonned her original costume and posed holding this autographed mini-poster from Stan Lee. (Photo: Mary Votava)

MeOW, Mary! In this EXCLUSIVE PHOTO (taken 3/2015) for The Joe Report, Votava redonned her original costume and posed holding her autographed mini-poster from Stan Lee. (Photo: Mary Votava)

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Is that your jungle staff or are you just happy to see me? Votava’s appearances at comic cons always turned heads among fans and collectors. (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: Some of the other contestants from the show have attended comic book conventions in character. Do you ever participate in cosplay (costumed play) or attend comic conventions dressed as Monkey Woman (or any other character)?

“I went to a few conventions as Monkey Woman for a couple of years after the show aired. I reserve the majority of my cosplay for Halloween or Kyle now.”

TJR: The first time fans see you on WWTBASH is during an animated sequence wherein you morph from your street clothes into your Monkey Woman costume. In those comic panels, you’re described as “A Barrel Full of Heroics.” What were your thoughts when you saw yourself on the show? Did you approve of how they portrayed you?

“Hee-hee! ‘A Barrel Full of Heroics.’ I loved those opening panels! I think I felt fairly portrayed for the most part. One thing I was going for that maybe wasn’t apparent due to editing choices was a bit more tongue-and–cheek humor. Monkey Woman has a big heart and strong will, but she’s also supposed to be a bit of a cheeky monkey. I think I was portrayed as a little more serious than was my intention.”

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Jungle Power! Graphics from the show, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?,” presented Votava’s “Monkey Woman” character as “untamed, unbelievable and UNDEFEATED!” (Photo: Syfy TV)

Votava poses over Stan Lee's Hollywood "Walk of Fame" Star with fellow superhero-wannabe, Matt DeMille. (Photo: Matt DeMille)

On the streets of Hollywood, Votava posed on Stan Lee’s well-deserved “Walk of Fame” Star with fellow superhero-wannabe, Matt DeMille. (Photo: Matt DeMille)

TJR: Your fans are also interested in what didn’t make it on the air, what ended up on the cutting room floor (and why). Were there many Monkey Woman scenes cut out of the show? If so, what did we miss? These are the sorts of “behind-the-scenes” stories fans love to hear!

“I don’t envy the editors tasked with condensing hours and hours of footage into a few 43-minute episodes. I’m sure time constraints are the main reason most of the footage ended up on the cutting room floor. I may have talked about this one at some point, but just before I failed the infamous restaurant challenge, I had an encounter with a homeless person who was crossing straight into my path as I was walking to the restaurant. Before the challenge started, the producer had made a big thing out of giving us each a $20 bill, saying “don’t lose it – you’ll need it for the challenge,” so of course as soon as I saw the homeless person, I thought for sure the challenge was going to be about charity or sacrificing our lunch money for a needy person.

So, in responsible superhero fashion (rather than just giving him the money to spend on any unhealthy substances), I asked him if he wanted something for lunch, and he seemed appropriately delighted at the prospect of getting a bite to eat. As I was asking him what he wanted, the director came running up and told me not to talk to the guy but to keep going to the restaurant.”

The Pain of Elimination— When someone had to GO from the show, it was never pleasant. Clearly a favorite of Stan's, it was difficult to have to cut her after only 3 episodes. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Clearly a favorite of Stan’s, it must’ve been difficult to cut Votava after only three episodes. (Photo: Mary Votava)

“I was a little confused at first, but the director was very insistent, and it slowly dawned on me that I was talking to an actual homeless person. I asked the director if I could buy him lunch anyway, since I’d already extended the offer. He said no, I needed to keep going to the restaurant and order food for myself. 

I felt awful for having promised someone lunch who was actually in need, not just a well-fed actor playing a bum. Before I continued on to the restaurant, I made the director swear to me that they were going to give the homeless guy a nice meal from the crew’s lunch buffet. One of the D.A.s later confirmed that they had honored that promise, so I was happy.”

Facing it Together! The show's unusual challenges required contestants to both work for and against each other, resulting in exciting and enjoyable television. Here, Votava poses with fellow Season 1 contestants Steel Chambers and Chelsea Weld. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Superhero Team Up— The show’s unusual challenges regularly required contestants to work both for AND against each other, resulting in some very enjoyable television. Here, Votava poses with fellow Season 1 contestants Steel Chambers and Chelsea Stams. (Photo: Mary Votava)

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No Speargun Required Votava’s real-life scuba-diving experience probably came in handy when she was asked by the show’s producers to “fight a giant squid” (in un-aired footage) for WWTBASH. (Photo: Mary Votava)

“There were other weird activities and challenges we did that were completely edited out of the show. For one of them, we were all taken to a neighborhood downtown (I can’t remember where exactly) and told we were supposed to run around ‘assisting’ as many people as possible, and that whoever assisted the least was going to be up for elimination.

So we all poured out of the limo and started running around with camera crews following us, frightening pedestrians (“ma’am, that purse looks heavy, may I carry it for you?”) and getting kicked out of local establishments because we weren’t purchasing anything, and weirdos in superhero costumes can’t just come barging into Office Depot offering to help customers find something when we didn’t work there. After about 10 minutes of feeling less like superheroes and more like a public nuisance, a few of us resorted to just picking up trash off the street. I guess the ‘garbage collection challenge’ didn’t quite make the cut.

One other ‘behind-the-scenes’ thing I remember is this exercise wherein we had to get onto a little stage in the lair and act out improvised scenes. Ie: “Monkey Woman and Creature Fight a Giant Squid.”  I had no idea what the production team were planning to use that footage for. And apparently—neither did they!”

Monkey Woman clearly has no fear of climbing trees, so Votava felt required to demonstrate her courage and skills on the show. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Monkey Woman should have no fear of climbing trees, and Votava felt it important to demonstrate her skills on the show. (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: Stan Lee’s first challenge for Season 1 contestants was “changing into your superhero costumes in public.” Surprisingly, you decided to change your clothes—up in a tree. That seems like a VERY hard way to accomplish a simple task. You could’ve just stepped into a nearby porta-potty (like others), but instead, you climbed up a tree and reemerged later wearing your Monkey Woman costume. For an event where contestants were supposed to “change without being seen” (ala Clark Kent), it seems unlikely that you would’ve been able to find enough privacy in a tree to avoid exposing yourself in an “unheroic” fashion. We can understand wanting to stay in character as Monkey Woman, but what were the realities of that challenge? Were you embarrassed? Did it go smoothly? Or difficultly? Did you feel like you might fall at any point? What can you tell us that we may not already know about that event?

In her free time, the intrepid Votava actually enjoys climbing trees for fun—even at night! (Photo: Mary Votava)

According to Votava, unless you’re standing in the right place below a tree, it can be difficult to see someone perched high above. (Photo: Mary Votava)

The amount of privacy afforded by a tree is entirely dependent on the type of tree involved. Ideally, it would be a very leafy, deciduous tree with minimal ground visibility. As you noted, my main objective was to maintain Monkey Woman’s M.O. (you know, for artistic integrity).”

If you need someone to climb a tree for you, you know who to call. Monkey Woman! (Photo: Mary Votava)

Home Again— If you need someone to climb a tree—you know who to call! (Photo: Mary Votava)

“No embarrassment. I can guarantee you that the film crew saw a lot worse that day, and people not directly below the tree wouldn’t have had good visibility as it was fairly leafy from further away. Also, having worked in theater for years, I am quite adept at changing modestly with no coverage other than my own clothes.” 

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Clearly a “comfortable climber,” Votava still enjoys hanging around on neighborhood jungle gyms. After all, it’s important to keep in shape for crime-fighting! (Photo: Mary Votava)

No fear. I took gymnastics for a couple of years as a kid, and climbing trees was one of my favorite childhood activities. I used to climb to the top of a tree with my journal and write poetry as a kid. So I’m very comfortable “hands free” in trees.   

But here’s what you may not already know that went on behind the scenes: Once I’d climbed up the tree and started to change, I heard a “HOLD” from below. The park’s groundskeeper had come over and was talking to the crew. He wanted me out of the tree immediately, for park liability reasons. (Yet another superhero public nuisance).

So… I had to climb back down. The groundskeeper let us film one quick shot of me coming back down from the tree in costume. But what really happened was that I did most of my changing down on the ground, climbing back up again for that final exiting shot.”

As agile as her namesake, Votava performs a final flip out of the tree in the park. (Photo: Syfy)

As agile as her namesake, Votava performs her final flip out of the park’s “changing” tree. (Photo: Syfy)

In another EXCLUSIVE PHOTO taken for The Joe Report, Votava

In a second EXCLUSIVE PHOTO (taken 3/2015) for The Joe Report, Votava demonstrates she’s lost none of her beautifully fit figure. Only the faded stripes on her yellow go-go boots need a touch-up. WOW! (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: You’re clearly physically gifted as well as talented. In addition to your obvious beauty, you’re fit, toned and muscular. As a result, you quickly proved to be a leader among the show’s contestants, at least athletically. For example, climbing up that tree was the first indication of your impressive athleticism. Most woman would have struggled to accomplish that feat within a reasonable time (if at all), but you climbed right up—just like a monkey! Then later, when you ran past the crying little girl (D’oh!), you did so nonetheless, with the powerful stride of someone who runs regularly. What sports or other exercise activities do you participate in and enjoy? What is your typical health regimen? What are Mary Votava’s favorite “beauty secrets?”

“Thank you for all the compliments – I’m so flattered!  Throughout my life, I’ve always has some kind of regular (>4x per week) fitness practice. When I was a kid and all through high school, I was a swimmer (in addition to a masterful tree climber). In college, I started running regularly and continued this, or using elliptical machines at the gym, throughout my 20’s. For the past few years, yoga (now hot yoga) has been my main fitness regimen. On my off days, I stay active and have participated in a plethora of other athletic activities over the years, including soccer, volleyball, rock climbing, figure skating, and Australian rules football, to name a few.”

High atop a Hawaiian Volcano, Mary demonstrates her mastery of an elegant (and difficult) yoga pose. (Photo: Mary Votava)

High atop a Hawaiian Volcano, Mary demonstrates a difficult yoga pose. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Look out BELOW! Staying in shape has helped give Votava the courage and confidence to try numerous activities, including high cliff jumping! (Photo: Mary Votava)

Look out BELOW! Staying in shape has helped give Votava the courage and confidence to attempt numerous activities, including—gulp—cliff-jump diving! (Photo: Mary Votava)

“I’m also a healthy eater. I avoid all the ‘carb bombs’ like sugar, bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. I drink a lot of water. I wear sunscreen. I exfoliate regularly. I use anti-oxidants and moisturizers. I floss my teeth every night. I hang upside-down in an inversion table. I probably have about 40 good habits built into my daily/weekly routine that I’ve adopted over time. It’s all well-known stuff – there is no secret recipe other than doing them, and doing them more or less every day for the rest of your life. (I give myself 1 day off per week to be lazy and eat junk food if that’s what I feel like).”

TJR: In a later episode of WWTBASH, you famously revealed your strength and amazing physical endurance (again) during the “attack dog challenge.” That was the moment that many of us became life-long Mary Votava fans. Your determination and courage were VERY impressive to watch, even in the show’s edited-down, final form. After that challenge, Stan Lee himself commented:

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“Monkey Woman…I don’t know that I’ve ever seen ANYTHING like what you did today. Young lady, I am VERY proud of you.”

A frustrated Votava, vowed to take on the attack dog challenge head-on. The results of her convictions were inspiring, to say the least! (Photo: Syfy)

A frustrated Votava vowed to tackle the attack dog challenge head-on. The results of her attempt were inspiring, to say the least! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: We have to imagine that you were riding pretty high after that!

“Oh my goodness, yes – that moment alone made my entire experience on the show worthwhile. I’d felt frustrated for most of the filming because I didn’t know what was going on, or what the rules of the game were, or if there even WAS a contest taking place or if we were just being strung along like puppets. And I was pretty frustrated with my life at the time in general.”

Look in those EYES! Votava charged at the dogs like a linebacker, showing incredible courage and determination. (Photo: Syfy)

Look in those EYES! Votava hopped over the fence into the yard and actually charged at the attack dogs like a linebacker, showing INCREDIBLE courage and determination. (Photo: Syfy)

Back to Earth— Despite her bravado, the petite Votava was quickly brought down—and HELD DOWN—by the trained attack dogs. Time and time again, she would spun around, turned around, and dragged back into the yard. (Photo: Syfy)

Back to Earth— Despite her bravado, the petite Votava was quickly brought down—and then HELD DOWN—by the two trained attack dogs. Time and time again, she was turned and DRAGGED around the yard. (Photo: Syfy)

“But that day, I got to prove to myself what I’m made of. I figured I probably wouldn’t get another opportunity to wear a full dog suit and try something like it (YOLO, right?), so that challenge was a bit of a personal metaphor to me. I’d made up my mind that as long as I didn’t have a time limit, and as long as I wasn’t sustaining serious bodily harm, I was going to just keep moving little by little until I reached my goal—for no other reason than because I decided so.”

Almost There! After her painful and unbelievable "Dogs vs. Human" wrestling match, Votava found she had to push the dogs out of the way through sheer WILL. (Photo: Syfy)

Putting Her Head Down— After 9 minutes of a very painful and dangerous “Dogs vs. Human” backyard wrestling match, Votava eventually found herself pushing past the dogs through the use of sheer WILL. (Photo: Syfy)

 

“I’ll admit, when I got in there, it was a lot harder than I had imagined (those dogs were A LOT stronger than the goofball Labradors I grew up with), but I’d already made up my mind. So, for my own personal reasons, it was a very meaningful 10 minutes; to have Stan Lee witness and then acknowledge it the way he did was truly one of the proudest moments of my life!”

SUCCESS! By finally touching the back door, Votava had successfully completed the challenge.

SUCCESS! By touching the back door, Votava successfully completed the arduous challenge. At almost 10 minutes, her struggle was (by far) the most impressive and inspiring of all. (Photo: Syfy)

That Votava Energy

Determined If you need a poster-child for “getting it done,” we’d know who to suggest! (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: In previous interviews, you’ve said that the show’s producers thought none of the women would be able to make it to the door in the dog challenge and that they should all just try to “put on a good show.” Some did just that, but then YOU absolutely refused to quit. Your performance against the dogs had to be the single most inspiring moment on that show—ever—by ANY contestant. I don’t really have a question for you here, but if you have any other “behind-the-scenes” memories from that day or that event that you haven’t already shared, I know your fans would LOVE to hear about them.

No Contest? Fellow contestant, Steel Chambers, was a man-mountain of muscle and the two dogs did little to slow his progress. At one point, he actually lifts both dogs as he marched across the yard! (Photo: Syfy)

A Battle of Brawn— Fellow contestant, Steel Chambers (aka “The Iron Enforcer”), a man-mountain of MUSCLE, felt the two dogs could do little to stop his progress. At one point, he actually appeared to LIFT both dogs off the ground as he marched across the yard! (Photo: Syfy)

“Again, thank you so much for your kind words!  I’m so honored that my turn in the dog challenge resonated with so many people – as I said above, it meant a lot to me at the time, and the fact that it inspired other people as well is incredibly heartwarming and humbling to me!

I’d like to share something that happened behind the scenes that hopefully helps exonerate one of my fellow cast members.  Before the challenge, the dog trainer thoroughly went over all of the safety instructions with us.  He told us that the dogs were trained to grab you ONLY by the arms and legs, and pin you to the ground.”

Shocker— Chambers is pulled down and quits. (Photo: Syfy)

Shocker— Chambers goes down and quits! (Photo: Syfy)

“He was explicit that they would not go after your hands, feet, head, or anywhere near the neck. However, “Iron Enforcer” (Steel), missed this piece of information. So when the dogs knocked him down close to the door, he wasn’t certain they wouldn’t go straight for his jugular.”

What REALLY happened? The hulking, sulking Chambers made no attempt to hide his disappointment at failing the challenge and turned away to be alone. (Photo: Syfy)

What Just Happened? A hulking, sulking Chambers made no attempt to mask his disappointment after failing against the dogs. Votava believes it was simply a matter of miscommunication.  (Photo: Syfy)

“Another thing that I still think funny is what was going through my own head during the challenge. After failing the ‘lost child’ challenge (shown below, Ed.), I was hyper-vigilant for any twists or tricks.”

The LOOK of a Superhero— Watching Votava stride purposefully across the plaza (in go-go boots, nonetheless), it's hard to imagine her not winning the competition or at least making it to the final 3. THIS is what a superhero looks like! (Photo: Syfy)

Run, Mary, RUN!— As Votava strode quickly and easily through the city’s park plaza (in her furry bikini and go-go boots, nonetheless), she appeared to be a natural and top contender of the competition. However, WWTBASH creator Stan Lee had prepared some unexpected “tests” which soon tripped up Mary’s chances. Regardless of the outcome, THIS—is what a superhero LOOKS like! (Photo: Syfy)

“So while I was wrestling with 150-ish lbs of German Shepherd, my mind was racing with ‘is there someone in ‘danger’ in this yard that I’m really supposed to try to get to, like a fake mailman?’ or ‘is there something else going on here that I’m supposed to do besides get to the door?’ Even for hours afterwards, I was still on pins and needles waiting to find out if there was some other trick to the challenge that I’d failed. I really didn’t expect it to be straightforward, and was pleasantly surprised that it was!”

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Please help me! I can’t find my Mommy!— Sadly, Votava may have been TOO focused, because in the next regrettable instant, she ran right past the person she was supposed to help. (Photo: Syfy)

Staying in Character— In one telling scene, Votava was shown dusting the lair as only Monkey Woman would—while hanging from a nearby shelf! Such touches were entirely Mary's way of demonstrating her character's offbeat perspective of the world. (Photo: Syfy)

Staying in Character— Votava dusted the lair as only a “Monkey Woman” would. Hilarious! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: In one scene in the lair, you were shown hanging like a monkey, dusting some shelves. Was that your idea entirely, or was it some sort of director-suggested stunt? What else did you do on the show to try to BE Monkey Woman?

“That one was my idea. I vaguely remember a big rope hanging in the middle of one of the rooms that I climbed up at some point, too. I also snacked on bananas during the filming and pretended to pick nits from the other contestants’ hair and eat them!”

Maryvotava,com is no more— In a blunt admission, Votava has announced, "

Show-Biz Glamour Was Great— But the high-tech business world is where Votava prefers to live and work now. Sorry, boys! (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: At one time you had your own show business website, maryvotava.com, but it’s no longer on the internet. Have you taken it down for upgrades?  Or is it gone for good? Besides Facebook, what are your future self-promotional plans online? Perhaps a personal blog or performing videos?

“Maryvotava.com is officially retired. I don’t have any plans for self-promotion online, other than keeping my LinkedIn profile up to date. I’m solely focused on my career in the high-tech industry now.”

Yes, She's a Cat Lover! Votava is a longtime animal fan and currently takes care of fabulous felines. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Monkeys Love Cats? Well, Votava certainly does. She currently cares for two! (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: Judging by your photos online, you’re also quite the cat fancier. Can you tell us about your interest in animals, your favorites, etc.?

“I LOVE animals and support the Humane Society and ASPCA for the great work they do! My parents are great nature lovers, and I grew up with (not all at the same time) cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, fish, and the occasional rescued crow or squirrel. We were always taking in strays and housing them until we found their owner. Many ended up staying.”

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It’s a Cat’s Life— And clearly it’s a loving one if you’re living with Mary. Purrrrr (Photo: Mary Votava)

“As far as my own pets go, I like cats because they are low-maintenance, high-yield, and self-cleaning (of course). My two babies, Piggy and Pie Face, both came from shelters. Piggy “sings” duets with me and stands up on his hind legs when he smells chicken or just wants to be petted.  Pie Face likes eating Doritos, and dragging laundry into whichever room I’m in as “gift” (and I’m grateful because laundry is definitely a better gift than dead things). She is curled up next to me right now, purring.”

In this third EXCLUSIVE PHOTO for The Joe Report, Mary gestures to some shelving she recently enjoyed building and assembling in her home. (Photo: Mary Votava)

SUPER Shelves! In this third EXCLUSIVE PHOTO for The Joe Report, Mary gestures to some new shelving she recently enjoyed building and assembling in her home—for FUN! (Photo: Mary Votava)

TJR: How about hobbies? Since you’re beginning to move away from acting, singing and performing, what do other activities do you enjoy participating in now?

“I am passionate about learning or trying out new things, ie: I recently took a few aerialist classes to learn some circus tricks. I always love geocaching (nerd alert!), especially when I’m traveling or visiting a new city. I tend to cycle through 1-off creative projects like knitting, sewing, building things (just built some custom CD/DVD towers to house our media until my boyfriend can digitize it), painting, cooking, or working on a piece of music.”

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Not Too HOT to Handle— Votava poses pretty on a fast-looking motorcycle while on vacation. Va-va-va-VAROOMMMM!!! (Photo: Mary Votava)

Which Side Was He On?

Superhero or Villain?— The reintroduction of (eliminated) contestant Steel Chambers as a villain called “The Dark Enforcer” was intended to put the remaining contestants on their guard. And it worked! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Turning back to the show… When the “Dark Enforcer” (fellow contestant Steel Chambers in a surprising return) first comes back up those stairs into the lair, you immediately moved off the couch and into a defensive position with your staff at the ready. Then, when he began insulting the others, and especially Tyveculus, by saying:

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“Tyveculus, you’re a joke!”

TJR: Were you worried tempers might suddenly flare between the two men and that things might get out of hand? Or did you feel it was all scripted and preplanned? What do you remember about that moment? Were you EVER worried that contestants were going to be called upon to actually FIGHT villains physically? What was the reality of that night’s tense situation? What was happening?

“LOL, no I was never worried we were going to be asked to physically fight or be put into any real danger. There were many times where we were directed to do something during the film shoot. Dark Enforcer’s entrance is a good example of one of those directed moments. No one was actually worried, upset, or angry.  Steel is a really good guy who was playing a part, and we were supposed to play along.”

NOW We're Talking!

Ba-Da-BOOM!!! In a show that portrayed mostly normal people trying to look and behave “super,” the first sight of Steel Chambers as The Dark Enforcer evoked one of those rare GOTCHA!-moments wherein viewers felt like they were finally seeing someone who could’ve REALLY been super-powered. Chambers’ height and physique were perfect and his appearance was ELECTRIC. Fortunately (according to Votava), we now know that his bluster was all for show—and FOR the show. Phew! (Photo: Syfy)

Looking Back—

Votava found herself inside a “handsome hunk sandwich” during the show’s premiere, posing with fellow contestants, Matthew Atherton (l) and Tobias Trost (r). (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: That’s fascinating! I don’t think many fans really knew or appreciated those aspects of the show until just now. Thanks for all of your insight. I know your fans also wonder about the other challenges of Season 1 and your VERY untimely elimination. As we recall, you were eliminated from the show for revealing your secret identity to a waiter during the “restaurant challenge” and for not disclosing to Stan Lee beforehand that you were (at that time) working as an actress.

As a result, and despite your obvious “super” potential and outstanding performance against the attack dogs, Monkey Woman was suddenly “history” after only 3 episodes! Looking back on your days on the show now, what do you remember the most? What would you have done differently? What do your fans NOT know about your experiences on the show?

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Diggin’ that Curvy Linework— Votava’s “Monkey Woman” character would’ve been a sheer pleasure to draw in comic book form, as the show’s talented artists were happy to demonstrate! (Graphic: Syfy)

Are you lookin' at Me? Well, YES, we kind'a are, Mary. WOW! (Photo: Mary Votava)

Are you lookin’ at Me? Well, YES, we kind’a are, Mary. Zinga! (Photo: Mary Votava)

“Other than the dog challenge, what I remember most about my experience on the show was the sense of sheer confusion around what was happening. I felt constantly in the dark over what was going on. The instructions we got day-to-day were generally vague or misleading.

For example, the producer once came into our bunk room at bedtime and told us to keep our costumes close by in case we immediately needed them sometime in the middle of the night. Some people were so concerned by this, they were going to sleep in their costumes. Nothing ever came of it, of course.

For the entire duration of the filming, except when we were sleeping, we were outfitted with body mics. Our interactions were always being overheard and possibly recorded. We spent most of our time off-camera just being ourselves, chatting with one another, or the production crew, or bystanders, etc. while wearing the microphones.”

A Somber Stan Lee listens as Votava apologizes (as we've know learned—in POST-production) before deciding her fate. (Photo: Syfy)

A Somber Stan Lee listens as Votava apologizes (according to Mary—in POST-production) about revealing her secret identity to a waiter and for concealing the fact that she was indeed, an actress. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: And what about Stan Lee’s disappointment and belief that you had lied because you hadn’t disclosed being an actress?

“I never made the slightest effort to conceal the fact that I was an actress. I talked about it constantly during the shoot, as per why I was discussing it with the actor playing the waiter in the restaurant challenge. The production company asked me to state my occupation as ‘real estate investor’ after I’d explained that part of how I was paying my bills (at the time) came from the recent sale of a house I’d remodeled. The ‘I’m sorry I lied to you’ line was recorded in post-production because they wanted stronger justification for my elimination. And so it goes!”

Facing the End— Votava stood stoically silent for most of Stan's "dressing down" of her during the elimination proceedings. Concerned contestants behind her listened intently to Stan's "charges" and appeared equally dejected. (Photo: Syfy)

Facing her Fate— After being called forward, Votava stood silently while an off-camera Stan Lee discussed her actions. This would be the end of Monkey Woman (on the show). (Photo: Syfy)

If I could go back and do anything differently, I would probably think about my role on the show from the perspective of the producer and just play along / have a bit more fun with it. I believe there was very little I could have done differently to stay on the show longer, and stressing over it added no value to my experience.”

Who Dat?—While we pictured Votava more as a Seahawks fan, she was clearly rooting for the Saints at this particular game. (Photo: Mary Votava)

Who Dat?—While we pictured Votava more as a Seahawks fan, she was clearly rooting for the Saints at this particular face-off. Sit down, Mary! It’s hard to focus on the game! (Photo: Mary Votava)

With the pressures of show business off her shoulders, Votava plans to focus on her new career with Microsoft. (That lucky Bill Gates!) (Photo: Mary Votava)

Still in the Swing— Monkey Woman and show business are behind her now, but Votava has even GREATER plans for the future. (Photo: Mary Votava)

One more "Beauty Shot" before we go. Enjoy, fellas! (Photo: Mary Votava) Click to enlarge.

One more beauty shot for the road. Enjoy, fellas! (Photo: Mary Votava) Click to enlarge.

TJR: Finally, what are your plans and goals for the future? Where can your fans see you next? How can they send you greetings or follow-up questions to this interview?

“If I ever end up in a public-facing role within Microsoft, I’ll be sure to let you know where I can be seen talking about technology. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch. I don’t spend a ton of time on social networks, but when I do, I love hearing that Monkey Woman lives on in the hearts and minds of my awesome fans!” —Mary Votava

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to the beautiful and talented Mary Votava for all of her help with this interview. She has clearly (and very happily) moved on to the next exciting chapter of what’s already been a wonderfully successful and amazing life. Stay tuned for the 5th in this, our series of exciting follow-up interviews with contestants from Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” —coming soon to the pages of The Joe Report!

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