Category Archives: Celebrity Interviews

A Ride With Greatness———Chung Kim’s Exclusive In-Car Interview With “Classic Collection” G.I. Joe Artist-Illustrator Extraordinaire, Larry Selman

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Ready to Fly— GIjOE B-17 Bomber Crewman (Art: Larry Selman)

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath, sit back and just CHILLAX. Even with yesterday’s jarring news that the GIjOE Collector’s Club and its “JoeCons” will soon be no more, there’ll still be a plethora of GIjOE-related shows for fans and collectors to attend for the foreseeable future, especially in fan-rich, high-population states such as Georgia, California, Ohio and Texas. In addition to those events, GIjOE “expatriates” and Action Man fans living in countries such as the UK, Mexico and Brazil have long proven that they can survive (and yes, THRIVE) without control from a so-called “official” GIjOE or Action Man fan organization, and that they will continue to do so for many years to come.

So… Let’s all just take a moment to regroup, relax and enjoy some insightful “insider-intel” from ace TJR field reporter, Chung Kim, who graciously provided the following exclusive interview with GIjOE Classic Collection artist, Larry Selman; conducted interestingly enough, during a car ride through the streets of beautiful downtown Atlanta, GA, in the waning hours of Joelanta 2016. Enjoy!

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Intrepid TJR Field Reporter, Chung Kim (Photo: Chung Kim)

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“I attended JOELANTA 2016 this past weekend. I enjoyed myself. I experienced a truly one of a kind moment when I (and my friend Scott Norris) had the opportunity and pleasure to ride with Mr. Larry Selman. He is the artist responsible for the painted artwork used by Hasbro for their line of GI JOE Classic Collection figures. After the show ended, a number of attendees usually go out to a nearby restaurant as a post-show ritual for dinner, conversation, and to also watch THE WALKING DEAD. I’m not that familiar with the Atlanta area, so Buddy Finethy arranged for me and Scott to ride along with Mr. Selman.

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Larry Selman, renowned GIjOE packaging illustrator and artist (Photo: Larry Selman)

He drove us to the post-show dinner at Mellow Mushroom Pizza. During the ride there, I apologized in advance to Mr. Selman for going into fanboy mode and asked him some questions about how he came to the opportunity of creating some truly memorable artwork on the GI JOE Classic Collection box covers.” He told me prior to his involvement with Hasbro, he was primarily known for doing western-themed artwork and the opportunity presented itself for him to create a variety of painted artwork used for the GI JOE Classic Collection boxed figures. This was during a time when Hasbro had an actual art department dedicated to the GI JOE product line. His personal favorite GI JOE Classic Collection artwork is the one used for the Blue Angels Pilot figure. In addition, when he did the artwork for the series of Classic Collection figures based on real life Medal of Honor recipients, he told me that the artwork used to portray the real life HOH recipients had to be approved by the actual recipients (who were still alive at the time) or through their estate/family.”

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Whoosh! Selman’s outstanding artwork for GIjOE’s Blue Angel Pilot box. (Art: Larry Selman)

“In particular, he told me how he spoke with Audie Murphy’s son and the discussion they had with regards to appearance and depiction of Audie Murphy used on the box cover for the figure as well as some historical references and research he performed to capture the action moment that earned Audie Murphy the MOH.”

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This will BLOW YOU AWAY— Can you imagine a better way to decorate the wall of your Joe Room than a new 2016 calendar (available HERE) from famed GIjOE artist, Larry Selman? His stunning painting of MOH recipient, Audie Murphy (above) was featured for January. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“Given how my collecting niche is 1:6 scale female figures, I asked him about the background behind the artwork used for the GI JANE figures produced by Hasbro under the Classic Collection line. It turned out he used a variety of female models. In particular, he told me how he used a number of female models carrying a guy on a stretcher a number of time in order to capture the visual used for the artwork on the GI JOE Vietnam Nurse figure.

On the flip side, around the time the Vietnam Nurse figure came out, the focus on artwork presentation on the box packaging was beginning to change to a marketing perspective in terms of product packaging, size, and display visual, where the artwork was no longer a concern. This was primarily due to retailers requesting greater display and packaging efficiency.”

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The Beginning of the End— According to Selman, Hasbro’s desire for GIjOE paintings was “beginning to change” around the time he completed this masterful depiction of US Army nurses in Vietnam. As a result, many of the pieces he created for the toy company were (sadly) never used. (Art: Larry Selman)

“I asked Mr. Selman if doing artwork for toys like GI JOE and others from that period is now a ‘lost art;’ because nowadays, the display box and packaging for most toys found at large mass retailers are usually devoid of any real and true artwork and simply a clear packaging that shows the toys with very basic and minimal visual graphics and not any true artwork. He agreed, because back then, the artwork used on the GI JOE Classic Collection figures was also a visual, attention-generating selling point of the figure as well.

Mr. Selman attended past JOELANTA conventions where he is a featured guest. He autographs the GI JOE Classic Collection boxed figures featuring his art. In addition, his table features a variety of prints featuring his artwork, of which he’ll also autograph. I found him to be very approachable and his experiences and insight with Hasbro were very enlightening.” —Chung Kim

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Chung Kim for his excellent reportage today, and to Larry Selman (once again) for all of the superb artwork he’s created utilizing military and western subject matter and themes. If you’re a Selman fan (and who isn’t?) HERE again is Larry’s official website.

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Bob Brechin, Chief Designer for Palitoy, Goes “On the Record” to Discuss the Creation and Evolution of Palitoy’s “Action Man” in the UK

Happy Birthday, Son! DVD creator, Tony Roberts, added numerous moments of supplemental material by utilizing adult (and child) models, then dressing them in period clothing with retro hairstyles and having them reenact moments all too familiar to fans of GIjOE and Action Man. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Happy Birthday, Son! For his superb DVD, “The Story of Action Man,” director Tony Roberts filmed numerous retro-recreations, including this realistic sequence of a young boy opening a brand-new Deep Sea Diving equipment set on his birthday. To recreate such nostalgic scenes, Roberts utilized adult and child actors and dressed them in period clothing. Then, during editing, he faded the color and added numerous “old film” special effects to complete the illusion. The final moments were indeed, VERY familiar to fans and collectors of both GIjOE and Action Man. Out-STANDING work, Tony! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

The Story of Action Man has been faithfully recounted on a superb 2013 DVD by Australia's Tony Roberts. (Photo: ebay)

The Story of Action Man was faithfully recounted in a superb 2013 DVD by Australian Tony Roberts. (Photo: ebay)

Exclusive Insights From One of the “Founding Fathers” of Palitoy’s Iconic (UK) Action Man

When Bob Brechin (the former Chief Designer for Palitoy) wrote to us recently to discuss his memories of the history and development of Action Man and his involvement with “The Story of Action Man” DVD (a wonderfully informative film produced by Tony Roberts), we grabbed our reporter’s pads and pencils and stood up at attention. We knew whatever Brechin had to say, it would be coming “straight from the top.”

If you aren’t already aware, Brechin is the UK’s equivalent of America’s iconic toy creator and former top Hasbro executive, Don Levine (now deceased) and is without a doubt, one of the 1:6 scale hobby’s most beloved “Founding Fathers.” To millions of collectors around the world, Bob is especially admired for all the work he did EXPANDING the Action Man line. So many new uniforms, equipment sets and vehicles were introduced during his tenure that it literally boggles the mind. When his email “blinged” into our inbox, we couldn’t wait to read what UK’s toy legend had to say!

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Bob Brechin, former Chief Designer of Palitoy, took time out to write to The Joe Report recently with more of his personal memories and insights into the creation of the iconic Action Man toy line in the UK. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Bob Brechin, former Chief Designer of Palitoy, took time out to write to The Joe Report recently to avail its readers of his personal memories of the evolution of the Action Man toy line. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Here’s what Brechin wrote to The Joe Report:

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“Having just read your feature by Mike talking about  the VAME show on 6th of June and noticing the post he included about the showing of the ‘The Story of Action Man’ (see HERE, ed.) I thought I would follow that up and tell you more about it…

About this time of the year (50 years ago), the management at Palitoy were negotiating with the Hassenfeld Brothers for the license to market in the UK what was controversially called ‘a rugged doll for boys’ by its inventor, Stan Weston. Having seen the success of G.I. Joe in the States, the company saw the potential in the toy and (like the Hassenfeld Brothers), ignored comments such as, ‘boys will not play with a doll.’

Action Man was

Palitoy’s Action Man built on the excellence of early GIjOE products, revising them with a decidedly British twist. Many of the UK-themed figures, sets and vehicles were never offered in the U.S. and are passionately sought after by fans on “both sides of the pond.” (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“So confident was the company (Palitoy), that marketing plans were decided and Toy Fair catalogues were printed before the licence was agreed and signed very late in 1965. The ink had barely dried when the toy was launched at the British Toy Fair the following January. As you are aware, it went on to be an enormous success; collecting The Toy of the Year award in its first year and later being voted The Toy of the Decade in 1980.

Although Action Man was still selling well, in 1984 General Mills decided to cease production because plans were afoot to get out of the toy business. The design and development department was closed down and the following year Palitoy became Kenner Parker and the intentions of the new company was to distribute American developed products only, throughout Europe. The intellectual rights to Action Man were passed over to Hasbro and as we know they resurrected the 12” toy in the late 90’s.”

In this scene from Robert's DVD, Bob Belchin reminisces about the early days of Action Man production at Palitoy. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Remembering When— In this scene from Tony Robert’s DVD, Bob Brechin reminisces about early product concepts and the development of Action Man at Palitoy. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“I joined Palitoy in 1967, a year after the launch, right through until its demise in 1984. Throughout that time, I was the lead designer for Action Man, helping to transform what was essentially G.I. Joe in Palitoy packaging into a British phenomenon. I also led a team that developed the range ‘Action Force’ before we were aware of Hasbro’s intentions to develop the same range of 3 3/4 “ action figures that was to be  a “resurrected” G.I. Joe.

It was later that we introduced some Hasbro product into the Action Force range that saved us from some big tooling investment. Action Force was very popular (after the conceptual repositioning in year 2) and money for new tooling was forthcoming. One of my proudest designs was the ‘Roboskull,’ which  seems to be very popular with the fans in the States.”

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Collect Them All! AM collectors such as Daren Millar (shown here in a screen capture from Tony Robert’s DVD), fill their shelves at home with Action Man. (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“After leaving Palitoy, I remained in toy design and development and it was during this period I became aware of the collecting mania that had grown. My first real awareness was when I took my (old) boss Bill Pugh, who conceived the ideas to give Action Man ‘realistic hair’ and ‘gripping hands’ (kung-fu grip to G.I. Joe fans ), to an Action Man collector’s show at the Tank Museum in the south of England.

He was totally amazed with the whole collecting scene as we walked amongst the tanks (many from WWI) and the Action Man displays. Sadly, shortly after our visit he passed away. But I was pleased to be able to show him a glimpse of the love that collectors have for a toy that we were able to play a part in bringing to the nation.”

Details REALLY Do Make the Difference! This super closeup of the Action Man astronaut window box set will make any fan drool with envy and LUST. WOW! (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

Details REALLY Do Make the Difference. This closeup of a NMOC vintage Action Man astronaut suit equipment set would make any fan drool with envy. WOWZA! (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“Since that immersion into the Action Man collecting community, I have been approached by individuals and groups for my thoughts and to attend meetings as a guest. I was involved in the production of the book ‘Action Man: The Official Dossier’ by Ian Harrison, writing the foreword as a dedication to Bill Pugh.

It was with some interest later, in July 2011, when I received an email from a curator at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnall Green, London, that a collector wanted to talk to me about a film he was making about the history of Action Man. After some thought, I told the curator that this person should contact me. Apparently, he took three days composing his email to get it right because he didn’t want to lose me. (He didn’t.)”

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Tony Roberts, director of “The Story of Action Man,” poses with some of his personal Action Man collection at home in Perth, Australia. (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“Tony Roberts lives in Perth, Australia. He emigrated there from England when he was a young boy. Whilst in England, he was given an Action Man as a present and fell in love with it straight away. Every birthday and Christmas, he had to have something Action Man as a present and little did he know—he was building up his collection!

When his family moved to Australia, Tony’s love for the toy did not wane and his collection grew. When he grew up, he wanted to emulate his hero, so joined the Australian Army. After serving his time, during which he was seriously collecting, he move back to England and joined the British Army.”

With a Face Like THIS— It's easy to understand how millions of young children would be inspired to emulate their real-life heroes. Go, Action Man! (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

With a Face Like THIS— It’s easy to understand how millions of young children would be inspired to emulate real-life heroes with really cool action figures. Go, Action Man! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“The London Iranian Embassy Siege, that began on 30th April 1980 and was so dramatically ended by the SAS on 5th May, resulted in Palitoy fast-tracking an Action Man version. It must have also inspired young Tony because later when he was serving with the British Army, he applied for the famous SAS. He was rejected; but Action Man doesn’t give in; so he reapplied and was successful.

After serving with the regiment in the Middle East, Tony took on the role as a security consultant, managing a team that was protecting politicians, industrialists and aid-workers who were part of the operation trying to rebuild Iraq after the conflict. Still collecting Action Man and sending them back home, during this time in Iraq he developed his other love of film-making.”

Now THAT'S a box! The dramatic, bullet-ridden Action Man logo was sure to stir the passions of young Brits, eager for some serious play ACTION! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

Now THIS is a box! And that dramatic, bullet-ridden Action Man logo surely stirred the passions and imaginations of many young fans; eager for some serious backyard ACTION! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“Many of his films that were shot from the dashboard of his Humvee received high praise from his colleagues and they would invariably ask for a copy to take with them when their tour of duty ended. When Tony’s own time came, he was unsure of what to do next. Many of his chums were taking up roles on merchant ships protecting them from pirates around the horn of Africa. Tony wanted out; but still unsure of where his life should go.

One day he had a thought. ‘People keep telling me my films are good, they always ask for a copy. That would be an interesting and different career move.’ But he needed a subject. ‘Well, I have this wonderful and almost complete collection of Action Man. The history of the development of the toy would make a great film.’ Bingo!”

Gotten himmel! The photography in Tony Robert's DVD is truly outstanding. By combining closeups with lavious backgrounds, the final effect was quite cinematic. (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

Gotten himmel! The photography in Tony Robert’s DVD is truly outstanding. By combining closeups with lavish backgrounds, the final effect is quite cinematic. (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

“On his return to his home in Perth, he eagerly set to work building dioramas and began shooting. He needed to flesh out the film with face-to-face interviews with some of the people involved in Action Man’s ‘story,’ so yet another return trip was made to England so as to track them (including myself) down.

Tony’s email convinced me with its sincerity and enthusiasm that I should help him with this film. After all, there were plenty of books out there on the subject already, but no definitive story for the screen. So, we spoke on the phone and agreed that he should travel up from his family’s base in the south to Coalville, the old home of Palitoy.”

Don't Forget GIjOE! The original 12-inch action hero also features prominently in the Robert's film. After all, with Hasbro's creation, Action Man may never have existed! (Photo: Tony Roberts) Click to enlarge.

Don’t Forget GIjOE! America’s original 12-inch “Movable Fighting Man” also features prominently in Tony Robert’s DVD, “The Story of Action Man.” OOHrah! (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“In the meantime, I contacted some old ex-colleagues. A room at a local hotel was booked for a couple of days so that Tony could conduct his interviews before he went off to a show to conduct similar interviews with collectors. A few months later, he returned with the first draft of his film.

I arranged with Snibston Discovery Museum (only a stone’s throw from the old Palitoy factory) to show the film there to all those involved, including their friends and family. The attendees were very impressed and thoroughly entertained. From their comments, he returned to Australia and re-edited the film before finally offering it for sale as a DVD from his website.”

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Set to Close Soon? The Snibston Discovery Museum faces an uncertain future. (Photo: SDM)

“The Snibston Discovery Museum is due for closure at the end of July due to the county council having to make cuts in its budget as a result of the national government’s austerity programme. It is a tragedy that such important places that are guardians of local and national heritage are being closed. 

Coalville, as its name suggests, was a coal mining town that grew from humble beginnings and now has a population well over 30,000. The Snibston museum celebrates this industrial heritage, but also is home for other interesting collections; one of which is the TOYS that were once made at Palitoy!”

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Bob Brechin remains hopeful that things will work out for the Snibston Discovery Museum, but made alternative arrangements at a local theatre for showing Tony Robert’s film. (Photo: Tony Roberts)

“My plan WAS to celebrate Action Man’s 50th anniversary at Snibston, so as to promote the toy AND the museum together. But with its closure imminent, an alternative venue was needed. Since the Century Theatre is also part of the Snibston establishment, I have arranged for the Story of Action Man to be screened there, instead. 

The showing will help kick off Action Man’s 50th Anniversary, and enable the people of Coalville to see it—especially those that worked at Palitoy and their family and friends. Collectors and fans are particularly welcome. This is a one-off, non-profit event with a £3 ticket price to cover the use of the theatre.”

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Action Man on the BIG Screen— What better way to see a film about the creation and evolution of your favorite action figure than on a giant movie screen? Go, Action Man! (Photo: Century Theatre)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to Bob Brechin for his generous contributions to this article, and to Tony Roberts and all of the other Action Man fans living in the UK, Australia, and elsewhere around the world, as they prepare to celebrate their 1:6 scale hero’s fantastic 50th Anniversary. If you can make the trip to Snibston on July 4th, be sure to attend the film’s showing at the Century Theatre. For complete showtime information, go HERE.

FLASH! THIS JUST IN (6-12-15):

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“Hi Mark, I just read the feature you included on The Joe Report. The only thing I must take issue with is putting me up on the same pedestal as Don Levine. I don’t think I deserve that. If Don was in the gold medal position he was up there with Bill Pugh. I would have been lower down (silver medal?).

If you want to make your feelings known about the closure of Snibston, the HOME of Palitoy and Action Man toys, please write to Nicholas Rushton, Leader of the Council, Leicestershire County Council, County Hall, Leicester, LE3 8RA.

Keep issuing great stories about G.I. Joe (and Action Man). I will keep you posted on any 50th news!”Regards, Bob Brechin

FLASH! THIS JUST IN (6-13-15):

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“Hello again Mark, I have reread the article in The Joe Report and you say that the Century Theatre was the alternative for celebrating the 50th anniversary of Action Man. I also reread my email to you and could see how you misunderstood me. Century Theatre is not an alternative for the celebrations.

It was always the intention to show the film in the theatre but follow that up with a 50th anniversary show in the museum next year. The theatre had a reprieve but the closure of the museum is still imminent so hence a need for an alternative for next year.” —Bob Brechin

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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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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?

She was

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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Catching Up With Dan Williams aka “Parthenon” From SyFy TV’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?”

What's Dan Doing? That's what we were determined to find out, in this, the 3rd in our series of exclusive interviews with contestants of Stan Lee's "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" Above, Dan poses with his two biggest and best souvenirs from the show, his original (Stan Lee-designed) Parthenon costume and the prototype comic book cover created by Dark Horse Comics. Excelsior! (Photo: Dan Williams) What's Dan Doing? That's exactly what we wanted to find out in this, our third exclusive interview with contestants of Syfy TV's reality competition show, Stan Lee's "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" Today we conduct an in-depth Q&A with Dan Williams, aka the superhero, "Parthenon." Here, Williams poses with two of his souvenirs from the show, an original (Stan Lee-designed) Parthenon costume and a poster for his character's (prototype) comic book by Dark Horse Comics. Excelsior! (Photo: Dan Williams)

What’s Dan Doing? That’s what we were determined to find out, in this, the 3rd in our series of exclusive interviews with contestants of Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” Above, Dan poses with his two biggest and best souvenirs from the show, his original (Stan Lee-designed) Parthenon costume and the prototype comic book cover created by Dark Horse Comics. Excelsior! (Photo: Dan Williams)

With superhero good looks, outgoing personality and variety of artistic talents, Williams has had little trouble succeeding in his post-show life and career. (Photo: Dan Williams)

With superhero good looks, outgoing personality, positive attitude and variety of artistic talents, Williams has had little trouble succeeding in his post-show life and career in Florida. (Photo: Dan Williams)

Third in a Series of Exclusive Interviews with Contestants of Syfy’s
“Who Wants to be a Superhero?”

By Mark Otnes, 11-6-2014
Editor, The Joe Report

In this, our third interview with contestants of SyFy’s unforgettable (2006-07) hit reality series, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?,” we’ll get to know one of the show’s most colorful, outgoing and amiable of the show’s wannabe heroes, Indiana’s own, Dan Williams, aka “Parthenon.” Over the 7 years since the show left the air (it wasn’t cancelled, creator Stan Lee simply declined to return for a 3rd season), the popular Williams has been the regular subject of multiple print, internet and radio interviews. During his time on television, Dan came across as the type of guy it’d be difficult to dislike, with a genuinely warm and approachable demeanor, he made friends easily and bonded well with his fellow contestants. Now, despite having returned to his everyday “secret identity” in Florida, Williams continues to enjoy discussing his experiences on the show and  life-long passion for comic books, cosplay and superheroes. We caught up with Dan recently and requested an interview. He kindly agreed to answer our litany of admittedly geeky fan questions, and we want to sincerely thank him (and our readers) for indulging us today.

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Williams had one of the most expressive "superhero" faces on the show. Here, he flashes the appropriate look for keen interest and SUPER attention. (Photo: Syfy)

EYE see! Williams had one of the most expressive “superhero” faces on the show. Here, he flashes the appropriate look for keen interest and SUPER attention. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: It’s been 7 years since we last saw you on TV. Let’s begin by catching up a little. What do you do for a living? Can you walk us through a typical day for Dan Williams in 2014?

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“Currently, I work at Full Sail University where I am a Course Director of JavaScript Programming.  I also work at Walt Disney World where I do creative and design work for the Disney University. As far as a typical day—I don’t have one! My teaching job is sometimes on campus and sometimes online, while my Disney job is a different project every time. I could be creating a database one day and a wall mural the next.”

TJR: Your fans and fans of the show actually know very little about your personal background. Where are you from originally? Where did you go to college? How did you end up where you live and work today? Can you fill us in?

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This early childhood photo of Dan dressed as Batman, perched on his family's kitchen counter, reveals his growing interest in comic books and the superhero genre. (Photo: Dan Williams)

Holy, Caped Crusader! This early childhood photo of Dan dressed as Batman, perched on his family’s kitchen counter, reflected his growing interest in comic books and the superhero genre. (Photo: Dan Williams)

“I’m originally from Schererville, Indiana. I was born and raised there for all of my life. It’s really close to Chicago, IL, so I had the best of both worlds; living in a smaller town while having the big city just minutes away. I went to school at Purdue University and graduated with a degree in Interdisciplinary Engineering and a focus in Telecommunications. It basically combines the technical side of an engineer while allowing me to study video production, graphic design and other creative outlets. So, I always tell people that ‘Technically; I’m Creative!’   

While I was attending Purdue, I got a job at Walt Disney World for the summer on the College Program. I worked at the ‘Tower Of Terror’ as a ride operator and found I loved living in Orlando. The next summer, I auditioned in Chicago and came back down to Disney as a character performer. Then, after I graduated, I decided to move to Orlando and make it my home. As for how I got into teaching, I give that credit to my friend Eric. He convinced me to start teaching a college-level fashion design course at night on the side, which I did for a couple of months. I loved it because I have always had a passion for fashion!”

It's SEW easy! Dan's interest in fashion enabled him to design and sew his own superhero and fantasy cosplay costumes, including the first one he wore on the show (shown above). (Photo: Syfy)

It’s SEW easy! Dan’s interest in fashion enables him to design and sew his own superhero and fantasy cosplay costumes, including the first one he wore on the show (shown above). (Photo: Syfy)

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“That teaching opportunity soon let me to taking over as the Department Chair of the whole Multimedia Education Department.  I took that full-time position and went part-time at Disney where I have been ever since. The college is actually where I was working while filming the TV show and it can be seen in a few of the opening scenes. I held the Department Chair position there for a little over 5 years before moving onward and upward.

Eventually, my great friend Rebecca convinced me to come and take a tour of a new college, Full Sail University, where she was working and I fell in love with the place. It has a wonderfully creative atmosphere and focuses mainly on the Entertainment Arts. I interviewed and quickly became a Course Director there. I love it!”

Producers of the show seized upon the background story of William's character, Parthenon, as an Indiana Jones-type archeologist, made all the more believable by his real-life position as an academic. (Photo: Syfy)

Teaching Others How to Fight Evil— Producers of Syfy’s Who Wants to be a Superhero? seized upon Williams’ own background story and that of his character, Parthenon (an Indiana Jones-type archeologist), to create exciting graphics for the show’s opening sequence. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: I believe you’re an artist too, is that correct? Are you a commercial illustrator or a fine artist? What media do you prefer working in and have you created any works you’d like to share with us?

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“I am an artist, but I prefer to think of myself as a ‘Creative Extraordinaire.’ That’s actually the title on my personal business cards! I love to create—anything! I do anything from logos for companies, to interactive displays, to animations for hotels, websites, sculpture, costumes, props, etc. One of my favorite things to do is interior design, but I do it a bit different and call it ‘Extreme Theme,’ I take after the Disney way of thinking and prefer an all-encompassing theme to a room.”

Dan's "Paint Squares Room" is a perfect example of his "Extreme Theme" style of decorating. Careful! You may need to squint to enter. HA (Photo: Dan Williams)

Dan’s “Paint Squares Room” is a perfect example of his “Extreme Theme” style of interior design decorating. Be careful! You may need to squint to enter. HA (Photo: Dan Williams)

Dan William's handcrafted this massive Peter Pan clock tower curio case with working clock and hand-painted starry background. WOW! (Photo: Dan Williams)

We can FLY! Dan’s handcrafted (and massive) Peter Pan clock tower collectibles case and hand-painted starry background in his living room. (Photo: Dan Williams)

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“One of my favorite rooms that I have ever done has got to be my Peter Pan living room. My mom and I build a two-story Big Ben Clock tower book-case and I hand painted all of the clouds and airbrushed all of the stars. The Peter and Wendy are cutout of wood and I hand painted them too. In my new house, I switched it up a bit and got away from the Disney theme and created a comic book room and a giant wall mural out of paint sample squares (sorry Wal-Mart!). As far as normal artwork, one is called ‘Solitude’ and features Superman trapped in a crystal and ‘Starry Speck At Night.’ I also make props and costumes.”

A Wall of Comics! One entire wall of Williams' home is dedicated to displaying some of his favorite issues from a 5,000 issue collection. Holy, pulp fiction! (Photo:  Dan Williams)

A Wall of Comics? That’s right, one entire wall of Williams’ home is dedicated to displaying some of his favorite issues from a 5,000+ issue collection. Holy, pulp fiction, Batman! (Photo: Dan Williams)

TJR: Can you tell us about your other interests, such as pirates, comic books and cosplay? And are there any other hobbies, activities or pastimes you currently enjoy that we may not know about?

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“I’ve been collecting comic books since I was 9 years old. When I was little, I didn’t really like to read, but once I started liking comics, my mom took advantage of that and kept buying them for me. I currently have over 5000 and YES, I’ve read every single one! I am much more into the stories and characters than the authors or artists, so that is where my comic knowledge starts to fall apart.”

Dan's love of superheroes and costumes blend together perfectly in his regular participation in cosplay, or "costumed play." Here, he portrays the Wolverine in a deadly "blade battle" with a fan portraying "Nightmare on Elm Street" killer, Freddy Krueger. Yikes! (Photo: Dan Williams)

Dan’s love of superheroes and costumes blend together perfectly in his regular participation in cosplay, or “costumed play.” Here, he portrays the Wolverine in a deadly “blade battle” with a fan portraying “Nightmare on Elm Street” killer, Freddy Krueger. Grrrrrrr! (Photo: Dan Williams)

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“This passion for superheroes and my love of costumes is what got me into cosplay originally. I currently have hundreds of costumes and my collection grows all the time. Half of my garage is nothing but costumes, including my newest fully revolving Sharknado (see video clip below). It took me 3 months to build and you can walk in it and maneuver surprisingly well, although stairs still are horrible!”

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“As for other hobbies, I love theater. I started in high school and have been somehow involved ever since. One of my favorite roles was the Pirate King in Pirates Of Penzance. A clip from the show you didn’t get to see is when Stan Lee was asking me about my pirate bedroom. I responded with the fact that I played the Pirate King and his lightning fast response was: ‘Well, anyone who likes Gilbert and Sullivan can’t be bad!’  

Dan Williams (right) aka "Parthenon," poses with comics legend, Stan Lee, during a recent "Comicaze" convention in California, to celebrate a (partial) cast reunion of the Syfy Channel's hit reality-TV series, "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?" A 3rd Season was NOT announced—again. (Photo: Dan Williams)

Dan Williams (r) aka “Parthenon,” poses with comics legend, Stan Lee (l), during a WWTBASH red carpet premiere party in California. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

Sparkle on, Dan! You can tell Dan's the host by his silver-sequined tie. WOW! (Photo: Dan Williams)

Sparkle on, Dan! You can tell Dan enjoys hosting by his silver-sequined tie. WOW! (Photo: Dan Williams)

malecomment“Working with a Disney community-theater group, I had the chance to host quite a few events and found I really enjoy hosting (anything really). My favorite opportunity came when I hosted the Out Of This World Fashion Show for the Orlando History Museum. It was a giant event that had celebrity judges from NSYNC and 2 contestants from Project Runway. It was a perfect combination of everything I love!”

Dan Williams poses for a publicity photo with NBC's Al Roker during an appearance on the show. in 2007. (Photo: Dan Williams)

Dan Williams poses for a publicity photo with NBC TV personality and weatherman, Al Roker, during a 2007 promotional appearance on The Today Show. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

TJR: What’s it like being a celebrity? When we interviewed John Stork, aka “Hyper-Strike” (HERE), we were surprised when he stated he didn’t feel he WAS a celebrity, despite all the evidence to the contrary. How about you? Do you feel your time as a TV celebrity is over now, or are you still asked for autographs, etc? Do you have any post-show celebrity stories you’d care to share?

Williams poses next to a poster of comic book cover outside of a comic store in LA. (Photo: Dan Williams)

Lookin’ Good! Williams poses next to a poster of his comic book cover outside a store in LA. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

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“Celebrity is a tricky word. I don’t know if I would consider myself a celebrity either. If I were, I would be on the ‘G-List,’ because usually the only people who know me are gays and geeks! I do still get asked for autographs every now and then, but it’s probably because I go to a lot of comic cons, but just as a normal guest. Every now and then something will pop back up and I always get a kick out of it. I think if anything made me feel like a celebrity, it’s when I was sent pictures of people cosplaying as Parthenon! There’s something in that, which is really touching to me.”

Williams and fellow WWTBASH contestants,

The Price of FameWilliams and fellow WWTBASH contestants, Trisha Paytas (“Ms. Limelight”) and Jarrett Crippen (“The Defuser,” seated, right) prepare to autograph photos and meet fans at Comic Con in San Diego. Notice the handmade Parthenon figure laying on the table? (Photo: Melody Mooney)

Williams listens intently as Stan Lee informs the contestants of their next "mission" on Who Wants to be a Superhero? (Photo: Syfy)

“This looks like a job for…!” Williams listens intently as Stan Lee informs the contestants of their next “mission” on Who Wants to be a Superhero? (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: You’re handsome, photogenic, and eloquent. And you’re clearly quite comfortable in front of TV cameras and on the radio. Have you ever considered a career in entertainment? Perhaps in theater, television, films, or even as “on-air talent” for radio? And have you appeared in any other television programs or motion pictures?

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“First of all, thank you! That was super-nice of you to say. As I mentioned earlier, I do love theater and hosting. I usually just do that on the side. I have been in a few TV shows, but all of them are super random and were more of a ‘right place at the right time’ type of thing. For example, I was on a TV show about thrill-rides when I was riding the Big Shot in Las Vegas, in a few specials for Disney, and made some commercials for the Hard Rock Casino and Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort.”

Parthenon is On the Air! Williams' natural ease and comfort working with the media made him an easy selection to represent the show in NYC. Here, he responds to question posed by Sirius host,Frank DeCaprio (formerly of Comedy Central's "Out at the Movies"). (Photo: Dan Williams)

Parthenon is On the Air! Williams’ ease and comfort working with the media made him a natural selection to promote the 2nd season of the show in NYC. Here, he responds to questions posed by Sirius radio host, Frank DeCaro (Comedy Central’s “Out at the Movies”). (Photo: Dan Williams)

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“I also recently filmed a short documentary about my time on the show called ‘Parthenon: Unearthing The Hero.’ As for future plans, I am currently working on a new video blog series of my own design called ‘Super Secrets – Crafting For Superheroes;’ which will be quick DIY videos about creating costumes and props. Would I ever do a TV series again? Maybe. If the right show came along!”

Williams and fellow WWTBASH contestant, Melody Mooney (aka "Hygena"), strike a pose on the famous set of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in New York City. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

Feelin’ the POWER! Williams and fellow WWTBASH contestant, Melody Mooney (aka “Hygena”), strike their best rocker poses on the set of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in NYC. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

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Conceptual art costume proposals for Williams’ second superhero character, “Brace.” (Art: Dan Williams)

TJR: Fans already know pretty much everything there is to know about your superhero character Parthenon, but whatever happened to “Brace,” the second superhero character you created? It sounded exciting! Could you describe Brace for us? And were there ever any conceptual photos or drawings made of him that you could share? Are there any plans for Brace projects in the future?

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“Brace was one of the two characters that I created specifically for the second season of ‘Who Wants To Be A Superhero.’ Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Wait, wasn’t Dan on the second season?’ Yes, that’s correct, but I originally auditioned for season ONE of the show with a similar character name, Paragon (which later became Parthenon). My submission got to the show’s producers too late and they had already cast the show, so I stayed home and watched the first season on TV like everyone else.”

See you on Sunset Boulevard! The Sunset Gower Studios building in Hollywood (shown above) was where Williams and others were sent for final auditions for Stan Lee's "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" (Photo: Dan Williams)

See you on Sunset Boulevard! The Sunset Gower Studios building in Hollywood (shown above) was where contestants were sent to audition for “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” (Photo: Dan Williams)

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“I went back to the drawing board and really examined who I would like to be if I were a superhero. I came up with two other characters, ‘Brace’ and ‘The Cape’ (this was WAY before the TV show). The Cape was a magician who finds Houdini’s cape, which gives him his abilities and is a portal to anywhere, so he’s constantly conjuring things out of it. I created him because I am obsessed with magic. I even took magic lessons as a kid and I still keep up with it!” 

Brace was a hero that received his powers from a cybernetic back brace he was forced to wear after being involved in an accident. He now had super-strength, enhanced speed, a super-sonic punch and a costume which featured a split-cape in the back, showing off the brace (because he had accepted his weakness, flipping the handicap into a positive thing). His tagline was, “BRACE for impact!”

A Superhero Day Off? Friendly Competitors Tar Pit Pals— While waiting for auditions to proceed, Williams, Stork and CPA (aka "Certified Public Asskicker") tour the historic La Brea Tar Pits. According to Dan, "During auditions, we were broken up into smaller groups and we got to see the city a bit." (Photo: Dan Williams)

Tar Pit Pals— While waiting for auditions to proceed, Williams, John Stork and CPA (aka “Certified Public Asskicker”) tour the historic La Brea Tar Pits. According to Dan, “During auditions, we were broken up into smaller groups and we got to see the city a bit.” (Photo: Dan Williams)

TJR: Fascinating! And which of the 3 personas would you say is most like the real Dan Williams?

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“Brace’s character (weirdly) is the closest to being me. A long time ago, I was severely injured when someone who was drunk decided he was going to do a handstand on top of a 3-story balcony, lost his balance and fell directly on top of me. This compressed my spine and I have two injured spinal discs because of this. For about a year after the accident I had to wear a back brace everyday. Since then, I have had a few procedures done that have helped (a lot) and I no longer have to constantly wear it. The only good thing about the accident was that I saved that guy’s life; he only had a scrapped hand from that huge fall!”

The beginning of Chelsea's journey to becoming a superhero began here, in a non-descript building hosting the first-ever auditions for Stan Lee's "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" Can you spot her in this lineup? (Photo: Syfy)

Move to the Head of the Line. Contestants in Los Angeles wait during auditions for the 2nd season of “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” Fortunately for Williams, his 1st season audition had so impressed the show’s casting coordinators that he was “fast-tracked” ahead of this line. (Photo: Syfy)

This is the earliest version of Parthenon to appear on the show, during the auditions of episode 1, Season 2. FanTASTIC! (Photo: Syfy)

This is the earliest version of Parthenon to appear on the show, during the auditions of episode 1, Season 2. FanTASTIC! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: With so many interesting characters to choose from, how did you decide on Parthenon as the one you’d like to debut on the show? We have to say, Brace and The Cape seem equally cool!

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“While I was pulling together all of my new superhero characters’  info, costumes, etc., I got a phone call. At first I thought it was a joke. The woman on the other end said that they had reviewed my original audition video and loved my Paragon character! As a result, I was immediately fast-tracked to the show’s LA auditions. I was wearing this shirt that said ‘Mr. Wonderful’ (way before ABC TV’s ‘Shark Tank,’ by the way) and she was asking if I would change my name to that! Since I no longer needed Brace or The Cape, I put those two characters on the back burner. Will they ever be seen again? Maybe!”

TJR: In an online interview with Richard Vasseur, you stated:

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“I always tried to act with honor and integrity and really wanted to be someone who could be looked up to, both inside the lair and outside it.”

Up, up and AWAY! A young Dan Williams and his father suit up to try “indoor parachuting.” (Photo: Dan Williams)

Up, up and AWAY! A young Dan Williams (l) and his father (r) suit up to try “indoor parachuting.” (Photo: Dan Williams)

TJR: That is a fantastic quote! With such a great attitude, it’s easy to see why you lasted so long on WWTBASH. Could you tell us please, who were your role models growing up? And who are your role models or icons (real or imaginary) today? And why?

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“Ever since I was a kid, I have looked up to my parents, because of them I have had a really solid moral compass. I excelled in school, never drank until I was 21, and to this day, have never smoked a cigarette! I was very lucky to have wonderfully loving parents who supported me in everything I’ve ever done. From building arm-mounted bottle rocket launchers to giant Rube Goldberg machines and even coming out to my family. If I had an idea, they’d help me make it happen.”

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Williams' favorite comic character, Hank Pym, in his many superhero guises. (Photo: Wikipedia)

From Giantman to Antman and every size in-between, Williams’ favorite comic character, Hank Pym (another famous creation by Stan Lee, ‘natch), appeared in many memorable superhero guises. (Photo: Wikipedia)

“My imaginary role model was Hank Pym, aka Antman, Yellow Jacket, Giantman, etc. He was in the first comic I read and I immediately identified with him. He was an inventor first, who was thrust into being a superhero. I loved all of his gadgets and couldn’t wait to see what he came up with next. With this solid base, honestly, anything is possible!

10 years ago, I found this paper that my mom kept that said what you want to be when you grow up. I put ‘I want to be a superhero magician who is also an inventor!’ Well, I invent stuff all the time, know magic, and now I am a real-life superhero. I suppose with enough help and support, even the dreams of a 9 year-old kid can come true.”

Together Again! Cast members from both seasons of Stan Lee's "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" gather for photos after conducting a panel discussion of the show. (Photo:

Together Again! Cast members from both seasons of Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” pose for photos after conducting a panel discussion of the show at Comikaze 2013. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

TJR: When you first appeared on the SyFy Channel TV show, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” (WWTBASH), you were 28. You’re now 35, correct? That’s actually a prime age for a superhero. Do you still feel comfortable donning Parthenon’s tights and do you still portray him at events?

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Even after 7 years, the costume created for Williams by the show's costume department still fits! Here, Williams poses with 1st Season contestant Tobias Troust at Comikaze 2013. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

Even after 7 years, the costume created for Williams by the show’s costume department still fits and looks GREAT! Here, Williams poses with Season 1’s Tobias Trost, at Comikaze 2013. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

“I’m 36 (at the time of this article) and I still love wearing my tights and cape. Every now and then, I’ll attend a con as Parthenon, most recently it was Stan Lee’s 2013 Comikaze where we had a show reunion. Luckily, everything still fits and pretty much looks the same, although I usually will almost always go scruffy instead of totally clean-shaven. I think it looks better with the costume.”

In this screenshot from Who Wants to be a Superhero?, Williams replies to questions from Stan Lee while wearing Parthenon's original mask. The mask did not last long on the show.

Who is that Masked Man? In this screenshot from Season 2, Episode 1, Williams responds to Lee’s questions while wearing Parthenon’s original, handcrafted mask. (The mask didn’t last long.) (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: During your first audition in front of Stan Lee, you were shown wearing a cool-looking mask. Whatever happened to that?

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“I loved that mask!  I also enjoy leather-crafting and I made that mask by hand. It was supposed to be 2 diamond shapes put together. But on the first day of filming for the show, ALL of the heroes’ masks, glasses, etc were taken from us. The producers thought they hid too much of our faces and thought we looked better without them. I think it was the right choice in the end. Now for the bad news: my mask actually got lost somewhere in the lair and I never saw it again! Luckily, I still have my original template, so if I really wanted to, I could make another.”

Cast members huddle up with Stan Lee for one of many photos during the show's recent reunion. (Photo:

WWTBASH cast members pose with Stan Lee during their Comikaze reunion. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

TJR: What were your most memorable moments with Stan Lee?

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Stan Lee is fantastic, period, exclamation point! He had been someone whom I wanted to meet since forever! To me, he really is the face of comic books in general. My favorite moments with him were off-camera. During the filming of the show, we weren’t allowed to interact much because they wanted Stan to keep a ‘judge’s distance.’ But anytime we got to talk to Stan ‘live’ through the large monitors in the lair, he was HILARIOUS, especially when he was unscripted. After the show, I’ve talked to him a few more times. My favorite was when we were just sharing cookies in the break room at a convention. It’s quite a surreal feeling, just chatting with one of your idols over some chocolate chips!”

Stan Lee prowls the stage at Comikaze 2014 while answering fan questions about the show. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

Lee prowls the stage at Comikaze while answering questions about the show. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

TJR: Do you possess any WWTBASH-related videos that fans have never seen? If so, do you plan on releasing them, possibly on your own website or on YouTube?

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“There is a ton of stuff out there and I am finding more all the time. I usually find them by accident. I think the most recent is from the reunion panel at Comikaze Con (see below).”

Williams has seen Jarrett Crippen (center) at some events, but the whereabouts of Philip Allen (right) continue to frustrate staffers here at The Joe Report. (Photo: Dan Williams)

Williams sees Jarrett Crippen (c) at many events, but the current whereabouts of Philip Allen (r) remain a mystery and continue to frustrate staffers here at The Joe Report. (Photo: Dan Williams)

TJR: During the course of our research and subsequent interviews with WWTBASH contestants, we’ve discovered that some of them are now extremely difficult to locate. Are you still in touch with all of them? For example, we’ve been unable to find Philip Allen (aka “Mindset”) or Paula Thomas (aka “Whip Snap”) anywhere online. Your thoughts on this?

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“Yes, some heroes are quite hard to find and I think they like it that way. I have most of everyone’s personal info, but haven’t checked on it in years. A few of the heroes that I really bonded with are totally on my speed-dial though!”

This extremely intricate 3D paper doll of Parthenon was created and placed online for FREE. (Photo: Dan Williams)

Fold’n Fun! This extremely intricate 3D paper doll of Parthenon was created and placed online for FREE. (Photo: Dan Williams)

TJR: In one of your radio interviews, you mentioned that you were really interested in creating an action figure of Parthenon. Did that idea ever gain any traction? Were any ever produced? If so, are they available anywhere for sale? Have you ever considered using Kickstarter for such creative projects? Did you get to keep the one-of-a-kind Parthenon action figure created for you by Herobuilders?

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“I haven’t pursued an action figure of Parthenon YET—but only because of the rights issue. Technically, NBC-Universal owns the rights to all the characters’ likenesses on the show and we signed giant contracts that we weren’t suppose to do anything with them, really. Since then, I have been pursuing getting those rights back. I have an offer on the table, but not for total control of the character, which is what I would ultimately want. In the meantime, a fan created a super-cool paper-doll action figure you can download and assemble for free! As for the Herobuilders action figure, I do still have that! The producers sent it to me after we wrapped the show. The final four of us all got dolls, but only the final three got to see them in the lair. It was a HUGE surprise when I opened the box and saw it for the first time. It’s one of my most prized possessions and has a definite spot of honor in my collection!”

The 1:6 scale custom Parthenon action figure created by Herobuilders.com remains one of Williams' prized keepsakes from the show. (Photo: Dan Williams)

Bling is His Thing! This 1:6 scale custom Parthenon action figure created by Herobuilders.com remains one of Williams’ most prized keepsakes from the show. (Photo: Dan Williams)

Many contestants struggled simply to remain standing while being blasted head-on by high-pressure fire hoses and wind-tunnel fans. In this screenshot, Williams can be seen aiding fellow team member, Trisha Paytas (Ms. Limelight) to run down the tunnel.

Hold on! Many contestants struggled simply to remain standing while being blasted head-on by high-pressure fire hoses and wind-tunnel fans. In this screenshot, Williams can be seen aiding fellow team member, Trisha Paytas (Ms. Limelight) to run down the tunnel. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Let’s talk about some of the “missions” and challenges you endured on the show. What are your strongest memories of that first wind-n-water viaduct competition?

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“That first challenge was an eye-opener for sure! Having watched the first season, this was leaps and bounds above anything they had ever done. It was then that I felt the show was going to be more of a superhero version of ‘Fear Factor’ and boy, was I right!

That first challenge was also when I wished I had put more thought into my shoes. I created my original sandals out of flip-flops and simple elastic bands that were sewn together. They had ZERO traction and were ridiculous to run in when wet. Ms. Limelight and I had to help each other, because her boots were obviously not even made for walking—let alone uphill—especially while soaking wet with a hurricane force gale blowing in our faces.

Thank GOODNESS we had The Defuser on our team! At one point, he literally grabbed the both of us and set us back on our feet. It was hilarious! I will say that this was also the challenge where I started to try to out-think the producers. Before we even started the challenge, I noticed the little key hanging on the shopping cart and I KNEW it would come into play later!”

She's BEE-utiful! Easily the most popular villain on the show, "Bee Sting" (played exquisitely by actress Anna Easteden), wreaked havoc on contestants by unleashing thousands of bees into their holding cells and dousing them with barrels of corn syrup, ruining their superhero costumes. (Photo: Syfy)

She’s BEE-utiful! The villainess “Bee Sting” (played exquisitely by actress Anna Easteden), wreaked havoc on contestants by unleashing thousands of bees into their holding cells and dousing them with barrels full of corn syrup “honey,” ruining their homemade superhero costumes. (Photo: Syfy)

In this screenshot from the show, taken during the infamous "Spelling Bee" challenge, thousands of bees were released into the contestant boxes and gathered menacingly on their microphone as well. Ouch!

Step closer to the Microphone, please. During the show’s infamous “Spelling Bee” challenge, thousands of bees were released into the contestants’ phone booth-sized cells and then gathered menacingly on the microphones. Imagine putting your lips up to THIS! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: In the Spelling Bee challenge, “Bee Sting” called on you derisively, saying, “Okay, Greek boy, go for it.” Then you misspelled “Benign,” and then she releases 10,000 bees into your cage! We know you’ve discussed this in interviews before, but what are your strongest memories of that day? Most people run for the hills when buzzed by only ONE bee or wasp. What was it like being locked in a box with 10,000?

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“If there’s two things that I hate in the world—it’s insects and spelling! When we were in the lair and first saw Bee Sting, I was talking to the others about how I hoped it wasn’t going to be a spelling bee (which of course it was). What you didn’t see is all of the questions we spelled correctly. They edited out most of those. I was hoping they would leave at least one in with me being a teacher. But no… As far as the bees go, 10,000 is an exaggeration, as most villains are known to do.  Nonetheless, we did get more bees put in our cage each time we lost and by the end we did have quite a lot in there with us! If you look at the microphone, you can see that there is a small box taped under the microphone. This box held the Queen bee and all of the drone bees flocked right to it. That meant any time it was your turn to answer, you were face to face and inches away from a ton of bees!”

This screenshot captures the moment the contestants are doused with barrels full of corn syrup "honey." What a sticky situation!

What a sticky situation! This screenshot captures the moment when contestants, with no place to hide, were doused with barrels of corn syrup. Quick thinking (and a cape) help Williams persevere. (Photo: Syfy)

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“As soon as they started letting bees in to the cage, I quickly wrapped my cape around me. Let’s be honest, my original costume had a lot of exposed area! my cape strategy kept most of the bees off my body, while the rest was just a mental game of staying calm. What you DIDN’T see was Aja DeCoudreaux (aka “Basura”) using her insect-control powers on the bees, trying to ask them to leave. At this early point in the game we weren’t sure what ‘powers’ we could actually use (or when). 

Finally, just when Bee Sting’s ‘honey’ was being dumped on us, I caught a reflection of it (beginning to pour) in the glass door. So, once again, I quickly wrapped my cape around me and ended up protecting my Armaguard gauntlet and original outfit. Everything on me was wash-n-wear, so when it came to redressing for the next day, my costume actually looked pretty darn good!”

The ever-frustrating, Mr. Leong, proved quite an unusual challenge for the contestants. We'd actually have liked to see more such "confusing" lay people interactions. These were hilarious (for the viewers, at least)!

How much for your bracelet? The pushy, evasive and VERY frustrating, “Mr. Long,” proved to be an unexpected and off-beat challenge, catching Season 2 contestants completely off-guard. We would have enjoyed seeing MORE of these confusing “lay-people” interactions. Such challenges proved to be solid indicators of a contestant’s composure under pressure, and help reveal who can (or can NOT) “hack it” as a superhero (i.e. Ms. Limelight completely crumbles under Long’s advances). (Photo: Syfy)

Give up my Armaguard? Would a Superhero sell the very object that makes them "super?" Not bloody likely! (Photo: Syfy)

You want to buy WHAT? Would any Superhero sell the very thing that makes them super? Fortunately, Williams said “no” to Mr. Long’s ridiculous request. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: When interviewing “Mr. Long” during the warehouse robbery challenge, he wanted to BUY your armaguard. At one point, he offered you $5,000! What were you thinking at that moment? Did you consider taking him up on it—even for a second? Or did you suspect he was insincere and simply testing you?

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Mr. Long was an extremely confusing test. We were given no explanation and no instructions. On the show, I was always on guard and decided to approach every challenge as Parthenon, not as Dan. Honestly, I think that is what helped me get so far on the show! As for his $5,000 offer, I knew he had no real interest in my Armaguard, so I kept cornering him with questions, 90% of which are never seen on the show.”

Williams was the only contestant to offer to help the delivery man carry the boxes, a keen move that helped Parthenon's standing in Lee's eyes. (Photo: Syfy)

Can I help you? In true superhero fashion, Williams was the only contestant to help the delivery man carry his boxes (a keen move elevating Parthenon’s standing). (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Despite the obvious advantages of “The Defuser” (aka real-life cop, Jarrett Crippen) and his domination of much of the show’s action, you seemed to do exceptionally well and ran a close second in many events. For example, during the tire-changing challenge, you were the first contestant to suspect it was merely a ruse, look around, and offer to help that deliveryman carry his boxes. What else do you remember about that challenge?

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The Defuser is fabulous; let me just say that before anything else! And I think he got edited really poorly on the show. To us, he was never dominating, we actually found him to be extremely helpful. Being a cop, he was very used to taking command. But if you go back and watch the show, I was actually always on the winning team or I won the solo missions, even on the episode where I get voted off!  As far as the tire-changing challenge, I thought it was too easy. That’s why I started looking around. It made no sense that 10 heroes would have to put tires on a car. Once I broke out of that mindset, I noticed everything else going on and that is when I helped the deliveryman.”

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The poor Beagle that no one spotted, sitting all alone, right next to a "Missing Dog" poster on the lamppost. We can still hear his cries now. Aaoooooo! (Photo: Syfy)

The poor little Beagle (that no one noticed) was sitting all alone next to a lamppost (with a “Missing Dog” poster on it). We can still hear his pitiful cries now. Aooo! (Photo: Syfy)

“The thing that struck me the most funny on that challenge was the lost dog. First off, I am a dog person and a puzzle solver. But there is NO way that anyone would have figured that out. It actually became a big joke between all the heroes and we laughed about it (a lot). However, it did open my eyes for later challenges, because then I could see the kind of ‘outside of the box’ things Stan and the show’s producers were going for.”

Even 7 years later, the contestants can keep their costumes and make public appearances, but that's all (at least without further legal permission). (Photo: Dan Williams) Super-restricted Superheroes? Even after 7 years, while contestants can keep their show-costumes and make public appearances wearing them—that is all (without legal permission, at least). (Photo: Dan Williams)

Super-Restricted Superheroes? Fellow superhero, Melody Mooney (right) and Williams pose with fans during a 2007 appearance on NBC’s “Today Show” in NYC. Unfortunately, even now, over 7 years later, contestants from WWTBASH remain limited by the terms in their contracts. Other than personal appearances, there is little else they are can do to profit from their characters. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

Not ready for Prime-Time? The great, untapped future potential for WWTBASH characters such as Hyper-Strike and Parthenon is

Great, untapped potential resided in all of the WWTBASH characters, including John Stork’s “Hyper-Strike” and Williams’ “Parthenon.” Even 7 years later, short-sighted show producers continue to turn a blind-eye to public demand for a 3rd season, missing out on hugely lucrative merchandising opportunities. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Fans are very curious about the pre-show, non-disclosure contracts all contestants were required to sign. When do they expire? Can you tell us what was in them or anything else about them without getting into trouble? Are there subjects you CAN’T you discuss? Was there anything in the contract that surprised or bothered you personally—or gave you pause to reconsider participating?

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“The contracts are obviously a giant part of TV. The non-disclosure contracts mainly applied until after the show aired. We could not reveal anything about the show, contestants, challenges, etc., or that would ruin the ending for the fans. As to why we still don’t talk about it, I personally feel that if you know too much behind-the-scenes info, it kind of ruins the magic of it. Like knowing how a trick is done.  Once you know, it loses its special spark.

I get a lot of questions about the ‘true’ show, and I try to maintain a good, common ground. The only thing that I truly don’t like is that we had to sign our characters over to them. A few heroes on the show actually got whole new identities because they did not want to give up their established characters! The company lets us keep our costumes and make appearances, but for anything else there’s a whole legal process to go through. As I stated before, I am currently trying to get the rights back to use Parthenon in future projects.”

Williams poses with fellow WWTBASH contestants (from right), Aja DeCoudreaux, Melody Mooney, Trisha Paytas and

Super-Friends! Williams poses with fellow contestants (from right), Aja DeCoudreaux, Melody Mooney, Trisha Paytas and Crystal Clark during a premiere party for the show. (Photo: Syfy)

Superhero Snug! Since meeting on the show, the friendship of many of the contestants remains undeniable. Here, Aja DeCoudreaux and Williams share a hug after appearing together at Comikaze 2013. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

Since meeting on the show, the friendship and closeness of many contestants has remained strong. Here, the beautiful Aja DeCoudreaux and Williams share a hug after appearing at Comikaze 2013. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

TJR: On the show, you seemed to be closest to Basura (Aja De Coudreaux) Hygena (Melody Mooney), Ms. Limelight (Trisha Paytas) and Braid (Crystal Clark), acting almost as their “brother-figure.” Would you say that’s an accurate assessment? How about the male contestants? Were you as close (or distant) to any of them?

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“I was really close with all 4 of them and we all really depended a lot on each other. When you are away from your friends, family and loved ones for so long you need a support system. Honestly, I got along well with all the contestants, even Mr. Mitzvah (occasionally). Going through that show was a real bonding experience and I made some life-long friends as a result. I was sad when Braid got voted off. I met her at the auditions and was REALLY excited that she was to be on the show as well. I still talk with some of the other heroes. I am really close with The Defuser and his fabulous wife Norma as well, and I have visited them in Austin, TX for their giant haunted attraction ‘Scare For A Cure!’ Check out their site. That event is unlike anything else I have ever done and is fantastic! A word of warning though; don’t go if you’re claustrophobic!”

Stan Lee Wants YOU to be a Superhero! Surrounded by colleagues and friends, Williams is told for the first time that he has been selected to appear on the show. It was moment of genuine surprise, and obvious excitement for all concerned. (Photo: Syfy)

Stan Lee wants YOU to be a Superhero! Surrounded by colleagues and friends, Williams is told for the first time that he has been selected to appear on the show. It was a moment of both genuine surprise and obvious excitement for all concerned. Hooray, Dan! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: In the early scene when you’re told “Stan Lee wants YOU to be a superhero!,” where were you exactly? And who were all those people around you cheering you on? Was that all staged for the cameras or was it a real “gotcha!” surprise moment? Did Feedback break the news to you in-person, as he did with some of the others, or did you learn in some other way?

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“That scene was filmed at the college where I was working at during that time. The producers told me to gather a group of my friends and family because they wanted to interview them and get their opinions about me. So everyone you see in that group are my near and dear friends. They sent out only one camera guy, like it was no big deal, gathered us all in a room and I thought they were going to start asking everyone questions, but instead they sprang the news that I was selected to be on the show. My reaction was a true, 100% honest surprise!”

Go, Parthenon! This closeup of the prototype cover for issue #1 of a Parthenon comic book featured a decidedly "buff" superhero utilizing his super-strength to topple a Greek temple. (Art: Dark Horse Comics)

Go, Parthenon! This closeup of the prototype cover for issue #1 of a Parthenon comic book featured a decidedly “buff” superhero utilizing his super-strength to topple a Greek temple. (Art: Dark Horse Comics)

TJR: The prototype cover of your Parthenon comic book (shown above) was FANTASTIC. Sort of like Samson bringing down the temple. Did you get to keep that exact poster from the show? Do you know where the original artwork for that cover is today? That would be the ULTIMATE Parthenon collectible—other than your own armaguard.

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“That cover holds a love-hate relationship for me. I do have a poster from the show, but not the one used in filming. I actually don’t care for the cover myself. I feel it looked nothing like me and didn’t represent my character in the slightest. I still take it with me to conventions and when I do classes, but if I ever do create a Parthenon comic book—that will not be on the cover.”

Fantastic Fan Art! Williams continues to receive, create and commission artwork based on his superhero creations. This fantastic brush-stroke ink rendering of a young, hip  "Parthenon," seems ready to fight crime as a Saturday morning cartoon. ROCK ON! (Art: Enrique)

Fantastic Fan Art! Williams continues to receive, create and commission artwork based on his superhero creations. For example, this fantastic ink-brush rendering of a young, hip “Parthenon,” seems ready to go out and fight crime as a Saturday morning cartoon character. ROCK ON! (Art: Enrique Rivera)

TJR: Okay, fair enough. Well, have any amateur or professional writers or artists ever created a more accurate comic book based on one of your characters (Parthenon, The Cape or Brace)? And if so, where can fans buy them? And if not, are there plans for such projects in the future? Again, maybe with Kickstarter funding as the source?

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“Currently there is a bit of fan fiction out there for Parthenon, but nothing official has been created—yet!”

Searching for a Catch-Phrase: A second prototype cover for a Parthenon comic, again featuring the character's best catch phrase, "ROCK ON!" (Photo: Dan Williams)

Searching for a Catch-Phrase A second prototype cover for a Parthenon comic, again featuring the character’s best catch phrase, “ROCK ON!” (Photo: Dan Williams)

TJR: Clearly, “ROCK ON!” was your strongest catch-phrase. But when you were describing Parthenon to the other contestants, you told them your superhero catch-phrase was “Bling’s my thing!” And then added, “I’m all about the gemstones!” In response, the Defuser’s mouth dropped open (in apparent disbelief), Basura rolled her eyes, Hygena stared blankly ahead, and Mindset arched his eyebrow incredulously. Did their obvious apathetic reactions disappoint you? And did it cause you to question your superhero’s validity or potential?

Tension in the Lair? Or simply creative editing by the show's producers? Williams reveals it was a little of both. (Photo: Syfy)

Tension in the Lair? Or creative editing? Williams reveals the show’s “magic” involved a little of both. (Photo: Syfy)

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“Not to spoil the magic, but editing has a factor in this. When we were all sitting around, no one had those reactions. If anything, I got compliments on how well thought-out my character was. Of course, that doesn’t make for interesting TV, so…”

Despite saving his original "wash-n-wear" costume from the honey of "Bee-Sting," Williams had to turn it in for a costume created by Stan Lee and provided by the show. Here, he looks at it in a mirror for the first time. (Photo: Syfy)

Lookin’ GOOD! Despite sparing his original costume from Bee Sting’s sticky “honey-dump,” Williams had to exchange it for a new one designed by Stan Lee and created by the show’s costumers. (Photo: Syfy)

Stan Lee's interpretation of Parthenon's costume didn't please Williams, but he put on a brave face and soldiered on, nonetheless. (Photo: Syfy)

Fans liked it, but for various reasons, Stan Lee’s revamp of Parthenon’s costume didn’t please Williams. Nonetheless, Dan put on a brave face and soldiered on. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: How did you feel when you received your new costume from Stan? Any memories of that part of the show? Do you still own that costume? Is it displayed at your home on a mannequin, in your closet boxed up, or..?

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“To be honest, I was a little disappointed in my new costume. I’d put a lot of hard work into my original and I don’t feel their version met my expectations. For example, they had originally replaced my armaguard with a pair of cheap dollar store bracelets, one of which I eventually incorporated into my new look. They also gave me a more traditional-looking cape. The one-shouldered cape was part of my signature look because it highlighted the armaguard and that was the main part of my costume. They also completely changed my color scheme from blue, black and silver to teal and gold.”

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After some fine-tuning and the return of his armaguard, Williams found that his new costume looked pretty good after all! (Photo: Syfy)

After some fine-tuning and the return of his armaguard, Williams felt that his new costume looked pretty good after all! (Photo: Syfy)

“Of course, we originally were blindfolded while we were getting dressed in our new costumes so that our reactions upon first seeing them would be genuine, but I could already feel that I did not like the cape. Once they had put us back into the ‘transformation closet,’ I had about 5 seconds before the door opened and saw my new look. I very quickly threw my cape over one shoulder and when the doors opened, I had my off-the-shoulder cape and they had to let me keep it. If you look carefully in the same episode, I eventually talked to the show’s producers and got my armaguard back as well as my official off-the-shoulder cape. Luckily, Basura had a needle with her and I used dental floss to fix and sew my own cape and add the loop to the one side, so that I could hook it on the bracelet on my right arm.   After I fixed my costume myself, I did like it a lot more.”

Williams teamed up with DeCoudreaux during the roller coaster challenge at Six Flags. Here they plan their strategy for searching for clues.(Photo: Syfy)

We can do this! Williams teamed up with DeCoudreaux during the arduous roller coaster challenge at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Here they plan strategy for searching for various hidden clues.(Photo: Syfy)

The realities and limitations of superhero costumes became apparent to all contestants during the Six Flags challenge which required running all over the park searching for clues. (Photo: Syfy)

Tuckered-out in Tights? The realities and limitations of superhero costumes became apparent to all contestants during the Six Flags challenge which required running all over the park searching for clues. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: During the Six Flags challenge, you were required to run all over the park gathering clues. At one point, you openly admitted:

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“I thought I was in pretty good shape, but I tell you, running in spandex is NOT easy.”

TJR: What do you remember about that challenge? Riding the roller coaster, searching the park, being distracted by those two pushy, photo-fans, or..?

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“I actually had a good time in that challenge. Running all over the park was fun—but exhausting! I also love roller coasters, so I had no trouble with that. And we actually dealt with those ‘fans’ a lot differently than was shown in the final edit. Basura and I originally got past them quickly while still being polite. However, after we got the padlock off and noticed that we were still missing some teammates, we decided to go and keep the fans distracted so that the other heroes would not get stopped by them. This seemed like a great plan (to us), but I’m sure the producers wanted to give other heroes a chance to ‘interact’ with the fans.”

Williams and DeCoudreaux tried to distract and occupy the "fans" in an attempt to help their fellow contestants finish the padlock challenge. However, Stan Lee felt the two "allowed themselves to be distracted" by the fans and further hurt their chances at winning. (Photo: Syfy)

Distracted—Or Buying Time? Williams and DeCoudreaux are approached by “faux fans” requesting photographs. Regardless of their intentions, Stan Lee felt the two contestants had “allowed themselves to become distracted” by the fans, further hurting their chances on the show. (Photo: Syfy)

To Tell the Truth— Filling out "mission reports" for Stan Lee required some serious soul-searching on the part of each contestant. How much praise (or complaining) was too much? Walking a fine line in this peer examination process proved to be an integral part of the competition. (Photo: Syfy)

To Tell the Truth— Filling out Stan Lee’s “mission reports”  required some serious soul-searching on the part of each contestant. How much praise (or complaining) was too much? Walking a fine line in this peer-examination process was an integral part of the competition. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Back at the lair, when you were filling out Stan’s questionnaires on the computers, were you being a: brutally honest, b: cautiously careful, or c: strategically smart? What are your memories of filling out those “mission reports?”

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“Those missions reports were brutal! All of the heroes got along so well that it was super-hard to throw anyone under the bus. I answered all of the questions honestly, because that is what heroes do, for better or worst. In my personal life, I actually follow this same philosophy.”

This group shot of Season 2 contestants shows the enigmatic "Mr. Mitzvah" front and center. His odd-man-out role would confuse and concern his fellow contestants. (Photo: Syfy)

Not a Team Player? This Season 2 group shot shows the enigmatic “Mr. Mitzvah” standing front and center. But his odd-man-out role confused Williams and his fellow contestants. (Photo: Syfy)

Bosom Buddies— Williams and Paytas were clearly good friends. Interestingly, Mr. Mitzvah felt they both should have eliminated from the show. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

Bosom Buddies— Williams and Paytas shared much in common, became friends, and supported each other’s efforts on the show. (Photo: Melody Mooney)

TJR: Before the first elimination, you chose Mr. Mitzvah (Ivan Wilzig) as the most likely to be cut, because you felt “his isolation might hurt him.” Mr. Mitzvah by contrast, selected you and Ms. Limelight (Trisha Paytas), saying that you both just like to “talk ‘n talk ‘n talk ‘n talk!” Was there any schism or tension between you and Wilzig? Do you have any memories you’d care to share about Mr. Mitzvah?

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“Ivan was…interesting. I first met him at the auditions. He was extremely guarded and not very friendly. However, during my audition trip, I took notes on EVERYTHING; on anyone I met or talked to. When I got home, I tried to find any information I could about those I’d met. Ivan only told me his original superhero name: “Peaceman.” From that, I was able to look him up, find out who he was and his backstory. When the ‘big reveal’ that he was a millionaire happened on the show, I’d already known from the beginning. I actually didn’t know it was a secret and told the whole house on day 3! The producers asked me how I knew and I told them about the audition. They just laughed it off and said, “Well played.”

Williams was documenting his entire "audition trip," and in this rare photo, one of Dan's earliest encounters with Mr. Mitzvah occurred unguarded moment with Mr. Mitzvah occurred during the show's auditions, Her name is Sartan, Spanish for frying pan. She auditioned for the show as well but didn't make it. She was super nice so I took her picture to remember her

Keeping to Himself (Already)— Williams documented his entire “audition trip” to Los Angeles, and in this exclusive photo, he captured his earliest encounter with the secretive Mr. Mitzvah. It reveals an intriguing, unguarded moment that occurred during the show’s auditions, as contestants filled out forms and waited in a reception area. We asked Dan about the woman and he said, “Her name is Sartan, Spanish for frying pan. She auditioned for the show as well, but didn’t make it. She was super nice, so I took this picture to remember her by.” (Photo: Dan Williams)

TJR: Your sense of fair play really rose to the fore when the group later began discussing Mr. Mitzvah in secret—after he left the room. You objected, stating:

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“Shouldn’t Mr. Mitzvah be here for this though? I wouldn’t want anything said behind his back. I believe in the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

For some reason (at that moment), the Defuser disagreed with you, and you ended up scoring even MORE kudos from Stan Lee as a result. Lee even praised you about it later, saying, “You showed INTEGRITY when others wanted to talk behind Mr. Mitzvah’s back.” Viewers at home surely concurred with both you and Stan, and it seemed as if you were pulling out ahead (again) in terms of character strength and integrity. Your comments?

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The Mysterious Mr. Mitzvah— Fellow WWTBASH contestant, Ivan Wilzig (aka "Mr. Mitzvah), chose to play his cards close to his chest and refused to approach anyone on the show because he "was in a competition." Unfortunately for Wilzig (the so-called "Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons"), that strategy failed him miserably and Stan Lee eventually eliminated him from the show. (Photo: Syfy)

The Mysterious Mr. Mitzvah— Fellow WWTBASH contestant, Ivan Wilzig (aka “Mr. Mitzvah), chose to play his cards close to his chest and refused to approach anyone on the show because he “was in a competition.” Unfortunately for Wilzig (the so-called “Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons”), that strategy failed him miserably and Stan Lee eventually eliminated him from the show. (Photo: Syfy)

“Let me start by saying that Mr. Mitzvah and I didn’t really get along in the house, we barely talked. However, anything I had to say (negative or positive) about anyone I would want to say it to his or her face. He should have the chance to defend his actions and explain himself. The Defuser initially disagreed with me because we wanted to gauge everyone else’s opinions FIRST before talking to Mitzvah, which I understood to a point, but I still would have rather talked as a whole group. The few conversations I did have with Mitzvah were mostly of which were never shown. I had a ton of questions about his character, his backstory and generally how he acted on the show. All of these were met with a lot of resistance, so eventually I just had to accept it and move on.”

Say it's not so! Williams and DeCoudreaux bonded and worked well together during the competitions, making it all the more difficult when she was eliminated by Stan Lee. (Photo: Syfy)

Say it isn’t so! Williams and DeCoudreaux bonded and worked well together during the competitions, making it all the more difficult when she was ultimately eliminated by Stan Lee. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: When Basura was called forward for elimination, you strongly and noticeably shook your head. What thoughts (about her) were going through your mind at that moment?

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“I was super shocked! I thought we were going to be judged as a duo and that we made a fantastic team together. We got all of our clues, solved all of our puzzles, and were the first ones to finish. I completely disagreed with her being up there on the elimination blocks.”

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This is TOUGH. Clearly trying to hide their feelings, the faces of Williams and Stork nonetheless revealed sadness and strong disappointment whenever their friends were eliminated from the show. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: When Mr. Mitzvah and Ms. Limelight were eliminated on the same night, it was clearly very emotional for everyone remaining. What do you remember about that night and the emotional impact of a surprise double-elimination?

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“At this point in the show, I was concerned that Ms. Limelight was going home, so when Stan announced that Mr. Mitzvah was the one to go, there was a collective sign of relief from pretty much everyone. Afterwards, we started to leave the rooftop when Stan suddenly called us back. We thought it had nothing to do with the show, but when it was revealed that there was to be a double elimination, I knew that Ms. Limelight was done for. She and I were really close in the house, so that elimination hit me really hard. A little side note: All of the heroes were told to not get off our boxes, but we felt like we had to go and hug Ms. Limelight one last time, even if we got in trouble.”

May I have your clothes? Williams found it a difficult task to ask strangers to loan him their clothes. Nonetheless, he would be the first and fastest contestant to complete the challenge. (Photo: Syfy)

May I have your clothes? Williams found it a difficult task to convince strangers to loan him their clothes. Nonetheless, he was the first and fastest contestant to complete the challenge. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: During the clothes-changing challenge at Universal City Walk, your “P” emblem was facing the wrong way in one scene. Had you changed too quickly and put your shirt on inside-out?

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“The P is facing the wrong way? I had never noticed. I’m pretty sure the editors just flipped the video horizontally when editing. Why, I have no idea. But I loved this challenge, actually. When we first started, I thought it was impossible to talk ANYONE into giving you their clothes in public. I was really lucky though. The third group I talked to was a fantastic group of 3 women. The rules were you could only get one item from each person and I managed to talk each of them into giving me one thing. Pants was the hardest, but I had the great idea that the girl could tie her friends sweatshirts around her waist as a skirt—and she did it! I was floored! I was done getting my items before anyone knew what actually happened.” 

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The Mystery of the Flipped “P” Solved: According to Williams, the flipped P was a simple editor’s gaffe, NOT the result of a too hasty “quick-change” on his part (Photo: Syfy)

Who was that Mystery Woman? The mother of non-existent lost-child, "Emily," was in fact, Bee Sting working in a wig, dark glasses and hat disguise. (Photo: Syfy)

The Mystery Mother of a non-existent lost-child turned out to be Bee Sting working in disguise. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: What about “Emily,” the supposedly lost child? And did you believe that her mother was real, or did you suspect her true-identity and that she was secretly working for Dr. Dark, the show, etc.?

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“As for the fake mom, I mean, come on! You could totally tell she was an actress. But did I know she was secretly Bee Sting? NO! We had ZERO clue on that one!”

Parthenon wins AGAIN! As in many of the challenges, Williams came in first or near first place. In the clothes changing event, he finished first and found the secret courier to retrieve a stolen check. ROCK ON! (Photo: Syfy)

Parthenon wins AGAIN! In the clothes changing event, Williams finished first, found the secret courier (above) and retrieved the stolen property. ROCK ON! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: By finding the secret courier and stolen check first, you won the clothes-changing challenge and scored even more kudos from Stan. Were you feeling pretty unstoppable at that point?

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“I was searching for that spy for quite a LONG time. When I finally found him and won the challenge, it was a huge feeling of relief knowing I’d be safe for another week and get to fight another day!”

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Prepare for a Surprise, Heroes! Contestants entering the Golden Apple Comic Book Store in Los Angeles had no idea what—or WHO—was waiting for them inside. (Photo: Syfy)

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One will be immortalized. As Dark Horse Comics President, Mike Richardson revealed the contestant’s prototype comic book covers, Williams found himself feeling disappointed and disillusioned. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: What are your memories of visiting the comic book store where you met Dark Horse Comics president, Mike Richardson, saw Parthenon on a comic, and heard Stan say: “THIS is what’s waiting for ONE of you—at the end!”?

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“I was SOOOO excited to see our covers and meet Mike; it was one of those moments that you really wanted to be special. Honestly though, when I saw my cover, I was excited for a minute and then felt really let down. I felt like it didn’t capture anything about my hero, his powers or his story. And I didn’t feel like it looked like ME, either.”

Take a look at THIS!

Reactions were decidedly mixed when the superheroes saw their respective comic book covers for the first time. At first, most were happy, but upon reflection, many were not. (Photo: Syfy)

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“On that cover, Parthenon looks like a Hulk-sized Superman, which he is not. He is an archaeologist, who stumbles across an ancient bracelet. Disappointed, I tried to focus on everyone else’s covers instead. Later, off-camera, a few other heroes and I were talking and they said they felt the same way. Some felt the covers were rushed and incomplete. It was like the artists that drew them had received none of our character’s information beforehand.”

Calling Home was a rare, one-time privilege granted only to Parthenon and Hygena. (Photo: Syfy)

Calling Home was a rare, one-time privilege granted only to Parthenon and later, Hygena. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Another emotional moment came when you were awarded a phone call home, and then shared the prize with Hygena, who wept openly. Your thoughts?

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“This reward made me so happy for so many reasons.  When you are so cut off from the real world, any chance to get something familiar is precious. When I asked what I could and could not discuss, the producers said I could talk about anything that happened so far, this doesn’t seem important but it TOTALLY was. All the heroes had to sign non-disclosure forms saying we could not talk to ANYONE about anything from the show, so I got to share all of my experience with my BF Derek at the time. I never talked so fast! I literally tried to tell him everything I could.

After that, I got to be more relaxed and just talk to him normally  It was this scene that actually got Sci-Fi nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Reality Program; their first ever I believe! They were nominated because of 3 little words that I said, ‘I Love You!’ to my boyfriend. That was all it took! Suddenly, Sci-Fi was ‘gay-approved’ and we were nominated along with Project Runway and Kathy Griffin (Griffin took home the award that year).”

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Sharing good fortune. After winning the right to call home, Williams shared the prize with fellow contestant Melody Mooney, who thanked him with a hug. (Photo: Syfy)

Sharing good fortune. After winning the right to call home, Williams shared the prize with contestant Melody Mooney, who thanked him with a big hug. (Photo: Syfy)

“When it came time to give away the other call, I chose Hygena immediately, with zero thinking. I knew she needed it the most. The producers asked me to give the other heroes a chance to explain their case, which I did, but it was totally Hygena’s. I was happy with the choice and felt it brought us closer together.”

Rooftop Eliminations became something every contestant dreaded, as Stan Lee judged them from a giant electronic screen mounted nearby. (Photo: Syfy)

Rooftop Eliminations became something every contestant dreaded, as Stan Lee judged them from a giant electronic screen mounted nearby. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Fans are very interested in the rooftop eliminations and the actual technologies involved. Could you describe what we couldn’t see off-camera? For example, was the image of Stan really shown on the billboard or were you watching a smaller TV screen somewhere else off camera? Were there lights and multiple cameras everywhere? What do you remember about going up there night after night?

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“Surprisingly fans see almost everything as it is up there! Stan really was projected on the billboard, but it was on the same rooftop as us. There were lights of course and a big crane camera for those fantastic looking high angle-sweeping shots of us. One of the coolest things fans never saw is that to get out to the roof the door was actually a bookcase that opened. Why they never showed that I don’t know! It was also FREEZING up there! I was usually wrapped up in my cape like a blanket in-between takes. One night it was so cold, that they got us all big coats and blankets to share. You can literally see some of us shaking, not out of fear of elimination, but of frostbite—and I am not talking about the villain!”

In a stroke of brilliance, the show's creators came up with Stan's (very) tele-visual "cubes of elimination." At night, the internally-lit cubes were dramatically effective in setting a mood and communicating two simple facts: Standing on a red cube meant you were facing final elimination. Standing on a white cube meant you were "safe"—for now. (Photo: Syfy)

The view from above was quite dramatic. This screenshot (actually taken from Season 1) provides a good sense of just how much space the rooftop eliminations required. WOW! (Photo: Syfy)

Here goes Nuthin'! As Williams enters the small access pipe to the "power station," he activated the light on his armaguard. Unfortunately, that aid soon failed and he found himself in total darkness once again. (Photo: Syfy)

Watch your head! Fellow contestant, John Stork, cheers Williams on as he enters the small access pipe to the “power station,” a dark place that was filled with creepy-crawlies of all sorts and sizes. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: What are your memories of the power station challenge? Were all the snakes, spiders, rats, etc. real? Were they actually touching or falling on contestants or endangering them in any real way? Or were they simply inconvenient, kept behind clear plexi and frightening? What do fans not know about that event?

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“Honestly…
It was the worst challenge EVER! I HATE snakes, bugs, spiders, etc. and I tried to put on a brave face for the show, but inside I was screaming! The pipe we had to crawl through was so small and ridged that I banged up my knee during that. I still have no idea how the Defuser even fit in the pipe let alone crawled through it. Must be something that they train you for in the Police Academy!

What the fans couldn’t see is that I had a bit of light in there ONLY because of my armaguard! I built my armaguard myself out of leather, but the main stone in the center, the Allstone, was lit by LEDs and changed colors. This didn’t really come across in the video, but it is one of my favorite things about my costume. So, before starting the challenge, I switched on my light and went inside.”

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Snakes and Spiders and Rats, Oh My! Everyone's least favorite creepy-crawlies were everywhere in the darkness of the power station challenge. Aaaaaa! (Photo: Syfy)

Snakes and Spiders and Rats, Oh My! Everyone’s least favorite creepy-crawlies were everywhere in the darkness of the power station challenge. Aaaaaa! (Photo: Syfy)

“But then, while I was crawling through the tunnel, I slammed my arm into the side of it and broke the switch to my armaguard! The light went out and I could not believe my horrible timing. Inside of the Power Station, there really were all those creepy, crawly things. You could only see for a second or two in there when the light pulsed. I managed to duck under the pipe on the way to the fuse box, but on the way back, I knew the pipe was there, so I reached out for it. Instead of the pipe, I grabbed onto a giant snake that was sitting on it! This is when I let out my (infamous) ‘scream.’ Listen to it again and you can tell I was caught completely by surprise and started laughing (at myself) immediately as a result. I KNEW my screaming was going to be questioned by Stan. Luckily, I had a few hours before elimination, and it was in that time that I came up with one of my favorite lines from the show: ‘That wasn’t a scream, that was a battle cry!”

All is Forgiven! Williams poses with actor Yan Feldman (aka "Dr. Dark") at the show's premiere party in LA. (Photo: Syfy)

All is Forgiven? Williams poses with actor Yan Feldman (aka “Dr. Dark”) during the show’s premiere party in LA. (Photo: Dan Williams)

TJR: Dr. Dark’s video revelation about your “obsession with pirates” and having a “whole room dedicated to the dark side” didn’t seem to faze Stan much, and you had no comment. Why was that?

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“My whole scene for this landed on the cutting room floor. As I said earlier in this interview, this is my favorite memory of Stan. For weeks, I’d been telling the heroes about my crazy-themed house, but hadn’t been allowed to show them pictures of it. Ironically, Dr. Dark’s ‘dark side’ video was literally my bf giving everyone a TOUR—of my house. Of course, I couldn’t have been happier to show it off! As to an obsession with pirates, I responded to this question with the fact that I had played the Pirate King and Stan’s lightning fast response was,‘Well anyone who likes Gilbert and Sullivan can’t be bad!’

Later in the video, they showed my comic book room and some of my cosplay costumes, so Dr. Dark tried to imply that I was merely ‘playing the hero’ instead of actually being one. I responded with ‘I disagree. I think dressing up and cosplay in general could not be more heroic. You idolize the heroes so much—you want to BE them. It helped train me for the hero that I am today.’ Needless to say, that wasn’t aired on the show either. I think they were just trying to find something on me that I couldn’t spin into a positive. That’s why the final aired response was my saying nothing at all.”

Preoccupied with winning the science quiz/word scramble challenge, Williams neglected to seek the views of elementary school students and ended up ostracizing them as a result. Afterwards, his failure to bond with the children came as a real surprise for the real-life, experienced educator. (Photo: Syfy)

Preoccupied with Winning? During the classroom challenge, it seemed Williams neglected to seek the views of elementary school students at his table and ended up ostracizing them as a result. While his failure to bond with the children came as a surprise to the real-life, experienced educator, the reasons WHY may have more to do with the showmanship of a fellow contestant—Hyper-Stike. (Photo: Syfy)

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A Human Dynamo! Fellow contestant, John Stork, aka “Hyper-Strike,” is a professional entertainer. The other heroes quickly realized his athleticism, experience, and ease working with crowds (and children) made him a formidable force to be reckoned with. Not surprisingly, in the close confines of the school’s classroom, his abilities proved too overwhelming for Williams and the others to overcome. (Hyper-Strike was chosen as the “most popular hero” by the schoolchildren.) (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Congratulations on making it to Stan’s “Final Four.” Your first stumble, however, came soon after, during the elementary school challenge when you learned that “ZERO students preferred Parthenon.” At the time, you stated you were very surprised by their reaction. And when you first met Stan in the auditions, you told him that the reason you wanted to be on the show was “to be a role model for kids.” Just before you were eliminated, Stan would tell you that you “had failed as a role model” (based on the student vote). How did you feel about that surprising turn of events, and what are your thoughts about it all now?

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“This whole challenge was an editing nightmare. I don’t want to say too much about it, but my ‘friendly get to know you time’ with the kids was never shown. My team came in first for the challenge and then my team got to sit around and chat more, which was also never shown. As for zero percent of the vote, I still do find that a little hard to believe, but not really. Hyper-Strike was literally doing hand-stands on top of a chair on top of their tables! Heck, even I would have voted for him!”

Evil Stan's Embarrassments—Public Embarrassment

Evil Stan’s Embarrassments—Publicly embarrassing commands from “Evil” Stan Lee were transmitted to the heroes via hidden earpieces. Despite questioning the orders, Williams obliged, resulting in numerous embarrassing and regrettable moments. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Without a doubt, the true nadir for Parthenon fans came when “Evil Stan” began playing the heroes for fools, treating you all as puppets and pawns during the city-square challenge. It all began when you borrowed someone’s sunglasses and a woman’s cane, then began dancing a silly jig on the sidewalk. When you were finally done, you placed her cane on a trash can and jogged away from the scene! This was all so PAINFUL for your fans to watch! Do you have any (hopefully redeeming) memories regarding that challenge? And now that we now know the contestants’ wrist-communicators were non-functional props (see HERE), how did you receive your orders from “Evil” Stan Lee?

Message Coming In! In an attempt to test contestant's willingness to blindly follow orders, "Evil" Stan Lee sent his bizarre commands not via wrist-communicators, but by decidedly lower-tech hidden earpiece radios. A little acting on the parts of the heroes went a long way to sell the illusion. (Photo: Syfy)

Message Coming In From Stan! In an attempt to test contestant’s willingness to blindly follow orders, “Evil” Stan Lee sent his bizarre commands, not via their wrist-communicators, but by decidedly lower-tech hidden earpiece radios. A little staring at their wrists on the parts of the heroes went a long way to sell the illusion. (Photo: Syfy)

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“This was also one of my least favorite challenges and 90% of my stuff was edited out. As to the communicators, we got our instructions through a hidden earpiece. And as soon as they asked us to do weird things, I literally stopped and asked the producers if we had to do these tasks because my character wouldn’t do this. You also never saw that I ‘undid’ everything (that I had done) and made sure everything was put back the way it was. I ran that woman’s cane back to her across the street as well, so no need to worry.”

TJR: Despite the debacle of the city-square challenge, you seemed to redeem yourself later in the locked crate challenge, devising and coordinating a strategy that was used to escape. To viewers, that event seemed to be all about the men working together while Hygena just stood back and watched. After escaping the box, you seemed like a shoe-in to remain on the show and Hygena seemed to be in the most trouble. What are your memories of this test?

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Trapped Like Rats! During the aromatically-challenged box challenge (watch Hygena react to the men's B.O.), testosterone clearly won the day as the men executed a plan devised by Williams. (Photo: Syfy)

Trapped Like (Smelly) Rats! During the pungent peril of the “locked crate challenge” (watch Hygena’s reaction to the men’s B.O.), testosterone levels were running high as the heroes executed Williams’ escape plan. (Photo: Syfy)

 

“The crate challenge was frustrating, but I did think that I was a key part of escaping it. So (in my mind) at this point, I felt I had won the school challenge, undid all my weird tasks at the city-square challenge and helped us escape from the box. I really did think I was ‘safe’ from elimination and honestly believed that Hyper-Strike was going home for revealing his secret-identity to the kids at the school. That’s basic ‘Hero 101’ stuff that you just don’t do, and someone was voted off the show for doing just that on Season 1—and he (Hyper-Strike) was also on the chopping-block before! This was to be my first time EVER standing on a red square, because I had either won or was a part of the winning team in EACH episode.”

Suddenly, it was Over. Despite feeling assured he was safe from elimination, Williams was nonetheless, told to "turn in his costume." The expression on his face says it all. (Photo: Syfy)

Suddenly, it was Over. Despite feeling assured he was safe from elimination, Williams was nonetheless, told to “turn in his costume.” The expression on his face says it all. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: As we all know now, later that same evening, despite your excellent performance in the locked crate challenge, you were the next contestant to be eliminated. Were you as shocked as the viewers when Stan cut you from the show ahead of Hygena? What are your strongest memories of that night?

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“Total shock is all I can say about it. I had ZERO clue it was coming until I was on the elimination block. I was 100% convinced it would be Hyper-strike! The whole rest of that night is a blur, until sitting in my hotel room a few hours later, waiting for a flight to take me home. I was confused at what could have happened and after watching how it was edited—I still don’t really get it!”

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Power of Historic Proportions! Imagine being able to say you stepped into the pages of a comic book and lived the life of a superhero. Dan Williams was fortunate enough to have done so, and his character, Parthenon, will now live on in television history—forever! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Clearly, it was your failure to bond with the children that had sent you home. Up to that point, Hygena, despite her pluck and tenacity, had regularly been disappointing to Mr. Lee. By contrast, there was little else to criticize about you. In fact, Stan’s parting words to you were, “Parthenon, you brought wit and wisdom to this grueling process. You performed nobly.” Now, some 7 years later, what final thoughts would you like to share with all the fans out there who still hold you (and the show) so near and dear?

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“First off, I really want to say a giant ‘Thank You! & Rock On!’ to all the fans of the show and of Parthenon. I am still in awe at how many people still LOVE this show and talk to me about it to this day. I think it touched that ‘inner nerd’ in all of us and I could not have been more proud to be a part of it. It gave me the chance to actually BE a Superhero and I’m one of those very lucky people who were able to truly LIVE—a dream.”

Dan Williams "channels" the powers and pain shown in his Parthenon character's powers and pain

Will Parthenon “ROCK ON?” Seven years after his appearance on “Who Wants to be a Superhero?,” Dan Williams has achieved great success in his real-world life as an educator and artist. Nonetheless, fans of the show continue to wonder if the self-professed “creative extraordinaire” will ever “channel” the powers of his unique superhero creation again—perhaps in some other format—or if there will there will EVER be a 3rd Season of Lee’s beloved show. Whatever the outcome—ROCK ON! (Photo: Dan Williams)

Find out more about Dan! His website, appropriately called, "What's Dan Doing?  is full of news, photos and information. Enjoy! (Logo: Dan Williams)

Find out more about Dan: His website is appropriately called What’s Dan Doing?
and is chocked full of news, photos and other “Dan-formation.” Enjoy! (Logo: Dan Williams)

Bottom Line: We expect to see bigger and better things from this talented young man far into the future. Our sincerest thanks also to Dan and all the other contestants for their continued and generous contributions to these articles. As to the potential for a return of Parthenon, we’ll leave you with this one final quote from Dan:

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“Currently I’m working on starting up my YouTube Cosplay Channel called Super Secrets, where we’ll be crafting—for superheroes! It combines a lot of my passions, so I am extremely excited about it. Will we see Parthenon doing anything in the future? It all depends on how those contracts turn out. Just know that I’m actively working on new projects that I hope fans (old and new) will love.”

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Renowned Network News Producer For CNN, ABC & CBS, Now Works As a Freelance PR Consultant, Greets Returning Troops & Collects G.I. Joes!

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40 year-old PR consultant and former network television producer, Carter Yang, poses alongside a US Navy fighter plane strapped to the deck of the USS Intrepid in New York City. Yang worked 18 1/2 years for CNN, ABC and CBS News producing stories on aviation, transportation and homeland security. Today, Yang freelances his talents, welcomes troops returning from overseas, lives with his family in Washington, D.C. and collects—GIjOEs! (All photos courtesy of Carter Yang, exclusively for The Joe Report)

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Yang waits as astronaut Jim Reilly gets his microphone adjusted prior to a STS-121 “Return to Flight” CBS News broadcast. Yang produced the segment LIVE from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Photo: Carter Yang)

Former TV “News Hound” Now Searching For 1:6 Scale GIjOEs

By Mark Otnes, 7-6-2014
Editor, The Joe Report

Carter Yang loved the high-pressure life of a network TV news producer. During his 20-year tenure in the profession, he’s written, covered and produced countless news stories for CNN, ABC and most recently, CBS News. While he’s not an on-camera personality or anchorman, Yang’s commanding role as producer has nonetheless made him very well-known in his field. And, as might be expected, his high-profile job also put him in contact with famous aviators and heroes of the U.S. space program. Carter works primarily in Washington, D.C., but he’s also been sent to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (NASA), to the scene of various aircraft disasters and wherever else the day’s news requires. He’s even ridden aboard Air Force One! Clearly, traveling around the world and reporting on history-making events is exciting. But heads up, Joe fans… What really gets Carter’s adrenaline flowing is— GIjOE!

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This impressive array of glass display cases from IKEA reveals Yang’s collection spans many generations, from vintage ’60s figures to ’90s Classic Collection and beyond. Superb! (Photo: Carter Yang)

Fortunately, we were able to catch up with the hard-charging Yang recently, and he kindly consented to the following brief interview about his exciting life, career and (of course) die-hard interest in collecting “America’s Movable Fighting Man.” Enjoy!

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Yang with Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, in the CBS News Washington Bureau, 2010. (Photo: Carter Yang)

Interviewing  (and Collecting!) Real American Heroes

TJR: Thanks so much for taking time out today for this interview, Carter. You’re quite well-known already, but for those readers of The Joe Report who may not have met or heard of you, please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living. It’s all so fascinating!

CY: “I’m flattered and I’m happy to have this opportunity to share my love of GIjOE with you and your readers! I love The Joe Report! I was born in New York City, but have lived in the Washington, DC area since 1995. I’m a forty-year-old freelance public relations consultant and a former network television news producer. I’ve worked in television news for nearly 20 years, first at CNN, then at ABC News, and then at CBS News, where I was the network’s Aviation and Transportation Producer.

In that role, I produced numerous transportation-related stories for the ‘CBS Evening News‘ and other broadcasts. I’ve covered everything from presidential campaigns to plane crashes to Space Shuttle missions for CBS News and, as a lifelong military aviation enthusiast, I’ll never forget the first time I flew on Air Force One while covering the White House with ABC News in the mid-’90s.”

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Yang sits “on set” as he helps check an on-camera position in preparation for a 2006 “remote broadcast” from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. (Photo: Carter Yang)

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Out of their boxes and on display— Yang’s extensive collection of GIjOE action figures and related books, vehicles, etc., are all nicely arranged and displayed on shelves for all to see and enjoy. (Photo: Carter Yang)

TJR: Tell us about your interest in GIjOEs. When did you start collecting?

CY:I grew up playing with 3 3/4″ GIjOE figures, but I’ve been collecting the 12″ figures since Hasbro started making them again in 1991 and I’m proud to say I have nearly every one made since then, along with a handful from the ’60s and ’70s. I’ve loved 12″ Joes ever since my mother bought me a pair of footlockers and 3 vintage Joes at a flea market for just $60 when I was a kid. They quickly became my favorite toys.”

TJR: Cool! But why did GIjOEs become your “favorite toys?” What special meaning do they hold for you?

CY: “My father served in the US Marine Corps Reserves, I have many friends who have served in the military or are serving now, and my family and I volunteer with ‘Operation Welcome Home Maryland’, which greets service members returning from overseas deployments as they arrive at Baltimore Washington International. So I’ve always had immense respect and appreciation for our Armed Forces. That is why collecting GIjOE has always been such a passion for me.”

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Carter holds 5 year-old daughter, Elise, as they wait to greet returning U.S. soldiers during a recent “Operation: Welcome Home” event held in the Baltimore International Airport. (Photo: Carter Yang)

TJR: Could you tell us about one of your favorite stories or news events that you covered?

CY: “As for my favorite stories, one of them was certainly US Airways Flight 1549, the so-called, ‘Miracle on the Hudson,’ which was not a miracle at all, but rather a feat of brilliant airmanship by the plane’s pilots. It was an incredible aviation story. Most of the high-profile aviation stories I covered before and since were tragedies, but that was one with a happy ending. Here’s a link to the piece that I produced on the flight after CBS News obtained the air traffic control audio recordings from the flight a few weeks after the incident.

TJR: WOW. That was an amazing story. Did you ever meet the pilots of that flight?

CY: “Here’s a picture of me with First Officer Jeff Skiles attached and, although I never met with him in person, I later worked with Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger after CBS News hired him as a consultant.”

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Yang and First Officer Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot of US Airways 1549 (the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight) at Reagan National Airport in 2009. (Photo: Carter Yang)

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This bunch of Classic Collection figures stands (or kneels) “at the ready” in Carter’s Joe Room. What a great line-up! (Photo: Carter Yang)

TJR: Just a few final questions: Do you ever go to GIjOE shows? That photo of you on the flight deck of the USS Intrepid reminded me of the national GIjOE convention held there years ago. Were you able to attend? And are you a member of any GIjOE clubs? I’m sure other fans in your area would LOVE to meet up with you in person!

CY: “I’m afraid not. I’ve always wanted to go to a Joe Con, but I’ve never managed to make one. I have been a member of the GIjOE Collectors Club in the past, and have ordered quite a number of items from their store, but my membership has lapsed and I’m not an active member at the moment.

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Carter Yang for his generous cooperation and contributions to this article. Do you have a question for Carter about his collection, career or a specific news story? If so, please leave your comments HERE. Thanks!

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Former ’70s TV Personality, Topless Bar Owner and Eureka, CA Mayoral Candidate, Tom “The Great Razooly,” Now An Artist and Creater of Superb 1:6 Scale G.I. Joe Dioramas and Vehicles

Tom Razooly enjoys playing with his GIjOEs in his idyllically forested "Joe Land" at his home in (Photo: Tom Razooly)

The multi-talented Tom Razooly (above, r), has reinvented himself once again, this time as an artist and sculptor creating unique 1:6 scale structures and vehicles with VERY high “play value.” He also enjoys staging elaborate outdoor battle scenes and “playing GIjOEs” with family members and friends in the forested “Joe Land” surrounding his home in northern California. (Photo: Tom Razooly)

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Tom as “The Great Razooly” on a promotional 8×10 glossy from his show, originally broadcast from Channel 23, Eureka, CA. (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom as “The Great Razooly” on a promotional 8×10 glossy from his show, originally broadcast from Channel 23, Eureka, CA. (Photo: Tom Razooly)

“I made my first G. I. Joe space capsule from a discarded Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket.” —Tom Razooly

During the 1970s-’80s, a multi-talented, self-reliant and creative young actor named Tom Razooly was making an unusual (yet eminently enjoyable) living in northern California portraying a mysterious, top-hatted host of a schlocky late-night television program called, “Horror Theatre.” Tom’s character, dubbed “The Great Razooly,” was a sort of macabre master-of-ceremonies who would ominously introduce each B-movie, provide sarcastic segue patter leading into and out of commercial breaks, and act in a variety of short comedic sketches produced on the cheapest of budgets.

Filming a scene for Channel 23's "Horror Theatre." (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Filming a scene for Channel 23’s Horror Theatre. (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Actress Maila Nurmi as "Vampira." (Photo: Ed Wood)

Actress Maila Nurmi as 1950s “Vampira.” (Photo: Ed Wood)

Horror Theatre was a ratings success, and Razooly’s natural flair for dramatic and creative performing helped revive TV’s on-air hosting tradition. Ostensibly, the genre of hosted late-night horror programming originated on radio programs back in the 1940s, then naturally evolved along with television into the 1950s, ultimately producing such famous TV personalities as the impossibly thin-waisted “Vampira” (portrayed by actress Maila Nurmi) and the busty, suggestive sexpot, “Elvira” (aka actress Cassandra Peterson).

Joe Flaherty as "Count Floyd" on SCTV. (Photo: SCTV)

Joe Flaherty as “Count Floyd” on SCTV. (Photo: NBC)

Over the years, there have been many TV horror-hosts, and many performers influenced by them. For example, it’s not inconceivable to believe that Razooly’s Horror Theatre, broadcast in the Pacific Northwest, was seen at some time by comic-actor Joe Flaherty, providing him with the inspiration for his own hilarious “Count Floyd” character on Canada’s SCTV. Similarly, the “Great Svengoolie” (as currently portrayed by Chicago actor, Rich Koz on the MeTV channel) shares many similarities with Tom’s character AND Count Floyd, both in terms of appearance and “schtick.” (If it ain’t broke…)

Perhaps the world's most famous and successful late-night horror host, actress Cassandra Peterson portrayed the well-endowed and sarcastically hilarious, "Elvira the Mistress of the Dark" on station KHJ in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo: KHJ)

Perhaps the world’s most famous and longest-running late-night horror hostess, actress Cassandra Peterson has portrayed the cleavagely-advantaged (and sarcastically hilarious), “Elvira the Mistress of the Dark” on station KHJ in LA since 1981. (Photo: KHJ)

After his tenure on television, Razooly reinvented himself as the founder and operator of an adult-oriented business on the outskirts of Eureka, CA known as the Tip Top Club. As the years went by, Tom became a well-known (although somewhat controversial) figure among the local citizenry of Eureka, which encouraged him to run for Mayor (at least two times, both unsuccessfully).

In 2014, MeTV's "Great Svengoolie" borrows much of The Great Razooly's persona and costuming, including Tom's famous black top hat. Despite the similarities, each performer is unique in their own ways. (Photo: MeTV)

MeTV’s “Great Svengoolie” (actor Rich Koz) also favors a black top hat. (Photo: MeTV)

Eventually, Tom sold the Tip Top and retired from business altogether. Now, years later, he is reinventing himself once again, focusing on the more laid-back pursuits of art, travel, costumed “cosplay,” and the rekindling of a long-lost childhood love— GIjOEs. Predictably, the creative symbiosis between art and GijOEs quickly inspired Tom to scratch-build a growing collection of 1:6 scale structures and vehicles, which he thoroughly enjoys setting up in elaborate and imaginative outdoor “adventures.” (Imagine that. Playing with GIjOEs—OUTDOORS!) Here are some examples:

Reminiscent of the 1970s Adventure Team tower, Razooly's scratch-built, all-wood guard tower has a superb, rough-hewn texture so perfect for the forest in which it is displayed. What a FANTASTIC photo! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Razooly’s guard tower is hand-crafted out of “found” wood pieces and has a superb, rough-hewn appearance that’s perfect for use in a forest setting. This extreme perspective is misleading. The tower is MUCH taller than it appears. Take a look at the figure up in the top shack! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom is obviously having a lot of fun in his own private "Joe Land." What a GREAT photo! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom is obviously having a lot of fun in his own private “Joe Land.” What a GREAT set-up. Look at all the details. Go, Tom! Go, JOE! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom's wonderful photo of two climbing soldiers makes incredible use of sunlight. WOW! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

This wonderful photo of two of Tom’s climbing and rappelling soldiers makes incredible use of natural outdoor sunlight. WOW! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom's 1:6 barracks is a perfect piece for display or play. The wood is nicely weathered, there are two bunk beds, a bench, and numerous other details. FANTASTIC job! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom’s 1:6 barracks is a perfect piece for display or play. The wood is realistically weathered, there are two bunk beds, a bench, and numerous other details. What a FANTASTIC structure for GIjOE! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom clearly enjoys taking photographs of his hard work and sharing it with other customizers of 1:6 scale. According to Razooly:

“It feels good to have others see my photos. Feel free to share them with any G.I.Joe fans you may know!”

Impressed by his 1:6 creations, we asked Tom to elaborate on his latest reincarnation as a GIjOE fan and customizer. He replied:

“Well, when I retired from business several years ago, the thought came to me; ‘What could I do with all my old GIjOE friends and my artistic skills on a budget?’ EBay’s prices for 1:6 scale vehicles and props were outrageous, so I set out to make ’em all myself!”

This early production shot reveals the various "found" bits and pieces that Tom combined to create his outstanding 1:6 scale locomotive. Absolutely ingenious work! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

This early production shot reveals the various “found” bits and pieces that Tom combined to create his outstanding 1:6 scale locomotive. Absolutely ingenious work! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

“As my 1:6 scale modeling skills increased, I challenged myself to do more and more complex modeling. Beginning with simple things like fuel barrels and coffee pots, then on up to dump trucks, trains and bombed-out chalets.”

Tom's scratch-built 1:6 scale steam locomotive with cargo car is an absolute MASTERPIECE. Look closely and you'll notice it's coming through a 1:6 tunnel! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

This view of Tom’s completed, scratch-built, 1:6 scale steam locomotive (with attached cargo car) reveals it is an absolute MASTERPIECE in 1:6 scale. Look closely and you’ll notice it’s coming through a realistically detailed 1:6 scale tunnel as well. Tremendous work, Tom! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom with fiancce, Amber NAME. (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom with fiancée, Amber Hughes. (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Razooly’s life has been an ever-changing tapestry of creative experiences. Originally from San Francisco, he now resides in Blocksburg, CA, and has recently become engaged to be married. In addition to living his real life, like many GIjOE fans, Tom also enjoys pursuing the fantasy world of costumed role-play, or “cosplay.” After reviewing photos of his many outfits, we returned to his original horror get-up and asked him if his famous “Great Razooly” top hat was real or simply a cheap knock-off from the TV station’s prop room. He replied:

Tom's newest top hat is the perfect finishing touch for his amazing "Dr. Fate" costume from "The Great Race" (remember Jack Lemmon chewing up the scenery in this?). (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Razooly’s famous top hat is the perfect finishing touch for his superb “Professor Fate” costume from the movie, The Great Race. Remember Jack Lemmon chewing up the scenery in this? (Photo: Tom Razooly)

“My top hat? Ahh… very astute of you. It is indeed ‘real.’ I’m so old now, everything has a story these days. When I was 15 years old, my father gave me a 70-year old ‘beaver felt top hat.’ I loved that hat and wore it all through my teen years, and into my adult life as a local late-night TV horror host. Eventually, my old antique hat wore out. By that time, my daughter had grown and was working in the movie industry as a set designer. She let me know of a Hollywood costume company that made movie quality costuming. I gave my antique top hat to them and asked for a brand new replica. They made this one for me 15 years ago, and it is PERFECT!”

Half the fun of "playing GIjOEs" is making your own stuff. The other half is setting it up, playing with it, and taking pictures of the results. In this one amazing photo, you can see Tom's handmade 1:6 scale dumptruck, guard shack, and road barrier (complete with a little stop sign). WOW! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Half the fun of “playing GIjOEs” is making your own stuff. The other half is setting it up, playing with it, and taking pictures of the results. In this photo, you can see Tom’s handmade 1:6 scale dump-truck, guard shack, and road barrier (complete with a little HALT sign). WOW! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom sets up a command post diorama using found sticks, rocks and whatever else he needs from the woods around him. Just like when he was a kid! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom sets up a command post diorama using found sticks, rocks and whatever else he needs from the woods around him. Just like when he was a kid! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Most fan THINK about building their own 1:6 scale wooden bridges, but Tom's actually done it. Here, his GIjOE tank commander crosses over Razooly's scratch-built bridge which can be moved and reused—again and again! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Many GIjOE fans THINK about building their own 1:6 scale wooden bridges, but Tom has actually done it. Here, a tank commander has just crossed over Razooly’s scratch-built bridge which can easily be moved around and reused—over and over again. So… get out there and PLAY! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

A young Tom Razooly posed for this "Apollo Moon Rocket" model kit by Revell in 1969. (Photo: scalemates)

Did a young blonde(!) Razooly pose for Revell’s “Apollo Moon Rocket” box in 1969? (Photo: scalemates)

Some of Razooly’s gifts and talents were recognized and utilized at a very early age. In fact, according to Tom:

“Back in my youth, I worked as a child model for ‘Revell Models.’ I did a photo-shoot once for their ‘Apollo Saturn V Moon Rocket’ kit. I don’t think that’s me on the ‘Collector’s Set’—but it MIGHT be.”

Interesting! It’s been well established that many young boys of the 1950s and ’60s were deeply influenced by the building and collecting of model kits (and GIjOEs) when they were young. (Sadly, today’s less “hands-on” generation suffers greatly in this regard.) And now, as an adult, Razooly continues to enjoy building and creating, using whatever materials he can easily and affordably “scrounge” from nearby sources. According to Tom:

“My GIjOEs gave me days and days of wonderful, imaginative entertainment. And I honed my adolescent art skills by making my own 1:6 scale props from old oatmeal containers, pieces of cardboard and good ol’ masking tape. In fact, I made my first GIjOE space capsule from a discarded Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket!”

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Build it. Set it up. PLAY with it! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

“Recently (for some reason), I got it into my head to create a big, GIjOE camp. I couldn’t really find or afford many of the pieces I wanted, so I slowly began to make them as well as I could. Of course I went on the web, looking at those new super-cool, all-metal Willy’s Jeeps. But the price tag was just too rich for my blood. So instead, I cobbled together, and detailed-out 5 plastic jeeps I’d bought that were damaged and had missing parts for only about $19 each. I still dream of finding a damaged Jeep with enough parts that I can make a custom canvas-covered troop carrier out of it.”

Don't have a heavy-duty dumptruck? Build one! Tom pieced together this entire machine out of leftover Jeep parts and scrap wood. You can too! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Don’t have a heavy-duty dump-truck for your GIjOEs? Then BUILD one! Tom pieced together this entire machine out of leftover Jeep parts and scrap wood. You can too! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom had to back WAY up in his workshop to get the entire 1:6 scale guard tower in the frame of his camera. WOW! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Tom had to back WAY up in his workshop in order to get the entire 1:6 scale guard tower in the frame of his camera. Fan-TASTIC job, Tom! (Photo: Tom Razooly)

“I’m never too exact with my 1:6 Joe stuff. I just like to create things that the kids and I can PLAY with. Occasionally, no budget and a little experience can pull you through!”
Tom Razooly

Bottom Line: Tom’s work reflects a lifetime of talent, backed up by solid creativity and an obvious appreciation for “hands-on,” scratch-built craftsmanship. With an entire forest at his disposal and his own private “Joe Land, ” we can’t wait to see what he makes next. And we can’t help but wonder: Will we ever see “The Great Razooly” on TV again? Or maybe “LIVE and in person” at a GIjOE show—with some of his cool 1:6 scale custom creations? Stay tuned!

THIS JUST IN… We were able to track down a photo of Revell’s 1969 “Collector’s Set” that Tom mentioned, but the boy’s face on the box is turned to the side somewhat and in shadow, making it difficult to say if it’s him or not. The chances are pretty good that it IS, because the boy’s hair is more brunette and parted on the same side as Tom’s hair is today. Razooly said he wasn’t sure if it was him, but that it MIGHT be. What do you think?

Is it, or isn't this, Tom Razooly? Although he can't remember, and the identity of this young man is most likely lost to the ages, the reality is that Tom was a child model for Revell during the 1960s, and posed specifically for their line of NASA kits. As a result, the likelihood that this is in fact a young Razooly, is very high. (Photo: Tom Razooly)

Is this, or isn’t this, Tom Razooly? Since Tom can’t say for sure, the actual identity of this young man may be lost to time. The reality is that Tom was a child model for Revell during the 1960s, and posed specifically for their line of NASA space exploration kits. As a result, the likelihood that this is a young Razooly, remains high. (Photo: ebay)

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Catching Up With Chelsea Weld, aka “Cell Phone Girl” From the Syfy Channel’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” Competition-Reality TV Show

A stunning 22-year old Chelsea Weld poses as her alter-ego, “Cell Phone Girl,” in this 2006 publicity still taken for Season 1 of SyFy’s hit competition reality series, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” While Weld clearly looked super, her “kryptonite” turned out to be dogs and headaches, a dual weakness that hastened her removal from the show. (Photo: Syfy)

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Now, THIS is an action FIGURE! At 30, Cell Phone Girl has become a muscular, hard-bodied, Cell Phone WOMAN. Here, Weld poses in the “bikini class” of a recent fitness competition. (Photo: Team DreamQuest)

Second in a Series of Exclusive Interviews with the Contestants of Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” Competition Reality Show

By Mark Otnes, 3-26-2014
Editor, The Joe Report

“I think I watched the show peeking through one eye. It feels a bit awkward to watch yourself on camera.”
—Chelsea Weld, aka SyFy TV’s superheroine, “Cell Phone Girl”

Here at The Joe Report, we’re unabashedly HUGE fans of Stan Lee’s hit TV reality show, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” (WWTBASH) And yes, we know that it’s been off the air for 7 years. But that’s not going to deter us from interviewing every single contestant from the show. Today’s interview is with Season 1 contender, Chelsea Weld, aka “Cell Phone Girl” (CPG) to her legions of fans. We caught up with Miss Weld recently at her new “secret lair” located somewhere in Hawaii, and she kindly offered to answer our questions about her life and her time on the show

TJR: Hello! And thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. As I mentioned before, I’m a HUGE fan of yours and of your superhero alter-ego, “Cell Phone Girl.” But let’s begin by catching up with Chelsea Weld, the woman, as you are today. According to your Facebook page, you’ve recently become engaged. Congratulations! Is there anything you’d care to share about your fiancé, or your future plans together?

Chelsea Weld’s found her own super-MAN in fiancé Peter Stams. (Photo: Jimmy Songvilay)

CW: “Thank you! We are getting married very soon in May and we are both so excited! I feel so blessed and lucky to have such an amazing man in my life. Our future plans are to stay healthy and happy together.”

TJR: When you appeared in Season 1 of Syfy’s Who Wants to be a Superhero (2006), you were just 22 years old, and working as an interior designer in La Crescenta, California. Where are you now, and what are you doing?

CW: “Currently I live in Hawaii and work as a Financial Advisor. It is something that has always fascinated me. I still have the creative design bug though. I just designed our condo with the help of my fiancé!” (UPS Enterprise AE, Peter Stams)

The Woman of Bronze. Here, a statuesque, almost Amazonian Weld poses alongside renowned fitness professional Kiana Phi before a competition. (Photo: Kiana Phi)

TJR: That’s fantastic, congratulations again. You’re also quite a beautiful woman. What sort of health regimen or exercise activities do you currently participate in to keep your superhero physique looking so “fit and fabulous?”

CW: “Thank you! In July of 2012, I competed in the Bikini Class of an NPC body-building show. I placed 5th in the top 5 in my first show which was very exciting! Staying healthy and active is something I am passionate about, so I really enjoyed the whole process and the camaraderie around it. I had no idea how involved that world gets until I experienced it for myself. My goal is to compete again in 2015. For now, I’m staying healthy by working out several times a week, and eating very cleanly. For my workouts, I really prefer weight training. I don’t get the results I want with anything else. And for fun, I enjoy yoga, hiking and water sports.”

Weld stretches before training (or relaxing) on a beach in Hawaii. (Photo: Peter Stams)

TJR: Many fans have wondered if you were ever employed as a professional model or in show business as an actress? If so, what did you do?

CW: “I never did any modeling. I took some acting classes initially to get over my shyness and ended up really liking them. I love acting and think in another life I would have really enjoyed it. But I never did anything professionally.”

TJR: When you’re not working, what are you doing? What are your other interests or hobbies?

CW: “When I am not working, I love being outdoors. Whether it is laying on the beach, or being active in the water, or hiking—I love soaking up the beauty here. It is very soothing. I mentioned before that, training for fitness competitions is a passion of mine, so I look forward to getting back into training soon.”

Even as a teenager, Weld was already dreaming about someday becoming a superhero. (Photo: Jaymie Uchiyama)

Even as a teenager, Weld was already dreaming about someday becoming a superhero. (Photo: Jaymie Uchiyama)

TJR: How and when did you first get interested in superheroes? Who is your favorite superhero and why?

CW: “Back in high school, my boyfriend was very into comics, and he bought me some of my own, and the storylines just captivated me. I thought they were great; grown up stories—with pictures! That was the moment I knew I loved comics and that is what got me into superheroes. I think everyone loves the idea of being “super” at something and having extra powers. Who doesn’t want to fly or be able to teleport?”

TJR: Absolutely! And to carry the question further, did you ever dress up as a superhero and attend a toy show or comic book convention as a cosplayer?

Weld poses with fellow WWTBASH contestant E. Quincy Sloan (aka "Ty'Veculus") during the 2006 San Diego ComicCon. (Photo: Alan Crosby)

Weld poses with fellow WWTBASH contestant E. Quincy Sloan (aka “Ty’Veculus”) during the 2006 San Diego ComicCon. (Photo: Alan Crosby)

CW: “When I lived in California, right after ‘Who Wants to be a Superhero’ aired, I went to the San Diego ComicCon as Cell Phone Girl. That was SO fun! I loved seeing everyone dressed up. I love dressing up and would love to do that again!”

Most likely inspired by Weld's Cell Phone Girl character, Mattel released its "Chat Diva Barbie" in 2007. This unique figure included a moving mouth that synced with prerecorded messages like, "Yep, Totally, its Barbie!" and "Did you Get My Message? No? Really?...Later Girl." Pick one up with brown hair, and it wouldn't take much effort to customize it in your own 1:6 scale Cell Phone Girl. YES! (Photo: Lennihan/AP)

Most likely inspired by Weld’s “Cell Phone Girl” character, Mattel released its similar “Chat Diva Barbie” in 2007. This collectible figure included a unique moving mouth that automatically synced with prerecorded messages like, “Yep, Totally, its Barbie!” and “Did you Get My Message? No? Really?…Later Girl.” Pick one up with brown hair, and it wouldn’t take much effort to customize it into your own 1:6 scale Cell Phone Girl! (Photo: Lennihan/AP)

TJR: As you know, The Joe Report is primarily geared towards fans and collectors of 1:6 scale action figure toys. Do you collect anything? Any toys, superhero items, dolls, or action figures?

CW: “I would love to have collections, but over the years I’ve moved around a lot and have had limited storage space, not ideal conditions for keeping up a collection. I enjoy seeing other people’s collections though.

I LOVE a proud collector; someone who is truly passionate about their collection and can tell you everything about it. In that sense, I would say I am more of a fan—of collectors!”

TJR: Let’s talk about your time on the show. In episode 1 of Season 1, when you first stepped out of the limousine at the mansion, you said (in a voiceover):

“I love cell phones. I’m always on the phone. I love to stay in touch with people. So when it came to being a superhero, I knew I was Cell Phone Girl.”

In this screenshot from the show, Chelsea is seen for the first time as she emerges from the limosine and opens her trademark cell phone, emitting waves of superhero power! (Photo: Syfy)

Weld is seen for the first time emerging from a limousine and activating her trademark cell phone; thereby emitting powerful waves of “heroic energy.” Look out, prank callers! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: For viewers, that statement perfectly captured the essence of your character. Cell Phone Girl (CPG) was going to be an optimistic, friendly and outgoing superhero. Tell us about your creation of CPG and how the idea first came to you.

CW: “I was sitting in class one day, and at that time I was trying to figure out which carrier had better service (I had TWO cell phones). My friend saw me using both of them at once and called me ‘Cell Phone Girl.’ That name just resonated with me. That IS me. I am Cell Phone Girl!

I’m always on the phone; whether to have fun, help people out, or simply to find out some information. From that moment on, I started dreaming up my character’s super powers and what it would be like to actually BE—Cell Phone Girl.”

TJR: Cool! Okay, could you tell us about the show’s audition process? How and when did you first learn about the show? Where did you have to go, what did you have to do, etc.?

The beginning of Chelsea's journey to becoming a superhero began here, in a non-descript building hosting the first-ever auditions for Stan Lee's "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" Can you spot her in this lineup? (Photo: Syfy)

Weld’s journey to becoming a superhero began here, in a nondescript Hollywood building hosting the first-ever auditions for Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” Can you spot her in this lineup? (Photo: Syfy)

CW: “I saw the ad online somewhere and was instantly intrigued. I prepared my costume, went to a building in Hollywood for the audition (positive that I wouldn’t be chosen) and presented my character to them. The whole process was simply fascinating to me.

Stan Lee played his "Oz-like" role to the hilt, appearing on big screen TVs and video projectors placed in numerous locations throughout the competition. His impact was undeniably powerful and often very emotional, bringing many of the contestants to tears. (Photo: Syfy)

Stan Lee played his “Oz-like” role to the hilt, appearing on big screen TVs and video projectors placed in numerous locations throughout the competition. His impact was undeniably powerful and often very emotional, bringing many of the contestants to tears. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: When you finally met Stan Lee, where was that and what did you two talk about?

CW: “The only times I met Stan Lee were on a TV or video projector when he was talking to us. It was a magical moment when I first saw him, but I don’t even remember what he said, exactly. I just kept thinking, ‘Wow! I’m talking to Stan Lee. This is so COOL!”

Weld manages to pull off a remarkably normal, Clark Kent-like, "secret identity," both at work and in "real life." Who would suspect this mild-mannered financial advisor could suddenly transform into...Cell Phone Girl! (Photo: Chelsea Weld)

Weld manages to pull off a remarkably normal, Clark Kent-like, “secret identity,” both at work and in her “real life.” Who would suspect that this mild-mannered financial advisor could suddenly transform herself into…Cell Phone Girl?!
(Photo: Chelsea Weld)

TJR: When and how did you learn you had been selected as a contestant for the show? Were you notified via phone, email or letter? What specifically did you do to prepare?

CW: “The details are fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure they notified me by phone. I mean, how else would you notify Cell Phone Girl? At that point, I already had my costume and character, so the only thing for me to do was show up.”

TJR: Your long, elegant legs were shown to great advantage in both of your Cell Phone Girl costumes. But wasn’t it difficult to run in those high-heel boots? And did you ever poke anyone in the eye your with your cape’s antennas?Looking back, what do you think of your two costumes now?

CW: “I WISH I got to have that second costume while I was still on the show. The show’s costumers did a great job creating it. When I finally got to wear it, I was very excited. And yes, if I turned around too fast, and someone was standing too close, my antennas could get caught in someone’s hair, but people quickly learned how to keep clear.”

Chelsea demonstrated that running in high-heel superhero boots is not as difficult as you may think in this scene from "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" (Photo: Syfy)

Weld demonstrated that running in high-heel superhero boots is not as difficult as one might think in this scene from “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” (Photo: Syfy)

“The boots were actually fine to run in, thick heels are a superhero’s friend. Looking back, my first costume still holds a special place in my heart because it has all the memories of the entire process tied to it. But I also LOVED that second costume!”

TJR: You were eliminated from the show before receiving an “on-air” official costume makeover, but were given your beloved second costume later nonetheless, for photo shoots and other promotional activities. Did you get to keep that new (studio-created) costume? If so, where is it?

CW: “Yes I still have it, safely in storage. Maybe I’ll break it out and wear it again!”

TJR: Did you get to keep any other souvenirs from the show? Did anyone ever bring up the irony or pointlessness of giving Cell Phone Girl yet another cell phone or “communicator?”

In 2006, there was no Skype, so Stan Lee's "communicators" were still considered to be very high-tech. Too bad they were just non-functioning props. (Photo: Syfy)

In 2006, there was no Skype, so Stan Lee’s “communicators” were still considered to be very high-tech. Too bad they were just non-functioning props. (Photo: Syfy)

CW: “Ha-ha! No, no one did mention the irony. And technically, Cell Phone Girl doesn’t need any cell phones, so you are correct. No I don’t have any other souvenirs. Just my costume.”

Weld describes herself during a scene from WWTBASH. (Photo: Syfy)

In this screenshot from the show, Weld admits one of her weaknesses is a fear of dogs. The revelation would later prove to be quite prophetic (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Personality-wise, what sort of heroine did you envision Cell Phone Girl to be? High-tech? Vain? Or youthfully immature like Spiderman, the X-Men, etc (all originally brash teenagers)? The reason I ask is that in the earliest audition tapes, you actually stated the following:

“If there’s a hot guy walking by, it’s a dilemma…

Do I help the person (in need), or do I go for the hot guy?”

TJR: Looking back now, I’m sure you’ll agree, that was hardly a “heroic” thing to say. By portraying Cell Phone Girl in that manner, it seemed as if you were almost working against yourself. Your thoughts?

CW: “Every super hero has their weaknesses—hot guys were one of mine. I didn’t say I chose the hot guys over saving someone, just that it was a dilemma. Superheroes always do the right thing, so of course, I would always choose to SAVE someone! I envisioned Cell Phone Girl as being very tech-savvy, confidant, and empathetic towards people.”

The show's producers felt Weld's character held so much potential, they even went to the lengths to create a logo for Cell Phone Girl (shown above). (Photo: Syfy)

The show’s producers felt Weld’s character held so much potential, they even went to the trouble to create a logo for Cell Phone Girl (shown above). (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: The first time viewers hear from you is in a voice-over referring to Stan Lee, in which you say:

“Being immortalized by this master of all superheroes would be a dream come true.”

TJR: The producers liked that comment so much they ended up using it in every episode, even after your departure from the show. Was that statement your own idea? Or did the show have writers “feeding” contestants certain phrases?

CW: “For our commentaries, we would have conversations with the crew where they would ask us questions. They never told us what to say, but if we said something that might be taken the wrong way, or it was stated unclearly, they might help us to phrase something differently. The statement is true—it WOULD be a dream come true. I don’t remember now if they helped me to articulate that particular sentence, but they never put words in my mouth.”

In this screenshot from the show's opening credits, Chelsea receives a call for help and begins peeling off her "civilian" dress to reveal her superhero costume underneath. Go, Cell Phone Girl! (Photo: Syfy)

In this screenshot from the show’s opening credits, Weld receives a call for help and begins peeling off her “civilian” dress to reveal her superhero costume underneath.
Go, Cell Phone Girl! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Did you realize that the show had a separate, unique theme song for Cell Phone Girl? It’s true! If you watch episode 1 and listen carefully just before you step from the limousine (at the mansion), you’ll hear the music spin off into a unique counter-melody that was created specifically for your character—and it’s PLAYED on cell phone buttons, to boot! Pretty cool!

CW: “I think I watched the show peeking through one eye. It feels a bit awkward to watch yourself on camera. So I don’t quite remember that. But thank you for pointing that out. I will look for that! That is very cool.”

After gathering in "the mansion," some contestants decide to break into dance, even forming a conga-line. Here, contestant Chris Watters (aka "Major Victory") joins Chelsea in the action. (Photo: Syfy)

After gathering in “the mansion,” some of the contestants decide to break into dance, eventually forming a conga-line. Here, contestant Chris Watters (aka “Major Victory”) joins Weld in the action. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Who’s idea was it to start conga-line dancing in the mansion? Did the producers say “Okay everybody, let’s start dancing.” Or did the contestants just begin to do that on their own?

CW: “Ha! I think it was Creature’s idea. She (Tonya Kay) is a VERY playful person and lots of fun. We all had so much fun together!”

Chelsea reacts along with fellow contestants Chris Watters and E. Quincy Sloan as Stan Lee suddenly appears on a nearby monitor accusing them of NOT behaving like superheroes. From this moment on, contestants learned they were being judged "at all times" and that behavior considered to be "unheroic" could get them eliminated. (Photo: Syfy)

Weld reacted with “shock and awe” along with fellow contestants Chris Watters and E. Quincy Sloan when Stan Lee suddenly appeared on a nearby monitor and accused them of NOT behaving like superheroes. From that moment on, contestants understood that they were being judged “at all times” and that any behavior Lee considered unbecoming or improper (for a superhero) could get them eliminated from the show. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: When you learned you were leaving the mansion for an unknown “lair” elsewhere, you lamented:

“I don’t want to leave the mansion. I want to stay here. This sucks!”

TJR: You may have said that innocently, but the comment came across as somewhat “spoiled.” Was that your intention, or do you believe the producers carefully selected comments so that you and the other contestants would be perceived and portrayed in a certain way? How do you feel you ultimately came across on the show?

CW: “Of course, the show cherry-picked comments to help create drama, every show does that. And yes, it does sound spoiled, but the intention behind my comment was more about the FUN we were having, not the fact that we were in a mansion.”

From the very beginning, "Rotiart" stood out and seemed somewhat...unusual. Turns out, he was an actual contestant! (Photo: nashentertainment.com)

From the very beginning, “Rotiart” stood out as being somewhat…unusual. And rightly so!
(Photo: nashentertainment.com)

TJR: Did you ever suspect that “Rotiart” (Jonathan Firestone) was a spy? Did he ever interrogate you, looking for “dirt?” What are your thoughts of him and Levity (Tobias Trost) both leaving the show before even entering the lair?

CW: “When we were all in the limo together, I remember thinking that something about Rotiart seemed ‘off,’ but I couldn’t put my finger on it, and I was even about to look at his name spelled backwards and then got distracted by someone. If I had done that then, we might have figured him out sooner! As soon as he said his real name, I thought back to that moment. Having Levity leave was very disappointing. BOTH of those moments definitely made the threat of leaving a reality.”

Before stepping foot in the lair, the contestants stood stunned outside, upon hearing Stan Lee reveal that "one of you is a SPY." Weld would continue, but Tobias Trost was not so fortunate. (Photo: Syfy)

Before stepping foot in the lair, the contestants stood stunned outside, upon hearing Stan Lee reveal that “one of you is a SPY.” Weld would continue, but Tobias Trost was not so fortunate. (Photo: Syfy)

From the outside, the hero's "lair"  was a rather depressing old warehouse with blacked-out windows and barbed wire. It's address, "11400 Willow Street," is somewhere in the greater Los Angeles area, although its exact location remains unknown. (Photo: Syfy)

From the outside, the show’s superhero “lair” was a rather depressing looking old warehouse with high walls and barbed wire. It’s (possibly false) address, “11400 Willow Street,” was purported to have been in the Los Angeles area, although its exact location is unknown. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: What can you tell us about your time in the lair, and of the lair building itself, that we may not already know? Was the address really 11400 Willow Street? What city was it in? Can you provide any (previously unknown) “behind the scenes” information?

CW: “I don’t really know where it was. If I remember correctly they blacked out the windows of the limo we were all in somehow. The interior was a very beautifully revamped warehouse. I loved it! Even more so than the mansion.”

Chelsea and fellow contestants, Tonya Kay (l) and Mary Votava (r) react with excitement as they tour the spacious and well-appointed interior of the show's superhero "lair" for the first time. (Photo: Syfy)

Weld and fellow contestants, Tonya Kay (l) and Mary Votava (r) react with excitement as they walk through the spacious and well-appointed interior of the show’s superhero “lair” for the very first time. (Photo: Syfy)

“Half of my excitement was because I loved what they did with the interior space, and the other half was because I was on the show and that was just so exciting. When we weren’t shooting, we would all sit around talking and playing and making each other laugh. We really did have a great time together. Other than the interior, I really have no idea where we were. They were very good at keeping that a secret, even from us. Somewhere in the LA area is all I know.”

Chelsea and the other contestants listen as Stan Lee instructs them to find a public place to change into their costumes in "a superhero-like manner." (Photo: Syfy)

Weld (far left) and the other contestants listen as Stan Lee (off-screen on a TV monitor) instructs them to find a public place to change “inconspicuously” into their superhero costumes. (Photo: Syfy)

While she waits her turn, Chelsea scans the area looking for a good place to change her clothes—in public. (Photo: Syfy)

While she waits her turn, Weld scans the area looking for a good place to change her clothes—in public. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: During the first challenge, you said (in a voice-over):

“When I heard what our first superhero challenge was, changing in public, I thought, you gotta be kidding me!”

TJR: But in fact, Stan didn’t tell the contestants to change in public. Rather, he urged everyone to find a place to change “inconspicuously,” ala Clark Kent. And so, the question many fans immediately ask is, why did YOU, Nitro G, and a few others, decide to change right out there in the open? When it was your turn, as the camera panned to the side, people are clearly sitting or walking by only a few feet away! Why didn’t contestants just go into one of those public porta-potties?

Despite her best efforts to remain "inconspicuous" while changing into her superhero costume, Chelsea was anything but, as the show's camera crew clearly proved by taping her in this private moment. (Photo: Syfy)

Despite her efforts to remain “inconspicuous” while changing, Weld was anything but, as the show’s camera crew clearly proved when taping her during this private moment. (Photo: Syfy)

CW: “Oh trust me, if there was anywhere to change in private, I would have found it. EXCEPT for a porta-potty! I draw the line there. I try to avoid them at all costs. They basically took us to an open park. No buildings. No restrooms. In fact, I don’t even think there WERE any porta-potties. So I hid behind a wall. I was hidden from the public pretty well, but it was not an ideal spot. I think I was kneeling in the bushes. Where I was changing people couldn’t see me or I wouldn’t have changed. You can’t show the public your superhero quick-change routine. That ruins the magic!”

In this screenshot from the show, Chelsea pulls on a gauntlet during her "inconspicuous" public change. (Photo: Syfy)

Weld pulls on a gauntlet during her “inconspicuous,” yet public, quick-change. When things became TOO personal, she adamantly shooed camera crews away. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Okay… I think we’ll require some clarification here. Forgive me for asking, but your fans will HAVE to know this: Were you already wearing your costume’s black tights and fishnet stockings under your t-shirt and jeans? And if you weren’t (again, excuse me if I’m being indelicate), then exactly how far did you have to strip down (in public!) for this “revealing” challenge?

CW: “No, I was NOT wearing my tights or stockings! So…when I started to change and the camera crew found me, I told them if they didn’t LEAVE, then I wasn’t going to finish changing. To my knowledge, no one saw anything. And to anyone who did—you’re welcome! HA!”

In a stroke of brilliance, the show's creators came up with Stan's (very) tele-visual "cubes of elimination." At night, the internally-lit cubes were dramatically effective in setting a mood and communicating two simple facts: Standing on a red cube meant you were facing final elimination. Standing on a white cube meant you were "safe"—for now. (Photo: Syfy)

In a stroke of brilliance, the show utilized 13 “cubes of elimination.” At night, the internally lit cubes dramatically set the mood and communicated two simple facts: Standing on a red cube meant you were facing elimination. Standing on a white cube meant you were safe—at least for the moment. (Photo: Syfy)

Chelsea (nervously) awaits her fate during one of the show's ominous nighttime "rooftop" eliminations. (Photo: Syfy)

Weld (nervously) awaits her fate during one of the show’s ominous nighttime “rooftop” eliminations. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: What are your memories of the nighttime “rooftop eliminations?” On the show you said:

“When I got to the roof, and saw all of those boxes lit up, it was intense. It was definitely intimidating.”

TJR: Could you hear Stan clearly? Was he really appearing on that billboard-sized TV screen?

CW: “I remember being VERY nervous. I enjoyed being on the show and didn’t want to leave, so I think that was going through all of our minds. We would see Stan on a big flat screen, but probably not the size of a billboard. It was a big screen though.”

To face the "Attack Dog Challenge," Chelsea had to wear a full-body protective suit and helmet. Despite the added protection, she would fare well against the ferocious canines. (Photo: Syfy)

To face the “Attack Dog Challenge,” Weld had to don a full-body protective suit and helmet. Despite the added protection, she would fare poorly against the well-trained and ferocious canines. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Tell us what you remember about the “Attack Dog Challenge.” Before it began, you honestly and openly admitted:

“Wow. I’m nervous! This reminds me of a time when I was actually bitten by dogs.”

TJR: And then during the attack, you lasted only 4-seconds before quitting. Afterwards, you stated:

“I have a horrible headache, and those dogs just made it worse.”

Chelsea and fellow contestants Tonya Kay ("Creature") and Steel Chambers ("The Iron Enforcer") react after learning their next challenge was facing down two highly-trained attack dogs. (Photo: Syfy)

Weld and fellow contestants Tonya Kay (center) and Steel Chambers (right) react after learning the next challenge required facing down two highly trained attack dogs! (Photo: Syfy)

Chelsea climbs over the fence to face the dogs. Her "bull-riding" helmet did little to help her in the event. (Photo: Syfy)

Weld climbs over the fence to face the dogs. Her “bull-riding” helmet did little to help her in the event. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Looking back on that day now, what are your strongest memories? What was it like being a chew-toy for two vicious K-9s? Were you physically hurt, or did just you just suffer some wounded pride?

CW: “That was a VERY tough day for me. When I was 5, my family and some other families went camping in the desert. One of our family friends had Rottweilers and I remember the owner telling us not to run or the dogs will chase us. Well, when you are 5 and it looks like a big Rottweiler is chasing you on his own, you RUN! And sadly, I could not outrun him, so he bit my butt. That hurt!

So, while I was waiting for my part of the challenge, all I remember thinking was about that moment and how much it hurt to be bit by a dog. Not to mention scary, because they are usually barking also. I was already in that big ‘sumo suit’ so I was also very hot. Being hot and anxious for hours will give anyone a headache.

I was also very nervous because those were specially trained attack dogs who could only be called off by one word from their owner. If I said that word or if anyone else said that word they wouldn’t listen. So on top of everything else, I was thinking ‘gosh, I hope this guy doesn’t drop dead or something before he says the command to call them off me.’ Plus, they had an ambulance nearby!”

Upon entering the yard, Chelsea was instantly set upon by the two dogs, who immediately knocked her down, bit down hard onto her arms and legs and began shaking their heads much like great white sharks. (Photo: Syfy)

Immediately upon entering the yard, Weld was set upon by the two attack dogs which proceeded to knock her down, bite hard onto her arms and legs and shake their heads like sharks. Quickly thereafter (within 3-4 seconds), she yelled out, “Uncle!,” and the trainers called off the animals. (Photo: Syfy)

Within just 4 seconds, Cell Phone Girl lay bruised and defeated. Weld's failure of this challenge was her character's undoing, and Stan Lee would eliminate her from the show that same day. (Photo: Syfy)

In just 4 seconds, Cell Phone Girl’s fate had been sealed, leaving her bruised—and defeated. Weld’s failure in this challenge was her final undoing, and Stan Lee eliminated her from the show later that same day. (Photo: Syfy)

CW: “So there I was, in this huge padded suit that was hard to move in, wearing heels(!), and I’m supposed to outrun some trained attack dogs?! As soon as my feet hit the ground, the dogs were on me in 2.5 seconds. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the door (another 25 feet away) so decided not to prolong the pain. Those suits we were wearing were not padded. They were just thick enough for a bite to not break skin. You can still definitely feel the pressure though. I think I even had bruises from it.”

As fellow contestant E. Quincy Sloan looks on, Weld defends herself for one last time before Stan Lee finally eliminates her from the show. (Photo: Syfy)

As fellow contestant E. Quincy Sloan looks on, Weld steps forward and defends herself for one last time before Stan Lee finally eliminates her from the show. (Photo: Syfy)

CW: “I don’t think they showed it, but when Stan was asking me questions to eliminate me, he asked me if Cell Phone Girl was afraid of dogs and I said, “No. Cell Phone Girl isn’t. But I (Chelsea) am!” I was looking around at the production crew thinking, ‘Don’t they know I’m not REALLY a superhero?’ News Flash: I, Chelsea, cannot fly or teleport either. Only Cell Phone Girl can! Oh well, in the end, Stan made his choice and I was just happy to have had the experience of being on the show.”

After being told by Stan Lee to "Turn in your costume," Weld deposits her phone, gauntlets and cape into the dreaded trash can, whereupon they are instantly vaporized by bolt of lightning. Zzappp!!! (Photo: Syfy)

After being told by Stan Lee to “Turn in your costume,” Weld deposits her phone, gauntlets and cape into the dreaded trash can, whereupon they are instantly vaporized by bolt of lightning. Zap!!! (Photo: Syfy)

A defiant Weld raises her cell phone proudly, appearing determined to continue her fight against evil! (Photo: Syfy)

A defiant Weld raises her cell phone proudly, determined to continue on with her fight—against evil! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: That’s a good way to look at it. And regardless of the 4-second outcome, it took a lot of guts for you to get in there with those two dogs. If you were faced with the same sort of challenge TODAY, would you do anything differently?

CW: “Dear God, I hope I am never faced with that same challenge again! If I was, it would probably be in real life and I would definitely fight the dogs back. Those dogs were only attacking me because they were trained to, so I felt like it would have been very wrong of me to hit them or fight back. I felt like my only option was to just take the attack. If I were put back in that exact same moment in 2006 for a ‘do over’ right now, today, honestly, it probably would have ended the same way. I might have tried to run a little bit farther, but I don’t think the outcome would’ve been any different. What would YOU do if you had 2 trained German Shepard attack dogs coming for you?”

Years after appearing on "Who Wants to be a Superhero?," the beautiful female contestants of Season 1 (including from left: Tonya Kay, Chelsea Weld and Mary Votava) remain of great interest to their fans worldwide. (Photo: Syfy)

Their beauty is undeniably SUPER, and years after appearing on “Who Wants to be a Superhero?,” the lives of the female contestants of Season 1 and 2 (including from left: Tonya Kay, Chelsea Weld and Mary Votava) continue to be of great interest to their legions of devoted fans. (Photo: Syfy)

The prototype cover for a Dark Horse comic starring Cell Phone Girl that (unfortunately) was never produced. (Photo: Syfy)

The prototype cover for a Dark Horse comic starring Cell Phone Girl that (unfortunately) was never produced. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: That’s a good question, and the perfect opportunity for me to change the subject (HA). So…are you aware of the various adult-oriented “fan-fiction” and comic strips that’ve been created about the women of WWTBASH? What are your thoughts about being the subject of such online amateur (and professional) erotica?

CW: “No, I am not aware! Being that I have no idea what you are talking about, I don’t know that I can offer a comment. But I will have to check into that.”

TJR: When you find it, you may want to read it much like you watch yourself on the show, by “peeking through one eye!” (Some of it’s pretty risqué!) Finally, it’s been 8 years now since your appearance on WWTBASH. Looking back, would you amend your departing statement in any way? And is there anything you would have done differently?

In a recent "selfie" taken by Weld with her new tiger-striped cell phone, a stronger, leaner, beautiful-er "Cell Phone Girl" shows that she's MORE than ready to continue her fight against evil. Excelsior! (Photo: Chelsea Weld)

In this new “selfie” (taken with her current cell phone), Weld flexes the impressive muscles of a stronger, leaner “Cell Phone Girl,” proving she’s MORE than ready to continue her fight against evil. Excelsior! (Photo: Chelsea Weld)

CW: “I would not change my parting statement, because I think that it summed up how I felt in that moment. And looking back, the only thing I could have done differently would be to have tried to run a little faster!”

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and gratitude go out to Miss Weld for her generous response to this interview. We wish her all the best in her future endeavours, and in her upcoming nuptials. To view a 30-second promo of Chelsea’s time on the show, click on the video link below. And stay tuned for our THIRD exclusive WWTBASH contestant interview—coming soon!

Happy Birthday, Larry Storch! Famed Actor, Comedian, & Star of ’60s TV, Turns 91 Today

A 1960s

An “F-Troop” comic book cover depicts the show’s cast, including (from l to r) Ken Berry, Melody Patterson, Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch (far right) as Corporal Agarn, the most famous comedic character of his long and illustrious shown business career. (Photo: basementcomics)

Larry Storch entertains the crowd during a 2011 appearance at the Friar's Club in New York City. (Photo: Drew Friedman)

Larry Storch entertains the crowd during a 2011 appearance at the Friar’s Club in New York City. (Photo: Drew Friedman)

F-Troop star and TV icon, Larry Storch turns 91 today. Happy Birthday, Larry!

My “Brush with Greatness” Double-Header in Small Town, USA

It was 8PM on a cold, dark September evening. The year was 2002, and the place was a Barnes & Noble (B&N) bookstore in the small college community of Champaign, Illinois. At that time, the bookstore was perched on the outermost edge of town, at the end of a retail district where civilization seemed to come to an abrupt end, butting up to hundreds of square miles of adjacent corn and soybean fields that stretched off to infinity in all directions.

The crops themselves had been harvested just a few weeks before, so now, there remained only row upon row of jagged corn-stubble and upturned, gray soil. The stalks pointed “all a kilter,” looking like the blast craters of a WWI battlefield, missing only trenches and doughboys to complete the effect. Flying high over the desolate scene, visiting TV icon Larry Storch probably looked out his plane’s window and felt like he was about to land on the moon.

Peter Marshall on the set of

Peter Marshall on the set of “Hollywood Squares” sometime in the 1970s. (Photo: NBC)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. On that particular night, I wasn’t waiting to meet Mr. Storch at all. Rather, I was flipping through pages of a new book entitled “Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square,” written by another television great, Peter Marshall, the longtime host and star of the iconic comedy game show, Hollywood Squares. It was actually Marshall, that I and about 25 other “locals” were there to see.

Despite our town’s small population and relatively isolated location, Marshall had been scheduled to appear there that evening for a personal appearance and book signing event. Purely by chance, I had seen a tiny blurb about the event in the paper the day before, and almost disbelievingly, decided to drop by the B&N after work. But why, I wondered, would Peter Marshall want to come here, when Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis are all just a few hours away? Those were much bigger markets. Hmm…

Peter Marshall and wife, Laurie Stewart. (Photo: getty)

Peter Marshall and wife, Laurie Stewart. (Photo: getty)

An Unexpected Celebrity 2-for-1

Whatever the reason, I planted myself in front of a table displaying his books, and filled the time as I waited by looking at the book’s photos, marveling at all of the great celebrities Marshall had known, worked with, and befriended during his many decades in show business. Suddenly…the doors of the store opened. All heads turned. And in walked…Peter Marshall!

He was accompanied by his beautiful wife, Laurie Stewart, and the “crowd” began to drift towards the area where he would sign his books. But hold the phone, Watson! A few seconds later, in walks Larry Storch (!)…also accompanied by HIS wife! I remember just blurting out, “Hey, That’s Larry Storch!” to a perfect stranger standing next to me. Unlike many celebrities, Mr. Storch is instantly recognizable in person. Despite his age, he has changed very little over the years. That night, he looked spiffy in a black turtleneck, slacks and sport coat, and he walked across the room with an almost imperious self-confidence. I was actually more excited to see Mr. Storch in person than Mr. Marshall.

This is my copy of the Peter Marshall book, “Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square.” I actually bought two copies that night, and had both stars autograph them (one as a gift for a relative). (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

What a FAN-tastic Surprise!

Okay, so here’s where the Twilight Zone part of my story begins: As Peter Marshall busied himself greeting the B&N manager and various store employees, I gathered up my nerve, and approached Mr. Storch first. He and his wife were just standing there, watching the activities, and no one else was talking to them. After telling him of my great admiration of his work, he and his wife, Norma Storch (an actress), thanked me and then… asked me to sit down WITH them in some chairs on the front row! Stunned, I quickly accepted, and after we had all introduced ourselves and shook hands, we sat down together… for a chat! Here it is:

In this 2003 photo, Larry Storch poses with his F-Troop co-star, Melody Patterson (c) and his wife, Norma Storch (r). Both Storch and his wife look much as they did when I met them a few months earlier. Sadly, she died from cancer a few months later. (Photo: Blessing Moore)

In this 2003 photo, Larry Storch poses with his F-Troop co-star, Melody Patterson (c) and his wife, Norma Storch (r). Both Storch and his wife look much as they did when I met them a few months earlier. Sadly, Norma died from cancer less than a year later. (Photo: Blessing Moore)

The “World’s Shortest Interview” with ’60s TV Icon and Funnyman, Larry Storch and his wife, Norma Storch

TJR: How was your flight? Are you having a nice trip?

Larry: “Oh man, it was rough. What a terrible flight!”
Norma: “The worst!”

TJR: I’m so sorry. What was the matter? What kind of plane was it?

Larry: “It was one of those little prop-jobs. And it was just bumpy all the way.” (Norma nodded and added an eye-roll for emphasis.)

My copy of Marshall's book with both his and Storch's kind inscriptions and autographs. What nice guys! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

My copy of Marshall’s book with both his and Storch’s kind inscriptions and autographs. What nice guys! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

TJR: Well, I’m so glad you made it safely. But it’s such a surprise to see you here. Why ARE you here, by the way?

Larry: “We’re just traveling with Peter and Laurie, to keep ’em company and have some fun.”
Norma: “Yes, but I don’t even know where this place is. HA!”

I suddenly realized what a rare opportunity our private little conversation was, and asked Storch if he would also sign Peter Marshall’s book. He chuckled, and said, “Sure!” writing out the kind inscription and autograph you see in the photo above. Soon after, Peter Marshall took his seat at the “official” book signing table, and since they were ready to begin, I thanked Larry and Norma and excused myself to get in line to meet Peter.

Bottom Line: In the end, both men signed my copy of Marshall’s book and today it remains one of my most valued possessions. Our youngest readers may have no clue about the two stars I’ve discussed today, and that’s truly a shame. Both men are hugely talented, widely accomplished, and were a great pleasure to meet in person. If I’ve peaked your interest in Larry Storch or Peter Marshall at all, I suggest you watch the following two short videos. Enjoy!

Catching Up With John Stork, aka “Hyper-Strike” from SyFy TV’s “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?”

Martial-artist and circus performer, John Stork as the superhero "Hyper-Strike," in a publicity still for the SyFy competition reality show, Who Wants to Be a Superhero?" (Photo: SyFy)

John Stork, aka “Hyper-Strike,” in a publicity still taken for the Syfy Channel’s 2007 competition-reality show, Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” Stork is now a street performer and aspiring writer. (Photo: SyFy)

A life as a circus performer had toned Stork's body to perfection, making a natural for the WWTBAS show. (Photo: John Stork)

By the age of 21, his life as a circus performer had toned Stork’s body to perfection, making him a natural choice for Who Wants to be a Superhero? (Photo: Syfy)

First in a Series of Exclusive Interviews with the Contestants of “Who Wants to be a Superhero?”

By Mark Otnes, 11-25-2013
Editor, The Joe Report

“I love being in the spotlight. That’s why I’m a performer!”
—John Stork, aka SyFy TV’s superhero, “Hyper-Strike”

The first contestant of Who Wants to be a Superhero? we caught up with was, quite frankly, the one who had impressed us the most—2nd season standout, John Stork. Stork’s manic, over-the-top athleticism and circus-honed showmanship made him a clear front-runner among his fellow Season 2 contestants, and from the very beginning, he seemed an odds-on favorite to become Stan Lee’s “next—great—Superhero!” Of course, we’re not giving away any secrets to remind you that John didn’t win, but came in second place instead, tied with Melody Mooney’s “Hygena,” a plucky, homemaker-turned-superheroine, and then ultimately losing to Jarrett Crippen’s superhero cop character, “The Defuser” (see below).

In this screenshot from Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, the three finalists of Season 2 react upon seeing the 1:6 scale custom action figures that have been made in their likeness and given to them as a gift by Stan Lee.

In this screenshot from Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, the three finalists of Season 2 react upon seeing the 1:6 scale custom action figures made in their likenesses and given to them as a gift by Stan Lee.

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As daring as ever, Stork works fearlessly with knives, dizzing heights, and even fire. Here, he lights three juggling clubs in preparation for his next feat, during a recent street performance in Bridgehampaton, VT. (Photo: John Stork, exclusively for The Joe Report)

As fearless as ever, Stork now works confidently with swords, knives, dizzying heights, and even fire. Here, he lights three juggling clubs in preparation for his next feat, during a recent street performance in Burlington, VT. (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

John Stork, photographed recently in his home office. (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

John Stork, photographed recently in his home office. (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

Real-Life “Action Figure” John Stork, Reflects on His SUPER Life So Far —and What Happens Next!

TJR: First of all, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today. Let’s quickly catch up with John Stork, the man. You’re 27 now, correct? And you live in Vermont? Are you married? Do you have any children?

“The pleasure is all mine. That’s right, I’m 27, about to turn 28, and I live in Burlington, Vermont. 28 is my favorite number, so I won’t let it bother me that I’m getting close to 30! I’m not married and I don’t have any children, but I do have a girlfriend.”

Stork writing a new "Ultimate Manga" script in his office. (Photo: John Stork)

Writing his future— Stork working on a new screenplay. (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

TJR: What’s a typical day in the life of John Stork like now, in November of 2013?

“Well, there are two major things going on in my life right now: Street Performing (what I currently do for a living), and Screenwriting (what I wish I was doing for a living). I have a pretty weird sleep schedule, but it lends itself to both writing and performing. I go to bed around 3 or 4 AM every—night? morning?—and wake up around noon. I like to stay up and write. I’ve always been kind of a ‘night owl,’ probably from being in live entertainment for so many years. Shows are usually in the evenings and it takes a while for my adrenaline to calm down. Once I’m awake, I’m either writing, performing, or doing boring, everyday life stuff. I don’t exercise or practice as much as I used to, which is kind of sad. I only go to the gym or dojo once a week (if I’m lucky!), but I guess my street show keeps me in passable shape.”

John demonstrates his power to "jump on small cars in a single bound." (Photo: John Stork)

Still Super— Even while dressed in his “secret identity” civilian clothes, Stork demonstrates he still possesses the power to “jump onto small cars in a single bound.” (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

TJR: Is it true that you lived in Chicago for a while? What took you there? And what brought you back to Vermont?

“I moved to Chicago when I was 17 to work for ‘The Midnight Circus,’ a small, theatrical circus in the windy city. I lived there on and off for about 3 years. I’ve also lived in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Boston, Brooklyn, Key West, and, the most glamorous of all, Branson, Missouri! I always come back to Vermont though, because, well—IT’S THE BEST!”

TJR: You’ve just created your first Facebook page last month (October, 2013). For most celebrities, that’s almost unthinkable. Why did you wait so long? What sort of “social media” outlets do you prefer to use? And if none, why?

“It’s very generous of you to call me a celebrity. There are a few reasons why it took me so long to join Facebook. I had a Myspace page for Hyper-Strike back when season 2 of Who Wants To Be Superhero? was originally airing and it was a little overwhelming. I felt guilty if I didn’t respond to every single fan message! Also, I wasn’t really interested in doing anything more as Hyper-Strike at the time. I was completely focused on learning how to street perform and developing/producing my own circus acts.”

"Manga" art and animation has a distinctively Japanese style and flair, as this sample image clearly shows. (Art: mangareader.net)

“Manga” comic art and animation has a distinctively Japanese style and flair to it, as this sample image clearly shows. Hmm… that hairstyle looks strangely familiar… (Art: mangareader.net)

Fast forward to 2013: I’m now looking for like-minded Manga artists who want to team up and create—THE GREATEST MANGA EVER! You can get all the info about my current search plus samples of my writing HERE.

I thought Facebook would be a good way of getting in touch with artists. But right now, my page is so new that I hardly have any ‘likes,’ so please, check it out HERE and click on that ‘like’ button!

Another site I’m on that I think is really cool, is deviantART (found  HERE). I have samples of my screenwriting posted there as well.”

A young John Stork with

Kee-YAH! A young John Stork strikes a perfect knife-hand block pose in this old family photo. (Photo: Phyllis Stork)

TJR: You began studying Karate when you were 7 and received your black belt at the age of 11. That’s VERY young for such a difficult martial-arts achievement. Don’t you have to be able to beat up your adult sensei (instructor) or at least have hit puberty first? HA

“Interestingly enough, by age 11, I had already achieved both. But seriously, my Mom started taking Karate shortly after I did and quickly pulled ahead of me. At my dojo, if you were diligent and went to class three or four times a week, it was conceivable to get your black belt in three years. My mom did just that and I was one year behind her.”

Phyllis Stork embraces her son after surprising him during taping of the final episode of WWTBASH, Season 2. (Photo: Syfy)

Phyllis Stork embraces her son after surprising him during the final episode of WWTBASH, Season 2. (Photo: Syfy)

“I always went to the dojo with her and she helped me to review all the techniques at home. I couldn’t have done it without her. I stopped going for rank after I got my black belt so I could focus on competing, but my Mom kept with it and is now a 6th degree black belt. (The grandmaster of the whole system is a 10th degree black belt!) So yeah, my mom could kick my butt!”

Karate instructor, Freddie LaPan, teaching a children's class at his dojo in VT. (Photo: )

In this screenshot, Stork’s first instructor, Freddie LaPan, is shown teaching a children’s karate class at his school in Vermont. (Photo: Hathaway’s Taekwondo)

TJR: As a teenager, you trained with world champions, actors, and even Hollywood stunt-doubles. How did that come about, and in what ways did being around such diverse talent influence your life and career?

“My first Karate instructor here in Vermont, Freddie LaPan (see VIDEO), competed nationally for many years. His specialty was point-fighting, but I wanted to specialize in forms, which are like choreographed dance routines with martial arts moves and acrobatics instead of dance.”

5-Time North American Forms & Weapons Champion, Mike Chat (shown above), martial arts instructor to John Stork. (Photo: Mike Chat)

5-Time North American Forms & Weapons Champion, Mike Chat (shown above), martial arts instructor to John Stork. (Photo: Mike Chat)

“Freddie put my parents in touch with Mike Chat (right), the world forms champion at the time. He later went on to play the Blue Power Ranger on ‘Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue.’ He’s also the founder of XMA. I started training with him privately at national sport karate tournaments on a monthly basis. Later, my parents would also fly me to LA (from Vermont!) once a month to train with him there. He had great connections, so his students, including Taylor Lautner (actor, ‘The Twilight Saga’) and I, were able to train with tons of awesome people. I guess that’s where all my college money went.”

Stork holds up his autographed copy of the autobiography of his idol, Jackie Chan. According to John, "He was my biggest hero growing up. Jackie Chan's at the root of it all for me." (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

Stork holds up his autographed copy of the autobiography of his idol, Jackie Chan. According to John, “He was my biggest hero growing up. Jackie Chan’s at the root of it all for me.” (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

“As far as being influenced goes, I think the main thing these experiences impressed upon me was the level of proficiency and consistency that separates amateurs from professionals. Mike immersed me and his other students in a professional world. Also, working with Ming Qui (former China national wushu champion and stunt-double for Lucy Liu in ‘Kill Bill’) was extra awesome.

I’ve always been in love with classical Chinese martial arts thanks to Jackie Chan. After all, my martial arts/circus endeavors as a teenager were really just me trying my best to simulate the training Jackie Chan received in the Peking Opera. Training with Mike, his industry connections, and Circus Smirkus was the closest I could have come here in America!”

TJR: You won a Gold Medal at the WKA World Championships in Germany and a Silver Cup at the First International “Artistic Martial Arts” Tournament in Paris, France (watch video HERE). Could you tell us about those two contests and how you felt winning them?

Stork during his Silver-medal award-winning performance in Paris, France, on March 24, 200. (Photo: Locketricks)

Early Excellence— Stork during his Silver-medal award-winning performance in Paris, France, on March 24, 2001. (Photo: Locketricks)

“In all honesty, not all the best competitors made it over to Hannover for the WKA World Championships. Nonetheless, getting a gold medal was nice, I won’t lie. I trained really hard for that tournament. The first International Tournament for Artistic Martial Arts in Paris, on the other hand, attracted a lot of the best competitors, so my silver cup win there actually carries a lot more significance for me.”

In this screenshot from a "Circus Smirkus" video, Stork prepares to run and dive through a ring of swords and fire. (Photo: David Duffin)

Amazing! In this screenshot from a “Circus Smirkus” video, Stork prepares to run and dive through an octagon of swords and fire. (Photo: David Duffin)

TJR: You began training in “circus and variety arts” at age 13. Could you tell us about your years performing with Circus Smirkus? What memories or moments stand out the most?

“Performing with Circus Smirkus was the best time of my life. The truth is, I try not to think about it too much anymore because I need to get over it. Look at it this way: You’re a kid, you get to train with incredible coaches from exotic, foreign lands, then travel around New England all summer doing awesome, well produced shows in a real circus tent with a bunch of other kids you get along with really well. It sounds like a fantasy book for children except it’s real. We were actually living something as cool as ‘Harry Potter.’ There were too many incredible, awesome, funny experiences to try and pick out just a few. Sorry!”

Stork in a screenshot from his commercial for Burger King and Dragonball Z.

TV Time— Stork in a screenshot from his commercial for Burger King and Dragonball Z.

TJR: No problem. Let’s change the topic. Tell us about your TV commercial for Burger King (see HERE). How old were you in that, how did you land the part, what was it like, etc.?

“I found out about the audition through Mike Chat. They were looking for kids around my age (14) with my type of martial arts/acrobatic experience. Mike had me and a couple of his other students try out, but I was the only one completely and totally obsessed with ‘Dragonball-Z.’

I remember realizing that the casting directors didn’t know any of the technical, nit-picky things that judges at karate tournaments know. They were just looking for performance, energy, and ‘look.’ So I knocked that audition out of the park! I smiled a lot, threw positive, heroic energy at them, and did plenty of cool mugging/posing for the camera. They ate it up, and I got the part!”

John Stork as "Kismet," prepares to blast away in this scene from the independent film, "Shadow Fury." (Photo: Pathfinder Pictures)

John Stork as “Kismet,” prepares to blast away in this scene from the independent film, Shadow Fury. (Photo: Pathfinder Pictures)

TJR: In 2001, you appeared in the independent film, Shadow Fury. We found a short clip of a fight scene with you in it over on YouTube (view HERE). Tell us about working on that project.

“That was another part I got through Mike Chat. Makoto Yokoyama, the director of ‘Shadow Fury,’ was also directing ‘Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue’ at the time, on which Mike was working as the Blue Power Ranger. Mr. Yokoyama asked Mike if he had any students who might be good for two different parts in the film that required kids who could do martial arts. Mike set me and Taylor Lautner up with the parts. We actually play the same character; Taylor is the kid version and I’m the teen version.”

Stork dispatches a hapless opponent with with his martial-art skills (and a hand grenade) in this scene from Shadow Fury. (Photo:

Stork dispatches his hapless opponent with a dazzling display of martial-arts skills in this scene from the film, Shadow Fury. (Photo: Pathfinder Films)

“I actually had to leave Circus Smirkus for three days to fly out to LA and film my scene. It was great working with the Alpha Stunt Team, some of whom I’d already trained with through Mike, and I enjoyed getting to perform a lot of my own fight choreography under their expert tutelage. However, coming right from Smirkus, it was really jarring for me how choppy and disconnected filming felt in comparison to performing for a live audience. It’s very stop and go.”

Stork's fight scene in Shadow Fury ends when he flips his opponent into a ditch with a hand grenade (only ONE walks away). (Photo: Pathfinder Pictures)

Stork’s fight scene in Shadow Fury ends when he flips his opponent into a ditch (with a hand grenade) and only ONE walks away. (Photo: Pathfinder Pictures)

“Up until that summer, I’d always thought I was going to try and be a martial arts movie star. Filming ‘Shadow Fury’ in the midst of my first summer at Smirkus brought about a major change of heart in my teen-aged self. I decided to shift my focus to LIVE entertainment. Even if I eventually wound up trying to be in movies, I figured I should learn how to entertain real people first, otherwise I’d have no idea what to do in front of a camera. I needed to develop a sense for what people liked. Filming ‘Shadow Fury’ felt like ‘flying blind’ compared to what I was doing back at Circus Smirkus.”

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Ironically, animated “freeze frames” from WWTBASH (transitions used when going to commercial breaks) seemed to turn Stork into the very type of Manga comic character he now yearns to create. (Art: Syfy)

TJR: You chose to pursue a career in show-business rather than attending college. Was that a hard decision for you to make? And do you now have any regrets?

“I think whatever money my parents may have had for putting me through college was used on the exceptional training I received as a teen. Therefore, in a way, I feel I kind of already went to college; a special, early college that was very specific to exactly what I wanted to be doing at the time. However, at this point, I would not mind attending a real college, to learn about animation. My ultimate dream is to write and direct for animation someday. As I mentioned before, my latest plan is to team up with an artist and try to turn some of my screenwriting into Japanese style comics (manga), with the hope that those comics can either help me sell the screenplays they’re based on, or help me get into an animation school. Maybe both! We’ll see.”

ufcfighter

UFC champion, George St. Pierre. (Photo: The Sun)

TJR: What are your thoughts about “Ultimate Fighting?” Is that considered to be a “martial-art?”

“I think it’s great and that it most certainly is a martial art. I don’t follow it very closely like some of my friends, or my Mom, but I do enjoy it when I see it. My favorite competitor is George St. Pierre. As a kid, I enjoyed ground fighting/grappling. Though we only touched on it lightly at my dojo, it felt more natural to me than standing up and duking it out.”

Working as a street performer, or "busker," John Stork was photographed recently performing his amazing stair-stacking routine in Burlington, VT. (Photo: John Stork, exclusively for The Joe Report)

Working as a street performer, or “busker,” John Stork was photographed recently performing his amazing stair-stacking routine in Burlington, VT. (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

TJR: Since you’re famous now, have you thought about moving out to LA and pursuing a career in the entertainment industry there? Perhaps as a TV action star or movie stuntman?

“As far as moving to LA goes, the honest-to-God truth is, I can’t stand cities. I’m a country boy. Also, my passion is not to be in front of the camera anymore. I think the best thing for me is to focus on the craft of screenwriting and write some solid scripts. Vermont is a nice place to do that. Also, I make my living as a street performer, and there just aren’t that many places in America where you can make a successful living as a ‘busker.’ Burlington, VT is one of the few, and it’s easy to get to the country from here. Nature is only 10 minutes away. Plus, street performing in LA was terrible! I’ve also worked at Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market in Boston, which is arguably the best place to busk in the world, but I couldn’t hack the traffic! Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado is a pitch I’d be interested in trying.”

storkkick

Stork executes a perfect flying karate kick in this promotional photo for Who Wants to be a Superhero? At the time, he was at the height of his athletic strength and prowess. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: You seem to be extremely physically fit. Would you describe yourself as a “health nut” or simply a naturally gifted athlete? And what do you do to keep your superhero physique? Do you have a special diet and/or exercise regimen?

“Correction: I USED to be extremely physically fit. Now I just get by. And I’m definitely not a ‘health nut,’ nor am I a naturally-gifted athlete. I was one of the LEAST athletic kids going up through the ranks at my karate dojo. My physical prowess came from years of hard work, determination, and expensive private lessons.

I do have a fascination with nutrition though, nurtured by Mike Chat. He took a very ‘sports science’ approach to training his students, which included a lot of nutritional data and advice. When I first started training with him I was still a little chubby, so I really soaked up what he had to say and I still have a fascination with nutrition to this day. I’m more interested in living and eating healthy now, than I am in being some sort of super athlete. At this point, ‘Walden’ is probably my favorite book on diet and exercise. Yup. I’m definitely a Vermonter.”

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Stork’s muscular “superhero” physique as seen on WWTBASH. (Photo: Syfy)

“When I was in the best shape of my life, what got me there was passion. I was obsessed with martial arts, acrobatics, and performing, NOT with being in shape. Physical fitness was just a result of pursuing those things. Because of that, exercising just for the sake of exercising has always felt weird to me.”

In this animated "freeze-frame" from WWTBASH, Stork flashes his famous "V" sign, looking every bit like the martial-art Manga characters he so idolizes. (Photo: Syfy)

In this animated “freeze-frame” from WWTBASH, Stork flashes his famous “V” sign, looking every bit like the martial-art Manga characters he so enjoys. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: You often flash a “V” or a “Peace” sign at the end of a gymnastics run or karate routine. It’s almost become sort of a John Stork trademark. When did you start using that hand gesture and does it hold any special meaning for you?

“Characters in anime, manga, and I guess just Japanese culture in general, flash that sign a lot. When they do it, it’s a happy, victorious thing. I liked it and it felt very positive to me, so I adopted it for Super Impact Man and subsequently Hyper-Strike. I also wanted those two characters to be readily associated with anime, manga, and video games, and the peace/victory sign seemed as close to a universal symbol for those things at the time as I could find.”

Screenshot of sign used during contestant auditions for WWTBAS.

Screenshot of a sign used during contestant auditions for WWTBASH. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Let’s talk about your experiences on Stan Lee’s, Who Wants to be a Superhero? TV program on the Syfy Channel. First, let me just congratulate you for coming in second-place. Fantastic job, sir! What was it like trying out for the show? What did you have to do, where did you have to go, and what kind of reactions did you get from the producers, Stan Lee, etc..? Walk us through those experiences, please.

“Thank you. It was a blast. I actually sent in an audition tape for Season 1 and they called me, but didn’t end up choosing me. A circus friend of mine had heard about the show and told me I should try out since I pretty much already had all of the work done already (I was performing as Super Impact Man at the time).”

An obviously thrilled John Stork reacted VERY enthusiastically when told he had been selected for the show. (Photo: Syfy)

An obviously thrilled John Stork reacted VERY enthusiastically when told he had been selected for the show. (Photo: Syfy)

“I didn’t even apply for Season 2! They’d kept my video on file and just called me out of the blue. Of course I was still interested and they flew me out to LA for the live auditions. The audition went well and I was personally interviewed by the casting director and the executive producer afterward (not by Stan Lee directly). I remember the casting director really liked me but the executive producer wasn’t so sure. Guess he decided to give me a chance in the end.”

Stork executing a superb flying split-kick while performing as his first alter-ego, "Super Impact Man." (Photo: John Stork)

Stork executes a superb flying split-kick while performing as his first alter-ego, “Super Impact Man.” The name and costume would all change before his appearance on the show.(Photo: John Stork)

A Japanese Manga influence was clearly evident in the design of Stork's "Super Impact Man" costume, right down to its distinctive "rising sun" headband. (Photo: John Stork)

A Japanese Manga influence was clearly evident in the design of Stork’s “Super Impact Man” costume, right down to its distinctive “rising sun” headband. (Photo: John Stork)

TJR: Tell us about changing your superhero name from “Super Impact Man” to “Hyper-Strike.” When and how did that happen, and who came up with the name?

“There was quite a bit of paperwork to process once they wanted me on the show, and it turned out that they’d end up owning the rights to whatever character I ended up playing on the show. I had big plans for Super Impact Man in the circus, so I wanted to hold onto that name and character. I talked with the executive producer and he was fine with me changing my name and keeping the rights to Super Impact Man. We discussed what we both wanted from the new name, then I went off on my own and came up with Hyper-Strike, which we both really liked. As far as what my thoughts were in coming up with the name Hyper-Strike, I’m sad to say I haven’t the foggiest recollection. However, that’s probably because as soon as I came up with Hyper-Strike, all the others disappeared in my mind. I instantly knew it was the one. THAT I remember.”

Stork's disappointment upon seeing his new "Hyper-Strike" costume for the first time is clearly visible on his face. However, over time, his attitude toward the new look would change. (Photo: Syfy)

Stork’s disappointment upon seeing his new “Hyper-Strike” costume for the first time was clearly visible on his face. He was honest with Stan about “missing his old costume,” but over time, his attitude and approval changed. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Let’s talk about the Hyper-Strike costume. On the show, when you first look in the mirror at your new tights, what thoughts were going through your mind? Why did you prefer your original costume over Stan’s design? Clearly, the new Hyper-Strike costume left very little to the imagination. Was that a problem for you, “modesty-wise?” Were there ever any embarrassing moments around the ladies, if you know what we mean? <ahem>

“My first thought was ‘Oh, crap… I’m gonna be wearing this for weeks on national television… DON’T DO THIS TO ME!!!!!’ I just didn’t want every contour of my body becoming common household knowledge across the nation, and I guess that was the line the new design crossed that the old one didn’t. I wasn’t really embarrassed about my body, but I didn’t want the costume to be distracting or silly at all. I wanted people to focus on other things, like my personality and performance. I felt very…exposed.”

Clearly uncomfortable in his new "tights," the normally outgoing Stork became reticent and withdrawn for a time, until his fellow contestants convinced him his new look was SUPER indeed! We wonder what Stan thought of THIS behavior? (Photo: Syfy)

Clearly uncomfortable in his new costume’s tights, the normally outgoing Stork became uncharacteristically withdrawn for a time, until his fellow contestants convinced him that his new “look” was indeed, SUPER. (We wonder what Stan thought of THIS behavior?) (Photo: Syfy)

“Everyone around me, male and female, was very encouraging and told me it looked good. I didn’t know if they were just trying to make me feel better, but either way they were all very polite. So no, there were no ’embarrassing moments’ with the ladies. We spent so much time in our costumes while filming the show, I’d say at least 12 hours a day, that they became like a second skin. I didn’t even notice after a few days, so I’m sure no one else did either. My ‘dance belt’ (athletic supporter undergarment) on the other hand…”

Stork pointlessly searches through a stranger's shopping bag during a public challenge that was intended to embarrass and confuse the contestants. (Photo: Syfy)

Stork pointlessly searches through a stranger’s shopping bag during a public challenge that was intended to embarrass and confuse the contestants. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: During the “Evil Stan” episode in the park, it didn’t seem as if you were fooled too badly. You looked through a lady’s bag once, shouted your superhero name, and did a few flips. Not much harm done. Did you catch on that something was amiss and begin to refuse Evil Stan’s unheroic requests?

“As you say, he didn’t have me do anything too nefarious, so no, I didn’t catch on. I thought the requests were kind of weird, but I figured ‘Real Stan’ would have some brilliant explanation at the end of it all that would make everything clear. Instead, it was ‘Evil Stan’ who made everything clear. Good thing I didn’t do really bad stuff.”

In a rare mistep, Stork chose to reveal his secret identity to children in the classroom. (Photo: Syfy)

In a rare misstep, Stork chose to reveal his secret identity to some children in the classroom. D’oh! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Even though you say you studied the DVDs of Season 1 to avoid making the same mistakes they did, you STILL gave away your secret identity in the classroom, with a camera only a few feet away from your face! What happened there?

“I knew exactly what I was doing. I made an executive decision there. I told that kid my real name because they were embarrassed about theirs. I used to get picked on about my last name all the time when I was in school. I figured if the kid saw that I also had a weird name that I used to be embarrassed about, and that I’d somehow overcome that adversity and grown up to be a superhero, it might inspire him. The chance to give the kid some real-life confidence seemed more important to me than winning first place on a TV show. It seemed like the real-life superhero thing to do, even though I knew I’d catch flack for it. I had a hunch they’d keep me in the end.”

Despite his secret identity gaffe, Stork's experience and comfort working with children (easily) made him the class favorite, and enabled him to overcome the mistake in Stan's eyes. (Photo: Syfy)

Despite his secret identity gaffe, Stork’s experience and comfort working with children easily made him the class favorite, and enabled him to overcome the mistake in Stan’s eyes. (Photo: Syfy)

Stork sits on his bed and listens as "Mindset" and "Ms. Limelight" slowly begin to argue. Staying out of other contestant's personality conflicts proved to be a wise decision on his part. (Photo: Syfy)

Stork sits on his bed and listens as Mindset and Ms. Limelight slowly begin to argue. Staying out of other contestant’s conflicts proved to be a wise decision. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: What was it like living in such a “Big Brother” type setting? Were the TV cameras on 24-7? Were they hidden? How did “living in a fishbowl” affect you and your fellow contestants psychologically? Did you ever decide to just “clam up,” like Mr. Mitzvah?

“The cameras were off when we slept, but that’s about it. There was a combination of hidden cameras and shoulder mounted television cameras. As a performer, I loved all the attention, so no, I never clammed up. That being said, even my bulging showboat muscle was worn out by the end of the three weeks it took to film all eight episodes. I think it’s a common reality TV tactic to try and get your contestants to go a little crazy. ‘Who Wants to Be a Superhero?’ was no exception. It was fun though. It never got too miserable. I treated it like a game that I called, “DON’T CRACK,” and tried to apply my own loopiness (not a real word) to my performance.”

Toward the end of the competition, Stork began to tire somewhat and stares down blankly through a glass table, not really seeing (or caring anymore) about the show's ubiquitous TV cameras. (Photo: Syfy)

Nearing the end, Stork stares down blankly through a glass table, not really seeing (or caring anymore) about the show’s ubiquitous TV cameras. (Photo: Syfy)

“As time wore on, and I got more and more exhausted, the experience became more and more surreal and trippy. Which was kind of fun. I don’t remember getting especially weirded out by the constant presence of cameras. The thing that got to me was they took away all our books and music. THAT made me a little crazy. We played a lot of ping-pong!”

Stork holds up the sign that was mounted on his bed in the "lair" during the show. He was allowed to keep it and his Stan Lee-designed costume as souveniers of the show. (Photo: John Stork)

Stork holds up the sign that was mounted on his bed in the “lair” during the show. He was allowed to keep it and his Stan Lee-designed costume as souvenirs of the show. (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

TJR: Fans have been wondering what “life in the lair” was like for many years. Simple questions like: Did all 10 of you really sleep in the same room? If so, was that ever uncomfortable or no big deal? Was there a specific time for “lights out?” Did you get enough sleep?

“We did all sleep in the lair, yeah. The beds you see on the show were our real beds. I still have the sign that was hanging above mine. I didn’t really feel weird about the sleeping situation. It was like being a kid at a superhero themed sleep over, or a summer camp. It WAS a little eerie, as there were less and less people though. And yes, there was a set ‘lights out’ time each night where they would literally just turn out the lights. They wanted to make sure we got our sleep because we were on such a rigorous schedule. I’d say we got 6 or 7 hours each night. Life on the show was pretty exciting though, so I don’t think it bothered any of us too much. We all knew we’d be returning to normal life all too soon!”

Welcome to a reality of "Reality-TV." Ten contestants, all sleeping in the same room. According to Stork, the only time cameras in the lair were off, was when they were sleeping. (Photo: Syfy)

Welcome to a reality of “Reality-TV.” Ten contestants, all sleeping in the same room. According to Stork, the only time cameras in the lair were off, was when they were sleeping. (Photo: Syfy)

Whenever Stan gave out his orders, Stork was often the first superhero to strike a pose and yell out, "Let's GO!!!" (Photo: Syfy)

Whenever Stan gave his orders, Stork was often the first contestant to strike a superhero pose and then enthusiastically yell out, “Let’s GO!!!” (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: What was a typical day’s shooting schedule like? Was there time for you to keep up your own personal fitness routine? Or were everyone’s activities strictly regimented and controlled?

“When exactly we started and finished each day varied, but we worked a full day, every day, and then some. And yes, our time was strictly regimented. Even when we had ‘free time’ there were still cameras on us. The schedule was so hectic and many of the challenges were so physical, I don’t think anyone was looking for any extra exercise. The whole show was definitely an endurance run. I think we all understood that and, furthermore, we were all in it to win it. We had all seen the first season and were consequently prepared for anything. That one guy (‘Levity,’ from Season 1) didn’t even make it into the lair!”

"Fueled" with pasta from the Olive Garden, Stork and his fellow heroes listen as Stan describes their next mission at Six Flags California—aboard aa rollercoaster! (Photo: Syfy)

“Fueled” with pasta from the Olive Garden, Stork and his fellow heroes listen as Dr. Dark reveals their next mission at Six Flags California—is on a rollercoaster! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: And what about food? Did everyone make their own meals, or was food prepared for you?

“They would bring in food for us from different places. Plus there were snacks like fruit put out for us that we could grab any time. That’s when I learned to like oranges. I remember we had catering from Olive Garden one time. That was while we were at Six Flags. Nothing fuels a superhero like fettucini alfredo and unlimited breadsticks!”

The superheroes could see, listen, and TALK to Stan via TV monitors hung throughout the lair. Very cool. (Photo: Syfy)

The superheroes could see, listen, and TALK to Stan via TV monitors hung throughout the lair. But where was he really during this time? (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Where was the show filmed? There’s also a little mystery and debate among fans as to where Stan Lee really was during shooting. Was he nearby, or was he in another studio clear across town? It’d be a little bit of a buzzkill to think he was just sitting downstairs the whole time.

“We filmed the show all over LA. To this day, I have no idea where Stan’s scenes were filmed. We got to meet him a few times in person outside of the show, at photo shoots and whatnot. He’s a real charming guy.”

Stork and other heroes stop to LOOK dramatically at their "wrist communicators." (Photo: Syfy)

Stork and other heroes stop to LOOK dramatically at their “wrist communicators.” (Photo: Syfy)

A super-closeup of Parthenon's "wrist communicator" with video of Stan Lee. (Photo: Syfy)

And…a close-up! (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Here’s a chance to “burst some bubbles” for the less tech-savvy among us. When you looked at your wrist communicators, did anything actually appear there, or were you just told to act like it was?

“This is the kind of stuff we’re not technically meant to tell anyone, but, it’s been so long, I can probably get away with it. <DRUMROLL> No! It was just a green screen on our wrist communicators! (I feel so dirty…)”

TJR: Ha! Tell us about all the night shooting. Was it cold up there on the rooftop during eliminations? Many of the contestants (but not you) often seemed to be shivering.

“It wasn’t always cold, but sometimes it was FREEZING. As far as me not shaking goes, what can I say? I’m a professional entertainer and I’ve done a lot of performing outdoors with no roof over my head.”

Now THIS is good television! Three handsome heroes in brightly colored spandex, standing on the rooftop of the secret "lair," waiting for their fates to be decided by none other than Stan "The Man" Lee. Cool! (Photo: Syfy)

Now THIS is good television! 3 handsome heroes in brightly colored spandex, standing on the rooftop of a secret “lair,” waiting for their fates to be decided by none other than Stan “The Man” Lee. (Photo: Syfy)

Even after 6 years, Stork has no "dirt" to dish on his fellow contestants. Despite being in competition, they all got along and helped one another. (Photo: Syfy)

Even after 6 years, Stork has no “dirt” to dish on his fellow contestants. Despite being in competition with one another, they all got along quite well. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Here’s your chance to make some headlines and stir the fires a bit… It’s been over 6 years since the show. Were there any juicy tidbits, or embarrassing and/or memorable moments that ended up on the “cutting room floor” that you can now share with fans?

“You’re bad. Well, the lair was infested with—rats! Sorry. I don’t really have any dirt. The rats were the dirtiest thing. Honestly though, when you’re calling a place ‘the lair,’ I don’t think you can be too surprised when rats show up. It’s part and parcel with the name. I’ll also say that the ‘honey’ that was dropped on us was actually cheap syrup, like the kind you get on your short stack at the local greasy-spoon diner. I know that’s not very ‘sensational,’ but I remember thinking it was semi-weird or even ‘fraudulent’ at the time.”

Stork donned goggles, a helmet, and elbow pads before holding his breath as he attempts to reach the shut-off valve during the first major challenge. (Photo: Syfy)

Stork donned goggles, a helmet, and elbow pads before holding his breath as he attempts to reach the water shut-off valve during the first major challenge. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: During the “Waterworks” challenge you were nearly drowned by torrents of wind and water. During the “Bee Sting” challenge, you were trapped in a box with thousands of stinging honey bees. Normally, that would be enough to make most people want to quit immediately. But surprisingly, no one did. Did that surprise you? And what are your memories (good and bad) about those experiences?

“Yeah, you know, I was kind of shocked by how ‘gung-ho’ everyone was at the beginning. Even with the first challenge, in the wind tunnel with the water. It was INCREDIBLY loud and uncomfortable. I felt like I barely made it through and I was a spry young man. And after the spelling bee challenge, I knew everyone was FULLY committed. No one was going to give up of their own accord. As I said before, I think that having seen the first season helped get us all mentally prepared and fired up to take on virtually ANY challenge, or to at least to keep an open mind.”

Easily the most popular villain to appear on the show, the delightfully evil, "Bee Sting" (played masterfully by actress Anna Easteden), wreaked havoc on the contestants by unleashing thousands of real bees and then dumping barrels full of syrup on them, ruining their superhero costumes. (Photo: Syfy)

Easily the most popular villain to appear on the show, the delightfully evil, “Bee Sting” (played masterfully by actress Anna Easteden), wreaked havoc on the contestants by unleashing thousands of real bees and then dumping barrels full of syrup on them, ruining their superhero costumes. (Photo: Syfy)

Stork enduring 100,000 bees (and a few stings) during the show's Season 2 "Spelling Bee" competition. (Photo: Syfy)

Stork enduring thousands of bees (and a few stings) during the show’s Season 2 “Spelling Bee” competition. (Photo: Syfy)

“I, for whatever reason, was not very freaked out by the bee challenge. It made me uncomfortable, but I knew I could control my nerves. I was more worried about someone else in the box freaking out and making the bees go into a frenzy, so I did my best to try and keep everyone calm. I also remember thinking what a clever idea for a challenge it was, having us do a spelling bee covered in bees, but that comes with being an entertainer.”

Stork performing flips and stunts while hanging from suspension wires in front of a special effects "green screen." With all of his previous circus experience, it was (as he earlier predicted), "a piece of cake." (Photo: Syfy)

Stork performing flips and stunts while hanging from suspension wires in front of a special effects “green screen.” With all of his previous circus experience, it was (as he had predicted), “a piece of cake.” (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: What was it like filming those fights, stunts and special effects sequences with Balls Mahoney and stuntman Jon Valera? It seems they would’ve seen your vast potential and recommended that you stay on in Hollywood and work in films. Did you discuss any such ideas?

“I actually already knew Jon Valera before the show. He and my teacher Mike Chat were fierce but friendly rivals on the same elite sport karate team. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not naturally athletic. It takes me forever to teach my body new things and it usually only goes along kicking and screaming. On the other hand, I’m pretty darn good at making things look easy for me once I’ve learned them, but that’s my talent as a performer, not an athlete. I would be a terrible stuntman! Shooting a film, you don’t have time to practice. You have to be able to adapt and improvise how you risk your life on the spot. I only risk my life after LOTS of practice to seriously hedge my bets. I love life too much!”

Stork sharing a final hug with fellow contestants Jarret "The Defuser" Crippen and Melody "Hygena" Mooney. (Photo: Syfy)

Stork shares a final hug with fellow finalists, Jarret Crippen and Melody Mooney. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Did you forge any lasting friendships with your fellow WWTBASH contestants? And have you seen any of them recently?

“Unfortunately, no. But it’s not because I wouldn’t have liked to, or because I didn’t like anyone on the show. I’m just terrible at staying in touch. Hygena (Melody Mooney) and her husband are incredibly friendly. Parthenon (Dan Williams) is funny. I got along well with Mindset (Phillip Allen) and Mr. Mitzvah (Ivan Wilzig). Believe it or not, I had a special connection with Whip Snap (Paula Thomas), despite what happened between us on the show. And I really admire The Diffuser (Jarrett Crippen). He deserved to win. He’d make a WAY better real-life superhero than I would. I can maybe LOOK like one, but he can actually BE one.”

Stork receives congratulations and also bids farewell to fellow contestants Aja De Coudreaux (l), Trisha Paytas (c) and Phillip Allen (r) at the end of their final episode on Who Wants to be a Superhero? (Photo: Syfy)

Stork receiving congratulations and hugs from fellow contestants Aja De Coudreaux (l), Trisha Paytas (c) and Phillip Allen (r) at the end of the final episode of Who Wants to be a Superhero? (Photo: Syfy)

“I guess I’m hesitant to stay in touch with people as a general rule because I’ve met so many over the years traveling and performing. It would be a full-time job to try and keep in contact with them all. Also, it pains me when you try to keep a friendship going long distance and it just sort of withers on the vine. For me, that’s even more sad than just going your separate ways. I’d rather leave things where they were than play with shadows, if that makes any sense.”

Stork plots his next move while standing on the show's intimidating "cubes of elimination." (Photo: Syfy)

Stork plotting his next move while standing on the show’s intimidating “cubes of elimination.” (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: Your final self-defense speech, when you declared, “You SHOULDN’T put me through…” was a masterstroke of counter-psychology that probably helped keep you on the show. Had you thought about what you were going to say ahead of time or did you just blurt it out?

“Ha! I totally planned that. Entertainment is my business. I stood on that little cube the whole time knowing I had a zinger up my sleeve.”

Stork and fellow performer, Sam Johnson (of "America's Got Talent") perpare to execute Stork's famous chair-stacking feat during one of their many outdoor performances. (Photo:)

After WWTBASH, Stork returned to street performing. Here,with the assistance of his good friend and fellow busker, Sam Johnson (recently of “America’s Got Talent”), he prepares to perform his famous chair-stacking feat during one of many outdoor performances. (Photo: Randy)

TJR: Do you ever make appearances at comic cons as Hyper-Strike? It seems like you would be a natural with all of your experience entertaining crowds, especially crowds of superhero fans. Any memorable interactions with fans at such events?

“I never really got into the convention scene. Back when conventions and agents were approaching me to make appearances, I was in way over my head trying to street perform in LA. I was really stubborn. It was going terribly out there, but my answer to that was to just drop everything else and channel all my energy into forcing it to work. I bashed my head against a wall for months and barely scraped by. I got so low on cash, before I left LA, I ended up selling ‘star maps’ on Hollywood Boulevard for about a week. I could make more money doing that than I could street performing at the time!”

By the end of the feat, Stork executes a hand-stand on top of 5 stacked chairs. AMAZING! (Photo: Randy)

By the end of his stair-stacking feat, Stork tops it off by executing an uneven hand-stand. AMAZING! (Photo: Randy)

“I have a one-track mind and I become fanatical about things I want to do. My obsession at the time was learning how to street perform in LA, so I guess nothing else could happen. DUMB. I wouldn’t be against going to conventions now, especially to help promote my search for manga artists. However, I don’t think too many people remember Hyper-Strike.”

TJR: Well, obviously we disagree about that! Tell us about your “Karate Comedy Act.” I saw a short clip you had posted of it over on YouTube (HERE) and enjoyed it very much.

“Oh, thank you so much. If I were to continue on with theatrical circus performing, this is the act I’d do it with. I spent years trying to develop an act I’d be happy with, but all of my ideas were overly ambitious. I liked to come up with titanic productions in my mind that I was never able to pull off, at least not to my satisfaction.

The ‘Karate Comedy Act’ is the result of a lot of those ideas boiled down over many years to something DOABLE. Ironically, the act may now be TOO simple, since I’m not that interested in doing it anymore. That’s what I like about writing though now. I don’t feel limited. Whatever I imagine, I can just write. That being said, I really am proud of that little Karate Comedy Act, so thank you. Thank you for noticing! (This interview has become very emotional all of a sudden.)”

Another "freeze-frame" animation used in the show. (Photo: Syfy)

Another Hyper-Strike “freeze-frame” animation used in the show, Who Wants to be a Superhero? (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: On the final episode of the show, Stan Lee said this of you:

“Hyper-Strike, you’re here because you fired our imaginations. You think and move, like a true superhero. You’re fearless, honest, and forthcoming.”

And after you had lost, you demonstrated true sportsmanship and real humility when you said:

John Stork today.  (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

John Stork today. (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

“I had my chance. I made the best I could with it, and hey, 2nd place ain’t bad.”

Obviously, there’s a lot more to John Stork than just a flashy costume and some back flips. Tell us about your core moral values, ethics and beliefs, and where they came from. Besides being naturally gifted, what made you the man you are today?

“This is a big question and I don’t want to delve into my personal politics or religious ideas here, but I do have core convictions and concrete philosophical ideas that I try my best to live by and continually improve.

RESPECT is probably number one, not just for others, but for yourself as well. Self-respect could be the single most valuable commodity in existence, but I think it only works if you have a diligent conscience.

I think you get your conscience from your parents, and inadequate parenting is probably the most serious problem in society today. I had great parents, so I’m very lucky.

I also had a great dojo where values like discipline, respect, hard work, doing the right thing, and brains over brawn were constantly espoused. On top of the school creeds (which were emblazoned on the walls), we had a message of the week, every week. That, for me anyway, was a good environment to grow up in.”

Stork is in full "busking" mode as he performs a dangerous leap through a burning ring of fire. Note that his "Money Bucket" is always nearby, ready for donations! (Photo: leventmagic)

Stork is in full “busking” mode as he performs a dangerous leap through a burning ring of fire. Note that his “Money Bucket” is always nearby, ready for donations! (Photo: leventmagic)

TJR: What are your hopes, plans and career goals for the NEXT 6 years? Where do you hope to be and what would you like to be doing?

“In six years, I’d like to be supporting myself with my writing and well on my way to writing AND directing. My ultimate goal is to one day have a studio that produces anime, manga, and video games. If it was also in Vermont, that would be dreamy. I don’t think I made this clear earlier, but my screenwriting and the manga I’m looking to develop are meant to help me move closer to writing and directing for animation. A lot of the concepts I’m planning to develop as manga can later be adapted into anime.”

Despite stating he's no longer drawn to be in front of the cameras, Stork found himself doing just that in a recent regional TV appearance on "The Lake Show with Jack Carpenter." Yes, that's right. We said, the LAKE show. Here, Stork jokes about life as a busker with host, Jack Carpenter. (Photo: Jack Carpenter)

Despite stating he’s no longer drawn to be in front of the cameras, Stork found himself doing just that in a recent regional TV appearance on “The Lake Show with Jack Carpenter.” Yes, that’s right. We said, the LAKE show. Here, Stork jokes about life as a busker with host, Jack Carpenter. (Photo: Jack Carpenter)

Hyper-Strike animation from the opening credits sequence of WWTBASH. (Photo: Syfy)

Hyper-Strike’s eye-popping animation sequence from the opening credits of WWTBASH. (Photo: Syfy)

TJR: On Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, you offered your fans the following advice, “Pursue your passions. Whatever you love to do—DO IT. And then completely devote yourself to it.” Now, over six years later, would you amend or add to that advice in any way?

“I would throw in that it helps when things love you back. I think it’s good to know what you love, but also to be aware of what your natural strengths are. Sometimes, you’re better off going with something you really like that likes you back and leaving unrequited love for the birds. I don’t know if I actually follow that advice though. In some ways, ever since I discovered it, anime has been my greatest love. (Don’t tell my girlfriend I said that.) It remains to be seen whether I have any natural talent in that arena, but I’m still putting everything I have into it.”

It’s nice to think things are super black and white when you’re young, and if they’re not, to think you can make them black and white. Now, I think it’s better to at least be aware of the spectrum. Use your knowledge of the spectrum to navigate to your favorite color. If you try to shut out the other colors, or pretend they’re not there, it doesn’t work so well. Ignoring reality is a slippery slope. No one lives in a test tube, yet it’s easy to philosophize in one. In short, I think it’s important to have a favorite color. My favorite color is GREEN.”

A prototype cover for a 'Hyper-Strike" comic book promising fans "Martial Arts Mayhem!" Trivia Note: The costume is the one Stan Lee designed, but the headband uses Stork's own Japanese "rising sun" design that he had created for use with his "Super Impact Man" costume. (Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

This prototype cover for a ‘Hyper-Strike” comic book promised fans “Martial Arts Mayhem!” Trivia Note: The costume is the one Stan Lee designed, but the headband uses Stork’s own Japanese “rising sun” design that he had created for use with his “Super Impact Man” costume. (Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

TJR: At your public performances, do you sign autographs and sell souvenirs afterward? How about online? Is there a website where fans can go to purchase John Stork, Hyper-Strike or Super-Impact Man videos, T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.?

“Ha! There has never been a John Stork, Impact Man, or Hyper-Strike product line, but that probably has to do with there never having been a serious demand for those types of goods. I’m just responding to the market. I finally have a business card though. This is a major step for me.”

TJR: Do you have an agent, or are you self-represented? If someone wanted to hire you for a performance or personal appearance, how should they contact you?

“At the moment, I’m self-represented. I do have a website that focuses on my live performances HERE. That website would be the best way to get in touch with me if you wanted to hire me for a gig. My Hyper-Strike Facebook page (HERE) is another fine way to bend my ear.”

When not busking, Stork appears with the juggling and circus comedy act know as "The Piccoali Trio," along with bob smilh (l) and joy som (c). (Photo: The Pic trio)

When not busking, Stork (r) appears with the juggling/comedy act known as “The Piccolini Trio,” with fellow performers, Joshua Shack (l) and Joy Powers (c). (Photo: The Piccolini Trio)

TJR: Where is the next place fans can go to see John Stork performing, LIVE and in-person?

“More than likely I’ll be street performing on Church Street here in Burlington, VT next Spring, Summer, and Fall. Friday nights, Saturday afternoons, and Saturday evenings are the best times to catch me. I’m also in an intimate circus/theatrical clown show known as the Piccolini Trio (quite a bit different from Hyper-Strike). You can get details HERE and HERE. I should also mention that one of my best friends, Sam Johnson, who recently appeared on ‘America’s Got Talent’ HERE, is looking to create his own reality-TV series about street performers. He’s been filming the pilot episode here in Burlington, and it’s going to be centered around me, my street show, and Greg, a very kind homeless man who helps me out. He will most likely release the episode online soon. For more information, go HERE, or look for ‘Street Performers with Sam Johnson’ on Facebook.

This close-up of Stork's one-of-a-kind, 1:6 scale Hyper-Strike action figure reveals his handcrafted costume and custom headsculpt. WOWZA! (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

This close-up of Stork’s one-of-a-kind, 1:6 scale Hyper-Strike figure from customizer herobuilders.com, reveals a handcrafted costume and custom headsculpt.(Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

TJR: Finally, while we’re obviously very interested in superheroes, The Joe Report’s primary focus is on GIjOEs and 1:6 scale action figures. Therefore, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the personal gift you received from Stan Lee: a custom-made, 1:6 scale, Hyper-Strike action figure from Herobuilders.com! Did you play with or collect action figures when you were young? If so, which were your favorites and why?

“I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures when I was little (surprise!). I’ve never been into very straightforward, or ‘realistic’ things. The Turtles were cool to me because they were anthropomorphic, GREEN, and into martial arts. Another toy I thought was cool, although not an action figure, was ‘Monster In My Pocket.’ Kind of a precursor to Pokemon, I guess. And one more… Although these were only around when I was REALLY young: ‘Dino Riders!’ I had the T-Rex and the Triceratops, but I would always lose the armor and gun parts and just be left with the dinosaurs and the little dudes, and then it was basically just Jurassic Park. Wow. ‘Monster In My Pocket’ and ‘Dino Riders.’ You just sent me on one heck of a trip down Memory Lane!”

Stork's life today is an exciting mixture of thrilling street performances and theatrical circus comedy shows. In the rare moments he has at home, he's busy working on manga scripts and screenplays. (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

Stork’s life today is an exciting mixture of thrilling street performances and theatrical circus comedy shows. In the rare moments he has at home, he’s busy working on his all-new, all-original manga scripts and screenplays. (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

John Stork, 27, aka "Hyper-Strike" from the 2007 SyFy series, Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, in a photo taken exclusively for The Joe Report on October 8, 2013, reveals Stork has hardly aged a day since the show ended. At our request, he donned the original costume tights created for him by the show's wardrobe department, and holds up the custom-made action figure of himself built by Herobuilders.com. Outstanding! (Photo: John Stork)

John Stork, 27, aka “Hyper-Strike” from the 2007 SyFy series, Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, in a photo taken exclusively for The Joe Report on October 8, 2013, reveals Stork has hardly aged a day since the show ended. At our request, he donned the original costume tights created for him by the show’s wardrobe department, and holds up the custom-made action figure of himself built by Herobuilders.com. Outstanding! (Photo: John Stork, exclusive to The Joe Report)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Mr. Stork for making this in-depth interview possible. If you’d like to leave a comment about anything in this article, please do so below. We wish Mr. Stork all the best in his future endeavors and will follow-up this report with another Who Wants to be a Superhero? contestant interview soon. Where are they all now and what are they doing? Stay tuned superhero, comic book and action figure fans, Coming up next—one of the women! Ex-CELSIOR!