Category Archives: Collector Profiles

Everything Must Go (Again!)———G.I. Joe’s “#1 Fan,” James DeSimone Will Definitely “Sell it All” at One Final Estate Sale to be Held at His CA Home

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The more you look, the more you’ll want to buy— There are literally piles upon PILES of vintage toys, action figures, vintage cereal boxes and much more, crowding the Burbank, CA home of renowned pop-culture collector, James DeSimone. Dedicated fans will have a rare opportunity to paw their way through this “Mecca of Merchandise” during his May 1st estate sale. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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A Lifetime of Collecting— DeSimone’s passion for toys began when he was a child (above). Now, it’s time to let it all go. (Photo: James DeSimone)

If at first you don’t succeed in getting rid of your life-long GIjOE and vintage toy collection via local toy shows, online sales or auctions, then try, try again; this time with an estate sale held—at your own home! Yes, once again, the man whom Hasbro deemed “GIjOE’s #1 Fan,” James DeSimone, is preparing to put (what remains) of his massive vintage toy collection up for sale—at an estate sale—on May 1st, 2016.

Buyers and collectors will have to travel to James’ home in Burbank, CA, but this time they’ll be rewarded for their efforts by being allowed to dig through decades of collectible treasures, piled high up to the sky (or at least to James’ garage ceiling), and inspect each and every item up close and personal before deciding on a purchase. But remember, estate sales are “first come, first served,” so you better get there early (with cash in hand) if you want the best chance at snagging those long, lost toys of your childhood. According to the sale’s information page HERE, this is what to expect:

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“GIJOE and Vintage Toy Estate Sale!! Featuring the sale of the collection of James DeSimone, consisting of GIJOE plus thousands of other TOYS from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, including: 1000s of 1960s GIJOE accessories. 1000s of 1980s GIJOE accessories. 1000s of 1960s Ken/Barbie accessories. 1/6 scale vehicles, 1000s of VINTAGE toys by Gilbert, Marx, Tonka, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Topper, Kenner, Ideal, Hasbro, Mattel, Mego, Aurora, Batman, James Bond, Captain Action, Space toys, GIRLS toys, tools, Playsets, all kinds of TV/movie character toys and figures, toy cap guns, models, food and advertising toys, games and the list of different stuff goes on and on! NOTE THE DIFFERENT LOCATION FOR THIS EVENT: 1524 Broadway Burbank, CA 91504 Hours are 8AM to 5PM. Come take pictures with a replica 1966 Batmobile! This is a special one time event held at this location, don’t miss it!! The show will return to the Ramada Inn for the December show.” If you have any questions, please email: jamesdesimone@hotmail.com

exclusivebannerWhat we’re observing is that a collection as large and diverse as DeSimone’s is proving to be quite the challenge for him (or anyone) to disperse. In the beginning, James utilized his CA GIjOE shows, then held an auction (see HERE) and now, will try selling the remainder of his 1950s, ’60s and ’70s vintage toys at his upcoming estate sale. Regarding this unique event and its impact on his life, James graciously provided the following insights—exclusively to readers of The Joe Report:

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“GIJOE’s #1 Fan,” James DeSimone (Photo: James DeSimone)

“Hi Mark (et.al), Forgive me. I just don’t have the ability to do much anymore, including long responses. But I owe you at least that for all your support. It may take a few hours to write this all to you. The doctors are telling me to handle my affairs, and my body agrees. I want to live long enough to see my daughter (shown below) graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 7 weeks.

Yes, everything is going. Fortunately, I dont need the money. I need peace of mind, knowing that my family doesn’t have to deal with all this. It’s interesting you should mention Hasbro’s #1 fan. I was just wondering about that. It has the prototype 12″ Duke body and a custom head Hasbro made and gave me, a hand-cast prototype 3 3/4″ Duke, a #1 production 3 3/4″ Soldier; both of which Hasbro gave me. In addition, a Hasbro employee watch, ring and a gold dogtag, all of which Hasbro gave me. I think I would like to sell it all as a set (as it was presented to me) to one person who will appreciate it and won’t use it for target practice! (lol)”

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Proud Papa— DeSimone in a recent photo with his son, daughter and wife. (Photo: James DeSimone)

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“As for how I feel… I once wrote a story about Artie Rickun, a friend and toy dealer from Milwaukee, at one time had 10,000+ packaged GIjOE items! He told me that once I had kids, nothing else would matter to me. Having died once already, I consider myself fortunate to have had a little time to plan. So no, it is of no great loss to see it all go. Very little matters to me anymore. Hopefully, I will get some joy out of seeing someone buy something from me, like that all too familiar feeling of finding a GIjOE at a garage sale!”

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James with “The King”— DeSimone (left) poses for a quick pic with fellow toy dealer, Artie Rickun, at a toy show in the early 1980s. Rickun had just purchased a warehouse full of over 15,000 vintage boxed and packaged GI Joes and accessories. Holy inventory, Batman! (Photo: James DeSimone)

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“All of my toys used to be upstairs on the second level. For the past couple of months, volunteers have been helping me bring it all downstairs so that it will be accessible to foot traffic. Right now, its all a mess. I thought I would have a couple months to sort it all out, but my energy level is non-existent now and I haven’t been able to do very much. Thankfully, I’ll have volunteers helping the week before the sale to set it all up in my home.”

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Horses, Horses, Horses— Johnny West and MARX fans take note… There will be a LOT of vintage “Best of the West” for sale at DeSimone’s estate sale. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Oh, Ken. You’re such a DOLL— There will also be boxes full of vintage Ken dolls, carrying cases and related ephemera. Study these photos carefully! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Beam me up! What set did this interesting Star Trek bridge come from? It appears to come with railings and perhaps chairs, as well. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Dusty but DELICIOUS— That vintage “Bop-a-Bear” target set is certainly dusty, but we bet if you took a vacuum cleaner with a brush hose attachment, it would clean up like new in seconds. We also see GIjOE, Major Matt Mason and more in this pic! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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You want more? James has MORE! Vintage toy-aholics will be drooling at this estate sale. How much of this wonderful stuff do YOU remember? (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Lookie there! There’s a Sky Rail set! Boy, those are getting hard to find. Enlarge this pic and start hunting for YOUR childhood favorites! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Take your covered wagon to the Beauty Parlor— Whoa… check out those cool, retro Barbie beauty parlor hair dryers and chairs. Or, are they space helmets? Or…? You’ll only find out if you’re there in person! Too cool for school, dude! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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All will be revealed, May 1st! Remember that vaunted (haunted?) secret shelf James built in his garage to house his overflowing toy collection? What did he store up there? At one time it held parts of his massive GIjOE diorama. Now, it looks like there’s some vintage missile launcher sets from REMCO. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of this sale! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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On and on it goes— Click each pic to enlarge and DROOL. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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How keen is YOUR toy eye?— We spy a 60s “Tiger Joe” tank, an in-the-box Rockem’ Sockem’ Robots game, some vintage Transogram games and much more. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Put ’em up, Pahdnuh!— A tub full of vintage cap pistols and their VERY rare holsters is sure to get cowboy/cowgirl hearts a-beatin.’ Yeeee-HAAAAA!!!!!! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Toy Heaven is (apparently) a dusty garage— Vintage Barbies, ’60s space toys and much more will be sold at James DeSimone’s house on May 1st, 2016. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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“GIjOE has provided me with a great life; a life that most people could only dream of. But, GIjOEs are only toy possessions, none of which matters anymore, simply because I cant take them with me. I have raised 2 of the greatest kids a man could ever hope for. I share a love with a woman which is the stuff epic novels are written of. And I have made my peace with God. —James DeSimone

Bottom Line: This certainly sounds (and looks) like “no-miss” event, especially if you’re within driving distance of southern California. Our sincerest thanks (again) to James DeSimone and his wonderful family for all of their contributions to the vintage toy and GIjOE collecting hobbies. Take care and We wish you all the BEST!

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Unbelievable———Archive of Rare 1960s G.I. Joe TV Commercials Discovered By Vintage3DJoes.com

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50 Year-Old Treasure Trove of Vintage GIjOE Advertising— A cache of B&W and color film reels of 1960s-vintage GIjOE TV commercials—still in their original boxes—was recently rediscovered by the daughter of the films’ director. According to Matt McKeeby, efforts are now moving forward to raise the funds required to restore and digitize the films with plans to ultimately host and share the videos with the public on McKeeby’s famed GIjOE reference website, Vintage3DJoes.com. (Photo: Matt McKeeby)

Director of GIjOE’s First TV Commercials to Be Commemorated w/Restoration of His Films

Catching Up With This Story— Before we reveal the latest, EXCLUSIVE intel, let’s review the background regarding this exciting and evolving story. Regular readers of The Joe Report will undoubtedly recall our previous articles detailing the superb work and service continually being provided to the 1:6 scale GIjOE collecting community by Matt McKeeby (NY) and how, for the last 3 years, McKeeby has been hard at work researching, compiling and documenting Hasbro’s vintage ’60s-’70s lines, one carefully photographed figure at a time, then posting his amazing 360º (rotating) images over at Vintage3DJoes.com for free and public enjoyment (24/7).

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Prepare to FIRE— Have you ever wondered if your Green Beret Machinegun emplacement set was complete? Now you can view the entire set and all its parts in 360º rotating images at Vintage3DJoes.com. Ba-RROOMM! (Photo: Matt McKeeby)

McKeeby’s professionally produced website quickly become one of the 1:6 hobby’s highest-ranked, must-see, go-to, photo reference points on the web; garnering both the site, and McKeeby, well-deserved reputations for providing GIjOE fans with undisputed “expert advice” regarding the compilation of an accurate and complete 12″ collection.

But Wait! There Was More

We also reported on McKeeby’s subsequent discovery, digitization, and professional restoration of a handful of previously unknown vintage GIjOE TV commercials from the 1960s (see that story HERE). McKeeby’s stunning finding jolted an increasingly blasé GIjOE collecting community, surprising many of its so-called “experts,” and those who had simply grown complacent in the belief that they’d already “seen it all,” regarding Hasbro’s vintage Joe commercials. Oh, how wrong they (and we) were all proved to be!

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In today’s exclusive story— McKeeby blows away all previous fan expectations by revealing the true fate of all those “lost,” vintage, GIjOE TV commercials. Most of us had long ago given up any hope that they existed at all, believing such advertising gems were routinely tossed out, or had simply been destroyed by some indifferent advertising agency. But thanks (again) to Matt McKeeby, an exciting new discovery of a “cache” of such films is about to shock and AWE the entire GIjOE collecting community. We’ll let Matt take the story over from here, in his own words, in an exclusive, first-person account you’ll only find HERE on The Joe Report. Enjoy!

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GIjOE fan, collector, historian and “curator” of Vintage3djoes, Matt McKeeby. (Photo: Matt McKeeby, Vintage3DJoes)

 

Archive of rare 1960s GI Joe Commercials Found! —By Matt McKeeby

“The origin of this cache of commercials is a remarkable one.  The daughter of the films’ director contacted me on Facebook over a year and a half ago.  She had gone on line to look up GI Joe, wanting to see if her father was mentioned anywhere.  There is lots of history about folks like Don Levine, Sam Petrucci, and others at Hasbro, but the name Herb Dietz wasn’t mentioned. She wanted to know if anyone had heard of him, as he was the man responsible for creating the first commercials that the publicized the brand, the films that made ‘G.I. Joe, G.I. Joe, fighting man from head to toe…’ a jingle sung by tens of thousands of boys in the mid-sixties.”

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From the Desk of Herb Dietz— In this “Partial Credit and Client List” provided by Dietz’ daughter, we can see that Hasbro was indeed a client of renowned ’60s GIjOE TV commercial director, Herb Dietz. This is one more exciting piece of GIjOE’s historic provenance—confirmed! (Photo: Matt McKeeby)

“Unfortunately, the message languished in my ‘other’ folder and wasn’t checked for over a year.  When I first saw it last August, I was excited to find out what she had to say.  We got in touch over the phone, and she shared that as a child her father, a World War II veteran, had gone into the film industry in New York, eventually founding the firm Lane Cole Dietz with buddies he had met during the war. (An interesting aside, he eventually married his sweetheart who had become so annoyed to be left behind when he enlisted, that she signed up herself, becoming a military police woman if the Women’s Army Corps, making her a real ‘G.I. Jane.’)”

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On the Set— Director, Herb Dietz (above left, w/glasses), is shown preparing a bag (of money?) for a shot in some unidentified (non-GIjOE) 1960s TV commercial. (Photo: Dietz Family)

Herb’s military experience, as well as his skills as a commercial filmmaker for accounts such as the American Red Cross, Mack Trucks, Pepsi, and many other major companies, made him a natural to work producing and directing these spots.  The early work sold the realistic detail of G.I. Joe heavily, segueing from stock footage of WW II and Korea era stock footage into dioramas of boys playing with our beloved toy.  His daughter was on the set for several of the shoots and remembers getting to take home G.I. Joe figures and accessories, all of which are now gone.  That is particularly sad, as many early issue and rare prototypes were on the set.”

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Military Man Turned Media Man— GIjOE’s first TV commercial director was previously in the Army, as shown in the small photo above (Dietz is wearing the helmet w/goggles) and in a post-war newspaper clipping. His military background served him well during his later years with GIjOE. (Photo: Dietz Family)

“She had contacted Hasbro to see if they were interested in obtaining the films, but received no reply.  After a couple of months discussing them, her interest in making her father’s legacy known became a driving force in our discussions.  Our initial plan was to create a DVD of the commercials, along with a short film detailing her dad’s work.  Hasbro, while willing to allow the commercials to be digitized, was not happy with the idea of ‘unofficial’ product being released.  That moved us to an effort to get them out free of charge to fans everywhere, along with the mini documentary about Herb Dietz via the Vintage3DJoes.com website.”

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There’s a LOT for Matt and Ace to Work With— Building a documentary of Deitz’s work on the early GIjOE commercials will include reels and reels of vintage spots, photos, news clippings, family memories and much more. What an outstanding idea for GIjOE-related project! (Photo: Matt McKeeby)

“Commercial filmmaker and G.I. Joe fan, Ace Allgood, will be working to arrange for a top-notch company to digitize the shorts, while I work on the Herb Dietz story with his daughter.  The hope is that we will be able to begin releasing the work in the early summer.  Unfortunately, digitization will not be free, so I may need to do some fundraising to defray the cost, and hope Joe fans will step up to contribute to the cause in order to make the films free to all.

What’s there?  Along with photos and clippings about Dietz’s work, the core of the archive is twenty-six 16mm film positives of commercials from 1964 through 67, the heyday of the military era.  A number of them are out there already, but generally in low quality multi-generation dubs.  Having just reviewed the first few frames of each, I can confirm that there are many not yet in circulation, including commercials for the Soldiers of the World, the cadet sets, and many more.  

One is intriguingly titled “Adventure Packs” and may be from the first release of the Talking Adventure Packs.  The condition looks good, but it will be hard to tell about sound and color quality until they have been professionally evaluated.  If you need a ‘fix’ in the meantime, visit the commercials page on Vintage3DJoes.com to get a feel for what’s ahead, and stay tuned to the site, Facebook, and the Joe Report for updates on the process and potential fundraising efforts. 

Digitization and sound/color work will run around $1600. I will get the work done regardless, but if any fans want to support the project, they can help by making a donation on the Vintage3DJoes website at the page found HERE. Any one who donates will be given credit for their assistance on the website when the commercials are released.” —Matt McKeebyVintage3DJoes.com

Bottom Line: Time and time again, Matthew McKeeby’s masterful research, methodology and assurance of excellence, has proven him to be one of 12″ GIjOE fandom’s foremost “curators” and historians. His unusual discoveries constantly surprise, intrigue and impress collectors all around the world. Our sincerest thanks to Matthew for all of his generous contributions to this article. If you’d like to make a donation to help ensure his important work can continue, please go HERE.

FLASH! Renowned G.I. Joe Collector, Kevin Bolger, Featured in New “Through the Decades” TV Show Hosted by CBS’ Veteran Newscaster, Bill Curtis

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Chicago area GIjOE expert, Kevin Bolger, in a screenshot from CBS’ Through the Decades

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Bill Kurtis, host of CBS’ Through the Decades (Photo: CBS)

We were contacted recently by the producer of CBS’ new Through the Decades show (hosted by Bill Kurtis of CBS News fame) who informed us she was going to be in the Chicago area (that week) with a production crew. She wanted to know if we would be available for an interview, regarding (of all things) “the history of G.I. Joe.” Regrettably, we had to pass, so she inquired if there was anyone else in the Chicago area whom we knew and could recommend as a bonafide “experts” on the subject. Hmm… “experts, eh..?”

We discussed the juicy topic over lunch that afternoon in our conference room, and (of course) many amazing names immediately came to mind. Over BLTs and Diet Cokes, we considered the varieties of collections and vast amount of knowledge possessed by of all the Chicago “Joeheads” we knew of (great guys and gals, one and all), but one name kept coming back to the top of everyone’s list; renowned GIjOE fan, advocate, collector, 1:6 scale hobbyist extraordinaire, and all-around “good buddy,” Kevin Bolger.

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Kevin Bolger checks the attendance list during the 2008 GIjOE Show in Algonquin, IL. All present, sir! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

For those of you who’ve never met Kevin—

Bolger’s bulging GIjOE résume´ reads as long as your arm. Suffice it to say, he’s been a member of the Chicago Division of the GIjOE Collector’s Club and a co-organizer of that club’s annual shows held in Algonquin, Illinois for many years running. A quick search of The Joe Report will bring up numerous articles featuring and/or quoting from Kevin, such as our coverage of one past Algonquin event (see HERE) and another article quoting Bolger’s pragmatic description of the struggling Chicago division (see HERE).

We contacted Bolger at his home and asked if he had any additional behind-the-scenes tidbits or exclusive intel he could provide regarding his recent appearance on TV. He kindly replied:

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“The G.I. Joe segment on the ‘Through The Decades’ TV show was on TV this week (February 2nd). It runs about 7 minutes. I was very pleased with the production and it was the first segment on the hour-long show. Kurtis narrated it, which, being a long-time fan of his from his anchor days on Chicago’s WBBM, made this experience especially enjoyable for me.”

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Unfolded GIjOE History— This is one side of the “handbill” that was originally created for use by Hasbro toy reps and distributed during the 1964 Toy Fair in NYC. (Photo: Kevin Bolger)

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A few years back, I bought a number of pieces directly from…drumroll…Sam SpeersIf you watch the video carefully, you’ll see a shot of Hasbro’s ultra-rare 1964 Toy Fair handbill or ‘salesman’s catalogue,’ which I own. I’ve attached a couple of still shots (see above and below), and the closeup of side 2 reveals one of those elusive green camo shoulder radios and an early, prototype version of the MP outfit.”

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Prototype Peek-a-Boo— This closeup from the inside of the handbill reveals an especially early shot of GIjOE’s line of Army equipment and an “elusive green camo shoulder radio.” (Photo: Kevin Bolger)

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“Through The Decades is usually on one of the CBS local off-the-air sub channels (i.e. Channel 2.2 in Chicago). They feature stories like ‘on this day in 1971, this happened, so & so was born,’ etc. In my interview, I give a brief history of Hasbro and the development of GI Joe. I also set up a bunch of vintage figures with 40th anniversary window boxes for the film crew.

The show’s website is www.decades.com, but it doesn’t look like they stream any of their programs, only the promos. I watched an episode (on TV) last week. They’re on M-F, a 1 hour show, that’s repeated a couple of times during the day). It looks like they’ll be using a lot of old CBS network news reports, 60 Minutes segments and other nostalgic stuff mixed in with original segments and features.”

Bottom Line: Through the Decades looks like a wonderful program and should appeal to all nostalgia and history buffs. Kevin’s segment on the history of GIjOE is absolutely wonderful and we were thrilled to learn that the show’s producer had taken our recommendation and ended up utilizing his expertise for the show. Our sincerest thanks to Kevin for his generous contributions to this article. Enjoy his full appearance on Through the Decades by clicking the video link below:

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“G.I. Joe Repair Shop” Owner Hopes His Business Will Help Revitalize “Empty” Downtown of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma———Daughter Paints G.I. Joe Murals

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The Last Place You’d Expect to Find a G.I. Joe Museum— If you don’t take your foot off the pedal, it’s all too easy to zip right through the small town of Lone Wolf, OK, little realizing you’re also passing by one of the SWEETEST little museums ever dedicated to America’s Movable Fighting Man. So, SLOW DOWN, pahduh! Maybe if they painted their water tower Adventure Team yellow..? (Photo: Nick Vitale)

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Neil Vitale, owner, operator and curator of the GIjOE Repair Shop (and museum) located in Lone Wolf, OK (Photo: Nick Vitale)

Living’ the G.I. Joe Dream—In Lone Wolf, OK

Sometimes we come across fans or collectors who are truly living the “GIjOE dream.” Typically, they’re the sort of individuals who, through a combination of hard work and dedication, are now able to comfortably display, professionally repair, and profitably sell—GIjOEs. After years of effort, they’ve finally achieved 1:6 fandom’s most highly sought-after “collecting trifecta,” and now own and operate a GIjOE-related business.

Indeed, even after decades of diehard collecting, many collectors continue to dream of a well-appointed “Joe Room,” or the space required to simply de-crate and display a burgeoning collection. Many others yearn for the knowledge and/or talents required to repair, reflock or repaint, old or broken action figures. For most of us though, it’s TIME and money that remain the most restrictive factors, and so it’s always heartening to learn when another fan has broken through those barriers; purchased his own building, and is now refurbishing it into a growing, downtown Joe-business. We’re referring (of course) to renowned GIjOE expert—Neil Vitale.

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Welcome to Neil’s Place— You’re looking at the Main Street entrance to an actual “brick-n-mortar” GIjOE store now located at 1107 Main Street in downtown Lone Wolf, OK. If you love Joes, this is THE place to hang out on weekends, get something repaired, or buy-n-sell. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

Formerly of Connecticut, Neil recently moved his family (and impressive vintage GIjOE collection) to the far-flung reaches of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. A pediatrician by profession, Nick commutes daily to the nearby Air Force town of Alton for his practice, before returning home again to his family and favorite hobby—GIjOE. In the following interview (given exclusively to The Joe Report), Vitale reveals the full “inside” story behind his exciting new “GIjOE Repair Shop.” Enjoy!

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TJR: Thanks for taking time to talk to us today, Neil. Please tell our readers how you came up with the idea for your GIjOE business and how you got the ball rolling on such an ambitious project.

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Dr. Neil Vitale, Pediatrician and GIjOE businessman (Photo: Neil Vitale)

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NV: “The GIjOE Repair shop was an outgrowth of my ebay store. I started putting together vintage GIjOE sets in 2009 and have sold over 500 in the last 7 years. I did this in my basement in Connecticut. We had recently moved to Lone Wolf, Oklahoma from Connecticut to be closer to my wife’s family and during the transition, I had all my Joe stuff in storage for about a year. While working in Oklahoma (I’m a Pediatrician), it became clear that there were a lot of empty buildings in our downtown area that people were only using for storage. Lone Wolf is a farming community of about 450 people and the downtown area is dying. So I purchased the old Flower Shop and decided to use it for Joe storage and a place to build and sell my Joe’s.”

TJR: Fascinating! What happened next? How does your new business work?

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“I found a few display cases in the surrounding communities to temporarily display the Joe’s before I sold them. It was great, because I was able to have an enormous space for my Joe’s and my wife was happy to get them out of the house. I call it the “GI JOE Repair Shop” and we buy pieces and parts off of ebay and then complete the sets to resell them, just like I did before in Connecticut.”

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Main Street Visitors— Fans and customers browsing Neil’s new store/museum. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

TJR: What was the inspiration for the way you’ve decorated your business’ interior and exterior?

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“In Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma (about 120 miles away), there’s The Action Figure Museum. They have a special section on military and GIjOE figures. We went in there and it turned out to be a pretty cool museum. Their GIjOE/military section had some neat dioramas, but not many actual vintage GI Joe’s. So, I decided that Oklahoma needed a stand alone GI JOE display.”

TJR: Sounds cool! What sort of plans do you have for future displays, etc.?

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“I shifted from selling Joes to creating a GIjOE display for Vintage 1964-1969 Joes. I still sell the 1970-76 figures to help with funding, but my goal is to have one of each Joe from the original vintage era and put them on display in one part of the shop. I have 75 on display so far. The missing Joes are the the rare and expensive ones (i.e., the Nurse, Jungle Fighter, later MPs etc.) I’ll eventually get to them!

The other part of the shop will be a 150 square foot diorama of the Normandy invasion with about 40 vintage Joes (American and German) and only genuine Hasbro equipment. I hope to have it ready for our town’s Fourth of July parade. We had nearly 100 people come in the shop that day last year and that was before the diorama! The name of the shop will be changed to The GI JOE Repair Shop and Museum this Spring.”


THIS JUST IN—THIS JUST IN—THIS JUST IN—THIS JUST IN

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Art Major, Rosie Vitale, blocks in colors as she begins work on the door-sized GIjOE mural for, appropriately, the front door of her Dad’s “GIjOE Repair Shop” in Lone Wolf, OK. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

Beautiful Art Major Making Beautiful Murals in Oklahoma

In a related story, we were understandably curious as to the identity of the talented individual or individuals responsible for all the wonderful GIjOE artwork and murals seen inside and outside of Neil’s new store and museum. We asked Vitale for further intel on the matter and he replied:

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“My daughter, Rosie Vitale, is an art major and she was recruited to paint our three murals. The first is the advertisement for the talking GIjOE. The second is a mash-up of Action Sailor box art. The third is the Action Soldier Box that we used for our front door. She’d blocked out the pictures first, then use acrylic paints and let her talent take over. The two wall murals took about a week each to complete and the door, 4 days. They look AMAZING in person!”

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Remembering Petrucci— In her left hand, Rosie holds a color print of the original GIjOE Action Soldier box artwork created by famed illustrator Sam Petrucci (in 1964) and refers to it for guidance and inspiration while creating her own, greatly enlarged copy. Absolutely AMAZING! (Photo: Neil Vitale)

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Vintage VICTORY— Rosie’s finished painting, ready to greet customers. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

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Action Sailor Artwork— Rosie Vitale continues to adorn the walls of her father’s store with additional murals. This one was also inspired by the 1964 paintings of Sam Petrucci. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

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Go, NAVY! Rosie’s completed Action Sailor mural is an undeniable eye-catcher and one of the three that fans will see when they visit Neil Vitale’s GIjOE Repair Shop. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

Finally, Neil offered the following hopes for his business’ effect on downtown Lone Wolf, saying:

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“We are now one of the few businesses on main street in Lone Wolf. And I’m pretty sure this is the largest collection of vintage GIjOEs on display ANYWHERE in Oklahoma. With the addition of the the diorama, I am hoping to attract some attention and maybe get a few people to come by and stop in Lone Wolf, rather than just drive on through.” —Neil Vitale, The GIjOE Repair Shop

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The Doctor Will See You Now— Neil Vitale poses alongside the “first four” of his many vintage GIjOEs in a photo taken exclusively for The Joe Report. Neil’s got the prescription—for FUN! (Photo: Neil Vitale)

Bottom Line: We were THRILLED to learn of Neil’s success and the creation of his all-new GIjOE-related business in Lone Wolf, OK. Imagine if this sort of business model was copied in other towns and cities across the country (and around the world!). How cool would that be? We also want to thank Neil and Rosie Vitale for their generous assistance with this article, and wish them both all the best in their future endeavors. Go, Neil! Go, Rosie! Go, JOE!

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“I’m Willing to Sell Damn Near Everything!” Lifelong G.I. Joe Fan Getting Out of the Hobby

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GIjOE fan, Rick Pell, has decided to go where few dare—the “Zero-Collecting Zone!” (Photo: Rick Pell)

We’ve often wondered, both aloud and in print, exactly where, when and how the collecting lives of thousands of diehard GIjOE fans will ultimately come to an end. Make no mistake, in another 30 years or so, the number of faithful “Joeheads” like yourself, individuals who lovingly remember their childhood connections to GIjOE and thus nostalgically yearn for, actively seek out, collect, and then BUY 1:6 (or 1:18) scale GIjOE action figures—will have dwindled dramatically.

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Who ya’ gunna call? If you’re looking for 12″ GIjOEs, the answer is (sadly) no longer Hasbro.

Hasbro’s already gotten out of the 12″ GIjOE business, openly admitting they’re “ignoring” collectors of 12-inch Joes altogether (see HERE) and have little plans to sew seeds towards any future 1:6 scale fandom. Having thus turned their collective corporate backs on thousands (millions?) of “12-inchers,” any future Hasbro GIjOE product is likely to be limited and lackluster, further accelerating the departure of once loyal fans like Rick Pell, who recently declared on Facebook:

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“I’m willing to sell damn near everything G.I. Joe that I have! I want to keep only my childhood stuff and some favorites. LMK if you are looking for anything in particular, and I will try to help you out! I have vintage PH, AT, AM, and tons of 40th and other Hasbro licensed repros! I also have lots of 90s 2000s Hasbro Joes and Dragon, 21st C. Vehicles too! Too much to make a list! PM me with what you are looking for! —Thanks, Rick Pell

Judging by the large number of exclamation points inserted by Rick into his message, we have to believe he’s truly serious and determined in his current efforts to completely divest himself of (nearly) all things GIjOE. How did such a day ever come for Rick? For years now, he’s almost been a one-man-band for Hasbro’s vintage 12-inch action figures. During 2014, Rick went so far as to create an entire Facebook page HERE dedicated to the celebration of the figure’s 50th Anniversary.

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If not for the efforts of the GIjOE Collector’s Club and its 2014 JoeCon, the 50th anniversary of the world’s most popular toy might have passed largely uncelebrated. Here, GIjOE co-creator and ’60s Hasbro icon, Sam Speers, poses with a 50th Anniversary banner in Dallas, TX. (Photo: GIJCC)

Ironically, it wasn’t disappointment with Hasbro’s inaction that prompted Pell’s massive sell-off. Rather, it was the fact that he had simply collected TOO much. He had run out of display and storage space for his GIjOE passion, and selling them was the only solution left. According to Rick:

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“I just have too much stuff! I have a 2 bedroom apartment, rent a 50 by 14 foot garage, and my living room has become my bedroom. I have been overtaken by toys and it is time to refocus! Maybe I’m just getting older and tired of venturing into my Joe Room or garage and finding nice things stashed away that I may NEVER use. Collecting has been fun, but if I haven’t seen something or needed it for 5 years, maybe someone else can enjoy it. I’ve also been out of work for a while and times are tough. AND…I have a grandson on the way. One must rethink one’s destiny—occasionally.”

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Unofficial GIjOE “Rabblerouser,” Rick Pell, stands outside Hasbro’s Worldwide Headquarters building in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. (Photo: Rick Pell)

Pell’s reasons for selling his collection may predominantly be due to a lack of space or temporary economic downturn, but we also wondered how the famed Pawtucket “rabblerouser” was affected by Hasbro’s actions—or inactions—during GIjOE’s 50th Anniversary. He quickly replied:

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“I was, and still am, discouraged that Hasbro let us all down for the 50th. I have spoken to Hasbro people, off the record, and it was just not going to happen. I spent a lot of personal time and effort hoping to help make it happen. If there was a perpetuation of Joes as we knew them, then yes, I’d still be buying!” 

Is it Possible to “Out Grow” G.I. Joes?

Apparently so. In fact, most collectors, if they’re at all honest with themselves, will remember a time when he (or she) seemed to feel Joes were toys for “little kids,” and that it was time to leave them behind or sell them off at a garage sale. Typically, such “madness” occurs during our transition from childhood to teenager, and it’s only years later that we recognize the insanity of our actions and begin a mad scramble back to “recapture our youth” at flea markets and on eBay.

One such example of this societal and consumer phenomenon is occurring right NOW as we speak in Iowa. Longtime GIjOE collector and father, Rob Menagh, wrote in to tell us about his teenage son, John Menagh (also a Joehead), who’s announced that his own collecting tastes have “evolved” and he’s now ready to begin his own version of “the big sell-off.” According to Rob:

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Is This the End? Former GIjOE collector, John Menagh (left) and his father, Rob Menagh (right) search for gear at the 2009 JoeCon in Kansas City, MO. 7 years later, John has decided to leave his GIjOEs behind in search of more “adult” toys. With John leaving the hobby, does this spell the end of the special “Father-n-Son” moments these two men once enjoyed? (Photo: Mark Otnes)

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“I have some nasty news…. John has decided to out-grow us. He is looking at newer, more “Adult” toys. So now he’s looking at finding good and loving homes for all of his Joes. I will try to get cracking and learn to use the wife’s camera and get some pictures out there to everyone who might be  interested. He has a large number of WWII Airborne, WWII Marines, some Vietnam-era
figures and a few modern. There are also vehicles, ala 21st century Hummers and Jeeps. I also have some nice Photobucket pics taken when we were playing with our Joes around the house…and out in the backyard…together. <sigh> —Rob Menagh

Bottom Line: John Menagh’s rejection of GIjOE is likely only temporary as he pursues his other, more “adult” interests. Hopefully, he’ll someday realize the error of his ways (HA), return to the hobby and share all-new moments and memories with Joe—and his Dad. Of course, it’s impossible to predict how anyone’s collecting days will actually play out and ultimately end. Hopefully, your hobby decisions won’t be forced upon you because you’ve become ill, laid-off, or otherwise negatively impacted. And regardless of Rick or John’s choices, we’d like to wish them both all the best with wherever their interests (and grandsons) take them in the future. We hope too, that YOUR collecting journey is a long, happy, and fulfilling one. Go, Rick! Go, John! Go, JOE!

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Possible Record Setting 1:6 Scale Action Figure Collection Captured in New High-Def Club Video

In this screenshot taken from the video, retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant, Jamie Jennings, of Zion, IL, waves to the camera from the cram-packed full

Surrounded by G.I. Joe—In this screenshot taken from the video, retired U.S. Army Sergeant FC, Jamie Jennings, of Zion, IL, waves to the camera from the cram-packed-full “Joe Room” in his home.

The World’s LARGEST 1:6 Figure Collection?

At a GIjOE Collector’s Club meeting held this past June, members of the Central Illinois local division were treated to a firsthand closeup look at what may well be the largest, privately owned, 1:6 scale action figure collection—in the world. The collection in question belongs to retired U.S. Army Sgt. FC, Jamie Jennings, of Zion, IL, and is comprised of hundreds of action figures (sorry, no official count has been made) and is shoe-horned into a series of bedrooms spread throughout his home. In order to show the entire collection to his visitors, Jennings had to create a pathway into the main room so they could stand amidst the impressive display.

Fortunately for fans around the world, Jennings’ massive and impressive 1:6 collection has been captured for posterity in an all-new, high-def video; filmed and edited by Mark Otnes from Patches of Pride (PoP) and then given a home over on the PoP Video Channel found HERE. At almost 20 minutes in length, the video is a carefully paced, loving tribute to one man’s obvious and undying passion for the hobbies of collecting and customizing at 1:6 scale. (Editor’s Note: In a series of intriguing “Fun Facts,” the video also reveals that after 28 years in the Army, Jennings became a licensed cosmetologist and esthetician and hopes to open his own salon in 2016).

Bottom Line: Videos like this provide unique insights into the private minds, homes and personal collections of GIjOE fans around the world. Jennings is a super-great guy, and he kindly shared the wonders of his collection with us so that others might become inspired and excited about the world’s greatest hobby—1:6 scale collecting! Our sincerest thanks go out to Jamie and May Jennings for their generous contributions to the hobby, the video, and this article. Go, JOE!

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Collector & Customizer of 1:6 Scale Reveals Methods Used in Action Figure Photography

Steve Benson, former Army WHATEVER, poses with two of his subjects in his backyard training grounds. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Steve Benson, a lawyer living in Colorado Springs, CO (and a JAG officer in the Army Reserves), poses with two of his 1:6 scale grunts training on his backyard obstacle course. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson)

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Super Soldiers— Each of Benson's figure have been carefully and accurately outfitted for the most realism, right down to the smallest details, including tiny PT patches from Patches of Pride. EXCELLENT! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Super Soldiers— Benson’s action figures are realistically outfitted, down to the smallest details including ARMY t-shirts and reflective belt. Some even sport 1:6 scale cloth PT patches from Patches of Pride. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Customizer Puts “ACTION” Into 1:6 Scale Action Figure Photography

We’ve been admiring and following the work of 1:6 scaler, Steve Benson, for quite a while now, and thought that this would be a good time to share some of his recent figure and diorama photography with the rest of the world. In the following exclusive series of images, Benson utilizes a superbly hand-picked and hand-customized squad of soldiers; each carefully selected, dressed and prepped for the day’s main activity—outdoor PT.

Playing with GIjOEs and other action figures in the great outdoors is one of the most enjoyable activities fans can participate in AND capture in their own photographs. After all, GIjOEs are TOYS and they were meant to be played with in largely outdoor-based action scenarios, settings and environments. As a result, backyard play allows our imaginations to run free (see Tom RazoolyHERE).

Steve Benson’s action figure photography stands apart from others we seen by (somehow) putting LIFE into the figures themselves. You can almost feel their muscles straining and hearts pumping as they tackle various obstacles put before them in Benson’s backyard training course. We asked Steve if he would share some of his “secrets” for creating convincing ACTION photos with GIjOEs and he kindly replied:

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“My secret is a lot of patience, a lot of swearing, and a weekly therapeutic massage! I use figures with stiff joints and continue to work with them until they are posed exactly how I want them. Balancing them takes a lot of time and they try to fall over a lot in these gusting Colorado breezes. I hate setting up formations because if one falls down, half the company goes down with him! My back is usually plenty stiff after a detailed session like the ‘Tough One.’ Fortunately, I have two (10 and 14 year-old) daughters to assist me.”

Fall in! Eyes Front! Benson's squad prepares for a rigorous session of PT with a mohawked paratrooper drill sergeant. Notice the diversity of characters and attention to detail. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Fall in! Eyes Front! Benson’s eager squad of 1:6 scale soldiers prepares for a rigorous session of PT led by their (mohawked) paratrooper drill sergeant. Notice the diversity of characters and their accurate attention to detail. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

“My 17 year-old son has refused to participate until we switch to male soldiers engaged in combat operations. That will be coming reasonably soon, but I have to get O’Mara and Devereux (the two women) through Ranger School first, which I plan to have done by the end of July. After that, it will start getting rough with operations in Afghanistan, Ukraine and Sudan. I’m looking forward to it.”

Hit the dirt and gimme 25! The drill sergeant wastes no time in getting the soldiers warmed up and working. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Hit the dirt and gimme 25, maggots! Benson’s Army drill sergeant wastes no time in getting the other soldiers warmed up and working hard. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

“I only photoshop to change facial expressions (eyebrows usually) and to remove imperfections like dog hairs from my beagle or stray uniform threads that sneak into the photo. So far, I’ve never had to use any wires or special posing aids, except for the Littlebird chopper and the deployed parachute. I did use wires to hang those pieces and photoshopped them out of the pictures later.” —Steve Benson

Here then, is a sample sequence of some of Benson’s recent action figure photos. Enjoy!

All the way up, and all the way down! There's no substitute for proper form when doing pushups the ARMY way! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

All the way up, and all the way down! According to the Drill Sergeant, there’s no substitute for proper form when doing push-ups the ARMY way. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Leg scissor kicks work the abs and turn wimps into warriors! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Leg scissors work the abs and turn wimps into warriors! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Learning to work as a TEAM is essential in the military. GO, girls! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Learning to work as a team is essential in the Army. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

“Sgt T” instructs Chief Warrant Officer Devereux how to do a proper Army chin-up. And no, they’re not going to be easy, soldier. So… GET UP THERE! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

CWO Devereux show Sgt. T she's got what it takes and maxes out each rep. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

CWO Devereux show Sgt. T she’s got what it takes and maxes out each rep. HOOah! You GO, girl! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Devereux's determination is clear to those around her. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Devereux’s determination is clearly making her “ARMY STRONG!” (Photo: Steve Benson)

Hit that Wall! Devereux continues her way through the course and

Hit that Wall! Devereux continues to the next obstacle of her “Tough One” training (taking place in Benson’s backyard). Note the realistic stride in this pic. WOW! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

WOW! This is a very difficult pose to capture realistically, but Benson does so masterfully. Great job, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson)

This is a perfect example of the athletic and physical realism we were describing earlier. It’s very easy to believe this figure is actually jumping onto this obstacle. You can almost sense and FEEL her musculature making the effort. Such moments in time are VERY difficult to pose and capture in a way that convincingly “fools the eye.” Excellent work, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge (and STUDY).

Get up there! Go! GO! GO! Devereux refuses to quit. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Get over that obstacle—NOW! Devereux struggles but refuses to quit. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Almost...Don't Stop! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Almost over…Don’t Stop! Get off that obstacle! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Success! (Was there ever any doubt?) (Photo: Steve Benson)

Success! (Was there ever any doubt?) HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson)

What's next, Drill Sergeant? On to the rope and net climbing obstacle, of course! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

If you build it—they will TRAIN. What’s next, Drill Sergeant? Benson’s handcrafted climbing tower obstacle is an ominous 1:6 scale masterpiece. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Heads up! When the Drill Sergeants go over the basics of rope and net climbing, you'd better pay attention. They will NOT repeat themselves! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Heads up! When the Drill Sergeants go over the basics of rope and net climbing, you’d better be paying attention—they will NOT be repeating themselves. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Now, GO! GO! GO! Get up that rope! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Not ready? Too bad. Get up that rope NOW, maggot! (Photo: Steve Benson)

If you slip, it's a long way down. Keep going! (Photo: Steve Benson)

If you slip or fall, it’s a long way down (and embarrassing). So keep going! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Excellent! Devereux continues to excel on the course. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Excellent! Devereux continues to excel on the course. Go! Go! GO! (Photo: Steve Benson)

What's next? The course only gets more difficult! (Photo: Steve Benson)

What’s next? Failure is NOT an option, soldier! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Look out! One misstep and you'll pay for it in the field hospital for weeks. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Look out! One misstep and you’ll pay for it in a field hospital for weeks. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Now up the slanted ladder obstacle. Don't slow down! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Up the slanted ladder obstacle. Don’t look down! (Photo: Steve Benson)

You're at the Top! Now go over and start down the net -climb. Hurry! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Yes, you’ve reached the top! What do you want? A medal? Get over yourself and climb down off of the obstacle, soldier. MOVE IT! MOVE IT! MOVE IT! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Watch it,

Watch out, “Spiderwoman.” If you get tangled up in THIS web, it’ll make an easy target for an impatient Drill Sergeant to “pick you off” like an enemy sniper! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Good job! Now suit up and MOVE OUT to the next obstacle. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Good job, soldier! Now jump off and MOVE OUT to the next obstacle. Notice the natural, realistic posing of the action figures in Benson’s photos. He clearly has a GREAT “eye” for this type of 1:6 artistic pursuit. (Photo: Steve Benson)

That's right,

That’s right, soldier You’re going to learn to rappel—like a RANGER! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Remember what your Drill Sergeant told you and get down off of this obstacle—NOW! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Sgt. T’s eyes bore holes into Devereux’s skull as she prepares to step off the obstacle. Remember what your Drill Sergeant taught you soldier—and get off of this obstacle—NOW! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Rappelling requires training. And the Army is training soldiers to LEAD and WIN. Now MOVE OUT! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Rappelling requires training. And the Army trains its soldiers to LEAD and to WIN. Anytime, Sweetheart. We’re losing daylight. Now, MOVE!!!!! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Devereux and another soldier move over the side and begin a series of short hops, working their way down the obstacle. We love the upward angle you've chosen for this shot, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Devereux and O’Mara move over the side and begin a series of short hops, working their way down the obstacle. We love the upward angle Benson chose for this shot. (Photo: Steve Benson)

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Letting out lengths of line, the soldiers carefully focus on keeping correct rappelling postures so as to quickly and safely descend the obstacle. And take a good look at their highly accurate and realistic 1:6 scale harnesses and gear. Superbly staged photo, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson)

In the Army, fellow soldiers always

Good job! Soldiers always “have each other’s back” in the Army and are trained to keep a sharp eye out in case someone needs help. It looks like these two soldiers did just fine. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson)

1:6 scale photo Wiz, Steve Benson, poses next to some of the equipment he's built for his backyard

1:6 scale photo Wiz, Steve Benson, poses next to some of the equipment he’s built for his backyard “training” photos. This shot helps give a sense of scale. He’s even installed a RANGER plaque at the very top to provide inspiration to his rope climbing soldiers. Fan-TASTIC work, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Bottom Line: Who knew that an Army JAG lawyer would also be a natural photographer of 1:6 scale ACTION? If you’d like to see more of Benson’s work, we highly recommend the new Facebook page he’s created for his miniature heroes found HERE. It’s chocked FULL of great pics and adventures. Our sincerest thanks go out to Steve Benson and his daughters for their generous contributions to this article and for sharing these exclusive and wonderful photos. Go, ARMY!

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Action Man Fans Working to Ensure Palitoy’s UK Version of 1:6 Scale G.I. Joes Are Never Forgotten

Much Like its American Counterpart G.I. Joe, the wide variety of original Action Man (AM) products was literally breathtaking. Children of the 1960s and ’70s can still remember finding this sort of display inside local toy and department stores. As adults, those same fans are now working to ensure Palitoy’s beloved UK/Europe toy line will never be forgotten. (Photo: Palitoy) Click to enlarge.

Action Man fan and collector, Robert Wisdom, poses alongside "his better half" for a pic taken at a recent 1940s weekend in Sheringham, Norfolk. The event is held every September in the UK, and according to Robert, "is a great chance to get out my 1940s Battle of Britain dress uniform and soak up the atmosphere, ride steam trains and marvel at Spitfires flying overhead. Hundreds of US vehicles line the streets too, so it's worth a trip over the pond!" Sounds like a FANTASTIC time! (Photo: Robert Wisdom)

Action Man fan, collector and advocate, Robert Wisdom, poses alongside “his better half” for a pic taken at a recent 1940s weekend in Sheringham, Norfolk. The event is held every September in the UK, and according to Wisdom, “is a great chance to get out my 1940s Battle of Britain dress uniform and soak up the atmosphere, ride steam trains and marvel at Spitfires flying overhead. Hundreds of US vehicles line the streets too, so it’s worth a trip over the pond!” Sounds like a FANTASTIC time! (Photo: Robert Wisdom)

All-New Websites, Videos, DVDs, and Limited-Edition Books Are Being Created to Commemorate the Upcoming 50th Anniversary of Palitoy’s 12-inch Action Figure

When someone REALLY loves someone—or someTHING—he or she often chooses to share their positive, heartwarming feelings through some sort of physical manifestation or demonstration.

For example, heroes and other historic figures regularly have statues or other memorials erected in their honor. Famous personalities of all sorts and stripes, because of their past and/or present notoriety, have books and videos created about their lives and careers. Even beloved family members receive similar treatments when relatives commission cemetery markers, portrait paintings, or family photo albums or DVDs in their memory.
So why not—Action Man?

That’s right. Inanimate persons, places and things can also be revered and remembered by their ardent fans and followers. You only have to visit a local shopping mall to gaze upon a multitude of books, videos, calendars and other commemorative objects devoted to such diverse (non-living) subjects as Texas BBQ, the Eiffel Tower, Muscle Cars, Superheroes, Hobbies, Hollywood Films, etc. If making people recall something fondly is the main criteria for such commemoration, then certainly the upcoming 50th anniversary of Palitoy’s Action Man (AM) is worthy of WORLDWIDE acclaim.

Unofficial Action Man HQ (Logo: Robert Wisdom)

Fun for Fans—The “Unofficial Action Man HQ” website, created by professional graphic artist, Robert Wisdom, has become a popular hub of activity for AM collectors worldwide. (Logo: Robert Wisdom)

Action Man Commemorations Being Ably Guided With Aid of Graphics Professionals

As much as we enjoy “amateur” fan tributes created in honor of GIjOE and Action Man, it’s always such a pleasure whenever top-drawer graphic artists, illustrators and professional designers come along and offer up their considerable talents to support the cause of commemorating our favorite 12-inch action heroes. One such talented and artistic fan is Robert Wisdom of the UK. Robert’s new “Unofficial Action Man HQ” website (HERE) has become one of the hobby’s leading AM forums and his creation of professional-quality AM photography and videos, is also doing a great deal to advance the 1:6 scale collecting hobby as well (see sample video clip above).

Indeed, after the backhanded AM “tribute” proffered by James May on his James May’s Toy Stories program (HERE), Wisdom’s more positive contributions to Action Man feel like a breath of fresh air. And while other AM collectors are openly expressing a desire, nay a HUNGER, for better treatment of their favorite toy, it’s wonderful to discover fans such as Wisdom who are willing and (professionally) able to assist them in that regard. When its 50th anniversary arrives in 2016, it appears Action Man will finally receive the level of respect and commemoration he deserves.

It's all about RESPECT— One of the recent AM "photo bombs" by Robert Wisdom shows how powerful a teaching tool and the veteran 12-inch action line

Changing of the Guards— This stunning 1:1-1:6 scale “photo bomb,” created by professional graphics wiz, Robert Wisdom, reveals the amazing realism of Action Man whilst posed alongside a REAL member of the Queen’s Life Guards. Out-STANDING work, Robert! (Photo: Robert Wisdom)

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While there are scores of Action Man collectors around the world, for the sake of time and space, we’re focusing today on the intriguing efforts of England’s Robert Wisdom. Wisdom is a die-hard AM collector and has devoted a great deal of his own personal and professional time towards the toy’s promotion and commemoration. In the following exclusive interview with The Joe Report, he explains his connection to Action Man and how he plans to honor the toy line in the future:

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

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

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“I received my first Action Man (a Talking Commander, blond) for Christmas, 1971. I would have been around six. He was an instant hit. He knew exactly what I was thinking and played hard at whatever I suggested without a second thought. A true buddy. As kids, we used our imaginations. It’s sad to say that today’s kids, for the most part, have it all worked out and done for them. They don’t create. They just play with what’s already created, and then in a year later (or less!) it becomes another unloved thing in a charity box.

I know Action Man, in my childhood, lasted for YEARS. He was very much an extension of me. He did the things I dreamt of doing and that which I dared not do. At some point, Mum would have noticed I didn’t play with Action Man so much, a bit like the scene in Toy Story where Andy starts to overlook Woody. And so, sadly, my childhood collection is elsewhere—possibly the plastic graveyard in the sky.

But it wasn’t too long after Art College and embarking on a fledgling career as designer, that I rediscovered Action Man. I was now in my 20’s and had the good fortune to accompany a dear father-in-law to a Toy Fair in a community hall to look for the Matchbox Models of Yesteryear that he collected. Whilst there, I saw a flock-haired tank commander nestled between some other bits and couldn’t leave without ‘rescuing’ him from his plight.

It all came flooding back… I slowly became hooked again, and eventually set about reading up on AM and running the Unofficial Action Man HQ (UAMHQ) website, just to share what I had learned. I was disappointed there was almost a total lack of info on the web! I approached a well-respected AM expert to assist / partner the build of a new website, but he was pretty uninterested (which surprised me). Today, the site needs another overhaul, now that we are all broadband enabled.”

“I currently run a design agency in the UK (HERE) and the next big project I’m trying to organise is a 300-page, 13″ limited-edition square book (with a slip case) for Action Man collectors by Action Man collectors. ‘MISSION 50’ will be one of a kind—the likes of which have not been seen before on this subject.

It will be an AM book to end all AM books, with high-res actual size photography, minute detail and footnotes on changes to production, rarity and suchlike from 1966 thru 1984. A lot still needs to be considered, we need to approach all the copyright holders and the powers that lurk beneath. I cannot do it on my own, I need to have a team of enthusiasts on board, but initial response has been excellent and I am considering crowd-funding when the proposition is worked out in detail.”

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An AM Book to End All AM Books— Robert Wisdom’s “Mission 50” hardcover book is expected to weigh-in at 300 full-color pages that fit neatly within its own protective slip-case. (Photo: Robert Wisdom)

“In addition to the UAMHQ website and its forum, a Facebook Page (HERE) has also been created. That Facebook page is expected to become key to helping me ascertain how popular the MISSION 50 concept is and for spreading the word around about its production. I would like to ask any AM enthusiasts out there to PLEASE take the time to ‘like’ that page.

And as to the future, I suppose, as a mark of respect, we should all continue to seek out, repair, and restore (to original condition) those little fellas that set us FREE to explore and enjoy a healthy childhood—before computers came along to ‘fake it’ all for us. Action Man will surely outlast all of us mortals, and it was a pleasure that we (of a certain age) were there at his birth.” —Robert Wisdom

The modern-day Action Man logo is superb and would look GREAT on some all-new 50th Anniversary products! (Graphic: Wikipedia)

The POWER of Great Graphics— The modern-day Action Man logo is superb and would look GREAT on some all-new 50th Anniversary (or later) products. Is it time for another relaunch? (Graphic: Wikipedia)

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 has been faithfully recounted on a superb 2013 DVD by Australia’s Tony Roberts. (Photo: ebay)

Bottom Line: The story of Action Man closely parallels that of our own beloved GIjOE, trailing its development by only a couple of years. Much of AM’s equipment is similar, and much is identical. But without a doubt, Palitoy’s Action Man was responsible for the creation of a multitude of unique 1:6 scale product innovations (of which we are continually jealous!). Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to Robert Wisdom for all of his generous assistance with this article, and to the Action Man fans around the world, we’d like to wish you all a “Happy 50th Anniversary” in 2016. While we eagerly await that exciting date (and hopefully the release of Wisdom’s Mission 50), may we suggest that you pick up a DVD of 2013’s The Story of Action Man (HERE) produced by renowned AM fan, Tony Roberts, of Australia (view teaser below). It’s equally informative and entertaining. Go, Action Man!

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Collecting and Customizing 1:6 Scale Action Figures in Poland———Plus 1:1 Scale Reenacting!

Jacek NAME's amazing custom group of WWII Polish Resistance Fighters. Outstanding! (Photo:

This superb group of 1:6 WWII Polish Resistance Fighters was expertly customized by Jacek Sulowski, a fan and collector living in Krakow, Poland. Outstanding work, Jacek! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

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(Map: citelighter.com)

(Map: citelighter.com)

Playing at 1:6 Scale—Reenacting at 1:1 Scale

As we arrive at the end of GIjOE’s 50th Anniversary year, it seems appropriate to discuss a place where the emergence of 1:6 scale action figure collecting has only recently begun. While much of the free world has enjoyed 12-inch figure collecting for 50 years now, there are STILL places where our beloved hobby is relatively new. Indeed, when we think of countries that are “hotbeds of collecting” for GIjOE, Action Man, Dragon and other 1:6 scale action figures, what’s the first place that comes to mind? That’s right—NOT Poland. But it may surprise you to learn that Poland DOES boast a growing number of 1:6 collectors and fans within its ancient borders and that their new collections are growing with the gusto of a barbecued kiełbasa!

(Photo: Jacek

One of the greatest things about action figures in other countries is that their owners often create subjects we’ve never seen before or would have otherwise. Take a look at this SUPERB group of WWII Polish Commandos kit-bashed by Jacek Sulowski. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Polish action figure collector and customizer, Grz also participates in 1:1 scale WWII reenactments in Poland, often portraying enemy forces in authentic kit and gear. (Photo:

Grzegorz Borecki, a fan and collector of 1:6 scale action figures, is originally from Poland (now living in the UK) and also enjoys participating in 1:1 scale reenactments, often portraying WWII German forces in authentic kit and gear from head to toe. Here he’s dressed as a WWII Luftwaffe NCO. AMAZING! (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

Equally surprising, many of these new Polish “1:6ers” are also interested in collecting 1:1 scale militaria and in staging WWII military reenactments. That’s right. Despite (or perhaps, because of) their country’s tortured past, today’s (finally) freed Poles can now collect all the 1:6 scale “war toys” they desire, as well as participate openly in historic WWII commemorations and reenactments that portray both Allied—and Axis—military forces. Before the 1980s and the collapse of communist regimes across Europe, such actions would’ve been practically unthinkable by civilians living in Poland. But as the following two collector profiles clearly reveal—that is no longer the case.


Reenactor

re·en·act·or noun \ˌrē-ə-ˈnak-tər\

Definition: a person who participates in reenactments of historical events


Military reenactment groups have enjoyed a long and popular history around the globe. Thousands of organizations in the U.S. reenact forces and figures involved in events such as the American Revolution, Custer’s “Last Stand” and the Civil War. Likewise, history fans in the UK regularly reenact events from the medieval days of King Arthur all the way up through WWII’s “Battle of Britain.” It’s clear that the desire to commemorate and reenact wars of the past remains strong among many around the world; not to glorify the horrific events that occurred, surely not, but rather to demonstrate the historic uniforms and types of equipment and weaponry used at the time. And that in itself is a GOOD thing; because as we know:

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“Those who cannot remember the past—
are condemned to repeat it.” —George Santayana

Holy, Tiger Tanks! 1:6 collector and fan, Grzegorz (Greg) Borecki of Poland, poses in front of a stunning Tiger 1 tank currently on display at the NAME HERE museum in the (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki) Click to enlarge.

Holy, Tiger Tanks! 1:6 scale collector and 1:1 scale reenactor, Grzegorz (Greg) Borecki, poses in front of a stunning (and fully functional) WWII Pzkpfw VI Tiger 1 tank (Ausf. E) during his recent visit to the world-famous Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset, UK. (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki) Click to enlarge.

Hungry for freedom, leaders of the the1989 Solidarity movement in Poland evoked imagery from the iconic American western, "High Noon," starring Gary Cooper. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Alone in the face of adversity, leaders of 1989’s Solidarity movement in Poland evoked imagery from the iconic American western, “High Noon,” for this poster supporting their cause of freedom. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Collecting 1:6 Scale in Poland
A Tale of Two Citizens

If you know anything about the history of Poland, you know that it’s a very OLD country (est. 966 AD) and its people have struggled through centuries of hardship to get to where they are now—FREE. Only after the rise of the Solidarity labor movement in the 1980s, the subsequent fall of socialist regimes across Europe and their painful transition to a free market economy, have the Poles been able to experience the simple and innocent pleasures of the 1:6 scale action figure hobby. So, with 2015 just around the corner, we thought we’d offer the following inspiring profiles of two Polish 1:6 collectors, starting with Jacek Sulowski:

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“Hello from Krakow (Cracow), Poland! This is where I was born in 1960, where I live and work, as well as customize and collect 1/6th scale soldier figures. Poland is one of the fastest-growing countries in Europe, not only in terms of economic development, but also constantly improving living standards and quality of life. I know what I am saying, as I have witnessed it for over 50 years now.

Jacek Sulowski of Poland, a collector and customizer of 1:6 scale action figures. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Jacek Sulowski (of Poland), collector and customizer of 1:6 scale action figures. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Krakow is the second largest city in Poland, with a population of more than 750,000. On the one hand, Krakow is a historic city, Poland’s former capital full of fantastic historic sites, the 11th-century Wawel Royal Castle among others, a cultural centre and a university town, with numerous colleges and universities, including the 650-year-old Jagiellonian University. On the other hand, Krakow is a modern city, where Shared Services Centres (SSCs) of global corporations are located, where important sports events are held, where you can enjoy yourself at countless pubs, clubs, restaurants and where you can also find…

My action figure collection which I show and store and in white IKEA bookcases and glass display cases in one of the rooms at the electrical equipment repair and service facility business I run together with my brother-in-law. My collection consists of 300 figures, which is quite a feat, I guess, given the year I started to build it (2009). Most of my figures were built with my own hands, customizing and kitbashing, not by buying ready-made figures. In fact, there are only 6 straight out of the box figures in my collection!”

Jacek's "1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade" was fully customized and outfitted for their upcoming participation in WWII's "Operation: Market Garden." Superb! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Ready for ACTION! This “1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade” was fully customized and outfitted by Jacek for an upcoming WWII battle, Arnhem, 1944. Superb! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Achtung! As this closeup of one of Jacek's Wehrmacht soldiers reveals, all of his figure's have distinctive features and superb attention to detail, making them practically lifelike. AMAZING! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Achtung! As this closeup of one of Jacek’s Wehrmacht soldiers reveals, all of his figure’s feature realistic features and superb attention to detail. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

“The idea of figure customizing evolved naturally from my previous hobby; I had built 1/35th, 1/16th and 1/9th scale models earlier. Yet, I found that one-sixth scale provides almost unlimited opportunities for detail modeling. This is what I do: The WWII soldier figures I create represent all units and formations of the Allied and Axis troops. They are replica soldiers with uniforms, weapons, accessories and vehicles, exact copies of what I find in WWII photos and films. My collection changes and develops on a constant basis, as I improve, correct and enhance the figures.

I had to part from my collection for 3 months this year as it was shown from July to September at an exhibition called the “Soldier Figure Gallery,” held at the renowned Museum of Polish Armed Forces in Kołobrzeg (HERE). As many as 200 of my figures sat proudly in custom-made showcases, extolled – as I have been told – by visitors and receiving favourable reviews in the local media. Some 50 figures and one model vehicle were then relocated to another exhibition staged at the Museum, ‘The History of Camouflage.’ I hope to have those back in April 2015.”

What an impressive group! Keen-eyed military fans and 1:6 collectors will be able to spot German forces  including the SS, Wehrmacht, Kreigsmarine and many more. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Gott im Himmel! Keen-eyed WWII buffs should be able to point out members of Germany’s SS, Wehrmacht, Kreigsmarine and many others in this superb group of Sulowski’s custom action figures. Jacek’s skills as a 1:6 modeler are apparent in every figure. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski) Click to enlarge.

Right off the bat, we noticed that Sulowski’s photos appeared to be VERY professional and seemed far superior to the typical “home-grown” photography we’re accustomed to seeing. We asked what specific equipment or techniques he might be employing, and Jacek replied:

Blimey! Every figure in Sulowski's collection is perfectly outfitted, posed and photographed. Superb! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Blimey! Every figure in Sulowski’s collection is perfectly outfitted, posed and photographed. Superb! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

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“All the photos are taken by me, as part of my love of 1/6th scale figure kitbashing. Photography is actually my second hobby. I take photos at the same place at which the collection is displayed with a Canon EOS 500D camera using standard lenses, in quite a ‘primitive’ way, I must say. 

What I need are two boards covered with black-painted bristol paper; one to put the figures on and the other to form a background for them. There are ordinary strip lights in the room and so I use PhotoScape software and an IrfanView image viewer and converter. If you like my photos, you may also visit my galleries HERE.”

Jacek Sulowski, Poland

Sulowski's skills as a modeler and customizer are clearly apparent in the vehicles he creates as well. ASTONISHING! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Sulowski’s skills as a customizer are apparent in his 1:6 vehicles as well. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

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Mind-boggling! A second view of Sulowski’s superb halftrack. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Every detail is accounted for. Absolutely SUPERB! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

It’s all there! Maps, fuel and water cans, grenades, radios, rifles, ammunition boxes, binoculars, gas mask cannisters—every detail is accounted for. Superb work, Jacek! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Soviet Snow Power! Sulowski's use of dark paper backgrounds is evident in this picture and helps his all-white Aerosan and snow troopers really stand out. WOW! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Soviet Snow Power! Sulowski’s use of dark paper backgrounds is evident in this picture and helps his all-white Aerosan and WWII snow troopers really stand out. WOW! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Typical of "Joe Rooms" around the world, Sulowski also utilizes wooden and glass display cabinets and shelves. Look how big that Aerosan is up on top of the cabinet. WOW! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Typical of “Joe Rooms” seen elsewhere around the world, Sulowski also utilizes wooden and glass display cabinets and shelves. Look at the size of that Russian Aerosan up on top of the cabinet. WOW! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Displaying 1:6 Scale Action Figures—in Poland

As the photos above clearly show, 1:1 scale reenacting and 1:6 scale customizing and collecting are all alive and well in 2014 Poland. It’s exciting to watch as formerly repressed countries begin to enjoy the fun and pleasures of some of the world’s greatest hobbies. But the following question always remains: After you’ve amassed a sizable collection (of anything), what do you do with it all? We were especially curious as to how new collectors in Poland were choosing to display their 1:6 scale collections and asked Jacek if he’d send in some photos of his own “Joe Room” in Krakow. He replied:
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“I am happy you like my collection. I would like to submit my own collection and be the first collector from Poland to do so and thus, to share it with the other fans around the world.” —Jacek Sulowski, Poland
When space is at a premium, go "up and over" as Sulowski has done here, mounting floor-to-ceiling shelves that even go above the arched accessway. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

When space is at a premium, simply go “up and over” as Sulowski has done here, mounting floor-to-ceiling shelves that even go above the arched doorway. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski) Click to enlarge.

Big vehicles take up a lot of space, as Jacek's marvelously detailed Sherman tank and others clearly show. Look at all the details! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski) Click to enlarge.

Big vehicles take up a lot of space, as Jacek’s marvelously detailed Sherman tank and German armored vehicles clearly show. Look at all the details! (Photo: Jacek Sulowski) Click to enlarge.

Glass shelving and display cases prove valuable ways to display figures while keeping them dust-free as well. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Showing off Jacek’s Masterpieces— Glass shelving and display cases are ideal ways to display collections of all types. (Photo: Jacek Sulowski)

Polish 1:6 Collectors Living Abroad 

For our second Polish collector profile, we return to  Grzegorz (Greg) Borecki, who, as you’ll recall, also enjoys 1:1 scale WWII reenacting. Borecki wrote in recently and revealed the following:

Remembering the Past— Greg poses in a fully restored U.S. Army Jeep, somewhere in the UK. (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

Remembering the Past— Borecki in a fully restored U.S. Army Jeep in the UK. (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

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“I’m 46 years old and of Polish nationality. In 2005, I started my adventure with WWII reenactment and I’m still a member of Stowarzyszenie Historyczne Prusy (Historical Association “Prussia”) in Poland. In 2006, I moved to the UK and since that time I’ve become a permanent resident, both living and working there.

I’ve always been interested in the history of WWII. As far back as 1990, I began making models in 1/72 and 1/35 scale, and am most interested in German vehicles and tanks. Here in the UK, I’m also devoted to a new passion: kitbashing and collecting 1:6 scale action figures (see photos). At the moment, I own 49 figures depicting German soldiers from WWII. My favorite formations are Luftwaffe (especially Air Force Ground Units) so 2/5 of my collection shows soldiers of those units. Because I still feel strong relations to Poland, I would like to ask you if I could also represent my country on your website, GIjOE CollectionsMany thanks!”

Standard (adjustable) wooden shelves work just fine to display a number of Borecki's 1:6 scale action figures. What a great display! (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

Adjustable wooden shelves work just fine to display a number of Borecki’s 1:6 scale WWII action figures. Excellent! (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

A closeup of another of Greg's shelved displays reveals superbly detailed 1:6 figures representing a wide variety of WWII forces. (Photo: Grzgorz )

Look at this closeup of one of Greg’s shelved displays. It reveals superbly detailed 1:6 figures representing a wide variety of WWII German forces. Fan-TASTIC! (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

Get even closer and you can see that every figure is authentically and accurately detailed. WOW! (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

Move up even closer to can see every figure is authentically detailed. (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

Three superb Feldgendarmerie (WWII German Military Police) figures, complete with every detail. Out-STANDING work, Greg! (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

HALT! Show me  your papers! Borecki’s three superb Feldgendarmerie (WWII German Military Police) figures, complete in every detail. Out-STANDING work, Greg! (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki)

Greg’s 1:6 collection is top-notch and growing fast, but we wondered about his other hobby, 1:1 scale reenacting. Had he ever inadvertently or unknowingly offended anyone while portraying a member of WWII’s Luftwaffe? Even 70 years later, the memories of that terrible time remain fresh in many people’s minds. It’s easy to imagine tears flowing during WWII reenactments. Borecki said:
Visitors to one of the WWII reenactments examine the camp conditions and equipment used by German soldiers during WWII. (Photo: Grzegorz Boreck)

Visitors to a UK reenactment examine camp conditions and equipment used by Germans during WWII. (Photo: Grzegorz Borecki) Click to enlarge.

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“We’ve not experienced any bad behaviours or reactions. There are so many living history groups in Poland that portray the German Army, including Waffen SS (which personally, I don’t like). I’ve heard that (sometimes) there are some awkward situations but this is very rare. When Polish combatants are amongst the spectators, after the show they’re sometimes coming over to reenactors portraying ‘Germans’ and shake their hands. Our particular association presents the Polish Army during 1939 and Polish Resistance fighters as well. In fact, very small group of people show Soviets Red Army. If you’d like to see more photos of past reenactments, please check HERE.”
National flag of Poland (Photo: Wikipedia)

National flag of Poland (Photo: Wikipedia)

Bottom Line: It’s exciting to witness the emerging freedoms of the people of Poland and to learn that they are now able to collect, customize and PLAY with 1:6 scale action figures along with the rest of the free world. The amazing collections of Jacek Sulowski and Grzegorz Borecki are two timely reminders that a wonderful new era of 1:6 fandom has begun to sweep through their once oppressed nation. We wish both men all the best in all of their future endeavors. Go, POLAND!

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5th Grade Teacher is Also a Master Customizer and Creator of 1:6 Scale “Natural Environment” Props, Structures and Dioramas For G.I. Joes

Angelo D reveals how he manages to store extra figures and props above and below his current diorama display table. Absolutely ingenious! (Photo: Angelo )

Angelo D’Annibale of New York reveals how he utilizes a wide and DEEP display table (much like a model railroader) to arrange and display two levels of indoor dioramas, while simultaneously storing extra 1:6 scale figures, vehicles and props on the shelf up above. Ingenious! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

One of D'Annibale's handcrafted bamboo cages works perfectly with this "Capture of the Pygmy Gorilla" scene. Outstanding! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

One of D’Annibale’s handcrafted bamboo cages works perfectly with this “Capture of the Pygmy Gorilla” scene. Outstanding! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“What an incentive positive feedback is!”

—Angelo D’Annibale

Years of Collecting Frustration Finally Give Way to an Adulthood Full of Creative Achievement

Many of the master customizers profiled here on The Joe Report stand out not only for their expertise, creativity and artistic prowess (they ALL have those in spades), but also for their uncanny ability to incorporate natural “found” objects and materials into the creation of ultra-realistic 1:6 scale miniature dioramas. Rather than buy everything pre-made and display something everyone else already has, they prefer to put their imaginations and creativity to the ultimate test—customization.

If you’re unaware, examples of found materials would include such items as scraps of wood, rope, metal, riverbed gravel, boulders, stones, sticks, straw, sand and even good ol’ fashioned dirt. Yes, we said DIRT. Remember when playing down in the dirt seemed as natural as breathing? Well, for many GIjOE fans, customizers, and kitbashers of 1:6 scale, that feeling has never gone away!

A "recycled" child's backyard swingset, once repainted and detailed is transformed into a stunningly realistic 1:6 scale WWII bridge photo op. WOW! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s “recycled” backyard swing set, once repainted and detailed, is miraculously transformed into an uber-realistic 1:6 scale WWII bridge—and a GREAT place for photos. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

What? Don't you have your own realistic 1:6 foot-bridge? If not, why not MAKE one? Look at what Angelo did with simple scraps. WOW! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

What? You say you don’t you have your own realistic-looking 1:6 scale foot-bridge? Why not MAKE one, just like Angelo? WOW! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

But of course, there’s nothing wrong with utilizing modern or “artificial” materials as well, including items such as styrofoam blocks, paper towel rolls, sheets of styrene plastic, tin cans or any cheap “junk” you can find at a local dollar store. In fact, developing a keen eye for what qualifies as usable 1:6 scale props and building materials is one of the defining traits and hallmarks of a budding “master miniaturist.”

The outstanding customizer we’re profiling today is Angelo D’Annibale of upstate New York, who has really begun to make a name for himself in the 1:6 scale community. Photos his unique “natural” creations have been setting fan forums on fire and prompting many to attempt to duplicate his distinctive handcrafting techniques. We tracked Angelo down recently and asked him to share his backstory regarding his GIjOE collecting addiction, customization methods and display techniques. He generously replied:

“I was born in 1969, so I missed the heyday of GIjOE. By the time I was old enough to understand and play with GIjOEs, the 12″ figures were very hard to find. I recall many afternoons watching in horror as my older cousins tortured poor Joe and used fireworks to maim and disfigure the toy I so badly wanted.”

What an evocative, realistic scene. Superb camera placement and use of perpective, Angelo! At first glance, you'd swear this was a real horse and rider on a REAL bridge. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

What an evocative, realistic scene. Superb camera placement and use of perspective, Angelo! At first glance, you’d swear this was a real horse and rider on a REAL bridge. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I was determined to have one of my own. Since my cousins littered the grass and sidewalk with disembodied Joe parts, I was able to collect the results of their carnage, one piece at a time. And like a young Dr. Frankenstein, I’d soon pieced together my own, 12-inch, 1:6 scale ‘FrankenJoe.’ In 1978, my family made an overseas trip to Italy. We needed to bring some gifts for my male cousins, so we went shopping at a local Schenectady ‘Two Guys’ department store. Unfortunately, GIjOEs were absent from most store shelves by that time and any hope I had of finding one on the store shelves was non-existent.”

Add another bridge and you double the detail and level of realism. Superb! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

D’Annibale’s custom bridges, roadways, vehicles and figures create unique worlds of imaginative play. Imagine the possibilities! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I searched for something that would be small enough to place in a suitcase, yet cool enough for my young Italian cousins. As I rounded the next aisle, I was stunned when I saw what I thought was a figment of my imagination— AT G.I.JOEs! It couldn’t be! I had to be dreaming! But no (thankfully), I wasn’t dreaming. There were indeed, several AT figures, in their coffin boxes(!), just waiting for me up there on the shelves. I could hardly contain my excitement! My parents agreed to buy them, they fit perfectly in my suitcase and they definitely had that “cool” factor I had hoped for.”

Annidale proves you don't need a fancy "art studio" or garage to create in 1:6 scale, just desire—and TALENT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

D’Annibale proves you don’t need a fancy “art studio” or garage to work in 1:6 scale, just desire, determination—and TALENT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

A closeup of Angelo's new

This closeup of Angelo’s newest structure reveals the use of appropriately sized pieces of bamboo, a variety of wood scraps, string, scaled maps, photos and other props. WOW! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Cheap "dollar store" items such as skulls and alien monsters can also be painted and detailed to work perfectly in D'Annibale's dioramas. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Cheap “dollar store” items such as skulls and alien monsters can also be painted and detailed to work perfectly in D’Annibale’s dioramas. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“My lucky cousins in Italy (Sergio, Rocco and Victorio) all got their GIjOE gifts, but I didn’t get one! My mother told me, ‘These are for family. Not for you.’ I was devastated. Here had been a perfect chance to own my very own, brand-new-in-the-box GIjOEs, but now it appeared that dream would NEVER come true. Of course, two days after arriving in Italy, those new Joes had all lost their pistols, clothing, and one had even plunged to his ultimate demise from the third story of our apartment complex onto the top of my uncle’s car. After that experience, I vowed that I would someday own my own GIjOEs and that I would take VERY good care of them.”

Inspired by the ammunition cart by Dragon (on the right), D'Annibale decided to make one of his own (left). OutSTANDING work, Angelo! Which one do YOU prefer? (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Inspired by the ammunition cart made by Dragon (above, right), D’Annibale decided to make his own (above, left). OutSTANDING work, Angelo! Which one do YOU prefer? (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

The comic that "started it all" for Angelo. Issue #5 of Marvel's GIjOE. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo has a very special attachment to this specific issue of Marvel’s “GIjOE” comic book series and credits it with reigniting his love for the action figure line as he entered adulthood. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“Fast forward 4 years: My parents enjoyed taking long Sunday drives up to Lake George. The car ride was usually boring to me, so I asked for a comic book to read from the local Del Gros Deli convenient store (Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury, and The Haunted Tank were all my favorites). That particular Sunday, though, something else caught my eye: a new title showing a tank moving through a park, with men running from it with the name ‘GIjOE’ in bold letters at the top of the cover. I grabbed it and savored every page as we drove to Lake George that day. When I finished reading, I realized that this was the 5th issue. I had missed 4 already! Finding those back issues took some time, but I eventually managed it and purchased every issue from that day forward. Even while I was away at college in Central New York, my mom would go to a comic book store and buy me the latest issue.”

Angelo's creativity doesn't stop at structures or custom figures. He also enjoys building and detailing custom 1:6 scale vehicles, such as this superb German halftrack. AchTUNG! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s creativity doesn’t end with structures and custom figures. He also enjoys building and detailing 1:6 scale vehicles, such as this superb German halftrack. AchTUNG! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

How about a custom truck, converted from a 21stC Patton staff car? If you want it, BUILD IT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

How about this cool, 1:6 scale custom truck, up-converted from a 21st Century Toys Patton Staff Car? Superb work, Angelo! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I can still remember the comic’s 6th issue in particular. It has such a cool cover! It depicted a medic (Doc) sitting behind a Snow Trooper (SnowJob) on a snowmobile. I thought how cool it would be if they actually made these Joes into toys. Well, the next Sunday, we were at Mohawk Mall and I (of course) had to visit the Kay B toy store. While walking down the action figure aisle, what did I see? A GIjOE ‘Polar Battle Bear!’ That SAME snowmobile on the cover!”

This closeup of Angelo's halftrack reveals he also chose to detail the vehicle's interior with weapons, a floor mat, radioman's chair and assorted other details. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

This closeup of the interior of Angelo’s halftrack reveals he detailed it with weapons, tripod, ammunition, wooden floor mat, radioman’s chair and other details. EXCELLENT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Angelo briefly collected the 3.75" version of GIjOE but soon realized it limitations and refocused his efforts on 1:6 scale. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo also collected 3.75″ GIjOEs (his first, shown above), but eventually refocused his efforts on finding the original 12″ versions. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“Thus began my renewed obsession with collecting GIjOE toys. I collected many of the new 3.75″ figures, vehicles and accessories, even when I was getting too old to enjoy imaginative play. I simply had to have them. I had missed out on collecting Joes the first time around. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

But then interestingly, I did lose interest. Those new GIjOE weapons were all pink(?) and orange and blue, and the 3.75″ figures and vehicles just didn’t have the same appeal to me as the original 12-inch versions. It almost seemed (to me) as if Hasbro was trying to end the GIjOE line. So eventually, I just stopped collecting. To make matters worse, the Marvel GIjOE comic series had ended too!”

asdf

Angelo created this outstanding (and unusual) outdoor diorama with a clever combination of dollar store tiki poles, plastic plants, Mayan calendar disk, working waterfall and…an egg? Yes, here, Joe prepares to examine the mysterious orb before whatever giant creature laid it returns and stomps him into the ground. Both frightening—and WEIRD at the same time. Look out, Joe! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

SUCCESS! Angelo's first 12-inch GIjOE was this veteran Adventurer who now mans the lofty perch atop the AT training tower. Go, JOE! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

SUCCESS! Angelo’s first 12-inch GIjOE was this veteran Adventurer who now mans the lofty perch atop D’Annibale’s AT training tower. Go, JOE! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“A few years later as I was walking through the mall (again), I stopped by the Kay Bee Toy Store, just for old times’ sake. Sure enough, as I rounded the corner I saw what looked like a 12″ GIjOE. Yes! But while the lettering on the package said GIjOE, the packaging and figure inside seemed…odd. Something just wasn’t right. First of all, Joe’s hands were HUGE. He had a giant, oversized weapon that made weird noises and lit up. And his face…well, it just wasn’t the same. His body was built more like…a Barbie…with little to no articulation. ‘That’s pretty lame,’ I thought to myself. But I ended up buying one anyway. As we all know now, that particular Joe’s name was ‘Duke.’ But he wasn’t the Duke from the 3.75″ line, nor was he a 12″ GIjOE (at least like the Joes I remembered).”

The lower-level diorama currently on display in Angelo's Joe Room is this superb homage to the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

The lower-level diorama currently on display in Angelo’s Joe Room is this amazing homage to the famous WWII battle known as The Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

One of Angelo's upper-level dioramas features this exciting Search for the Mummy's Tomb set-up. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

One of Angelo’s upper-level dioramas features this exciting Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb set-up. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“More figures from the unusual “Hall of Fame” line soon appeared, but I simply had no interest in them. However, later on, when other toy companies began getting into the 1:6 scale market, such as 21st Century Toys (and their awesome WWII stuff) and Dragon (even better detail, articulation and realism), I quickly developed a WWII action figure obsession that has continued to this day.

During WWII, my Uncle John had fought in the Ardennes. He fought with the 28th Infantry Division and his weapon was an 81mm mortar. I would talk to my uncle about the war and he would tell me stories. Some were sad, some were funny, and some were downright SCARY. For example…”

Angelo's Uncle John as he appeared during WWII. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s Uncle John as he appeared during WWII. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“One tale I remember quite vividly was about how one night while asleep, he was awoken by hands that were feeling about his boots. He looked up and was startled to see a large Moroccan soldier holding a BIG knife—and smiling.

The soldier was identifying Uncle John (in the dark) as an Allied soldier by feeling the leggings and laces of his boots. If the boots had been the smooth leather type of a Nazi…then the end of his story would not have been so pleasant!

Inspired, I chose to create my first 1:6 scale diorama about my uncle. It would be for his birthday and I wanted to give him something different—something SPECIAL.”

Angelo's custom figure and diorama of his Uncle John, preparing to load a mortar round into his weapon. SUPERB! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s custom figure and diorama of his Uncle John, preparing to load a mortar round into his weapon. How great is THIS?! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I selected a Dragon figure that I thought looked like him during the war, found a mortar that could almost pass for an 81mm mortar and used an old picture frame to build a mortar pit. To finish it all off, I added real twigs, straw and sand using techniques I’d seen and read about in various military modeling magazines (see photo at right).

I began to focus on collecting WWII figures and vehicles of the European Theater and quickly amassed quite a sizable collection. Soon, I had TOO many things and nowhere to display them. And I’m the sort of collector who’s always felt that toys left in their boxes would have a sad, ‘unloved’ existence. Something had to be done!”

With Angelo's ultra-wide display table, he can even accommodate an entire Italian piazza, or courtyard. Look how BIG this is! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

With Angelo’s ultra-wide display table, he can even accommodate an entire Italian piazza, or courtyard. Look how BIG this is! Click to enlarge. (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

A closeup of Angelo's city center reveals the use of real mini-bricks, a candlestick holder converted into a table, complete with record player and cards. FanTASTIC! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

A closeup of Angelo’s diorama reveals his use of real bricks, miniature statuary, a candlestick holder that’s been converted into a table, a custom 1:6 scale record player and playing cards. Fan-TASTIC! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Now THIS is powerful. The use of that scale-correct T-Rex head charging Angelo's Mobile Support Vehicle is simply breathtaking! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

WOW. The use of a giant (scale-correct) T-Rex head charging towards Angelo’s Mobile Support Vehicle is simply breathtaking. Look out, Joe! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“Fortunately, our home was over 125 years old and in a few years we decided to put on an addition. You can imagine my excitement! I drew up plans and designed how I wanted to set up the new 20′ x 20′ room. I added built-in tables as well, because I knew I wanted to showcase as much as possible, especially the GIjOEs that started it all for me—the Adventure Team!

The main table in my new Joe Room is currently dedicated to my favorite, the ‘Search for The Stolen Idol’ Adventure Team set. I installed a wallpaper mural that had a huge Buddha on it as the backdrop and designed the rest if the display table around it. The other tables are ‘fluid’ and allow me to change their set-ups to display a wide variety of scenes and figures.”

Large props like this Mayan calander can be used to create almost "instant dioramas." Plunk it down amidst rocks, plants and dirt, and you're good to go—EXPLORING! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Large props like this Mayan calendar can be used to create almost “instant dioramas.” Plunk it down amidst rocks, plants and dirt, and you’re good to go—EXPLORING! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Making the most of current outdoor conditions, D'Annibale routinely stages excellent "photo ops" such as this exciting snow rescue scene. (Photo: Angelo Annidale)

Making the most of current outdoor conditions, D’Annibale routinely stages excellent “photo ops” such as this exciting Snow Rescue Adventure. (Photo: Angelo D’Annidale)

“I continually look for new ideas online, especially over at The Trenches and Patches of Pride. I’ve discovered that there is a huge following for GIjOE and that what people are doing with 1:6 scale customs is amazing. Last year, I saw a post on the Trenches about a rope bridge that someone had made out of a wooden laundry drying rack. Boy, that was cool! A few days later, I was at one of my favorite spots for finding diorama ‘stuff’ (a local $1 store) and I found some bamboo garden stakes. They were the perfect diameter to make an AWESOME bridge. It would be some work, sure, but I was up to the challenge.”

If you can dream it, you can do it! Angelo's handcrafted, 1:6 scale bamboo and rope bridge sure verify that. Simply mind-BOGGLING! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s handcrafted, 1:6 scale bamboo and rope bridge verifies the veracity of that age-old customizing truism: If you can DREAM it—you can BUILD it! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“First, I cut the bamboo into 4” lengths and then drilled tiny little holes into each one. I was determined that my bridge would be big—REALLY big. I have a small creek in our backyard and I thought, ‘Hmm, if I could just make it long enough, I could stretch it all the way across (it’s 10 feet wide so that’s a ton of bamboo)!

Well, after cramped hands, and many bamboo splinters, I finished the bridge. I was SO excited. Cut to A.C.Moore, another awesome store for dioramas. I am looking at the plastic animals that they have and spot what appears to be a gorilla that is (almost) 1:6 scale. I thought, it’s ‘GIjOE AT Pygmy Gorilla’ adventure time!

This incredibly powerful image was created with Angelo's outstanding bamboo/rope bridge...and a rubber gorilla. But BOY, is it GREAT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

This powerful image of Angelo’s 1:6 scale Pygmy Gorilla was artfully posed and photographed utilizing his outstanding bamboo bridge—and a little rubber gorilla. Simple? Yes. But BOY—does it look GREAT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“When I got home, I ran to the backyard with iPad in hand and after taking a bazillion pictures, I decided to share what I had created. I post the bridge with Joe and the gorilla on The Trenches…and I received a great deal of positive feedback! What an incentive positive feedback is! You want my advice? SHARE what you have, what you have done, and what you are proud of. People should see what you can do!”

Angelo's scratch-built wagon is a real show-stopper. He researched it, planned it—and MADE it! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo’s scratch-built wagon is a real show-stopper. How did he do it? First he researched it, then he planned it—and then MADE it. Any more questions? (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

“I constantly search the internet for pictures of WWII scenes and I look through magazines every time we go to Barnes and Noble. I can’t believe all the talented individuals out there! The One Sixth Division and Sixth Army Group are two online forums that have given me MANY ideas and inspired me to create ever-better dioramas. Nevertheless, I feel my work pales in comparison to some of the more talented folks whose work I have witnessed and have to give them all credit for helping me.”

Angelo also built this smaller pull-cart, but it is no less detailed or well-made than the wagon. Absolutely WONDERFUL! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Angelo also built this smaller push-pull cart, but it’s no less detailed or in any way inferior to the larger wagons. He even made the little potatoes himself. WONDERFUL! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

It's amazing what Angelo can do with a rather lame Max Steel helo, some flat-black paint and a lot of creativity. WHOOSH! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Wouldn’t you buy one of these if Hasbro offered it? WOW! It’s amazing what Angelo can do with just an old Max Steel helo, some flat-black paint and a dash of creativity. WHOOSH! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Do you walk past cool props like this Buddha head and not give them a second thought? Well, slow down and THINK. How cool is THIS?! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Do you ever walk right past nifty props like this garden Buddha head? What a great piece for outdoor adventures! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

It's amazing how effective 2-D wallpaper backdrop can be to create an instant mood for your foreground action. (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

It’s amazing how effective a simple 2-D wallpaper backdrop can be in creating an instant mood for your GIjOE’s 1:6 scale foreground action. Superb! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Take time to take it all in: The palm trees, the walls, the desert, the camel, the pyramid, it's a MAGNIFICENT! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

That’s right…Take all the time you need to take this all in: The palm trees, the walls, the desert, the camel, the pyramid, it’s all MAGNIFICENT! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Planet of the Apes? Angelo's jungle bridge masterpiece is the stage for a tense stand-off between a mighty silverback gorilla and Adventurer Joe (who's beginning to question hi decision to bring a camera instead of his trusty sidearm). D'oh! (Photo: Angelo D'Annibale)

Planet of the Apes? D’Annibale’s stunning 1:6 scale jungle bridge provides the perfect setting for a tense stand-off between his “Pygmy” Silverback Gorilla and intrepid “Adventurer Joe” (who’s now beginning to question his decision to pack a camera INSTEAD of a .45 sidearm). D’oh! (Photo: Angelo D’Annibale)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Angelo D’Annibale for his help with this article. Normally, we’d close with a few witty words of summation, but today we turn it over to Angelo, who writes:

“Hello Mark, I wanted to end by thanking you again for allowing me the opportunity to share what I have done. I feel very strongly about the 1:6 hobby and wanted to share how it all started with me and where it has gone. Thanks for all you do for the hobby with your sites. Have fun, be creative, ask questions, look and research, and always (and most importantly)—NEVER grow up!” —Angelo D’Annibale

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